Nirvana In Fire Chapter 100
The pa.s.sing of the Grand Empress Dowager was not an unantic.i.p.ated event. She had been advanced in age, her mental state had been deteriorating for many years, and her physical health often fluctuated as well, and so the Ministry of Rites had begun making preparations for the rituals of her funeral long in advance. So when the time came, everything proceeded smoothly, and was not thrown into a frenzy as a result of the recent change in Minister of Rites.
As the last tones of the bells of great mourning faded, Da Liang immediately entered into a state of national mourning. The Emperor, in accordance with Liang custom, began thirty days of imperial mourning out of filial piety, and the whole imperial clan followed suit. All officials third-ranked and above entered the palace to perform sacrificial rites, and the entire country was banned from merrymaking for three years.
This brought about several different conclusions.
Firstly, Xie Yu had originally been sentenced to beheading, but because of the state of national mourning, the sentence could not be carried out, and so it was changed to exile to Qian province instead, and he was to start on his journey in two months time.
The marriage contract arrangements between Liang and Chu also came to a halt, as only a promise could be given now, and it would be three years before any actual exchanges could happen.Da Chu had originally come to propose a union in order to forge stronger ties with Da Liang, so they would be free on the other hand to deal with their Burmese neighbours, and now that the other was in national mourning, custom and ritual became the best defense as it automatically prevented Da Liang from initiating attacks on other countries unprovoked, and so their objective had still been achieved. And so the Da Chu amba.s.sadors did not protest, and only began preparations to return to their own country. Princess Jingning was on the one hand in deep mourning for her beloved great grandmother, and on the other greatly relieved at being granted a reprieve, however temporary, over the matter of her marriage. Torn all at once between grief and joy, she found it all the more difficult to contain her tears.
Grand Princess Liyang, living secluded in the mountain temples, immediately started back for the capital to pay her own respects. Xiao Jingrui and Xie Bi officially no longer had any n.o.ble status, and therefore had no right or obligation to partic.i.p.ate in the rituals to send off the Grand Empress Dowagers spirit, but the elderly lady had always had more than enough love to spare for the younger generation, and neither could find it in himself to refrain from joining the sacrificial rites, so although their positions were awkward and a great contrast to what they had been only a few months ago, they nonetheless accompanied their mother to the capital, staying with her in Liyangs Princess residence.
The fight for the throne, which had been raging like a furnace within the walls of the palace, faded temporarily in the wake of the bell tones of great mourning. For the thirty days of the ritual guarding of the spirit, all the Emperors sons were required to stay in the palace and were not permitted to return to their own residences. Neither were they allowed to bathe, sleep on beds, nor eat meat in their meals. They were expected to remain kneeling and bow to the departing spirit, as well as to weep and mourn as ritual dictated. Of course, there was no way the pampered Crown Prince and Prince Yu could undergo this kind of torture, and they only managed to hold up for a few days before succ.u.mbing to their vices. So long as the Emperor was not present, the grief on their faces lessened considerably, and their subordinates inevitably found ways around the inhibitions to lessen their lords hards.h.i.+p, eager to curry favour. Because the rituals of the vigil were truly rather severe, if one did not find some way to break the rules, it was likely that he would end up half-dead himself before the vigil of the ritual guarding of the spirit even ended, and so it only made sense to look after ones own health first. Besides, they were both breaking the rules together, so neither could accuse the other of anything, and of course none of the officials accompanying the princes in the rituals dared to speak out. And once these two started violating the rules, though the other princes were not so obvious in their offenses, they too naturally relaxed their standards. In stark contrast to his brothers, Prince Jing, with his soldiers iron-like const.i.tution and his pure, unyielding piety, stubbornly adhered to every letter of the rituals, refusing to yield so much as a syllable of disobedience. Because Prince Jing had not been raised to a Royal Prince, he normally seldom appeared by the Crown Prince and Prince Yus side in formal settings. But this time, as he knelt beside these two for thirty days keeping vigil over their great-grandmothers spirit, the difference in his conduct stood out sharply to the court officials who had come to accompany the princes in the ritual, and he gained favour and approval in their eyes.
Mei Changsu kept the thirty days of vigil in his rooms at his own manor. Although Physican Yan knew the toll of the rituals on his body would be extremely harsh, he worried that if he prevented him from expressing his grief, it would build up in his heart instead and cause even greater harm, and so he could only do his best to build up his young lords health as he kept watch in the background. Because Mei Changsu refused to eat anything except plain congee, Li Gang and Aunt Ji spent great effort hiding from him the nouris.h.i.+ng herbs and medicines they slipped into his bowl. Fortunately, Mei Changsu was so dazed by grief that he never noticed anything.
Because everyone of importance had been called back to the palace, the entire capitol city was under heavy guard, and there was little fear of any great crime or case arising in the city during the period of mourning. The thirty days pa.s.sed in unparalleled peace and quiet, and nothing of any significance seemed to occur. Li Gang and Zhen Ping, who had just hurriedly arrived in the capitol, kept watch over things from within the manor and Mister s.h.i.+san kept watch from without, but the peace was undisturbed, and they were able to avoid troubling their Chief in his vigil.
When the period of ritual mourning came to an end, the funeral was held complete with every honour due to the nearly hundred-year-old Grand Dowager who had been beloved of both the common people and her own children and grandchildren. She was then escorted to the tomb where she would rest beside her husband, who had gone before her some forty years prior. The casket processed along the main roads, heralded by chants of mourning and showered in cascades of burning paper money. The noise of the procession could be heard from Su Manor, which was located only a street away from the main roads. Mei Changsu knelt in the corridors of his manor and bowed in the direction of the procession, his eyes rimmed in red but dry.
After the funeral, the Emperor resumed court, but because everyone was exhausted by the many days of ritual, he kept them only for a brief show of appearances before dismissing them to return to their own residences and families for a chance to bathe and rest.
It was little surprise that Mei Changsus illness flared up after his month of ritual-keeping. Fortunately, Physican Yan was there to temper the flare, and it did not rise up as harshly as it had in the past. There was some blood-stained vomiting, and some fever and cough, and he spent a few nights soaked in sweat in near delirium, but a few doses of the physicians medicine soon managed to control the illness.
After pa.s.sing out in a dazed sleep for an entire afternoon, Mei Changsu awoke in the evening and sat up in his bed, wrapped in his quilt, to see Fei Liu folding little men out of paper. When he glanced over, he caught a glimpse of a white letter on the table. It had been sent by Princess Nihuang via special messengers directly from Yunnan and had only arrived yesterday. On it was written only, Brother, please take care. He had still been grief-stricken when he first saw it, and so had tossed it aside, thinking that Li Gang and the rest would not dare move it, and so it had been resting on his table this whole time.
Fei Liu, bring me that letter.
The youths figure blurred for a moment, and then he was beside Mei Changsu, his task complete. Mei Changsu opened the letter and stared at the four delicate characters which hid such wild emotion, and after a long moment, he told Fei Liu to bring him the lamp, took down the lamp shade, and threw the letter into the flame, watching as it burned to ash.
Burn? Fei Liu asked, his eyes wide with surprise.
Never mind, Mei Changsu smiled. Some words can be carved into the heart.
The youth c.o.c.ked his head as if he had not understood, but he was not the kind of person to muse over these kinds of questions, and soon, he had resumed his place on his little stool and was folding paper men once again. But he could not fold the heads of the paper men properly, and he threw them to the floor in frustration and stomped on them a few times, saying loudly, Stupid!
Mei Changsu waved him over and slowly, carefully, folded a beautiful little man out of paper, complete with a head and four limbs, with hands that moved if you tugged on the other one. Fei Liu was delighted, a smile breaking out across his face before he suddenly said, Tricked me!
These two words were spoken completely without context, but Mei Changsu understood, and glanced at him disapprovingly. The method Lin Chengege taught you was correct, he did not trick you, it was Fei Liu who did not learn it properly, so you should not make false accusations!
Fei Liu looked at the paper man in his hand unhappily and said in a small voice, Not the same!
There are many ways to fold paper men. The method I know was taught to me by my grand grandmother. When I was small, she often folded paper men for me, and paper cranes as well, but at the time, I did not like them, and was always running away from her to go riding instead.
Small? The youth looked confused, his mouth slightly agape, as if he could not imagine a time when his Sugege was small.
It was a time when I was much smaller than our Fei Liu now.
Wa?! Fei Liu exclaimed.
Bring me another sheet of paper, Sugegewill teach you to fold a parrot.
Fei Liu was delighted, and ran to pick out a sheet of his favourite cream-yellow paper, his eyes wide and his brow furrowed with concentration as he studied Mei Changsus every move.
As the parrots tail was slowly appearing, Fei Liu suddenly turned his head and shouted, Big uncle!
Mei Changsu stared, his movements slowing for a moment, and then he ordered, Fei Liu, go and bring the big uncle here.
When the big uncle has left, Sugege will finish it for you.
Because his beloved paper-folding had been so abruptly interrupted, Fei Liu was deeply unhappy with the culprit, Meng Zhi, and his handsome face was dark with fury as he led him into the room, his entire body conveying such coldness that Meng Zhi was scratching his head, wondering what he had done to offend the little fellow.
Mengdage, please sit. Mei Changsu handed the half-folded parrot to Fei Liu for him to play with in a corner and then leaned forward and sat up a little, Meng Zhi rus.h.i.+ng over to help him.
Mengdagehas worked hard this month, the palace has been in such disarray, since you have some time off today with the changing of the s.h.i.+fts, why not return to your manor for some rest?
I was worried about you. Meng Zhi studied him under the light of the lantern, and saw that he was thinner than ever, and could not help the worry that twisted in his heart as he urged, Although you were very close to the Grand Empress Dowager, she lived a long life, and in the end she pa.s.sed on in peace and comfort, so there is joy to be found in the sorrow. You must take care of yourself.
Mei Changsu lowered his eyes and answered, Dont worry, I understand this logic, it is only. The last time I saw Great Grandmother, she held my hand and called me XiaoShu, and whether she truly recognized me, or was only calling out in confusion, it showed that, in her heart, she still rememberedXiaoShu, or she would not have called out such a name. I always hoped she would wait for me, but now even this wish is no more.
This love you bear for her, the Grand Empress Dowagers spirit knows, and felt it long ago. Ever since you were young, she always doted on you, and she would not be able to bear it if she saw you now in such grief for her sake. I heard that after Grand Princess Jinyang gave birth to you, the elderly lady could not wait for you to enter the palace for your one months celebration, but came personally to the Lin manor to see you. When I was serving as a guard in the palace, I often saw the Grand Empress Dowager surrounded by a crowd of children, but the one in the middle whom she loved the most was always you. Back then, you were such a mischievous child
Was I? Mei Changsus eyes glistened, and a faint smile lingered at the corner of his lips. These past few days, I have thought often about those days too. Every time I got into trouble, it was Great Grandmother who came to save me. Soon, Father realized that as long as he did not beat me, Great Grandmother would not interfere too greatly, and so he came up with other ways to punish me, that were to me even worse than beatings.
I know, I know, Meng Zhi was also smiling at the memory. Once, you got into some kind of trouble you probably broke something of the former Emperors, and Commander Lin was furious, and although we were accompanying the Emperor to the hunting grounds, he deliberately forbade you from going with me to learn archery and riding, and instead gave you a crowd of children to look after as punishment, and said he would not tolerate any mistakes. And at the time, you were only a large child yourself.
Mei Changsu nodded, indicating that he too remembered this occasion clearly. At that time, I would have preferred going off by myself to wrestle with bears to dragging along a crowd of rowdy young boys along with me everywhere I went. Jingrui was rather quiet, but that Yujin, running around all the time without standing still for half a second.
And so you found some rope and tied him to a tree? Meng Zhi raised an eyebrow. Prince Jing, who was helping you look after them, was so scared for you that he took the blame and claimed that he was the one who had done the tying.
But in the end, the one who was punished by kneeling for hours was still me, until Great Grandmother came and rescued me. At the time, I felt so wronged, I thought, Jingyan already said he was the one who did it, so why was I being punished. Mei Changsu smiled, and then began coughing. It was a long time before he stopped and continued, slightly breathless, When I think back on those days, it is as if there is a ball of ice wrapped in fire buried in my heart, sometimes warm, sometimes so cold that it seems to pierce right through me.
XiaoShu. Meng Zhi felt something in his chest twist in pain. He wanted to comfort him, but could not find the right words to say, and the iron-hard warriors eyes reddened with emotion.
Dont be sad, it was Mei Changsu who comforted him in return. Great Grandmother is at peace, and I have pa.s.sed the worst days of grief, and am much better now. It is only that you are the only person who can talk about the old days like this with me, Mengdage, and so I said a little more than I should have.
Meng Zhi let out a long sigh and patted his shoulder. My heart is conflicted. I want to talk to you about the past, so that you will remember that you are not Su Zhe, but still Lin Shu, but I worry that if I say too much, I will cause you grief instead.
I understand your good intentions, Mei Changsu lifted his head, his eyes serene. But neither Lin Shu nor Su Zhe are made of paper and clay, and this bit of suffering I am still able to withstand. There is still so much to do, how can I fall now, when I am only halfway there? Mengdage, I believe that I can make it to the very last step, so you must also believe in me.
Meng Zhi heard him say very last step and felt his heart shudder, though he did not know why. He hurriedly forced a trembling smile and answered, Of course I believe in you. With your talents and temperament, what is impossible?
Mei Changsu smiled at him warmly and then leaned back onto his pillows, coughing slightly before saying, You should return home, and keep Sister-in-law company while you can. You see that I am doing fine now, and there is nothing to worry about. After the changing of the s.h.i.+fts today, the Commander General will be busy once more.
Meng Zhi saw that it was growing late and was afraid to disturb Mei Changsus rest, and so he stood and turned to leave, and then turned back to urge, Everything has its time, and the most important thing for you right now is to rest and take care of your health. Everything else can come later, since nothing is urgent at this moment, and the best laid plans are built slowly with a strong foundation.
Mei Changsu nodded in a.s.sent, and then summoned Fei Liu over to see his guest out. The youth was eager to go back to folding his parrot, and so obeyed so enthusiastically that he almost dragged Meng Zhi out of the room.
By this time, it was the second watch of the night. Mei Changsu listened to the distant sounds of the watchmens clappers on the street, and stroked the fabric of his mourning robes as he focused hard to steady his mind, which had been wavering slightly.
Since the first step had been taken, thenhe must persist until the last.
The youth flew back into the room and handed over the half-folded parrot. In fact, only the last few steps remained, and with a fold and a flip, the tail fanned open, and the entire shape of the parrot emerged. Amidst Fei Lius happy exclamations, Mei Changsu slowly held up the parrot in his hand and murmured, Great Grandmother, can you see?
Wow look who finally got a chapter up. Only two weeks late.. heres hoping the next one wont take so long (thats what she said)
This chapter was way sadder than I expected. The quiet unexpected feels run you over all the harder because this isnt a flashy chapter with a lot of plot, but its just full of the undercurrents of loss and longing that form the (often hidden) current of Lin Shus life now. My heart. Meng Zhi for best bro.
Also omg is this why FL can be seen folding paper men in the corner in the scene when Nihuang comes to find MCS after Tainainai dies?? T__________T
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