506 A Life Without Regre
The Emperor could barely open his eyes. His body felt heavy, and every joint in his body was aching. It took everything within him to turn his head towards the man desperately calling for his attention.
Even so, he continued lying in bed, with his eyes peacefully shut. His arms were folded on his chest, almost as if he had already accepted his impending death.
The Emperor had given his everything into his country. His children spread their wings, and flew far from the nest. His purpose had been fulfilled.
"Insolent!" Yu Lingluo seethed as she shot out of her chair in aggravation. Who had the audacity to disrupt the time she reserved for her father?
Yu Lingluo placed the book on the nightstand. Turning on her heels, her brows shot up in surprise. Standing at the foot of the door, attempting to claw his way into the bedroom, was Marquis Qin.
"Your Majesty, please grant me this audience!" Marquis Qin pleaded. He struggled against the Imperial Guards posted outside the door, refusing to let him in. Several servants blocked him off, and even more Eunuchs stood in front of him.
"Father, should we let him in?" Yu Lingluo warily asked.
Yu Lingluo was aware that his father had stopped taking the pills supplied by the merchants. She did not know when that happened but knew it was because he had finally accepted the toll of his illness.
"Xiao Ling…" The Emperor heaved. Through his blurry vision, he saw the apple of his eye. She had been a filial daughter lately, reading him stories, and staying by his side and tending to him.
"I'm here, Father," Yu Lingluo instantly said. She settled back onto the chair and clasped her hands upon his frail ones. Tears burned in the corners of her eyes.
His hand was thinner than hers. It was just flesh and bone. There was no sign of the gentle palms that used to caress the top of her head.
"Are you thirsty, Father? Hungry? Should we call for the Imperial Physician?" Yu Lingluo rapidly asked, worried that he was in even more discomfort than ever. Her heart ached at the sight of him, but she continued staying by his side.
The Emperor gently smiled. "Continue…reading," he heaved out.
Yu Lingluo's fingers trembled, her lips wobbling. She attempted to hold back a sob. For his sake, she swore to not cry. But it was so difficult seeing him like this.
In her mind, her father was always a proud and powerful man. Yu Lingluo could still remember being carried in his arms as he took scenic walks with her through the gardens. She vividly remembered his loud laughter, like the roar of a lion, whenever he found her hiding spot.
"As you wish…" Yu Lingluo slowly released his hands. She picked up the book and began to read whilst completely ignoring the blabbering man outside.
Soon, the commotion was silenced. The sliding doors were clamped shut, and the front entrance was no longer visible to Yu Lingluo.
- - - - -
Marquis Qin irritably stomped on the ground. "What is the meaning of this?!" he demanded after being shoved back.
Marquis Qin was deeply offended by what had happened. He had traveled all the way from his empty estate to the Imperial Palace just to see the Emperor, yet was being turned away.
Did these servants forget who supplied the Emperor his pills? Did they forget who was keeping the Emperor alive after all this time? Were they blind or were they stupid? It must've been both!
"I have deeply cared for His Majesty, our beloved Emperor of Hanjian, and fiercely served him with my entire being," Marquis Qin seethed. "There are urgent matters in regards to his medicine that I must discuss with His Majesty."
Chancellor Wu cast Marquis Qin an irritable glance. He was tasked with maintaining the peace in the Emperor's estate. Alas, his high position was degraded to fulfill this lowly chore, but it was the least he could've done for his dear friend, the Emperor.
Chancellor Wu was embarrassed for Marquis Qin. The merchant must've thought he was the only one with the power to bring those pills into the palace. Had he forgotten merchants were aplenty in Hanjian?
"His Majesty is currently not accepting any visitors," Chancellor Wu sternly said.
Marquis Qin's eyebrows shot up. His lips impatiently curled, and he seemed to be on the verge of throwing a tantrum.
"Why not?!" Marquis Qin demanded in a high-pitched voice. If he could, he would've stomped his feet and threw something at the stone-faced Chancellor.
Abruptly, Chancellor Wu was humored. He was reminded of his son, Wu Xiang, who was fond of throwing tantrums as well, but only in front of his wife. But it was strange to see a grown man that was nearly the same age as the Chancellor throwing a tantrum.
"His Majesty is currently occupied by his favorite Princess, Marquis Qin."
"But this matter is in regard to the medicine that keeps His Majesty alive! Surely, the Princess can wait."
Chancellor Wu didn't even bat an eye to this threat. The Emperor had stopped taking his medicine for a while now. Did the merchant not know that? But Chancellor Wu did not have the patience to explain it to this peasant disguised as a high lord.
"Guards," Chancellor Wu suddenly said. "Escort this unruly merchant out of the Emperor's estate."
Marquis Qin was baffled by this. He blanched at the Chancellor who used to wait on his every whim and word. What exactly was going on?! Marquis Qin was always welcomed with open arms because of his extraordinary capabilities of securing every single good that his customer desired.
Marquis Qin was not used to being treated unkindly. It had been years since he was turned away like this. The last time that it had happened was when he was a young boy on the streets.
"This is a serious matter that must be brought to His Majesty's attention!" Marquis Qin growled out. He had lost his patience a long time ago, ever since he found his wives gossiping about the absence of servants.
It felt like dirty water was thrown on the Marquis's face. He had worked so hard to secure the medicine for the Emperor, yet, all of a sudden, his efforts were no longer acknowledged. Why was that?
Before Marquis Qin could say anything, guards seized both of his arms. "Unhand me this instant!"
Marquis Qin struggled against the guards, but even his buff arms could do nothing. He had come without servants or men of his own, for he did not have the money to continue employing them.
Marquis Qin did not know how it happened, but his ships had been burned to ashes. He had been taking his anger out on his concubine from Wuyi when he had received the urgent news that his ships had been set on fire in the harbor, and no amount of water could put it out.
"I can walk on my own!" Marquis Qin hissed as he attempted to wriggle away from the guards. He was infuriated at this treatment, but even more humiliated and embarrassed that lowborn servants of the palace were watching this unfold.
It was worse when there was an audience.
"Get him out of my sight," Chancellor Wu deadpanned. In an instant, the guards began to drag the Marquis away, screaming and kicking.
Chancellor Wu apathetically watched as the Marquis was yanked around a corner and disappeared from view. Once the merchant was gone, he let out a sigh.
"I am getting too old for this." Chancellor Wu had a life of his own to live now. His son, Wu Xiang had given him grandchildren, and the Emperor was dying. Any day now, the Emperor would draw his last breath.
When it happened, the Chancellor's duties would be fulfilled in court. It would be his time to retire, for that was what every man of the Wu Family did. They had served the Yu Family for centuries, and whenever the Emperor stepped down, so did their Chancellors.
"I just hope…" the Chancellor trailed off, his voice dying in his throat. He was a stoic man of little emotions, but thinking about the death of his closest friend, even the Chancellor wanted to shed a tear.
The Chancellor had grown up with the Emperor, much like Wu Xiang had with the Crown Prince.
Turning upon his heels, the Chancellor pushed the doors open. He set foot inside of the Emperor's bedroom and forgot all the rules of etiquette and consequences that came with trespassing.
Chancellor Wu did not set foot near the sliding doors that hid the Princess and the Emperor away from the world. But he had heard her soft, patient voice. Princess Yu Lingluo was young, but she was finally maturing now.
Reading a bedtime story to her father, everything was turning full-circle now.
"I just hope," Chancellor Wu gently murmured. "That you have lived a life without regrets, Your Majesty."