Chapter 64 – Ask the World
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Many people were kneeling on the floor of this side palace, a calm sea. As the middle-aged woman indifferently walked by, the sea naturally parted, light waves over its surface. A chief eunuch gave two light coughs, at which those kneeling Guardians, palace maids, and eunuchs rose so quickly it seemed that they had all been issued an amnesty, and noiselessly exited the palace.
This chief eunuch seemed extremely old, his face covered in wrinkles, yet he very carefully held the middle-aged woman's hands as he spoke in a low and humble voice. "Even if that youth's background is somewhat problematic, there is no need for the Empress to go through such trouble."
The middle-aged woman was the Divine Empress. Hearing the old eunuch's words, she replied with an indifferent expression, "If he were just an ordinary person, there would naturally be no need for the trouble."
The chief eunuch knew that when the Empress spoke of 'ordinary', she naturally was not referring to the trivial matter of not cultivating. After muttering to himself for a moment, the eunuch said, "The recommendation letter was checked, and there's no problem with it. It truly is the one His Holiness the Pope left for Lady Mo Yu and the Princess of Ping to play with…news has come from the Li Palace, His Holiness probably does not know of this matter. That youth was probably drawn into this matter by chance. Although his engagement with the Xu Estate is truly beyond expectations, this old servant truly cannot see anything special about him."
The Divine Empress stopped and gazed at the deep darkness behind the side palace. After a pause, she asked, "Have you met someone who isn't afraid of death?"
The chief eunuch knew that this question of the Empress's must have an extremely profound meaning, so he began to seriously recollect.
Everyone said those heroes could disregard death and treat departing with indifference, but only those who had experienced countless deaths and departures understood that this disregard and indifference were just borrowing a formidable will to conquer the fear of death, but that fear was always there.
This chief eunuch had lived in the Great Zhou Imperial Palace for several centuries and possessed immense power. Almost twenty years ago when Emperor Xian died, the dukes of the Imperial clan opposed the Empress taking the throne and attempted to break into the palace and start a rebellion. That the Empress was able to so easily stabilize the situation, besides the Pope's firm support, was also because of the critical role this eunuch had played.
He was a person who had experienced countless deaths and departures, and he was very sure that no one was unafraid of death. Even a great like Emperor Taizong was unable to remain calm when facing death on his sickbed. His two eyes had stared up into the night sky at the multitudinous sky of stars, filled to the brim with reluctance and fear.
He had been at the emperor's side, so he could see it very clearly.
"No person is unafraid of death," he replied.
"Just then, for an instant, that youth was truly not afraid of death, so he is not an ordinary person." The Divine Empress recalled the words the youth had said before the Black Dragon, and then continued, "I've always believed that only the child of the Qiushan clan could match up to that girl, but now it seems…that might not be the case."
The chief eunuch was slightly apprehensive, thinking, could the Empress be changing her position on this matter?
The side palace fell silent once more.
The breeze caressed the flower pot on the balcony, causing the plant within to rustle. In the distant forest, the squirrel ran even faster across the tree branches.
"Tonight is the Double Seventh Festival and it's certain to be very lively outside the palace. I'm prepared to go out and see."
"Empress…I believed that you were going to remain in the palace to wait for the results of the Ivy Festival."
"Wait for what? To see which student of which academy is most promising? I certainly have no interest in that."
The chief eunuch was puzzled, replying, "Could Empress not wish to know whether the proposal will succeed or not?"
The Divine Empress replied, "Whether the Xu Estate will enter into a marriage alliance with the Qiushan clan, or fulfill that promise from back then and take in Chen Changsheng as their son-in-law, is not for them to decide."
The chief eunuch slightly bent his body, declaring, "Everything in the world obeys the Empress's will."
The Divine Empress calmly replied, "You're wrong again. This matter is also not something I am able to decide."
The chief eunuch was a little shocked, thinking, besides Empress, who can decide the direction of this marriage?
"The person being married off is Yourong, so whether she wants to marry, who she wants to marry, all depends on her position."
The Divine Empress concluded, "That girl has plans of her own, so what meaning do the efforts of anyone else have? Just making themselves more of a joke, that's all."
South of the Imperial Palace was a street. Different from the other brightly lit places of the capital on this night of the Double Seventh Festival, this place was a little colder and deserted. Perhaps it was because it was too close to the Imperial City, or it could also be because vast quantities of ice were transported out of here during day, leaving many traces of water on the road at night, the serious moisture and cold deterring anyone from setting up a stall here.
This place was called New North Bridge, but there was no bridge. To be more precise, the arched bridge made of gray stone was fake—the Luo River wound around the Imperial City, flowing through the city along seven causeways, yet it avoided this place, so not a single drop of water could be found under this bridge.
Not far from New North Bridge was a well that exuded a chill in all directions. It was like it was not water in this well, but an ice that would never melt. At this late hour, the lights of the Imperial City could not shine upon this place. The willow branches were like brushes drenched in ink, lightly shaking around the well.
The Divine Empress stood at the well, in her hands a Night Pearl that she had removed from the Dew Platform. She placed her hand over the well and let go. The Night Pearl instantly illuminated the walls of the well and then swiftly descended until, gradually, it was swallowed by the darkness.
After quite some time had passed, a hum came from the depths of the well. Because the distance was too great, the sound was not very loud. It was like the waters of the well splashing against its walls, but she knew that this was not the sound of the water. It was the Black Dragon's low and angry roars.
The Black Dragon was very angry because it had once more been deceived by humans. You clearly agreed to give one Night Pearl, and that youth took one away, so you should give me two Night Pearls! Even if you're a woman I can't provoke, you can't bully me like this!
The Divine Empress was rather displeased. "Evil creature, that one was originally his. When you were small, did that old dragon not teach you arithmetic?"
Chen Changsheng was very good at arithmetic. To be more precise, as long as it was related to studying, he was very good at it. However, his skill in finding the way was not very good. After leaving the side palace and entering the palace shrouded in darkness, he very quickly realized that he was lost.
With the many stars in the sky and the lantern light before, he knew which direction was north, so naturally could confirm which direction was south. He could even faintly make out the lights of Weiyang Palace, but the Imperial Palace had many flowers and trees, its paths twisting and turning. Worried about encountering Imperial Guards, he didn't dare take the main avenues, so he didn't know how he could reach Weiyang Palace.
Just then, an extremely soft sound came from a dark imperial garden.
A Black Goat noiselessly walked out from the darkness as if its very self was a part of the darkness.
At the Orthodox Academy, Chen Changsheng had met it. Previously outside Weiyang Palace, he had also met it. For some reason, he was very sure that this Black Goat meant him no ill will. After thinking for a few moments, he asked, "You…want to help me?"
The Black Goat calmly gazed at him, and then turned to walk back into the darkness.
Chen Changsheng hurried to catch up, not daring to delay. Before following, he glanced south in the direction of Weiyang Palace. That place was still brightly lit, but the sound of ceremonial music had already ceased. Just which step had the proposal of the southern diplomatic mission reached? Was he still in time?
The Ivy Festival had reached its middle segment, so the southern diplomatic mission began to formally propose.
There were many important figures within Weiyang Palace, including the Mount Li Elder, Xiao Songgong, the woman from Holy Maiden Peak, Principal of the Heavenly Dao Academy Mao Qiuyu, Xu Shiji, Prince Chen Liu, and Mo Yu. Over the course of the marriage proposal, they all played different roles.
There were participants, presiders, and witnesses.
The exquisite dance and music in the hall had just concluded, the fine alcohol and wine had not yet grown cold, but no person raised up their chopsticks to eat. Everyone watched the stage with smiles on their faces.
The Qiushan clan head stood up and began the ceremony. Mo Yu, as representative of the Divine Empress, expressed her gratitude, saying that the Great Zhou Dynasty was extremely pleased to see this marriage, and even hoped that humanity could use this marriage to grow closer in unity so that they could better resist the demons.
The woman from Holy Maiden Peak was Xu Yourong's martial aunt, and she represented the Holy Maiden of the south in expressing agreement towards this marriage. Right after, Xu Shiji stood up and welcomed all the guests from the south. To this marriage, he gave his reserved agreement. Of course, everyone knew that this reservation of his was feigned.
How could a marriage be considered a success?
The marriage proposal was the beginning, to bow was the ceremony, and the terms were concluded in a marriage contract. This was to get engaged.
The heavens and earth, the sovereign, the parents, the teacher.
At present, the Divine Empress had agreed to the marriage, Xu Shiji had agreed to the marriage, and the Holy Maiden of the south had agreed to the marriage.
The heavens and earth could not speak, and the present sovereign, parents, and teachers all agreed to the marriage. In everyone's view, this marriage had naturally succeeded. No one had ever imagined what sort of attitude Xu Yourong herself had to this marriage. Of course, no one thought that Xu Yourong might ever object.
As the most dazzling and radiant couple of this continent's generation of youth, a marriage between Xu Yourong and Qiushan Jun was considered by all to be a match made in heaven. The story between the two had been circulating throughout the world for a very long time, and everyone believed it to be a most beautiful story.
Soon after came the final ask of the marriage proposal ceremony's Three Asks.
The rites of the Great Zhou Dynasty were not at all complex. They primarily came from the related scriptures of the Orthodoxy. As the Orthodoxy flourished, the rites of the Zhou gradually spread to the south. Tonight's marriage proposal from the southern diplomatic mission was completely in accordance with the rites of Zhou not purely out of respect for the bride, but because they also practiced the same rites.
The so-called Three Asks were to ask the heavens and earth, ask the relatives, and ask the sovereign and teachers. As for who might oppose this marriage, the final ask was to ask the world.
The reason the rites of Zhou contained the Three Asks, especially the final ask, was nominally to give the people of the world a final chance to bring up any hidden problems with regards to the bride or groom, but in reality, this was a very rare occurrence. It was more to give the bride and groom a final chance to back out.
Under normal circumstances, it was rare for someone to object during the marriage proposal ceremony, because this was tantamount to offending the bride and groom. Tonight, it was very obvious that both sides of the marriage would not back out, so the final asking of the world was naturally just a formality.
Prince Chen Liu stood at the front of the hall, looking out at the several hundred people within. Smiling, he asked, "Qiushan Jun desires to become husband and wife with Xu Yourong. Does anyone object?"
The hall was absolutely silent, but the mood was not oppressive. Everyone had smiles on their faces. At this beautiful moment, they were all thinking about blessings, about how after Prince Chen Liu finished speaking, they would stand up and toast to the two sides of the marriage in celebration.
In the Orthodox Academy's seating area in the corner, Luoluo's small face had no smile, only a pale complexion from shock. She had already opened the silk bag in her sleeve and seen the somewhat yellowed marriage contract within. Only after seeing the two names on the marriage contract did she understand that her joke from that day had actually been true. Only then did she finally understand what the grudge was between her teacher and the Divine General of the East's estate. Only then did she know why Mo Yu and those other people had done all they could to prevent her teacher from being present…
The world needed to be asked three times.
Prince Chen Liu gently smiled and asked once more, "Does anyone object?"
The hall remained silent, the faces of the crowd brimming with well-wishing smiles. The world was incomparably beautiful.
Prince Chen Liu glanced at Xu Shiji, smiling to show his congratulations.
Xu Shiji lightly stroked his short beard, no longer feigning reservation. He nodded in acknowledgment.
Prince Chen Liu then turned to the Qiushan clan head, smiling as he nodded.
The Qiushan clan head smiled in silence, clearly extremely happy.
Prince Chen Liu turned back to the hall and asked for the final time, "Is there anyone who objects?"
To this marriage, the entire world agreed. No one objected.
Thus, the entire world was very quiet, very beautiful, every person waiting.
In the corner, Luoluo suddenly stood up.
No one noticed her.
Just then, a voice came from outside the hall.
A youth walked in through the doors of the hall.
His body was drenched, his hair a mess, his clothes torn up. All in all, it was a completely wretched figure.
He looked around at the crowd within the hall, his eyes bright, his expression firm.
The hall instantly turned silent.