|Perchance to Dream
Author: Ruan Chun Xian PM
To die, to sleep; to sleep, perchance to dream. Eighth and his last moments before dying.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Angst - Eighth Prince - Words: 1,562 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 6 - Follows: 1 - Published: 11-03-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7519033
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Perchance to Dream
You wake that morning with the sun rays fighting through the bars of the prison window, into the thick, damp darkness that fills the stone cell. In your bleak state, this attempt by the sun seems rather half-hearted. Possibly, even the sun knows that to fight would only mean using all its energy to bring in light, but none would remain to warm up the icy room. In this case, it may as well not bother at all with the light.
Light and dark do not matter to you now, just as days and months do not matter. Nothing matters, except the silent passing of time, and waiting. You have been here for days, or perhaps even years, you don't keep count anymore. You only wait for the day when he would be bored enough of the torture, and release you.
You can welcome death now, but still, you don't want to sit and wonder who would greet you once you cross that threshold between life and death.
But just as was with everything else you'd planned for your life, things never go the way you want them to.
So you think, because maybe drowning yourself in the thoughts might make you loose your mind faster. Perhaps then you won't know yourself anymore, and then there would be peace.
Will Ruo Lan be there when you die? But Ruo Lan isn't yours anymore. She was never yours to begin with; you knew that the moment you lift the red veil and saw her tear-streaked face. You have deceived yourself for too long, but now there is no longer any point in the deception.
Yet you still don't understand where you went wrong. You would be a lesser husband if you let your wife drown in misery without finding out why, without attempting to make it better. So why was your attempt to only understand Ruo Lan's pains rewarded such…what was it? It wasn't coldness, though you always thought it was. It was something even more subtle, even more painful. It was indifference. The opposite of love is not hate. How very well did you learn that lesson!
Ruo Lan always loved him, not you, from the beginning and till the very end, a love that you never understood. Still, for the love of her, and for the pleadings of her sister, you released her. You only hope that now, wherever she is, Ruo Lan remembers you for this last deed, with some good thoughts.
You suppose, Ming Hui will be there when you die, but Ming Hui, for all her devotion, isn't yours anymore, either. Your brother made sure of that. You don't understand how Ming Hui, for all they say about the frailties of women, found the strength to insist on marriage to you, and then insist on dissolving that very marriage. You know you married Ming Hui for the political support that she would provide, and she knew it too. What love allowed her to accept it, and not regret, even till the end? You didn't understand it when you tearfully placed the seal on the divorce letter, and you do not understand it now.
You understand the loves of neither of your wives, just as you never will understand her, either. She, who you loved then and love still now. She, who sometimes makes you wonder whether you love her only for her resemblences to her sister. You wonder, only then to push the question away, because you are never sure you truly want to know the answer.
She always looked at you with such sorrow. Only now do you realise, it is that sorrow that stands even now between you. The sorrow was ever strong even then, when she let go of herself into your arms, when it seemed that she would be yours.
But despite her conditions, despite her warnings, you refuse to regret your decisions. You may not understand her aversion to the fight, but you do know one thing, after all this time: you would do it all over again, every single thing.
History is written by winners, but who is to say there were never great men among the losers? You know you've lost this fight, but that does not make him a greater man than you. This, you know for sure.
The throne was your dream, you have as much right to dream as he. Are you not a son of the Dragon too? You were not wrong to reach for it. You were born into prestige and position, into wealth and luxury, but have no control of your fate. In such state, how could she ask you not to want it? How could she blame you? You dreamed of the throne, but you never forsook her either. It was she who left.
You do not understand it, and never will.
So who would welcome you in the underworld? Your mother would, but if this world's values carry over to death, it is doubtful that existence for the two of you would much change.
Does Ninth still live, and if he does not, does he follow you still? Or does he finally realise is it following you is a folly that leads him to his death?
Of the women who are now not yours, or who were never yours, only Ming Hui would greet you with open arms. You wonder whether even in death, you would be able to see sense to appreciate her, and whether that is enough. Does his word commanding you to cast her off carry over to death, too?
Thirteenth comes to see you. You look at him through the prison bars and see the silver that streaks his hair, the paleness of his face, and the weary way he carries himself. Your hair is also a similar grey, you are probably just as pallid and just as weary. It is all testaments to how much this war takes of you all, and how time has mercy for none.
You stole ten years of youth from him. How much does he blame you? Ten years for lovers is a blink of an eye, but ten years in captivity is an eternity. You cannot have been in here for more than ten months, and already you crave relief.
You wonder whether he is here for revenge. To gloat, perhaps. To savour in the table being turned.
Except, he is holding out a porcelain vial. You look into those eyes, unable to work out the emotions that hide under the mask of calm.
Surely not from him. Surely he does not forgive so easily. Also, he values Thirteenth too much to ask him to be the messenger for something such as this.
You realise who the poison was from before he tells you. A humourless smile curls on your lips. You may not understand her, but she understands you. She brings you relief when her lover would not. You thank her and you thank Thirteenth, because you know Thirteenth only does this for her.
How strange. She was the one to open war between you and your brothers. Yet you and your brothers will also unite for the love of her. Different kinds of love, but love nonetheless. Now, she is gone. Thirteenth tells you he came to see Ninth before coming to see you. In a few moments, you will be gone as well. She came and opened war. Now she leaves and the war ends with her. Everything ends with her.
Death is near, and you welcome it. Perhaps if it were her lover standing before him, you would not deign to ask. But it is Thirteenth, Thirteenth is here for her, and no one else, so you could ask and it is like begging her to take care of your son and bury you with Ming Hui.
You kneel before him, and touch your head to the ground. The rustle of fabric tells you he does the same. By the time you look up, he is gone.
The porcelain is cool in your hands and you turn it over. You drink.
It matters not who waits for you in the underworld. What you have tried to do here is done. You do not regret the things you have fought for, but failed to get.
Now, she is no longer here, neither are her warnings, neither are her sorrowful looks, and you see the world and your place in it more clearly.
You close your eyes and relax your hand, letting the vial fall. In that last moment, you know you have lived your life the way you wished and that is nobler than not living at all. You sink now into an eternal sleep. If in that sleep there are dreams, then they are only continued punishments for losing this fight in the mortal world. You would face them there as you face them here.
It is the fourteenth day of the ninth month, the fourth year of Emperor Yong Zheng. Yin Si dies in prison.
To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there's the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil…