Perfect World Chapter 13 – A Key To Power

on 08 21, 2010

The sound of footsteps echoed in the long, empty hallways, quickened in pace and dragging along the stone tiles.  Gripping the scroll in his hand a little tighter, the eager messenger turned the corner and proceeded into the last hallway before reaching the throne room.  A slight breeze tickled the many hanging drapes that lined the red carpet, making them dance with no particular rhythm as the small man hurriedly passed each without notice.  His eyes were locked on the door in front of him.  With great enthusiasm, his face formed a large smile as the guards opened the large wooden doors and ushered him into the emperor’s presence.  The messenger promptly made his way to the emperor, who had been awaiting his news the entire day.  Leaning forward, Ling Er’s father watched as the messenger stopped, bowed low and quickly opened his scroll.

“Your royal highness, Lady Liu Mei Xian has just arrived.  She now stands in the castle courtyard, awaiting your majesty’s presence.”  His face beamed with pleasure and accomplishment as he finished delivering his message. The emperor rose to his feet and with his arms open in front of him, he told the messenger to tell his guest that he would be there shortly.

For the past few weeks, Lady Liu Mei Xian had been hailed as a heroine because she had brought peace to the entire nation of Nan Zhao Guo.  The radical members of Bai Yue’s cult had all turned themselves in, claiming that Lady Liu had convicted their hearts to repent with her words.  They came pouring in from all over the country, begging the emperor to pass down appropriate judgment and punishment for their attitudes and actions.  The random acts of vandalism, assault and other felonies had all decreased to record lows.  Her words of peace, equality and righteousness have been heralded across the nation, reaching the ears of the emperor and his advisors.  As an act of good will and mercy, Lady Liu had also written a letter to the emperor, pleading with him to be lenient with the admitted criminals.  In response, he sentenced each of them to nothing more harsh than a good number of community service hours, stating that if they had truly learned their lesson, this would be the best and most just method of paying their debts to society.  This was acceptable to the people; however, the Bai Yue cult members insisted on continuing to wear their uniforms.  It was to signify that they wore their shame proudly, in order to show how wise, fair and gracious their emperor was.  The leader of Nan Zhao Guo did not fully comprehend this, but agreed to their request since he saw no real reason to refuse them.

Dismissing the excited messenger, the emperor summoned his advisors.  Together, they set out to meet Lady Liu.  They were all very excited and their hearts filled to the brim with joy discussing what she has done for Nan Zhao Guo.  Scurrying behind the emperor, their chatter and laughter filled the halls.  Finally, they reached the castle courtyard.  The emperor stopped abruptly, causing his advisors to knock into one another.  Looking towards the bottom of the stairs, they were greeted by a woman dressed in a dark violet dress, already bowing with her head to the ground.  Her long, black hair had streaks of red highlights and covered her face as the men approached her.

“I am Lady Liu Mei Xian.  It is my greatest honor to be here before you, my emperor.”  Her eyes remained downcast with her arms stretched along the ground towards the emperor.

“Oh, please, stand.  You have done so much for our country; it is we who are your debt.  I cannot thank you enough for your words of inspiration and genuine heart that seeks good.  It is my pleasure to meet you, Lady Liu.” The emperor approached her with his hands outstretched, imploring her to be at ease.  Without lifting her head, Lady Liu placed her hands in those of the emperor’s, causing his advisors to gasp in surprise.  The emperor was amazed at how soft and fair her hands were as her fingers gently pressed against his own.  Instinctively, he helped her to her feet.

“Please, call me Mei Xian.” She lifted her head and slowly, but elegantly, raised her eyes.  Over half of the men present gasped again at Mei Xian’s beauty.  She had large, round, hazelnut eyes that matched perfectly with her milk white skin and cherry lips.  Her dress had slid along the ground as she rose, hugging her very petite body tightly.  Turning to the advisors, she curtsied.

“I am glad to make your acquaintance.  The emperor is very lucky to have so many great, wise advisors.”

The group of men was enchanted by the woman in their presence, who couldn’t possibly be much older than their princess.  The emperor clapped his hands as servants appeared, carrying boxes and trunks of various shapes and sizes.

“Please accept these as a token of our country’s gratitude.  And, may I be so bold as to ask where you’re from?” The emperor smiled as he stared at Mei Xian.

“I was actually born in a small village in the country just north of here, but I have been a citizen of Nan Zhao Guo for as long as I can remember.  I grew up in the countryside with my parents, who are now deceased.”  Mei Xian turned to the gifts that were laid out before her.  “Emperor, I thank you and accept your gratitude; however, I think that many of your citizens would benefit from these gifts and trinkets much more than I ever could.  So I will gladly accept your generosity.  But, with your permission, I’d like to have them donated to the less fortunate of your kingdom.”

A round of applause filled the courtyard as the emperor’s advisors complemented Mei Xian’s words and decision.  They, especially the emperor, were all very impressed with the young lady’s grace and sophistication.  The emperor nodded and with a wave of his hand dismissed his servants, telling them to have the valuables distributed among the poor.

“Since you have such great concern about the well-being of Nan Zhao Guo and its citizens, perhaps you would like to stay as one of my personal advisors, that is, if you do not have any pressing matters that require your attention.”

Shaking her head, Mei Xian smiled weakly and replied, “I have lived by myself for the past ten years, and only because of my love for Nan Zhao Guo’s people have I decided to re-enter civilization.  As for being one of your advisors, I fear that I am not qualified for such an important position.  However, if your majesty enjoys my company, I would be happy to stay for a short while as a guest.”

“As you wish.  You must be very tired from your journey.  I’ll have my servants show you to your quarters.  After you have rested, please join me for dinner.  I would like very much to discuss with you your good deeds and gain a deeper insight into their underlying principles.”  The emperor smiled as he clapped his hands.  Mei Xian curtsied once more and bid the men farewell.

‘What an absolutely charming young woman!’

‘Very impressive.  She’s bound to bring good luck to our nation.’

‘That’s the kind of woman we need as our queen!’

After Mei Xian disappeared from the courtyard, the emperor’s advisors immediately began complimenting Lady Liu and urged their emperor to convince her to stay.  Though the recent meeting was still very much on his mind, the emperor thought of another person as well.  With peace restored to the kingdom, Ling Er could return without worry.  But in order to protect his daughter’s safety, her whereabouts had been kept secret, even from him.  He had trusted Sheng Gu to protect her and keep her safe, hidden from any dangers that may come near her.  She was to wait for his word before attempting to return to Nan Zhao Guo.  Turning quickly on his heel, the emperor told his advisors to summon a group of the country’s best soldiers.  He needed to have them find Ling Er and bring her home safely once more.  He sighed as he remembered the sacrifices of Shi Zhang Lao and his men the last time he sent someone to find his daughter.  He hoped this time would be different.  With Bai Yue defeated and the country finally at peace within itself, he felt more assured for the safety of whoever was to be sent on this mission.  His thoughts then shifted to the whereabouts of his top general, who was on a mission to a country to the north of Nan Zhao Guo.  When Ling Er was born, he had promised an arranged marriage between the country’s prince and his only daughter.  But seeing as she already married Xiao Yao, the arranged marriage would have to be cancelled.  Bei Feng Guo would make a powerful ally, too.  The emperor sighed as he thought of his daughter and how much he already owed her, how much he needed to improve as a father.  After failing to have a hand in her upbringing, how could he ask her to leave Xiao Yao for his wishes?  No, that would be unacceptable.  His general had agreed with his decision before she left, saying that she would do the same for Ah Nu, even if she wasn’t her real daughter.

Meanwhile, Mei Xian had reached her temporary quarters, which was a massive guest room overlooking the beautiful countryside in the same tower as the emperor’s room.  As she started unpacking her things on her bed, a dark figure materialized behind her.

“Ming Jian shi fu/master, it seems everything is working out nicely.  You were right.  The emperor and his lackeys are nothing but a bunch of bumbling monkeys.  They don’t suspect a thing.”  She smiled deviously without turning around.  The figure floated to her side and placed a hand on her shoulder.

“Ha ha ha ha!  Don’t get too cocky.  You saw how Bai Yue failed.  Our goal was in his grasp.  But he had to be overconfident and stubborn, always trying to figure out if true love really existed.  That fool!  Love, true or not, is but a weakness to be taken advantage of.  Learn from your senior discipleship brother’s mistakes.  It was my mistake for allowing him to undertake his mission alone, with no assistance.  But then again, you and your younger discipleship brother were far too young and inexperienced when Bai Yue started his last mission.  I still can’t stomach his failure.  It makes me regret saving him from that mountainside when his first master threw him away.  I even wasted twenty years teaching him, molding him into a perfect human – not like the pathetic waste that overruns the earth now – and over another decade’s time waiting for him to make his move.  And for what?!  For him to be defeated by four young lovers, like a mere child.  Bah!”  The figure’s eyes glowed with hatred and anger as he snarled at the last part of his sentence.  Then, laughing maniacally, he faded into the background, adding to Mei Xian, “…do not fail me, Mei Xian.  You know what will happen if you do…”

Mei Xian scoffed silently as she hugged herself.  Her master had been in a bad mood whenever he spoke of her senior discipleship brother, ever since he fell to Xiao Yao’s final blow.  But thanks to Bai Yue’s failure, she could finally prove her worth to Ming Jian.  It was also to her advantage that Bai Yue’s cult members now answered to Ming Jian and, subsequently, her.  As soon as it was disclosed that he was Bai Yue’s master, they flocked to him without hesitation.  She just hoped that they wouldn’t be completely foolish and blow her cover.  All they had to do was pretend to seek peace and desire enlightenment and things should continue to run smoothly.  Her facial expression suddenly turned into one of fear as she remembered what her master would do to her whenever her actions did not please him fully.  The fear disappeared as quickly as it came when she rubbed her stomach with her hands.  A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts.  Blinking a few times, she turned around and walked to the other side of the room.

“Yes?”  Mei Xian forced a convincing smile as she opened the door.

“Lady Liu, dinner is about to be served in the dining hall.  The emperor has requested that I be your escort.”

“Ah, yes.  Thank you very much.  Allow me to gather my things before we leave.  Please, come in.”  Mei Xian turned her body and waved her hand towards the castle maid, inviting her into her room.

“Oh, but of course!” The maid admired Mei Xian as she walked to her bed and collected a few of her small belongings.  She really was as lovely and wonderful as she overheard the advisors say.  “Please, Lady Liu, this way.”

As Mei Xian walked behind the maid, she secretly smiled maliciously.  That foolish emperor would be only too easy to win over.  His advisors were no less of a joke, either.  Psh, men.  She was convinced that a pretty face could destroy the world if it so wished.  Even her master, the great Ming Jian, had sometimes shared the same weakness; her eyes blazed with rage and frustration as she reminded herself of how she knew that first hand.  Winning the people had provided her this opportunity with the emperor.  Winning the emperor, would be a key to power.

“The dining hall is just through these double doors.”  The maid turned around to see Lady Liu looking at her pleasantly.  She couldn’t help but return her smile.  “May I just say, Lady Liu, that it has been an absolute blessing to have met you.  Well, I have some other duties to attend to.  Enjoy your meal!”

“Thank you very much.  But, you never told me your name.”

“Oh, right! Hehe, I’m called Ah Mei.”

“It’s very nice to meet you, Ah Mei.  Thank you for escorting me all this way.”  Placing a warm hand on Ah Mei’s shoulder, Mei Xian opened the double doors and entered the dining hall.

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