Author: 公子于歌 / Gong Zi Yu Ge
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 62: The Death of Zhou Jing
Bai Qingquan was melancholic today. After filming for a few months, he established a deep bond with the East Palace crew. This was the longest and most attentive drama he had filmed, and he gained a wealth of experience from being in this crew.
He had known about Zhou Jing’s death two days ago, and those scenes were going to be filmed today. He was surprised at first, since in the original work, he, as emperor, would’ve lasted a few more years, but the screenwriter had asked him to receive his lunch box* two episodes early.
*Referring to when you get a lunch box/bento after your parts are finished. The extended meaning refers to when someone in the movie dies and leaves (AKA goes offline).
Last week, they received rumors from the director and screenwriter that the finale would be somewhat different from the original work, especially the endings of the main characters, whose parts had more or less already been changed. The producers had been meeting to discuss this matter for a few days, and yesterday decided that they would shoot according to the ending planned by the adaptation.
This was in consideration of the ratings. The ending of the original work had long been known by everyone. With an adaptation, the audience’s attention to the characters in the play, especially the popular Li Xu’s final ending, would push ratings to a new high.
After Li Xu went offline, there would be a few more episodes in the future focusing on the heroine and the new emperor. If the drama stuck to the original plot, it was estimated that the audience viewership would fall off. In order to prevent this, the last few episodes were all originally made by the screenwriter, Meng Xiaosheng.
Though melancholic, Bai Qingquan was still jubilant. Zhou Jing’s death was very touching. He also got a flying page that added a story about Zhou Jing and the others when they were young. He thought this fit well.
He recalled how, despite being the male protagonist, he endured massive scolding during the middle and second half of the series, although not as much as Yang Lizhi.
He had to hand it to Meng Xiaosheng. With a turn of the pen, his character immediately changed. He felt that the relationship between him and Li Xu had become more moving.
Zhou Jing’s life had been hard. Since the death of his birth mother, he had lived under the nose of Empress Xiao. His life had been rough since he was a child. When he grew up, he became ambitious and wanted to seize the throne. Experiencing many life and death situations, he was finally able to sit on the emperor’s throne. He managed to firmly secure his power despite multiple internal and external conflicts, but he was on the verge of death.
He rose from being the second prince, pretending to be idle clouds and wild storks*, to becoming an ambitious, scheming prince, and eventually emperor. Now when Bai Qingquan donned his costume, he felt as if he was Zhou Jing.
*(闲云野鹤) Idiom referring to people who live idle and free from world affairs.
Zhou Jing beckoned slightly, “Come to me.”
Li Xu got up again, knelt down in front of him, and held Zhou Jing’s hand.
Zhou Jing grabbed him. He was so weak and out of breath. Li Xu leaned forward and put his ears to his mouth, and listened to Zhou Jing say, “A’Xu, I’m going to die.”
Li Xu flushed as tears almost burst out. At this moment, Guo Rui shouted from behind the monitor, “Li Xu, you can’t cry.”
You could no longer tell the difference between Shen Jintai and Li Xu, and Bai Qingquan and Zhou Jing.
After Li Xu listened, he didn’t move for a long time. He only lowered his eyes slightly, his Adam’s apple bobbed, and blue veins appeared faintly on his neck. When he raised his head again, the tears had faded, leaving only traces of red in his eyes. He said, “You won’t be alone.”
Zhou Jing smiled. His eyes were full of tears, and his face was haggard with makeup. Tears rolled down his face as they slid past his beard. He grabbed something with his other hand and stuffed it into Li Xu’s palm. It was the red book iron voucher*. Those who have this would be spared from death.
*(丹书铁券) Award given by the emperor to heroes. It is the embryonic form of modern-day medals. On it would have:
1. Dates and names, 2. Record of merits/achievements, 3. The emperor’s privileges (such as avoiding death), 4. The emperor’s oath.
Li Xu raised his head and looked at Zhou Jing. Zhou Jing said, “This is the last thing I can give you.”
The two of them… One an unlovable prince, the other was the humblest little eunuch. They had been together since they were seven and had walked over 20 springs and autumns together. Now, one was at death’s door while the other had hair full of white and an unknown fate.
Looking back on the rhetoric of his youth, their fate was tragic.
“I told the empress that after I die, you will escort my coffin to the mausoleum. Don’t stay in the palace. You can rest assure… I have decreed that whoever kills you will be punished by the nine clans*.”
*(九族) Punishment that’ll extend up to 9 generations. It basically means that not only will the person who kills Li Xu get punished, but his extended family will suffer the same as well.
Li Xu didn’t speak. He buried his face in his chest as his shoulders trembled. The camera didn’t capture his face.
Zhou Jing petted his white hair and said, “No… Don’t cry. You deserve it. I know that you killed those people for me.”
The person in front of him was once a thin and small eunuch. Because of his poor family, he was sold to the palace and became a cripple1. The deep palace couldn’t hide his beauty. He once became the favorite of the crown prince, with unlimited scenery and glory from the East Palace. Later, the crown prince died, and he became the “Wufu Chitose2” that adults used to scare three-year-old children.
2God sent by the Jade Emperor to patrol the world and inspect good and evil in order to bring blessings and misfortune.
White was his hair, always moody and good at torture.
The people would preach:
“He was the crown prince’s lover. He still wants to kill those who had frame his prince, but many of the people he killed after bear no grudges against the prince.”
“He was vicious by nature. Legends have it that he was the transformation of a snake demon. How else could an eunuch have such means?”
“The emperor was most kind and benevolent. Thinking of his affection of growing up with him, he had shielded him. One day, he’ll meet his fate and it won’t be better than those that he has harmed.”
Li Xu’s cruelty allowed Zhou Jing to ascend and become a wise and benevolent monarch. He gave all his kindness to only two people and sacrificed his life for it. He had offended too many, that even the red book iron voucher couldn’t protect him.
He had countless enemies that wanted to eat him alive. Even ordinary people who had no grudges would inevitably spit when they mentioned him. He was indistinguishable between good and evil, black and white. While he harmed many, it ensured that the young prince would successfully ascend to the throne, and there were no traitors or dignitaries that would control the dynasty. This was his feat. The turbulent era had passed, bringing a calm peace. Yet he remained in the cauldron above the charcoal fire as it cooked*. Now he could leave this deep palace and spend the rest of his life in peace.
*(烹煮) Referring to ancient torture where a prisoner is poured into boiling water in a deep large wok as a form of death penalty.
*Clarity: It’s saying he helped stabilize the crown, which brought stability and peace to the country. However, his methods were vile and made many enemies. With the voucher the emperor gave him, he could leave the palace and live a life of peace (though that may not be enough to protect him), which is what the cooking is referring to (still trapped in the cauldron).
“I’m too selfish to have you stay and accompany me,” Zhou Jing murmured. “Do you still hate me regarding Elder Prince Brother’s death?”
Li Xu straightened up. His eyes were full of tears as he said, “I don’t hate you. I can understand you.”
When they were young, they thought they could control the desire for power. In the end, they were all manipulated by such desire.
“I… I’m sorry… After all… I…” Zhou Jing slowly closed his eyes. The breath of life gradually dissipated as he suddenly shouted, “A’Xu… A’Xu. It’s so dark here… I’m so scared…”
Time had suddenly returned to that year when he was young and was locked in that dark room by Empress Xiao. The young Li Xu secretly handed him a candle from the window. No one knew, even Li Xu didn’t remember, that day when he sat crying in the corridor outside the Empress’ palace. He met a well-dressed young man. The young man asked why he was crying.
Li Xu, through sobs, said, “I want candles, but father-in-Law Zhao won’t give them to me.”
When the young man heard this, he smiled and said, “Is that all?” As he said this, he turned his head and asked the people around him to bring him a bunch of candles.
None of them knew back then that that young man was the Crown Prince Zhou Ying.
A loud shrill voice from an eunuch wailed, “The emperor is dead!”
The people in the hall burst into tears. He Lanbi led the young prince into the inner chambers and saw Li Xu kneeling on his knees under the dragon couch.
“Cut!” Guo Rui wiped away tears, stood up and said, “Okay, this one pass. Good work everyone!”
The actors in the hall immediately coaxed them up. They had been kneeling for so long in the freezing temperatures. While everyone was whispering to each other as they stood up, Shen Jintai was still in the inner chambers, lying on the ground. He remained there as his shoulders shook while he sobbed sorrowfully.
The plot didn’t allow him to cry. He had endured it for too long, and soon all his emotions were released, and he couldn’t hold back his tears.
Mrs. Yan didn’t feel anything at first, but when she saw Shen Jintai crying, her tears immediately fell.
Yang Lizhi went over and patted Shen Jintai on the shoulder. Bai Qingquan also sat up from the couch. He glanced at Shen Jintai, who was lost in his emotions as tears began to slide down his face. He jokingly said to the director, “Director, if you don’t give Li Xu a good ending, I won’t be happy in death.”
He got off the couch, pulled Shen Jintai up, and gave him a hug.
The feelings between Zhou Jing and Li Xu were much deeper and more complicated than Jintai Qiongying. They had supported, argued, and split from each other. In the end, they still tacitly understood each other, were beholden to each other, loved each other, and shared a common dream.
“I don’t think Li Xu will survive.” Shen Jintai said through his tears to the director.
His fate had come to an end. There was no one left for him. The ones who loved him and the people whom he loved were all dead. Only those that wanted him to die were left. His life had become meaningless. There was nothing to look forward to except death.
Yan Qiuchi’s emotions were stirred by seeing Shen Jintai’s crying heart. He was moved beyond belief. Since he chased The East Palace, he could truly appreciate what Shen Jintai was feeling at the moment.
Shen Jintai was really a good actor. His career would be long and bright in the future.
This was the last scene before Chinese New Year’s. It was Bai Qingquan’s death scene and Shen Jintai’s birthday. The crew gathered around with flowers. Bai Qingquan couldn’t help but hug Shen Jintai again, then released him and gave him a smile.
Shen Jintai’s eyes were still red. The director said, “Today is not only the day of our emperor Qingqing’s death, but also Shen Jintai’s birthday. We’ve discussed it and decided to give you a big gift.”
After the director said that someone was coming in pushing a cart with a cake on it. The man was wearing a baseball cap and had a handsome smile. It was Zheng Siqi. Shen Jintai, who was still affected by the scene, burst into tears as soon as he saw him.
Shen Jintai, who was always confident, had suddenly become vulnerable at the sight of Zheng Siqi, just as if Li Xu had seen Zhou Ying. If Zhou Ying were still alive, Li Xu’s life would be a different story.
Mrs. Yan was also too deep in the drama. When she saw Zheng Siqi, she immediately said to Yan Qiuchi beside her, “Look. A perfect match.” The size, age, and appearance were all comparable.
Zheng Siqi went up and gave Shen Jintai a hug. Shen Jintai was still in Li Xu’s costume, giving the illusion that he was Li Xu himself. When he leaned on Zheng Siqi’s shoulders, it was like he was fully giving away his trust, both mentally and physically.
Yan Qiuchi thought silently and wistfully. If he had been in the drama, he would have been able to give Shen Jintai a hug, hold him tightly, wipe away his tears, and comfort him with the gentle words of love.
The author has something to say:
Thank you all for your hard work in chasing the novel.
YOU GUYS. I CANNOT WITH THIS DRAMA. WHY DOES IT KEEP TUGGING AT MY HEART STRINGS!!! Ahhhhhhh!! Such a tumultuous relationship between the three of them. That childhood flashback WAS EVERYTHING!!! *sobs* *sobs* *sobs*.
Let me have the full novel of this drama, please! I don’t care if it’s dog blooded. I’m fully invested in it to have it abuse me to death!
Side note: Seeing how immersed these actors get into their roles reminds me of the novel <Caught in the Act>. It’s about an actor who also gets too involved in his role, shooting a gay film, that it eventually becomes too hard for him to separate reality from fiction and consequently falls for the other actor in the film. It’s an interesting read and I recommend it, especially if you like the showbiz genre.