“My thought precisely,” Yideng said, “Concubine Liu was hugging the child and sobbing. This child’s injury was not as severe as Miss Huang’s, but he was very young; he did not have any immune system yet. If I was to treat his injury, it would have consumed all my energy. I hesitated for a long time. I saw Concubine Liu was crying pitifully. Several times I was going to open my mouth to tell her that I would treat his injury, but every time I remembered that if I do that, I can forget about competing against the other experts at the incoming second Sword Meet of Mount Hua to win the Nine Yin Manual. Ay! Wang Zhenren had said that this Manual was the Wulin world’s big root of trouble; it brought harms to many people and brought out the worst of human’s heart. He was absolutely right. Because of that book I lost my compassion towards others. After hesitating for almost two hours I finally started to lean toward treating his injury. Ay, during these two hours I felt like I was lower than an animal. The worst part was, my decision to treat his injury was not because I wanted to do something good, but because I was tired of Concubine Liu’s constant cry for help.”
“Uncle,” Huang Rong said, “I said you loved her very much, I was not wrong.”
Yideng did not seem to hear her, he simply continued his narration, “As Concubine Liu heard my promise to help, she was so happy that she fainted again. I massaged her acupoint to awaken her, then I started to untie the child’s swaddling clothes so that I could massage his acupoints using the ‘xian tian gong’ [inborn/innate energy]. Who would have thought that under the swaddling clothes that child was wearing a ‘du dou’ [an undergarment covering chest and abdomen] on his chest. I stopped on my track, unable to say anything; because on the ‘du dou’ was a pair of embroidered mandarin ducks, and next to the ducks was that ‘four weaving machines’ poem. Turned out this ‘du dou’ was the handkerchief given to Zhou Shixiong a couple of years ago.
Concubine Liu saw my expression and she knew things had turned bad for her. Her face was ashen. Clenching her teeth she pulled a dagger from her waist and pointed it toward her own chest. ‘Emperor,’ she called out, ‘I do not have any face to live longer in this world. I am asking your infinite mercy and compassion, I am willing to trade my life for the child’s. In my next life I will become a dog or a horse to repay your kindness.’ As she said that she pushed the dagger into her chest, hard.”
Although everybody knew that Concubine Liu was still alive, they could not help but gasp in horror.
As he narrated this part, it was as if Reverend Yideng did not tell the past events to others, but it seemed like he was simply thinking out loud, “I quickly used ‘qin na fa’ [grappling, capture and seize technique] to snatch her dagger away. I was fast, but her dagger had already penetrated her chest. Blood was seeping out her clothes. I was afraid she might try to kill herself again, so I sealed the acupoints on her hands and feet. I tended the wound on her chest and let her rest on a chair. She did not say anything, but her eyes looked at me full of sorrow. Neither of us said anything. The room was quiet, save the sound of that child gasping for breath.
While listening to that child’s breathing many, many past events flashed in my mind: how she entered the palace for the first time, how I taught her martial art, how I had loved her. She had always revered me, feared me, gently attended to all my needs, never dared to disregard my will; but she had never loved me. At first I was not aware of her true feelings, but that day I saw the way she looked at Zhou Shixiong, then I understood. When a woman truly and wholeheartedly loves a man, she will look at him with that kind of look. I remembered the way she looked when Zhou Shixiong threw that handkerchief down, the way she looked when he turned around and left the palace. That scene had haunted me for several years, made my sleeps restless and my meals taste like sawdust. Even today I can still see it vividly in my mind.
This time once again her heart was broken; not over her lover, but over her son, whose life she was willing to trade her own with! I am an honorable man, and I felt disgraced. Me, the ruler of a country! Having this thought my heart was filled with fury; I lifted my foot and smashed an ivory stool in front of me. I looked up and was dumbstruck. I said, ‘You … what happened to your head?’ She did not seem to hear me, her gaze was fixed to her child. I have never really understood before, how someone’s gaze could contain so much love, so much compassion. By that time she had realized I was not going to save her child’s life, so she wanted to look at him as long as he was still alive.
I took a mirror and held it out in front of her. I said, ‘Look at your hair!’ In just a short period of time it seemed like she had become several decades older. She was only eighteen, nineteen years old; yet because of fear, anxiety, remorse, despair, grieve, and all kinds of deep emotional attacks innumerable hair on her temples had turned white!
She did not seem to care toward the change in her appearance. She blamed the mirror to be in the way, obstructing her view to the child. ‘The mirror, take it away!’ she said, candidly. She had forgotten that I was the Emperor, her master. I felt strange; I thought she had always treasured her own looks, why didn’t she pay any attention to it now? I tossed the mirror aside only to see without blinking her gaze was fixed on the child. I had never seen such gaze; full of love and hope, a hope that her child would live. I understood that if she could, she would gladly take her own soul and put it inside her child’s body to replace his slowly departing soul.”
Listening to this Guo Jing and Huang Rong looked at each other; both were thinking in their hearts, “When I was seriously injured and there was little hope for it to be healed you also looked at me that way.” Forgetting their surroundings they held out their hands to hold each other. Two hearts beating as one; they felt warmness creeping up their bodies. Amidst listening to how others were grieving of misfortune they could not help of thinking their own good fortune; due to the fact that their loved one was sitting right next to them at that time, that place. Because her injury had been healed; she would not die. Yes, she would not die. In these two youngsters’ hearts their loved one would not die forever.
They heard Reverend Yideng continue, “I could not take it much longer; several times I wanted to just take the child and treat his injury, but I kept looking at that handkerchief wrapped around the child’s chest. The handkerchief with a pair of mandarin ducks embroidered on it, their necks intertwined with each other. The mandarin ducks had white heads, symbolizing they would grow old together. But why it was written, ‘It’s a pity not yet old but the hair on the head has turned white.’? As I turned my head I saw the hair on her temples had turned white, I broke in cold sweats. At that time my heart turned hard, I said, ‘Fine, go ahead and grow old together; just leave me lonely and cast away in this palace as an emperor! This is you and your lover’s child; why would I sacrifice my whole energy to revive him?’
She looked at me, her last glance. It was full of blame and hatred. Afterwards she had never looked at me anymore, but this one look I will not forget till the day I die. She coldly said, ‘Let me go, I want to hold my child!’ She was speaking with authority and determination; it was as if she was my master, made it difficult for me to disobey. Thereupon I unsealed her acupoints.
She held the child in her bosom. The child was so much in pain that he wanted to cry, but no sound came out of his tiny lips. His small face had turned purple; he looked at his mother as if asking her to help him. I was so hard-hearted; I did not have the least bit of compassion. I saw one by one her black hair had turned to ash grey, and from ash grey to white. I don’t know whether it really did happen, or it was my imagination playing tricks on me.
I heard her gently saying, ‘Child, Mama does not have the ability to save you, but Mama also can’t let you suffer. Child, have a peaceful rest. Sleep Child, sleep. Don’t wake up forever!’ I heard she sang a gentle lullaby. It was a very beautiful song. It went like this, ‘hmm, hmm …’ Listen!”
Everybody heard him say those words, but actually they did not hear the least bit of a song. They looked at each other in bewilderment.
“Shifu,” the scholar said, “You have talked long enough, you must be tired. Please take a rest.”
Reverend Yideng did not seem to hear, he kept talking, “The child’s face showed a faint happiness, but the pain made his whole body spasm. With a gentle voice she said, ‘My precious, my heart and my soul, sleep tight, then you won’t feel the pain anymore, not the least bit of pain!’ Suddenly ‘stab!’, her dagger went straight into the child’s heart.”