Emblem of the Phoenix

Emblem of the Phoenix

Chapter 9 - Life and Death

--I didn't hold back when I strangled her to death, but didn't I spare you by holding back?

In an instant, many thoughts flashed through the Qianwan Emperor's mind, obscuring his vision in a flurry and making it hard to see things clearly.

That dark night, that woman desperately begged him under his young hands to spare the innocent newborn baby. What was he thinking at the time?

He was already blinded by the fury of betrayal. He was young and impetuous, with a quick temper. The Son of Heaven who fought his way up from horseback was completely unmoved by blood and screams.

The dull slapping sounds of the paddle in the courtyard gradually faded away, and the last rays of the setting sun also disappeared at the edge of the exquisite carved window lattices. The long orchid grass drooped its branches and leaves, like a dying butterfly.

The cold palace was permeated with the restrained and thin fragrance of phoenix marrow incense - delicate, chilly, and aloof. It was so sharp and piercing, yet seemed as easily damaged as the strikingly beautiful and violent youth under his hands. Use a little too much force and it would be hurt, ruined, never to be repaired again.

The Qianwan Emperor Li Ji was never one to be dazed. The stinging pain on his wrist brought him back to his senses. Mingde's slender fingers dug tightly into his skin, with such force that even his fingertips lost all color.

"I shouldn't have gone easy on you long ago..." the Qianwan Emperor's hands trembled slightly, the rough calluses on his palms from years of military life brushing across the youth's smooth cheek. "They say you are an auspicious sign, but I think you are simply an ill omen!"

"It was you who brought this ill omen into the palace yourself!"

"You're right," the Qianwan Emperor's voice was unusually low, like the gloomy sky over the sea before a storm hits. "If I had let you depart with your mother back then, I wouldn't have to..."

Have to what today? Regret? Find it tricky? Troublesome? ...Or is it, painful?

Mingde viciously tried to pry off his hand, like a small beast desperately struggling after falling into a trap, his face covered in cold tear stains. "Li Ji! If you have the guts, kill me! Strangle me with a white silk if you dare, bury me in Empress Mingrui's tomb in that prince's coffin with the cat bones! If you don't dare, I will despise you forever, you coward who dares to act but not admit it! You bastard! Coward!!"

The youth's sharp and hoarse voice echoed over and over in the vast and empty palace, just like that bloody night a dozen years ago, with the midwife screaming, the empress wailing miserably, the newborn baby crying with all its might, fresh blood flowing across the dusty floor, as if a great fire had burned up the entire sky.

The Qianwan Emperor's hand slid bit by bit down Mingde's face, as if filled with endless affection and adoration, slowly sliding to his neck, then tightening around the youth's slender and beautiful throat.

"Why would I strangle you with a white silk..." the Qianwan Emperor asked with a low laugh. "You should die by my hands, directly by my hands, with nothing in between us..."

In the darkness, only a rough outline of his chiseled face could be seen. Mingde gradually could not see anything at all. He desperately tried to struggle, but even using all his strength, he could only grab onto the Qianwan Emperor's arm with his icy fingers, then slowly let go bit by bit.

An hour ago, in that cold palace filled with dust and mold, did the Noble Consort...also die so miserably like this?

Even earlier, did Empress Mingrui, collapsed in a pool of blood during childbirth, also die like this?

Mingde's consciousness gradually blurred. He limply fell onto the cold palace brocade mandarin duck pillow, slowly lowering his hand.

How nice, that woman he never met who supposedly lost her life because of him, wearing bright and luxurious empress robes, stood on the distant shore reaching out to him, just like...just like how Madam Zhang did to her own children.

The Qianwan Emperor Li Ji looked at him, suddenly releasing the hand strangling his neck, then grabbing the back of his head, dragging half his body up. By this time, Mingde was already nearly unconscious. The Qianwan Emperor kissed him roughly, biting inside his mouth until it bled, then furiously tore open the thin robes, groping and kneading the youth's not yet fully developed slender body all the way down.

He suddenly remembered the first time he met Shangguan Mingde two years ago. He had also resisted very violently then, but ultimately failed. Whether in terms of physique or actual strength, he was no match for a robust grown man. Under Li Ji's hands, it seemed he could do nothing except endure.

When he was told to live, he had no choice but to live; when he was told to die, he had no choice but to die.

But death is such a simple matter. The Noble Consort is gone, another can be instated; the fetus is gone, another can be conceived. It just means one less competitor eyeing the throne in the future. But if Mingde dies...there will never be a second Shangguan Mingde.

One glance topples a city, another glance topples a nation; Unaware of toppling cities and nations, a beauty so hard to find again!...

As he entered, Li Ji heard Shangguan Mingde's suppressed moans. He felt wet fluid slowly flowing out from below. It was blood, built upon Mingde's pain, but it brought him an even more violent pleasure.

Li Ji reached out and tightly embraced Mingde's thin body. That sensation was so intense that his mind was filled with nothing but the thought of violating this youth. Just like the first time he took Mingde, a thin gold chain locked to the bed, keeping him there for three whole days, constantly fed ginseng to keep him alive, making him unable to die no matter how painful it was.

The night wind had already picked up. The cold moonlight slowly disappeared into the darkness of the room through the window lattices.

The entanglement of bodies, thrusting, moaning and negligible resistance were all hidden in the deep night. Li Ji could feel his desire so urgent it seemed impossible to release, but Mingde no longer had any strength left to resist.

At this moment, no matter how much power he wielded or how much of an upper hand he had, he was nothing more than an ordinary man. He could never be the lofty emperor in front of Shangguan Mingde.

When the Qianwan Emperor strode out of the bedchamber, it was already early morning. The emperor's face was gloomy, causing the attendants to kneel down trembling at the sight of him.

Zhang Kuo's palms were sweating. He hurriedly followed the Qianwan Emperor. After just a few steps, the emperor suddenly asked without turning his head, "What are you here for?"

Zhang Kuo was stunned for a moment, then immediately bowed and said, "This servant knows his mistake." He then turned around and called out, "Quickly summon the imperial physician!"

Zhang Kuo ran all the way into the bedchamber. As soon as he rushed into the inner room, he hurriedly lit the lamps.

When he looked at the bed, he almost gasped in shock. Mingde was covered up to his chest, his exposed shoulders crisscrossed with bruises, with hardly an inch of good skin. One arm hung limply on the ground, and it was unclear if he was still breathing.

Zhang Kuo asked the palace maids in a trembling voice, "Quick...quickly get Old Junmei! Hurry! Hurry!"

The palace maid had only run a few steps before she stumbled, then hurriedly crawled out of the hall. When Old Junmei heard the news, he knew it was serious. He hastily grabbed his medical kit and ran over, even putting on the wrong shoes.

Zhang Kuo checked Mingde's breath and found that he was still alive, so his heart settled down a bit. But when he checked again, he felt that Mingde was taking in less air than he was exhaling, so his heart rose up again.

Old Junmei ordered someone to light the lamps and took a look. Mingde's eyes were tightly closed, with a black and blue strangling mark on his neck. Even more horrifying were the bite marks on his shoulders, where a chunk of flesh had nearly been bitten off.

Old Junmei muttered "how terrible" under his breath. Although the Qianwan Emperor was a ruthless man, there were no records of him being sexually depraved in the harem. Old Junmei had served three emperors and had saved people from the emperor's bed before, but he had never seen anything this vicious. The emperor had nearly taken Mingde's life.

Zhang Kuo said in a low voice, "Imperial Physician, in principle, we servants cannot comment on the emperor's thoughts. But if anything happens to this young noble, our entire families will..."

Old Junmei hurriedly said, "This old official understands."


In the end, Mingde's life was saved.

Old Junmei used potent medicines to sustain his life. Mingde burned with fever and was unconscious for three days. When he woke up, he had lost a lot of weight, but at least his life had been preserved.

That day, when Old Junmei went in for an examination, Mingde had just finished bathing. He was wrapped in a large gold-woven soft towel, his bare feet stepping on the carpet as he slowly walked towards the bed. Old Junmei apologized and hurriedly lowered his head to avoid looking.

But in a glance, it seemed he saw something like a tattoo on Mingde's entire back, from his shoulder blades to his lower back. In that instant, he couldn't see clearly, but it seemed to be in the shape of a...phoenix.

Old Junmei suddenly thought of the baby he had delivered eighteen years ago, and his face turned pale. At this moment, he heard Mingde's calm voice, "Imperial Physician, what did you see?"

Old Junmei abruptly raised his eyes to look at Mingde's face. Upon careful examination, he became even more certain and said in horror, "Em...Empress Mingrui!"

He had experienced three reigns, and among the numerous beauties in the harem, none could surpass Empress Mingrui. The impression she left in his mind was so deep that even though he had only glimpsed her briefly when delivering her baby, it was unforgettable.

Mingde's voice softened as he said slowly, "Imperial Physician still remembers my imperial mother. It's truly moving."

Old Junmei only felt his vision blur. When he could see again, he found that Mingde had already come up to him at some unknown point. One of Mingde's hands was raised in midair, blue veins bulging on the back of his slender hand, his fingers as sharp as hooks, already approaching Old Junmei's eyes.

Old Junmei's hands loosened and his medical kit crashed to the ground. He tightly closed his eyes, thinking to himself: it's over, it's over. But unexpectedly, the rushing sound stopped abruptly in front of his eyes, and there was no movement for a long time. Old Junmei timidly opened his eyes and saw Mingde smiling slightly, "...Imperial Physician is overthinking."

A blue vein at Mingde's temple jumped violently. Old Junmei knew this was a sign that he was suppressing his murderous intent. Mingde took a deep breath and retreated to the edge of the bed, saying softly, "Imperial Physician, please administer the medicine."

He was very weak inside and needed acupuncture combined with medication to recuperate. Old Junmei held the long needles, but his hands were trembling slightly. Just as he was hesitating, he heard Mingde ask calmly, "What are you thinking about?"

Old Junmei's hands shook. Mingde didn't even open his eyes as he said, "I'm not the emperor's child. You can rest assured."

He stated it so clearly that it made Old Junmei even more frightened. It was best to know as little as possible about the affairs of the imperial family. Back then, the case of Empress Mingrui had implicated many people. It was no easy feat for him to extricate himself and retire. He never imagined that eighteen years later, he would encounter the baby he had delivered!

Old Junmei knew that saying anything now would mean death, so he suppressed his fear and slowly performed acupuncture on Mingde. Mingde leaned against the edge of the bed, the marks on his body not yet faded. His half-long hair was scattered over his shoulders, black and white distinct, his skin translucent. His demeanor was indescribably alluring, making Old Junmei momentarily have the illusion that he was treating Empress Mingrui back then.

Mingde said calmly, "Don't be afraid. Just act as if you know nothing. Otherwise, the one to kill you will not be me, but the emperor."

Old Junmei hurriedly bowed, "Th-thank you, young master, for the reminder."

At this moment, there was a light knock on the door. Zhang Kuo said softly from outside, "Has young master Mingde gotten much better? The emperor told me to bring some things."

He entered with a servile demeanor and waved his hand to summon a group of palace servants following behind him. Each one held a small tray inlaid with gold and black silver.

Zhang Kuo held a feather duster and pointed to each item, "This is the Snow Lotus Flesh-Regenerating Ointment bestowed by the emperor...this is Pear Blossom Dew...this is Rose Cream...this is Poria Cocos Decoction for drinking. The emperor was afraid young master would find plum juice too sour. That is an astringent substance. Drinking it when in poor health will aggravate the illness. This is much better...

"This is mother-of-pearl recently offered as tribute by the country of Nanyue. This is a golden jade treasure lotus figure for playing with...Also, the emperor said it's too dark here and ordered the candles to be replaced with luminous night pearls. Young master, see if this is to your liking?"

Zhang Kuo made a gesture, and a palace servant bowed and presented a sample pearl. The pearl was as large as a longan fruit, crystal clear and dazzlingly bright. It was already rare to have just a pair of such pearls, let alone the Qianwan Emperor's request to replace all the lighting in the bedchamber with pearls like this.

Zhang Kuo bowed and carefully observed Mingde's expression, but found that the young noble showed no signs of joy or anger, just a calm demeanor with no discernible emotions. After a while, Mingde raised his chin towards the palace servant and said, "Bring it to me."

Zhang Kuo suddenly breathed a sigh of relief.

After all, he was just a child. At this age, there should be no deep hatred or resentment. Coaxing him along should resolve everything, and there should be no insurmountable issues.

The palace servant hurriedly presented the small tray. Mingde picked up the pearl and quietly examined it between his fingertips for a moment, then exerted force and directly crushed the pearl into powder.

The palace servant's legs went weak and he knelt down: "...Young master, please spare my life!"

Mingde suddenly overturned the small tray: "Get out, all of you!"

Zhang Kuo knelt on the ground: "Young master, please spare our lowly lives!"

Mingde abruptly stood up. Zhang Kuo crawled forward on his knees to block him, shouting hoarsely: "The Emperor has decreed! If young master Mingde is dissatisfied with such things, he can directly have the palace servants who presented the tribute executed! Although our lives are worthless, we still beg the young master for mercy!"

The palace servants behind him knelt in a row, frantically kowtowing on the ground: "Young master, spare our lives!"

"Please spare our lives, young master!"

"We beg for the young master's mercy!..."

Mingde was so angry that his whole body trembled. He wanted to say something but couldn't get the words out. After a moment, his body went limp and he collapsed. Zhang Kuo and Old Junmei stepped forward to support him, half-dragging and half-carrying him to the bedside. They anxiously pressed his Renzhong acupoint.

After gasping for a while, Mingde slowly caught his breath. He smiled coldly at Zhang Kuo and said, "Well done... Well done indeed!"

Zhang Kuo stood to the side with his hands down, gesturing with his eyes for everyone to withdraw, while saying, "Young master, what are you saying?"

He personally prepared a cup of fuling paste, using only a small silver spoon to scoop a little into warm water. It gave off an exceptionally fragrant and sweet aroma.

He respectfully placed the crystal cup on the small tea table beside the bed, then asked in a low voice, "Young master, why are you angry with the Emperor? He is, after all, the Emperor. He has ten thousand ways to make you beg for life but be unable to die. Why make things difficult for yourself?"

Zhang Kuo's face was full of smiles, and although the smile was very respectful, it made one feel very uncomfortable. Mingde looked at him silently for a while, then suddenly smiled and asked, "Eunuch Zhang."

Zhang Kuo bowed and said, "Your servant is here."

"How many years have you served by the Emperor's side?"

"In response to the young master's question, it has been thirty-five years."

"The Emperor trusts you very much?"

Zhang Kuo hurriedly knelt down: "Your servant does not dare to speculate about the master's thoughts."

Mingde remained motionless, watching him kneel. Only after he knelt did Mingde slowly smile and ask, "I heard that the Emperor is not very generous to those around him, but he never punishes you, is that right?"

Zhang Kuo said, "It's just a little consideration from the Emperor."

He raised his eyes and saw Mingde smiling at him faintly. That smile was indescribably alluring yet ruthless. Just that little bit of implication made one's heart tremble wildly.

Mingde smiled and asked, "So, if something were to happen to me while the two of us are alone here, what would the Emperor think of you?"

Zhang Kuo was shocked. At this moment, he saw Mingde's body shudder, and a line of blood slowly flowed from the corner of his lips!

Zhang Kuo hurriedly stood up, his feather duster clanging to the ground. He staggered out of the bedchamber's main door, his voice shrill and out of tune: "Someone come! Someone come! Summon... summon the imperial physician!"


Heya! I'm Leafy. My passion for stories is matched only by my love for the outdoors. As I translate, I draw inspiration from the tranquility of nature. Whether I'm translating or tending to my garden, I'm always finding new stories to share with you.

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