Chapter 30 Qi Yue Wu Yi Part 2
“Why did Brother look at me like that?” In response to Yan Changqing’s cold gaze, Murong Xiu tilted his head. The shadow on his face disappeared the moment Yan Changqing opened his eyes. He smiled showing off his white teeth. This smile reached his eyes, revealing a sunny personality that was appropriate to his age.
“I haven’t seen you in a while. You have lost weight.”
Yan Changqing withdrew his hand blankly.
These two words left Murong Xiu’s eyebrows trembling. He said a little sourly: “I have already told you that when it’s just the two of us, there are no monarchs and ministers or titles, only brothers.”
But these few words did nothing to hide the emperor’s royal demeanour.
Yan Changqing stared at Murong Xiu in silence. The emperor in front of him was already twenty years old. His face had slowly grown out of its childishness and timidity making him look more like a man than a boy. He inherited the unique facial bone structure of the Murong royal family and a pair of auspicious phoenix-like eyes that were identical to his mother’s, Concubine Xian’s. This diluted a bit of Murong Xiu’s ruggedness and sharp angles and merged it into a face of beauty and melancholy. Although his figure was still a little thin, he already had the solid and tall bones of a grown man.
However, it seemed that because of perennial worry, the corners of Murong Xiu’s eyes and downcast eyebrows brought a deepness and seriousness to his expression which did not match his age.
Yan Changqing couldn’t remember how long it had been since he had looked at Murong Xiu this way. It seems that since the day Murong Xiu ascended the throne at the age of fourteen, he had never looked at his “little brother” with a level eye.
It snowed heavily on the day Murong Xiu took over the throne. The boy who had just experienced the loss of his parents walked alone to the tall eighty-one-step white jade Jiulong Terrace. His neck was thin and weak and looked like it was about to get crushed by the heavy gorgeous crown sitting atop his head. With the howling of the cold wind and snow flying across the sky, he accepted the worship of hundreds of officials. Everyone was blinded by the wind and snow, their eyelashes covered with ice in no time. No one could tell that their new emperor, the thin boy who of only fourteen, bore tears that Yan Changqing personally wiped away from the corner of his eyes.
The previous emperor left a decree which stated that if he were to die first, his most favoured concubine, Imperial Concubine Xian, was to be buried beside him with a three chi silk. The white paper money along with the heavy snowfall covering the sky became the most vivid memories from the winter when Murong Xiu was sixteen years old. Just before he became emperor, Murong Xiu seemed to be caught in a ridiculous and tragic dream that he could never shake. The weak and helpless young man was simply a pale paper man tied up in a crimson robe with a golden embroidered dragon. That day Yan Changqing held his cold hand tightly, trying hard to pass his own body heat to him.
“Don’t be afraid, Brother is here. Brother will protect you.”
Murong Xiu gripped Yan Changqing’s hand back: “Brother, I will protect you too.”
Yan Changqing smiled. This Little Brother was younger than him by six months yet in the past two years he had caught up to him in stature. Regardless of this, he patted Murong Xiu on the shoulder just like an elder brother. He knew that after the door opened, he would never have such a chance again.
“Are you ready?”
Murong Xiu exhaled, a smile barely pulling at the corners of his mouth: “Ready.”
When the door opened, the cold winter wind blew in carrying large snowflakes. To the sounds of the whispering mountain and the passing storm, under the high white jade Jiulong stage, countless princes, ministers, generals, and guards were kneeling in neat rows. From the high platform, each of them looked nothing more than tiny black spots. But all these people who have gathered together will become the core and most powerful force in the Yan Kingdom.
This force can surrender to the majestic emperor but could also overthrow a weak monarch at any time.
Yan Changqing looked back anxiously, only to see Murong Xiu straining his spine, standing extremely upright, not showing a trace of cowardice in front of the hundreds of officials. Snow flopped on his face, and for a moment he couldn’t tell which one was paler: his face or the snow.
It wasn’t until the hundreds of officials worshipped him, kneeling and chanting “long live His Majesty” that Yan Changqing noticed a faint touch of colour that finally returned to Murong Xiu’s face.
Yan Changqing walked down the Jiulong Platform. Like the other courtiers, wearing a big formal cloak, he kneeled in the snow. He slowly raised his head after three kowtows and nine bows and met Murong Xiu’s gaze.
The young emperor who had just accepted the throne and supreme power and devotion of thousands of people looked only at Yan Changqing.
Murong Xiu lowered his eyes, and his thin lips moved to fight a smile. Although they were far away from each other, Yan Changqing immediately understood the meaning of this and met Murong Xiu’s gaze with an imperceptible smile of his own.
Qi Yue Wu Yi. Together as close friends.
You and I are king and minister but also brothers.
In the moonlight, under the tall vermilion palace wall outside the palace of Concubine Xian, two young boys worshipped the crabapple trees and made a solemn oath.
But now, could they still go back to that moment? Can they remain brothers?
When did the little brother who chased him every day and called him “Big Brother Changqing” disappear?
Yan Changqing’s pair of brilliant charcoal eyes kept looking at the Emperor with indifference. As if this was a stranger whom he had never met before. His delay in an answer caused a flash of panic in Murong Xiu’s heart.
He said: “Why isn’t my brother speaking? Didn’t you sleep well last night?”
Yan Changqing shook off the flashbacks and came back to the room he was currently in.
After a while, he finally spoke.
“Can you dream?”
Hearing that Yan Changqing used “you” instead of “emperor” and in a caring tone, Murong’s eyebrows relaxed.
So Changqing isn’t angry with him? He still cares about him, right?
Murong Xiu’s tone bore a bit of joy: “My brother has been away for a few months. Zhen-I was worried, I dreamt of my brother every night.”
Yan Changqing looked at him perplexed: “Don’t you ever dream of others?”
Murong Xiu was taken aback. Thinking of a warm past he said softly: “I have also dreamt of my mother several times. We would circle around my mother asking for toys like when we were young, and Mother would always favour you. It made me so angry that I cried. But in the end, Brother always shared all his treasures with me just like he had in the past.”
For a brief moment, Yan Changqing’s onyx gaze wavered but then changed to one of intense emotion.
Yan Changqing felt as if there was a ball of fire in his chest. It was simmering in tune with the emotional turmoil he was in. Its growing flames were licking at his aching heart. He was unfamiliar with the helplessness he felt at that moment never having experienced it before. Guilt, incomprehension and resentment seeped deep into his bones.
“I’m different from the Emperor. Whenever I dream, I always dream of many, many people.”
As if realizing the hidden meaning of Yan Changqing’s words, Murong Xiu raised an eyebrow with a curious look: “Whom did brother dream about?”
Murong Xiu looked curious and innocent at this moment, just like when he was twelve or thirteen years old.
Yan Changqing looked at his expression, but only felt terrified.
“I dreamt of a seven or eight-year-old child was crying loudly trying to wake up his dead mother. I dreamed about a villager covered in blood who protected his wife and children until the very last moment of his life. I dreamed of an old woman with white hair tremblingly covering her son’s grave with yellow soil. I also dreamed that my most loyal and brave soldier in Great Yan, widened his eyes in surprise as he fell on his own people’s sword, unable to close his eyes in peace.”
Yan Changqing quietly looked at Murong Xiu’s face, his eyes now cold and strange: “Your Majesty, have you never dreamt of them? Never heard them crying in your ears in the middle of the night?”
Murong Xiu’s face fell, and he said tremblingly: “Brother, you blame me, don’t you?”
Yan Changqing murmured mostly to himself. Did he blame Murong Xiu?
In fact, Yan Changqing had been thinking about this issue amidst the chaos brought about by injuries of the past few days.
As a courtier, he could not blame the emperor. He could only grieve.
As an older brother, he can’t bear to complain about his younger brother who grew up so closely with him.
“I’m sorry.” Murong Xiu lowered his eyes: “The Chancellor wouldn’t overlook this and I can only think of such a way to protect you.”
“By killing the common folk? Making their blood flow like a river of crimson?” Yan Changqing’s voice was a little bit angry and puzzled: “This kind of protection is an insult to me.”
It’s not that he didn’t know that he would face punishment because of the ship robbery. But he firmly believed that the person responsible should bear the burden of consequences. If he had known that he would end up in a situation like this, Yan Changqing would have definitely drawn his sword and killed himself, in exchange for all the people in Qixia Village.
Also, that person… He didn’t know if he was alive or not…
Yan Changqing didn’t want to think about it anymore.
Murong Xiu gently stroked the icy shackles between Yan Changqing’s wrists, and a faint smile appeared at the corner of his mouth.
His Brother Changqing is still so naive.
He raised his head and asked: “Does Brother still remember the time Father had tested us with a question about substituting water for soldiers?”
Yan Changqing frowned, wondering why Murong Xiu was suddenly bringing this up.
Of course, he remembered. About seven or eight years ago, he was still studying alongside Murong Xiu. One day, Emperor Murong Tao out of his own interest took out a history book and asked them a peculiar question wanting to test them.
There was a small and weak country that encountered an invasion by a powerful enemy. A large area of it was about to be occupied. Just when this country was about to perish, someone gave the monarch of the country a clever trick to try.
The vast river that ran through the would overflow and surge up like thousands of golden dragons during flood season. At this time, the enemy was trying to force a crossing of this big river. The minister’s clever plan was to forcibly open the channel and let the turbulent river burst the embankment and wash away thousands of horses and troops. This would surely defeat the enemy’s offensive circle.
“What do you guys think? Should the monarch of this country execute his plan according to this suggestion?” Murong Tao said.
Yan Changqing lowered his head for a moment and shook his head solemnly.
Murong Tao touched the top of his head: “Why don’t you agree?”
Yan Changqing was only twelve or thirteen years old, but he was not afraid or soft. His sweet boyish face was dead serious:
“If the river is opened, thousands of innocent people in the lower reaches of the river will be buried in its belly. Even if by some chance they were to escape, fertile fields would be flooded and homes would be destroyed. Everyone would be displaced and people would go hungry. Even if the enemy is defeated, this kind of h*ll on earth is still not comparable to the enemy occupation. The tragedy would only worsen after the army occupies the country.”
Yan Changqing saw Murong Tao’s face grow cold and the Emperor did not answer. The still immature boy felt a little bit nervous in his heart, but he bit his lip and decided to stick to his opinion. He continued:
“If the country will fall, the responsibility lies with the king, the general, and not the people. The people should never be reduced to a physical shield against foreign enemies. As a courtier, we should unite all soldiers and fight for the country to the last drop of blood, so there is still hope for a better life!”
The air suddenly fell silent. The sun shone into the hall, and fine dust flew around in the rays of the sun. Murong Xiu looked at his silent father, who looked a little gloomy and tugged at Yan Changqing’s sleeves with some worry.
Yan Changqing held his hand but raised his head stubbornly, waiting for punishment. To his surprise, he was greeted with a burst of laughter.
“Good! Good! Good!” Murong Tao smiled and clapped his hands, looking at Yan Changqing from head to toe, his eyes full of relief and approval.
“What a good sentiment: “fight to the last drop of blood!” When I look at the future of the Great Yan Kingdom, it seems like we will have another exceptional general!!”
Hearing these words, Murong Xiu felt relief in his heart. Thus, when Murong Tao asked him what he thought again, he didn’t even think and opened his mouth to answer:
“I agree with Brother Changqing.”
This was not because Murong Xiu saw that Yan Changqing was praised and wanted to copy him. When he heard this question, he also had thought of the same answer as Yan Changqing.
The reason was the same. Although he was only twelve years old, he had read many history books. He had often sympathized with the tragic situations faced by the refugees recorded in these books. When he read about the more disturbing parts of the stories, the little boy would occasionally tear up.
However, when Murong Tao heard his son’s answer and his face sank.
“You, leave first.” Murong Tao said to Yan Changqing.
Yan Changqing didn’t know why the atmosphere suddenly changed and he could only obey the order. While retiring, he looked back at Murong Xiu, who was also puzzled, scratching the back of his head.
They were still at that age of playfulness, so Murong Xiu even secretly made a face at him, so that he would not worry.
However, at the moment when Yan Changqing gently closed the hall door, he suddenly heard a very loud and crisp sound of a slap ring out in the hall.