|The dreadful feeling when Chor Lau Heung realised his mistake (Ep 27)|
Chor Lau Heung made mistakes, but never at this scale. He beat himself for it, he tried to fix it, and he still lived with his regrets until quite some time. But someone needs to tell him to forgive himself. Hence this fanfiction, dedicated to all readers who have made mistakes in their lives...including me.
A Capital Mistake
That mistake shook Chor Lau Heung to the core. He had made mistakes in the past, of course, but not one of this scale. One that basically cost two noble lives, made a young man lost one arm, and blinded a very fine matriarch. In agony, he kept playing the scenes in his head. Him not listening to the Kams, him not stopping for a moment to calm down and consider that they might have been right all along. Him accusing them, him easily defeating them due to his superb skills.
Then...the heart-stopping moment, the fear that suddenly grabbed him mercilessly, the bitter truth moment when he realised he'd done a capital error that couldn't be fixed. The floor that suddenly seemed to dissolve and the feeling of the Earth swallowing him, such that he had to grab onto something to stabilise himself. The painful feeling that he'd done something so irreversible that he couldn't even contemplate to forgive himself. The nerve-wrecking guilty feeling he'd been experiencing to date, despite him having confronted the Kam family's attacker.
He refilled his wine cup and swallowed the liquid in one go.
Some detective he was!
His security and pride had made him forgetting fact cross-check. He should have known something was fishy. A family the caliber of the Kams, with a proven track record of loyalty to the Court, wouldn't just kidnap a princess out of greed. But no... Not only he didn't do his homework of background checks, he also was clouded with prejudice and basically shut down the Old Lady Kam's explanation. He then injured her, her two sons and her grandson, such that they were defenseless when his old mate Zo Hing Hau attacked them. The two sons died, Young Master Kam lost an arm, Lady Kam was blind, Kam Ling Chi swore hatred and revenge at him.... He burned his friendship with Wu Tit Fa, who just on account of old times didn't stab him...
|Chor tai-gor couldn't say a word against Miss Kam's accusation, Ep 27|
To be perfectly honest, if Miss Kam or the Drunkard killed him, he wouldn't budge at all. He deserved that treatment.
Well, at least he wouldn't budge, and he'd let them injure him. But he'd negotiate the killing part for later after his business with the Bats and the Duke was done, for he owed it to his own country to keep it safe.
He was about to have another go at his wine when he heard a voice.
His hand hovered on his wine flask. He knew what would come next.
"You should really stop."
He looked back to see Song Siu Ching entering the deck of the Fragrant Boat. It was a cold late summer night with a sudden cold easterly wind blowing, and their boat wasn't well-positioned to protect them from the sudden wind. She had a light coat on her hands, but she didn't wear it. Obviously she was going to give it to him instead.
"It's cold tonight..." She shoved the coat onto his hands. See?
He shook his head. "You wear it. It's cold tonight." He then poured himself another help of wine and was about to lift the cup, but the girl stopped him and took his wine cup. He thought she'd throw the wine away, so he was surprised that she drank the wine instead.
"Well -" she wiped her lips, sat across him and poured herself another helping. "In that case, I'll drink with you."
He blinked ar her. "You won't."
She finished the next cup in one go. "I already have."
Then she poured him another portion and helped herself again. Lingering Fragrance looked at the Princess for a while. They just had a quarrel in the afternoon because of his cold shoulders, but after a talk, they made up. Now it seemed that she was here to try to support him, as she usually tried to.
Chor Lau Heung watched Siu Ching lifted another cup for her own. He then grabbed his own cup and gulped the wine before shoving the cup back to Siu Ching for another refill. The girl grinned and refilled it. Together, they drank in amiable silence.
"You know..." She suddenly spoke up, her fingers playing with her empty cup. "Fu-wong asked me to escort an Imperial Envoy from Joseon two years ago."
"Oh yeah?" Lau Heung absentmindedly responded, his eyes settling at no particular point on the horizon. He knew that the Emperor (or 'Emperor Father' as Siu Ching referred to) had tried to establish peace treaties with neighbouring countries, including the Joseon Dynasty of Korea. He expected some jokes about the envoys to lighten up his mode. Not that it would help.
"I forgot that I had to meet the Envoy that day," was the next information, unexpectedly delivered. Lingering Fragrance slowly turned his head to face Siu Ching. The girl was looking at the Moon, her eyes misty.
"I forgot. I swam in one of the Palace lakes since before breakfast and was just returning into my chamber when my maids came with the main Eunuch, all panic after trying to find me in the Palace. I didn't even take a proper bath afterwards. The maids just cleaned me with damp towel, we didn't even have time to dry, let alone arrange, my hair properly... But I managed to arrive in the envoy's mansion in record time. If you call two hours late a record time of punctuality, that is."
"How come they didn't find you in time?"
"Oh, we have three large lakes in the Palace, and I was testing my breath-holding ability, hence I was underwater most of the time."
"Then what happened?" Under normal condition, he'd find it funny, and he'd imagine that the wilful Princess just winged it so that she could get away with her sloppiness, as per usual. Now though, he was just curious.
"Fu-wong was there in the meeting hall with the Joseon Envoy." She took another go at the wine. Wu Tit Fa should've been here too, that would be fun to drown the sorrow in wine with him. "He was very embarrassed with my sloppiness, such that he went to accompany the Envoy himself an hour after I failed to show up."
Even under the waning moon, he could see that she was flushed, and not because of the wine. She was embarrassed. He waited for her to continue.
"I think it was the first time I genuinely felt ashamed of myself. The Emperor himself had to cover up for his sloppy daughter, just because she had fun in the morning." Siu Ching lifted her wine cup just to examine it. She had enough wine already. "I searched for his eyes for a silent apology, but he didn't deign to meet my eyes the whole morning. Actually, the whole day he gave me a silent treatment."
Now Chor Lau Heung gave her his undivided attention.
"I cried that night in front of his room, but he didn't let me in," Princess Wing Ching resumed, tears slowly streaming down her pale cheeks. "Inspector Ying was away that day, otherwise I would've come to him to cry."
"And he'd listen to you, like he always does."
She nodded and wiped her tears away. "So, I had no one to pat my back at that time. It took me some good hours of not sleeping before somehow I realised that I had to fix my own mistakes. I had to own up to it. So... The next morning I showed up at the Envoy's residence after a proper prior notice. I took him and his wife around the Palace and accompanied them the whole day. I arranged a tour for his wife around the Capital the next day, and I accompanied her. For their children, I arranged some activities so that the parents were not disturbed during meetings and sightseeing."
"Then what happened?"
"The trip went well, and Fu-wong secured some trade agreements with Joseon afterwards. Then after the envoys left, Fu-wong called me. He just let me sit next to him. He hugged me, like he usually did. Only later he said that he had actually forgiven me that night when I cried, but he wanted to know what I would do to fix the mistake on my own."
Chor Lau Heung nodded. "That was a good story."
"I didn't forgive myself that easily though," Siu Ching unexpectedly added. "To this day, I still can easily recall my father's disappointed look at me, how I actually hurt him that day. That look of his haunted me for months. He didn't slap me, he didn't rebuke me in public or in person, he was just there... Disappointed. And I -" she looked at the sky, tears streaming harder on her cheeks. "- I just wished he actually rebuked me and yelled at me..."
Lau Heung sighed. Regret is part of growing up, and he had wondered at times if Siu Ching had ever had regrets, other than the one time she mistakenly fed him the wrong medication that almost caused him a heart failure. That night though, he learned that she had other regrets too. He got up and embraced the crying girl.
"I missed my father so much, Chor tai-gor...what if I won't see him again? I miss him so much, I will take his silent treatment any day compared to his absence..."
"Siu Ching... I'll try my best to find Huang Shang..." Lau Heung was referring to the Emperor. Yet, she still cried. Knowing that emotions need an outlet, he didn't shush her. He just kept embracing her until she stopped crying. It was a short burst of tears anyway, one that she ended herself when she suddenly pulled off and exclaimed,
"Tien! I was planning to console and comfort you, but you're the one who comfort me instead..." She wiped her tears and smiled sheepishly. He wanted to say that that was what friends for, but he wasn't sure they were just friends, so he didn't say it. He just slightly smiled. He let her go, then he slowly faced the waning moon.
"Chor tai-gor..." Pulling herself up, Siu Ching started again. "When I approached you just now, I actually wanted to ask you to forgive yourself..."
It was a while before he whispered, "Was it easy for you to forgive yourself for that mistake?"
She shook her head. "It took me a good while to forgive myself, more than a month, I gather...but eventually I did. See...I have two regrets so far that I really wished to turn back time to erase them. One is hurting you that day with the heart pill, two is disappointing my father that day. The main reason for me to go out to Jianghu to find the Jade Seal is actually not to rescue the Throne. Not only that, at least. It was also to redeem myself."
Lingering Fragrance nodded to acknowledge her plight. "Still, your mistake didn't kill people, Siu Ching. My mistake killed two good men, blinded a brave matriarch, and cost the arm of a fine young man. I..." He sighed and shook his head. "I don't think I can ever forgive myself for that."
"How would you know that my mistake wouldn't kill people? What if I actually made the envoy furious that he reported back to his Emperor, who then declared war between Ming and Joseon? What if it was a Turpan envoy that I offended? That could've happened. I could've shed blood because I was having fun that morning." She exhaled and continued slowly, emphasising every word. "I was just lucky that I had a wise father who deigned to entertain the guests himself despite his status..."
"You owned up to your mistakes, though."
"Didn't you do that as well?" That was true. Chor Lau Heung deducted that Zo Hing Hau faked his own death and attacked the Kams. Lingering Fragrance then went to confront his old friend, which resulted in a tearful end when Zo tai-hap let Lau Heung killed him. Lingering Fragrance made a mistake, but he tried to make up for it.
Siu Ching touched Chor Lau Heung's arm; only then he realised her fingers were cold.
"Chor tai-gor...we make mistakes. Some small, some big, some ... Earth-shattering. There's nothing we can do to turn back time, to undo it, no matter how hard we wish for it. So...we do what we can do as mature human beings. We take the responsibility...we make up to it the best we can...And irrespective of whether those we hurt eventually forgive us....we eventually need to forgive ourselves. For regret is such a heavy burden to carry all our lives..."
Lingering Fragrance turned to properly face Siu Ching. A week ago, he had to scold her for forgetting her imperial duties and insisting on tagging along with him. Now, she was sharing her pearls of wisdom on self-forgiveness.
The girl, who happened to be a princess, was growing into a responsible woman.
"It will be good for me to be able to do that, forgiving myself," he slowly admitted. "But it might take a much longer time."
"I'll make sure that you eventually do. I'm here to support you." She grabbed the coat from the table and gave it to him. "As you always do, supporting me."
He looked at the coat, received it, and realised again how cold her hands were. He let a small chuckle. "Thank you, Siu Ching," he grabbed he coat and used it to cover her slim shoulders instead. He secured the coat under her chin. "Thank you."
Wrapping herself in the coat, she smiled to acknowledge him.
I made a mistake yesterday, hence this fanfiction. It was a mistake that I wish I could've prevented had I been more careful...yet I didn't cross-check, hence the big mistake. Then I remember Chor tai-gor and the moment he realised that his pride had prevented him from sensing something wrong, and which caused the lives and health of some noble people. I remember Michael's look as he portrayed Chor Lau Heung's darkest moments... And I want to say to him, to Chor Lau Heung, that we all make mistakes, and, once we do damage control, we should eventually forgive ourselves. I have yet to forgive myself, but I hope I will soon...
Ming and Joseon had a relatively smooth relationship in the 15th century or so, but Ming and Turpan always had shaky grounds. Thus I used both countries in this short fic.