Fuzhu’s Ballad Chapter 59

Chapter 59 Jealousy is a poison

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When autumn arrived, the army for the northern expedition finally assembled and set out under the leadership of General Su Ying Wei, marching all the way to their destination.

The southern crops ripened before those of other regions, and it was a year of good harvest. As a result, the provisions of the northern expeditionary force were extremely abundant, and their morale was incredibly high. This army consisted of elite soldiers and strong generals who had been meticulously prepared by Da Min’s Emperor Ding for many years. They were well-trained, with powerful bows and strong horses, and their strength had not diminished during the transition of power. They had a ten percent chance of victory in their attack on Beimo.

However, Beimo fell into a deeper predicament during this time. Xiao Bing Wen, the Fifth Prince of the previous dynasty, died during the night attack in Tongye, and the army that lent him support returned with no name, stationed within the national border for several days. They couldn’t attack, and it was also difficult to retreat, causing Beimo to fall into an embarrassing situation. All ethnic groups in Beimo were already extremely dissatisfied with the Empress Dowager’s control of the court for many years, especially after the Emperor came of age and got married, but the Empress Dowager still showed no intention of returning power to him. Xiao Bing Wen’s attempt to restore the dynasty by borrowing troops became an opportunity for the various ethnic groups to overthrow the Empress Dowager. Under the covert leadership of Yinghe Zan, a group of minor figures in the court first advocated for the deployment of troops, and the leaders of various ethnic groups tacitly agreed. Hence, the Empress Dowager was forced to lend troops. Later, the army returned in disgrace, and the various ethnic groups jointly launched an attack, accusing the Empress Dowager of incompetence.

The two sides were wrestling with each other when the horn of the northern expedition came from Da Yan. The Empress Dowager was caught in a pincer attack, with no way out. The Beimo court was secretly boiling with unrest, but was actually powerless to resist this attack which was already mismatched in strength.

Shentu Rui stood on the city wall, proudly watching as his huge army rolled towards Tongye like a monster crawling on the ground. However, Lan Dan, who was next to him, was full of sorrow. Shentu Rui guessed correctly that Lan Cheng had disregarded his repeated warnings and had already arrived at Tongye before the army.

Not all sisters-in-law in the world were difficult to deal with, but those like Lan Cheng were the most difficult to deal with in the world! Her current identity was extremely noble, the Grand Princess of Dingguo, and in the absence of the Empress Dowager or the Empress in the harem, she was basically the first in command. Lan Dan had already felt that her mannerisms were becoming more and more like Lan Huang’s in the past, but when they met again this time, she had become even more brazen and arrogant than Lan Huang was back then.

This crusade against Beimo could be considered a major event since the founding of Da Yan. Xia Xin, who had been promoted to a third-rank female official, also followed Lan Cheng to join the expedition. This Beimo girl who had followed Shentu Rui through thick and thin no longer had to be cautious and careful about everything. She became lively and cheerful, getting along with everyone especially with Lan Dan. Lan Dan also learned a lot from her, such as how Lan Cheng looked more and more like Consort Xi, so Shentu Rui was indulgent towards her without a choice. Although there were many things that he could not stand, he could not bear to say a harsh word. In the past, he had been avoiding misunderstandings with Lan Cheng and had been worried that she would be wholeheartedly married to him. Now that their identities were clear, Shentu Rui could be considered obedient to Lan Cheng in every way.

Lan Dan couldn’t figure out how she offended the Grand Princess. She was always being targeted and treated harshly, even though they were still biological sisters. It seemed like Grand Princess was more cruel to her than to her enemies. Because of Shentu Rui’s doting on his sister, Lan Dan felt that he wouldn’t support her if they were to argue. So she decided to take matters into her own hands and leave.

Worried, Sun Shi Xiang went up the city wall, obviously to report to Shentu Rui, but he looked at Lan Dan and smiled strangely, “The Grand Princess is coming here, and said that she wants to watch the army enter the city with you.”

Lan Dan was holding onto Shentu Rui’s hand. Upon hearing this, she snorted and walked down the city wall in a huff.

“What are you doing?” Shentu Rui was both angry and amused. He called out to her, “Are you still worried that Lan Cheng will eat you?”

Without turning her head, Lan Dan said sullenly, “I’m not worried. She just might eat me and not even spit out the bone fragments!” As she spoke, she stomped down the city wall.

Sun Shi Xiang hesitated for a moment, but said honestly, “Your Majesty, the Grand Princess is specifically bullying Miss Fu Zhu. Aren’t you going to do something about it?”

Shentu Rui sighed, “After this battle, I’ll marry off Lan Cheng. How much longer can she stay by my side? Let Danyang avoid her and just bear with it.”

Sun Shi Xiang nodded.

Lan Dan pouted, feeling frustrated and afraid to run into Lan Cheng. She had no choice but to sneakily stick to the wall and walk in the opposite direction. She was so gloomy that she walked for a while and found herself at the West Gate. The gate was wide open, but there were not many people around. The people in the city had all flocked to the South Gate to watch the army enter the city. Lan Dan strolled by the edge of the moat, kicking stones into the moat.

In the distance, the sound of horses galloping could be heard. Su Yi Ming ran back to the city with a cloud of dust and his men. When he saw her, Su Yi Ming was surprised and asked while pulling the reins, “What are you doing here? Isn’t my Father leading the army into the city? Everyone went to the city wall to watch the excitement, didn’t they?”

Lan Dan became even more angry. She glared at him, and said irritably, “There’s no place for me!”

Su Yi Ming belatedly realized what had happened and jumped off his horse. “Lan Cheng bullied you again.”

Lan Dan was both angry and resentful towards him. Did he have to say it? She kicked a stone into the river. “Since that time… when Shentu Rui was injured and she asked me rudely at the door, ‘Who are you?’, I’ve been afraid and annoyed whenever I see her.” During this time, she was so used to confiding in Su Yi Ming, and her words came out easily. But then she felt that it was inappropriate to expect him to speak up for justice as he was Lan Cheng’s fiance.

Standing beside her, Su Yi Ming also kicked stones into the river. He chuckled a few times and said, “Don’t take it to heart. She was in a bad mood that day.”

Lan Dan curled her lips. See, see, he was taking her side, right? How could the Grand Princess ever be in a good mood? She had never seen her in a good mood!

“That day…I told her,” Su Yi Ming scratched his nose, “we are both still young, and I have not yet achieved anything. I am still just a ‘Young’ General Su. I hope we can temporarily set aside the marriage issue and ask her to talk to the Emperor.”

Lan Dan was stunned. So that was the case! No wonder he came specifically to distract her and let Lan Cheng and Shentu Rui talk alone. But their problems couldn’t always be taken out on her, right? Who did she offend?

The silence was very awkward, and Lan Dan didn’t want to continue talking about Lan Cheng with him. Seeing him covered in wind and frost, she asked him, “Where have you been?”

“Ge Chun also came with the army this time. He wrote a letter instructing me to go to the mountain to collect snow ginseng, saying that it’s just the beginning of autumn, and the tender ginseng on the peak is the most suitable for the Emperor’s medicine.” Su Yi Ming answered casually, also willing to change the topic.

“There’s snow ginseng already?” Lan Dan was surprised. “Is there also snow lotus? Do you have a few to pick and give to Lan Cheng?” Actually, she was very hopeful that Su Yi Ming would marry Lan Cheng quickly, so this kind of words just blurted out randomly.

Su Yi Ming glanced at her and said calmly, “The thought of giving snow lotus… is not something everyone has.”

After speaking, he was also surprised, and then became embarrassed. He turned his head and rode his horse away, without even saying a polite goodbye.

Lan Dan stood foolishly by the river, her heart in a mess. She really wanted to slap herself in the face for bringing up snow lotus for no reason! Fortunately, Lan Cheng wasn’t around to hear him, and she didn’t know the reason behind it. Otherwise, she would have had an even worse time! After a while, she sighed deeply, feeling like she was about to lose a friend. Perhaps she had been too careless in the past, treating Su Yi Ming as someone she could confide in.

Time flew by quickly in the midst of the battles, and before she knew it, a month had passed.

Da Yan’s iron cavalry was in full swing. If it weren’t for Shentu Rui intentionally slowing down their pace, they would have already taken over Beimo’s capital city of Taixing.

In the late autumn of Beimo, the snow had started to fall. The layers of camps surrounding Taixing were even more intimidating against the backdrop of the dark clouds and light snow.

The soldiers of Beimo defending the city had been looking at the enemy’s tents that seemed to stretch to the horizon every day, and their morale had long been in shambles. The voices of the court urging the Empress Dowager and the Emperor to surrender the city were growing louder and louder, and every tribe was feeling sorry for themselves and their lack of reinforcements.

Shentu Rui received a secret report from Yinghe Zan that Empress Dowager Jiao Rong could no longer hold out and was planning to break out of the city and fight to the death, seeking refuge with her maternal tribe to the north. The moment of the final battle… had finally arrived.

Lan Dan was sewing the ties on Shentu Rui’s cloak under the lamp. Several fire braziers were lit in the imperial tent, providing exceptional warmth. She knew that Shentu Rui was afraid that she would be cold, so he was only wearing a single shirt inside the tent. Lan Dan glanced at him, who was lost in thought behind the writing desk. She put down her needle and thread. She went over to pour him a cup of tea and helped him take the pen that he had been twirling absentmindedly off his fingers and put it away. “You should go to bed early. Isn’t the battle just in the next couple of days? You need to conserve your energy.” 

Shentu Rui lazily hummed, resting his chin against one hand while the other hand fidgeted on the table. “Can’t sleep.”

His mood had been good lately, and he had put on some weight, making him look even more beautiful and a few years younger. At this moment, he looked a bit childish. Lan Dan smiled at him, took his hand, pulled him up and admonished him, “If you can’t sleep, just lie down! But you’re not allowed to read documents and reports anymore.”

Shentu Rui chuckled twice, “As soon as I lie down…I start thinking about other things…”

Lan Dan slammed her hand and categorically refused, “No! How come you’re getting more and more…” It seemed that taking too much tonic was not a good thing!

The announcement outside sounded a bit urgent, “The Eldest Princess is here.” Before the words were finished, the person had already come in.

Shentu Rui and Lan Dan hurriedly straightened their faces. Shentu Rui backed up and walked seriously back behind the desk, while Lan Dan lowered her head and walked past her, continuing to sew the ribbon under the lamp. They were used to Lan Cheng barging in like this. Lan Dan maliciously speculated that Lan Cheng always charged in like this, as if she was trying to catch something embarrassing and make her feel awkward.

“What’s the matter?” Shentu Rui frowned. He had wanted to scold her, but seeing her beautiful face that looked so much like their mother, he couldn’t say anything. She had just barged in so recklessly at this late hour.

“On the day of the battle, I want to go to Beiji Mountain to watch. Brother, can I go?” Lan Cheng’s face was full of pleading, and at this time she didn’t seem spoiled, but rather like a charming little girl.

“Beiji Mountain?” Shentu Rui pondered for a moment and did not completely agree. “It’s quite far away, and the terrain is too dangerous.” He had been there before and knew that because of its steepness, it was a good place to observe the battle.

“But you can clearly see everything from there! After all, this should be the last big battle, and it’s rare in a lifetime.” Lan Cheng pleaded softly, then turned to look at Lan Dan and asked with a smile, “Will you go?”

Lan Dan was a little tempted. Although Lan Cheng had still been domineering during this period, she had not targeted her as much. It wouldn’t be too hard to go with Lan Cheng to see Shentu Rui’s victory in the battle of Taixing.

Before Lan Dan could speak, Shentu Rui spoke first, “I’ll think about it, you can go back first.”

Lan Cheng didn’t argue anymore, just smiled slightly and turned to leave.

“Do you want to go?” Shentu Rui frowned and asked Lan Dan, looking a little hesitant.

“Hmm.” Lan Dan nodded eagerly, looking forward to it.

“But I don’t want you to see…” He had always insisted on this point. During this time, as long as there was a battle, he’d tell her to stay in the tent to avoid the bloody and brutal scenes.

Lan Dan knew what he was going to say. Without waiting for him to finish, she looked deeply into his eyes and said softly, “But… I should accept and love you no matter what kind of person you are.”

Shentu Rui was stunned by her gaze, feeling both warm and guilty, and almost teared up.

He stood up, walked a few steps to her and hugged her, lightly bumped his forehead against hers and said, “Who did you learn this sweet talk from?”

Lan Dan chuckled, “I learned from you.” 

He walked towards the bed and she had a bad feeling about it. She protested, “No, no!”

Shentu Rui glared at her and asked, “Why not? What were you thinking when you were feeding me medicine bowl by bowl? And now it’s not alright? No way!” He pushed her onto the bed and lay on top of her.

Lan Dan started hitting and kicking him, shouting, “No, no, no!”

Shentu Rui was flustered and angry, and retorted, “No? Then don’t go to Beiji Mountain!”

Lan Dan pouted her lips, but wrapped her legs around his waist obediently.

He smirked and asked her playfully, “Is it alright now?”

Lan Dan hit his back hard and said, “Alright! Are you happy now?”

Shentu Rui laughed and just made a few moves when she suddenly stiffened, her expression seeming to be on the verge of tears. He frowned and asked, “What’s wrong? Is it over so soon today?”

Lan Dan really wanted to cry. She panted, “Lan Cheng… really left?” If she burst in at this time, she wouldn’t want to live anymore!

Shentu Rui also looked deflated. “What kind of days are we living in? Let her marry Su Yi Ming on the spot when we enter Taixing!”

Lan Dan hugged his neck, her eyes full of hope and pleading. “Promise me—”

Seeing her like this, he chuckled and joked, “I never thought your archenemy would be Lan Cheng.”

Lan Dan’s face hardened, but her body moved a few times, making Shentu Rui groan. She took the opportunity to reprimand him, “Don’t mention her now!”

Shentu Rui was breathing heavily, complaining, “Why are you so unreasonable? You were the one who mentioned her first!”

The night wind blew over the tent, making a low whistling sound. The dark sky was starless and moonless, exceptionally dark. However, their night was bright and warm, and when they smiled at each other, they could see the moon and stars in each other’s eyes.

As soon as Beimo’s Empress Dowager and Emperor’s breakout began, Lan Dan followed Lan Cheng on a light ride. They galloped all the way to Beiji Mountain, and by the time they climbed to the top of the mountain, the extermination battle outside the city was nearing its end. Da Yan’s army first pierced into the city like arrows through the gate, then all four gates were opened, and the Beimo defenders were defeated. Da Yan’s army surged in from all the city gates like a tide, overwhelming everything in their path. 

The outcome was decided, and the loud battle cry of the Da Yan army echoed throughout Beiji Mountain. The flags belonging to Shentu Rui surged towards Beimo’s imperial city from all directions, covering the walls, main hall, and corner towers. Lan Dan’s heart was filled with excitement as she wanted to shout and cheer to proclaim her pride. What a great achievement! A six or seven-year-old child following his mother had to leave this magnificent city, perhaps longing for his hometown and father, but his hometown and father did not miss him.

From then on, he began a life of bleak suffering. In a foreign capital city, his mother was abducted into the enemy’s imperial city, and he changed his name and lived every day on the edge of the enemy’s sword. Behind layers of high walls was where his mother was, but he could not see her. However, he did not give up. Even with the smallest hope, he persevered. Lan Dan sighed with emotion. Shentu Rui was truly a chosen one by heaven. He had done what was impossible to achieve!

As a princess of the former dynasty, she couldn’t help but feel melancholic. The Xiao family had been abandoned by the heaven… What would the present situation of the Xiao family be like without an incompetent Crown Prince, a talented but lackluster Fifth Prince, and an overambitious Lan Huang? This majestic iron cavalry that swept away everything was the painstaking work of her Father Emperor for many years, but he was not protected by this army, nor was his dynasty. Fate, she had no concept of this word when she was estranged from the imperial power, but now, she deeply understood it. The fate of the Xiao family had already been exhausted at her father’s generation, otherwise, those who overthrew the dynasty would not gather like streams converging into the sea, appearing in the imperial city. What they experienced would not be like igniting a fuse for every event, each and every one leading to the ultimate explosion that destroyed everything.

Lan Cheng also cried. She wiped her face with her sleeve and looked at Lan Dan. “You must be happy, aren’t you?”

Lan Dan nodded, but before she could say anything, Lan Cheng continued, her tone much colder than the wind on the mountaintop, “From now on, you are the mistress of this land and…” she gestured towards the distant territory belonging to Da Yan, “the whole world.”

It was not Lan Dan’s imagination. When Lan Cheng said these words, her expression and tone were very similar to Lan Huang’s. She even felt that it was Lan Huang who was standing here, saying these words with resentment.

“This is not what I want.” Lan Dan smiled faintly. She had never wanted the world. The only ambition she ever had was probably to overthrow Father Emperor’s will and become Shentu Cheng’s wife.

“But this is what I want,” Lan Cheng said coldly and resentfully. She was still so young, and even the innocence of a girl had not faded. When she spoke like this, she was even more chilling than Lan Huang. She looked into the distance and laughed softly. “I have always envied Sister Lan Huang and her confidence. Father Emperor loved me so much. When Lan Huang gets married and leaves, the person who can enjoy such an honor will naturally be me.” Her tone turned self-mocking. “But Father Emperor died, and even Da Min is gone. I want to marry Shentu Rui because he is the only man in the Da Yan royal family who, apart from the Emperor, will become a Prince under one person.”

Lan Dan was secretly relieved to hear this. It turned out that Lan Cheng didn’t really like Shentu Rui, but was attracted to his position. Fortunately.

“But… I really like him,” Lan Cheng said regretfully, with a little bit of the coquettishness that only a girl could have in her words. Lan Dan’s heart tightened, and her mood quickly plummeted. “He has become my brother.” Lan Cheng shook her head in annoyance, seeming to compromise. “Fine, fine, if Shentu Rui is not possible, then let it be Su Yi Ming!” Her eyes turned sharp and stared straight at Lan Dan’s face. “But it’s you again, why is it always you?” Lan Cheng couldn’t stand it anymore but was also very helpless. “Shentu Rui rejected me because of you, and Su Yi Ming rejected me because of you.” She looked up at the sky. “I really want to know why!”

Lan Dan was uneasy. How did Lan Cheng know? Was it the naive Su Yi Ming who told her?

“I heard that when Lan Huang died, she asked why it was you. I also want to know.” Lan Cheng raised her head, closed her eyes slowly and sighed, “I have walked such a difficult road, just to get Shentu Rui. I have really lost face, I lost to you inexplicably. And Su Yi Ming, I tried to show my respect to him, he still refused me with his official tone. I don’t believe what he said, I know he has someone else in his heart, but I didn’t expect it was you again!” Her voice became sharper. “On the day the army entered the city, I heard he went back to the city so I went to meet him hoping he would be touched and know how good I am to him. But I didn’t expect to hear him talking to you, the look in his eyes, the tone of his voice…” She became angry and didn’t want to think about it anymore, then her eyes narrowed like countless daggers, piercing Lan Dan, “The thing that we worked so hard to get, you just stood there with your mouth wide open and someone fed it to you! Not just handed it to you, but fed it to you with all their heart and soul! What did you do to deserve it? What did I do to deserve this?!”

Lan Dan was terrified by her gaze. How could this be the eyes of a sixteen-year-old girl?

“Do you know? The day Su Yi Ming rejected me, I was jealous of you for getting something without any effort. Because I said a few words to you, Shentu Rui got angry with me! Even though he accommodated me in every way, I know, as long as you’re there, he will never truly stand by my side!” She laughed in anger, “Why do the people I like have to defend you? Why do you always have to stand in my way? The Grand Princess was insignificant in front of the Empress, right?” Her laughter became sinister. “I don’t accept it.

Lan Dan had nothing to say and could only frown at her.

Lan Cheng flung her cloak. “I’m going back. I don’t want to go with you! You can leave later!” She glanced at Lan Dan with the corner of her eye. “I never want to see you again.”

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