Resolving the Crisis
A row of willow trees are planted at the banks of Tai Ye Lake. It is the beginning of spring, the willows hasn’t start to leaf out yet but it has begun to look alive. The spring breeze blows, shaking the branches with it.
Tian Qi walks with her hands tucked behind her. Obviously, she is not there to admire the spring view. With such a huge crisis in front of her, one that can potentially take her life, how can she have the time to?
The ice covering Tai Ye Lake has melted. It’s surface gleams like mirror. When the wind blows, little ripples can be seen on the surface.
The horizon is starting to turn white, but the sun has not rise yet. The entire world is quiet. Other servants she bumps into all looks sleepy, yawning as they walk. The weather is cold, all those people walk with their hands tucked inside their sleeves as they quickly walk, eager to return to their own quarters.
Because of that, nobody notices Tian Qi.
She walks until she reaches a remote spot. She looks left and right cautiously before gritting her teeth. She looks like she isn’t afraid of dying before throwing herself into the lake.
Water splashes from the lake. Someone hears the sound and goes over to look. That person only sees a large ripple. He thought it was a bird that accidentally fell into the lake so he does not put too much thought into it and walks away.
The cold water of the lake drenches her clothes. Tian Qi shivers from the cold as her teeth clatters. She force herself to endure this and paddles using her arms and legs. Once quite far from the banks of the pond, Tian Qi pokes her head out before untying her belts and robe and let it sinks into the pond. The robe is made of cotton while the belt is lined with turquoise stones. Both of it will sink when thrown into water.
After doing that, Tian Qi swims to the banks before pretending to struggle while screaming, “Help!” It’s not that she doesn’t have the energy to climb into the banks, she just needs to play this drama to the very end. Her ‘accidentally falling into water’ needs witnesses.
As expected, some people hears the call for help and runs towards her. A couple of eunuchs untie their belts and tie it together to form a rope before throwing it to her. Tian Qi grabs the belt and use it to climb into the banks of the pond.
She thank them as she spits out water.
She has the look of embarrassment on her face at the moment. Her entire body is soaked with water and her outer robe and belts are nowhere to be seen. A gust of cold wind blows by, making her tremble. The people who save her couldn’t bear to see her like that and wants to send her home.
She wave her hand off, “No need, all of you already saved me, I must not take any more of your time. Everyone has their own jobs, I cannot bring you all trouble.” She gets up after saying that. “Don’t worry, Shi San Suo is not far from here, I can go home on my own. I cannot thank all of you enough for saving me. Come look for me if you need anything in the future!”
After asking their names and departments, she bids them good bye.
Upon returning to Shi San Suo, she asks a Junior Eunuch to prepare her warm water to bath. Since she is still a mid-ranked eunuch, the room she lives in is pretty big. She bathes beyond a separating wall inside her room. The eunuch who shares her chamber knows her personality; she likes cleanliness, she likes to bath and she doesn’t like being looked at by others. Some people said she has urinary incontinence, but that is just a rumor, there is no proof.
As she bathes, she takes off the bandage that is wrapping around her chest. It has begun to grow when she was twelve or thirteen. Fear and embarrassment are secondary matter, the most important thing to her was fear. Once people finds out that she is a woman, she will be killed for sure. Because of that, she comes up with creative ways to cover it up. After putting on clothes, she will look just like any other eunuch. But being wrapped like that does not mean it will turn small, it continues to grow normally. It is really hard to wrap it like that everyday, Tian Qi truly feels sorry to it. Because of that, she will unwrap it at night. She puts on bed curtain around her bed and puts it down at night so no one will discover her. She even spread rumors about having urinary incontinence and will accidentally pee is someone sees her naked.
Because of all that, she can live her life in peace. Truth be told, nobody is interested in the body of a eunuch.
After bathing, Tian Qi drinks a bowl of ginger soup that she personally made. But because the water of the lake was too cold, even hot bath and ginger soup cannot save her. By noon, her head already turns dizzy as she continuously sneezes.
At that moment, an imperial eunuch comes to her and says the emperor summons her to Gan Qing Palace.
Tian Qi secretly pats her chest, secretly relieved that she has taken the precautionary method.
This time, the emperor waits for her in the imperial study rather than Nuan Pavillion. Tian Qi pays her respect as she obediently waits for his question, her eyes trained on the floor.
The floor is made of white jade, there is the pattern of lotus in it. It is clean, not a single speck of dust mars the floor.
Even though she has long prepared her heart, she is still anxious. Her heart jumps uncontrollably while her head feels heavy; her brain working slower than usual.
Ji Heng raise his head from beyond a table and gives her an appraising look. She is lowering her head so he cannot take a good look on her face. Her waist looks slender as she wears that dark green uniform; she looks frail, but without the self-pity air that others have. In fact, she looks stubborn and indifferent.
She reminds him of jujube tree that grows on cliff. They look frail and weak but actually flowers and bear fruits every year. The lower they are, the more tenacious they becomes.
Ji Heng gets up and walks towards Tian Qi.
“Raise your head.” He orders.
Tian Qi obediently raise her head. Her eyes falls on his chin and a section of his neck. The casual robe he wears today is in the color of dark red, the collar is black while the inner clothes is white.
“Raise your head and look at zhen.” Ji Heng orders her again.
Tian Qi looks up at him. To tell the truth, even though she has met the emperor a couple of times, this is the first time she is truly looking at him. His forehead is smooth and full, while his eyes are dark and clear, long and narrow. There is an exquisite light in his eyes. His nose is high and his lips are thin. His skin is fair, like jade. His appearance is definitely first-class. It is rare for someone to look so warm and gentle, yet noble and esteemed at the same time.
While Tian Qi is busy admiring Ji Heng’s appearance, he touches her waist. She froze, immobile.
Ji Heng lowers his head to look at Tian Qi’s expression, his eyes calm. Her face appears haggard; her eyes are watery while her nose is red, she must have fallen ill.
As his hand touches her waist, he notice that her spring attire is pretty thick but cannot hide her slender waist. He touches her belt lightly before unbuckling it.
Panic can be seen in Tian Qi’s eyes, her face reddening.
Ji Heng let go of her before retreating two steps to look at her. En, she indeed looks anxious, but…… more like anxious in a shy way?
Sheng An Huai walks over before taking away the belt that Ji Heng unbuckled. After a while, he reenters the study, “Your Majesty, this servant and the imperial physician have checked, there is nothing inside it.”
Ji Heng sits in front of his table again, looking at Tian Qi before asking, “How many belts do you have?”
“Answering Your Majesty, two.”
“Where is the other one?”
“This servant lost it.”
Ji Heng narrows his eyes, his eyes gradually getting cold.
Tian Qi immediately kneels, “Your Majesty, this servant cannot help it!”
“Cannot help it?”
“Yes. This servant accidentally fell into a pond earlier today. Because this servant was wearing cotton clothes, it got too heavy and made it hard for this servant to climb up the banks. So, this servant threw them into the water and was helped by a couple of colleagues who were near the Tai Ye Pond. Those people can be this servant’s witnesses. This servant does not know why Your Majesty is asking for belts and does not dare to guess Your Majesty’s intention, if Your Majesty wants it, you can take this belt. If it is not enough, the Needlework Bureau seems to have a lot of these belts.”
Ji Heng keeps on staring at her, “How generous of you.”
Tian Qi swallows heavily, “Thank you for the praise, Your Majesty!”
Seeing her so thick-skinned as to consider a mockery as praise, Ji Heng is a little upset. He waves his hand off, “You can go. Take whatever it is that you lack in the Needlework Department. Do not bring up this matter to anyone else.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.” Tian Qi gets up and deftly leaves.
Ji Heng looks at a paper on top of the table, ‘There is something inside Tian Qi’s belt.’
It is an anonymous letter; the person who wrote it was afraid that his handwriting would be recognized, so he wrote it using his left hand. He has ordered an investigation over this note, but since that person dared to write this, it must have meant he was confident he wouldn’t be found.
As for whether or not Tian Qi’s belt has something off, Ji Heng is confident it is true. The complainer would not risk himself being found over a fake complain. Since he put it so simple and clear, it must be true.
Knowing that Tian Qi lost the belt today makes him even surer of that fact.
Tian Qi’s belt has problem; it causes Song Zhaoyi’s death.
But the perpetrator isn’t Tian Qi because if she really did that, she would have gotten rid of that belt on the day Song Zhaoyi died. She wouldn’t have waited until today.
To put it simple, that eunuch was taken advantage of by someone else; she was the sacrificial lamb.
That Tian Qi is clever; upon finding out the belt has problem, she got rid of it to wash herself clean.
Ji Heng leisurely drums his fingers against the table; he suddenly remembers her falling asleep like an idiot that day. That eunuch is not bad; she can be smart enough when she needs to and stupid enough when she needs to.
When he remembers the way the eunuch blushed when he took off his belt just now, something flashes in his eyes. That eunuch acts like a little maiden. His lips curls as he shakes his head while laughing. He looks up before giving Sheng An Huai an order, “Go and find a physician to look at Tian Qi.”
serene: Chapter 5 is sponsored by Chona!