4 Chapter 3
In another part of the castle in the west. Li Shimin Bide and his brother Li Chun Mu are getting ready for the event. Both of them had personal servants.
Part of Li Chun Mu's was hair put into a bun with a rod through the middle. Rest of the hair falls below his shoulders. His attire is black with gold along the edges.
Li Shimin Bide is a mirror image of his father except for his hair. At a young age, he suffered from an unknown disease. The disease causes his beloved raven color hair to turn into a different color.
Long white hair frame his heart-shaped face. Half of his hair was pulled back into a ponytail with the gold band holding it. His garments are scarlet with gold along the sleeves and chest.
"Finally done!" exclaim Chun Mu while looking at the mirror.
"Why the rush brother?"
"Did you forget that we are supposed to go see our dear mother for something," answered Chun Mu halfway out of the room.
"Oh, wait for me, Chun!" said Shimin Bide running after him.
"Hurry up then."
Shimin Bide picks up the speed. Two of them walk to their mother's private room down the hall.
"Mother. can we come in?" ask Chun Mu through the close door.
"Yes come in."
Chun Mu slide the door open. Both boys went into the room. Their mother sat in the far corner. She seems paler than usual today. Mothe wear ruby color garments with gold.
On her head adorn all kinds of hair accessories. Just being in her presence made the two straight their back after sitting down. In front of them were all kinds of food that would make any mouths began to salivate.
"Are you feeling alright mother?" inquire Shimin in concern tone of voice.
"I am fine. Why don't the two of you go ahead and eat."
The three ate in silence. The meal contains lamb, corn, red wine and more.
"Mother, what did you want to discuss with us?' questions Shimin looking at her.
"Well, ever since your father became ill. The kingdom has become unstable, and people are whispering about death. I am concern about the future of this kingdom."
"I thought you became the ruler because the father can no longer handle the pressure and is bedridden," responded Shimin.
"True to a point but the ministers say that I am not fit to be the ruling Empress. "
"So there is a struggle within the palace. What does this have to do with us?" query Chun Mu.
"You two are going to guide the kingdom's future. Your father may not survive the illness."
"Oh, don't say that mother," Shimin Bide blurred out.
"I am just stating a possibility, so I plan the event for your futures."
"You mean gathering women across the kingdom and beyond to be the next empress." retorted Chun Mu feeling unhappy.
"One of you two will have to mature then become emperor."
The boys look at each other than said in union, "I am not taking a bride."
"I am afraid taking a bride is a part of becoming king."
"We will cross the bridge when we get there," reply Chun Mu.
"Shimin Bide, can you leave? I need to discuss with your brother a bit more."
Shimin Bide put down his chopstick and stood to leave the two by themselves. He exits the room but secretly lingers around. Back in the room Chun Mu glare at his mother.
"Mother, what else do you need to talk about with me?" asks Chun Mu.
"You are now at the age in which I expect mature growth, and I want no fighting with your brother."
"We do not quarrel." Chun Mu respond defensively.
"I know still I am worried that the throne will cause bloodshed. I will use my influence to launch you to be the next emperor."
Chun Mu sat silently without a word coming out. Irritating feelings rise to the surface.
"What if I do not wish to take over as emperor?"Chun Mu question.
"Are you serious now!" exclaimed she wide-eyed almost yelling.
"I feel the responsibilities of the kingdom should be given to someone else who exhibit the qualities and grace of an emperor." answer he is truthfully expressing his thought.
Who would you suggest taking over your responsibilities then?"
"I do not know," reply Chun Mu lowing his gaze.
A loud sigh came from her lip, "You will do whatever I say if you love me."
It seems his mother is still telling him what she wants and not listening to a single he utter. Chun Mu got to his feet.
"May I leave now, mother?" request he wanted to leave as soon she finished her sentence.
"We will continue this talk another time."
"Very well," said Chun Mu bowing.
He walks out of his mother's presence. Once the door closes, Chun Mu lean against the wall not noticing his younger brother.
"Brother, what is the matter?" ask Shimin Bide walking up to him.
"Mother is driving me crazy! I told her my thinking, and she ignores them."
"I heard the whole conversation. I can not comprehend why you are refusing the throne," says Shimin Bide
"Not you too! I am going out for some fresh air."
Chun Mu went on his way leaving Shimin Bide behind. Shimin Bide walks back to his room.
Several moments later, Wu Loa came out of her private chamber. She immediately ran to her husband's room. Li Yuan lay on his bed like a corpse motionless.
His face drain of youthful vitality now ashed. Eyes of his did not shine like in the past. By seeing the beloved husband in such terrible condition tug at her heart.
"How is he?" inquire Wu Loa looking at the physician.
"His Highness is not doing well. I did everything in my knowledge, but nothing worked."
"Then take some servants to other kingdoms to bring the best doctor here." order she anxiously.
When the physician left. Wu Loa reaches over to touch her husband's thin hand. Ever since Chun Fang died, his health gradually declined.
A small voice whisper in the back of her mind you cause his heart to break into a million pieces. You can not bring the dead back, so you have to suffer for eternity.
Shaking her head, Wu Loa began to weep. She wipes her eyes with her free hand. The tears kept coming without an end. Loa lay her head on Li Yuan's chest.
She wishes that he would wrap his arms around her for some comfort. For a few minutes, Wu Loa stay put until a knock heard.
Straightening up Wu Loa ask look toward the door, "Who is it?"
"Empress, it is your attend. I came to remind you that the ladies have gathered for your inspection."
"Very well, I will be there soon. You oversee the ladies, "order Wu Loa.
Wu Loa turn back to her Yuan once more. She stroke his face then bend down to kiss his lips. Afterward, she leaves closing the door behind her.
Going down the hall Wu Loa tap on Shimin Bide room door.
"Shimin, accompany me at once" shout she.
"Of course Mother."
He came out trailing behind her.
"Do not look upon me without my permission." remind Wu Loa coldly.
Shimin Bide lower his gaze to the ground. Both of them turn a couple of corners before reaching their destination. A couple of servants pulls open the heavy door. Wu Loa and Shimin Bide head in there.
The room had a wood floor. Tall red beans stand along the side hold up the ceiling. On the opposite end of the door, there is a throne-like chair Young maidens line up in rows with their heads to the floor. Wu loa walk in the middle of rows elegantly. She reaches the chair moments later.
Placing herself in the chair Wu Loa said, "Maidens on your feet."
The young ladies stood up. Their faces expresse thoughts like why are they gather here? Who is the beautiful woman? What is going on?
"Do not fear young maidens. I am Empress Wu Loa. I brought you here for good suppose. Do any of you wish for a better life than being poor?"
'Yes we do." replied all.
"I will give some of you a rare opportunity to change your lives forever."
Everyone glare each other and mummers softy.
"Silence! To have your life charge. You will have to pass three simple test." states the Empress."Clear a space in the center of the middle of the room."
Everybody comply with Her order.
"We will start the test soon."
"What is going here, mother?" yells Shimin still across the room.
"Were you not listening?"
Shimin answer, "I was, but I am confused why you want to test these ladies for them to enter the palace."
"I want to see what kind of qualities do these women have that would be beneficial for the kingdom."
"I see your point," said Shimin Bide nodding in agreement.
The test is about to begin. Everyone tries to calm down their sensitive nerves.
"Attendant Fa, bring Chun Mu here immediately!"
"As you wish my lady," replied she.
Wu Loa put her head on her hand waiting for her beloved son to come. Several minutes had passed before her son show his face.
"Let us began the trails." shout the Empress.
Thus the trails for these maidens is about to commence. Who would pass and who will suffer humiliation? What lies ahead for the young Mei Sou Fei?