|The Life Without You
Author: HwGenius PM
As she lies dying against 14th Prince's shoulders, Ruoxi wonders what her life would be if she had not miscarried or left 4th Prince's side. Would she have had the life she dreamed of or the daughter she always hoped for? This is the untold story of the life Ruoxi's daughter would have led had she survived and lived in the palace all because Ruoxi did not speak with Minghui.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Tragedy - Fourth Prince/Yong Zheng & Ruo Xi - Chapters: 25 - Words: 153,383 - Reviews: 25 - Favs: 11 - Follows: 11 - Updated: 02-15-13 - Published: 09-11-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8517213
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Many thanks to Absinthium for your review. Also, thanks to Raven A. Evans for your enthusiasm and encouragement in making this one of your favorites and becoming a follower of this story.
DISCLAIMER: I do no own Bu Bu Jing Xin in anyway. All characters and trademark belong to Tong Hua. All soundtracks and scenes come from the TV drama series. I only own my unique characters.
Reviews, comments, and questions are gladly welcomed and appreciated. It is the only form of pay a writer like me gets. Please no flames as this is created based on my interpretation and understanding of the series. Some historical references have been made. When I first started this story, I wanted to include footnotes but Fanfiction does not allow me to format the story with superscripts and a nice section of endnotes. If there are questions regarding cultural or series references, please notify me with a name and email address so I may send you the references. I will try to update the story with a new chapter each week depending on my schedule. Thank you and enjoy!
Chenghuan Jie-jie, come back! I can't run as fast as you!" yells Muxue in a high pitch voice as she runs to and fro, trying to catch up to Chenghuan in the palace yards.
Nearby, Yinzhen, Ruoxi, and Thirteenth Prince stand, watching as peals of laughter come from the two children. Chenghuan slows her steps slightly, allowing Muxue to catch up and give her a big hug. A smile erupts on Ruoxi's face.
"It's been three years now and she's still as happy as ever," she says softly while watching Muxue chase after Chenghuan again. "I hope she's always this happy her entire life."
Yinzhen turns his head towards Ruoxi and gently reaches for Ruoxi's hand. "She will. She will achieve the happiness that we never could," he says as he takes a hold of Ruoxi's hand before smiling contently.
Thirteenth Prince smirks and tries to give Ruoxi and Yinzhen as much privacy as possible without making it look too obvious. He turns his head back to Chenghuan and Muxue. As he watches them, he sees Hongli and Hongzhou walking towards the pair from behind.
"Chenghuan," shouts Hongzhou as he waves a hand to greet her. Chenghuan turns and smiles broadly. She raises a hand for Muxue to take before the two run over to greet the princes.
Thirteenth Prince smiles and turns to Ruoxi and Yinzhen. "Looks like it's about to get even rowdier here," he says with a smile.
"Let's go to the study then," says Ruoxi as she allows Yinzhen to pull her down the corridors away from the yard with Thirteenth Prince following closely.
In the yard, Chenghuan walks with Muxue over to Hongzhou and Hongli. As soon as she nears them, Muxue cuddles closer to Chenghuan. Chenghuan smiles and pats the girl she considers her little sister in comfort.
"Muxue, don't be afraid of these two. They're very friendly and very kind. They are also your brothers," says Chenghuan, eying Hongzhou playfully. Muxue looks up at Chenghuan cutely. Hongli and Hongzhou smile at Muxue's reaction.
"So this is our youngest sister. Royal Ama always talks about her, but we never get the chance to see her. Muxue, come," beckons Hongli. Muxue turns her head towards Chenghuan as if asking for permission. Chenghuan nods and Muxue runs over to Hongli, analyzing him in her childish fashion.
"Muxue is a good girl," compliments Hongli as he puts his hands gently on her shoulders. "I'm Hongli your Fourth Brother. This is Hongzhou, your Fifth Brother. We have wanted to play with you for some time now, but you were always too young. Now we can really play."
At first Muxue just stares at Hongli before a smile erupts from her face. "Good," she exclaims, accepting the two boys easily. "Let's play hide-and-seek," she says and turns and running back to Chenghuan and quickly scurries away to find good hiding spots.
Hongli and Hongzhou stare in amazement at how quickly the two girls disappear. But before Hongli could say another word, he finds his younger brother has also run off in search of his own hiding place. Hongli sighs.
"All right. You all just wait. I'm very good at finding people," he shouts loudly as he turns, putting his head to the column before closing his eyes and counting loudly to twenty.
Later that day, the four of them happily run to the pavilion where Yinzhen, Ruoxi, the Empress, and Thirteenth Prince are having noon tea. The adults chat happily but stop at seeing the four enter all sweaty from the fun they just had. At seeing the adults, the boys instantly kneel as Chenghuan and Muxue curtsy.
"Auspicious greetings to Royal Ama, Empress, Thirteenth Uncle and Gugu," says Hongli, Hongzhou, and Muxue.
"Auspicious greetings to Royal Uncle, Empress, Ama, and Gugu," says Chenghuan.
The adults smile at the children's fun and excitement. "Rise," says Yinzhen.
Ruoxi smiles and turns to Hongli and Hongzhou. "Hongli and Hongzhou, you two are the oldest. Yet, you managed to get everyone sweaty. You four must have had a lot of fun," she comments laughingly. The Empress giggles into her handkerchief. Next to the Empress, Thirteenth Prince also chuckles.
"This all must be Chenghuan's doing," he guesses as he continues digging into his tangerine. Chenghuan gives a playful but indignant look at Thirteenth Prince. But before she can retort, Hongli beats her to explaining.
"Actually, it is all because of Muxue. Who would have thought she'll be so good at hide and seek? She found this secret little hideout that took us forever to find and once we did, she ran away so fast," he explains before chuckling. "Looks like next time, I'll let Hongzhou do the seeking."
The adults laugh even more as the kids take their spots around the table. "Come have some tea and fruit then," says Ruoxi and she ushers the kids around the table before pouring the tea and passing the fruits to the children.
As the oldest, Hongli allows Muxue, Hongzhou, and Chenghuan to take the fruits first. Despite having teased Chenghuan when they were younger, he constantly watches over her now as if he is her older brother. Chenghuan looks at Hongli and as if thinking the same thoughts, tosses an apple at him to which he catches before sharing a smile with her. In their seats, the children munch on their fruits and sip their tea as the adults return to their conversation.
Sitting next to Muxue, Hongzhou glances curiously at Muxue who is contently eating her grapes. He turns to her, holding his peach out. "Want to trade?" he asks.
Muxue ponders a bit before responding. "It's kind of big. What is it? I've never had it," answers Muxue.
Hongzhou looks at her in shock. "This is a peach. It's really good. Here, have a bite," he says offering the peach to Muxue. Muxue hands some of her grapes to him, taking the peach in the process and is just about to lean in to bite into the peach when she hears a cry come from Ruoxi.
"MUXUE!" cries Ruoxi as she runs over to Muxue and Hongzhou snatching the peach out of Muxue's hands. Looking worriedly, she turns to Muxue and begins checking for any signs of rashes or itching. "Did you eat this?" she asks quickly as Yinzhen, Thirteenth Prince, and the Empress watch intently. Muxue shakes her head as Ruoxi continues looking over Muxue.
"Ruoxi, what's happened?" asks the Empress as she also rushes over to Muxue's side. "Hongzhou, what happened?" asks the Empress.
Hongzhou scratches his head and turns to the Empress. "Empress, Muxue and I traded fruits. She offered me her grapes and I was letting her try my peach. Ruoxi Gugu, please don't worry. Muxue didn't bite into the peach," says Hongzhou contritely.
Ruoxi sighs heavily with relief when she realizes no harm has been inflicted on Muxue. "Hongzhou, you are very kind to offer your peach to Muxue. However, Muxue is allergic to peaches. If she eats them she could have hives and watery eyes or worse she could stop breathing."
Hongzhou bows his head. "I'm sorry Muxue. I was just trying to have fun with you. I guess you won't play with me anymore" says Hongzhou sorrowfully.
However, Muxue reach a hand out to Hongzhou, a smile still plastered on her face.
"What are you saying? I'll still play with you. I like playing with you," says Muxue as she shows Hongzhou a wide smile, her white teeth flashing. Hongzhou looks and smiles in relief.
Ruoxi gently pats Hongzhou's back. "Hongzhou, you did nothing wrong. However, Muxue is still very young and is sensitive to certain foods. Next time you want to offer food to Muxue, ask the Empress or me first. All right?"
Hongzhou nods as Muxue takes his hand, still smiling.
"Don't worry Hongzhou. Even if I did get sick, I'll still consider you my friend," she says happily and stands up as Hongzhou looks at her.
"Come, let's go play something else," she says dragging him off. Hongli and Chenghuan bow and then run off following.
The adults watch them leave. Ruoxi sighs again with relief as the Empress walks up to Ruoxi. "Sorry I forgot about that little detail. It was a good thing you noticed in time otherwise the result would have been disastrous." Ruoxi smiles back at the Empress.
"Empress Jie-jie, it's no big deal. Now that Hongzhou knows, he will make sure Muxue never eats peaches again. Besides, Muxue also knows herself now. We don't have to worry anymore," says Ruoxi before she returns to Yinzhen's side, pouring more tea. "Come, let's enjoy our tea," she says.
Ruoxi practices her calligraphy as Qiaohui sits, sewing a tiny hummingbird onto a handkerchief. Qiaohui turns to Ruoxi and begins chuckling. Ruoxi pauses in her strokes and turns to Qiaohui.
"Qiaohui, what are you laughing at?"
Qiaohui continues to giggle though she tries to hide it. "Qiaohui is only laughing at how much Muxue Gege is acting like you when you were her age." She sighs. "If only Mistress were here, she would definitely have adored her," she reminisces.
Ruoxi smiles and picks up her brush to continue writing. The sounds of pitter-patter footsteps are heard as Chenghuan and Muxue run into Ruoxi's chambers.
"Gugu," they both shout in excitement. Ruoxi sighs and puts down her brush, hurriedly rolling up the parchments. From her spot, Qiaohui watches and smiles, continuing to sew.
"You two are so loud. What has both of you so excited?"
"Gugu, we found a school of butterflies flying in your garden. Let's go catch some," says Chenghuan holding a hand to Muxue. Muxue nods excitedly.
Ruoxi sighs. "Gugu is tired today. How about I watch you two catch some?" she asks.
Muxue pouts and grabs Ruoxi's hand, clearly not please by her answer. "Gugu, come. It'll be fun I promise."
Ruoxi looks sadly at Muxue and raises her hand to touch Muxue's hair. Although it does pain her that Muxue doesn't call her 'uh-liang', she is happy to see the child acting so lovingly towards her.
"Hurry, Chenghuan is waiting to catch butterflies with you. I'll sit and watch," says Ruoxi as she leads the child out to the courtyard.
Chenghuan easily races ahead of Muxue heading over to the butterflies where a eunuch is already present holding nets. Ruoxi looks and realizes that this is the same eunuch who has delivered gifts and letters from Yinzhen to her all along, Xiao Shunzi. She nods at him and he smilingly nods in return, handing one of the nets to Chenghuan. Ruoxi turns to her side, realizing Muxue has not run towards the butterflies and bends down.
"Go," she tells Muxue who listens and slowly releases her hand from Ruoxi's. Ruoxi watches the two girls laugh as the butterflies fly swirling left and right. The two of them run back and forth, happy to see the butterflies fly into their nets.
Ruoxi looks at the butterflies and somehow, her thoughts stray to her Jie-jie, Ruolan. "Butterflies have so much freedom," she says to no one in particular as she begins to daydream once more.
Qiaohui walks up beside her. "Second Mistress, what are you musing about? I've have finished the handkerchief," says Qiaohui as she hands the handkerchief to Ruoxi for viewing. Ruoxi looks at the design of the handkerchief, a small hummingbird next to a butterfly over a small patch of flowers. She smiles, satisfied.
"Qiaohui, your sewing is perfect as ever. Muxue will definitely love it." Ruoxi calls out to Chenghuan and Muxue. "It's getting late. You both should come in."
Holding hands, Chenghuan leads Muxue back to Ruoxi. "Gugu, look at the butterflies we caught," says Chenghuan, holding up the net for Ruoxi to see.
Ruoxi nods. "They're very pretty. But look at you both, all sweaty," she says. Instantly, Qiaohui pulls out another handkerchief and hands it to Chenghuan who uses it to wipe her brow. Ruoxi bends down and uses the recently finished one to wipe Muxue's forehead.
"Was it fun?" she whispers to Muxue. Muxue nods happily.
"Next time, Gugu has to join us." Ruoxi smiles gently and nods. After she finishes wiping, she shows the handkerchief to Muxue.
"Do you think this is pretty?" she asks to Muxue. Muxue toothily nods and reaches a hand out to touch the handkerchief.
"It's very pretty."
"Since you think it's pretty, then you can keep it. It's yours now." Muxue takes a hold of the handkerchief and beams.
"Thank you Gugu. Gugu is the best and the nicest," she cries in happiness rushing to show Chenghuan her present. Chenghuan smiles and compliments Muxue's handkerchief.
"When I was younger, Gugu also made me something. I still keep it. Next time when you're over, you can see it," says Chenghuan as she smiles and pats Muxue on the back.
Chenghuan turns back to Ruoxi. "Gugu, what should we do with the butterflies? It'll be a shame to let them all go. Perhaps we can keep a few in a jar…"
Ruoxi shakes her head and turns to Chenghuan. "No. Set them all free," she says shocking Qiaohui, Chenghuan, and Muxue. Muxue begins to whine, wanting to keep such beautiful creatures in her bedroom.
"Why Gugu? They're so pretty! I want to keep them by my bedside!"
Ruoxi takes a gentle hold of Muxue. "Such beautiful creatures need their freedom to remain beautiful. If you keep them cage, they'll lose their splendor. Therefore, it is best we return them to their home in the garden," she says placating Muxue.
Muxue bits her lips pondering deeply on Ruoxi's words. A while later she nods reluctantly. Chenghuan also nods and steps outside into the courtyard with Ruoxi and Muxue following. Gingerly, Chenghuan waves the net, shaking and freeing the butterflies from their captivity. Muxue points at the butterflies as they fleetingly fly away into the air.
"They are all free now and able to bask in their splendor once more. But I, I'm free only in my mind," thinks Ruoxi as she stares into the sky, watching the butterflies fly towards the sun before disappearing.
The following afternoon, Ruoxi sits at her table, gently touching and staring at the snuff bottle Yinzhen gifted to her so long ago, the one with three curly-hair dogs fighting. While she completely recognizes its exquisiteness and knows it is made with doubled layers of colored glass, she does not know that it is Yinzhen who personally painted the picture onto the bottle. She smiles as she admires the three little dogs fighting and playing with one another, tears rising to her eyes.
Although she may have never truly gotten along with Eighth and Tenth De Fujin, the Guoluoluo sisters, she still thinks of them and how time has treated them. Then, Yinzhen had walked in on the three of them having an argument to where she stood up to the Fujins without so much of a glance of fear. This is the scene Yinzhen had captured on to the snuff bottle in painting. As she thinks back to that confrontation, she is saddened. Now, Eighth De Fujin had passed away from illness a few months ago. As for Tenth Fujin, she's is all lonesome, imprisoned in the residence she shared with Tenth Prince. Now that Tenth Prince is forced to remain stationed in Mongolia, she hardly knows how he's doing. She understands this is a ploy of the Emperor to limit and harness the authority Eighth Prince has in court but she can't help but miss her caring and amusing childhood friend. Ruoxi raises her fingers to touch the dogs.
"Back then, there were three squabbling cute little dogs. Now, one of them has passed on, one is imprisoned, and the last is here sitting, waiting for the flowers to wither," she thinks before dozing off. Qiaohui comes into the chamber with a tray of food, placing it down quietly on the table as she observes Ruoxi slumbering.
"Second Mistress," Qiaohui calls, "if you're tired, why not head to bed?" she gently asks. Ruoxi wakes briefly and nods, standing tiredly and turns towards the bed before slumping down onto the floor, unconscious. Qiaohui looks in shock and rushes over to Ruoxi.
"Second Mistress, Second Mistress. Hurry," she calls outside, "CALL FOR A PHYSICIAN!"
Yinzhen grabs the collar of the physician's robes, looking at the physician murderously. "WHAT DO YOU MEAN THERE'S NOTHING YOU CAN DO!" he yells flinging the physician away from him in anger. The physician immediately kneels, begging Yinzhen for forgiveness. Nearby, Qiaohui kneels down crying. Just as Yinzhen is about to reach for the physician again, planning to throw him out, Ruoxi calls to him faintly.
Yinzhen rushes to her side on the bed. "Ruoxi," he calls tearfully.
"Don't blame the physician. I have been expecting this," she says feebly. Yinzhen wraps his arms tightly around Ruoxi. He looks to the physician.
"You may go," he says sternly. The physician scurries out of the room. Yinzhen turns ruefully to Ruoxi who is leaning tiredly against his shoulder.
"I haven't given you permission to die. Remember? You can't die without my permission," he says referring back to the time he first met her when she was still trying to get run over by horses, hoping to return to the present era.
Ruoxi sighs. "It's not my choice," she says gripping Yinzhen's hands with hers. "And I wouldn't dare. But it seems like this time, this is not something you can control," she says closing her eyes again.
Tears fall from Yinzhen's face. "How can you be dying? He said you have eight nine years left. You haven't even lived half of those," he laments.
Ruoxi sighs. "Even if you order me not to die, I doubt it would help."
"What about Muxue? Wouldn't you miss her?"
Ruoxi nods weakly. "Even if I do miss her, this is still something I cannot avoid," she says raising a hand to touch Yinzhen's face. "I would like to see Thirteenth Prince, Empress Jie-jie, Muxue, and also Chenghuan. There are some things I have to tell them," she requests gently.
Yinzhen nods. "Gao Wuyong," he calls.
"Present," answers Gao Wuyong from beyond the doors.
"Send for Thirteenth Prince, Empress, Muxue Gege, and Chenghuan Gege. Quickly."
Yinzhen turns back to Ruoxi, trying to comfort her. "They'll be here soon," he whispers. Ruoxi nods and gestures Qiaohui to help her stand.
"Second Mistress, you should be in bed resting," says Qiaohui amidst her tears. Ruoxi shakes her head.
"I have a few letters to write," she says as she heads for the desk.
Qiaohui takes a hold of Ruoxi's arm and slowly walks with her to the desk. Ruoxi tosses an empty sheet of parchment, takes her brush, and begins to write. Next to her stands Qiaohui, helping her run the ink stick on the slab to keep the ink smooth and fresh. Across, Yinzhen silently watches Ruoxi write. When she is finished with the first letter, she slowly folds it and puts the letter along with a pink handkerchief into an envelope, addressing it to Thirteenth Prince. She starts the second letter but writes even slower than before, her fatigue showing more than ever. When she finishes this one, she drops the brush, allowing it to fall to the floor with a clang. Yinzhen and Qiaohui look worriedly but Ruoxi waves her hand, telling them she is fine and slowly puts the letter into the envelope. She does not address this letter and slowly makes her way to Yinzhen's side, the letters clench tightly in her hand.
Yinzhen wraps his arms around her, guiding her back to the bed. He gently helps her to sit against the bedframes and takes his spot next to her. Ruoxi leans her head against Yinzhen, her eyes closing for a brief rest. Gao Wuyong runs back into the chamber and kneels.
"Emperor, Thirteenth Prince, Empress, Muxue Gege, and Chenghuan Gege are here."
Yinzhen nods. "Send them in," he commands.
Thirteenth Prince enters the room swiftly with the Empress, Muxue and Chenghuan at his tail.
"Ruoxi," Yinzhen wakes softly. "They're here now," he says helping Ruoxi to sit up.
"Thirteenth Prince," Ruoxi calls faintly. Yinzhen bids Thirteenth Prince to step forward. Thirteenth Prince clusters to the bed as Yinzhen stands back, still hovering protectively. Muxue leans closer to Chenghuan, frightened that her Gugu is in such a state.
"Ruoxi, don't give up. You have something to live for," Thirteenth Prince whispers as he takes a hold of her hands.
"Thirteenth Prince," she says the tears rolling down her eyes, "It's been a complete honor to have been friends with you. I hope this 'Daring Thirteenth Sister' did not disappoint you."
Thirteenth Prince takes an emotional breath and gently pats Ruoxi's hands. "How can I be disappointed?" he asks through a watery laugh. "If you still treat me as a friend, you don't need to say anymore," he answers.
Ruoxi nods. "Ruoxi understands," she murmurs and gently thrusts a letter into his hands Thirteenth Prince looks startle but accepts when he sees Ruoxi nod at him. He realizes this letter is written to him. He nods but is even more surprise when she pushes another letter towards him. He looks at her questioningly. She takes his other hand and gently makes the Chinese characters for 'fourteen' on his palm. Thirteenth Prince knows this is Ruoxi's way of telling him to send the letter to Fourteenth Prince. He nods as she calls delicately for Chenghuan.
"Chenghuan is here," says Thirteenth Prince, beckoning Chenghuan to come closer. Muxue tags along. Chenghuan sits next to Thirteenth Prince, her hand reaching for Ruoxi.
"Gugu," she cries trying to hide the tears from Muxue.
"Chenghuan is a good girl. You will take care of your Ama, take care of Muxue, and also of yourself. Remember what you have to do every year on December 22nd."
"Chenghuan will remember Gugu's words," replies Chenghuan. Ruoxi nods and calls to Qiaohui.
"Qiaohui, bring out the jade pendant." Qiaohui nods and hurries to get it. She returns to Ruoxi's beside moments later holding out the jade pendant. Ruoxi lifts the pendant and gently places it into Chenghuan's hands.
"This is for you. You need to take care of this as well." Chenghuan touches the jade pendant and holds it close to her chest.
"Gugu don't worry. I'll take good care of it and give it to Muxue when she is older," cries Chenghuan the tears spilling out of her eyes. Ruoxi shakes her head.
"No, it is for you to keep," says Ruoxi as she gently smiles at Chenghuan. Chenghuan nods and uses her sleeves to wipe the tears away. She then lifts Muxue up onto the bed so that Ruoxi can hold her. Thirteenth Prince and Chenghuan step away to give Muxue and Ruoxi a moment. Yinzhen sits at the table tiredly with his eyes closed.
"Gugu!" cries Muxue as she sits happily on the bed. Ruoxi tearfully looks at her little girl, caressing her soft dark hair, trying desperately to remember each and every one of her features. Muxue tilts her head cutely, dubiously wondering why everyone is acting so somber.
"Gugu, you're crying," Muxue points out, using one of her fingers to wipe away Ruoxi's tears. The child continues to smile brightly at Ruoxi. "However, you're still as pretty as ever," she says as Ruoxi giggles at Muxue's antics before hugging her close.
"My dear little Muxue, you will have a bright future and achieve all of your dreams. When you grow up, you will soar like the eagles and flitter through the air majestically like the butterflies. Remember, you are your Royal Ama's daughter," says Ruoxi and the tears continue to flow.
"Gugu, what does that mean?" asks Muxue cutely. Ruoxi wipes her tears and looks back at her child.
"It means that you are loved by many. Remember, I also love you too okay?"
Muxue nods cutely and smiles. Ruoxi leans forward and gives a firm kiss to Muxue on her forehead.
"Be good for your Royal Ama," she whispers softly. She gently pats Muxue and puts on her best smile. "Go with Chenghuan now," she says. Muxue nods and jumps from the bed before running back to Chenghuan's side.
Ruoxi gives Chenghuan a look and Chenghuan curtsies before leading Muxue out of the room. At the door, Chenghuan turns and gives one last tearful look at Ruoxi before walking out.
"Qiaohui," Ruoxi calls again.
"Qiaohui is here."
"Qiaohui, you need to find your own happiness and decide your own future. If you want to leave the palace then leave. If you want to stay, then I must thank you in advance for watching over Muxue and Chenghuan."
Qiaohui immediately kneels, bowing before Ruoxi. "Second Mistress. Qiaohui has already found her happiness her caring for Mistress and you. Qiaohui wishes to stay in the palace and care for Chenghuan Gege and Muxue Gege. Second Mistress you don't have to thank Qiaohui. Second Mistress," she cries as Ruoxi looks to the Empress. Ruoxi smiles gently and excuses Qiaohui, who leaves crying.
Without even needing Ruoxi to call, the Empress walks close to Ruoxi and sits by her side.
"Ruoxi," starts the Empress.
Ruoxi smiles at the Empress and takes a hold of her hands. "You and I are sisters remember? From now on, what I have is yours. Please take care of yourself and of…"
"Ruoxi, you don't have to worry. I will care for Muxue and Chenghuan as my own daughters," says the Empress tearfully.
Ruoxi sighs and looks slightly at Yinzhen who is still sitting at the table with his eyes close. "And him," whispers Ruoxi to the Empress who then turns and glances at Yinzhen. She nods.
Ruoxi beckons the Empress to come closer to her. Having come from the modern world, she knows enough about the Empress's fate. "Do not worry about your position. The Emperor loves you and he will care for and respect you for the rest of your life," she whispers loud enough only for the Empress to hear.
The Empress looks at Ruoxi confused. "How do you know of this?" Ruoxi just smiles back at the Empress.
"It does not matter. As long as you continue to do what you believe is right, everything will be well," she says with a smile. The Empress's eyes well with tears again.
"Ruoxi," she cries again. Ruoxi nods knowingly.
"Take care Jie-jie," says Ruoxi before closing her eyes for another brief rest. It is getting harder and harder for Ruoxi to remain conscious. The Empress tearfully leaves Ruoxi and curtsies at Yinzhen. Together with Thirteenth Prince, the two of them walk out, closing the door behind them. Yinzhen still has his own goodbyes to say to Ruoxi.
Back in his chambers, Thirteenth Prince sorrowfully drinks his wine directly from the bottle. He wonders if this is how Fourth Brother felt when he was sent to house arrest. This is not the first stab of pain Thirteenth Prince has felt. It is nearly ten times worse. First his beloved Lü Wu leaves his side without so much of an explanation or word. Now, his best friend and confidant, Ruoxi is leaving. Thirteenth Prince has never felt more pain in his heart than when he kneeled before his royal father more than ten years ago when he was sentenced. He contemplates on how he will approach writing of Ruoxi's death to Fourteenth Brother, knowing it is likely Fourteenth Prince will race back to the Forbidden City having heard the news of Ruoxi. Just as he is about to write to Fourteenth Prince, Thirteenth Prince suddenly remembers that Ruoxi has written him a letter and pulls it from his inner pocket. He takes the letter out of its precious envelope, unfolding it before slowly reading the contents:
My Dearest Thirteenth Prince,
It has been a complete honor and pleasure to have known and befriended you. As such, I can only rely on you for this last favor. I know this may bring you trouble in the future. But the 'Fearless Thirteenth Prince' I know from before, would never be afraid. Please give the handkerchief to Ninth Prince with my compliments.
Thirteenth Prince tearfully puts the letter down and pulls out the pink handkerchief in the envelope. He looks and realizes it is Yutan's last words to Ruoxi before her death.
"That snake of a Ninth Brother! In the end, Yutan's love for him is her own undoing. Yutan bears no hate or regret yet there he is in court, still as smug as ever," he thinks tossing the handkerchief onto his table. He takes another swig of his bottle of wine, staring harder than ever at Ruoxi's words to him. He knows Ruoxi's final favor involves granting mercy to Eighth Brother and Ninth Brother by giving them quick deaths and sparing Tenth and Fourteenth Brothers' lives when the feud for the throne ends.
"Ruoxi, don't you worry. I promise I'll finish what you couldn't for you. You do not need to worry about Muxue. Fourteenth Brother and I will watch over her. As for this handkerchief, I can't wait to deliver it," he murmurs before lifting the bottle again to his lips. He raises the bottle in Ruoxi's honor and readies some parchment. He grabs his brush and begins writing his hardest letter yet to Fourteenth Prince.
Back in Ruoxi's room, Ruoxi's breaths continue to labor as she lies against Yinzhen's shoulders waiting for the inevitable. Holding her favorite magnolia pin in her hands, she reaches a hand towards Yinzhen's face, feeling each and every one of his facial feature, trying to commit all of them to memory.
"Ruoxi, do you regret not becoming my consort?" asks Yinzhen tearfully as he knows Ruoxi is nearing her end.
Ruoxi shakes her head. "No. I got to spend my time with you each day, even if it is from a distance. How I can regret that?" she asks, twirling the pin in her hand.
Yinzhen smiles briefly, realizing Ruoxi is answering his question by asking a question. "Answering my question by asking a question, how philosophical of you," he comments as he strokes Ruoxi's arm. Ruoxi smiles and raises a hand, pointing at her dresser.
"Those are my favorite things. Please bring them here," she asks softly. Yinzhen rises and briskly walks to the dresser and looks, realizing the items are all related to him. He takes them and brings them over to Ruoxi's side.
Ruoxi lifts the snuff bottle for him to observe.
"It's really pretty," she says before turning to Yinzhen. "How did you manage to find such an item?" she asks, her eyes closing briefly.
Yinzhen laughs quietly. "The bottle I didn't make. The design I drew. Do you like it?"
Ruoxi nods slowly, feeling extremely lethargic. "This kept me occupied with memories of you during my time in the laundry department. Although I'm not entirely sure I like being compared to a white fluffy dog," she adds jokingly.
Yinzhen laughs slightly, continuing to rub Ruoxi's arm. "But you sure resembled that little white dog that day in the pavilion. Remember?" he asks. Ruoxi nods quietly as a tear slips from Yinzhen's eyes. He reaches for the next item, realizing it is wrapped in red cloth. Ruoxi watches as he unravels the item only to see that it is the arrow he took for her back in the palace garden.
"You kept this?" he asks in surprise. Ruoxi nods gingerly.
"You said you would feel even more pain if I was injured. I kept it to remind myself of your love for me," explains Ruoxi. Yinzhen is heavily touched by her words. During that time, he had to close off nearly all relations with Ruoxi in order to prevent Emperor Kangxi from continuing to associate him with the framing of the Crown Prince, an incident that resulted in the imprisonment of Thirteenth Prince. He plants a gentle kiss on Ruoxi's head.
Ruoxi smiles and shows Yinzhen her most cherished item. "This hairpin is my favorite," she says tiredly in between long breaths, raising the hairpin in her hand for him to view. Yinzhen smiles knowingly. This is also one of his favorite items.
"I thought I lost it when it got snapped during my time in the laundry department. Yet you made another one looking nearly identical to the one you gave me." Yinzhen puts his hand over the hairpin, holding it with Ruoxi. Ruoxi looks at Yinzhen and smiles again.
"I want you to have it after I leave," she whispers.
Yinzhen swallows tearfully. He doesn't want to say good bye to her just yet. "You should leave it to Muxue. When she gets older, she'll want to hear our story," he says sadly holding Ruoxi as tightly as he can to him without hurting her.
"She will know of your love and my love even without this. I will watch over her and care for her wherever I am. She'll be safe all her life. It is you I'm worried about. I don't want you to be all alone," she laments. Yinzhen swallows hard. He doesn't want her to leave with worry and sadness.
"You do not have to worry. I'll keep this pin with me at all times. That way, you'll be there with me wherever I am."
Ruoxi stays quiet as she wonders if Yinzhen will ever agree to her final request. "Fourth Prince, when I leave, I would like to be cremated."
As she had expected, he doesn't respond. "Why would you want that?" he asks solemnly. He wishes she could take that question back as he wants to have at least something to hold onto of her other than the magnolia pin. Ruoxi takes a hold of his head, and looks to him with imploring eyes.
"Please, I don't want to stay in the dark and cold ground or let the bugs devour me. I want to be free as the wind, soar as high as the eagles and flitter as majestic as the butterflies. This way, I will always be with you and Muxue wherever I am," she says crying.
Tears pour out of Yinzhen's eyes. He doesn't truly want to allow this but he respects her too much to bar her from having true freedom. "Very well, I will do as you requested.
Ruoxi sighs and nods feeling more tired than ever. "Thank you my beloved Fourth Prince. I promise I'll wait for you," she whispers closing her eyes.
Yinzhen looks and realizes the time is near. "Wait for what?" he asks sorrowfully, tears cascading his face.
Ruoxi takes in a labored breath. "I will wait for you at the top of the waterfall… our waterfall… where we can sit… and watch… the rise… of the… clouds," she says taking her last breath, her eyes closing forever with tears, and her head slumping forward against Yinzhen. The magnolia pin falls out of her grip.
Yinzhen watches silently, the tears continuing to flood his face. He does not want to imagine his life without her. She is the love of his life. He tightens his grip in holding her lifeless body to him and wonders how he will ever survive without her. He knows he must, for her no their daughter's sake. He takes a hold of the fallen magnolia pin and pockets it tightly into his garments, vowing to always have the pin by his side wherever he is. He knows that while he could never fully express his love for Ruoxi all her life, he will show it by caring for Muxue.
As he caresses what remains of his withered magnolia flower, he remembers every moment he spent with her: how he nearly ran her over with his horse when he was returning from an important errand, how he and Thirteenth Brother nearly hit her with their horses, how she questioned him on all his favorite items, how she spilled tea on Tenth Brother to protect him, how she avoided him even after he suggested to Emperor Kangxi that she attends the expedition, how she served him grape juice in his one-of-a-kind magnolia cup, how she feared him even when he was teaching her horseback riding, how she bit him on the lip when he forcefully kissed her, how she returned his gifts with a letter recording her feelings of indifference on the topic of marriage, how defiant she was when she tried to defend her sister against the Guoluoluo sisters, how embarrassed she looked while sitting across from him in their little canoe at the lotus pond, how forlorn she became after the Crown Prince asked for her hand of marriage, how she agreed to marry him by wearing his magnolia hairpin, how she held the white fluffy dog in her arms as she looked at him knowing full well he is thinking of the snuff bottle he crafted, how she crumpled the parchment with her calligraphy of the verse he sent her, how she spiked his dessert with salt only to have him drink several cups of tea, how she hugged him as she kneeled in the rain begging that Thirteenth Prince gets a companion during his time of arrest, how she wittingly suggested him to make homemade snacks during Emperor Kangxi's visit to his manor, how worried she had been after the arrow hit him, how she willingly rejected Emperor Kangxi betrothal of her to Fourteenth Brother even at the cost of being demoted to the laundry department, how delighted she had looked holding and naming the infant Chenghuan, how happy she had been when he held her by his side after a tired night, how angry she was at him after he sentenced Yutan to death by steaming, how she fought with him to pardon Eighth Brother from an offense, how content she looked while she read with him, how she smiled as she brought him his tea, how satisfied she had been as she stayed up to keep him company as he worked, how proud she looked the day Muxue was born, how beautiful she looked even as she grew pale with fatigue, and how brave she was even as she look death in the eye.
How could he ever forget all the times he shared with her? These fleeting moments are now nothing but memories. As these thoughts circle his mind, Yinzhen breaks down into tears, crying without restraint for his great loss. The year is 1726 and Ma'ertai Ruoxi dies at the age of thirty-six. That night, Yinzhen cries harder than he ever has in his entire life.