Greed in the Castle (part 1) [short story]

On a clear and cold morning over a thousand years ago in the great Cai Empire, the capital city of Cai greeted the early sun with a yawn and a stretch. City guards, dressed in hard rhinoceros hide and turtle shells, began opening the main gate to let in the long caravan of goods and royals. This caravan was ten times the normal amount, for today was Emperor Cai Rong’s birthday.

The road from the gate leading to the castle was wide enough to fit four large carriages and their envoys. Peasants and merchants lined the road and cheered for the royals who were shrouded in curtains made of silk. At the head of the caravan was General Ren Xiuying, the brother of the Emperor. Xiuying was on his large white horse that was dressed impressively from head to hoof. But not as impressive as his rider who don a full ornate copper armour with a sword at his hip.

Xiuying led the caravan to the steps of the castle which stood as tall as the smallest mountain and was covered in red, white, and gold. Since today was a special day, flags and streamers made of silk were hung everywhere. Xiuying was met with the 10 eunuch advisors at the base of the steps. “Welcome home, General Ren Xiuying,” they said in unison as they bowed to him.

“Fu Zan!” Xiuying called. “Where are you?”

One of the eunuchs stepped forward and bowed to Xiuying. “I am here, General. How may I serve you?”

Xiuying slapped Fu Zan’s shoulder and beamed his famous smile which was well-known to all women. “You eunuchs look so much like each other!” Xiuying laughed at his own jibe while the others chuckled along. “Tell my lazy brother that I have come home to see another white strand grow on his head!”

Xiuying laughed some more as he climbed the castle steps. Peasants and slaves unloaded the caravans, and the other royals started to climb the stairs as well.

The air of the grand banquet was filled with food and wine. The tables were stacked with roasted pig, cow, and at least five kinds of bird species. Each one of the guests was announced into the hall and was seated in their respective long tables.

The Empress, Ding Wuhan, and her son, Cai Shuren aged 13, sat at the main table on an elevated platform. One of the Emperor’s concubine, Gao Hong, was also seated at the main table. She was special since she too had the Emperor’s son, Gao Guo 13 as well, who was seated beside her. The Emperor’s five generals were seated beside the main table. Each one was accompanied by courtesans.

Courtesans danced around as everyone else settled in. After a while, they hushed as the Emperor was introduced in the hall. The Emperor was dressed in an ornate silk gown of pure red with a golden sun weaved into its centre.

“All hail the great Emperor!” The hall rumbled as the guests bowed and proclaimed in unison. “May he live for a thousand years!”

“Please.” The Emperor raised his hand ordering the guests to stand up. He picked up a goblet of wine, which was filled by one of the other concubines, with both his hands; his guests followed him as well.

“I have invited you here,” said the Emperor “to partake in this empire’s spoils. We have lived in harmony for 15 years not because of my rule but because of the people. I drink this for more bounty. Long live the Cai Dynasty! May we live for a thousand years!”

The guests responded in kind. “Long live the Cai Dynasty! May we live for a thousand years!”

They all drank their wines in one silent gulp and sighed contented. The Emperor raised his hands and proclaimed, “The night is young, and the barrels are full of wine! Drink and be merry!”

The entire hall laughed then suddenly went still when the sound of a goblet rattled across the floor. The Emperor clutched his chest and coughed up blood. He fell down face first as more blood spilt out of all his orifices.

The hall screamed into a frenzy. People were darting everywhere and trampling over each other. Xiuying, with all the experience of a war general, quickly ordered the guards to barricade the exits.

“No one leaves this hall!” He shouted. “The killer is still here, and until we find out who did it, no one will  leave!”

“Oh! My Emperor!” Fu Zan cried as he collapsed near the corpse. “Who could have done this?! YOU!”

Fu Zan pointed at the concubine who poured the wine into the Emperor’s goblet. Xiuying’s drew his sword and pointed it at her neck.

“What did you do to my brother?” Xiuying’s eyes burned like a fireplace in winter.

“Please, General!” She wept and collapsed to the floor. “I would never do this to my beloved Emperor!”

“Hold your tongue, wench!” The Empress spat from her seat. “You have no right to call him beloved!”

Xiuying kneeled beside his brother. He could smell poison in the wine. “Why would they do this to you?”

He stood up and stripped the concubine till she was bare skinned. As her robes fell, he heard a soft thump hit the cobbled floor. He searched through the robes and found a small corked white vial.

“What is this?” Xiuying towered over the naked and trembling concubine.

“I have never seen that thing my entire life!” She sobbed even more.

Xiuying uncorked the vial and sniffed its contents. It was definitely poison. He grabbed his sword and swiftly dispatched her head off without a second thought.

“General!” Fu Zan exclaimed. “What’s the meaning of this?”

“She had the vial of poison in her robe. She must have poured it in while we weren’t looking. However, I do not think that this is the end.” He inspected the vial and saw the insignia of the royal chef. “Bring out the chef!”

The chef pleaded as well, saying that he’s never seen that vial nor the concubine in his life. His pleas fell on deaf ears as Xiuying sliced his head off as well.

“I highly doubt that these two were the masterminds,” Xiuying said. “We must protect the heirs of the throne! Guards! Escort the princes and their mothers to a room nearby, and do not let anyone near them.”

The guards did as they were ordered to and led the four away.

Fu Zan looked in disbelief at the general’s decision. “General. You sound so sure that one of the Emperor’s closest friends and allies would dare kill him!”

“And you, Fu Zan, sound so suspicious! Do you not fear for the lives of the heirs, or are you wishing for their death as well?”

Fu Zan bit his tongue and steered the conversation back to the Emperor. “The next in line would be Prince Cai Shuren. He’s young and still very inexperienced to rule. The logical idea would be to control Prince Cai Shuren from the shadows, so whoever is closest to him would be suspect.”

“Wait,” Xiuying thought. “The Empress and Concubine Gao Hong are with the heirs! Guards with me!”

The generals, the eunuchs, and a handful of guards ran to the room where the four were held. They were met with two dead guards by the door. Both of them looked like they had ingested the poison as well. Xiuying kicked the paper door down and saw the Empress and Concubine Hong poisoned on the floor. Their dresses were drenched in so much blood, and it looked like they were poisoned as soon as they settled in the room. What was worse was that the princes were nowhere to be found.

“The Emperor and the Empress are dead. The heirs have disappeared. We have a killer in the castle. Heavens help us.”

***

Part 2 coming next Wednesday

Vladimir Putin and the EU

This was a midterm speech I made for my course in European Foreign Policy. I was supposed to play the role of Vladimir Putin and his views towards the EU. I may have edited this version a bit.

My highly esteemed associates,

I want to thank you all for being here this morning. I admire your dedication to openly discuss matters of the EU, the states that are involved in it and the citizens that reside in them.

A few weeks ago, my colleagues and I, President Barroso and President Van Rompuy, have just finished the EU – Russian Summit. We have discussed many avenues into deepening the relations between Russia and the EU. The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement of 2008 with the EU has given us some improvement, and we would want to deepen economic integration and coöperation even more. Therefore, we are looking into the possibilities of enhancing and replacing this agreement. The Partnership for Modernisation is in implementation, and in due time we will see advancement in investment and trade, technical standards, and sustainable low-carbon economy promotion. The EU – Russia Energy Roadmap 2050, signed by the EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger and Russian Minister for Energy Alexander Novak, is focused on ensuring energy security and fair energy distribution to both EU and Russia while maintaining a transparent and competitive market. Human Rights in Russia have always been aligned with the EU. The mobility of Russian and EU citizens, which I will go into detail later on, have been on negotiations for an upgraded visa. This might mean a complete upgrade of the Schengen Visa or something similar; why this does not happen now, I will discuss later on. Of course, the hot topic nowadays is the Syrian crisis and the steadfast willingness of the EU to participate, which I see as completely unnecessary.[1] Continue reading “Vladimir Putin and the EU”

To H.E. Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing

My professor instructed us to attend a forum on China‘s foreign policy making. She also instructed us to create a paper on it, and here it is.

A Reaction to H.E. Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing

A forum on China’s foreign policy was held last Friday at William Hall Theatre, and the guest of honour was none other than Her Excellency Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines, Ma Keqing. This forum was held two days after Xi Jinping succeeded as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, the highest rank any official could achieve, which was preceeded by China’s current President, Hu Jintao. In all honesty, I was quite surprised that the Ambassador agreed to have this forum when she would most often decline television interviews on the matter of the West Philippine Sea dispute. Most, if not all of us were expecting to hear the Ambassador talk on that issue; although, we partially knew that the forum would not come to that. Tensions are high as they all ready are; I believe that tackling that maritime issue would only ensue more anxiety and degrade the image of the university. There are some details that the Ambassador talked about that came into my attention: 1) the economic improvements of China during its past years, 2) the fact that it is not China’s intention to be a state that expresses aggressive military power, and that 3) China has always been about peace and cooperation with its neighbours. Continue reading “To H.E. Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing”

And A Rivalry Sparks Once Again

Three days ago, I had an exam on Philippine Foreign Policy (PHILFOR, as we like to call it); it was my first exam for a Majors subject. My professor told us that we had to read three journals/articles (pictured above) to answer the two-out-of-four questions in a two-page-essay-style format. I had a whale of a time reading those.

As you can see, I peppered the journal/articles with bookmarks (notes and highlights too.) They were really helpful in showing which ones had common topics, like one was more detailed on pre-Cold War relations, other was on post-Cold War, and the other was on the rising power of China and the 9/11 terrorist attack. Yeah.

When we took the exam, the professor told us that it would only take us 30 minutes to finish. Anyway, the questions were 1) what was the Philippine-US relation during 1990-1996? And 2) what was the Philippine-US relation during 1997-2002? This didn’t cover pre-Cold War, and question 2 was extremely long. There were too many factors to cover in too little time. Nearing the end of the day, I and my classmate in German, were the only ones left in the room.

This classmate of mine has a long history of being really intelligent and whatnot. ‘Though, I don’t know much about her studying habit since I only see her in German class. At any rate, I’ll have to give you some back story before I proceed. Continue reading “And A Rivalry Sparks Once Again”

I Know how Qatar Gets More Filipinos to Work for Them!

Now everything you’re about to read is all hypothetical, BUT if I were Qatar, this is what I would do.

Everybody in the Philippines knows about the 3 Filipinos in China that were executed for being drug mules. Now whether or not that should’ve happen is none of my concern now, but I’m glad that China did what they did. And so almost everyone here in the Philippines seem to be hatin’ on China for killing their “countrymen” but in fact, the Filipinos can’t see past their own nose. Drugs kill more people than government executions!Ugh… these Filipinos… well that isn’t my concern now. My concern is how Qatar is reacting to this situation.

A couple of minutes ago, I was watching my local news and there were a couple of things that took my interest: A lady with a rare skin disease, Thia’s elimination from American Idol, a 130+ pound 3 year-old Chinese baby and Continue reading “I Know how Qatar Gets More Filipinos to Work for Them!”