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Journey's End

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Ziqi did not know how many more times he would come to Xiang’s tomb – age was now making it an effort.
He had settled with Xiang’s people, and now had a family: his military and other skills had proved useful at times, and he had played his part in local activities. While not quite the future role promised him in the old days, it was satisfactory, and Xiang had to some extent caused it to happen.
From what information had circulated Liu Bang’s successors in the Emperor’s palace had not lived peacefully and Ziqi was glad he had been offered no more than the Emperor’s ring – or had made the choice to do with it as he had.
Over the years there had been some encounters with survivors of Xiang’s army and others who had come to pay their respects at Xiang’s tomb, and a number of whom had settled in the locality.

One particularly poignant encounter had been with Xiang’s horse, by then of a certain age, which had been sent to his people – the details of how the stallion had been so identified were unclear. He still remembered Ziqi, who had then looked after him for his remaining years, a last direct service to their lord, willingly given.

Ziqi had over the years told much of his tale, including his relationship to Xiang, and contributed to the records on others – but there was one part he had never mentioned.

A few days after he had arrived here the news of the Emperor’s death had reached the locality. Ziqi’s host and, as it was to transpire, future brother-in-law had noted that their encounter at Xiang’s tomb had been on that day, and, possibly, the donation of Liu Bang’s ring had been at about the time of the latter’s death. He and his hosts had tacitly agreed not to mention the incident to others. Whatever the probability of it being some strange coincidence, there was a feeling that something more was involved, and that others might assign some superstitious interpretation to it – rather than the Emperor ensuring that they meet.

As always, Ziqi spent some time alone in front of the tomb, remembering the people he had known and those times when they had enjoyed the possibilities and opportunities in the fight for the leadership of China-the-world: now others were doing so: and he thought about the might-have-beens.
An eagle flew overhead: it would serve as a messenger for Ziqi, and he watched it go off in the distance.

He became aware of his family approaching, and then some of the children were chattering around him. He was back in the present again.
‘Tell us again about Uncle Xiang Yu.’
For a few moments, as Ziqi began the oft-repeated story, he could visualise, as always, his sister, Xiang Yu, Liu Bang and others standing a little distance away, listening and enjoying the gathering and discussion, and then they faded away.
It was not yet time to join them.

It was not yet time to join them.