The Rise of Phoenixes - Chapter 250

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Chapter 250: Chapter 250

“Six years older than Dog Ji.”

“In the Central Plains, some wealthy family heads who’ve sired a bunch of children still wish to remarry after their wives pass.” Feng Zhiwei commented casually as she toyed with her reins. “Mudan Hua, you should consider this.

“I know that keeping her around is just letting hatred fester in her heart, and I’ve been finding suitor after suitor over the years.” Mudan Hua replied, frowning in frustration. “You’ve already seen how proud Medora is. The King’s Court has treated her as a princess all these years and she’s totally unwilling to consider those matches.”

“When did we have such a princess?” Feng Zhiwei replied lightly. “Staying here at her age, you must know what she is waiting for. If it is impossible, don’t give her false hope or else the tragedy will only deepen. A woman’s youth should not be wasted.”

Mudan Hua grit her teeth and stayed silent for a long moment before clapping her hands and exclaiming: “Fine! Marriage!”

“What marriage?” Helian Zheng asked, turning at the loud cry.

Dowager Queen Mudan ignored the King and whipped his horse, urging him off with a loud “Jia![1]”

They rode with their escort and the excited Irgi tribes folk who had come out to greet them and finally came into view of the Hu Zhuo King’s Court. Feng Zhiwei stirred with surprise; in her mind’s eye she had imagined a large cluster of tall, beautiful tents, but she spotted instead a huge white building silhouetted against the horizon.

On a tall, mighty hill sat a proud white stone palace sweeping outwards and climbing upwards like a magnificent mountain. The building spanned miles in each direction, and a great tower soared upwards from the Court’s interior like a white jade sword.

“A truly magnificent feat of architecture…” Mudan Hua sighed in awe, stirring with uncharacteristic scholastic emotion. “Combining best of the Forbidden City, the White House, Buckingham Palace, the Louvre, and Potala Palace, a truly exquisite and marvelous palace, luxurious in her glory. A gathering place for the wisdom of all people and all eras across all the land…”

“Quite impressive, does it have a name?” Feng Zhiwei replied respectfully, pondering Mudan Hua’s strange list of unrecognizable palace names. Were they from countries overseas?

“The Second Potala Palace.” Mudan Hua replied.

What a strange name.

Feng Zhiwei turned at the unusual emotion in Liu Mudan’s voice and spotted the glittering complexity in the Queen Dowager’s eyes as the woman looked out at the palace compound.

Reminiscence and loss, joy and grief, loneliness and contentment… a wild mix of emotion too intertwined to parse.

“We used to live in tents.” Mudan Hua explained slowly. “Then one day I told My Kuku that my hometown was a lot like this place. It too had steppes as vast as the sky and flocks of sheep with wool as white as the clouds, and in my home every heart worshipped at the Potala Palace. Kuku asked whether I had ever been and I explained that I would never have the chance to visit again, and so Kuku said that he would build a Potala Palace for me, a new Holy Land for the Hu Zhuo Steppes to stand true through the generations. I could not desecrate my home’s shrine, so we named it The Second Potala Palace.”

As she spoke, Liu Mudan seemed to grow shy, her blushing face peeking through the thick powder coating her cheeks. Her eyes shone bright and a smile blossomed on her lips.

Feng Zhiwei’s heart stirred as she wondered at the extraordinary love Old King Kuku and Mudan Hua had shared.

They had met on the battlefield and together married the steppes. Together, they walked through thirty years of wind and rain, and though Feng Zhiwei did not know what words had passed through their mouths, she saw before her the shrine he had built. The Queen Dowager may have cursed and sworn about the old King on the banks of the river, but when he had passed, she had bravely shouldered the future of his people.

This sort of love needed no words for the very sun and moon watched over the proof, the testimony of the steppes and the oaths sworn through the palace before them.

Spring grass swept out in every direction like a vast, green sea, and the powerful wind blew up flowing waves and currents. The new Steppe King rode forth accompanied by his Queen and his mother, their proud horses bright in the golden sun. Finally, they reached crested a tall hill and took in the thousands upon thousands of their people waiting below.

A silent Helian Zheng looked down at his tribe, his powerful amber eyes glittering like purple wine, his brows proud and free.

Suddenly, he burst into laughter.

“Zhiwei! Zhiwei! I am so happy that you are by my side!”

As he spoke, he reached out and swept Feng Zhiwei into his embrace.

Feng Zhiwei could not even yelp with surprise and she was in Helian Zheng’s arms, barely able to lower her face in a pretense of shyness as she pushed herself off of the tall man’s chest.

Clutching the beauty and sitting her on his lap, Helian Zheng laughed as he rode forth.

His handsome dark horse flew through the grass as Helian Zheng whistled forward like a black sword cutting the wind. He raced towards his people and his waiting court, his silver coat and his Queen’s black dress fluttering in the wind, gorgeous arcs of light flowing in the sunlight.

The tens of thousands of men, women, and children knelt, calling out together in a thundering cry that swept across the earth and up into the heavens.

“King!”

The powerful, stirring cry trembled through their chests and Feng Zhiwei could hear Helian Zheng’s heart pound faster and stronger. The wind swept the steppe people’s cry in echoes over mountains and rivers, and behind them she heard Mudan Hua call out to the sky with a quiet smile:

“Kuku!”

The spirited and joyous new Steppe King carried his Queen in a triumphant and glorious home-coming, cheered and honored by all his people.

Back in Dijing, in the noble and luxurious Prince Chu Mansion, a freezing aura of death and anger loomed over everything.

Servants shuffled along silently, afraid to make a single sound, not even daring to near the shut doors of the study.

His Highness had locked himself inside the study every single day since his return to the Imperial Court, not a sound ever passing from those dark doors.

Although nothing had happened, no one could escape the plunging depression filling the grounds. No one could understand what was happening — His Highness had returned victorious, completely routing the Chang Family forces. On the coats of their great victory, Prince Chu had installed loyal men to many influential positions in the military, and the rich and noble students who had followed Prince Chu and Wei Zhi had all been presented with various official positions in the ministries.

Though His Majesty had expressed sorrow and dismay at the unfortunate fate of the missing Wei Zhi, he had very explicitly praised Prince Chu’s achievements. Ever since, Prince Chu’s Memorandums to the Throne were heard with the greatest attention and not a single critical word could be heard throughout the entirety of the Imperial Court. It was clear to everyone that Prince Chu was the Emperor’s favorite prince.

[1] 驾 Jia = hiyah ; Jia 嫁 = a woman marrying a man. On a related note: Qu 娶 = a man taking a woman as his wife.

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