First Arc ー Chapter 4 (Part 1): Decorative Mirror
Along with the Xue Family troops setting up a camp outside Luo City, anyone could see that this would become a key battle that would determine victory or defeat. Whether they could take down Luo City probably would determine the final outcome. On one side, it was the famous general of a hundred years who was old but still vigorous like a good sword that remains sharp, Xue Huai while on the other side, it was the swift and decisive, young and proud emperor. Who would lose? Who would win?
For a moment, not only Nation Bi’s citizens were feeling a general sense of insecurity, even the other three nations nearby were also paying close attention and secretly felt that they were in danger.
With the benefit of the Right Prime Minister Residence formiddable intelligence network, Jiang Chenyu as well as her Father and Elder Brother received news of the battle immediately.
It was said that the Xue Family troops had fought all the way until the Huai River without a hitch. After seeing Xue Su’s head hung up on Luo City’s city walls, that divine general whose head was covered with gray hair and nearly sixty years old shedded tears. However, even if he was emotional, even if he resented until he wanted to avenge his son instantly, his experience of leading troops for many years as well as his last shred of rationality still made him command to set up camp outside the city and to halt the troops for the time being to bide their time.
Whereas his foster son, Xue Hongfei whose left arm was shot by an arrow in order to save him in the previous siege was convalescing. When he saw his foster father shed tears and was so grieved that he could not eat his meals, he advised him, “This person has already passed away, but the future can still be redeemed. Lord Foster Father may rest assured. Wait until the day Luo City is broke through, this son will definitely hang Zhao Yin’s head on top of the city wall to inform Elder Brother’s spirit in heaven!”
At that time, Jiang Zhong said, “This foster son is even more useful than his biological son. If Xue Su had half of his merits, then the Xue Family would also have unlikely be forced until the extent of this plight today……”
On the other hand, Jiang Chenyu’s gaze flickered and said in a low voice a little bleakly, “Once this words are uttered, Xue Hongfei……definitely won’t be able to live anymore.”
Jiang Xiaocheng thought otherwise. “He followed that old traitor, Xue Huai and has his hands stained with the blood of countless for ten years. He should be put to death. What is Father and Younger Sister feeling regrettable about for this kind of person?”
Jiang Zhong shook his head and lamented, “Xue Hongfei is young and has outstanding talents and is well-versed in both literature and military affairs. He is also staunch and steadfast towards the Xue Family. If you have had half of his abilities, this father also wouldn’t have to worry until this extent.”
Three days later, Xue Huai issued orders to start attacking the city.
Just as everyone thought that this great battle would definitely be fought until the skies become dark with society in disorder, the flow of blood form a river, the corpses littered across the wilderness and the people plunged into the abyss of misery and suffering like in mud and charcoal, all of a sudden, it had ended.
It had ended in a manner which was the most unexpected and the simplest ever.
In the study, as the covert guard was describing this matter, his voice was no longer calm and without ripples like it was in the past and was a little emotional. “Just when the battle was unstoppable like a raging fire and fought until it was the most intense, Xue Hongfei whose left arm was bandaged with gauze sped on his horse to hurry to Xue Huai’s side. On one hand, he was shouting, “Foster Father, let me help you”, while on the other hand, he drew out his treasured sword at his waist. With one wave of the sword downwards, the head fell to the groundー”
“Whose head?” The three people in the study asked alarmedly in unison.
This answer was no different from a thunderbolt out of a clear sky. Jiang Xiaocheng was dazed for quite a while before he finally came around. He leapt up and said, “What did you say? Xue Huai? Xue Hongfei chopped off Xue Huai’s head? Xue Hongfei chopped of Xue Huai’s……head?” He repeated it two times continuously. Even until he saw the covert guard nodded his head, he still had an incredulous look.
Even Jiang Zhong’s whole face was full of astonishment as he said, “Why would Xue Hongfei want to do this?”
“During the battle, he suddenly rose in revolt and chopped off Xue Huai’s head with one swing of the knife. Everyone was stupefied and all of them stopped the swords in their hands. He then jumped to the front of the carriage and chopped off the army flag with the character ‘Xue’. He shouted loudly, “The great and magnificent Nation Bi, it is the final destination arranged by the will of heaven. The traitor Xue has revolted, he should be killed without pardon!” Only then did the Xue Family troops return to their senses and knew that he had betrayed them. Hence, they shot him dead with a hail of arrows. Before Xue Hongfei died, he looked up at the sky and laughed loudly before he said, ‘Father, Mother, and all my siblings, Sheng Er has finally avenged all of you!’”
Jiang Chenyu raised her eyebrows as she said, “Avenge?”
“Yes. We just discovered that it turned out that he was originally not called Hongfei but called Zhou Sheng and was the son of Luo City’s city master, Zhou Kang. Zhou Kang’s character was upright and frank and offended the Xue Family. All the 49 members of the Zhou Family lost their lives in Xue Su’s hands. In order to exact revenge, Zhou Sheng acknowledged the enemy as his father and endured silently for tenyears. He finally regarded highly and caught him off guard, striking the mark with just one blow……”
Jiang Chenyu’s heart tightened. All those matters which she could not figure out previously had obtained all their answers at this moment. She had concluded back then that when His Majesty dared to personally go on the punitive expedition, he definitely had the assurance that he would surely win. So it turned out that his secret chess piece was this Xue Hongfei. When she thought that this person had endured silently for ten years, she could not help but sigh with emotion. “He was originally a person of Luo City and he finally also chose to end everything at Luo City.”
Jiang Xiaocheng said, “No wonder Marquis Qi Ao would instruct for Xue Su’s head to be sent to Luo City that day. Back then, I had only thought that he purely wanted to help His Majesty display his might. Now that I think about it, it was clearly to give Xue Hongfei, oh wait, Zhou Sheng, a hint ー Exchange a head with a head.”
“What a great ‘exchange a head with a head’!” Jiang Zhong sighed in admiration. “It’s a pity for such a person!”
Jiang Chenyu shook her head and said, “He was indeed a talent. If he could have been used by our court, he would definitely have great accomplishments. However, someone like him lived with the only goal of taking revenge. Now that his great revenge has been exacted and on top of that, although Xue Huai was his enemy, they have called themselves father and son for these ten years and there would be more or less some feelings. He killed the person who promoted him and regarded him highly with his own hands. I’m afraid that to him, death was the best way to free himself.”
Jiang Zhong was stunned for quite a while. When he looked at her again, his expression had become very complicated. “Zhou Sheng’s persistence and resoluteness indeed make people moved, but Ji Ying’s wisdom makes people’s hearts tremble even more. When His Majesty suddenly launched an attack against the Xue Family that day, I had even thought that this move was too eager and reckless. Now that I look at it, they have clearly have clearly mapped out every step. First, it was the Empress Dowager who was severely indisposed and she had to be isolated; Next, it was confining the Empress to enrage the nation’s brother-in-law* and provoke Xue Huai; Lastly, it was making use of Xue Huai’s most trusted foster son. A move of dealing with the root of the problem by taking away the firewood from under the cauldron, he effortlessly disintegrated the Xue Family which had stood for a hundred years. What we see on the surface are only these while what we can’t see that is secretly underneath, there’s still so much more……Being an official in the same court with a person like this is really a little scary……”
*T/n: It’s basically a title for the brother of the Empress, so he’s also the emperor’s brother-in-law
Jiang Xiaocheng grinned broadly as he said, “How does that matter? Any rate, we’re also going to become in-laws soon. As long as he becomes one of us, then everything will be easy to talk about, right, Younger Sister? It can’t be that my exceptionally intelligent younger sister who is as pretty as a flower and refined as jade is not worthy of a mere Marquis Qi Ao right?”
Jiang Chenyu smiled and did not speak but the uneasiness in her heart was getting more and more strong. She had long known that Gentleman was unparalleled in wisdom and farsightedness. Now that she thought about it, he was a little so wise that it reached the level of a demon. Could such an intelligent Gentleman not see through those small tricks she was playing with? Or was it that he had clearly seen through them but intentionally did not expose them?
At the same time when she was laying out the ruse, was she actually sinking into a certain unpredictable trap step by step?
She suddenly felt a little terrified.
She heard her Elder Brother say again from the side, “No matter what, this ending is considered not bad ー Xue Huai is dead so the source of worry in his heart has been eliminated. His Majesty will return to the court in the next few days. When that time comes, it should immediately be the turn for Chenyu’s marriage.”
Her heart trembled again and her eyelid started twitching nonstop. Just as she was feeling ill at ease, there was a servant girl outside knocking the door. Hearing the voice, it was Wo Yu. “Third Miss, Third Missー”
“What’s the matter?”
“Matron Huang Jin has come and is now in the main hall. Madam asked if you want to go over to take a look.”
Jiang Xiaocheng walked over to open the door of the room and smiled. “Look at what?”
Wo Yu pursed her lips as she smiled. “Naturally it’s to look at the almanac and pick an auspicious day.”
Jiang Chenyu’s face blushed. When she saw that both her Father and Elder Brother were looking at her, with her Elder Brother a face full of a teasing smile while her Father’s eyes revealing hopefulness, she could only nod her head and say, “Alright, I’ll go.”
When she reached the main hall, she indeed saw Matron Huang Jin sitting in the hall with a face radiating full of jubilance. Madam Jiang heard a sound and turned her head over and flashed her a smile. “Chenyu has come. Come over quickly.”
Jiang Chenyu went forward to take a look and saw on the almanac opened up on the table, there were three circles marked out.
Matron Huang Jin explained at one side, “I made a trip to the Marquis Residence in the morning. They gave these three dates for you all to choose and see which is the most convenient. These three are all auspicious days. They’re on the seventh day of the fourth month, fifteenth day of the fifth month and twenty third day of the seventh month respectively. Based on this old woman’s opinion, it is the earlier the better. We should keep up with His Majesty having fought a victorious battle and take advantage of this happy atmosphere to go with the marriage. Just have it on the seventh day of the fourth month. There are still twenty days from now. We can totally send the gift letter*, the wedding candles and wedding firecrackers** in time.”
*T/n: Contains the list of gifts
**T/n: They are all kind of the customs of an ancient Chinese marriage as previously mentioned
Madam Jiang nodded her head and said, “This day is also to my liking……Chenyu, what is your opinion?”
Jiang Chenyu hung her head down and said, “I’ll let Mother make the decision.”
Madam Jiang smiled and said, “Great. Then I’ll trouble Matron Jin Po to bring a letter back and say that we have chosen the seventh day of the fourth month.”
“I’ll go right now!” Matron Jin Po took her leave, feeling pleased.
After she left, the two servant girls, Huai Jin and Wo Yu came up and smiled as they bowed. “Congratulations to Miss, congratulations to Madam!”
“Sweet mouth.” Madam Jiang cheerfully rewarded the two servant girls. When she turned back and saw that Jiang Chenyu’s expression was gloomy and pensive, she pushed her and said, “What are you thinking about? It’s such a joyful matter, how come it’s this kind of expression?”
Jiang Chenyu lowered her voice to say, “Mother……I’m a little scared……”