Fuzhu’s Ballad Chapter 55

Chapter 55 Autumn Night Festival

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The autumn wind at the mountaintop was already quite cold. Lan Dan’s hair was blown into a mess, with a few strands falling in front of her eyes. She was too lazy to brush them away.

The sky was clear and the clouds were sparse. Looking down from the mountain cliff, not only could one clearly see Tongye, but even the distant Jixian was visible. It had been two months since Tongye had been restored under Su Yi Ming’s leadership. Many refugees had returned from Jixian and were working hard to rebuild their homes. Lan Dan liked watching them, as well as the pedestrians on the road between Tongye and Jixian, still carried hope in their hearts despite having experienced the horrors of war.

Her gaze looked beyond Tongye, beyond Jixian…towards the direction of the capital. Su Yi Ming always told her about the situation in the capital city in a timely manner. Shentu Rui had smoothly ascended to the throne and firmly grasped control of the court. After years of hard work, everything had fallen into place, and he had simply stepped forward in the open. The edict of amnesty had been issued a few days ago and reached Tongye and Jixian. Lan Dan was moved to tears as she watched the grateful prisoners bowing towards the capital, feeling proud and truly happy for Shentu Rui. He had finally achieved his goals and done such a great job. Although she couldn’t be with him to experience all of this, as long as the people of the world appreciated and loved him, she would be satisfied…

She knew that he had posthumously honored the Empress Dowager and elevated Lan Cheng to the title of Grand Princess of Dingguo. She knew that his reign title was Zheng Xu, and this year marked the first year of his reign. She knew everything about him, and when she looked out towards his direction from the high cliff, she felt as if he wasn’t far away. She could see him, resplendent and dignified, seated on the dragon throne, wearing the auspicious robe adorned with eighteen Eastern pearls. Or perhaps he was standing on a high corner tower of the palace, also gazing towards her direction.

She had thought of going back to the capital, but Su Yi Ming said that it wasn’t a good idea and that it would only put her in an awkward position.

She knew that Su Yi Ming was right, and it all came back to that question: Who was she? She had no reason to enter the palace or stay by his side. If he didn’t want her there, she wouldn’t even have the chance to see him. If he really had forgotten about her… she would never see him again in her lifetime.

No one mentioned anything about his harem, not even Su Yi Ming, who had not received any news. Perhaps he knew but chose not to tell her.

Lan Dan adjusted the basket on her back and prepared to descend the mountain. Today’s harvest was particularly abundant. These herbs could be dried and boiled into medicine for three days… For the past two months, she had been coming to collect the herbs that Ge Chun had taught her to recognize every day, drying them, and saving them for the future. She wanted to give them to Shentu Rui to drink and completely heal his wounds, leaving no old afflictions. She hoped that their relationship would also slowly… slowly… get better and recover as it used to be.

She was familiar with the path down the mountain and her steps were steady and light. She wanted to hurry back to catch the best noon sun and dry the herbs for later use. When she reached the foot of the mountain, she saw Su Yi Ming. It was already autumn, but he was still wearing a thin summer shirt, looking young and arrogant. When he saw her, he asked why she didn’t bring the guard assigned to her. Although Beimo had retreated, there were still many refugees around, and it was too dangerous for a girl to go up the mountain alone.

Lan Dan smiled and did not answer. She liked being alone, enjoying the quiet view from the cliff, and with someone by her side, it felt like he was disturbing her time alone with Shentu Rui.

Su Yi Ming looked at her full basket. The straps were deeply pressed into her shoulders due to the weight. He frowned, then deliberately smiled foolishly, not allowing her to dodge, and took off the basket to carry it for her.

“Are you coming tonight?” he asked randomly, walking beside her.

Lan Dan was puzzled and gave him a stare, he still loved to tease her like that!

“Today is the hundredth day since the Empress Dowager passed away. According to the customs of Beimo, a memorial ceremony will be held tonight. People will sing prayers and long songs, and light wishing lanterns. If they have daughters, the daughters will wear mourning clothes and keep watch all night to complete all the funeral rites,” said Su Yi Ming, with a hint of sadness.

Lan Dan nodded heavily, “I am willing to keep watch all night for the Empress Dowager.” The Empress Dowager had no daughter, and she sincerely wanted to do her part.

“Hmm, good.” Su Yi Ming smiled lightly, he knew she would say that. “I had a set of mourning clothes made for Lan Cheng, but they left in a hurry and didn’t have time to finish them. The clothes may be a little big for you to wear, but they will be sent to you later. Tonight, the ceremony will be held in the Heroes Hall behind the General’s mansion.”

The Heroes Hall was built to commemorate the soldiers who died defending the border, modeled after the Guardian Heroes Hall in the capital, built on a thirty-six-step bluestone platform.

Su Yi Ming personally lit the plain lights around the high platform, and the priests specially invited from Beimo were ready. Every now and then, they lightly struck the soul-cleansing drum and shook the blessing bell. Su Yi Ming lit the lights and solemnly knelt on the black velvet carpet laid outside the hall. In the silent night, the bell and drum sounds were distant and mysterious, and people seemed to be able to communicate with the souls of the dead and offer their final blessings. 

Amidst the sound of tambourines, Lan Dan slowly walked up to the high platform. The night wind blew her dark hair and rang the silver bells on her skirt. The black mourning dress was embroidered with plain silver patterns, dignified and solemn, setting off her beautiful face like a blooming flower. She walked step by step, like an otherworldly goddess who presided over death, sacred and strange. Su Yi Ming looked at her in a daze, fascinated.

Lan Dan walked over and knelt beside him, looking curiously at the Beimo priests. Their attire was very strange, more like some kind of sorcerer. “Do you think… Shentu Rui and Lan Cheng will also hold a memorial service for the Empress Dowager in the capital?”

Su Yi Ming did not answer.

Lan Dan gave him a puzzled look, and Su Yi Ming came back to his senses. Feeling a little embarrassed, he scratched his nose. “They might, but they probably won’t follow the customs of Beimo. They will definitely keep vigil.”

Lan Dan listened, nodded slightly, and stared at the North Star in the sky for a while. The autumn night sky was extremely clear and distant, with sparkling stars. Even though they were separated by thousands of mountains and rivers, Shentu Rui must be seeing the same sky as her, right? Would he know that she was thinking of him under the same starry sky?

“What are you thinking about?” Su Yi Ming asked her with a smile.

“So many stars, which one is the Empress Dowager’s and which one is Khan Sa Ju’s? I wonder if they have reunited in the sky,” Lan Dan said with a bitter smile. “Do you know about the Empress Dowager and Khan Sa Ju?”

Su Yi Ming also looked up at the sky with her. “I know a little bit… When Khan Sa Ju raided the capital, he took the Empress Dowager with him. Shentu Rong Qing chased after Khan Sa Ju in order to get credit, and although Khan Sa Ju and the Empress Dowager fled together, the pursuers were hot on their heels. To help Khan Sa Ju escape, the Empress Dowager  jumped off the horse to reduce the weight. It was said that she fell into the hands of Shentu Rong Qing. At that moment, Khan Sa Ju held her hand tightly, but with the pursuers closing in, the Empress Dowager drew a dagger and threatened to cut off her hand. This forced Khan Sa Ju to let go and flee. She was truly a heroine.” Su Yi Ming sighed.

Lan Dan remembered the scar on the Empress Dowager’s finger… so that was how it happened. The Empress Dowager loved someone so much that she was willing to chop off her own hand to let him escape safely. For more than ten years, the Empress Dowager had been suffering for the sake of protecting her son.

“Actually…” Su Yi Ming paused hesitantly. “I don’t know if I should tell you this, but Khan Sa Ju’s true love was not the Empress Dowager.”

Lan Dan was startled and looked at him in amazement.

“The Empress Dowager knew this in her heart, which was why she can treat the Great Khan like this. It is truly moving. They say that love is selfish, but it may not always be the case.”

Lan Dan nodded. As she grew up and matured, she encountered and experienced many things, and she was no longer sure what love really was. Sometimes she even felt that love was something that one cannot seek but must encounter by luck. Only lucky people could have it, and one’s efforts did not necessarily lead to success. For example, Lan Huang could not be said to have pure love, but she did everything she could for love, yet still got nothing in the end.

“Who is the person that the Khan truly likes? Do you know this person?” Lan Dan couldn’t help but ask.

Su Yi Ming sighed and lamented, “Yes, I know. When it comes to someone like the Great Khan, he would need to have both looks and heroism. By the way, ‘Sa Ju’ means ‘bright pearl’ in the dialect of Beimo. Beimo’s Bright Pearl, and yet he had loved and lost his whole life. When it comes to arranging marriages, the heavens are truly unreasonable.”

Lan Dan nodded, agreeing to Su Yi Ming’s comment.

“You wouldn’t have guessed it, would you?” Su Yi Ming teased again. “The woman that the Khan truly loved was Brother Rui’s mother.”

She really didn’t expect that! Was it really possible? If Consort Xi, Shentu Rui’s biological mother, was the one that the Khan truly loved, how could he have chosen to send them, mother and son, to be hostages in a hostile country?

“This leads us to another story,” Su Yi Ming sighed. It was really a suitable night to talk about past events. “Yinghe Zan helped Brother Rui and his mother to plan for many years, and he also supported Brother Rui’s rise to power in Beimo’s court. Do you know that?” 

Lan Dan nodded. She had heard the Empress Dowager mention this name.

“Beimo is divided into various tribal groups, with significant power held by tribal leaders. As the heir chosen by the tribal chief, Yinghe Zan was the heir of the Yinghe tribe, which was well-known on the grasslands for its abundance of handsome men and beautiful women. Even the Empress Dowager and Khan Sa Ju’s mother were from the Yinghe tribe, and it is said that even the mother of Shentu Cheng was also from this tribe. When Khan Sa Ju accompanied his mother back to the tribe to visit relatives, he fell in love at first sight with a beautiful girl. He begged his mother to ask the tribal chief for her hand in marriage. The beautiful girl had already fallen in love with Yinghe Zan, but Khan Sa Ju’s interference put the tribal chief in a difficult position, and he agreed to the marriage proposal without much thought. The subsequent events are unclear, but it is generally believed that although the girl was married to Khan Saju, she was not emotionally committed to the relationship. Khan Sa Ju became resentful due to his unrequited love and eventually selected her and their son to be sent as hostages.”

Hate grew from love… Lan Dan silently savored this phrase. She seemed to understand the Great Khan’s mood at the time. The deeper the love, the deeper the hate that transformed from it. He punished Consort Xi, but in fact he was punishing himself. He passed away from a serious illness within a year, and the torment in his heart could be imagined. She finally realized that even though the love of the Empress Dowager was great and selfless, how could she sacrifice so much for another woman loved by the man she loved and her son? Originally… the man they both deeply loved was not the same person.

“They say there are many heartless people in this world.” Lan Dan’s eyes were unfocused. “But there are also many people who are in love.” She hoped that Shentu Rui would be like the noble Yinghe Zan who had suffered for his beloved, and not like his father, the Great Khan, who was known as the bright pearl of the desert, but whose love was too resolute and hurtful.

The priests suddenly lined up neatly, men and women each took up their instruments, and the sound of drums and bells immediately became rhythmic and solemn.

“It’s about to start.” Su Yi Ming straightened his back and knelt down properly. Lan Dan also followed his example and straightened her expression.

The sound of hoofbeats was drowned out by the sound of the bells and drums, and Lan Dan stood up straight, stumbling towards the steps.

It was him! She knew it!

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1 thought on “Fuzhu’s Ballad Chapter 55”

  1. Thanks for the chapter :3
    For some reason I’m glad that Lan Dan is not living in melancholy for being left behind or being resentful, she still has hopes for Shentu Rui and is happy for him. If this was any other novel, I would probably be saying the opposite, like why is she still hoping there’s a chance. Hopefully her actions are known 😭


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