Chapter 1 Fufeng
Beneath the fortified walls of Fufeng, a white fat moon cast a radiant glow upon the early summer breeze.
The scent of blossoming flora filled the air, as if to mask the despair and chaos that lingered amid the flames of war.
This ancient city lay over a hundred leagues from the grand capital of Chang’an.
It was a place once filled with valiant and dauntless men whose gallantry and courage were immortalized in the hearts of the people.
The memory of their heroic deeds was forever entwined with the somber and stirring melodies that echoed through the ages.
Yet, the passing of centuries had stripped Fufeng of its former glory.
In its place, an air of melancholy pervaded the city, wrought by the temporary respite granted to the fleeing Emperor who had sought refuge within its walls.
Within the confines of the post station, the Imperial Guards maintained a watchful vigilance.
Everyone stood still and did not dare to speak.
In the midst of the hushed stillness, there emanated a melodic refrain, soft and pure, like the crystalline notes of a clear stream.
It was a woman’s voice, singing a haunting tune whose origins remained shrouded in mystery.
The melody rose and fell, a fluid cadence that seemed to move with the ebb and flow of the very wind itself.
The song evoked a sense of longing, a wistful yearning that tugged at the heartstrings.
It was a sound both ethereal and earthy, evoking both the celestial melodies of the heavens and the alluring songs of the capital’s courtesans.
However, within its lilting melody lay an undercurrent of melancholy, a deep sorrow that spoke of the vast, untamed wilderness beyond the borders.
The soldiers, standing resolute with their spears at the ready, were transfixed by the music’s somber beauty.
It was a song of tribute to a glorious era, and yet, it was also a mournful lament of decline.
Their eyes glistened with unshed tears, their hearts heavy with the weight of an era long gone.
Not long ago, the Great Wei Dynasty was a prosperous era of peace, with a vibrant atmosphere of song and dance.
But within a few months, the splendor woven from gold, jade, and silk was easily trampled by the iron hooves of warhorses.
The rebel army led by Prince Rui, Li Jing Hui, had already reached Lantian which was less than a hundred miles away from Chang’an.
Half a month ago, Emperor Li Jing Ye led the last remaining twenty thousand or so Imperial Guards in a hasty retreat to Fufeng, waiting for the General of the Imperial Guards and Hedong’s Military Governor, Pei Ji, to arrive with reinforcements from Hedong.
The rebellion arose suddenly, and Li Jing Ye knew that with only twenty thousand men by his side, he would not be able to hold out for long.
Thus, four days ago, at the urging of his trusted aides, he made the painful decision to send his most beloved consort, Noble Consort Zhong, to the enemy camp.
After all, Noble Consort Zhong was originally meant to be Prince Rui’s Consort, but with the ongoing conflict between the Emperor and Prince Rui, she was inevitably implicated.
It was said that Noble Consort Zhong was born beautiful and, after marrying Prince Rui, was forcefully taken to the Imperial Palace by the Emperor, who fell in love with her at first sight.
For years, she had enjoyed the Emperor’s favor and became the envy of women throughout the land.
During her time of prosperity, every aspect of her appearance, from the flower hairpin on her forehead to the embroidery on her shoes, was imitated by women in Chang’an.
The Son of Heaven and his favorite consort had become the immortal couple in people’s mouths, while Prince Rui had fled to the border and gradually been forgotten.
Everyone believed that the brothers were born from the same mother, so they would not become enemies over a woman.
It was only recently that Prince Rui rebelled and people realized that he had long buried his hatred in his heart, waiting for the right moment to strike.
How many men could tolerate the pain of losing their wives? Especially the proud Prince Rui who had been born and raised in the imperial family.
In one night, the beautiful and graceful Noble Consort Zhong fell from the clouds, becoming the most hated and cursed woman in the world.
Even the Emperor, who had once cherished her like a treasure, had to send her into Prince Rui’s army with his own hands.
It was rumored that on the same night, Prince Rui ordered his army to stop at Lantian and took her into his tent, not emerging until two days later.
It was precisely during those two days that General Pei Ji had the opportunity to catch his breath while he went to gather reinforcements.
Yesterday, Pei Ji led one hundred thousand troops from Hedong to Lantian, not only dealing a heavy blow to the rebel army but also rescuing the Emperor’s favorite consort.
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