In the 29th year of Taiping, the chief eunuch who had followed the Taiping Emperor for his entire life, Chen Desheng, was old and critically ill. According to the rules of the palace, if any palace maid or eunuch was found to be ill, they would be expelled from the palace.
Chen Desheng had taken the initiative to report his illness to the Son of Heaven and requested to leave the palace. Dugu Jie remembered that he had followed him around all his life, so he allowed him to leave the palace and arranged for him to stay in that private residence on Chang’an Street.
Chen Desheng didn’t have an adopted son, and his family members were either dead or old. Dugu Jie chose three or four meticulous maidservants and eunuchs to take care of him and let him spend the last two months of his life in that house.
On a hot afternoon, Chen Desheng’s condition worsened.
The personal palace maid asked the imperial bodyguards to enter the palace to meet the emperor, hoping that the emperor would come to see Chen Desheng one last time. The imperial bodyguards immediately entered the palace and successfully met the emperor. “Your Majesty, Eunuch Chen is about to die. Do you want to see him one last time?”
Upon hearing that Chen Desheng was about to die, Dugu Jie immediately put down whatever he was doing and rode towards the end of Chang’an Street.
Chen Desheng got someone to put on a clean set of clothes for him and placed him on a recliner under the pavilion. He was afraid that His Majesty would be disturbed by the smell of a patient in the room.
Dugu Jie came to the pavilion and saw that Chen Desheng was breathing heavily. It was obvious that he was about to die. He sat down and grabbed his hand.
“Old thing, I’m here.”
When Chen Desheng heard His Majesty’s voice, his cloudy eyes brightened slightly. “Your… Your Majesty, you’ve come to see me?”
]Dugu Jie looked at Chen Desheng’s dying appearance and couldn’t help but feel a little emotional. After his mother passed away, Dugu Jie was always bullied by the other princes in the palace. At that time, it was always Chen Desheng who stood in front of him and bore the pain of those merciless punches and kicks.
Later, Dugu Jie was poisoned and almost died. It was also Chen Desheng who secretly bribed people to bring him out of the palace to visit Doctor Zhou.
Without Chen Desheng, the Taiping Emperor would not exist.
Although he was a eunuch, his protective heart was stronger than gold!
Dugu Jie let out a melancholic sigh and asked Chen Desheng, “Are you just waiting for me to visit you?”
Chen Desheng smiled. “I knew that His Majesty would send me off. I… I have something to say…”
If he didn’t have something to say, Chen Desheng wouldn’t have dared to disturb His Majesty.
Dugu Jie thought that Chen Desheng was entrusting him to take care of his family. He said, “Tell me all of your wishes. I will do as I see fit.”
“Your Majesty, I-I have let you down!” Chen Desheng grabbed the Taiping Emperor’s hand and struggled to sit up.
Dugu Jie quickly held him down. “Lie down and talk!” Dugu Jie narrowed his eyes. This old thing was about to die, so he was finally willing to confess his sins? “What stupid thing did you do?”
Two streams of tears rolled down the corners of Chen Desheng’s eyes. He seemed to see the young and beautiful General Nangong standing before him, waiting for him to redeem himself in the underworld.
Chen Desheng cried as he said to Dugu Jie, “I, I’m hiding something!”
Dugu Jie’s brows were deeply furrowed, and he looked rather dignified. “I’ll give you a chance to confess!”
Chen Desheng said, “Eight years ago, before the old Prime Minister went back to his hometown, he went to the palace to see the Empress. Coincidentally, the Western Regions offered a batch of silk, and His Majesty asked me to deliver silk to the empress. I went there and accidentally overheard a shocking secret…”
Dugu Jie felt uneasy and asked in a low voice, “What did you hear?”
“T-the old prime minister told the Empress that the rumor that there was a strange beast in Sihcuan was actually false. In this world, there has never been a strange beast. The so-called strange beast is actually…”
The old eunuch’s eyes widened and he sighed, “It’s actually a person!” After saying these words, he suddenly stopped breathing.
He could not bear to tell His Majesty that the ‘strange beast’ was none other than General Nangong, whom His Majesty had loved all his life!
He was afraid that if he said it out loud, His Majesty would not be in the mood to govern and he would be a sinner!
Dugu Jie was so shocked by this message that he didn’t even react when he saw Chen Desheng take his last breath.
]At the side, the little eunuch reminded His Majesty, “Your Majesty, Eunuch Chen has gone.”
Only then did Dugu Jie come to his senses.
He closed Chen Desheng’s eyes and stood up. “Send someone to look for Mr. Su and ask him to choose a Feng Shui Treasure Land for the burial.”
“Yes, Your Majesty!”
Dugu Jie returned to the palace and pondered over Chen Desheng’s words.
There were no strange beasts in this world. Strange beasts were humans.
So, who was this person?
Dugu Jie had a vague guess, but he didn’t dare to verify it.
That afternoon, the new chief eunuch, Eunuch Chen Degui, was standing beside the table and writing ink for His Majesty. When he saw His Majesty casually sketching a peony flower on the paper, Chen Degui praised, “Your Majesty’s painting skills are amazing. This peony is just like the real peony in the imperial garden.”
This eunuch was good in every way except that he liked to suck up to others.
Dugu Jie put down his paintbrush and suddenly said, “Tonight, I want the Empress to serve me.”
Eunuch Chen Degui was so shocked that his jaw almost dropped.
Chen Degui had been learning how to do things by Chen Desheng’s side in the past. After being in the palace for so many years, Chen Degui knew that His Majesty never summoned the consorts to sleep with him.
Rumor had it that there was someone in His Majesty’s heart whom he wanted to protect his chastity for.
Hearing His Majesty’s words, Chen Degui thought that he had heard wrongly. He looked doubtful and asked cautiously, “Your Majesty, are you saying that you want Empress Xuan to sleep with you?”
Dugu Jie nodded.
Chen Degui quickly nodded and personally went to the Empress’s chambers to read the decree.
After receiving the news that His Majesty wanted her to sleep with him, the Empress was unable to come back to her senses for a long time. She thought that the eunuch must have made a mistake, so she knelt on the ground and asked, “Eunuch Degui, did His Majesty really say that he wanted me to sleep with him tonight?”
She had been married to Dugu Jie for nearly 30 years, and she rarely even set foot in His Majesty’s bedroom, let alone sleep with him! She had been waiting until she grew old, so how could she not be shocked that His Majesty suddenly wanted her to sleep with him?
Chen Degui could understand the empress’s feelings. He smiled and said, “Empress, please quickly freshen up and prepare for tonight.”
This was the first time that His Majesty had asked the Empress to sleep with him, and it was a joyous occasion. The Empress quickly asked the palace maid to get some silver to reward the eunuch.
After sending Chen Degui off, Zheng Yue-er turned to her personal maids and said, “Quick! Go to the Shangyi Bureau and ask if my new dress is ready. I want to wear that bright yellow dress tonight!”
“Light the incense. You must make the clothes smell good later. This is His Majesty’s first time inviting me to sleep with him, so I naturally have to prepare carefully and give His Majesty a satisfying experience!”
Upon hearing that His Majesty was going to bed the Empress tonight, these women in the palace who had already given up suddenly revived.
Being pampered by His Majesty instantly became every woman’s wishful thinking.
The Empress spent the entire afternoon bathing and changing her clothes. She also did her hair and makeup for the night.
To serve in bed, there was a requirement for one’s makeup and appearance. Firstly, one’s makeup could not be too thick, only light makeup. Hair bun could not be too complicated, and one could not wear a sharp hairpin. One could only wear pearls and flowers.
When she was ready, she sat in the bedroom and waited. She was so nervous that her hands were trembling.
When it was dark, the eunuch invited her onto the carriage and took her to His Majesty’s chambers.
Dugu Jie lived in the Imperial Dragon Palace. The palace was spacious and exquisite, and the sculptures and paintings were all exquisite. The Empress was brought to His Majesty’s chambers, and the eunuch leading the way said in a low voice, “Your Majesty, the Empress is here.”
Inside, the man replied coldly, “Let her in.”
“The Empress will enter the palace to serve His Majesty!”
The Empress was extremely nervous, her mood similar to the day of her wedding.
She strode into the bedroom and saw Chen Degui standing in the outer hall lighting the lamps. Zheng Yue’e’s gaze swept past Chen Degui and quickly turned to the dragon bed.
Under the candlelight, His Majesty was sitting on the edge of the dragon’s bed. He was wearing a bright yellow dragon robe. His hair was draped over his head, and he was not wearing a crown. There was only a faded wooden hairpin stuck in his hair.
The Empress stared at the hairpin and recalled the rumors that His Majesty had a black wooden hairpin that he treasured. It was said that the General-in-Chief had personally carved that hairpin to give to His Majesty.
The Empress’s heart ached.
No woman would be willing to see their man wearing a gift from another woman every day. Furthermore, it was such a shabby wooden hairpin that was not worthy of His Majesty.
The Empress did not dare to look closely. She respectfully bowed and softly said, “Your Majesty is blessed.”
Dugu Jie didn’t say anything as he sized up the Empress’s appearance and figure.
They had been married for more than twenty years, and this was the first time Dugu Jie had ever looked at his empress so seriously. The Empress couldn’t help but blush when Dugu Jie stared at her with such intense focus.
She boldly walked forward and sat down beside Dugu Jie’s bed.
“Your Majesty.” The empress blushed shyly. She boldly and proactively reached out to hold Dugu Jie’s arm, hinting at him. “It’s getting late. Does Your Majesty want to rest now or later?”
Dugu Jie looked down at the empress’s elegant and beautiful face and said calmly, “Empress, talk to me for a while. I’ve never had a serious conversation with you before.”
Hearing this, the Empress felt wronged and her eyes turned red.
In terms of expression management, the Empress had learned it when she was young. The red eyes of the Empress, who usually appeared dignified and dignified, added a touch of charm to her appearance.
The Empress lowered her head and said considerately, “Your Majesty has a lot of work to do every day, so how could you have the time to chat with me? Your Majesty summoned me tonight, and I was overwhelmed by your favor and couldn’t calm down. Your Majesty, please excuse me.”
Dugu Jie suddenly stood up, walked to the tea table, and poured a glass of wine for the Empress himself.
He took the cup of tea and held it out to the Empress. “Empress, have a drink of wine to bolster her courage. That way, you will not be nervous.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty.” The Empress caught the wine glass with both hands and drank it without thinking. She thought: His Majesty looks cold and stern, but he’s actually so gentle and considerate in private.
Dugu Jie watched as the empress drank the wine. He smiled and said, “Your Majesty, I don’t reward people with wine for no reason.”
The Empress thought that His Majesty was subtly expressing his love for her.
As the daughter of the Prime Minister, Zheng Yue-er had been trained as a candidate for the Empress since she was young. When it came to speaking and handling matters, the Empress was always generous, dignified, and elegant. Zheng Yue-er smiled and said, “Today, I am fortunate to have the good wine bestowed by His Majesty. It is my good fortune.”
Dugu Jie took the cup from the empress’s hand. He shook the empty cup and said softly, “In my life, I will only reward the three of them with alcohol. One is the medical saint, Mo Liansheng. The other is the God of War, Nangong Xian. The third is you, the Empress.”
[fuzzy]The Empress listened respectfully, wondering why His Majesty had brought this up.
Dugu Jie continued, “I gave Mo Liansheng a drink and he lost his sense of smell and taste. I gave General Nangong Xian a drink because I love her and dote on her. Do you know why I gave you a drink today?”
The Empress’s expression changed slightly, and she immediately felt an uncomfortable sensation in her throat, as if a needle was pricking her throat. “Your Majesty…” I am not Nangong Xian, and I had no place in His Majesty’s heart.
His Majesty rewarded me with a glass of wine tonight, obviously not because he liked me.
He was blaming me!
The Empress’s face turned pale. She suddenly realized that the so-called bed-service tonight was just a cover. His Majesty’s real purpose was to punish her!
The Empress was the Empress of th harem. In order to consolidate the Empress’s position, she had done many ruthless things over the years. The Empress had done too many guilty things till this date, and she could not figure out what she had done wrong.
Right now, the Empress absolutely could not panic. In her panic, she would reveal everything.
The Empress put on a confused expression and asked Dugu Jie in confusion, “I wonder why His Majesty gave me this cup of wine tonight?”
Dugu Jie said, “Of course it’s because the Empress has been in charge of the harem for more than twenty years. It’s been hard on you. My heart aches for you.”
Hearing this, the Empress was just about to heave a sigh of relief when she heard Dugu Jie sneer and say sarcastically, “You think the Empress would believe such a stupid thing?”
The queen’s cheeks, which had just regained some color, turned pale again.
She slid down from the dragon’s bed and knelt on the floor. She replied fearfully, “Your Majesty, I don’t know what you want to say. Please explain yourself.”
Dugu Jie tightened his grip on the porcelain cup in his hand and asked the empress, “Back then, the Prime Minister deliberately spread false news that there was a strange beast in Sichuan. You must have known about it too, right?”
It was actually this matter!
The Empress’s heart beat erratically. She lowered her head and said uneasily, “My father also heard rumors. Fortunately, His Majesty was blessed with good fortune and successfully found a strange beast. In the end, your condition turned for the better.”
She sounded like she did not know the truth.
However, she could deceive others but not Dugu Jie.
Dugu Jie found it ridiculous. Even at this point, the Empress had not lost her sense of propriety and was still struggling on her deathbed. She was indeed the queen of a country. She had great self-control!
“I’m sure the Empress knows that there are no magical beasts in this world. The so-called magical beasts are actually humans!”
Hearing this, the Empress’s delicate body trembled slightly. She bit her pink lips and continued to play dumb. “Your Majesty, I don’t know!”
“You don’t know! Eight years ago, the old prime minister came back to his hometown and met you once! What did the old prime minister say to you that time? Do you really not know?”
The Empress knew that she was doomed when Her Majesty brought this up.
She shuddered and said in a choked voice, “I… I did hear about this from my father. I didn’t dare to tell His Majesty because I was worried that His Majesty would feel guilty when he found out about it! After all, the Rejuvenation Pill was made from human hearts!”
“Your Majesty, it’s been hard on you to deal with so many things every day. I can’t bear to tell you about this. I’m guilty, please convict me!”
Dugu Jie looked at the empress with a frown. He knew that the empress wasn’t telling the truth. She must be hiding some other secret. He asked again, “Tell me the truth. Who is that ‘magical beast’?”
The Empress replied, “I don’t know. According to my father, that strange beast should be a medicine man. The so-called medicine man is a patient who has taken heavenly treasures since they were young. Because they have taken too many medicines, they have become a medicine.”
“I don’t even know who this medicine man is!”
Dugu Jie knew that he couldn’t get anything out of the empress. He waved his hand and said to Chen Degui, “Take the empress back to the palace!”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
The Empress had gone to serve His Majesty!
The Empress had been sent back!
This news quickly spread throughout the entire harem.
The next day, before everyone could make fun of the empress, they heard that Her Majesty had issued an imperial edict that the entire country was going to abolish Empress Zheng Yue’e’s position. The reason was that she had not behaved appropriately!
After asking around, everyone found out that the Empress couldn’t stand the loneliness and secretly disguised a man as a eunuch and hid him in the palace!
This shocked the concubines in the harem.
With the empress being banished to the cold palace, the position of the Empress of the Luo Dynasty was vacated. The women in the harem began to get excited again, all waiting for His Majesty to make a new Empress.
However, before they could hear the news that His Majesty was going to choose a new empress, they heard the shocking news that the Crown Prince, Dugu Sheng, would ascend to the throne!
In the autumn of the 29th year of Taiping, the emperor of Taiping, Dugu Jie, who had no illness or calamity, passed the throne to the Crown Prince, Dugu Sheng. At the age of 50, he left the temple hall and no longer asked about the state’s affairs.
After Dugu Sheng ascended the throne, his title changed to Sheng Ping, and Dugu Jie became the Emperor Emeritus. The position of Empress Dowager was always vacant.
On this day, Dugu Sheng disguised himself and rode a carriage to the city gate. Outside the city wall, Dugu Sheng saw Dugu Jie.
Dugu Jie was leading a strong horse. Dugu Sheng stood in the plaza outside the city wall, dressed in a black uniform. Dugu Sheng alighted from the carriage and bowed respectfully to Dugu Jie. “Father.”
Dugu Jie looked at Dugu Sheng and said, “Nineteen years ago, when I was almost on the wrong path, it was my son who took me in.”
Dugu Sheng recalled what had happened that year and couldn’t help but sigh. “I was too bold.”
Dugu Jie led the horse to Dugu Sheng’s side. He raised his hand to press on Dugu Sheng’s shoulder and said, “From that day onwards, I knew that my son had already grown up and could hold his own.”
“Sheng’er, although I’m not your biological father, I’ve always treated you like my own child. You’re a lucky man. You’ve never experienced the conflict between brothers, nor the fear of being kicked out of the Eastern Palace by the Emperor.”
Dugu Sheng listened quietly, thinking along with his father’s words. He felt that he was really lucky.
Dugu Jie suddenly asked again, “When I chose my adopted son, there were 23 boys in the royal family. Do you know why I chose you?”
Dugu Sheng shook his head in confusion.
This was also something Dugu Sheng could not figure out.
When he was a child, he was not the smartest, the prettiest, or the smartest. However, the emperor chose him that year. Even his biological father, the Third Prince, praised him for his good fortune.
Dugu Jie looked at Dugu Sheng’s face and said, “Your face resembles me the most, and your eyes resemble her the most.”
Dugu Sheng was shocked!
Dugu Jie muttered, “If I had a son or a daughter with her, I would probably look like you.”
Dugu Sheng felt terrible and could not speak. “Father, you…” Dugu Sheng asked in agony,” It’s been so many years. Can’t you let go of General Nangong? ”
“Put her down?” Dugu Jie looked up at the beautiful sky above him and sighed. “I’ve never had her before, so how can I put her down?”
Only by possessing someone would one be qualified to let go of that person.
Given his situation, he had no right to talk about letting go.
“My son, your mentor risked her life to protect the great rivers and mountains of the Luo Dynasty. You have to take good care of them for me. I have some matters to investigate. This time, don’t keep me.”
Dugu Sheng understood that his father had already made up his mind. Thus, he no longer tried to persuade his father to stay. He only said, “I hope that my father will be able to fulfill his wish.”
Dugu Jie got on his horse and looked down at Dugu Sheng. He said, “I named you Dugu Sheng because I hope that your achievements will be far greater than mine. Sheng’er, you can rule the country with your literary skills and you can quell chaos with your martial arts. Don’t disappoint me and your mentor!”
With that, Dugu Jie turned his horse around and left.
After leaving the palace, Dugu Jie went around Jiangling and found the small county where Doctor Zhou lived in seclusion.
At that time, Doctor Zhou had already passed away. His disciple, Zhou Chuan, opened a medical clinic in Jiangling.
On this day, Zhou Chuan was tidying up the herbs in the storeroom when he sensed someone entering the pharmacy. He raised his head and asked, “Are you feeling unwell?”
When Zhou Chuan was in his teens, he had followed his mentor into the palace and was fortunate enough to meet the Son of Heaven.
Even though His Majesty looked old, his appearance did not change much from when he was young.
Zhou Chuan recognized Dugu Jie’s identity. His expression changed drastically, and he looked like he was about to kneel down and kowtow. Dugu Jie quickly waved his hand and said, “There’s no need for formalities. Stand still. I’m asking you a question.”
Zhou Chuan lowered his hands to his chest and waited respectfully for Dugu Jie to speak.
Dugu Jie looked around the clinic and saw a crooked handwritten note hanging on the wall. On it was written—
When people are old, medicine does not bring joy; when I am independent, my heart does not deceive. I hope that no one in the world is sick, even if they are covered in dust by medicine. The world is peaceful, hahahaha.
After Dugu Jie read this passage, he laughed out loud. “Your master’s calligraphy is rather messy and untidy.”
Zhou Chuan’s face turned red, but he still braced himself to save some face for his mentor. “Mentor can’t see anything. It’s already very impressive that he can write.”
“You really admire your mentor.” Unlike Mo Liansheng, who was an ingrate.
Dugu Jie asked Zhou Chuan for a bowl of cold tea and drank it. After putting down the bowl, he sat on the wooden chair and told Zhou Chuan, “Your mentor’s foresight is god-like. Did he guess that I would come? Did he leave a message for you?”
Zhou Chuan smiled helplessly. “The Emperor Emeritus is indeed a smart person.”
Zhou Chuan walked into the inner room, took out an envelope, and handed it to Dugu Jie. Zhou Chuan told Dugu Jie, “Emperor Emeritus, before his death, Mentor told me to take good care of this letter, saying that he wanted to personally hand it to you. At that time, I thought that Mentor was trying to deceive me, but I still followed Mentor’s instructions and kept the letter carefully. I was hoping that one day, I would be able to hand it over to you.”
“Today, you’re here. I’ll hand this letter to you to fulfill Mentor’s final wish.” After completing Mentor’s last hospital, Zhou Chuan heaved a sigh of relief.
Dugu Jie said, “Doctor Zhou is a true doctor. He understands me and knows that I will definitely come.” Dugu Jie had always been concerned about Doctor Zhou. He wouldn’t feel at ease if he didn’t meet Doctor Zhou.
After consuming the Rejuvenation Pill, Dugu Jie became suspicious of the ingredients of the Spring Rejuvenation Pill. Was there really such a magical beast in this world? If there was, why did it appear when he was in a critical condition?
Mo Liansheng was an evil person. Dugu Jie had never trusted Mo Liansheng.
Mo Lian was petty and jealous. Back then, Dugu Jie had used a bowl of poison to steal Mo Liansheng’s sense of smell and taste, so Mo Liansheng naturally hated him.
Dugu Jie didn’t believe that Mo Liansheng would be so kind as to save him.
After bidding farewell to Zhou Chuan, Dugu Jie took the letter back to his temporary residence. He opened the letter and saw Doctor Zhou’s crooked handwriting—
[Your Majesty, when you read this letter, I should be gone. However, there is something that I buried in my heart. If I do not inform Your Majesty, I will not be able to rest in peace.
That day in the bedroom, Mo Liansheng brought the Rejuvenation Pill into the palace to treat His Majesty. At that time, I had sensed that the Rejuvenation Pill’s aura was somewhat special and familiar. After the incident, I finally discovered that the scent of the Rejuvenation Pill was exactly the same as the medicinal fragrance on General NanGong’s body!
I suspected that there was no such thing as a magical beast in this world. The so-called magical beast’s heart could revive the dead was just a scam. And the real magical beast was most likely General Nangong!
In order to verify, I went to see Mo Liansheng. When he saw that the matter was exposed, he actually stabbed me and deliberately framed me, causing my reputation to be ruined.
“Your Majesty, I know that you and General Nangong are deeply in love with each other. I’m afraid that you’ll be in so much pain after knowing the truth, so I’ve been waiting for a suitable opportunity to inform Your Majesty about this matter.”
Mo Liansheng has evil intentions and practices the crooked path. I implore Your Majesty to kill that bastard Mo Liansheng on my behalf!”
After reading the letter, Dugu Jie’s face turned pale.
He put down the letter, got up, opened the door, and walked to the courtyard. He knelt on the ground, leaned against a crabapple tree, and vomited.
Since he couldn’t spit it out, he used his hands to grab his throat. However, even if he vomited everything out, he wouldn’t be able to spit out the thing he truly wanted to get rid of.
Dugu Jie vomited violently before raising his bloodshot eyes and staring hatefully at the sky above him.
Now that Dugu Jie knew the truth, his heart was in turmoil and he fell seriously ill.
Dugu Jie had almost died from his illness, but Zhou Chuan had saved him. Dugu Jie didn’t want to live, and no one could save him.
He bid farewell to Zhou Chuan and left Jiangling, going to Sichuan alone.
Even if I had to die, I would kill Mo Liansheng!