This chapter has been brought to you by me, vivie, and leecherleechleech.
This is technically the last chapter, but there are three epilogues so there is more to read.
Feng and huang are the male and female mytical birds that make up fenghuang so feng seeking huang is actually a man pursuing a woman.
Chapter One Hundred and Twenty Feng Seeks Huang
When the plum blossoms of Da Long were just blooming, snow the size of goose feathers began to land in the city of Jing. The entire Jing city was enveloped in a layer of silver silk. Qu Qing Ju, dressed in a fox skin coat, stood under the leaves and reached out to hold the icy snowflakes.
Watching the snow fall, she didn’t seem to be as excited as she once had been. It was like anything else beautiful. No matter how beautiful, it was just like normal once one got used to it. She took her hand back and focused on the snowflake on her hand. It did seem to have six petals and was extremely beautiful upon inspection.
She used a handkerchief to wipe away the snowflake on her hands and grasped a hand pot, “It’s Rui Wang’s wedding tomorrow. Nothing can go wrong with what is to be bestowed tomorrow.”
“Niangniang don’t worry, nubi has already closely inspected them,” Mu Jing saw the Empress wasn’t trying to catch snowflakes anymore and put up an umbrella to block the flying snowflake for her. In a small voice, she suggested: “Niangniang, the wind is heavy here, let’s go back.”
Qu Qing Ju nodded. She pulled on the red fox skin cape on her body and slowly walked into the vermillion corridors. The palace boots made muffled sounds as they stepped on the stone slabs. She expressionlessly travelled through the long corridors, past a moon door, saw the taijian that was sweeping the snow, and having finally learned to disregard their distorted backs, and sat down on the comfortable and grand phoenix carriage.
The phoenix carriage swayed slightly and then started to slowly move. As they travelled through a patch of plum trees, she pushed aside the silk curtain and saw the a branch of red plum blossoms peeking out from the walls. She could barely detect the faint scent of the plum flowers. The phoenix carriage slowly proceeded. In her vision, that blooming red plum flower gradually distanced itself and then it couldn’t be seen.
She suddenly felt depressed, and put down the curtain. For some reason, she suddenly remembered the instant when she first opened her eyes in this world. A painting of red plum blossoms had been hanging on the wall. The writing of the woman at the corner of the art had been graceful and refined, just like the plum flowers in that yard. Not as grand as other flowers, but there was a delicate fragrance.
“Greetings to the Empress,” The speed of the phoenix carriage slowed. Qu Qing Ju heard a somewhat familiar voice. When she lifted the curtain, she saw a woman bent beside the phoenix carriage. After a second, she finally responded, giving a faint smile and acknowledging: “Luo guipin, please rise.”
“Many thanks to Empress,” Luo Yin Xiu straightened her body. She didn’t stare at Qu Qing Ju’s face, only submissively looking at the ground.
“It’s so cold out, why isn’t guipin travelling on a step-carriage?” Qu Qing Ju looked at the worn fur cape on her body. Her brow furrowed and then she ordered, “Huang Yang, go take a look in the Department of Household Affairs and see if they slighted guipin. If someone was reckless enough to shortchange their superiors, then it’s thirty blows.”
Luo Yin Xiu bowed again: “Thanks for Empress’ concern. Pinqie is fine.”
Qu Qing Ju understood the rules of the palace very well. Gaze at the higher ups and step on the low ones. Flattering those who were favored. In the time of xiandi, they even dared to short-change the Empress, more less Luo Yin Xiu who had no favor or power. Thinking about it, she said in a slightly heavy voice: “The carriage, furnishings and food that a third-rank guipin should have, ben gong believes the people of the Department of Household Affairs should understand. Huang Yang, go tell them. If they can’t figure out those things, they don’t need to stay in their duties.”
“Yes,” Huang Yang performed a bow and then another to Luo Yin Xiu before leaving.
“It’s late, I should return to the palace, guipin should return too,” Qu Qing Ju gazed at Luo Yin Xiu’s docile manner and put down the curtain, blocking off the gaze Lui Yin Xiu raised.
The phoenix carriage travelled away. The yahuan beside Luo Yin Xiu, Shu Wen, watched as the carriage became fuzzy in the snow and moved the umbrella over Luo Yin Xiu’s head, commenting in a small voice: “Zhuzi, Empress is still this warm to others.”
Luo Yin Xiu turned her head to look in the direction the phoenix carriage was travelling. Over there was the Tian Qi Palace of the Emperor and Empress. She gave a slightly indifferent smile and sighed, remarking: “If I want to easily live out the rest of my life, the only one I can rely on is the Empress.” So, she would deliberately wear old clothing to encounter the Empress at this place so the Empress could understand her circumstances.
The days of the hougong were difficult. It was lucky that she encountered an Empress that was relatively kind. If it was anyone even a bit more callous, she didn’t know what her days would be like.
The character for “happiness” was pasted all over Rui Jun Wang Fu. The guest streamed in. Even those Rui Jun Wang had fallen in power, but this marriage had been decreed by the Emperor. If they didn’t come to congratulate, wouldn’t it become embarrassing the Emperor?
But what they found unexpected was that Rui Jun Wang didn’t refuse any of the toast. After the wedding banquet, he was almost completely drunk. Thankfully, the guests remembered that Rui Jun Wang was the groom. Along with Cheng Wang’s protection, they didn’t dare to make it too extreme.
He Qi had never been at peace with He Yuan. He watched as He Yuan drank as though it was water, not wine and scoffed. If he didn’t know better, he would have thought his good didi was drinking away his sorrows. He glanced at lao si who was blocking wine for lao san and sighed. Who would have thought that lao si would have become the second proudest person among the four brothers?
Seeing the other people didn’t dare to force it too much, He Qi picked up the wine pot and held a wine cup as he walked in front of He Yuan who had drank enough that his cheeks were red. He asked sarcastically: “San di, we are brothers. Today is your good day. How about us brothers drink a few cups?”
He Yuan carelessly raised his wine cup, smiling and answering: “Da ge’s wine, didi has to drink.” Finishing, he took over the fine wine pot and wine cup. Pouring a full cup and swallowing it all, he swirled the empty cup and recited, “Lan Ling’s wine with tulips, the jade bowl becomes amber. It makes the owner and I drunk, and forget where is home. Today, there is wine and there is drunkenness, didi toasts gege.”
He Qi hadn’t expected that He Yuan was even more blunt than he was. Before he could react, the other had drained another cup. It instantly made him lose interested in forcing him to drink. If the person being force was even happier than the person doing the forcing, where was the meaning?
When others saw the scene, they all assumed that Ning Wang was purposefully forcing Rui Jun Wang. Thinking of the battles between the two brothers over the years, no one was stupid enough to involve themselves and silently drank.
When He Ming saw the scene from the side, for some reason a certain secret rumor came to mind. It said that san ge had some affections for the Empress. Realizing that he was thinking about something he shouldn’t be thinking, He Ming hurriedly shook his head. There hadn’t been any relationship between san ge and huang sao, so san ge wouldn’t have any affections for huang sao. It was just the two had almost been married so other people personally slandered them.
Seeing that san ge was totally drunk, He Ming could only support him back to the houyuan. The bride’s veil hadn’t been taken off, the cups of wine hadn’t been exchanged. If the groom was so drunk that he was unconscious, then it was too unsightly.
He Qi didn’t stop He Ming. In waning interest, he watched as He Ming supported the other away and turned to leave Rui Jun Wang Fu. Looking at the thick layer of snow on the streets outside, he exhaled and said to his attendant behind him: “So uninteresting, let’s return.”
He and lao san had fought for some many years but in the end, the throne hadn’t landed on either of their heads. Thinking about it this way, it was very ironic.
He Yuan supported himself using the door and staggered over to the wedding bed. Looking at the woman with a veil of dragon and phoenix entwined, he took over the stick and took off the veil. His eyes changed and he muttered: “Such beautiful brows.”
That year on the jade steps under the fireworks, that crimson-clad woman had been also so bright, brows like the sun, bright that one couldn’t resist looking just a few more times.
Taking out the wine cups, his drunken eyes were smiling. The arms of the two crossed and his voice was hoarse yet full of satisfied mirth: “Then let us be together for a hundred years and not separate even when our hair turns white.”
Lu Yu Rong looked at the handsome man smiling at her and her heart jumped. Her cheeks became flushed. She took the wine cup the other handed over and as he watched gently, she drained the wine cup.
He Yuan reached to push her into his arms, his smile touched yet tender: “So good, so good.”
Her hand trembled slightly but in the end she slowly embraced this man. The snowy night was long yet short, but for her, it was better than imagined.
The red candles of Rui Jun Wang Fu burned for the entire night, just like it was burning a beautiful dream, beautiful yet illusory.
In Tian Qi Palace, Qu Qing Ju was laying in He Heng’s arms when she suddenly woke up from her dreams. Outside the window, weak light lit up the window silk. Listening to the sound of snow outside, she felt incomparably tranquil, her bed incomparably warm.
“Go to sleep,” The voice of the man beside her was fuzzy as though he hadn’t woken from his dreams. But his arms familiarly pulled her back in, as though he had done it countless times, practiced and matter-of-fact.
Qu Qing Ju smiled, placing her head on the man’s chest and slowly closed her eyes.
The second year of Jia You, the Eldest Imperial Son was named by the Emperor as “Yao”[i]. “Shi Ming – Explaining Heaven”[ii] had “Bright, shining, light illuminating”. The “Shijing – Style of Kuai”[iii] also said “The sunrise is bright.”
Just this name, it was enough to show the expectations of the Emperor to His Highness the Eldest Imperial Son. In this world, was there anything more important than light?
And then the Empress moved out of the rear hall of Tian Qi Palace and moved to Kui Yuan Palace. Some became to speculate, was the Emperor finally going to move his eyes onto the other women in the hougong?
But who knew that the Emperor would eat and sleep in Kui Yuan Palace? No other woman in the hougong was favored. The love between Emperor and Empress became even deeper, almost becoming a legend of Da Long about the love between Emperor and Empress. But right now, the idea wasn’t still there. Who knew just how long this deep love of the Emperor would continue?
Right now, the two Empress Dowagers in the hougong didn’t express an opinion. Certain senior officials wanted to express their opinions but didn’t dare to provoke the Emperor’s anger. So the Emperor only favoring the Empress, no one wanted to say anything. Perhaps the people of the entire world wanted to see how long it would take for this good play of the love between Emperor and Empress to end.
No matter how beautiful a play was, it would always have an ending. They really didn’t believe that there was an Emperor that was faithful to his love in the world. The Emperor and Empress who had a love stronger than gold in the previous dynasty, didn’t their ending turn out terribly?
On the tallest stargazing tower in the palace, Qu Qing Ju looked at the clear blue sky and reached up to block the blinding sunlight. She suddenly asked: “Mu Jin, what do you think that cloud would change into?”
Mu Jin tilted her head up to look at the white cloud. Before she could respond, she saw the Emperor at the bottom stairs below the two. At a glance, she knew he was coming to find the Empress: “Niangniang, the Emperor has come.”
Qu Qing Ju lowered her head. Watching the man that was hurriedly climbing up the stargazing tower, a smile appeared on her face.
Mu Jin looked again at the beautiful pale cloud and thought carelessly, the clouds originally were things that changed constantly. Who knew what it would change into? But that bright sun. It would rise each day, and set down like normal.
He Heng came up the tower. Looking at the woman dressed in a crimson phoenix robe in the sunlight, he suddenly thought of a poem called “Feng Seeks Huang.”
“I saw a beautiful woman, after seeing her, it’s unforgettable. If I don’t see her each day, the thoughts become crazy. I’m like that feng bird flying high up in the sky, trying to find the huang bird in the world… …”
“I hope my conduct is matching to yours, so we can hold hands together. If the marriage is not allowed, it’s a death sentence for me… …”
The smile of a beauty is unforgettable in this lifetime, a downfall in this lifetime.
[i]耀: bright, glorious
[ii]释名 -释天: Shiming is an ancient Chinese Dictionary. Explaining Heaven is the very first chapter.
[iii]诗经桧风: Shijin is an ancient collection of poetry. Kuai style is one of the fifteen types of poetry describe in the Airs of the States.