Entering the Remote City at Dark
Right now it is early winter, the skies is only just brightening up. Shrouded in mist, the world is rendered a pale white, feeling particularly cold as it is covered in a haze, the already remote city, appears to be increasingly desolate.
“Brother Sun Er, Brother Sun Er.” by the city gates, stands someone in a soldier outfit, a young man holding a lantern. With thick brows, big eyes, giving the impression of someone who is upright and honest. His breath can be seen as he calls out towards the soldiers pavilion at the edge of the city gates.
Not long after, a middle aged man walks out from the soldiers pavilion. Once his chubby and slightly bloated face sees the youngster at the gates, he smiles, “And here I was wondering who it was, Xiao Su-ah, coming here so early, are you taking the next shift?”
The youngster laughs in an honest and straightforward manner, “That’s right. Brother Sun Er, holding up a whole night’s shift, you must be tired now. Quickly return home, Sister in law should already be boiling hot water, waiting for you.”
Sun Er cheerfully waves, saying: “Xiao Su, amongst all the gate watching soldiers, you are the most warm-hearted. Look at you, you still have an elderly mother at home waiting for you to care for her, what’ve you come to the city gates so early for? It’s a really chilly day, it’s still too early to leave the city gates.”
The youngster walks up to the soldiers pavilion. Placing down the lantern, he turns his head, saying to Sun Er: “Brother Sun Er, I’ve brought two flasks of wine. You have some, the weather is so cold even the ground is frozen. Have some to warm up your body.”
“Only you, this brat, understands me. Wine is such a great thing, ah……”
The youngster takes out a small gourd from his chest, passing it to Sun Er. Sun Er accepts it, it’s still hot. He happily laughs, quickly drinking two mouthfuls. Placing down the wine flask, his face livens up, “Xiao Su, this wine really isn’t bad. It’s been a while since I drank such tasty wine. Where did you work to get this?”
The youngster embarrassingly scratches his head, saying: “A few days ago, I happen to run into General Lin when I was watching over the gates. He had conveniently tossed it to me.”
This little city is a place that’s not abundant with fish and rice, nor is it a military site, but is one of the Country of Qi Ling’s most remote city. Usually, other than the place’s officials, essentially no seventh ranked officials or above would visit here. Yet last month, a senior official from the capital had actually come, the country’s warlord, nicknamed “Wall of Qi Ling” General Lin Rui En, turning the entire city into a hectic mess. The General had come for the day and left accordingly, even so, he left the commoners within the city something talk about for the next year.
“So it’s General Lin, ah.” Sun Er’s expression looks overwhelmed with a thousand emotions, “His age is not far off from yours, but has already become a dignified general, truly a young hero.”
“That’s right, also good tempered, with no officials’ attitude, really is a great general.”
Sun Er drinks another two mouthfuls, squatting by the door of the soldiers pavilion, his body flushing with heat, with the mention of General Lin, he grows talkative, “Speaking of which, back then it really was the era of young heroes. Right now, those who hold most power within the capital, whether it is Prime Minister Lou who has the regime in hand, or General Lin who has large numbers of troops under him, they are all around the same age as you Xiao Su. They all say that the current Emperor has just had his second son last year, all are young heroes.”
“Prime Minister Lou is also this young? I remember that he has also been a government official for a good few years now.” Xiao Su responds in confusion.
“Xiao Su, did you not know? Minister Lou is in fact the youngest prime minister our country has ever had. When he had become the prime minister, he was only about twenty two years old, it’s already been four years now, and he still appears to be no more than twenty six/seven years old. Wielding so much power at such a young age.”
“That young……” Xiao Su also starts lamenting, “To enjoy success when young, I assume it must be outstanding talent.” Thinking of General Lin who he saw, refined and handsome, with exceptional charisma, supposing from this, Minister Lou must also be a rarely talented person.
Hearing such words, Sun Er coldly laughs, seeing the youngster looking over with puzzled eyes, he tosses some wine into his mouth, slowly explaining: “I’ve heard that this Minister Lou is a heaven-like figure, but when it comes to his character, it is far worse than that of General Lin. Minister Lou plays with politics, covering the sky with one hand, nor has this matter only happened in a day or two.”
“Saying that, then he’s a crafty official?” The youngster asks.
Letting out a sigh, Sun Er answers him as such: “Well he can’t be considered a crafty official, these few years, I have never heard that he oppressed the common people, plundering flesh and blood, I can only say……Minister Lou can be considered to receive as much blame as he does with praises.”
Whilst both people were in middle of conversing enthusiastically, a horse carriage comes running like the wind, it appears not far from the city gates. Sun Er and Xiao Su raise their heads, looking over from afar. Within a blink of an eye, the horse carriage has already come just over a hundred meters away from the city gates. Sun Er stands from the soldiers pavilion, starting to shake the gourd, he looks at the horse carriage in wonder. So early in the morning, the city gates weren’t even open yet, how could there be a horse carriage running towards here at top speed?
The horse carriage was slightly bigger than average, the style of it also falls from the ordinary, it doesn’t appear particularly luxurious, but Sun Er’s one glance at the carriage can tell that it’s not from your average family, it most likely have some sort of grand origin. The horse carriage itself is average, but the two horses pulling the carriage are rare, full body of snow white, big and tall steeds, what’s even more rare is, both horses actually looks exactly the same, their running pace synchronised, neither is too fast nor too slow from the other. The carriage smoothly travels forward, as though walking levelly on this not so flat road, and the speed is also a lot faster than the average horse carriage.
In a blink of an eye, the horse carriage has already arrive in front of them, rushing the horse is a middle aged brawny man, with one pull on the reins, both horses’ pace falls back consistently, bringing them to a stop. Well-trained, and rather pretty. Sun Er was even more certain of his inner thoughts, not daring to act slow, he walks up, “Dare I ask this brother rushing the carriage, right now the city gates are not yet open, do you need to enter the city this early?”
With the raise of a head, he sees the face of the person rushing the carriage. Suddenly rendered into shock, two scars are drawn from his eyes to the corner of his mouth, creating a vicious appearance, looking somewhat like a bandit.
Seeing Sun Er’s unceasingly stunned expression, the brawny man did not mind, he instead reveals a smile, softly speaking to Sun Er: “Lord Officer, we just want to enter the city ahead of time, don’t know if you can do us a favour?”
The brawny man already has a rather terrifying face, with the addition of this smile, it appears to be even more savagely fierce. His deliberately lowered voice and his horrific face, completely mismatched. Sun Er receives a little a scare, and manages to compose himself after a while, “This……I’m afraid I cannot. Without the head’s warrant, we cannot allow people to privately enter the city ahead of time.” Although it is a remote little city, but they’re at the nation’s borders, so there’s more vigilance when it comes to entering and leaving the city.
The brawny man shows a troubled expression, big hands scratching the back of his head, “Lord Officer, we don’t have a warrant, but we definitely have no barbarous intentions, please just do us a favour.”
Hearing their conversation, Xiao Su walks up, speaking towards the brawny man: “This brother there, please don’t make things difficult for Brother Sun Er. We are only watching over the gates, to let people through without the head’s orders, requires taking on the responsibility.”
Hearing Xiao Su say this, the brawny man freezes, not knowing how to respond.
In midst of this deadlock, a pleasant female’s voice comes from within the carriage, lowly calling out to the brawny man: “Lou Sheng.”
Hearing this voice, the brawny man that was called Lou Sheng, immediately steps down from the carriage respectfully. Half leaning on the carriage, he extends his hand and rolls up the heavy curtains of the horse carriage. His movements gentle, watchful and reverent.
Seeing the discrepancy between his appearance and his actions, Sun Er and Xiao Su could not help but to look over to the carriage together.
The interior of the carriage is very spacious, and actually contains a small settee, with a woman half leaning on it. Black hair like that of satin, majority of it being held up in a silver ribbon, the rest of her oblique hair draped over her shoulders. The woman wears a white mink fur coat.
Xiao Su has not been educated in literature for any more than a few years, but has often heard others describe a beautiful girl as “national beauty, heavenly fragrance”. Hearing his neighbour Aunt Wang say that the Li family’s second lady is a national beauty, heavenly fragrance, he has seen that lady, but other than radiant, he had no other thoughts. But, right now, seeing the woman inside the horse carriage, “national beauty, heavenly fragrance” these four words appears in his mind.
He has never seen such a beautiful woman, three points of elegance, three points of radiance, three points of nobility, and finally there is one more point of soul capturing.
The woman in the carriage sees the dumbfounded expression on Sun Er and Xiao Su’s faces, and faintly laughs, “Two Officer Brothers, we are indeed not bad people, entering the city today, is to catch up with loved ones, please do us a favour.” Saying this, she extends her jaded hand. In her hand, there holds a gold ingot weighing five Liang (250g worth of gold).
Seeing the smile of a beauty, is like the early melting of snow, the blossoming of spring flowers. Xiao Su could only feel that his entire person found it impossible to think. But seeing the gold ingot in the beauty’s hand, it was as though his brain got struck by lightning. Heat rises within him, his face flushed with red, “W-……we are not asking for money, if you have urgent matters, then you can go through right now, we are not trying to extort money……”
Feeling as though he has been humiliated, moreover the opposition is someone who is like a heavenly fairy, Xiao Su could only feel the incessant shame.
Whatever Sun Er wanted to say, in the end he did not say it.
The woman reveals a trace of surprise, immediately putting away the gold, laughingly saying: “It is I who have misunderstood you two, I’m sorry. Please do treat today’s offence with generosity.”
The skies had only just lit up, and the city gates open, a horse carriage hurtles forward through the gates, disappearing at the street corner in a blink of an eye.
Sun Er watches the empty street, looking thoughtful, turning his head to Xiao Su, he says: “Maybe something big has happened in our city.”
Xiao Su looked puzzled: “What do you mean?”
“Young people, experienced less ah……” Taking hold of the wine gourd, he downs a big mouthful of wine. Sun Er appears to be talking to Xiao Su, but also seems to be speaking to himself, “That piece of clothing was made from the fur of the artic snow mink……in this entire world, only a few are able to wear it……”
Unable to hear clearly, Xiao Su asks Sun Er: “Brother Er, what did you say?”
Sun Er turns his head, “Xiao Su, say, does this sky need to change?”
The horse carriage runs down narrow streets, very fast but smooth. The brawny man attentively driving it, suddenly he speaks to one inside the carriage: “Madam, just now why did you not take out the warrant pendant General Lin had given you?”
Only after a long while, did a voice sound from within the carriage: “Although this is a remote place, in the end it is still within the imperial court’s sphere of influence. If my identity is revealed, with his power, I’m afraid it will be difficult for us to get out of this.”
The brawny man hears the helpless tone in the woman’s voice, immediately changing the topic, “Speaking of which, it’s strange, along this journey, where is it that they didn’t extend their hands for money, but those two brothers back there, clearly didn’t want it, it truly is strange.”
“It’s not strange……the further away from prosperous places, the more honest towns and cities will be. It really is ironic, without hypocrisy within luxury, you are instead able to get legitimacy.” The woman’s voice shows slight emptiness, her voice filled with faintheartedness.
The brawny man no longer speaks, only listening to the rolling of the wheels and the sound of strong horseshoes running.
The townspeople must never have guessed, that it is the sound of these horses’ hooves that has taken them into a chapter of a troubled era.
Historians has recorded this as such: “This day is heaven’s recording of the fourth year, the imperial court’s Prime Minister Lou’s wife, leaves the capital in early winter, to the border, thus causing the subsequent ‘Battle of the Jade Governor’……”
Historically people have often called this movement “Chaos of Beauty”.
 The words used to refer to the Emperor’s son is Lóng zi / 龙子 which literally translates to dragon child. As all of you may know, the Emperor is said to be the mandate of heaven or the son of heavens, whilst dragons symbolises imperial authority as the ruler of the skies.