Their New Year’s Eve
The following day was new year’s eve. After attending this final court session of the year, the Emperor impatiently dragged Zhang Yuan over to Winter Moon Palace.
Behind Zhang Yuan, there were four other eunuchs holding platters. On these platters were brand new court clothes that were pure white. While walking, he muttered: “It’s time for the new year. If your Majesty wants to get closer with imperial concubine Yun, you should send something festive. Who sends white clothes when celebrating the new year? How good would red or pink be.”
The Emperor waved his hand: “No good, no good. Beloved does not like those. When have you ever seen her wearing conspicuous clothes while being heavily made-up.? She likes white and clean things. It is most suited to that temperament that is like water.” As soon as the Emperor thought of imperial concubine Yun, a smile immediately appeared on his face, and he immediately asked Zhang Yuan: “Today is new year’s eve. Do you think that beloved will see Us?”
Zhang Yuan wanted to say not, but it was not too good to strike at his master with the changing of the year. He thought a bit then said seriously: “There is probably a fifty-fifty chance!”
“Then you may as well have not said it.” The Emperor rolled his eyes at Zhang Yuan and did not say anything else to him. He just increased his pace, practically trotting over to Winter Moon Palace’s gates. When he stopped, he was gasping for air, only saying: “No good, no good. If this was a few years earlier, I would not be gasping like this. My health these past two years is clearly worse than it was in the past.” These words were shouted very loudly, and it was practically shouted using internal energy.
Zhang Yuan felt that this was truly too shameful. If you’re tired to this degree yet can still shout so loudly, your Majesty, just who are you trying to fool? This was too much of a mockery of imperial concubine Yun’s intelligence.
He could not stop himself from reminding him: “Don’t exaggerate that much. Right before imperial daughter left, she left you with a large amount of supplements. This servant was watching you take them every day.”
The Emperor felt that this damn eunuch truly spoke too much. Raising a hand, he began to bang on Winter Moon Palace’s gates. While banging, he shouted: “Dearest, open the gate! It’s the new year, We… I came to send you some new clothes. They are all newly made. They’re all white in color. I can guarantee that you will like them! Quickly open the gate for Us. Let’s stop this fighting, alright?”
The banging on the gates caused the people inside the palace to feel flustered. Normally speaking, this sort of scene was something that they had become accustomed to. Every year on new year’s eve, the Emperor would always come, but it had to be said that even if they did not open the gates, they would still have confidence. After all, imperial concubine Yun was there to support them. However, imperial concubine Yun was not in the palace at all. All of these people were completely horrified, fearing that the Emperor would not be able to hold back and enter anyway. Once the matter of imperial concubine Yun leaving the palace was exposed, none of them would be able to survive.
The person outside continued to shout and continued to bang on the door. It was just that the banging slowed and grew weaker each time. Finally, the Emperor stopped banging. Instead, he leaned against the gate and faced the door. Everyone was able to hear the Emperor say: “We’re getting older with each passing year. Both children are out of the capital. Dearest, I know that you are bored out of your mind. Haven’t I come to play with you? Can you just open the gate?”
Unfortunately, Winter Moon Palace’s gates were like a wall made of ice. Not only was it as hard as ice, but it was also cold and devoid of human emotion.
The Emperor smiled bitterly and waved his hand, gesturing for the eunuchs to place the clothes at the entrance of the palace. He then said: “Forget it, We have come every month to act this out, yet you have never softened your heart. It’s fine, whether we meet or not is fine. As long as you are still in this place, Our heart is filled with warmth.” After saying this, he turned around and said to Zhang Yuan: “Wait here for a little longer. If someone comes out for the clothes, just as them how my beloved has been doing recently. We want to walk alone for a while. Nobody follow me.”
Zhang Yuan watched the Emperor walk away with his hands behind his back. His figure was no longer the tall and straight-backed as it had been in the past. He was now a little humpbacked. His steps were also no longer as strong as they had been in the past, and they were now a little shaky. He felt choked up and averted his gaze from the Emperor. Only when the Emperor walked far away did he knock on the door and say: “Sisters, open the door and bring the clothes inside. His Majesty has already left.”
Only then did the gates of Winter Moon Palace open a small crack. Two palace maids squeezed out and quickly picked up the clothes and returned inside. They did not even pay any attention to Zhang Yuan. Very quickly, the gates of Winter Moon Palace were closed once more, and Zhang Yuan let out a heavy sigh. He waved to the four eunuchs: “You guys go back first. I also want to walk on my own.”
This stroll led him to a quiet place. He then called into the air: “Come on out!”
Once this was said, a hidden guard immediately appeared then stood up before him. Zhang Yuan asked the person: “Is everything well in the East?”
The hidden guard nodded, “With his Highness the seventh prince taking care of it, it’s fine. It’s just…” The hidden guard paused then said: “Does eunuch still not plan to tell his Majesty?”
Zhang Yuan nodded heavily: “We absolutely must not tell his Majesty! Since we know about imperial concubine Yun leaving the capital, we must keep our lips sealed. We must not speak of it to anyone else. Right now, his Highness the seventh prince and his Highness the ninth prince are both out of the capital. If his Majesty goes out to chase after imperial concubine Yun, can Da Shun even be preserved?”
This year’s new year’s eve saw everyone working abroad.
Xuan Tian Hua’s group was approaching Fu Zhou and would arrive in Fu Zhou City within half a day. Fu Zhou’s prefect had sent people out of the city to welcome them. They had met up three days earlier.
“You lost. The one that the Emperor dotes on most is that eunuch, Zhang Yuan. It’s not his Highness the ninth prince. Drink!” Under a tree in a small side alley, a group of attendants were sitting in a circle. There was a fire burning in the middle, and there was a nearly cooked duck roasting above this fire. The person that spoke was a woman wearing a white Winter coat. She wore a bamboo hat while holding a kettle of wine in one hand and a cup in the other. Casually pouring out a cup, she pushed it toward a young man to her side. “Drink.”
The young man expressed his dissatisfaction: “The entire world knows that the person most favored by the Emperor is the ninth prince. Even his Highness is not his match. How did I lose?”
The woman waved her hand: “I said you lost, so you lost. All of the information that I have is first-hand information. It must be known that I have a good view of the imperial palace. That old emperor, no matter what time of day nor where he goes, that eunuch will be following him. Even when he sleeps, that eunuch will be keeping watch outside. When have you ever seen him bring the ninth prince along with him at all times?”
That person was speechless. After pausing for a while, he said: “Someone that follow the emperor everywhere would obviously be a eunuch.”
“That’s different.” The woman added: “The way the old emperor works with that eunuch is not normal. He’s not a normal eunuch. Just drink.”
The young man’s forehead was covered in dark lines, thinking to himself: where did his Highness the seventh prince find this sort of respectable deity? Why did she dare to say anything?”
Someone poked him from the side: “If you’re told to drink, just drink. Why waste so much effort speaking. How great is it to be able to drink a little more wine on this cold day.”
The woman nodded, “That’s right. The days are a little cold. I heard that the East is a bit better than the North. I wonder if the snow in the North has already reached knee height.” As she spoke, she turned to glance at Xuan Tian Hua, who was sitting a great distance away. He was also helplessly looking at her. The woman took a sip of wine for herself then sighed and said: “Coming out with his Highness is really troublesome. Even the amount of meat that I can eat is limited.”
A soldier quickly cut off the roasted duck leg and handed it over, saying: “That Bu Cong has been in the East for many years. The soldiers here are mostly his former subordinates. Although Bu Cong has already escaped as a fugitive, normally speaking, the people of the military place importance in bonds. I fear that it will be very difficult to assimilate them this time.”
The woman heard this and became furious, “Very difficult to assimilate them means that those people won’t listen to his Highness? Then we’ll just take care of it. In the worst-case scenario, we’ll just kill them all. We’ll see who still dares to say no!”
With her voicing her ideas, everyone looked at her. They were stunned for a while before applauding and expressing their admiration: “Brother Tian, so domineering!”
Xuan Tian Hua could no longer bear to listen. Standing up, he walked over and grabbed her arm when he reached her side. He practically dragged her away, not letting go until he returned to where he had been sitting. When the woman was dragged away, she looked back at the group and waved to the young man, shouting: “After we get into Fu Zhou City, let’s continue drinking!”
At this very moment, Xuan Tian Hua’s heart had already gone past the breaking point. He looked at the woman and helplessly said: “Mother, what exactly did you say to them? And where did this brother Tian come from?”
The woman was none other than imperial concubine Yun. Hearing Xuan Tian Hua ask, she very proudly told him: “My surname is Yun. Don’t clouds exist in the sky, thus I told them that my surname is Tian. As for why they called me brother Tian, that is because they felt that it’s easy to get along with me. Also, Hua’er, today is new year’s eve. To need to continue rushing along on new year’s eve is quite difficult.”
Xuan Tian Hua spread his hands, “It was already difficult. Who told you to tag along? How good is obediently staying in the palace. Rather than being a proper imperial concubine, you insist on being brother Tian. Just what do you want me to say?”
Imperial concubine Yun copied him and spread her hands, very solemnly telling him: “The imperial palace is not good. Being an imperial concubine is also no good. My happiest days in this life were back in that village. It’s completely different from the imperial palace.”
These words stuffed the words that Xuan Tian Hua had been wanting to say. Instead, these words became a sigh. That’s right, imperial concubine Yun was not happy with being in the palace. He was her son. If it was up to him to decide, he would rather imperial concubine Yun leave the palace, even if she went to boast and drink with others, than have her remain locked inside Winter Moon Palace.
He reached out and held imperial concubine Yun tightly before letting her go, “If you’re happy, that’s good enough.” He said, “If you’re happy, that’s good enough.”
In the snowy Song Zhou, the only Illusory Hall’s courtyard had 17 girls separated into two rows. The oldest of these girls was no more than 14 or 15 years of age. The youngest was barely 10 years of age. They all wore colorful clothes, and they were obediently listening to a 27 or 28-year-old woman speak.
“So-called magic is a form of performance that will leave people feeling unable to understand completely while giving the spectator a surprising experience. Some people will call them miracles. All of you have an ice flower in your hands. Following this, you will follow the method that I taught to allow a flame to appear from these ice flowers!”
This woman’s voice was enchanting and left people feeling as though they were in a fantasy world, which caused them all to believe that they could truly make flames appear from ice.
The girls followed the shallow knowledge that they had just learned to repeatedly change hand signals in an attempt to have a flame appear on their ice flowers. Unfortunately, after a stick of incense in time, there was not even a trace of a flame.
The woman shook her head in disappointment and quietly said to a middle-aged man at her side: “These kids that were casually found to fill the numbers are no good. This year will need to be like this, but we need to search properly next year for people with the qualifications to be trained from a young age.”
Once she said this, the girls all let out a surprised scream. She was startled and looked over. She just saw a beautiful girl in black clothes holding up her ice flower in both hands, and there was a bit of a flame at the top.