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Martial King’s Retired Life is a web novel completed by Lee Taibai, Lee太白. This lightnovel is right now Ongoing.
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Night View on New Year’s Eve – Front of the Palace
“Amid the crackling firecrackers, a year has come to an end,
The flavour of spring can be tasted in Tusu wine,
While the bright sun shines on each and every household,
People switch out old charms for new ones.”
The year had yet to end on the 23rd December, but the sound of crackling firecrackers was always audible throughout the entire city of Nanjing.
New Year’s Eve is also called Thanking Kitchen G.o.d, Offerings to Kitchen G.o.d and other names. In ancient times, Kitchen G.o.d was also called Kitchen Monarch and Kitchen Duke. His job was to supervise the sins and benevolent deeds in the human realm, but was also in charge of food and water. The reason people worshipped Kitchen G.o.d was to ask him to put in a good word for them with the Jade Emperor. Despite their worshipping, however, one could interpret it as the people trying to get in their superior’s good graces. It’s rather comical if one thinks about it. Some families will still offer candy, wine and express their sincerity despite being financially poor. Indeed, that was considered very sincere. Who knows for sure how much they made during the year to hold such a grand ceremony. Nevertheless, it was a custom that was worth respecting.
Some say that entrusting prayers to G.o.ds is an absurd decision, for peace of mind lies within oneself. Obviously, those who believed it to be absurd were aware that there were people before the people of the past. By their definition of the people from the past, they meant Sun Tzu’s Art of War, Comprehensive Mirror to Aid in Governance, Twenty-Four Histories, people capable of constructing captivating scenery and buildings. It’s obvious they knew how much good karma they could earn from burning sheets of paper. G.o.ds wouldn’t hear their prayers if they offered some incense. People eventually learnt the absurdity of ancient customs with time, but those traditions continued to be pa.s.sed down, which was commendable. Despite the thousands of years, the people were able to leave behind ancient cultural miracles.
Avoiding a moment of absurdity will only end with one being caught in something more absurd. Buddhism suggests that everything exists for a reason; everything should be viewed as if it is true. Life is a collection of unexpected events. To evaluate ancient customs through the lens of the present is folly and a gross offence to decency.
Different locations celebrate New Year’s Eve with different customs. Southern Xinjiang prefers to celebrate Lunar New Year’s Eve instead of the day before New Year’s Eve. Northern Xinjiang may practice the custom of making offerings to Kitchen G.o.d, but do so on the second day, which is the 24th December. Nanjing City had practiced the custom the way the custom was practiced when first introduced. On the 23rd December, families would all offer candy, wine, food and paper money to begin worshipping Kitchen G.o.d with the male leading the ceremony.
The same custom practiced by commoners was also practiced in the imperial palace. Tonight, the imperial palace was livelier than usual, because there was some major entertainment that followed the worshipping of Kitchen G.o.d ceremony. Aforementioned entertainment was the contest between Mount Daluo’s disciple, Ming Feizhen, and Gold and Silver Sect’s patriarch, Jin w.a.n.gsun, for the fuma crown.
The fuma selection contest was different to the Imperial Martial Arts Tournament. Because a Princess would be married off, there were joyous celebrations taking place everywhere. Absolutely, the Imperial Martial Arts Tournament was important, but that was to find talent for the imperial court. As soon as the victor was decided in the fuma contest, however, the deal would immediately be sealed. As such, the eunuchs and maids in the imperial palace were particularly diligent for the event. To top it off, there were also New Year preparations to take care of. The active imperial palace brought back a notable degree of life in the imperial palace after the cold and quiet days succeeding the “Emperor Chengkong Incident”.
After he was done with the Kitchen G.o.d’s ceremony, the Emperor headed to Wuying Hall to wait. It wasn’t time to be seated yet; hence, the Emperor sat there alone with only Prime Minister Li Si keeping him company.
Although the fuma selection was a major event, it was the monarch’s family matter. Consequently, there weren’t many officials present. Most of the people present would be the royal family members. It goes without saying that the Princess would be present. Dukes and Princes and Princesses of second rank who rarely made appearances were also present.
Princess Hongzhuang returned to the imperial palace without a word a few days ago. When she returned, she looked exhausted and cold. It was a sight that had the Emperor’s heart throbbing. He intended to admonish her, but couldn’t bring himself to. In the end, he just ordered servants to take care of her.
Every time the Emperor visited his daughter, he found her depressed. He had no clue what happened when she was out of the palace in recent days. All he saw was her frowning. She looked as though she was bothered by something. The Emperor had an inkling that whatever happened was related to the Demon Sect’s Lord San Shen. He knew his daughter’s temperament. While she was a girl of few words, asking her questions would only make her refuse to speak. As a result, he had to give up.
The Emperor stroked his beard, “Prime Minister, would you agree that there was something really strange today?”
“Your Majesty, you are referring to…”
The Emperor reminisced the ceremony he just led. Neither of them uttered a word, but the opposing aura rendered even others too intimidated to speak. With a sigh, the Emperor said, “All else aside, let’s focus on just the two fuma candidates. When we worshipped Kitchen G.o.d just before, the two didn’t spare each other a single glance. In all fairness, the two of them may be in opposition, but they are from Gold and Silver Sect and Mount Daluo, two elite sects among the orthodox sects. The two of them have maintained harmony on the surface.”
They say that with age comes wisdom. Prime Minister had been en elder in the imperial court for three reigns. He was the eldest among the elderly in the imperial court and “wiser” than one could possibly be.
Prime Minister Li Si was aware of the schemes Ming Feizhen and Jin w.a.n.gsun had in their bags. Even if he wasn’t aware of their plans in their entirety, he knew fifty if not sixty percent. Moreover, it was he, who rode the wave Ming Feizhen started, to frame good ol’ Jin w.a.n.gsun.
“There is something you are missing, Your Majesty. Although the two hail from impressive roots, there is a degree of difference at the end of the day. Mount Daluo is a reputable orthodox sect; however, they reside in the mountains, and very few of their disciples are famous. On the other hand, a White Champion Prince is an exalted existence. In addition, Gold and Silver Sect is wealthier. Therefore, it is natural that they would be proud of themselves. That is the first difference. Secondly, there is a difference in status. Constable Ming is an ordinary disciple from Mount Daluo. While he is now a seventh ranked warrior of the imperial court, Patriarch Jin w.a.n.gsun, to the contrary, is a patriarch of a sect. His status does not pale in comparison to a state. Hence, it is a given that he would not think highly of Constable Ming.”
In essence, Prime Minister Li Si dumped all of the blame on Jin w.a.n.gsun. The Emperor shook his head after hearing the explanation.
“Oh? Uhm… But the two of them are too aggressive today. They both had their faces scrunched up from the moment they entered. We need to be on guard today. Don’t let Jin w.a.n.gsun be too vicious out there. It won’t look good for us if an accident happens on New Year.”
“Your benevolence is unmatched, Your Majesty. With that said, you seem to be bothered by something else today, Your Majesty.”
“Indeed, there is something on my mind. Prime Minister, Lord San Shen…” said the Emperor. He lowered his voice. “You know about it.”
With a confused look, the old prime minister stroked his beard. He focused his energy into recalling things before leisurely replying, “It is about that b.u.g.g.e.r Lord San Shen seducing Princess Hongzhuang, right?”
“Yes, yes, yes! Exactly!”
It was unarguably embarra.s.sing if people found out Princess Hongzhuang fell for Lord San Shen. The old prime minister did his fame justice. Words were his weapon. Admire the brilliance of the prime minister’s tactful thinking.
Having made a simple mention of Princess Hongzhuang’s recent condition, the prime minister quickly developed a suspicion. He said, “Fret not, Your Majesty. In your subject’s opinion, if Her Highness truly saw him, she would not be sighing and low in spirits. To the contrary, she should be joyous and eager to venture outside. There has to be another reason for Her Highness’ low spirits. There is actually no reason for you to be bothered, Your Majesty. Among your three Princesses, Princess Hongzhuang is the most valiant and upright. Further, she grew up studying Buddhism. She would not actually a.s.sociate with someone from the Demon Sect.”
As they conversed, many had joined them at Wuying Hall. Even Princess Jingan had been seated.
“Jin w.a.n.gsun has arrived!” shouted a eunuch by the door.
Jin w.a.n.gsun entered the hall with a disgruntled look. That night, he sneaked out of his abode to go and give Ming Suwen grief, only to end up being smashed into the river – courtesy of Ming Feizhen. Then, he went to find Huo Qing’er, only to encounter Tang Ye and Situo. Needless to say, the two didn’t let him off the hook so easily after that. They a.s.signed men to guard his room. As a result, Jin w.a.n.gsun was even followed to the bathroom for the last few days. For days, he was despondent.
After greeting the Emperor, he was granted the right to rise. The Emperor scanned him and asked with bewilderment, “w.a.n.gsun, are you not feeling well? Have you not slept well recently?”
“w.a.n.gsun was insolent in the past and erred. Fortunately, you are an Emperor of benevolence, Your Majesty. That is how I have managed to reflect on myself,” replied Jin w.a.n.gsun, putting on a charade. “Having spent these past days reflecting on myself at home, I have comprehended many morals worth taking to heart.”
The Emperor looked at Jin w.a.n.gsun with joy. While the Emperor received plenty of reports from the prime minister and even dozens more from officials, he was the one who chose Jin w.a.n.gsun, after all. Plus, the mess was one he brought upon himself. Additionally, while he received reports of Jin w.a.n.gsun’s absurd behaviour, he didn’t hear Ming Feizhen doing anything better. He heard Ming Feizhen visited Heavenly Fragrance Garden several times in a single month, so his behaviour was far more outrageous than Jin w.a.n.gsun’s.
“It is normal for young ones to do outrageous things. You are a considered a hero. Being a bit of a womaniser isn’t an issue, but you must make sure to keep yourself in line after marriage. My son may lack anything, but being upright and conducting himself properly is a must. If you want to catch her attention, you must…”
“No! No! No means no!” exclaimed Princess Hongzhuang from outside.
“It is Princess Hongzhuang.”
“Yes, it is Hong’er,” reaffirmed the Emperor, sounding more energetic after finally hearing Hongzhuang’s voice.
However, as soon as the Emperor went to speak, he heard, “Your Highness, please show your kindness and accommodate your subject for this once.”
The Emperor immediately expressed his displeasure with his face and words, “Th-Th-That is just ridiculous! Who is that?!”
Earlier on when the worshipping Kitchen G.o.d ceremony ended, Ming Feizhen immediately started to cling to Princess Hongzhuang.
“Kind Princess, great heroine, nice Princess, please lend me your sabre for a bit.”
Princess Hongzhuang had red shades on her cheeks. Though they were talking about sabres, if you didn’t hear their dialogue, one would think Ming Feizhen was asking for her. The usually suave and valiant beauty surprisingly didn’t dare to look straight at him.
Ever since that day on Ethereal Beauty Boat, where Princess Hongzhuang followed Ming Feizhen to search for his Martial Grandaunt, she heard their conversation. However, after witnessing him split the boat in two, subsequently revealing Lord San Shen on board, she no longer knew what to think. It was impossible for her to identify him. Even if he was… was Lord San Shen… She lived under the same roof as him and even told him she liked him! Poor Princess Hongzhuang didn’t have energy or time. As a result, she and her father behaved as if they were at odds with each other. Their hostile situation frightened and concerned the entire palace for days.
She questioned herself countless times, but she was certain that the voice of the man who conversed with Ming Suwen had to be Ming Feizhen. But nonetheless, the astonishing might he sliced the boat with, the dominating aura he left with and the terrifying and hideous green mask belonged to the Lord San Shen she knew.
“How can the two of them possibly be the same person? If they’re one and the same, why did he approach me and accept my proposal to enter a fake marriage with me? Moreover, he’s a disciple from Mount Daluo; how can he be a leader in the Demon” questioned Hongzhuang to herself. But alas, the questions overwhelmed her mind.
“Ming Feizhen, t-tell me the truth. Are… you…”
“Yes! I wish to borrow!”
Ming Feizhen didn’t have the foggiest idea that the young Princess had seen through him. He was solely focused on shamelessly trying to plead her.
“Your Highness, the contest will soon commence. I do not even have a proper weapon. It is too embarra.s.sing. Your Gla.s.s Sabre is a one-of-a-kind quality sabre. Come on, lend me it. Come on.”
Princess Hongzhuang just couldn’t clear her train of thought. Given the way Ming Feizhen was clinging to her and pleading her, she tightly hugged her sabre. She deliberately wore on a straight face and exclaimed, “Since when were we talking about that?!”
Princess Hongzhuang then added, “Gla.s.s Sabre is a part of my body. You can never have it.”
“Ming Feizhen and Princess Hongzhuang have arrived!”
The two of them stepped into Wuying Hall at the same time, but were too immersed in their conversation, thereby forgetting to pipe down.
“Come on. Give it to me, Your Highness!”
“No! Would you be okay with giving your body to someone else?!”
The Emperor almost leapt off his throne…
*Tusu wine -as the name implies is a wine, but from ancient China.
**The poem is New Year’s Eve, auth.o.r.ed by w.a.n.g Anshi during Northern Song era.
***Princes and Princesses of second rank – these refer to children of Princesses or extended family of the Emperor.
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