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215 The Darkest Memory Fragments of the Pas

    In the eleventh memory, Yue Ze and Yunjing were seeing a physician.

    They had been married for four years, yet Yunjing hadn't managed to become pregnant. They've visited a few physicians in the past, and those doctors all tried giving her various prescriptions to help increase the chances.

    According to those physicians, Yue Ze was fine. They still gave him some medicine though, just to make sure.

    Still, nothing really worked.

    By the end of those four years, the physicians they were seeing all came to a similar conclusion: Yunjing's body was not \"suitable for childbirth\".

    Or, in Yunjing's modern terms: \"unexplained infertility\".

    The two knew that the diagnosis was coming for a while. But still, when it came, the preparation didn't lessen much of the blow. Hearing a final verdict felt different. It felt more real.

    When Yunjing went home with him that evening, she didn't eat much. She went to bed early, before the sun was even down.

    Yue Ze tried talking to her, but she said that she wanted to be left alone. He insisted her some more, saying that he would listen, determined to communicate with her, but she only pushed him further away.

    Seeing all of this, he realized that no matter what he tried to say to her, she would only continue doing so. Thus, he followed what she said and left her alone.

    He would talk to her later.

    As Yue Ze went to his own courtyard, pouring himself a cup of wine and sitting at his porch, he thought about what his father had previously told him.

    His parents had discussed to him months ago about the fact that the two still hadn't brought any children. Yue Ze's older brothers all had quite a few children. Even his younger brother had a boy and a girl, twins.

    Compared to Yue Ze, who was without a single child at twenty-six, his parents were a bit concerned. Yue Ze, meanwhile, was a bit shocked at this concern. He could understand his mother's perspective, considering that she always loved children and wanted more grandkids to look at. On the other hand, his father's concern was a bit unordinary.

    His father didn't care. That was the sole impression he had, growing up. His father didn't pay much attention to his grandkids. Yue Ze witnessed himself the lack of attention his father paid to his grandchildren.

    Except, only at that time, his father actually pulled him aside, discussing with Yue Ze about this topic in a serious manner.

    His father told him that if Wei Yunjing was not fulfilling her role as a wife, then there would be no need for her position. Yue Ze had the excuse to file a divorce paper if he wished. Or, at the very least, Yue Ze should take in a few concubines. Regardless of what Yue Ze chose, the one thing that he shouldn't do was keeping Yunjing as his one and only wife.

    Yue Ze recalled that he had been infuriated when he first heard his father say that. He recalled how he responded with rage that Yunjing would be his one and only wife- he promised her that- and that he didn't have the slightest interest in divorcing her or finding concubines.

    After hearing this, his father had been silent for a few moments. Then, quietly, he said one phrase.

    \"Then son, I hope that you don't regret this in the future.\"

    Yue Ze had wondered what his father meant by this, both in the past memory where he was told that, and in the current memory where he drank his wine at the porch and pondered about things. He assumed that it was only in regards to having children and descendants.

    Of course- he was wrong. Very, very wrong.

    Only, it would take him a year to find out why. It would take a year for him to discover the true meaning behind his father's words.

    And when he did, he experienced the exact thing his father predicted: regret

    ...

    In the twelfth memory, a year had passed. Yunjing was sitting with Yue Ze in a garden, feeding the swirling fish in the pond.

    That was when she said, out of the blue, \"I'm going to reveal my identity as the inventor of all those inventions soon.\"

    Yue Ze blinked at this, but soon enough, he smiled. \"Sure. I'll support you.\" His eyes glanced from the fish to her. \"But why now? What gave you the sudden inspiration?\"

    \"I'm not sure,\" she replied with a hum, \"I thought over it the past few nights. I think that at this point, I'm old enough so that I can reveal these things without it being much of a scandal. My family shouldn't care so much anymore, don't you think?\"

    \"You're right.\" He nodded. \"The capital has been calm recently. It would be a good time to reveal. Do you have any plans for how you will do this?

    She told him about it. She told him how she planned for it to be a grand revelation, and all the things she wanted to occur on the day that she would execute this plan on. He listened attentively, encouragingly.

    If this was her greatest dream, why should he stop her from carrying it out?

    He wanted her to be happy.

    ...

    In the thirteenth memory, that was when things began to fall apart.

    The entire Wei Family was executed.

    From the patriarch Chancellor Wei, head of the legislative bureau, to the government official cousins he had introduced to the court, to his wives and concubines, to his descendants- all of them, dead, executed under the name of treason.

    The offenses were stacked up against Chancellor Wei, personally presented to the Emperor by Yue Ze's father, Chancellor Yue. They came in unbelievable amounts, years of evidence carefully collected and put together.

    Chancellor Wei had been scamming the tax system by manipulating lower officials in court to deliver to him the wealth that had passed their management. He hoarded the gold, silver, and grain that the peasants paid up all to himself, reporting false numbers to keep himself from being caught in all these years.

    Chancellor Wei had been using these resources to fund a secret, private army that he had been developing without any permission or acknowledgement.

    Chancellor Wei had been manipulating the legislative bureau and formed a solid faction in court, all in support of himself.

    Chancellor Wei had been contacting the enemy country, Northern Zhou, which had been the largest rival of the Xiang Empire since the split of the previous empire and the formation of Xiang.

    And the deadliest offense of them all- Chancellor Yue had been planning to usurp the Emperor, using the wealth he had gathered, the private army he had formed, the faction he developed, and his connections with the enemy.

    At all of this, the Emperor was enraged. There were accounts of the Emperor storming through the palace, knocking over papers, determined to get his own hands on this Chancellor Wei's throat.

    The Chancellor Wei who he had devoted so many resources to, the Chancellor Wei that he trusted even more than Chancellor Yue in the court, the Chancellor Wei who advised him the most...

    ... turned out to be the Chancellor Wei that betrayed him the most.

    The Emperor didn't want to believe the evidence, but it was far too much. It was far too much, far too solid, for it to be anything but real.

    And thus, a decree was passed.

    The Wei Family, traitors to Xiang, would be decapitated. All shall be sent to the prison until their execution date, where the chopping block waited for their heads.

    Yue Ze, when he heard all of this, was horrified.

    Wei Yunjing, on the other hand, reacted even worse.

    She refused to believe it at first. She thought that it was a lie. She begged Yue Ze to say that he was lying, to say that he told nothing close to the truth.

    But Yue Ze couldn't respond.

    He was more terrified with the idea that Yunjing, part of the Wei Family herself, would be taken away. That she, too, would join her family to be decapitated. He couldn't have this. He couldn't have this. He couldn't let them take her away from him. He wouldn't allow it.

    Only moments after this news reached his ears, a new piece of news was delivered. It was revealed that Yunjing would not have to die. Just the day before, Chancellor Wei had written a long letter, requesting that his daughter would be disowned. He said that he was ashamed of her, and that he could not stand the idea of someone like her as part of his family. Her name had already been removed from the family records. He planned to reveal it today, if not for the fact that the treason accusation occured.

    This news shocked Yunjing even more.

    There was no logical reason for this. Her father had always loved her. She was his only official child from his official wife. He never showed her anything but love, even when she pretended like she lost all of her memories. The same went with her mother. Her mother would never allow her father to disown her.

    That was when she realized that her father wrote that disowning letter because he knew what was coming. He somehow knew about all of this just a moment beforehand, and just to save her life- he could only afford to save her life- he would rather disown her, just so she would not be counted as part of the family to be executed.

    At this point, Yunjing was still unwilling to understand.

    Her father. Her mother. Her whole family, who treated her well. Her whole family, who never gave her anything but love.

    They were all dead now. Or, to be dead.

    Yue Ze watched her collapse. He could see the entire moment where it happened, where she went from denial to true madness.

    She screamed at him.

    She screamed and yelled and cried and begged and sobbed and choked and wept and wailed.

    She clutched him, still praying and demanding that it was all a big joke, a joke played by the Emperor, a joke played by his father. She knew it was not. But at this moment, she could not assure herself in any other way.

    Yue Ze was at a loss of what to do. He froze in that moment, uncertain.

    His father had been the reason for all of this.

    His father, who he had desired attention from for all his life. His father, who despite his rivalry with the Wei Family, never showed any signs of going to this point. His father, who had warned him in the past that Yue Ze would regret keeping Wei Yunjing as his wife.

    Yue Ze realized that his father knew, a year ago. He knew everything that would happen.

    Considering the evidence he had collected against Chancellor Wei, he had been planning this for years. Behind the open rivalry the two families had, one of the two was trying to tear the other one down all of these years. Or maybe both families had planned. Maybe Chancellor Wei planned the same thing to the Yue Family, only Chancellor Yue beat him by one step.

    The one thing his father did not expect was for his foolish third son to fall for the Wei's only daughter. The other thing that his father did not expect was for Chancellor Wei to love his daughter enough that he would disown her to save her life.

    His father planned for Wei Yunjing to die. He had planned to, ever since he told Yue Ze that he would regret not divorcing Wei Yunjing, or perhaps even long before that. And if Yunjing died, Yue Ze, as her husband, would fall under this execution too.

    Chancellor Yue would sacrifice his son for the sake of, what?

    More power in court?

    The idea that his life was worth this much was what made Yue Ze freeze. He should've known. He should've known that he- and all of his brothers- were nothing more than chess pieces to his father. His father only gave these chess pieces a little more attention based on how useful they were.

    That was all.

    The memory of his father saying to him, \"You did well, son,\" and the blooming smile, the proudness in Yue Ze's chest when he heard that, suddenly made Yue Ze sick to the stomach.

    But Yunjing.

    She was the one who was suffering right now. She was the one who was in the most pain, the pain of her family being killed. All Yue Ze had was a heartless father. He had no right to think about that at this moment.

    Yue Ze moved, wrapping his arms around Yunjing. He patted her gently, as comforting as he could. He had to be strong for her.

    He couldn't say anything. Saying something like \"it will be alright\" would be nothing but a lie. Both of them knew the truth. Both of them knew that things would be anything but right.

    Eventually, she calmed down from her hysteria. As time went on, she stopped screaming, stopped struggling. She was still shaking. Tears still fell from her eyes uncontrollably. Her breaths were still hiccuped.

    Yue Ze couldn't imagine what was going on in her head.

    She had married the son of the person who would kill her father, her family.

    Chancellor Wei might not be the father of her past life. But in the years that she had known him, it was enough to make her love all of the Wei Family.

    This love was pain.

    Her love for her family, her knowledge of their impending death, and the fact that she could not do anything about it, pained her.

    Her love for Yue Ze perhaps pained her even more.

    Yet in the end, she only had him to cry into.

    Finally, once the tears managed to cease for a moment, she breathed, her voice hoarse, \"Do you think... that if I didn't exist... perhaps one of my siblings could be saved?\"

    Yue Ze didn't know what to say to that. He still didn't know anything to say at all.

    \"Yunjing,\" he finally let out, \"the decisions that have already been made cannot be changed.\"

    It was a useless sentence.

    It was a useless, useless sentence, and both were more than aware.

    Yunjing still leaned into his shoulder. She still shed her tears.

    Later, she would still run in the middle of the streets to see her family being paraded down the streets, in the direction of the execution court. She would still try her best, in any sort of way, to stop what was fated to happen to pass by.

    She would still stand there, in the middle of the crowd, watching the heads of her father and mother, her brothers and sisters, her aunts and uncles, roll onto the floor. She would still stand there, watching the red bloom underneath the heads, dripping from the severed necks.

    After that, she would still allow time to heal its wounds. She would still smile, wishing for those memories to fade, wishing to stop them from haunting her dreams, from following her step.

    She would still try to get over it. She would still try to make herself \"alright\" again. She would still try to fool over Yue Ze, to convince him that she was truly fine.

    But a part of the two of them, deep, deep down inside, knew.

    They both knew that after that day, the day where they found out what was going to happen, nothing would ever be truly fine again.
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