Tonight, Ji Changye was awakened from the same beautiful dream again. An image of the beautiful boy's flushed face and tear-filled eyes faintly emerged from his mind. Even with his eyes wide open, the boy seemed to be within reach. His hand reached into the quilt, but all he grasped was just a handful of satin. This situation has lasted for three full months since the drunken accident.
In these three months, he has become the ruler of the Great Ming Dynasty, fulfilling the promise he made to his mother when he was a child, which was to live well, and to live better than anyone else. However, the moment Ji Zhengze died, he could not feel any pleasure, even when he put on the dragon robe and sat on the throne, looking down at the officials and the people, there was not the slightest surge in his heart.
On the day that he rode out of the imperial palace to the holy mountain to present some offerings to the Heavens, he looked out through the beaded curtains, carefully identifying every face in the crowd. He thought that You Shu would be mixed in with the crowd and follow him silently, but he wasn’t there. He looked and searched, but still nothing.
At such an important, arguably the most glorious moment in his life, the only person he wanted to share it with did not appear. This recognition made him feel extremely disappointed. He began to reflect on himself, began to speculate about You Shu’s feelings, and began to worry about personal gains and losses. The last layer of window paper has been pierced through now, because he was also reluctant to push You Shu away, however he was even more reluctant to let You Shu follow him like a catamite.
His original intention remained the same. He wanted You Shu to live an upright, worry-free, wealthy and honorable life. So on the first day after he took the throne, he promulgated the decree of opening a special imperial examination. He secured a spot for You Shu, assuming that he would be the top scorer three months later. He wanted to meet him very much, but he was afraid that he couldn't suppress the flame in his heart. This flame was extremely dangerous. Once it was ignited, it would burn them both to ashes.
It was said that you will dream what you think of during the day at night. In his dream, he was holding You Shu, wishing he could die on him and madly kissed him with the attitude as if "there is no tomorrow after today". Every time he wakes up, the violent feeling in his heart would still make his expression drastically change. He knew that it was precisely because he suppressed the desire in his heart for too long that his dreams would become more intense.
Therefore, he yearned for You Shu, but he was afraid of You Shu, because the moment he began to indulge him, only death could remove You Shu from his arms. However, now he was no longer qualified to embrace You Shu, because he was Emperor Zongsheng, the ruler of the Great Ming Dynasty, he cannot lose his mind for a person like Ji Zhengze.
Hugging and kissing was not allowed, but it was okay to look from a distance. He had already arranged everything for You Shu. First, let him pass as the top scorer in the imperial examination; then assign him to a post outside the Capital; after three to five years, his surging sentiment would probably have subsided, then he can transfer You Shu to the Imperial Academy so that he can enter the Cabinet and climb up through the ranks step-by-step. By then, he would be able to see him everyday, occasionally having a chat with him about the past and having a meal together.
You Shu was very sensible and also very strong. He will understand his helplessness and will slowly withdraw from this wrong relationship. When they grow old, they could have a good chat with their children and grandchildren running around their knees, as a monarch and his minister getting along well with each other. Ji Changye leaned on a soft pillow and imagined the future. This future looked very beautiful, and it was not harmful to them, but for some reason, his heart felt empty, there was a little coldness, some bitterness, and a lot of upset feelings.
After that, Ji Changye couldn’t fall asleep again. He sat alone in the huge palace, slowly flipping through the copybooks written by You Shu when he was young. Dim skies were gradually filled with the light of dawn and his gloomy mood slowly improved. Seeing that the time to go to court was fast approaching, he ordered the palace servants to change his clothes.
Today, another minister asked the Emperor to crown an Empress, but Ji Changye used the excuse of being "in deep mourning for the loss of my Father, we can discuss it again three years later." Then they stepped back and asked the Emperor to draft women to fill the harem and even if he didn’t get married, there would at least be a few people around to serve him, but Ji Changye vetoed it again. He couldn't imagine anyone else lying beside him besides You Shu, especially a woman, that would inevitably remind him of the dead Imperial Concubine Lan.
Except for You Shu, he disliked everyone's deliberate seduction techniques and approaches, and he even caned several palace maids to death for this.
"In the palace, Evil Qi fills the sky and now you want concubines to be brought into the palace which will cause the Yin Qi to flourish even more. Are the beloved ministers worried about Zhen or dislikes that Zhen has lived too long?" Ji Changye said coldly.
The ministers in the hall just remembered the haunting and their hearts were shaken. Even now, the monks of Zhenguo Temple were reciting sutras in the forbidden palace every day. It was said that it would take three to five years of chanting to thoroughly disperse the Evil Qi. The Emperor has strong Yang energy, so he wouldn’t have any problems. If women were selected to enter the palace and some died due to bad luck, then it was still not a big problem, but if the ghosts of those who died of injustice appeared…...
The courtiers did not dare to think further of what terrifying event could occur next. Since then, they no longer took the initiative to mention the matter of admitting Imperial Concubines and naming an Empress. Anyway, the Emperor will be anxious when he is old, so it was better to let it be.
Now that he had solved a big problem, Ji Changye said in an eager tone, "Has the list of names for the palace examination been sorted out?"
The Emperor has been asking this for three days straight and if he still hasn’t sorted it out, someone else would probably replace him. The Minister of Rites quickly submitted the list of names and pointed out the first name.
Ji Changye got the list and just looked at the top of the list.The top three did not have You Shu’s name, so he had to flip all the way to the back. After flipping through the stack of paper, he still did not see the two words he expected to see. The courtiers only heard the roster in the Emperor’s hand rustle as he flipped it page after the page. He tirelessly did it 7 to 8 times, his expression becoming more and more gloomy, and his eyes were getting colder and colder. They couldn’t help shrinking their necks and secretly internalizing their baffled feelings.
The Minister of Rites frequently wiped away his sweat and asked with a trill in his voice, "Emperor, is something wrong with the list? This humble official also kept all the scholars’ examination papers so that Your Majesty can look them over. The talents of the students this time were very outstanding and no cheating happened."
How could Ji Changye bear to patiently look at other people’s exam papers? Last night, he thought, maybe he could look at You Shu from afar at the palace exam, but today he learned that he didn't come to take the exam at all. How could he not panic? He wanted to know what You Shu was thinking about.
He did not come on the day he offered sacrifices to the Heavens nor did he come on the day of the imperial examination. Could he be planning to not see Zhen in this life? As soon as this thought appeared, it seemed like thunder struck Ji Changye's heart. Yes, he just blindly thought about what to do to let You Shu live a better life, but he never tried to think about it from You Shu’s perspective. He was so attached to him and has said several times that staying with him all the time was the happiest thing.
At the time, he thought it was just a child’s words and that he would get over it when he grew up. But he forgot that You Shu was such a stubborn, obstinate and pure yet simple person. Every word he said comes from the heart and does not change his original intention; at the same time, he was resolute and decisive, strong and independent. If he realised that he was an unnecessary existence, he would not fawn obsequiously, let alone pester him in every way, but would walk away silently.
Ji Changye held the list in his hand with his eyes looking lost. He finally realized that when You Shu woke up alone on the bed that day and was hurriedly sent away from the mansion by him, then he disappeared for several months, what kind of implied message did You Shu receive from that?
He was so smart, so how could he not think that he was being alienated and exiled, and what was worse was that such alienation and exile occurred after the two people have made love. There was no doubt that the hurt he felt was multiplied.
Did he cry secretly; did he try to find him; did…. did he resent him? Thinking of this, Ji Changye’s body swayed and he dared not think anymore. If he didn’t find You Shu as soon as possible, what ‘children and grandchildren running around their knees, monarch and his minister getting along, spending their last years together’. It will all become nothing but an illusion.
He must have a good talk with You Shu and tell him that he will never banish him. He can stay by his side for the rest of his life, and he will tirelessly repeat this sentiment a hundred times, a thousand times, or even ten thousand times.
You Shu, You Shu, You Shu! Apart from these two words in his head, Ji Changye could no longer think about anything else. He suddenly put down the list and put his hand on his forehead, "Zhen suddenly feels unwell. Today's court meeting ends here, disperse." He left without waiting for the courtiers to react.
When he returned to the Emperor’s palace, he changed into normal everyday clothes and hurried to You Shu's house with a few guards, but was told by Song Shi that You Shu had left the Capital more than three months ago. He has not sent a letter back so far, so she didn't know where he was now.
"He's gone? Before Zhen - I ascended the throne?" Ji Changye asked this sentence repeatedly and his heart became colder after getting a positive answer.
No wonder he didn't come to see him offer sacrifices to the Heavens, no wonder he didn't participate in the imperial examination. He had already left, alone, with no news. What did he think when he walked out of the city gates? Was he traveling around to sort out his feelings or never planning to come back again? Ji Changye couldn’t stop his imagination from running wild and suddenly felt dizzy, feeling a sudden pang of pain in his heart. Standing in place with cold hands and feet, he didn't know where to go or what to do.
After the most painful quarter of an hour, he finally recovered his senses and turned his head to look at Ah Da, who was already the Commander of the imperial army, and asked sternly, "Zhen asked you to send secret guards to protect You Shu. Why did he leave the capital? Why does Zhen not know? Where is he now? Immediately send someone to find him and ask him to return, saying that Zhen was wrong and Zhen wants to see him."
Ah Da's face paled and he bowed his head and cupped his hands, "Reporting to the Emperor, the guards were thrown off as soon as You Shu left the city gate. Now, the subordinate does not know where he went."
"Twenty years of hard work, but you can’t even follow after a young man who doesn’t even have the strength to truss a chicken. What use do you have for Zhen? Find him! Go and get him back immediately! Zhen will only give you half a month." Ji Changye always had a gentle expression, but at this moment, his face was a bit distorted and his voice was rough, showing how anxious he is.
Although Ah Da was unwilling in his heart, he did not dare to disobey and rebel, so he had to send someone to find You Shu.
Ji Changye waited for not half a month, not half a year, but a whole decade. In ten years, no matter how deep the memories were, logically speaking, they should have faded, but they did not. The constantly passing time was like a rushing river, washing away those that were unimportant, but polishing the gem covered in dirt to become more dazzling. There was no doubt that You Shu was Ji Changye’s gem. With every passing day, his every frown and smile penetrated deeper into his heart until it was engraved in his mind.
The mutual dependence in times of humble living, the dispassion towards riches and ranking in times of wealth and honor, the steadfast loyalty in times of suffering, the ardent devotion when embracing - every memory was repeatedly taken out and reviewed by Ji Changye, and so the regret becomes deeper day by day. Whenever there was news from somewhere saying that they had seen someone similar to You Shu, he would rush there immediately only to feel disappointed and return again and again.
Gradually, many people began to realize that his weakness was a young man named You Shu.
Those who wanted to be promoted to nobility would secretly look for You Shu, or offer a few substitutes, all of which without exception angered him. And some people who harbored unfathomable motives used this news to lure him into a trap to kill him.
This time, the barbarians at the West border released a message saying that they had captured You Shu and wanted the Emperor Zongsheng to give them three cities in exchange for him. With Ji Zhengze’s mistake as a lesson, Ji Changye will naturally not abandon the people for his own personal desires. Although he rejected the proposal to exchange three cities, he personally went to fight the barbarians, and was then thrown into confusion by a youth that looked similar to You Shu who appeared on the battlefield, and he was almost shot dead on the spot.
Afterwards, not only did he not bandage the wound that was so deep that bone could be seen, but he went crazy and rushed recklessly into the bloody battlefield. He searched through thousands of corpses before finding the corpse of the young man. He trembled and cried at first, but when he was sure that this person was not You Shu, he started mincing the corpse into pieces as if he had gone mad.
If Ah Da hadn't knocked him out in time, chances were he would have descended into madness right then and there.
The victory was extremely tragic. The ruler of the Great Ming Dynasty almost died on the border, and this year, he was still unmarried and had no children under his knees. One could imagine what kind of landslides and tsunamis the Great Ming Dynasty would experience if he were to go. Ah Da could hardly dare to think about the terrible consequences. He knelt by the lounge, looked at his Master who was breathing weakly and finally made up his mind to tell the truth.
Ji Changye never expected that after waking up, he would hear such an absurd story. He was silent for a long time before slowly standing up and asking, "So, that day You Shu came to look for Zhen, you drove him away on your own initiative because he could control ghosts?"
"Yes. Ghosts are too unpredictable..." Ah Da wanted to defend himself, when he saw the Master kick the short tea-table beside the couch, he lifted the sword and fiercely slashed with an unprecedented sinister expression on his face.
He didn't dare to evade, so he was stabbed and his shoulder was almost cut off. If Ah Er hadn’t heard the movements and rushed in, he might have died. The tent was full of blood and messy. Fortunately, Ji Changye still had a last trace of reason and knew that killing someone who had rendered outstanding service in front of the soldiers would bring a chill to everyone's hearts, so he stopped himself in time.
But even so, Ah Da was barely alive. Ji Changye threw away the sword and sat down on the ground, crushed. The wound that had just been bandaged began to ooze a lot of blood again, but he did not feel the pain, just slowly covered his eyes and wept in grief.
It turns out that his title of Emperor was exchanged for half of You Shu’s blood; it turned out that he suffered all kinds of humiliation after he left that day; it turned out that he thought he, himself, was afraid of his abilities and chose to leave forever…... His attachment and affection for him, has probably been whittled away after getting hurt time after time, right? So even if he posted an imperial notice at every corner of the Great Ming Dynasty, he would avoid it.
Thinking about this, Ji Changye suddenly trembled. Ah Da's brain was not working and he couldn't see the problem, but he was different. Just from Ah Da's simple narrative, he noticed that You Shu’s ability was not as supernatural as he showed. On the contrary, it was extremely dangerous. Because his flesh and blood have an indescribable attraction to ghosts, and the protection of his body will slowly lose over time. In other words, if You Shu traveled alone, sooner or later, he will face great danger.
He hates me again. He would have sent a letter back when he saw the imperial notice and he would definitely not have indifferently casted Song Shi away. The reason why no one has heard from him since, could it be because, be because…… Ji Changye didn't dare to think further, carelessly wiped away the tears and shouted, "Servants, bandage the wound for Zhen, Zhen is going to Wu Sicang! Set off immediately!"
After four or five months of traveling, the group finally arrived in Wu Sicang. Ji Changye was less than forty this year, but he was greying at the temples and his face looked aged. It took him three kneels and nine bows before he moved the Living Buddha, and he opened the altar to search for the dead.
Blu: Finally realised that Wu Sicang is a place. It’s an ancient name for Tibetans and Tibet.
Living Buddha - title of Mongolian Lamas from the 17th century (Source: Pleco)
"Do you have things that had constantly accompanied this person?" The Living Buddha drew an array on the ground with cinnabar and gold powder.
Ji Changye hesitated for a moment, and finally took out a bunch of hair from his pouch with great reluctance. This was cut when You Shu was six years old and he kept it ever since.
"Very good." The Living Buddha was satisfied with the object. After receiving it, he burned it with a pinch of his hands and then sprinkled the powder into the circle, slowly saying, "If the candle flame in the circle turns blue, it means that the soul of this person has come. You can talk to him. If the candle is still yellow as before, it means that this person is not dead and you can continue to look for him in this world."
Ji Changye nodded slightly, he was too nervous to say anything.
The candle flames were arranged in an orderly pattern, swaying from side to side under the gusts of the wind. After a few breaths, the color did not change. After another few breaths, the color remained the same. The Living Buddha stopped chanting and waved his hand, "Go back, this person is not dead."
Ji Changye thanked the Living Buddha in tears. Since his worst thoughts, which gave him the determination to reach the Living Buddha despite his serious injuries, did not come to light, he immediately fainted when he stood up. Fortunately, there was still a final ray of hope, otherwise he would never be able to return to the capital. Even so, his body was rapidly declining and he exhausted himself dealing with court affairs while looking for You Shu day and night, which seemed to be consuming his life.
Seeing that the Emperor’s head full of black hair was becoming something akin to a pile of snow even though he only just reached the age of 40 and that his body was too emancipated, the courtiers panicked and even repeatedly submitted memorials to ask him to hurry up and make someone Empress to leave behind an heir. However, he issued a decree, saying that he would choose a few young children in the clan for adoption.
The imperial family naturally couldn't ask for anything better and each selected children of the right age to be sent into the palace, and blocked the courtiers' criticism.
This year, the palace that has been quiet for a long time finally gained some life. Ji Changye ordered people to bring the dozen or so children to him and look at them one by one. One of the children was very cute, had skin fair like snow, and was also quite courageous. Not only did he dared to look at him, but also laughed childishly. This smile revealed two small dimples on the cheeks, making a gleam of light spark in Ji Changye’s cloudy eyes.
He called the child to the front, poked his soft dimple and revealed a long-lost smile. From this day on, he took the child with him and taught him personally, while the others lived in the side hall and he checked their homework every ten days.
The child was only five or six years old this year, and his temperament was unstable. After being spoiled for a few months, he finally revealed his true colours and all kinds of arrogant shortcomings emerged one by one. The people of the palace thought that the Emperor with a strict temperament would find it unbearable, but who would’ve thought that he didn't care about that, and even loved the child more.
The courtiers all knew that the Emperor seemed easygoing, but was actually the most difficult-to-please. It was already extremely difficult to get him to give you another glance, let alone make him spoil you wantonly. That would be like the Sun rising from the west. Everyone thought that this child was the Emperor's darling, and the most hopeful to ascend the throne in the future, but the child fell out of favor unexpectedly, and no one knew the reason why.
On this day, the child was sent back to his residence, crying very sadly when he got off the carriage. He knew that he had lost the most important opportunity in his life and that he would be laughed at in the future. His father and mother were waiting in the hall with ashen faces, and after the servants were sent away, they pulled him to their side and asked why.
The child didn’t understand the situation, so he narrated the scene that day again, “The Emperor asked son to accompany him for a meal, but son didn’t dare to eat first, so he gave the Emperor some vegetables before starting to eat. The Emperor was very happy at first, but when he saw son put the vegetables and pepper aside, his face changed and asked son if he was a picky eater. Son didn't dare to deceive the Emperor, so he answered yes, and was sent back."
The Qinwang and Wangfei didn’t believe this and asked, “Impossible, how could you be sent back for that? Think about it again, what else did the Emperor say?”
Blu: Wangfei - wife of a prince; princess
The child thought for a moment and then said, "Before sending son away, the Emperor said, ‘Not alike, not alike, no one can be like him after all’.”
The Qinwang suddenly understood and gave a long sigh. The Emperor was still stuck in the past!
Twenty days later, another child was sent out of the palace, and he was a child prodigy and was the Di son of Su Qinwang. Su Qinwang did not want to believe that his child would be eliminated. You must know that this child has been able to gauge people’s emotions the best since he was a child. He knew how to conceal his emotions at the age of two or three. He never said one word more nor took one step more. He would think through everything again and again before finally putting his thoughts into action. The old Qinwang also often praised this son for being extraordinary, a man who took care of everything and was very thorough. But it wasn’t even two months before he was sent out. This shouldn’t be!
The child was also very aggrieved, and said, "I don't know who brought a little Pekingese. Everyone thought it looked cute and they all gathered around to play with him. Only this son obediently sat in place and studied. At this time, the Emperor came to check our homework and he asked this son "Do you want to play?". This Son answered that he didn't want to and he asked if the Pekingese was not cute, and this son answered that it was not bad, then he ordered for this son to be sent back."
Su Qinwang’s mind was full of questions. From the narrative, he didn't think there was anything wrong with his son. On the contrary, he was very obedient. How did the Emperor choose people? Simply unreasonable!
The child thought for a while and added, “When sending son out of the palace, the Emperor had a parting advice. He said that you have to fight for what you want. Don’t say one thing and mean another, and don’t be deceitful, otherwise it will be too late to regret in the future.
Su Qinwang patted his forehead in sudden realisation. It turned out that this was caused by his son's too modest personality. That’s right, a monarch like the Emperor who has great achievements and ambitions will certainly favor heirs with sharp temperaments. The Emperor was indeed the Emperor, simply unpredictable!
In fact, things were not as complicated as Su Qinwang thought. Because You Shu hated the behavior of wasting food, Ji Changye was also extremely disgusted with it, and because of his introverted personality, he would always lose those who he loved, so he could not stand seeing others being indecisive. The pain of parting with whom one loves the most was the most painful feeling in this life, so seeing similar people, he will only resent himself even more. Out of sight, out of mind. Thus, he sent away the children, who touched the pieces of his broken heart, one by one.
Another year passed in the blink of an eye. On this day, Ji Changye was too ill to get up. A group of princes knelt on the couch and cried silently. The imperial physician shook his head after examining his pulse, indicating that he could do nothing.
Ah Da was dismissed, so only Ah Er stood at the door, looking sorrowful. Seeing the Master beckoning to him, he hurriedly walked over and got choked up, "What is the Emperor's order?"
Unsurprisingly, the Emperor still gave the order that he said every day, "Go to the city gate to see if You Shu is back."
A portrait of You Shu was always posted at the gate of the city. Once he returns to the Capital, the guards at the gate will recognize him and report it to the palace immediately. There was no news even till now and it could be assumed that there never will be. But Ah Er didn't dare to say it directly and walked away with red eyes.
Ji Changye was already having difficulty breathing, but still clenched his fists to keep himself going. After half an hour, Ah Er returned and shook his head, he tried his best to call out "You Shu", and his hands and feet slowly became cold. The many princes saw that he hadn't closed his eyes for a long time, and they didn't know that he was already dead. They didn't realize it until the palace maid came to feed him medicine, and the scene descended into chaos in an instant.
In the end, Emperor Zongsheng, who controlled nine provinces and wiped out seven kingdoms, died with open eyes.....
Die with open eyes - die with grievances