—Confusion over beauty can be either sexual and aromantic. Sexual and aromantic are very different, and should not be said in the same sentence.
All the trades gradually flourished.
There was peace, and the world was in its golden age. The chaos among the four countries was recalled as an incredible loss of life. If the Emperor of today, the formerly famous general Chu Beijie, had not decide to come down the mountains and put an end to the chaos by uniting the world, who knew how many more years people would be able to see such bustling towns on this way?
A slender hand opened the curtain of the carriage, letting the sounds and sights of the lively outdoors flood inside. There were sounds of sales, laughter, and the bartering sounds of young wives buying food. It was constantly noisy.
A pair of beautifully bright eyes flashed, glancing at the world outside before reservedly escaping back into the darkness.
The carriage was exquisite and refined, complete with gold and silver. Even the horses’ bridles were built from silver. There were a total of eighteen guards riding horses in the front and rear, quietly trotting across this flourishing area.
A boy and girl sat in the carriage, neither of them ordinary nobles. The girl was a bit older, having a delicate face like a plum blossom. Her lips were red enough without lipstick. She had a rare noble air about her which stunned everyone.
She was the Princess of the Weihao House from far away. Her name was Yin Luo, renowned as the most
beautiful child amongst the House. Because of her intelligence, she was the Chief of the House’s favourite.
The other person was her elder brother, Yin Yi. The two siblings had come far away from home, bringing a large number of treasures to reach this strange land for something very important towards the Weihao House’s future.
“What is Sister thinking?” Yin Yi asked.
Yin Luo pondered for quite a long time, replying, “I’m wondering what the Emperor of the Ting country looks
Like. His stories have been spread in the world for many years, so he must be an old man now.”
Yin Yi chuckled in spite of himself. “How did Sis come to such a conclusion? This Emperor was a famous general since young. He led the army to guard Dong Lin country at the age of fifteen, going through numerous battles. His enemies would shudder at the faintest scent of him. After that, for some reason he disappeared to live in seclusion in the mountains, refusing to appear in the world again. Only after all of the generals and the four countries were ruined by chaos did he finally come out of the mountains to settle everything, establishing the Ting country. The Ting army has only been established for six years, and when you add them all up, he’s only a little older than thirty, the peak state of men.”
Yin Luo didn’t know whether to believe her brother’s words. She quietly lifted a corner of the curtain, peeped outside and suddenly said, “The Ting army.”
“The Ting army.”
Yin Yi’s face was full of surprise. He shouted the driver to a stop. He shuffled beside Yin Luo, asking, “What’s wrong?” He then followed Yin Luo’s gaze outside.
There was a three-storey high restaurant on the side of the street. A large flag rested against the pillar of the open lobby. The banner had the words, “The incidents of the past described and exchanged with passerbys.” A man who appeared to be a storyteller was shaking his head as he sat outside, surrounded by a large circle of people eager to watch what was going on. It appeared the restaurant happened to be open that day, and the owner had set up their lobby to attract customers to the storyteller, making him a bit more popular than usual.
“Move the carriage aside for us to get a bit closer.”
“It’ll do no harm. We’ve plenty of time.” Yin Luo pursed her lips and smiled at her brother.
When Yin Yi saw his younger sister’s sweet smile, he didn’t want to disappoint her, so he ordered the guards following them to stop and wait for a bit. When the carriage was a bit closer to the entrance of the restaurant, he ordered the driver to reward the owner of the restaurant with some money and alcohol. He asked the storyteller to speak a bit louder, so that the people inside the carriage could hear.
The storyteller was currently at an exciting part.
“When the Emperor of today read the description of the letters about the chaos in the four countries, although his eyebrows were furrowed for a long time, he refused to change his original plan. He told his subordinates, ‘I already don’t care about these things. No matter what you say, it’s useless. There are too many suitable heroes under the skies to settle the four countries. There’s no point in me being the one to do it.’ From his words, it seemed that there was no way he agreed to go out of the moutains.”
At these words, all of the anticipated looks in his audience changed. They sighed loudly and someone yelled, “Why didn’t our Emperor come out of the mountains? The world was already such a mess then.”
“What are you panicking about? If the Emperor hadn’t agreed to come out of the mountains, where would we get our peace today?” The storyteller laughed a bit and drank some tea to refresh his throat. His expression completely changed, “When his subordinates heard this, they immediately panicked, ‘Why is Duke still not doing anything at such a time?’ Heh, this panic caused his subordinate to think an extremely clever plan. He told our Emperor, ‘Although there are many heroes under the skies, you are the only one who can save Miss Bai. Miss Bai is currently in danger, and if you don’t go, our future Empress may not be able to hold out.’ When the Emperor heard this, his expression changed. His eyes widened, roaring, ‘Who dares to harm my Emperess? I shall kill him!”
The storyteller angrily glared, vividly and deeply touching the audience’s heart, but an unfathomably good-natured laughter chose this pause to ring out. “Your lies don’t add up in your storytelling. The Ting country was still non-existent then. How could that subordinate possibly know Miss Bai would be the Empress in the future?”
“Huh, it’s not like no one thinks you’re intelligent if you just stay quiet. Those words of yours are just like a drain.” The storyteller became serious, “Speaking of Miss Bai, her history is extraordinary. She grew up in the Jing-An Ducal Residence of Gui Le, able to sing and appreciate dance since young. Forget her renowned qin, she was gifted in men’s tasks of study and war. A fortune teller says she is a goddess descended from the skies, to assist the master of the mortal world beneath. After the King of Gui Le knew this, he sent orders to marry her, not expecting that when Miss Bai saw the King of Gui Le, she said, ‘You’re not qualified to marry me, I will only marry the real master of the mortal world. After that, she chose our Emperor as expected. Ah, can’t you see how great her judgement is?”
Yin Yi was sitting in the carriage, chuckling, “What a load of rubbish. When put like that, that woman is practically invincible in everything, rather like a monster.”
Another person respectfully replied, “Mister, you said our Empress is a goddess descended from the skies, so she must be an utter beauty right?”
“Of course, her beauty is ethereal.” The storyteller’s face was full of admiration and praise, “She really is the finest colour in this world, one that no one can rival. Her face is as delicate as a flower, her voice like an oriole. Back then our Emperor had seen hundreds of fields of such flowers, but when he saw the Empress, he forgot all of these beautiful women at first sight, only having the Empress left in his eyes.
“Isn’t that wrong?” An old man began to squint, rather suspicious, “I heard back then our Empress and Emperor fought against each other in Bei Mo country, at least that’s what that Storyteller Zhang or something said.” It appeared others heard the same thing and all nodded.
“Lies!” The storyteller grimaced, “The Emperor and the Empress are a loving couple. How could they face each other on the battlefield? Don’t listen to that Zhang’s nonsense.”
The debate was rampant, but the curtain slowly lowered.
“Nothing particularly important, let’s go.”
The horse began to step slowly.
Not long later, the carriage moved out of this tiny town. In the distance, there was a newly paved road. The sides of it were lined with delightfully green grass, and there seemed to be no end in sight.
Yin Yi quietly studied his sister. They travelled for a long time before he opened his mouth to say, “Don’t listen to that storyteller’s rubbish. There aren’t any goddesses. No matter how the Empress is as beautiful as a flower, she won’t be as beautiful as Sis. Even if she is more beautiful than Sis, how could she still be since more years have passed for her? When Sis enters the Palace, I’m sure the Emperor’s heart will be tied to Sis.”
Yin Luo’s gaze turned towards Yin Yi, coldly sweeping across his face. Yin Yi was still thinking he had said the right thing until he noticed her cold gaze appeared to be piercing right through his body. He could only shut up.
“The Ting army is too strong. The Ting country has strong horses and men to unite the four countries. Although my Weihao House is far away, we are also vaguely threatened. Father is correct. Arranged marriage is perhaps the only way to protect my House’s future.” Yin Luo sighed softly, wryly smiling, “Yin Luo is just afraid that the Emperor may not be able to be trapped by beauty. If it’s like that, then Yin Luo’s trip would be wasted.” She suddenly appeared to have suddenly thought of something. She frowned as she mumbled, “Ting country, Ting country? …That Empress’ nickname, isn’t it Pingting?”
Yin Yi’s heart was uneasy at this. He forced a smile as he comforted, “Please don’t sell yourself short, Sis. I still think there’s no man under the skies who can ignore Sis’s beauty. The Emperor is a man too, and the Empress must be nearing thirty. They should be tired of each other, being married for so long, so it’s about time to find new love. As long as Sis puts her beauty into good use, there’s no need to be afraid…”
“No need to say any more, Brother.” Yin Luo turned away, “We’ll know what to do when we meet this inscrutable goddess of an Emperor. I have plans of my own.”
In the humid air, there was the damp thuds of hooves.
Outside the window, the wilderness was boundless. Their destination of the trip, the capital of Ting country, should be at the end.
The Weihao House was a renowned family in the far distance. The House’s men were martial, puissant, with fine skills in combat while the women were beautiful, slender and gentle. They had both heroes and beauties. Because of the House’s established nobility status, they were rarely attacked by others and hence not afraid of outsiders, allowing them to accumulate treasures over many generations.
If it hadn’t been for the Ting country’s immense power or that their Emperor, so wise despite his young age, was one that even caused the elderly Chief of the House to fear, the Weihao House would have never sent their unprecedented beauty and treasures.
During dusk the next day, the party transporting the treasures and the beauty finally, after a long journey, reached the capital of the Ting country.
The one responsible for greeting them was the Emperor’s most trusted Tiger General, Moran. Moran was on his horse at the very front, leading the party to a majestic residence. He got off his horse and walked to the side of the carriage, raising his voice, “Please disembark, Princess. The Emperor has ordered me to welcome Princess to follow me into the residence, to see the Empress.”
Inside the carriage, Yin Luo and Yin Yi stiffened at their words, their eyes meeting each other’s helplessly.
Yin Yi was curious, “We have come from afar and still have our House’s flag up. Why is it the Emperor not seeing us first but the Queen? And why the sudden display of authority when we have only just arrived?” His face was rather annoyed.
“What need is there for Yin Luo to be afraid of, having only an authoritative wife in the entire residence?” Yin Luo faintly smiled, her radiance escaping into her surroundings.
Yin Yi’s confidence rose considerably. “Nice, Sis, that’s the way you should be. Don’t ruin our Weihao House’s first Princess’ fame.” He got up and helped Yin Luo down the carriage, as she was wearing Weihao’s heaviest clothing.
Moran hurriedly stopped him. “The Queen only wishes to see the Princess. This way please, Prince.”
Yin Yi gave a look of dissatisfaction at Moran and was about to protest when Yin Luo softly assured, “Don’t worry, Brother. I will have to go alone into this residence one day, sooner or later.”
“Remember, no one beats your beauty. No one is more qualified than you to get the Emperor’s favour.” Yin Yi tightly held onto her hand, whispering.
Yin Luo studied him for a moment, nodding, “Yin Luo will remember that.”
After successive quiet steps, she followed after the beckoner, each step taking her deeper into the residence.
Yin Yi waited for a whole three days in the guesthouse specifically to attend important guests of other noble families. He hadn’t received any news from Yin Luo in the last three days. How was she? Had she gotten the Emperor’s favour? Had she overcome the Empress’ power?
Not a word of news had been received!
The Emperor had solemnly summoned him, receiving the Chief of the Weihao House’s letters and gifts as well as returning many gifts of his own.
The monarch whose power was beyond measure was very young and handsome, not like a man of thirty at all.
Yin Yi spoke on behalf of his father, expressing the House of Weihao’s desires and intention to peacefully interact.
The Emperor smiled proudly, “The peasants have had enough of chaos caused by war, so I won’t use soldiers for no reason.” He then added, “The Empress doesn’t like war either.” At the mention of his Empress, his handsome face had a passing hint of gentleness, one that could not be concealed at all.
Yin Yi was secretly alarmed by this and took opportunity of the moment to ask about her sister who was summoned
away by the Empress.
“The Princess?” The Emperor said, “Oh well, the Queen feels a bit bored in the Palace, so lets the Princess accompany her for a bit before making further decisions.”
To this inscrutable Emperor, Yin Yi couldn’t ask any more after that.
That day, the Emperor was in a good mood as he talked. He talked about the world’s trends, military power, country borders, and commercial trades. He even went on to talk about this year’s complete harvest of rice and how the homes of the officials in the courts were doing. He started small but then big, even casually issuing several imperial decrees on the way before turning and smiling at Yin Yi, “What does Prince think of this?”
Ze Yin took a step back, his head bowed.
He finally understood why this man would always make his enemy tremble in fear. He had such strong courage and sharp eyes that could see right through people’s minds, completely capable of destroying invisible enemies.
After dismissing himself to the Emperor, he left the grand hall. Yin Yi sighed at the guards leading the way out, “The Ting country has such a wise monarch. I reckon no one in this world is able to guess the monarch’s mind.”
The guard laughed at these words, turning back, “Prince, you’re wrong. There’s someone who can guess the Emperor’s mind with one hundred percent accuracy.”
The guard put up a single finger, mysteriously pointing in the distance. As for what he was pointing at, it was the
Queen’s residence tucked deep inside the Palace.
A strange kind of uneasy feeling began to slowly rise from the bottom of his spine.
In the last three days, this uneasy feeling hadn’t left once. Yin Luo, his most beloved younger sister, was currently revealing the first Princess of the Weihao House to what kind of woman? Would she cause their House to be hated? Would she emerge the winner of this new battle in the palace?
He suddnely remembered when the Emperor mentioned Yin Luo, he referred to her as “the Princess”, not directly calling her name. Could it be that the Emperor didn’t even meet Yin Luo yet?
Yin Yi paced back and forth in the guesthouse as if a beast trapped in a prison.
Their peaceful intentions had already been conveyed, therefore their purpose was achieved. But he couldn’t bear abandoning Yin Luo to the depths of the Palace. If Yin Luo wasn’t able to find happiness, she would have a miserable fate.
People were people. They were always too eager to achieve their goals and only regretted when the price had been paid.
“How is Princess Yin Luo’s situation?”
“I want to see the Emperor.”
“I want to see the Queen.”
“None of them are okay? Fine, I want to see Tiger General who led my sister into the Palace back then!”
He had wanted to pull out his sword and fight his way out several times, as if Yin Luo had already been murdered by that evil wife in the depths of the residence. He absolutely detested himself and found it strange how he had sent his sister from thousands of miles away to this strange place, without a single complaint, to fight an impossible battle.
His words of comfort to Yin Luo were all lies, all a load of nonsense!
He was just a jerk who exchanged his sister for a peaceful life.
The moment before Yin Yi was about to go crazy, Yi Luo returned.
She had already changed into the Ting country’s clothing for noble women. Her clean white silk clothing complimented her cascading black hair, making her look particularly distinguished. When she entered the room, she looked at her brother for a long time, before lowering down her head. She pursed her lips and began to chuckle. She chuckled for quite a long time before raising her head again, looking at Yin Yi’s helplessly surprised and delighted expression.
“I saw the Empress.” She only spoke a few words after a long time.
“What on earth does she look like? I don’t believe that she’s more beautiful than you. Sis, she didn’t use the her Authority as Empress to bully you, did she?”
Yin Luo thought for a long time before murmuring, “Should not be said in the same sentence…”
“I said…” Yin Luo had the expression of recollection. Her gaze drifted to the distant palace bathed in sunlight, “Should not be said in the same sentence.” She abruptly turned back, giving Yin Yi a dazzling smile, “Brother, let’s go home. The Queen said I can choose to stay in the Palace or go home. No matter what I choose, my mission has been fulfilled, and so the current and future generations of the Ting country and the House of Weihao will be allies.”
She looked at Yin Yi’s expression of disbelief, and then, like a freed phoenix, she delightedly spun in a circle.
“Brother, let’s go home.” The brilliant light of youth flashed in her dark eyes.
Confusion over beauty can either be sexual and aromantic.
Sexual and aromantic are very different.
Therefore, they should not be said in the same sentence.
In a single country, there was no need to insert the finest colour of another Duchess, when there was already the finest aroma of the Empress.
Go home, the first Princess of the Weihao House. Although you may have a planned to gain the favour of the Emperor, you are fated to be forgotten in the long run.
That is not your destiny.
Go home, young and beautiful girl.
You have not experienced those angry horses, bloodied clothes, days of military confrontation, the brilliant sound of guqin, the terrible oppressive feeling of despair, the endless resentment, the courage that could swallow the world, the feeling of wild, fierce love that not even a hundred thousand storytellers could fully portray.
Go home. Your bell-like laughter should be echoed in your happy home, echoed in the ears of your loving parents.
Late at night, deep inside the Palace, a pair of wise eyes silently stared at the bright moon in the sky.
A palace maid quietly came in from outside, bowing as she reported, “Madam, that Princess has departed, leaving the capital tonight.”
Pingting looked up. She was leaning comfortably on a soft pillow.
“Where is General Moran?” She suddenly asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Is he in his official residence?”
“I heard he hasn’t returned.”
“Is he accompanying the Emperor in dealing governmental affairs?”
“From the manservants beside the Emperor, I heard the Emperor talked to the two Senior Officials, but General wasn’t there.”
Pingting was lost in thought for a few moments, sadly saying, “Then he must be chasing. I don’t know whether he’s alone or has taken a thousand or so men.”
The palace maid looked at her in puzzlement. This woman who created this world suddenly snorted in laughter, chortling like a child. She clapped softly, “I bet he definitely can’t stand it. That dear Moran, dignified Tiger General, had his soul entirely caught by the young Princess in just three days. Oh well, you ought to try the taste of love as well.”
The palace maid said, “You go see the Emperor. Ask the Emperor to hurry and make arrangements to take over the responsibilities of the Tiger General, so when he is found missing, no one will be too confused.”
Chu Beijie happened to return at this moment. He asked while stepping into the room, “Who is missing?”
Pingting smiled as she recounted everything again before continuing, “You haven’t seen how Moran found all sorts of excuses to visit me. From new tributes required to be looked over by the Empress to a celebration coming up soon in the Palace, and all sorts of programs that the Empress had to look over in advance. Aren’t they all excuses to see the Princess? But I reckon that Princess is too intelligent and won’t be so easy to obtain. Moran has a lot of hardship ahead.”
Chu Beijie burst into laughter, “Can he suffer more hardships than me?” He dismissed the palace maids with a wave, hugging Pingting and carrying her to the bed.
Pingting reddened at his sight. “You…are already a dignified Emperor. You ought to behave yourself a bit more.” She turned away, which was a perfect gap for Chu Beijie to take the phoenix hairpin, allowing her hair to spill all over the bed.
Chu Beijie slowly came closer, smelling the aroma around her neck. He whispered, “Does Empress still remember the song she sung for me back then?”
“I don’t.” Pingting rolled her energetic eyes, a little bit angry, “I just remember that a certain someone smashed my qin, locked me in a small cottage in a secluded residence, and abused me hundreds of times.”
“I admit that was my fault.” Chu Beijie quickly surrendered before softening his voice again, “It’s been such a long time. Don’t tell me Empress plans to spend all the time on recalling our long story of the past?”
Pingting pursed her lips and chuckled sheepishly. She sighed, a bit sadly. “True, it’s a long story, one that not even an entire lifetime will completely recall. So long, so long…”
Back when she had been with Chu Beijie in the secluded country, chaos had yet to fall on the four countries.
If it hadn’t been for the greed of human hearts to desire to succeed, to dominate all power and poison the people of the world, how would such a strong Ting country be established, as well as this imperial couple?
So, like this, this long and arduous story was like the one song Pingting played, creating life with her five fingers.
The moon hung in the sky, gently casting its light down above these two people, who were above ten million.
Do you still remember we once swore to the moon, to never turn against each other?
Perhaps we have never truly once turned against each other.
- “Confusion over beauty can be sexual and aromantic…”: Google says this is an adaptation from Lu Pu-Wei’s biography, which details about sex culture in Ancient China. There are a few puns/references to this saying in the chapter which is really hard to explain. The character for “colour” typically refers to sexual/physical, “aroma” refers to aromantic/mental. Therefore, when the storyteller uses the term “finest colour” to describe Pingting, it’s hinting her sexual beauty. But obviously, she isn’t…Yin Luo was able to tell Pingting was actually the “finest arom”.
- “Tiger General”: Usually referring to the best five military generals serving under a ruler, but this was not an actual term in history. Well, it appears Moran is the only one with this title.