Author: Chai Jidan
Outside the magnificent hall, on each gilded pillar, there were Chinese cedar-carved “everlasting long life” patterns. On the corridor walls, inscribed in respectful calligraphy were the flattering eulogies of the ministers. The interior walls of the chamber were decorated with gold lacquered characters, which were inscribed by the emperors of the past dynasties. Hung on the walls were silk tapestry weavings portraying wishes for one’s long life, red sandalwood carving screens with exquisite and treasured calligraphy written by famous calligraphers in each square… incense altars, a superb collection of rare treasures on top of a cupboard, and the bonsai placed underneath it was also fragrant and enchanting.
On a dragon couch facing north, there was a man with a phoenix’s mold and a dragon’s disposition lying on his side. The warblers sung and the swallows danced . The man’s face was full of vicious charm and a monarch’s qi flowed in torrents and out of the space between his forehead. Every time men and women, who were dancing in the hall, saw the emperor’s smiling face, their cheeks would blush and they would act more enchantingly.
( A scene of prosperity.)
Hao Lin was the monarch of Lubei, which was the only nation that could be named enjoying equal popularity as with the nation of Yunxi. He was a talented person from early youth and at the age of fifteen, he had been in power for more than ten years. Standing beside him was Shang Chuanhong, the Prime Minister of Lubei. On his left side, there sat on a slightly shorter soft couch, Hun Ruo, the empress of Lubei, who was a woman with unparalleled beauty.
Hun Ruo had a visage that made it difficult for anyone to focus their gazes on. Under the fine gauze, her faintly-discernible smooth and jade-like skin was creamy like butter. With a slight smile, she was even more beautiful and charming. Although it was the time when homosexuality was prevalent, a woman like Hun Ruo had made it difficult for numerous towering figures to resist her.
Today was Hun Ruo’s birthday. It was already late at night, but the main hall was still bustling with singing and dancing. Hao Lin already felt impatient, but his face still looked like he was enjoying it. He was very patient and very good at maintaining his image as an emperor. No matter what, all the people in Lubei thought that their emperor was the most open-minded and popular ruler in history.
Hun Ruo had already seen through Hao Lin’s feelings in his eyes. She raised her slender and pale hand as she leisurely said with a soft and graceful voice, “Your Majesty, let’s call it a day. I’m a little sleepy and Your Majesty should rest early.”
After saying that, Hun Ruo curtsied, then gently paced, and went out the hall. Only after she came out of the hall’s entrance did Shang Chuanhong dismiss everyone. One by one, the princes, dukes, and ministers saluted and left the hall, leaving only Shang Chuanhong and Hao Lin.
Hao Lin changed his posture and faced Shang Chuanhong. A smiling expression appeared at the corners of his eyes, as if he was implying something to Shang Chuanhong.
When Shang Chuanhong reached his twenties, he looked like a peerless beauty as well. Compared to Hao Lin, there was a sign that he had less regality. When Shang Chuanhong stood by Hao Lin’s side, they looked even more like a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, Shang Chuanhong was only Hao Lin’s trusted subordinate. Hao Lin merely thought highly of him and never had anything that would overstep his bounds.
Shang Chuanhong saw Hao Lin’s smile that seemed gentle but was actually swift and fierce. He was forced to answer sympathetically: “The spy who went to Yunxi earlier has returned. During the Eight-Day Festival, Yunxi’s been strictly guarded by soldiers everywhere. The last time we intruded into Yunxi’s frontier troops, our troops had lost more than half of our men. Originally, only the Sixth Prince was sent to defend them. I’m uncertain why the Third Prince frequently appeared there. There were several times when we attacked their camp, but their strategy suddenly changed. Our nation couldn’t stand up to this and was merely forced to withdraw and stand on the defensive…”
Hao Lin’s thick eyebrows wrinkled. There was still a smile on his face, but it was mixed with some complex factors.
All of a sudden, Shang Chuanhong asked, “Does the monarch of Yunxi know that the Third Prince isn’t his son?”
Hao Lin chuckled. “He still doesn’t know about it yet!”
Upon hearing this, Shang Chuanhong seemed to have deliberately asked, “In that case, if we’ll announce this matter to the world, will the Third Prince have no chance of ascending the throne? Apart from the Third Prince, if any other prince ascends the throne, we won’t need to worry about our imperial court’s safety.”
Hao Lin shot a glance at Shang Chuanhong and motioned him to bend over and listen. Shang Chuanhong slightly lowered his head and turned his face to Hao Lin. Hao Lin raised his excellent eyebrows and spoke in an overbearing tone in Shang Chuanhong’s ear: “No, the Third Prince’s succession is still possible…”
Shang Chuanhong knew this would be the answer and laughed together with Hao Lin, then he straightened up his body and said, “The Third Prince is busy with Imperial Tutor Mu’s case recently. He has no time to interfere in the government. Yunxi’s also in an auspicious and peaceful state. We might as well as take this opportunity to visit Yunxi and see how the Third Prince will avenge his father…”
Hao Lin nodded and threw a look of praise at Shang Chuanhong. Suddenly, Hao Lin noticed that Shang Chuanhong was playing with a silver coin in his hand. When they were talking just now, Shang Chuanhong kept the silver coin in his palm and tossed it around. Now, he spread it out on his palm, and Hao Lin wondered.
Shang Chuanhong took a look at the silver coin in his hand and explained, “This silver coin was picked up by a soldier while inspecting the wounded men and corpses when I was attacking Yunxi’s frontier previously. He just thought that the shape was peculiar and suspected it to be a hidden weapon, then he handed it over to the head of the guards. Later on, it was handed over to me, your servant. After I, your servant, have examined it repeatedly for several days, I felt that this thing looked like a silver coin, but in fact, it was not made of silver. The workmanship was unusual, and it didn’t belong to any style. I suspect it was heaven-sent, so I always carried it along with me to protect Your Majesty.”
Hao Lin took the silver coin, then he looked at it and turned it over and over for a while. The surface was smooth and delicate, without any writings or pictures. However, there was a messy pattern around the circle. It was neither thick or thin and it could be said that there were no vein lines.
Hao Lin was inwardly astonished. He had seen all kinds of rare treasures since he was a child. This was only a silver coin, but it seemed to have some magical power. As if it was calling him, he could not shift his attention. Moreover, this silver coin was found in Yunxi’s territory, so Hao Lin paid more attention to it.