Chapter 25: There’s No Moment In This Life Where We Cannot Meet Again.

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In the clear sky, the wild geese were flying to the South.
Although the day was quite chilly, it wasn’t cold.
In the wing room at the East courtyard of the Mu Residence, Mu Zhiming, dressed in a brocade as green as bamboo leaves, sat at the desk.
With the brush made of wolf-hair in hand, Mu Zhiming wrote his third letter to the Emperor.

As the warm light of the Autumn fell on the courtyard, the birds sang and the leaves of the trees fell silently to the ground.
In the wing room, Caiwei stood aside, quietly grinding ink for Mu Zhiming.
Wen Heyin, on the other hand, laid on the floor completely bored, right next to the circular table, twisting the grapes that were in the fruit plate on the table.
In the end, he couldn’t hold back and finally said: “Young Master, don’t write anymore.
Even if you write 10 or 100 letters, the Madam won’t let you go to the border.”

Mu Zhiming smiled, didn’t say a word, and continued to write.

“Young Master….” Caiwei hesitated.
“Winter is coming soon, in the North….”

“Sister Caiwei, I’ll take care of myself.
Don’t worry.” Mu Zhiming softly reassured her.

Caiwei sighed, pursed her lips, stopped talking, and continued to grind the ink.

Wen Heyin stuffed a grape into his mouth, put his hands behind his head, and said: “Sister Caiwei, don’t be so sad.
The only way for the Young Master to go to the border, would be if a miracle were to happen! This matter has been discussed for more than 10 days.
The Madam wouldn’t allow it, and the Master hasn’t said a word.
Even the Emperor is ignoring Young Master’s letters, and the Seventh Price also refuses to let him go.
I don’t understand, Young Master, why would you like to go to the border? Are you nuts?”

Caiwei put down the ink block in her hand and went to hit Wen Heyin on the head.

Wen Heyin held his head and continued relentlessly: “It’s true! Isn’t it nice to be carefree in the Capital? Young Master, you’re the son of the Duke of Yan.
You can have whatever and do whatever you want in the Capital.
Why do you want to go to the border to suffer? I heard that the food there is stinky and mushy! Besides, the glutinous rice cakes you love so much aren’t available there!”

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Caiwei nodded in agreement, raised her palm, and patted Wen Heyin’s forehead.

“Really? Can I really have whatever I want?” Mu Zhiming asked, with a smile that resembled a soft breeze and the clear glow of the moon.

“Of course!” Wen Heyin jumped up from the floor.
“What do you want?! Just say it and I’ll go find it for you!”

Mu Zhiming laughed loudly.
As he spoke, his words carried a strong, clear and powerful tone, while a sea hid deep inside his eyes: “I want the world to stop talking about me, referring to me as a ‘spoiled rich kid’.”

“I, as the son of the Duke of Yan, want to be free from the reputation and glory of the Duke of Yan, and not tarnish it.”

“I want the stability between our Country and the neighboring Kingdom to be attributed to me.
I want to be known on my own merits, to be known by my name, Mu Zhiming.”

Three days later, Mu Zhiming’s mentor, old Grand Tutor Cheng, the only envoy who went to the Gouji Kingdom that remained alive, wrote a letter to the Emperor.
In the letter, he wrote 3000 words, saying that he had spent 30 years passing on his knowledge to his disciples, and that the only one who could inherit his mantle was Mu Zhiming.

Three days after that, Mu Zhiming entered the Imperial Palace and had a long conversation with the Noble Consort.

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That same day, an Imperial decree was delivered to the residence of the Duke of Yan.
The decree announced that Mu Zhiming, serving as an Official of the Ministry of Rites, will go to the Northeastern border to learn the Gouji language.

The Imperial decree couldn’t be disobeyed.
Although Mu Boren and Madam Gong were reluctant, no matter how distressed they were, they could only agree.

Before leaving the Capital, Mu Zhiming went to the Gu Residence to ask Aunt Liang if she had anything she would like him to bring to Gu Heyan.
Aunt Liang took Mu Zhiming’s hand and said: “The North is so far away, and the travel will be really hard for you.
How could I bother Mu-gongzi to bring something to the border? I just want Mu-gongzi to salute the Young Master for me, and ask him to take care of himself.”

Mu Zhiming then went to the Palace to meet Fu Ji’an again.
Fu Ji’an was a lot calmer now.
Even though he was reluctant to let Mu Zhiming go, he wasn’t going to cry.
Mu Zhiming then said to him: “You had better study diligently while I’m gone.” As he went away, Mu Zhiming thought: ‘When I return, Fu Qi, the Crown Prince, will enter the Eastern Palace1, Fu Yi will be crowned as King Su2, and Fu Ji’an will also be crowned as King Xian.
At that time, the first glimpse of the future bloodshed produced by the fierce dispute between the political parties will be seen.’ This thought flooded Mu Zhiming’s heart, filling it with many complicated emotions.

However, it was precisely because of this that Mu Zhiming wanted to go to the border.
Only by establishing a career, can he protect the Mu Family.

After bidding his farewell to those who were reluctant for him to go, Mu Zhiming set out on the road with light clothing.
Wen Heyin accompanied him as a personal bodyguard.

The eleventh day after Mu Zhiming left the Capital, Fu Yi went to the Fengyi Palace to pay his respects to the Noble Consort.
Noble Consort Niangniang was lazily leaning on the Luohan couch.
When she saw him, she smiled and asked him to come eat melon seeds with her.
Then, she said: “Now that Lizhu has left, Ji’an is feeling lonely without his study companion.
You should come visit the Fengyi Palace to play with him when you have time.”

After seeing Fu Yi nodding in agreement, the Noble Consort continued: “Yi’er, did you want to go with Lizhu? Alas, you two have been very close since childhood.
Although he has been away for a few days, I miss him a bit.”

Fu Yi looked at the beautiful face of the Noble Consort, and noticed how in the depths of her warm eyes, a certain sharpness was hidden: “You envy him.”

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The Noble Consort was slightly stunned, and raised her eyes to look at Fu Yi.
But then, she smiled and said: “You already read the journal about my travels, which I wrote when I was younger.
Why are you still bringing that up?”

Fu Yi said: “Did I say something wrong? You could still be wandering the rivers and lakes, singing songs, free and unrestrained-….”

The Noble Consort stretched out her hand and mercilessly tapped Fu Yi’s head, as if he were still a little kid.
As she tapped, she said angrily: “Why are you revealing my pain? Hmm? Don’t expose it.”

Fu Yi bowed his head, shut up, and let her tap his head.

The more the Noble Consort tapped, the angrier she became.
At that moment, she didn’t want to pay any more attention to Fu Yi.
As she grabbed a handful of melon seeds, she murmured: “I don’t even know where little Lizhu is….”

At the same time, in the desert, spreading for thousands of miles, the sand resembled a layer of white-capped frost and snow under the silver moonlight.
Above, a bright moon glowed in the sky, resembling a curved hook3.
As the sound of trumpets could be heard beyond the fortress, the Officers were sitting inside a big tent in the barracks, reporting to the Commander-in-Chief on what they had done today.

Although Gu Heyan was only 19 years old, his reputation was extremely high.
To the point where the Officers didn’t dare to speak when they weren’t reporting, they simply held their breaths with rapt attention.
As the last Officers reported, Gu Heyan frowned slightly.
He listened carefully about the construction of the wall, grain hoarding, training, and other matters, rewarding and penalizing them as necessary.

When the last Officer reported, Gu Heyan seemed somewhat distracted, even looking from time to time at the curtain door of the tent.
When the Officer noticed this, he thought that he had done something wrong and began to break out in a cold sweat.
However, after he finished with his report, Gu Heyan didn’t blame him.
Instead, Gu Heyan simply nodded his head and said ‘thanks for your trouble’.

At that moment, the curtain of the tent was lifted.
A soldier clasped his fist, knelt down on one knee, and said: “Report! The Imperial Court has sent an Official from the Ministry of Rites!”

The Officers watched in disbelief how their Young Marshal, who was usually indifferent and calm, stood up abruptly as if he had been attacked with Gu poison4.
In a panic, Gu Heyan also knocked over the low table in front of him.

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The dusty carriage, which had been traveling for several days, slowly drove into the barracks until it stopped by the wooden guard tower.
Wen Heyin was the first to lift the curtain of the carriage, jumped out, and turned back to help Mu Zhiming.

Mu Zhiming wore dark-blue cotton garments, and a plain white cloak decorated with a curly cloud pattern.
Mu Zhiming then waved his hand to Wen Heyin, indicating that he didn’t need his help.
As he slowly got out of the carriage, Mu Zhiming coughed a few times.

Wen Heyin hugged his arms and shook his head, as if saying ‘look at your state’.

Mu Zhiming smiled shallowly and said: “Can’t I cough once in a while?” Then he looked up and stared into the distance.
In the dark of the night, fifty strings were turned over and a bonfire started in the barracks.
The war on the border was settled for the time being.
Although the barracks was quiet and solemn, there was still a lingering smell of blood hidden in the yellow sand of the desert.
Mu Zhiming sighed, when suddenly, he heard the sound of horse hooves approaching from afar, so he turned to look in that direction.

The imposing young General in silver armor came on horseback at high speed, but he soon stopped his horse merely a few meters away.
The two soldiers, who followed after the General, looked confused, but they hurried to do the same regardless.

Gu Heyan then leaped off his horse, looked at Mu Zhiming from afar, and then walked towards him with big steps.

Footnotes

东宫 dōng gōng; It refers to the Residence and Office of the Crown Prince.
It’s called the ‘East Palace’ because it’s to the East of the Imperial Palace.
The East Palace sets a system of Officials that are established in order to enable the Crown Prince to inherit the throne in the future.
The task of the East Palace staff was to prepare the Crown Prince for his position on the throne, and to assist the Emperor’s heir.
In addition, the East Palace also has its own guards, which is equivalent to the Emperor’s Imperial Army. 肃 ; Its original meaning referred to ‘(do something in an) inspiring and respectful (way)’, but later its meaning was extended to ‘solemnity and majesty’, as well as ‘cold, severe and clear’.
So, this title can be translated as ‘Solemn King’ or ‘Respectful King’. 大漠沙如雪,银月如勾 dàmò shā rú xuě, yín yuè rú gōu; A modified verse from the poem《马诗二十三首·其五》by (李贺 lǐ hè) Li He [790-816] from the Tang Dynasty [618-907].
The poem is about the poet’s disappointment at not being appreciated by the Emperor, as well as his eagerness to fulfill his ambition and to build a successful career for his Country.
The battlefield scenery may only seem sad and stern to the general public, but it has an unusual attraction to those who aspire to serve their Country.
A translation for the second verse of the poem: ‘When will I be rewarded by the Emperor and be given a golden bridle for my steed, galloping on the battlefield in Autumn and achieving remarkable merits?’ 蛊 ; A poison made from poisonous insects in ancient times.
A kind of artificially cultivated poisonous insect dedicated to harm people.

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