Half a sky of the imperial city burning in red flames, the gradually accumulation of clouds engulfing that touch of moonlight in the horizon.
Holding up my overly complex skirt, I slowly set foot on the light grey steps of the city wall, walking with great difficulty. I have never liked these sort of overly complicated clothing, unless absolutely necessarily, I would never dress myself in such attire, and even if I do, behind me, there will always be a large number of maids to help hold up the skirt.
But today, there isn’t.
There are only soldiers in heavy armours, holding up ice cold spears, stained in blood, their faces expressionless as they hold me in capture, heading up the city tower.
Above the tower are battle flags, fluttering in the wind, having yet to arrive at the top, the cries of women and children are already audible. I step over the stiff cold limbs of a noble lady’s corpse, her head and body severed, with resolute indifference, I walk over to where the highest balcony lies.
The stars in the distance were revolving, the clouds rolling past faster and faster. Eyes witnessing a rainstorm soon to approach.
Below the city tower, three hundred thousand soldiers have already encircled the imperial city, blocking all sides, sparing no chance for escape.
With this many people, other than the irritating neighing of the warhorses, I cannot hear any other noise. The night wind carries a bloody scent as it icily hits my face, I free my hold from the skirt, simply allowing it to dance along to the wind. I believe, this wedding gown of endlessly flowing bright red, among this night, should be the most stunning colour aside from the crimson blood.
A frosty sword carrying a bloody stench lines my neck, such coldblooded murder that stains the armour of the man behind, makes my hairs stand on end. He loudly hisses:
“Marquis of Chang Ye, An Zi Wu!”
The three hundred thousand soldiers below the walls submerges into silence. I lower my eyes, masking the look that can be seen in my orbs, looking rather similar to a statue void of consciousness.
“An Zi Wu!” The raging anger of the man behind erupts, “(Imperial) I command you to quickly come out, one minute late and I shall gauge out one of your madam’s eye, one moment late and I shall cut her into a ‘human swine’!”
Human swine, removing all four limbs, gouging out the eyes, cutting off the ears, slicing off the nose and tongue, this is still the most favourite punishment of the monarch behind me.
My eyes remain lowered, collecting my thoughts, calming my heart, not letting leak the slightest of expression.
The troops below grows slightly restless. The majority of them serving under my husband, Marquis of Chang Ye, many of the generals are also familiar with me. Killing one woman is no big deal, but in a situation like this, to brutally kill the woman of the rebel leader, is but a type of deterrent.
Not to mention that above this city wall, there are many other family members of the generals and soldiers, they are all currently sorrowfully weeping. Right now, to kill me like this, is also a way of saying: not long after, they too will be brutally killed in the same manner. These troops have camped out in the outside world for a long time already, longing only for their wives, children and parents back home, should their women and children be killed……
The emperor’s strategy that targets hearts and mind alike, really is viciously cruel.
The stomping of hooves sounds from below the city. This sound is originally very light, yet I am still able to make out the noise. Perhaps because I was once a songstress for a number of years, I am more sensitive to sound, or maybe it’s because the horse he’s riding ‘Long Mei’ is one he and I had picked together.
A path pierces through the military fronts, the man on horseback pulls at the reigns, neither rushed nor slow as he appears before everyone’s eyes.
Amongst the shrouded night, only the lighting of torches allows me to see an unclear view of his face. Only knowing that his backbone is set very straight, the silver armour on his body, outlining perfect proportions, this is not the first time I’ve seen him in battle gear, but is the first time I’ve seen him in battle gear whilst in battle.
Less of an easy-going nature, more of a severe sternness.
The corners of my lips unconsciously traces an arc. That is my husband –– Marquis of Chang Ye, An Zi Wu. Currently the leading commander of the rebel army, about to overthrow the tyrannical reign of the ruling master of this country.
Seeing Zi Wu come out, the emperor behind me is somewhat happy. After all, rumours that Zi Wu and I share feelings that runs bone deep, is known throughout the Capital. They all believe that Zi Wu and I are a pair that will follow one another through life and death.
Follow one another through life and death.
Only I know, this is but an image Zi Wu wants them to see.
“Marquis of Chang Ye, should you be willing to withdraw troops, (imperial) I can show leniency towards your madam, and further forgive and forget all this, continuing to allow you to remain an official in court, loyal in serving my great Qi!”
The humid night breeze rolls up the flags on the city walls, and the person on horseback below, remains motionless in the night wind.
He has not yet replied, but I already know his answer.
He sinks into silence, leaving several hundred thousands to wait for his response.
I tightly clench my eyes shut, enough, to have this moment of deep silence is already enough. Also not a waste of me exhausting so much thoughts into putting on this body of festive wedding gown. In this life, Sang Ge being able to gain this moment of hesitation from An Zi Wu in exchange……
Thinking to myself: Marquis of Chang Ye, you wanting these thousand li of rivers and mountains, is only lacking in this final step, allow me to help you one last time. Not only to fulfil your ambitions, but also to save you from bearing the notoriety of having a cold heart and iron bowel.
“During Emperor of Zhao’s reign, natural disasters were constant, yet no thoughts to appease the commoners of the world were considered, and instead corrupt officials were appointed, plundering flesh and blood of the people, resulting in times of hardship. In the reigning third year, this tyrant Xiao Cheng, for his personal pleasure, reduced hundreds of female court attendants to human swine. In the reigning fifth year, dozens of loyal ministers were sentenced to the frying punishment. In the reigning eighth year, five massacres occurred in three cities in Jiangnan, causing not a voice to be heard in Jiangnan for three years, countless heaps of atrocities committed! And today, Marquis of Chang Ye is enforcing justice on behalf of the heavens, to eradicate this tyrant, to cleanse this world. Thousands of troops are deployed along the borders, Xiao Cheng, Emperor of Zhao is rendered powerless, what is there to fear?!”
“Shut up!” Xiao Cheng’s sword traces blood on my neck. He glares at me, overcome with so much resentment, his eyes were practically about to pop out its sockets, yet due to Zi Wu, he dares not to actually kill me.
The sobbing of the women and children on the wall gradually weakens, they are mostly highly educated women, such reasoning I speak of, perhaps if spoken before the commoners in the streets, it would not have much effect, but when spoken to them, they would still be somewhat shaken.
Raindrops slowly falls from the sky, I raise my head in face of the heavens, loudly shouting: “My lord should be tired from leading the troops through day and night, in order to guard the people of our motherland, shedding blood and sweat, fighting with all your might, it is no easy task to come all this way here! Our generation of women, may not be able to stand on the battlefield in substitute of our husbands, to eradicate this tyrant, we also cannot become their burden!”
The women all become quiet for a moment.
I still wanted to continue speaking, but was interrupted with yet another thunderous roar, and this time, this voice cannot be any more familiar to me. Every time in my sleep, I would always hear him softly call out my name by my ear: “Sang Ge, Sang Ge.” Such voice, truly is more melodious than that of songs.
I look towards him below the walls, one person one horse, stood amongst the rainy scene. Before him stands the palace walls and my life, behind him are the three hundred thousand soldiers who had fought alongside him to this very day.
I am unable catch a clear look of his face, but is able to hear anger and fear in his voice.
Worried for me?
I smile, Zi Wu, there is no longer the need to now.
After getting married to him, I rarely do things that goes against him, of course I have never enraged him either. But today, I don’t want to listen to his words. Amongst the xi xi su su rain sound, I further raise my voice, this time I did not spit out scornful words of the emperor’s tyranny, but is simply performing my original profession ––––– singing.
“When is the day of mourning? I and thee’s death……”
Before the sentence comes to an end, the emperor is absolutely enraged, one sharp blade striking down at me.
I only see one arm attached to a sleeve of gorgeous blood red, fly out. Drawing a curve in the air, falling to the muddy ground……
At the time, the pain had yet to reach my mind, I cover my endlessly bleeding arm, continuing to loudly sing. Blood and rain alike drenching the wedding gown I’m wearing.
He and the emperor roars at me at the same time. Emperor of Zhao raises his sword at me in a moment of madness.
Amidst the blurring of my senses due to the pain, I seem to hear Zi Wu screaming out: “Xiao Cheng! If you dare harm her once more……” Before he finishes, Emperor of Zhao reveals a treacherous smile, quietly saying by my ear: “Since Marquis of Chang Ye wants to seize (imperial) my country, should he really obtain it, then (imperial) I shall let him obtain it without the pleasure!”
He grabs my hair, dragging me along and knocks me onto the grey steps. At this point, I no longer cared about anything else, the remaining arm randomly clawing at his face. Within a trance, my fingers suddenly felt warm and wet.
Following was Xiao Cheng’s loud cries: “My eyes! My eyes!”
Taking advantage of his moment of panic, I loudly shout out: “Marquis of Chang Ye, is eradicating the tyrant in order to bring peace to the world, Sang Ge to be able to be the wife of the great marquis, has no regrets in this life! Absolutely no remorse!”
Throwing those words aside, with all my strength, my head charges into the emperor’s abdomen. The gown and sleeve fluttering, I along with this tyrannical emperor, falls down from the walls of the imperial city.
Before a person dies, time seems to slow down a lot.
I look amongst the heavy rain, hundreds and thousands of soldiers, everyone sobbing. I see the dark night about to fade and the approaching of the lightning fast “Long Mei”. In that final moment, I see the blood staining his armour and the mournful sorrow in his eyes.
For so many years, I longed for your calling, now, I finally hear it. With the netherworld reaching out, I hear you calling my name, within this heavy rain, yelling till your voice turns hoarse.
Zi Wu, do you by chance remember, our first encounter was also amongst the curtains of rain.
A first encounter amongst the poetic rain scene. At the poplar and willow shore in Jiangnan, under the roof tiles, hazy layers after layers of drizzling rain. At that time I was only a little known songstress, and you were just a dandy, idling marquis.
Met in the rain, knotted for life.
And now, I can finally free myself.
 Human swine or pig – rén zhì /人彘 – a highly cruel form of torture that turns the person into a so called pig. Chop off all four limbs; gouge out the eyes; drill copper rods into their ears, thus making them deaf; pour poison down the throat and cut off the tongue, destroying the vocal cord, thus making them mute; and then throw them into a latrine to live there. A torture invented by Empress Lu Zhi who performed such torture on Consort Qi.
 The frying punishment or páo lào zhī xíng / 炮烙之刑 is yet another form of cruel torture, whereby copper pillars were painted with oil and heated with charcoal fire, the offender is then strapped to this pillar and is fried/baked to death.