The Xia Emperor was still reading reports atop his dragon throne. While he wasn’t the wisest monarch, he was definitely the most hardworking one. However, his indecisive nature was his biggest weakness and obstacle. He knew that his accomplishments paled in comparison to his ancestors. For the mighty Xia dynasty to not have progressed in the past 30 years, he risked being labelled inapt or worse, a criminal. Merely maintaining the status quo was considered as a failure; not having any achievements was a grave offense.
“This one will not be known as a sinner of the Xia Dynasty!”
The Xia Emperor knew about his weakness; that’s why he decided to dispatch the troops and do battle with the mongols. He didn’t want to tolerate anyone challenging the dignity of the Xia Dynasty.
However, Heaven’s will is unfathomable, and lady luck, a cruel mistress. Even the son of heaven is unable to grasp the will of Heaven.
“My Empress, is what you just said, true?” The Emperor asked in a grave tone, his face brooding as he sat atop the dragon throne.
‘By the time he was no longer blind, half his hair had become white.
A Xia Emperor his whole life,
He worked hard his whole reign,
But only managed to defend the status quo.
To keep the giant empire under control he tirelessly plotted.
Now he is no longer blind, but his life has dried up’
Zhang Sun looked at her lifelong partner and sighed. She remembered the words her elders gave her when she was young; they accompanied her and supported her through life, ‘Do your best, as for love, perhaps it really has nothing to do with the imperial family.’ She would have never thought that her childhood innocence would turn into bitterness later in life.
“Summon the head astrologer.”
The royal decree was given. A horseman immediately raced to the east to fulfill its contents.
Everyone waited in the Imperial Palace with bated breath for the outcome. The Xia Emperor walked down his throne and out of the hall. There he gazed upon the night sky. Antares shining brightly in the sky and beside it a shimmering red star, dim yet ever so dazzling.
“Mars staying at Antares.”
The Xia Emperor’s face turned black as he said so. Was he truly destined to be remembered as an incompetent Emperor?
Zhang Sun stood beside him, silent. The Imperial Harem didn’t involve itself with politics. She had already reminded him and that was enough.
“Reporting Your Majesty, the head astrologer is here. He is awaiting outside the hall.”
A messenger eunuch reported a short while later. His brooding face immediately returned to its regal state.
“This one understands and complies.”
As the eunuch finished saying that, Zhang Sun approached the Emperor and kneeled down, paying her respects. “Your loyal Empress bids her farewells.”
The Xia Emperor grunted to express his approval. It was not appropriate for the Empress to be present when an official requested an audience as it might cause a scandal. This was even more so during such a sensitive period.
As Zhang Sun left, Head Astrologer Shangguan Yuanming entered soon after. He kowtowed to show his respects and awaited the Emperor’s command to rise.
However after a long wait, that command wasn’t issued. Suddenly, his body seized up and a chill ran down his spine.
“Shangguan Yuanming.” The Xia Emperor finally spoke but with a grave tone.
“Your loyal subject is here.”He replied in a quivering voice, his head lowered.
“How long has it been since you’ve become the Head Astrologer?” The Xia Emperor continued interrogating him.
“Ten years and three months.” His fear grew even stronger as he replied. By now, his face was deathly pale and his body trembling.
“Very good, very good.”
The Xia Emperor repeated ominously. His calm face turned livid in an instant; he slammed his palm onto his table and shouted, “Ten years and three months, the dog that this one has raised should have matured by now!”
“Your loyal subject is guilty,” Shangguan Yuanming admitted in a trembling voice, his head kowtowing.
“What are you guilty of?” The Emperor asked in a cold voice, his livid expression slowly calming down.
“Your loyal subject is unlearned, this one has betrayed Your Majesty’s trust.” The sound of his head banging against the floor clear in the quiet night.
Sensing that Shangguan Yuanming was still hiding the truth from him, he exploded once more. Grabbing the teacup on his desk, he flung it down.
The teacup landed onto Shangguan Yuanming’s head with a clarion crack. At that moment, blood flowed down from his head, staining the floor.
“Who directed you!” The Xia Emperor raised his voice, eyes fixed on the grovelling official.
He wasn’t stupid. The title of Head Astrologer was only given to talented individuals. It wasn’t possible that he did not predict the coming of such an important omen. There must be someone who suppressed this news; their motive to make him dispatch the troops.
Mars staying at Antares traditionally signified the coming of disasters such as war; if he dispatched the troops now, he would definitely be known as a tyrant who fanned the flames of war. At that time, Grand Xia would be the common enemy of the continent. By that time, they would not only face the mongols but also the whole world plus the elusive Eternal Night Cult. Grand Xia’s millennium worth of foundation would be ruined and he would become the dynasty’s sinner.
Thinking about this, he couldn’t help but shiver. As he suppressed his fear, his anger burst forth once more.
“This one did it of his own will.”
Shangguan Yuanming replied a level voice as he raised his head. The blood flowed profusely down his head, covering half his face in blood.
“Good, very good!”
The Xia Emperor took a deep breath as he closed his eyes. In a cold voisce, he shouted.
“Men, throw him into the darkest dungeon. Furthermore, send the Imperial Army to blockade his estate. Without this one’s orders, no one is to enter or leave.”
Two members of the Imperial Guard immediately walked in and dragged Shangguan Yuanming out. The Revelations Hall was now empty except for the Emperor atop his dragon throne, staring silently at the night sky.
A long while later, the Xia Emperor’s face flushed a sickly red.
An instant later, blood flew out of his mouth.
“This one must not become Grand Xia’s sinner.”
The almighty Emperor of the mortal realm; the mortal god who controls the sun and moon. The master of human destiny but a slave to heaven’s will. What tragedy and what incompetence. In the end, men proposes but heaven disposes or perhaps god proposes would be more accurate. As he spit out the mouthful of blood, he turned silent.
A millennium of prosperity is a source of both glory and stress. The Xia Emperor bears the burden of a thousand years of glory. Every move he makes, he must consider the next ten moves. Is it prudence or is it hesitation? One will never know.
On a cold breezy night, the Xia Emperor sits alone atop the icy dragon throne, his dragon robes stained with blood, deathly silent. Outside the grand hall, the Imperial Guard vigilantly guarded the area, not daring to take a step into the hall. This was Grand Xia’s Emperor. As long as he sat atop that dragon throne, no one dared to defy him.
Ruthlessness forges the heart of an Emperor. The Xia Emperor’s ruthlessness was directed not only towards his subjects but also to his grizzled and fading body. Twenty years as an Emperor made it feel like he had aged a hundred.
“This one is unwilling! UNWILLING!”
A thousand words and ten thousand grievances expressed in a roar to the heavens. The emperor laughed maniacally in despair, cursing his fate. In pitch black sky, Mars shimmered brightly before dimming as if to mock the human Emperor for his ignorance.
The next day…During the morning court session…
Despite the expectations of the officials, the troop dispatch orders weren’t sent out. As they debated, everyone turned to the three dukes; only the three dukes were able to change the Xia Emperor’s mind. However, the three dukes remained silent, not expressing their will.
As the morning court session ended, they left the hall; some with doubts in their heart while others with joy.
As the three dukes started to leave, the Xia Emperor walked up to them. Looking at the Taishi Duke dressed in a confucian robe, he asked, “Teacher, if this one has taken the wrong path, would teacher interfere?”
The Taishi Duke paused before finally replying, “I will.”
A simple answer, but it gave the Xia Emperor all the confidence he needed. Even if he committed a grave mistake as an Emperor, his teacher would be there to lend him a hand.
After the Dukes left, the Emperor sat atop his dragon throne once more, alone, handling the matters of the world.
Ning Chen had gotten up early to plead his case. *Ding* *Dang* A cacophony of sound resounded in his room as Ning Chen made a ruckus at his room door. Mu Cheng Xue gave him a dirty look and ignored him once more. Parlor tricks like these only worked on kids.
However, Ning Chen didn’t care about what she thought. As he cleaned up as he revelled in his successful prank. Soon after he decided to have his meal, but he did not forget to flash Mu Cheng Xue a bright smile before left.
That’s what you get for being arrogant. No food for you.
As he wasn’t assigned any work yet, he spent most of his time idling away before arriving for his meals on the dot. Weiyang Palace had separate dining rooms for the palace maids and eunuchs. Naturally, Ning Chen headed to the eunuch’s dining room. Due to his punctuality, the dining room was devoid of people.
“I want this, this and this.”
Ning Chen happily pointed at the dishes he wanted while the old eunuch dutifully scooped it out. Evidently, Zhang Sun treated her subordinates well.
“I want this too. Oh and can you put this in a doggy bag,” he said as he pointed excitedly at a plate of roasted meat.
As the eunuch said this, Ning Chen raised his head. Noticing the old eunuch standing still, he asked, “Is there something wrong with picking this?”
“How do I store it?” The old eunuch replied as he recovered from his surprise.
An ordinary question undoubtedly but still one that left Ning Chen stumped. As he looked at the bowl and ladle in the old eunuch’s hands, his mind raced.
There’s no plastic bag. There’s no styrofoam box. How do I order takeaway?!
Ning Chen stood there stock still, stunned. After a short while, he recovered and began shoving buns into his clothes. He then turned his attention to the plates of food he ordered. He bit down on one of the plates and picked up the remaining two with his hands before slowly walking away.
“Aroo bing bat hates once arm done isshing (I’ll bring back the plates once I’m done eating).” Before leaving, he turned towards the equally stunned eunuch and mumbled. As for whether he understood him, that wasn’t his problem.
On the way back, he met Qing Ning, “Wood onning cistr Qing Ning.(Good Morning Sister Qing Ning)”
Her forehead wrinkled as she stood there stunned as well.
Fortunately, he didn’t know the rest of the people he met on way back, so he didn’t bother greeting them. As he got to his room, he kicked it and said, “Ohen duh hoor(Open the door).”
Mu Cheng Xue had planned on opening the door as she heard him approach but upon hearing the weird mumbling, she halted.
“Ohen duh hoor, my ham are foof (Open the door, my hands are full).”
He paced around waiting for the door to open. However as his cheeks grew numb and the door stayed ever shut, he began to panic. This was exhausting.
Mu Cheng Xue peeked around for a moment and after confirming that there was no one nearby, she opened the door slightly.
“Mix ray, mix ray (make way, make way).”
Seeing the door finally open, he anxiously squeezed his way in and rushed to the table. As he finally laid down the food, he breathed a sigh of relief.
“Wet was tiwing( that was tiring)” His eyebrows jumped as he paused for a moment. He immediately began massaging his cheeks hoping to soothe the numbness in his tongue.
“Time to wheat”
His tongue was still numb but he couldn’t wait any longer. He took out the buns in his clothes and began eating.
She stood there for a moment, speechless as she watched him put down the plates and remove the buns. A short while later, she finally decided to sit down with him.
“The food’s whot bat.(The food’s not bad)”
He happily bit down on a large chunk of roasted meat as he said that. I’m still injured. I need more nutrition to recover.
Seeing the immensely satisfied teenager in front her , she paused for a second before softly asking him, “Do you really want to learn martial arts?”