Fuzhu’s Ballad Chapter 1

Chapter 1 Unpardonable

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The wind howled as it miserably swept over the snow-covered city. Under the dismal atmosphere, the entire capital had withered into a lifeless ink painting, its colors drained away by the cold and unrelenting winter.

The sparse snow particles drifting down from the dark oppressive clouds stung Lan Dan’s face as she knelt on the center of the execution platform. Behind her was the executor who, with a fluid gesture, was anointing his sword with a fine mist of wine. As an Imperial Princess, she was no stranger to the custom of kneeling. She had knelt before countless figures of authority and power, and in turn, witnessed countless others kneel before her. However, she had never imagined that she would be kneeling for the last time in such a manner. Strangely enough, she felt neither sadness nor fear, but only a sense of deep relief.

A few spectators stood below the high platform. Now that the imperial power had fallen into new hands, how many remnants of the previous dynasty must be pulled out and beheaded? The sudden change didn’t feel refreshing anymore.

An old man with graying hair spat out loudly, “Bah! A beast who could poison her own father to death! Da Min is actually ruined in the hands of such a woman!”

The people around hastily gave him a push. Nowadays, mentioning “Da Min” seemed to have become an official taboo. Naturally, it was safer to say less.

Lan Dan lowered her eyes. She didn’t need to look to confirm that the person who could criticize her like this was a commoner. She had listened to the verdict of the new imperial court against her. The pronouncement was brilliantly eloquent, condemning her for patricide and high treason, spurning her for bringing calamity to the common people through the sinister and selfish nature of a woman. Such lengthy and flashy speech, didn’t the old man precisely nail it with just two sentences?

“It’s noon,” announced the supervisor in charge of the execution.

In the end, Lan Dan couldn’t resist lifting her head to look at the audience, then up the city gate tower not far away… Even at this point, she didn’t understand why she still needed to make sure. No one really came to see her off in her last moments.

Perhaps sympathizing with her mood, the tower appeared very gloomy and solemn in the wind and snow. In the old days when she was still Princess Danyang, she would occasionally follow her elder brothers up the tower to watch the executions from a distance. The Crown Prince often had a disdainful face, commenting coldly that such a sinner could be replaced by more outstanding and excellent person. Fifth Prince would show regret, noting that this man had some strategic thinking and that it would have been good to use him if he had not made a wrong step. Seventh and Ninth Princes would murmur their agreement. As an unfavored princess, her mind tended to be more delicate and sensitive. Lan Dan vaguely perceived that Fifth Elder Brother was a little treacherous. Whenever she was idle, she would secretly think about what would happen if he would rebel one day. Ironically, before Fifth Elder Brother could make any move, she had personally handed Da Min’s ten thousand miles of territories to Shentu Cheng. In the end, nobody in the Xiao family needed to worry about such a day.

Now it was her turn to be decapitated in public, yet not a single person she knew had the leisure to watch the excitement.

It was unusual for members of the royal family to be executed by decapitation, but in the current dynasty, she was no longer considered part of the royal family. In just ten days, she had already been reduced to a remnant of the previous dynasty. Moreover, she was a heinous sinner who poisoned her Father Emperor. Such hideous crime was unpardonable.

But… didn’t Shentu Cheng even come to see her off?

At this point, with the blade already resting at her neck, any feelings of love or hate vanished. Whether he was insincere to her from the very start or had just recently burned bridges, she numbly thought that he should have at least come. Despite whoever else failed to show, he was the one who ought to have been there.

The top of the city wall was still empty. A person like her who killed her father, the Emperor, had no family and home. Leaving in such a desolate way was what she deserved. She had no defense.

The wind was getting stronger, the snow falling in quicker succession. Lan Dan closed her eyes. The whistling wind in her ears and the bone-piercing cold oddly brought back memories of the bright and warm spring. In her mind, the pink and white peach blossoms bloomed all over the mountains and plains, the petals floating in through the window lattices and landing on the table. This was the best spring in her life. She finally met that person— the one who promised to cherish and love her.

Henceforth, she spent the happiest summer and autumn in her eighteen years. For the first time, she realized that life could still be full of hope and joy. Her palace and her sky suddenly seemed to brighten. Those days of walking forward with heaviness and numbness disappeared without a trace. Suddenly, someone grabbed her hand and pulled her for a run. Giddy, she believed that she would keep running like this to a more beautiful and better place… Then, winter came, and she listened to him say with his own mouth, “Revenge for the Holy One!”

The Holy One he was talking about was her Father Emperor, and the revenge he wanted was her death. Afterwards, he would ascend the throne and establish the Da Yan dynasty.

It turned out that the place he was taking her to was here— the high platform for execution.

Lan Dan smiled. He had been seeing her off all along, straight to the road leading to the underworld.

As the executioner heaved the sword, the wind blew across the blade, making a clanging sound.

Lan Dan waited for what felt like an incomprehensibly long time. Suddenly, she became anxious. When she met her parents and the others in a moment, would saying “sorry” be enough? Or perhaps she would be sent straight down to the eighteenth level of hell, where no one could see her?

This foul smell was the stench of rotting corpses.

Lan Dan couldn’t move. Her vision was pitch black, her body in pain.

It was hard to tell where it hurt— probably everywhere. She couldn’t make a sound, she could only endure in silence.

Although she had never been greatly favored or loved, she was, after all, an imperial princess in the deep palace. How was she able to identify the smell of corpses? She learned it after being thrown in the prison.

She was the only occupant in the clean cell, yet the stench was all over the place.

Wailing, cursing and stink made up death.

In fact, it only took a short time— from the clouds to the mud, from the cradle to the grave. It only took ten days, but it felt like forever she grew hopelessly numb. Losing awareness of her surroundings, her mind filled with nothing but wailing, cursing and this rotten smell.

It was baffling. These royal descendants were dragged here alive. They were not dead yet, so where was the smell of corpses coming from? Perhaps it was the pervasive smell of a fallen dynasty.

Was she dead?

She should have. When the cold blade was descending on her neck, she didn’t feel any pain. She only felt her whole body falling on the snow.

Was she buried underground?

Lan Dan tried to move but her body felt like a brick and her chest was tight. She must have been buried. But why was she still in her body? Wasn’t she supposed to be on her way to the fiery paths of the underworld, meet Father Emperor and others in front of Wangxiang Platform, and then each receive retributions?

[T/N] Home Viewing Platform (望乡台/wang hsiang tai), myth, a mound of earth where a soul takes one last look at their hometown and loved ones

Perhaps she had committed the most heinous crime that she had no hope of returning at all and would live forever in her decaying bones, condemned to sink into darkness and solitude for all eternity.

If so, she could not do anything about it. She should be punished cruelly. She was already grateful that her body was not being torn apart by five carts as her karma.

In the dark silence, she felt lonely again.

Loneliness… accompanied her for eighteen years.

Father Emperor spawned nine princes and twelve princesses. Among the princes, the most favored were the Crown Prince, Fifth Prince and Ninth Prince. Among the princesses, Princess Lan Huang, who was born by the Empress, stood out. The sisters were all named after colors, but the second character in Lan Huang’s name meant “imperial”. It was evident that her imperial parents doted on her.

[T/N] 1. Lan Dan: lan(斓) means gorgeous and vivid, dan(丹) means red/cinnabar; 2. Lan Huang: Yellow has long been considered the most precious color of jade in China due to its rarity and its imperial implication; ‘yellow’ in Chinese (黄/huang) is a homophone for ‘imperial/royal’ (凰/huang)

Lan Huang was also very worthy of this noble character. She was born as a brilliant and proud phoenix. She was beautiful, smart and talented… Lan Dan really couldn’t think of anything that Lan Huang couldn’t do, nor anything she did poorly. It was as if the Heaven bestowed her all the cleverness and beauty in this world. To be compared to someone like Lan Huang and found lacking was not a cause for jealousy, but rather a feeling of admiration and respect.

Lan Dan thought that she should have been used to being lonely and neglected, but when she had the opportunity to break free from those feelings, the passion and enthusiasm she tasted was beyond her imagination.

To her, Young Master Shentu’s admiration was like a meteor piercing blindly through the dark night sky, sweeping away eighteen years of pent-up bitterness and hardship. She was overjoyed and frightened at the same time.

Her desire to reciprocate Shentu Cheng’s feelings was so strong that she was prepared to endanger everything and value him above her Father Emperor.

In the deepest part of her heart, she also craved to be pampered from head to foot like Lan Huang. If Father Emperor couldn’t grant this wish, maybe Shentu Cheng could?

It turned out to be an impossibility.

Because she was too ordinary, too boring.

She foolishly dreamed a grandiose fantasy, and now she could only atone for her sins by being buried underground forever, unable to even cry out in protest or pain. It was what she deserved.

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