Days of heavy snow made the streets and alleys at the capital melancholic.
Ye Xiaoxiang has made it to the majestic gate of the capital and stopped for a moment. She glanced back, thinking about the times she had thought about escaping this prison - leaving Beauty’s Smile and the capital. But now, when she was truly about to leave, the sense of joy was not there, only a touch of unwillingness.
‘I guess I’m not as free as I thought.’
“Buy Heavenly Lotus Sadness-away Congee, only five bronze coins for one bowl.” The voice of an old man came from the next corner.
The old man was swinging a large iron ladle beneath a tent. The congee pot was finished with its hot steam permeating the air. The snowflakes were fluttering closer but couldn’t make it into the pot before being melted.
“This congee can take away sadness?” Xiaoxiang was already next to the tent, absentmindedly. She had no idea why she was stopping here.
The enthusiastic old man placed the ladle into the pot. He wiped his hands on his robe and smiled: “Miss, you have a lot on your mind. Have a bowl of my congee and you’ll be worried-free right away.”
“How do you know what I’m feeling?” She stood there as the flakes fell on her head and shoulders, creating a thin frost.
The old man replied: “Most beautiful girls are sad. They want true love but afraid that others only want them for their beauty. They want peace, but people will certainly come to bother them. They want freedom, but again, others won’t let them have this. Thus, the more beautiful, the sadder they are. You are as pretty as a goddess, so your sadness should be greater than anyone.”
Xiaoxiang said: “You’re not completely wrong. I only want to research music and find the best song in this world, but the rowdiness of life stops my heart from being calm.”
“What is actually affecting you?” The old man asked.
She blushed and couldn’t respond.
The old man understood right away: “Ah, there’s someone you like? Haha, I know I’m right judging by your expression. So you like someone but he doesn’t like you back, so you can only hold it in. That only makes it worse for you.”
“Well, I know that…” She sighed.
“If you are aware, then you need to overcome it. Instead of living for someone else, why not live for yourself?” He said.
“What do you mean, senior?”
“Romance is pain; the heavenly dao is happiness*. If you are searching for music, then let go of everything else and make your mind exceptional, then your music will be exceptional. There are plenty of ways to reach the grand dao. When your musical dao reaches the limit, you can still become an immortal or a saint, allowing you to live freely and forever in this world.”
Xiaoxiang felt better and said: “Thank you for your guidance, senior.”
“Haha, we’re all just a passerby in this world. No big deal.”
She said: “So he is just another person among the mass I will meet as I travel in this world as well?”
“And vice versa?”
“Yes, don’t waste your time and fail to reach the grand dao. Come here and have this congee to take away all your worries.”
She raised the bowl and drank a mouthful. Her supreme beauty suddenly became ordinary; her skin no longer as fair as before. Someone like her could be found all over the streets.
This congee had changed her appearance completely.
“Are you regretting it now?” The old man asked.
“No.” She spoke with certainty.
“Do you still want to see that person?” He inquired again.
She touched her face and replied: “Senior, you’re right. All of my sadness stemmed from this face. After losing it, my mind doesn’t worry as much.”
The man nodded approvingly: “When you can create a song in tune with the heavenly dao to become a saint or an immortal, your true appearance will return.”
“Countless sages have tried but how many could actually become one of these beings? What if I can’t do it?” She asked freely.
“Then drown in the mundane world.”
“I see.” There was nothing holding her back mentally now so she headed for the gate.
“Whoosh!” Feiyun landed nearby and looked around. He murmured: “I felt her presence nearby just now, where is it now?”
He looked around and saw an ordinary woman walking to the gate. There was also an old man cooking congee nearby with his ladle while peddling: “Buy Heavenly Lotus Sadness-away Congee, only five bronze coins for one bowl.”
Feiyun recognized him and said: “Hey geezer, did you see a woman as beautiful as a fairy walking through here earlier?”
The old man smiled: “Of course I did.”
“Really? Where did she go?” He asked.
The old man pointed at the gate: “Over there.”
Feiyun turned at that direction and saw the woman earlier exiting the gate: “You’re messing with me? I’m not talking about her.”
“Then I don’t know.” The old man put on a helpless expression: “Oh right, a guest earlier had a bowl here but didn’t pay, why don’t you pay for her?”
“Why should I pay for someone else?”
The old man sighed: “Because I know where the person you are looking for is going.”
“Clatter!” Fifteen coins scattered on the table since Feiyun owed him from last time: “Go ahead now.”
“She left the capital. The two of you are not from the same world; you two search for different dao. Her dao is to be freed from all shackles.” The old man stroke his beard and said.
“I know, I do not wish to restrain her either.” Feiyun paused and said.
“For her, you are a bigger prison than the capital. Only by leaving you will she truly be freed.” He said.
Feiyun spoke softly: “You’re completely right, she really should leave but I’m worried about something happening so I don’t want her to leave by herself.”
“Don’t worry about that, she’s no longer a kingdom-toppling beauty. An ordinary woman has fewer risks in comparison.” The old man smiled.
Feiyun suddenly realized it and thought about the woman earlier. He glared at the old man: “Damn you, geezer, why didn’t you tell me earlier?”
With that, he turned into the wind and gave chase.
“Idiot, your father told you earlier but you didn’t believe me.” The old man’s voice came from behind.
Feiyun couldn’t find the woman and came back empty-handed only to find the tent empty. The old man and his soup pot were gone.
More often than not, one would never be able to grasp the same opportunity once missed the first time.
The path is long and the world vast; perhaps they would never meet again for this was the end of their fateful connection.
Feiyun didn’t feel too bad about it because this was her own choice. Staying at the capital would only make it harder.
The grand dao is emotionless while living beings are feeble and weak. Happiness and regrets were plentiful in life. It was fine as long as one did what their heart desired, no need to force what wasn’t meant to be.
“Rumble!” A group of inner court experts dressed in black was riding ironclad bulls rushed over. Snow was flying everywhere from their pace before they stopped in front of Feiyun.
A eunuch wearing the proper dove uniform came out from a jade palanquin. He held a golden scroll embroidered with dragons and filled with prestige.
It was an imperial decree personally written by the Jin Emperor so it carried a frightening aura. People couldn’t help but kneel.
Eastern Eunuch opened the scroll and said: “In accordance with the heaven’s will, the Jin Emperor declares - Divine King Feng Feiyun, immediately head for the palace. Accept the decree.”
Feiyun was the only King in the dynasty so he didn’t need to kneel when seeing the emperor or an imperial decree. The three directors also enjoyed this privilege.
Feiyun accepted the scroll and smiled: “My friend, why is the emperor summoning me in such a rush?”
Feiyun could sense that something was amiss so he wanted to get some information.
“Well, your servant doesn’t know.” The eunuch chose against divulging the information.
“I see, very well, let us go then.” Feiyun didn’t show any reservation and sat in the eunuch’s palanquin.
This eunuch was the leader of the eastern palace on top of being the emperor’s confidant. His cultivation was unfathomable but he didn’t dare to go too hard against Feiyun. The role of a Divine King was still too much.
Feiyun could still guess the purpose of this trip. It had to be the matter of the Dragon Vein and his killing of the gate captain and purposely leading the army to trample Beauty’s Smile.
This issue could be construed in a variety of manners; the emperor could even ignore this. However, the Grand Chancellor and his crowd would definitely force Feiyun to abdicate.
Alas, Feiyun wasn’t afraid at all and wanted to deal with it step-by-step.
This was his first time entering the palace and it was completely different than expected.
It was a great hall with 360 seats arranged in a circle. The center had a red rug with a dragon throne carved from jade, towering at nine feet.
In front of the throne were four more seats meant for the three directors and the Divine Kings. These were seven feet high.
The farther the seat, the lower the rank and the actual height of the chair.
He found out that the officials in this dynasty could sit while meeting the emperor. He wasn’t the only one who got a decree either. Nearly every officials, a few princes and princesses with political power were already present. The situation was tense even before the arrival of the emperor.
1. The for happiness here can also mean music