91 Alone In The Cold Palace
GRAND CONSORT SHU
THE DRAGON PALACE
"What do you mean by His Majesty does not wish to give me an audience?" Grand Consort Shu snapped. "I am his mother, does a son have a say in regards to when he can see his parent?"
"Your Highness I'm incompetent." Court Lady Nam fell on her knees.
"No. Get up." Grand Consort Shu pulled Court Lady Nam. "You go back and tell him that if he doesn't let me in then I shall kneel here instead, to repent for my sin for being an incompetent mother."
"Mother, why would you do that? Please get up," Yang Liu was quick to refute from behind. She had insisted on paying a visit with Grand Consort Shu rather than coming later, alone.
The princess shared that when she followed her brother to YiYuan she fought with Li Lian. According to Yang Liu, Li Lian wanted to seduce Yu'er just as she had once tried the same with General Feng.
Li Lian was not like that. She was a hard working girl that served Grand Consort Shu best. Her palace maid was different, she cared for all her needs, taught her how to better herself and unlike the rest, she never waited for instructions but anticipated her mistress' needs before her mistress was aware of them, herself.
"Yang Liu you should leave. I will relay your apologies when my son decides to respect filial piety."
Yuwen Hong was not pleased with the princess' behavior, thus Yang Liu wanted to apologise and also request an edict stating her true gender, to be officially announced on Grand Consort Shu's birthday celebration.
"But mother, remember I want to ask him about Li Lian too, because I need her." Part of Yang Liu's plan was to learn how to dance with Li Lian so that they would dance together at the celebration, this would make the reveal to the world elegant for Yang Liu. If they saw her being graceful, gentle and breathtaking, no one would doubt that she was indeed a woman and deserving to be a princess.
The problem though, was that Li Lian was missing, a big part of the reason why Grand Consort Shu was there. 'Where was her maid?' She did not come back with the rest of the crew that went to YiYuan. Rumors had it that she indeed seduced the emperor which is why she was then cast out.
They said that Yuwen Hong would visit her sleeping room, take her to private bathing places and even his bed chambers. But if it was so that her son had an interest in her then why not take her in as his concubine? Grand Consort was in need of the friendship she had with Li Lian.
"I shall take my leave," Yang Liu resigned. "Please ask for me if you need anything mother."
Once Yang Liu had left, Grand Consort Shu instructed Court Lady Nam, "Kneel with me." She gave the entourage a nod, that they may give them space by stepping back a little.
"Go and tell Eunuch Nam to report that Grand Consort Shu has resigned to kneeling down outside, till His Majesty grants her permission to see him." Court Lady Nam ordered one of the Dragon palace maids, before sending them away as well. This left Court Lady Nam alone with the Grand Consort Shu, kneeling side by side.
"What is wrong with my son Court Lady Nam?"
"Your Highness, this servant―"
"Quit the formalities, you know that does not stand with me."
"This servant wouldn't dare." Court Lady Nam always chose to be proper and to honour etiquette. "This servant is not aware of what took place in detail. His Majesty only lets on Eunuch Nam on his most private affairs."
"Eunuch Nam is your brother, couldn't you ask him for the details?"
"Not when it comes to being a servant. He fears His Majesty and I doubt he is willing to lose His Liege's trust just because of gossip."
"Leave it, then. Just tell me what happened to my maid."
"This servant is not aware. Li Lian just disappeared and no one knows where to. On the night she vanished she was not on night duty, so it is reasonable that she may have run away on the same night."
"That is not possible. Why would my Li Lian run away when I treated her so well?"
"I'm sorry, Your Highness. This servant is unworthy. That night was weird itself, if anything vital took place. I wouldn't know."
"My Lady," the maid sent to Eunuch Nam was back, "His Majesty asks Grand Consort Shu to come in, not to make a scene by kneeling."
Grand Consort Shu whispered as she stood, "Send someone to my quarters if you hear anything else."
The only person that entered with Grand Consort Shu was Lady Park. The palace maid that delivered the message was the one that led them to where her son was. They passed through the halls of gold and grandeur before they got to his bed chambers. It was the place she had never entered before, not counting the time he was sick.
"Is he not feeling well?" she panicked, speeding up. She rushed into his bedchambers before Eunuch Nam could announce her presence.
"Yu'er?" she worried. She frantically searched the room before her eyes lay on him, slumped sluggishly by his bed.
When he noted her arrival, he wearily lifted his eyes and sighed. He picked one of the many wine bottles that surrounded him and more than took a sip. "Muqin must not annoy me at this time of the day."
"Yu'er! Muqin is worried. What has happened that you must drink at this hour when the sun just rose hours ago." He must have started drinking after the morning court for he was still in his official robes.
"If my heart seeks consolation what shall I do?"
The stench of alcohol reeked by him but as a mother, Grand Consort Shu did not care. Yu'er was her everything. She tried taking the wine bottle out of his hand, but he held on.
"Yu'er! Why do you act this poorly? If the court was to find out that the emperor wastes his time by being a drunkard, they will dethrone you." Who would protect him when he just ascended the throne three years ago, and his wings were still weak?
"Who cares?" He waved his hand that she should leave, coughing on the alcohol. "I feel like vomiting." Yuwen Hong gagged himself using his hand.
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"Get a bucket for His Majesty!" Lady Park hailed and the eunuchs ran in to attend to the emperor, who was already spewing yellowy contents onto the floor.
It was a while later after he was changed and cleaned that they sat in the lounging area. To Grand Consort Shu, Yu'er was evidently drunk, still.
"I want to cry but no tears come," Yuwen Hong groaned and rubbed his forehead as if that would have him sober.
It was such a shame. When she was pregnant she managed to conceal it from her seniors, aware that if it was known she would have to confess who the father was or be killed. Everyone knew Dowager Empress Wang was a jealous empress, she would kill her if she knew that it was the emperor at the time, who impregnated a maid.
Yu'er was born crying like any baby. However, scared that her baby would be snatched away, she, Maid Shu, hid her baby in her sleeping room. With Lady Park who was also still a maid that shared the sleeping room with her, they took turns in looking after him. In this process, they would shut his mouth to restrict him from crying, or in difficult circumstances they would tie a cloth around his mouth. It was the only way that no one would find out that a baby existed.
So, due to this, Yuwen just learnt not to cry and until now he just couldn't shed tears. But how could she tell him this? Knowing him and his temper, though he would respect her and not punish her, he would unnecessarily find someone else to put the blame on. More deaths were not good for his reign.
"Maybe someday you will cry. Or maybe it's just because you are a strong person with an unquenchable flame within you, your soul won't let you falter or cry."
"All that is meaningless." He thumbed his emperor's royal jade ring. "What can be meaningful when the woman I want does not feel anything toward me?"
Grand Consort Shu stood and circled the small table to where he sat. "What woman? Aiyah, what woman would dare refuse my handsome son?"
"Elora, mother. I found her and she doesn't want me." He resigned in defeat, his shoulders slumping. It was heartbreaking to see him looking that way. Her son was never defeated. It was either he was agitated or angry. Hurt was a foreign emotion to him. But there he was, crushed.
She was concerned, curious about so many things. How did he find her? When? What really took place? But these things would only be a dagger in his heart. Rather, they could discuss it later.
"Come here," she cooed and dragged him into her arms. "Muqin knows how you feel and understands." To this, he sobbed drily, no tears kissing his cheeks.
Every sob taunted her heart. Who dares to hurt her precious Yu'er? She knew well, from firsthand what it felt like to have impossible love. It was the same for her and Yu'er's swordmaster, who she loved. But it was forbidden love, she belonged to the fallen dragon and the sword Master was tied to past love he couldn't let go of.
"The flower has intentions, but the water has no feeling." Grand Consort Shu started to recite the short poem they both liked.
Yuwen Hong pulled back, took a swig of his wine and hoarsely answered. "While the dropping flowers pine for love, the heartless brook babbles on." Poems were his favorite hobby, he indulged in them from time to time. At most, they comforted him or calmed him.
"The waterside flower pining for love sheds petals, while the heartless brook babbles on." Grand Consort Shu finished.
Yuwen Hong didn't like to share his feelings so he did not say much to answer the questions, when she asked later on. The only thing he answered directly was that Li Lian was dead. Apparently she drowned in the nearby river. At the end of the day it was actually her who wailed.
Her favorite person was dead. She was alone again in the cold palace.