I can only laugh dryly. No wonder I’ve been feeling nauseous for days.
“I’ll go tell everyone this good news.”
“Don’t tell anyone yet.”
He looked at me puzzled.
“I want to tell the good news to the emperor myself. Don’t ruin the moment for me. You may excuse yourself now.”
I touched my belly. Is there really a life forming here?
“Do you plan on telling the emperor?”
“I don’t know. Should I tell him?”
“Of course. He’s the father.”
My family was sentenced to death. Their bodies were mutilated and hanged in front of the gates of the capital as a warning for the others. I cried silent tears when I saw the bodies. There were many stones beside and on the bodies. The commoners must’ve been angry at my family. The bodies were so dismembered that I don’t even recognize them anymore. I can’t even bury them. Even after death I can’t do anything for them. I’m really useless.
“Let’s go back. It won’t do the baby any good if you stay here in the cold.”
“Lian Er, how long have I been in the palace?”
“For about a year and half. Why are you asking?”
“Since my family is death, I’ll be the next they’ll remove. Do you think I can protect my child in the palace?”
“The emperor loves you. He’ll protect you. Beside it’s his child too.”
It’s difficult to say with my own mouth that I don’t trust Xuan Chen anymore. There was a time when I could put my life in Xuan Chen’s hands without thinking. I don’t trust the Xuan Chen who’s the emperor. How did we become like this?
“Do you mind living with me outside the palace?”
“What are you planning to do?”
“To protect my child, I’ll do anything.”
As I expected, the officials are asking for me to be demoted from my position. They who send me gifts when I married to gain my favor are turning their backs on me. Since I’ve no backing now, they’ll want nothing from me. How feeble are the relations in the palace?
On the day my case was presented on court I walked bravely into the courtroom while they were discussing. Nobody bowed. They didn’t even hide their disrespect for me. Sitting at the highest position is Xuan Chen with his emotionless face. I looked at him straight in the eye.
“Empress, you can’t enter the courtroom.”
“So there’s still somebody who remembers that I’m still the empress. Why didn’t anyone pay respect to me?”
After hearing that they all paid their respect.
“Even though you’re the empress, you’re a woman and can’t be in court,” said one of the officials.
“Aren’t you discussing my case? Don’t I have the right to defend myself?”
“Your Majesty, we’re all asking for the empress to be removed from her position.”
“On what ground do you all want to remove me? Did I commit any sins as the empress? Please enlighten me because I don’t remember ever committing any errors.”
“Your Highness is a daughter of a traitor. We can’t have a daughter of a traitor as our empress. It’ll be a shame for the imperial name.”
“I’m married to the emperor. So I’m from the royal family. When a girl marries into a family, she’s no longer tied to her own family. Isn’t that the law of this country?”
“But when a father commits a sin, his children will have to pay too.”
“Wrong. When a father commits a sin, his son has to pay too. There was never mentioned that a married daughter have to pay.”
I looked coldly at Xuan Chen when I said that a son have to pay too. The officials are busy discussing what to do with me. Xuan Chen stayed silent the whole time.
“I know that my father has done wrong. To atone for his sins, may I suggest that I’ll go to a temple to pray for the well-being of our country and the royal family?”
“As the empress said she hasn’t done anything wrong or misusing her power as the empress, therefore I send her to the temple to pray for the country.”
I was tending the flowers when he came.
“What were you thinking?”
“This wife was only helping to lift a burden from emperor’s shoulder.”
He put his hands on my shoulders and lifted my face to look at him.
“Do you hate me so much for killing your family that you want to get away from me?”
“Xuan Chen, it’ll be a lie to say I don’t blame you for their death. At least for my brother’s death I do blame you. I need time to think things through. It’s hard to look at you now. Every time I see you I’ll think about their bodies hanging at the gates in the cold.”
“You need to understand that I’ve gotten no choice.”
“It’s because I understand. That’s why I can’t fully hate you. I really want to hate you, Xuan Chen. But I can’t and it’s hard looking at you. So let me go.”
“When will you come back? You will come back, won’t you?”
Unconsciously my hand touched my belly. I didn’t answer him. He looked really hurt when he walked away. I need to get away from the palace to be assured that my child will be safe. Only outside will nobody know that I’m pregnant. If I’ve told Xuan Chen about the child he’ll never let me go. He’ll probably say that he’ll protect the child.
After my brother’s death I can’t trust the emperor’s power anymore. I didn’t lie about wanting to get away from him. When he killed my brother something in me died with him. I can’t look at Xuan Chen the same anymore. But I understand why he sentenced my whole family to death. If he didn’t many people will say that’s because of me. That I bewitched the emperor. He’s trying to protect me while sacrificing my whole family.
Besides the officials will never let a male descendant of their enemy live. I understand it all. But I just need someone to blame or I’ll really lose it. Maybe this temple stay will help me more than I needed.
On the day of my leave, he was standing on the highest wall of The Forbidden City, looking as formidable as ever, while I was wearing all grey without any jewelry. Our differences are like night and day.
I left the ring he gave me on my table. I looked up at him before entering the carriage. He was too far away to see his expression clearly. I smiled once before entering the carriage. Not once did I look back through the window. As he must’ve grown smaller with the distance, my love for him has grown smaller too. At the time I didn’t realized it yet.
Comment: There’s so many ideas forming in my head now about how they’ll end up. Till now it was just about Xuan Chen. I didn’ t do Yun Wen justice. So from now on it’ll be more Yun Wen and less Xuan Chen