SONG OF HEROES CHAPTER 12: BEAUTY THAT CAN SINK FISH AND DOWN A GOOSE

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AEROPA

STATE OF HAN

XIANYANG

The state of Han is one of the states in the larger continent of Aeropa; with their capital city is Xiangyang, the once illustrious capital of the Luo family of Han before they were replaced by the Song dynasty that is also short-lived.

Then the Aeropean enter another period of warfare which created the current chaotic situations of states in the large Aeropa.

According to the Records of the Hundred States Period, the royal family of Han dynasty in Aeropa was actually a cadet branch of the Zhou dynasty that once ruled Midgard before their eventual destruction on the hands of Olaf the Conqueror.

They managed to escape the persecution of the Northmen when they ran pass the Mountain that separates the grassy plains of the Western Barbarians and the large empire of Hardstone dynasty.

During the Period of Warfare between the original inhabitants of the fertile continent of Aeropa and the influx of the fallen dynasty survivors, the Luo family who is the royal family of Han gradually gained influence and importance and they created the city Xiangyang and called themselves Viscount.

And not before long, they declared themselves King. King Luo Xi appointed Li Yu as Prime Minister and implemented legalist policies.

These strengthened the state and the realm. They declared themselves itself a new kingdom during the Turbulence Barbarian War Period.

Strong and possessing a capable military, Han conquered its neighbors and declared themselves Emperor and sits in the Dragon Throne and bear the Heaven Will on their shoulders like the tradition of old.

But they never managed to conquer the whole continent as the Western Barbarian always comes attacking.

The Bourbon mocked the Han, conquering two Kingdoms and daring to declare to hold the Heaven Will.

What Dragon Throne! What Heaven Will? The Bourbon rules all under Heaven.

Separated by the Mountains, the Bourbons could not pass to Aeropa, if not the whole world will be under the Banner of Bourbon.

It is because of this the Han expands their borders and territory. Their ancestors used to rule both Midgard and Aeropa.

But the Northmen came and end the Han ancestors rule and manage to conquer and pacify all the regions of Midgard.

After a few decades of fighting and war, Han controlled Xiangyang, Hanzhong, Nanyang and reached until Shu and they never expand any more than these borders.

Eventually they make alliances with their stronger neighbors before the Han dynasty falls under the rebellion of Song Yuan to avenge Lu Dingqiu.

It ushered in the bloodiest battle of the whole history of Kingdom of Han.

But the Luo family survives again. A branch of the Luo family fled back to Midgard and founded Southern Han.

In that time it was the rule of the Bourbon Dynasty and the Emperor was a wise and sagacious emperor and allowed the Luo family to thrive and even give them some lands.

During the warring period, the Luo family gained some lands and founded Southern Han.

While this was happening, the main branch of the family who did not went to Midgard during their first escape, waited their time and when the Song dynasty was waning and in decline, they staged a rebellion and the state of Han is founded again.

They lost all their great splendors and are now surrounded by many more larger states but they managed to restore Han, even as a state.

Two Han. One in Aeropa, another in Midgard. And in Southern Han lives a young Queen that desires to bring glory to the names of her House.

Luo Ruohua is the Queen of Southern Han and she is now leaning on her recliner inside the courtyard of the Li Wang residence.

The Queen of Southern Han, what would she be doing here in Aeropa instead of being in Midgard, ruling her kingdom?

She was closing her eyes as she enjoys the sound of the zither from the gardens.

She could not help but lament her fate. A puppet Queen and she was almost even assassinated a few days ago.

Her father was a great king and an even greater military leader. During his time, his father repelled many great invasions from its neighbor and allowed Southern Han to breathe even while surrounded by all superpower Northmen nations.

Her mother was Lady Gao, the daughter of the official Gao Jingde. Gao Jingde, Ruohua grandfather from her mother side was a capable official and even sacrifices his life fighting the troops of Western Capital and Norveg.

She sighed as she was contemplating something. The reason why she is here is because she ran. Why does she run?

Because to stay is to invite death.

Her ministers wanted to lead her astray, her generals wanted to kill her. The kingdoms have no pillars and small.

Its treasury is also almost dried up after the many years of repelling armed forces with gold.

The West has Westhold, brave and strong people with their mastery over horses.

In her father times Westhold rarely attacked Southern Han, content in guarding the Pass but since King Julius ascended the throne, it is clear to Ruohua that man is intending to conquer the world.

Searching for talents, arming the soldiers, strengthening the army, it is clear indication of that man ambition.

Young and able, King Julius is clearly intending to move Westhold to compete with the other powers in the Middle Kingdom.

Norveg possess large lands and a large amount of troops. If not for the threats that Avillon possess that restrict them from actively moving, then Southern Han would be crushed long ago.

Western Capital has always wanted to annex Southern Han to expand their land and to contend with Westhold.

Westhold has always raided the Western Capital lands, coming with their horses, raiding many villages, burning buildings and houses before disappears to the wind.

They are bullied by Westhold mobile cavalry units. And as such Western Capital always pays some gold to prevent Westhold from sending their raid party.

The gold they get from Southern Han. Southern Han pays Western Capital to not attack Southern Han. Western Capital pays Westhold to stop their raiding party.

Sharing the same plight, but could not unite.

Avillon was the same as Norveg.

But Ruohua knows that these matters will not always be the same. The Two Tigers of the East Stormholt and Norveg has shown sign that they wish to engage in an all-out war with Avillon.

Whatever happens, whether Avillon wins of the Two Tigers win, none of it is good for Southern Han.

If the balance of the Seven Kingdom is broken, then a Warring Period will began again and this time Ruohua is keen enough to know that her kingdom will not survive like last time.

No capable ministers to advise the matters of the world, no heroic general to guards the border and punishes invaders, Southern Han is in precarious position right now.

Norveg to the North, Western Capital on the South, Avillon to the East and Westhold to the West.

Enemies everywhere. She sighed

‘My Lady, why sigh?’ one of the attendants asked as she could not help but feel sad. One could not understand why an attendant would feel sad just because their lady is sad.

That is because their lady is Luo Ruohua. The attendant name is Mu Chun, a slender young girl, cute and adorable little girl that serves the Luo of Southern Han

From her childhood she accompanied her lady and grew to have affection and care for her young lady

Last night after seeing her Lady could not sleep, Mu Chun was also worried seeing her lady having no appetite and not being able to at ease, so she asked Li Wang steward to prepare some entertainment for her Lady.

Musician are called, zither sound filled the household, the qin string tremble and the willow branches sways following the harmony yet her lady still do not smile

Even as the sound of zither fills the garden, her lady could not be at ease. Mu Chun could not see her lady expression but weathering years of hardship with her lady how could she not know what her lady felt right now.

Even though her lady face is covered with a veil, her eyes told Mu Chun of her lady feelings.

Luo Ruohua in normal days covered his face. Only when she is with her trusted attendants and family would she remove the veil over her face.

All the people of Southern Han know why Luo Ruohua put a veil over her face. It is said her beauty could bring the downfall of a kingdom.

And it nearly did. When she was thirteen of age, one of the noble scions accidentally look at her face and could not forget her face.

He falls in love with the young Princess and asked his father, Hai Wang to propose marriage to Southern Han King.

But the Princess was not the kind of family that family could just propose not to mention the Princess herself at the time did not think about marriage.

Lovesick and could not have the objects of his desire, the noble scion killed himself by jumping down from a cliff.

Hai Wang blames the Princess and demands the royal family to kill their daughter to appease the spirit of his son.

The Royal family refuse and Hai Wang call upon his men and marches to the Capital. Thankfully, he was defeated almost immediately after General Yu Jing marched and neutralize the threat.

General Yu Jing after the battle has concluded comes to the royal palace and tender his resignation and leaving an advice to the royal family.

‘Hai Wang and his son both fall to beauty. To have a beautiful face that can sink fish and down a goose, to shut out the moon and put the flowers to shame is not a blessing but a curse to our Southern Han. Beauty is the reason Hai Wang family is in ruins.  Beauty ruins the nation; beauty ruins the nation’ he said before leaving the court laughing bitterly.

All the family of Hai Wang was executed and buried without a tombstone for the crime of treason.

Since then Luo Ruohua wears a veil. Beautiful face that could topple a kingdom, this kind of beautiful woman rarely has happy endings.

So, the King covered the face of her daughter, and teaches her the art of governing. Mu Chun as the Princess most loyal attendant was taught martial arts.

‘Send them away, Mu Chun’ Ruohua ordered as she waves her hand gesturing for them to leave. The music stopped and the sound ceased.

The performers look at Mu Chun and Mu Chun nodded

‘Tell me what Mu Chun can do for my Lady so my lady will not be sad anymore’ Mu Chun and her other attendants also nodded ready to move if the Princess orders them.

Ruohua look at her attendants and smiles.

‘Today, nothing. Tomorrow, is a different story’ she said before getting up from the recliner and begins walking to her courtyard.

Mu Chun just sighed and follows her from behind.

Her Lady is civil, virtuous, and serene.

She could play qin and chess equally well, she was talented in both literature and art, while also being known for her entertaining wit and conversations, and she was considered to be extremely gentle.

To see her distraught Mu Chun could not bear it so she only nodded weakly. Ruohua notices these so she said to Mu Chun

‘Do not worry too much Mu Chun. Li Wang is close to our family. We will return to Midgard after I have a solution.’ Mu Chun nodded.

Actually there is a solution. But it’s not a solution that she likes.

Marriage. Since time immemorial to bind two family together, especially powerful families, marriage is the most effective way to do it.

Norveg is not possible. Western Capital is even more impossible. Avillon on the other hand despise Southern Han.

So, there is only Westhold.

But the King is married and not the kind of man who would desire an alliance with Southern Han.

So, the only question is which family in Westhold that would find her influence useful. Even as she was thinking of this matter she keeps walking gracefully to her courtyard.

‘Westhold, land of brave heroes.’ she said uttering under here breath with a slight anticipation

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The next morning the courtyard of Ruohua was full of gifts given by most of the noble families in Han state.

All to show intention that the state of Han is receptive towards the Queen. Some also shows intention of courting the Southern Han queen.

Most of them from noble clans and powerful families.

A goose feather sent from thousands of miles away is a present little in size but rich in meaning

But this is only the surface.

Poison and daggers is hidden since it is not time yet. The Han state is weak. Southern Han is rich and its land is larger than Han state in Aeropa.

What the people of Han state don’t know is that Southern Han is in precarious situation. To rebuilt back the Han dynasty is hard but there are still loyalists to the cause.

Southern Han has always been providing Han state with resources while Han state provides man.

Aeropa does not lack men, Midgard does not lack resources.

The land of Midgard is fertile and prospers well but dominated by Northmen.

Ruohua wanted to use Northmen men but Northmen don’t want to be used by Han royal family.

One is willing, the other is not.

Aeropa is also fertile but drought sometimes come and destroys their hard work while Midgard rarely experiences drought.

Southern Han is also desperate. Pacify the internal matters before expanding. Ruohua is just a fifteen year old child but even she understands this simple concept.

But Ruohua must not show her desperation. She comes to Han passing Taiyuan to amass support from the Han nobles to regain back her lost authority in the court.

Even as her attendants read her the list of lavish gifts of jewelry, paintings, poems and gold she could not pay attention.

Trouble is brewing in Southern Han, no moment to lose. Hoping for a peerless talent to help her that is unreasonable but she could not return empty handed.

Li Wang will not always be generous and some influential party has begun seeing her as a target.

Without sufficient strength, she could not protect herself. Now the gifts have come and she knows she must return to her kingdom quickly.

The longer she left her kingdom unattended the more the officials of her kingdom will gain sway but returning without power would only spell doom for her.

She then said to her attendants with an uncaring expression, treating gold like dirt.

‘Calculate the worth of each gift and pawn it. The gold you get distributes it to the poor of Han state.’

‘My Lady!’ Mu Chun almost shouted but realizing her actions are improper quickly approach her Lady and ask her

‘Why would you do that, my Lady?’

Ruohua is frugal and humble, this traits of her is already known by the people of Southern Han. This is the reason she possess the hearts of the people, yet she could not gain the hearts of evil men.

She in her years ruling in Southern Han, albeit short before her minister grab her authority, is praised as she only take only the supplies that she needed without living luxuriously.

‘My Lady if all of these gifts are pawn and its worth measured in gold, when we return we could buy goods for the Palace. The Palace lacked sufficient goods and Mu Chun knows young lady does not care about gold but those officials have always mocked my lady and Mu Chun could not stand it. Why not my lady took this and uses it for my lady use?’

Ruohua look at Mu Chun and smiles under her veil and spoke with the most mesmerizing voice one could hear.

‘All rulers should worry about is not having enough virtues or enough fame. Why worry about not having enough goods?’

Saying this words of wisdom how could Mu Chun protested. She only nodded weakly and assent to her lady request

What Mu Chun doesn’t understand is that fame is sometime more important than gold and goods.

Luo Ruohua is known as the Queen of Southern Han, her status is noble but other than that the people of Han states knows nothing about her.

What is her personality? Who is she other than a young Queen?

By giving aid in terms of gold and goods to the poor Han state, her fame would surely resound throughout the state and she might even gather talented people of Han coming to her to join her in her journey back.

And by doing this kind of thing she also avoided troublesome entanglements.

To favor any particular noble house would open up terrible rivalries.

She had to emanate mystery and desirability, never discouraging anyone’s hopes but never yielding.

By doing this she gained fame and a virtuos and benevolent ruler impression.

The nobles that courted her by sending her gift could also found no fault instead they might even value her more and praise her as an example to all women.

Ruohua knew how the game is play.

She might not be able to execute martial arts but the game of politics, she knows more than most.

She might not be able to craft military strategy to secure a win from her tent but she could scheme and plot her way to success.

Finishing handling this matter, she then get up from her chair and walk outside her courtyard and breathe the clear air of Xiangyang.

Standing there on the courtyard, her back was straight and there was vigour in her.

‘All that remains is my desperation’ she said under her breath.

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Charles is training again. Another month has passed and this time Charles is still training. It’s Bloodmoon in Midgard

The month of farming and war. Farm produces food which supports the war one scholars one said about the reason why the Bloodmoon is called the month of farming and war.

It is a month dedicated to Orlanth the God of War. After one month Charles has realized that his body is taller than normal kids his age.

He grew one foot taller making him look like a teenager of fifteen year old. He is now five feet tall.

With special formulas of herbs and other ingredients Charles has managed to breakthrough into another realm in his training of martial arts.

Mistress Ziyan told Charles that now that he has breakthrough to Body Freeing Realm he has lengthen his own life span and achieving optimum health.

Charles also recognizes this as he can now jump to six feet high and his body is more agile and flexible.

Sacrificing the soul to achieve bodily strength.

Some that practices the Boundless Path way of martial arts sheds the physical body to exist in spiritual realms, such as one of the various immortal paradises.

Of course no one knows whether those who follow this path would really be able to enter immortal paradise.

It is dangerous to interpret these words and thoughts literally.

These Boundless Path practitioners achieve spirit flight, but their physical bodies do not. But the path where Charles is treading now is different.

Instead of seeking enlightenment of the Boundless Path, Charles seeks to strengthen his physical bodies instead of the spiritual soul that could not be proven.

Since he has passed halfway in the Body Freeing realm, he is practicing the method to strengthen more of his body.

Worldly Wanderer achieved by practicing meditation, which leads to tranquility, and breathing exercises.

People like Red Sword, Mad Fairy Southern Flower all possessed Worldly Wanderer internal energy level.

But even then there are distinction of how pure and dominating someone internal energy. Only by clashing head on one would know the true power of internal energy of one practitioner.

This method immortalizes the spirit but not the physical body.

Since Charles body has been strengthen now its times to strengthen the ephemeral soul. Refining the mind, attention to details, forging one mind and body in adversity and one day a new path may be opened.

Sitting cross legged on one of the peak of small hill inside the Sword Tomb Valley, Charles is focused on regulating his breathing.

For one hour he regulates his breathing, the energy of the Sword Tomb keep nourishing his body and clearing his mind. But he could not help but think of his homeland and his uncle.

His internal energy still feels icy and cold but the cold is no longer biting and instead it is soothing and relaxing.

No longer malevolent but calm as the blue sky. Like the gentle winds and faint clouds.

He is ten years old but his internal energy is comparable to those who practices internal energy for ten years.

For a boy his age he could fight at least grown men who did not practice martial arts.

If anyone heard this of course they would be shocked. But this is not surprising. The Jade Palace Gate Sect is a reclusive sect and produces many peerless martial arts experts across the centuries.

Each of their leaders leaves many martial art skills and each one is a consummate skills. But if Charles intends to fight experts like his uncle or Mad Fair he would surely be defeated easily.

Now, that Charles could feel internal energy he knows that his uncle possess the internal energy of those who have practices for fifty years.

His teacher Purple Fairy Ziyan possesses the internal energy of 45 years practices. Each martial artist has their own ways and technique to increase their amount of internal energy.

The fact that his teacher Ziyan is younger than a decade from his uncle should also be considered.

This shows that the methods of Jade Palace Gate Sect are truly domineering and perfect.

Charles also wonders if this is Heaven will that he meet with Ziyan.

A month has passed so by now, he has accepted Ziyan as his teacher rand after accepting Ziyan as his teacher sincerely, his teacher imparted him the knowledge of the Extreme Poisonous Yin body.

If he did not meet Mistress Ziyan then Charles wouldn’t even know what kills him in the future and his plan will all be for naught.

Mistress Ziyan then said to him when Charles marveled at their meeting and the coincidences

‘This is Heaven Will. I wanted to meet young master Lancel and settle the debt of the past but I met you. Since you possess the Extreme Poisonous Yin body, I have no choice but to adhere to the sect rules and accept you as my disciple. My teacher is the current Head of the Jade Palace Sect. I am his first student and his successor. And you are my first student. Our school is not strict; most of the sect disciple all wanders the Jianghu. If you recognize their martial arts then greet them and told them the name of your master and they will give respect’

Charles then asked what the debt of her past with his uncle is. Ziyan smiles and told him the reason why she wanted to meet Charles was to have their promised duels.

In the past Ziyan lost in a battle with her uncle. She was fifteen at the time and his uncle was twenty. At the time her sword skill was not as refined or as deadly as it is today.

They promised to duel each other on top of the Divine Immortal Peak in Xiangyang the next year on the first day of the spring buds open.

But Lancel never showed. Year after year she waited on top of the Peak always coming to fulfill her promise yet he never showed.

When she heard from the tribesmen that Scholar of Sword Meng Zhang has lent his medallion to his Senior Brother Ziyan inquires the tribesman.

From the tribesman she heard the story of a warrior traversing the Pass with a red sword on his hips. Ziyan knew then that it is Lancel the red Sword.

And then things happened and now Charles is Ziyan disciple and Lancel will finally come to Xiangyang after all these years

After hearing the truth, Charles could not help but kowtowed to her and accept her wholeheartedly

When Charles looks at the expression of his master, he could see a profound longing and sorrows and Charles knows this is a matter of the hearts.

To Ziyan eyes, Charles is no more than a kid but Charles possesses the wisdom of thirty decades inside his mind.

How could he not see and understand.

There are some unspoken feeling between Ziyan and his uncle. From what Charles knew about his uncle, he is known to be faithful towards his wife Lady Kyra.

But maybe there is another story.

Charles should be focusing his mind yet his mind could not be focused.

It was then that the sound of zither fills the valley; the sound is melodic and contains sorrows and longing.

It reverberates inside the valley like the trembling of a war drum inciting internal energy to boil.

From all directions the sounds arises up like a storm.  Charles could feel the coldness inside his body rises up and gushes of energy surges from his lower abdomen, forcing him to focus on his Heartless Sutra and Charles began chanting the Heartless Sutra.

The more he chanted the more he could focus, the more he could understand. Yesterday, Ziyan teaches him Twelve Steps of Heaven.

Each step is profound and has different function.

The First Step Dragon Gliding through the Sky is a dodging movement. Mastering this first step, circulating internal energy in the foot one could glide through assaults of arrows.

As long one is not exhausted, this skill would keep one safe from incoming arrows. Now that he could focus, his teacher movement that she shows yesterday replay itself inside Charles mind.

And Charles suddenly stands up but his mind is still meditating. He followed the movement of his teacher in his memory and his feet emits cold aura as the soil beneath his feet felt cold.

Then with one tap of his foot he jumped and glided to one of the other peaks, graceful and dignified and landing smoothly he opens his eyes and takes a deep breath.

He clasped his hand and bow towards the Peak where his master resided.

‘Charles pays respect to Master.’ The sound of the zither stops and then a woman flew out from the hut on top of one of the peaks and landed smoothly in front of Charles.

‘Pack your belongings. We are going to Xiangyang’ Saying this Ziyan sits down on one of the stone boulders and closes her eyes. Smiling, Charles quickly went back to his hut and packing

‘Xiangyang’ he mused.

‘I have always wanted to see it.’

Thinking of this he was really excited and thus at evening, they went out of the valley and start their journey to Xiangyang.

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