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Published by Vostok2009

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Published by: Vostok2009 on Oct 04, 2011
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The Book and The Sword
Copyright Graham Earnshaw 1995 
PART SIX** 1 **After two days and nights of being starved, frightened and angered,Qian Long's resistance was virtually worn away. On the morning ofthe third day, a boy appeared and said: "Master Dongfang, ourmaster invites you to come and talk with him."Qian Long recognized the boy as Chen's attendant, and he followedhim down to the floor below.As he entered, Chen, smiling broadly, advanced to greet him, andbowed. Qian Long returned the bow, and the two sat down. Xin Yanserved some tea."Bring some titbits to eat," Chen ordered. A moment later, Xin Yancarried in a tray on which was placed plates of spring rolls,prawns, chicken and ham. He set out two sets of bowls and chopsticksand poured wine for them both."Please forgive me for not being able to see you sooner. I had togo to visit a friend who was wounded," said Chen."It is nothing.""There is something I wish to talk to you about, but please eatfirst," Chen added. He chose a morsel from each plate, then putdown his chopsticks and watched Qian Long wolf down the food.When he had finished, Qian Long sat back, unspeakably contented,and raised his tea cup. He looked closely at the tiny Dragon's Welltea leaves and took a leisurely sip, savouring the feeling of theliquid seeping into his stomach.Chen walked over to the door and pushed it open. "All the othersare downstairs standing guard. There could not be a more convenientplace for us to talk. No one will hear us," he said.Qian Long's expression hardened. "Why did you have me brought
here?" he asked. "What is it you want?"Chen stepped forward and stared into his face."Do you still not recognize me, brother?" Chen asked after amoment's silence. The words were soft, the tone intimate, but theyhit Qian Long's ears with the force of a clap of thunder, and hejumped. An expression of deep sincerity on his face, Chen slowlyextended his hand and took Qian Long's."We are blood brothers," he said. "There is no need to continuethe deception, my brother, I know everything."Chen pulled on a chord beside a painting hanging on the wall andthe painting rolled up to reveal a mirror. "Take a look atyourself," he said.Qian Long stood up and gazed at himself in the mirror, wearingChinese clothes: his face contained not the slightest likeness toa Manchu. He looked at Chen standing beside him, and had to admitthat despite their difference in age, their faces were similar.He sighed and sat down."Brother, we were not aware of the situation before," said Chen."We even took up arms against each other. The spirits of fatherand mother up in heaven must have been heartbroken. Luckily neitherof us was hurt and nothing happened which cannot be rectified."Qian Long felt a rasping dryness in his throat and his heart beatingrapidly. A moment passed. "I asked you to go to Beijing with meto work, but you refused," he said finally. Chen turned and gazedout at the great river without answering."With your scholastic abilities," Qian Long continued, "whatreason would there be for not promoting you? Such a situation wouldbe of great benefit to our family and to the nation, to both youand I. Why be so disloyal and unfilial as to continue with thiscriminal course of action?"Chen spun round. "I have never accused you of being disloyal orunfilial, or of acting criminally, and yet you accuse me of thesethings.""Hah!" replied Qian Long. "It is true that ministers must becompletely loyal to their emperor. But since I am already emperor,
how could I be disloyal?""You are obviously a Chinese and yet you submit to the Manchus.Is that loyalty? When our father and mother were alive, you neverattended to them properly. Is that filial behaviour?"Beads of sweat dripped off Qian Long's forehead. "At the time, Idid not know," he said quietly. "I first heard about it when theformer leader of your Red Flower Society, Master Yu, visited melast spring. Even now, I'm not sure whether I believe it.""Look at yourself," Chen said. "What resemblance is there to aManchu? How can you have any further doubt?"Qian Long brooded in silence."You are Chinese. The homeland of the Chinese people has falleninto the hands of the Manchus, and you yourself lead them in theoppression of our people. Is that not disloyal, unfilial andcriminal behaviour?"For a moment, Qian Long was at a loss for a reply. "And now I havefallen into your hands," he finally said, haughtily. "If you aregoing to kill me, then kill me. There is no point wasting words.""But we made a pact on the embankment at Haining that we would neverdo anything to hurt one other," Chen replied softly. "How can Igo back on my word? And anyway, now that we know we are bloodbrothers, we have even less reason to do each other harm." A teartrickled unbidden down his cheek."Well, what do you want me to do? Do you want to force me toabdicate?""No," said Chen, wiping his eyes. "You can continue to be emperor.But as the wise, enlightened founder of a new dynasty.""Founder of a new dynasty?" Qian Long echoed in surprise."Yes. You will be a Chinese emperor, not an emperor of the Manchus."Qian Long suddenly understood. "So you want me to drive out theManchus?" he said."Yes, you will be emperor just the same, but instead of being

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