At that time, the girl happened to give birth to a prince. The Empress then ordered someone to poison the nourishing soup that the girl would have daily. The girl had the poisonous soup and gradually got weak and died of illness. Before she passed away, she hoped to make the cause of Gong Zi’s death public, but it was too late. The Empress put her under house arrest, saying that she had serious tuberculosis and was not allowed to see anyone. Besides, the Empress also took the newly-born little Prince away…” I was quite nervous, asking, “Did the Empress even kill the little Prince?” Gu Xiao Wu looked as usual and shook his head, “The Empress wouldn’t kill the little Prince. She had no children herself, so she brought up the little Prince and taught him the skills. The little Prince regarded the Empress as his own birth mother, but he had never known that his real birth mother was originally killed by the Empress. Later… the little Prince finally knew the truth, but he couldn’t help it. He was still young, while the Empress was very powerful, and he couldn’t go against her. The Emperor also hesitated by then, because he not only had the little Prince as his son, he also got other Princes. The Emperor pondered over these Princes, not knowing who to pass the throne to in the future. The other Princes strove for the throne secretly, and they all knew that the little Prince was not the birth son of the Empress; while the Empress also bore a grudge against the little Prince… However, the Emperor finally sent the little Prince as the Crown Prince. In Zixu, there were very few Crown Princes who could live more than thirty years old, as they would either be assassinated or be dethroned and put under house arrest by their fathers until they died. There were also some Crown Princes who had plotted a rebellion against their fathers in order to seize the opportunity… Some of them succeeded, some failed; the winner became the Emperor, and finally died, while the loser failed to become the Emperor, he also died… In fact, Eastern Palace is a court immersed in blood…” Gu Xiao Wu ceased his narration and got absent-minded suddenly, while I also looked at him dumbly. This story was not fun at all, unlike those stories I had heard before. I wondered why I didn’t interrupt Gu Xiao Wu. After a while, he continued his story in a plain tone: “Although the little prince was the crown prince, he led a hard life. The empress was wary of him and the emperor threw him a difficult problem to handle, saying: “Since you are the crown prince, you should set an example to our subjects. Then the emperor sent the little prince to a place to carry out a task that was almost impossible to complete…” “The little prince was pitiful.” I pumped him for more details: “What was the prince’s task at last?” “That was the end.” Gu Xiao Wu dabbed his saddle and lay down again comfortably, “Go to sleep.” I flew into a fury. How could I fall asleep without knowing the end of the story? I said: “I didn’t ask why, but why you stopped talking?” Gu Xiao Wu replied: “That was the whole story. How could I continue?” He turned his back to me. I only saw his shoulder blades. Though covered with sheepskin, he still huddled up together because of the cold wind at night. He seemed to be asleep.
I pulled the leather mattress under my chin, which made me warm. I thought: Gu Xiao Wu looked heartless, and his story was even more annoying! However, looking at him asleep, I thought he was somewhat pathetic. In his story, the little prince didn’t have a mother, neither did he. Certainly, a motherless person was pitiful. If I didn’t have a mom, I would cry right away.
I drifted off to sleep in a daze. I dreamed of the little prince possibly because I had heard the story before sleep. He was a very young boy who was only three or four years old. Crouching and crying there, he huddled up together like a small injured beast. He looked like a wounded fox that I found in a hunter’s trap after a fall of snow. The little fox huddled, looking at me with its watery black eyes. It was very alert to me, but it also had a hint of fear. It squeezed its shoulder blades together, with its pointy mouth hidden under its claws. Snow falling thickly, I felt tender and protective toward it, so I couldn’t help but reach out to hug it to me. But I didn’t expect when it raised its head, it turned out to be Gu Xiao Wu, which was spooky. I got shocked and woke with a start. Now it was beginning to get light – there was a thin crescent in the western sky, the stars growing dim and even the bonfire gradually dying down. The night seemed to deepen. Two thousand cavalrymen slept heavily on the prairie, and only the sentinels were still patrolling. The grass beside my face was covered with cool dew which fell on my face when I touched the grass. I licked the dew – it was sweet. Then I turned over and fell asleep again.
As soon as the day broke, we struck camp and rode east for five or six days. We finally met the rangers Tujue had sent. Hearing that the Great Chanyu’s tent was nearby, He Shi was overjoyed. I was also very happy because I would see my grandfather soon. But it was not convenient for the two thousand cavalrymen from the Central Plains to stay in the border of Tujue, so they would go back soon.
“Original translation from wwW。wangmamaread。COm.”
He Shi admired them much, praising them for their strict military discipline, swift actions, and bravery. He said they were true men hard to come at. Together with He Shi, I walked with them part of the way west.
The hot sun beat brightly upon us in the afternoon. Gu Xiao Wu lowered his head, dozing off on his horse. I said, “Hey, do me a favour – give a message to my father that I have arrived at Tujue safely.” Gu Xiao Wu said: “It depends on whether I will go back to the empire city to sell tea.” I said: “If not, where will you go?” He smiled but didn’t answer. The cavalrymen from the Central Plains had gone far. He waved at me and then caught up with them.