On the fifth year after she became consort Rong, she lost her first child.
When consort Rong was taking a walk, she accidentally fell from the steps. She couldn’t keep the child that was already three months old in her belly. She had a miscarriage. This was an accident, but the truth was often not an accident. He knew that the battles of the harem wouldn’t be more peaceful than those at court. These conspiracies were applicable to every battle. He also knew that consort Rong was able to keep her standing in the palace not only because she relied on the emperor’s love, she also relied on her viciousness. He also saw her instruct people to kill a concubine who was disrespectful towards her. In the harem, the only one who was left who could compete with consort Rong was the woman on the empress’s seat.
The empress was the daughter of the emperor’s teacher. She was born from a noble family. There were trusted people of her at court. Even though the emperor didn’t favor her, but he also couldn’t easily punish her. And this accident of consort Rong was surely her (empress) doing.
After the miscarriage, the emperor was more protective of consort Rong and was afraid that she would break, even in his hands. Consort Rong didn’t have any changes. She still smiled seductively and was still out of this world beautiful. However, he could see that there were some things changing in her eyes.
What a woman would do after she loses her child was often things that men wouldn’t be able to guess.
The winter of the next year, consort Rong gave birth to a beautiful princess. The emperor was overjoyed and decreed a pardon of the world. For a month, the court was in a festive mood. Consort Rong held the child and leaned against the emperor. She laughed from much happiness.
One day, after the empress went for a routine visit at consort’s Rong palace, the just born princess never cried again. Someone strangled that small child. After consort Rong saw the corpse of the child, she fainted. She didn’t wake up for a few days. It wasn’t easy for the imperial doctors to wake her up, but after she woke up, she cried all day long and was very sad. The emperor was furious. Despite the opposition from the officials, he sent the empress to the cold palace.
With her long hair covering her face, the empress was still screaming when she was dragged to the cold palace by the guards, “It wasn’t me who did it! It wasn’t me! Consort Rong, you this despicable and vicious woman!”
In less than two days, the news that the empress had committed suicide was reported. It was said that she died very ugly. Her eyes were bulging, and her mouth was wide open. It was as if she was still cursing at someone when she died. When the emperor heard the news, he felt a bit sad and buried the empress.
Since then, consort Rong became the empress. From consort Rong’s palace she moved to the Furong palace where the empress lived.
There were various flowers inside Furong palace. When it was winter, the courtyard was filled with white plum blossoms. When it was night, he saw her wearing a white robe and sat on the railing of the long hallway. Her white bare feet swayed in the air. When she saw him, she smiled slightly, “Sir general, accompany me for a moment.”
He involuntarily stepped forward and sat down beside her. She leaned on his shoulder, natural like many years ago. Her long hair fell onto his hand. It was a bit cold.
“You know? She died. My child died,” she murmured. “It was I who killed her.”
His body trembled a bit. When he personally heard the answer he had long known, it felt real and shocking.
“Her neck was so thin and soft. I didn’t use much strength at all. She also didn’t struggle…but I know that she was shouting and screaming. She said, mother, don’t kill me. Don’t kill me!”
While talking, consort Rong’s emotions got stirred up. Her body couldn’t help but tremble and grasped his clothes tightly as if she was clutching a driftwood when she encountered stormy waves.
“The empress was also killed by me. Before she died, she was still cursing me. She said I’m a monster. She said that I won’t have a good ending. Am I a demon? Am I? I’m a human…am I not?”
Consort Rong fiercely grabbed his arm and looked deeply into his eyes while looking forward to his answer.
There was no answer.
“Take me away, take me away! Zhao (his name)! Take me away!” Almost pleading, she suddenly screamed. The red mole trembled. He hugged her tightly. He knew their souls were slowly rotting. One after another hole was thrown inside their souls. They could no longer return to the original body. He comforted her like many years ago when she was sad. He said, “I’m here. I’m by your side. Bingluo (her name), don’t be afraid. I’m at your side.”
Suddenly, her body stiffened. She pushed him away.
“Bingluo?” She repeated.
“Bingluo?” She repeated again.
“Princess Anping Zhao Bingluo?” She laughed.
“There’s no Bingluo. There’s not…I’m consort Rong. I’m the empress.”
There’s no Bingluo.
She slowly turned and headed to Furong inner palace. Her back was white and slender, weak and helpless. Furong palace was like a monster that opened its mouth and slowly swallowed her with the darkness.
He couldn’t see whether the red string on her right hand was still there.
The spring of the coming year came very late. When the spring bloomed it was already end of March.
When the spring came, the border reported an emergency. The emperor didn’t care. He carelessly sent a few general to fight against the enemy. Then, he took the royals and officials to the hunting banquet on the grassland. The familiar grassland. The place where they often played when they were young. There were still so many flowers. There were lilacs, winter jasmine and Chinese roses. The spring breeze took the scent of the grass and blow it over their hairs, making her hair messy. A few palace maids quickly rushed to help her organize her hair.
After so many years, the flowers were still similar. After so many years, the people were different.
He watched the emperor and the officials gallop on the grassland. She dispelled the palace maids and walked to him. He knelt on one knee. She didn’t let him get up and talked. It was a very low voice like she was talking to herself.
“Sir general, can you pluck a Chinese rose for me?”
He complied with the order, plucked a half-blooming Chinese rose and gave it to her.
She played with that Chinese rose. She teared its petals one by one and threw then in the wind to let them drift to everywhere. The red petals fell everywhere on the ground like there was blood on the ground.
“Sir general, do you believe that there’s a next life?”
“Because the karma of good and evil would always get retribution in the next life.”
She laughed, “Then what do sir general want to become in the next life?”
He didn’t answer. Instead he asked, “What about empress?”
She laughed out loudly. “Next life, ah. That is the human’s ability, what does it have to do with me?” (she’s mocking that she isn’t human)
She turned and left. Her footstep paused for a moment. He heard her voice, “I hope, I hope that there is no next life.”
TLNote: part 4 would be uploaded in a moment.