Selfishly, Everything Is for Her Sake
Yao Xian wanted to go into the palace to see the Emperor. To Xuan Tianming and Xuan Tianhua, this was naturally something that they welcomed. When it came to the change in the Emperor, they had made many guesses, but there had never found a clear answer. Everything was based on speculation. As for whether or not Yao Xian would be able to enter the palace, they did not dare make any guarantees.
Xuan Tianming said: “The current atmosphere in the Imperial Palace is strange. Not to mention grandfather, but even this prince and seventh brother are unable to move freely. Whether or not grandfather can be brought in, we can only find out after trying.”
Yao Xian nodded, “It’s fine. If it can’t be done openly, we can always do it covertly. There’s nothing to fear with the Emperor favoring Imperial Concubine Yuan Shu. At worst, we can just knock both of them out, and that will be a way to get close.” He was not reserved in the slightest, directly mentioning the idea of rendering people unconscious, “But hearing what A-Heng said about the Emperor’s change, I do have a guess.” Yao Xian fell into thought for a while, and nobody disturbed him. It was only after he made a decision that he said: “It’s a gu.”
“Gu?” Xuan Tianming and Xuan Tianhua spoke at the same time. They then heard Xuan Tianming say: “Witchcraft?* That thing where a little doll has a person’s name and details written on it then is stabbed with needles?” He did not have much of an understanding of this stuff. He just knew that there was a matter of a member of the imperial harem having engaged in some witchcraft, and it had made the Emperor very angry.
But the gu that Yao Xian mentioned was different from what he had said. He did not agree with the method of stabbing a little doll, and he even said: “That sort of thing is not based in medicine in the slightest. It’s basically the same as a superstition. It’s merely a result of people applying pressure on themselves. I don’t believe that stabbing a little doll from a distance will have any effect on people. Of course, the world is vast, and there is no shortage of strange things, nor does this mean that I do not believe that it does not exist, but the gu I am speaking of today is indeed not that sort of thing.” Yao Xian told them: “In this world, there is a true gu, and it is a real existence. It is a unique method employed by unique people. It is a divine and secret thing that is raised over the course of many years. It can be big, and it can be small. Normally, it’s an animal. For example, a snake or something of that sort. Normally, they come in a pair. One would be placed on the target’s body, and the other will be kept by the person using this technique, where it will be used to control the one afflicted by the gu. As for the person being controlled by the gu, their actions will be abnormal, and their disposition will change. These are the basic changes. More seriously, they can do things like kill others when the one giving the orders decides to do so. You must not feel that I am just saying alarming things for the sake of saying them. All of this is real. Of course, there are very few possible types of gu, but regardless of whether they’re animals or other living things, a gu can only be raised and cultivated by a woman. Men are unable to raise them.”
Yao Xian’s words provided a direction for the cause of the Emperor’s change from his norm. This direction was one that Xuan Tianming and Xuan Tianhua had never considered, but Feng Yuheng had guessed that this would be the case long ago. It was just that she did not dare to say it with certainty, and she had been wanting to wait until Yao Xian returned to discuss it. Who knew that Yao Xian would think of the same thing as her shortly after returning and hearing about the situation.
Feng Yuheng said to the group: “Based on what I know, techniques for handling a gu are usually handled by a group of people living in the southwest, but the southwest that I am speaking of is not quite the same as the one in Da Shun. That’s why I can’t quite say where exactly they came from. But I do know one thing. When the Lu family’s eldest young miss, Lu Ping, jumped into the water to save my eldest aunt, her face was ruined by a poisonous bug. Apparently, that bug was also a gu. Now, her face is completely fine. I think that this is something that we should ask her about. We might be able to find out something.”
Xuan Tianhua listened for a bit then said: “There are people who use techniques involving the use of gu at the southern border. If I am recalling correctly, the country of Gu Shu had people who knew how to use gu.” While saying this, he asked Xuan Tianming, “When you attacked the south, did you meet anyone who used this sort of thing?”
Xuan Tianming shook his head, “No, but this sort of unusual thing should not be known by everyone in Gu Shu. If they really do exist, they should be handled by people related to the imperial family, and we never attacked the capital of Gu Shu. That’s why we never interacted with them.”
Feng Yuheng continued: “Indeed, once this sort of thing comes into existence, it will definitely end up being controlled by the country. If it’s said that Gu Shu’s imperial family really does have control of gu techniques, old eighth, who was stationed in the south for many years, would be very suspicious.”
“The person who benefitted the most is him. Even if he is not the one to make use of the gu, it is definitely connected to him.” Xuan Tianming said, “The palace once had a member of the imperial harem perform witchcraft rituals. Although this gu is not quite the same, that person to use witchcraft was Imperial Concubine Li. Based on the connection between Imperial Concubine Li and Imperial Concubine Yuan Shu. This situation is one that will make people connect the two mentally.”
Xuan Tianhua felt that this was a bit reasonable, thus he said: “All this time, we have been focusing our attention on Imperial Concubine Yuan Shu and old eighth; however, we’ve forgotten that Zhang Ning Palace has Imperial Concubine Li. Since we are going to investigate, we might as well investigate thoroughly!” He said to Yao Xian: “We will think of a way to arrange for Sir Yao to enter the palace. Let’s see what the condition in the palace is first before making any decisions.”
The group discussed this for a little while longer before Yao Xian bid farewell and left. After all, he was pretty old, and he had just made the tiring journey from Xiao Zhou to the capital and was very tired.
Feng Yuheng watched Yao Xian’s parting figure and felt a little choked up. Xuan Tianming held and comforted her, saying: “Don’t you often say that people getting old is just a law of nature, and nobody can do anything about it? That’s why you should be a little more accepting. At the very least, your grandfather is still in good health.”
She nodded and did not say anything, but the heartache that she felt was not something that Xuan Tianming could understand. To Feng Yuheng, Yao Xian was not just her grandfather. That was also her grandfather from her previous life. He was her only connection to her previous life. With Yao Xian around, she would feel as though she had someone to consider as a pillar of support. She felt as though she was not alone in this world. That sort of feeling of belonging was not something that Xuan Tianming could provide, but there was no way that she could say this. There were some secrets that would need to be taken to the grave.
“It’s fine.” She shook her head and smiled, changing the subject: “Seventh brother, have lunch with us. It’s been a long time since we have been able to chat properly. I went to check up on imperial concubine mother this morning, and she is in quite good spirits.”
Xuan Tianhua nodded and simply said: “Alright.” He still had his usual aloofness, but recently, she could notice a hint of exhaustion and helplessness in his voice.
Feng Yuheng thought to herself that Xuan Tianhua did not like this sort of Da Shun, right? He should never have been pulled into this sort of scenario. He should have been someone who could remain free of this vulgar situation; however, he had been thrown into the heart of this dirty fight for control of the country. To Xuan Tianhua, being born into the imperial family might be the greatest regret.
The three shared a kettle of wine, and nobody drank in excess. Each had a small cup that they slowly sipped from. Like this, they were able to savor every flavor in the wine.
Feng Yuheng said to the two: “When it comes to Imperial Concubine Li performing witchcraft, I once asked sixth brother about it. Sixth brother said that Imperial Concubine Li does not know any witchcraft, and it’s all just nonsense. Do you two feel that this is believable?”
Xuan Tianming nodded: “It’s believable. Regardless of how Imperial Concubine Li is, sixth brother is someone who is trustworthy. But what I’m saying about trustworthiness is strictly limited to sixth brother’s words. It does not mean that sixth brother really understands his mother. That’s why this matter must be investigated as seventh brother said.”
“Alright.” Feng Yuheng took the initiative to take on this task, “I will go and search Imperial Concubine Li’s palace.”
Xuan Tianhua heard what she had said and was puzzled. Feng Yuheng could see that he wanted to ask her how she would go and search it and how she would handle it without being noticed, but he swallowed the words that had already reached his lips. In the end, Xuan Tianhua was not one for gossip. Although he clearly knew that Feng Yuheng had some sort of secret, he did not clearly bring it up. To him, having a tacit understanding was the best way to get along with someone; however, he told Xuan Tianming: “No matter what, the situation has already reached this state, and we need to plan for the worst. If there really does come such a day… Ming’er, take A-Heng with you and leave the capital. In fact, leave Da Shun entirely. We are unable to successfully do everything. Once the dam bursts, there is no need to get involved with everything in the world.
Xuan Tianhua’s words caused Feng Yuheng to momentarily feel flustered. The meaning behind this comment was that when things were beyond salvation, do not think about overcoming the trials and tribulations. Abandon the country and family to flee far away? That such a selfish thing came from Xuan Tianhua’s mouth caught her a little by surprise.
But when she looked at Xuan Tianhua once more, she could see a hard-to-conceal misery in his eyes. That look of misery became even more evident when he looked at her. She suddenly realized that Xuan Tianhua had said such a thing entirely for her sake.
She quickly averted her gaze and felt her heart begin to ache even more; however, she was still unable to endure and asked: “Then what about you?”
Xuan Tianhua simply said: “I’ll also leave, and I will not be alone and will need to take care of imperial concubine mother.” Saying this, he looked toward Xuan Tianming, and a look of familial love appeared in his eyes. He said: “Ming’er, take care of A-Heng. I will take care of imperial concubine mother. Trust seventh brother.”
“I trust you.” Xuan Tianming opened his mouth once more as if to speak but stopped. Xuan Tianhua also raised his hand to stop him. Xuan Tianming sighed and simply said: “In truth, I can take care of all of us.”
“Seventh brother is also capable.” Xuan Tianhua took a sip of wine and spoke aloofly, “Imperial concubine mother has taken care of me for over 20 years. There must come a time when I repay that grace. In the end, Ming’er, I am different from you.”
“But I never thought of you as an outsider.” Xuan Tianming made his views clear, “Regardless of whether it was when we were children or now, to me, we were born from the same mother.”
“I understand.” Xuan Tianhua faintly smiled, “That’s why Ming’er can leave imperial concubine mother to me not need to worry.”
Xuan Tianming threw his head back and downed the rest of the wine in his cup, “I won’t worry.” He then slightly hugged Feng Yuheng and said: “If there really comes such a day, I will take A-Heng west. What about you?”
Xuan Tianhua said: “East of the eastern border, there is an endless sea. In this sea, there is an archipelago called Ren Xian. I will bring imperial concubine mother with me to go and see what sort of place Ren Xian is. If imperial concubine mother likes it there, I will build a utopia for her on the island of Ren Xian. If imperial concubine mother doesn’t like it, we’ll go and look for you. Claim a large mountain for her and let her make a mountain residence to act as its ruler. How about it?”
These words caused the three to burst out laughing. Imperial Concubine Yun claiming a mountain and acting as its ruler, this really was a good idea.
Feng Yuheng felt a little bit of yearning for such a life, as she put in a word with Xuan Tianming: “Can we go with seventh brother and imperial concubine mother? I also want to go out to sea. I also want to go and live on the little island. Claiming a mountain and being its ruler is not as good as being the ruler of an island. Let’s go and stake a claim on an island!”
Xuan Tianming let out a loud laugh, and Xuan Tianhua was also unable to hold back his laughter, only saying: “A-Heng, you have no idea what sort of pleasant surprise Ming’er has planned for you in the west side of Da Shun.”
*TN: The term “gu” has many possible interpretations relating to poison and bewitching. As such, it’s part of the term for witchcraft.