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Translator: Henyee Translations Editor: Henyee Translations
The Second Consort breathed in a mouthful of the late autumn’s cool air and closed her eyes to enjoy it, as if it were washing away all the dirt from her body. Meanwhile, she was still sitting firmly on her horse, unaffected by the bumpy road.
She liked riding.
“The Flame Foal is really a good horse. The former King Rizhu did have sharp eyes. If I were you, I would not lend it to anyone, not even Duodun.”
The Second Consort had raised this topic several times and each time Shangguan Ru would shrug and give the same answer. “We actually need to move slowly. There won’t be many area where the Flame Foal can gallop, so it’s better to lend it to someone who really needs it.”
The Second Consort glanced back at the long line of soldiers behind her and complained, “Why it is so troublesome to be a woman? Why can’t we, like men, ride at top speed with only several hundreds of lightly armored troops? We can’t we start riding at dawn, and arrive in the evening? Why must we move so slowly and spend a whole two days travelling?
“Because you are the Second Consort,” Shangguan Ru replied, all the while smiling as if the long line of caravans had nothing to do with her. “Take the Khan as an example. The higher his position became, the less he could move around freely. I’m afraid that he also couldn’t ride at top speed since when he moved, the whole Royal Court went with him.”
“Haha, that old dog.” The Second Consort didn’t lower her voice at all for the next couple of sentences. The Khan, who was worshiped as a god in the various tribes of the Norland, was nothing but a skinny pervert in her mind. “Believe me, he could still ‘ride at top speed’ sometimes. When he was too old to gallop across the grassland, he shifted targets to women as the territory he needed to conquer.”
Shangguan Ru blushed. The Second Consort had never been shy about saying such words. The Khan might have felt that they were refreshing, but it was hard for other people to accept them as easily. For Shangguan Ru, they reminded her of her father. The Unique King had once been obsessed with women, but had now taken the opposing path of giving up on women and pursuing real land and power.
Men were really like a different species, mercurial and unpredictable. But the Dragon King was even more different. Shangguan Ru’s mind drifted away and her face turning redder and redder with each passing second.
The Second Consort stared at her and asked, “You are thinking about the Dragon King, right? Look at your face. If the Dragon King sees you now, he would immediately depose of the queen in the Western Regions and marry you instead.”
Shangguan Ru chuckled to disguise her true feelings and slightly pulled on the reins before saying, “Let’s have a horse race. We’ll lose our guards and see who can reach the young king Shulitu’s camp first.”
The Second Consort looked at her in surprise. “How could we do that? You are really…” Before she finished her words, she had already urged her horse to gallop forward. In the blink of an eye, she was half a horse-length ahead of Shangguan Ru.
Shangguan Ru followed closely behind. Although she was not riding the Flame Foal, she was still full of confidence.
The entourage behind was thrown into confusion. After a short period of panic, the group divided themselves into two, and the smaller group of people started chasing after their masters.
The Second Consort whistled like a man as if she were a dozen years younger. At that time, Duodun had still been a little kid who had just lost his mother and always hung around her like a little dog, and the Khan had also not lost himself in the trap of pursuing immortality. He had often taken her out to wander around, and they had even visited the remote battlefield once.
Shangguan Ru’s horsemanship wasn’t as good as the Second Consort’s, but she was lighter, and she could also use her lightness skills. As her body rose and fell with the bobbing motion of her horse, the horse was able to gallop at full speed, and gradually caught up.
The scene of the Second Consort and the instructor of the Land of Fragrance riding into the camp became the most talked-about incident of the day and its impact went way beyond the two’s imagination.
The banquet in the camp of the Naihang Tribe was naturally interrupted by their arrival as both the host and the guest immediately left for the young king Shulitu’s camp. Through the power of alcohol, the new King Rizhu seemed very excited and kept showing off to the surrounding people. “The Second Consort is from the Naihang Tribe. You know, she’s my aunt, or maybe my elder sister.”
The crowd flattered the new king all the way to the camp, and only two people did not join in on the chorus of praise. Gu Shenwei, who was usually reticent, only exchanged some glances with the counselor along the way. Neither of them understood why Shangguan Ru was here. The other man wearing a silent, gloomy face was Duodun, who warily avoided bringing the subject around to himself.
The new King Rizhu with a pink-white face, however, refused to let him go. As he sat on his horse, he stuck out his large hand and gripped Duodun’s shoulder, saying, “You were brought up by the Second Consort and can be considered as half a man of the Naihang Tribe. Do not forget about our kindness.”
Duodun snorted coldly before replying, “The Khan is dead. She’s not the Second Consort anymore.”
Zhesu, who was following behind, raised his voice at this moment and said, “Both the Chief Consort and the Second Consort of the Khan hail from the Naihang Tribe. This will be a tradition of the Norland. No matter which descendant of the Khan inherits the throne, he has to obey it.” Then he turned to Shulitu and asked, “Your Highness, if it were you, which one would you choose, the Chief Consort or the Second Consort?”
“Ah? I… I’m only twelve years old, and both the Chief Consort and the Second Consort are my great-grandmothers.”
“Prairie men don’t care about this. If you really think that you are too young or are not senior enough in the family, then you should just give up the fight for the throne and live as an honest and worthy grandson. Choose your own Chief Consort and then we’ll pick a pretty little girl from our Naihang Tribe to be your Second Consort.”
Embarrassed, Shulitu turned to Fang Wenshi and the Dragon King in a plead for help.
Zhesu and the new King Rizhu were entitled to be arrogant. They had just shown off the strength of the Naihang Tribe, the 100,000 troops. With such a powerful force, even though it was not enough to rule the prairie, it could greatly affect the overall situation. Shulitu and Duodun would fall into the awkward position of being attacked from both the front and the back if they offended the Naihang Tribe.
Fang Wenshi nodded slightly. Shulitu straightened up in turn and replied, “Of course, if possible, I would choose the Second Consort. No one is more entitled to be the Chief Consort of the new Khan than she.”
Zhesu and the new King Rizhu laughed out loud and their entourage also cheered as if the matter had been decided with those words.
With a crisp sound, the whip in Duodun’s hand cracked from being squeezed too hard. A companion immediately handed his whip over, but the loud snapping sound had already aroused the attention of the surrounding people.
The new King Rizhu laughed even more heartily and said in a louder voice, “Haha, it seems that Duodun is jealous. The women of our Naihang Tribe are really special.”
Duodun’s expression changed a few times but in the end, a smile lit up his face. “Even if the Naihang Tribe sends me a hundred women, I’ll take them all. I’m just jealous that I might not have a chance.”
“All descendants of the Khan have the chance,” Zhesu said solemnly, as if he were a priest presiding over a ritual. “Even if a descendant doesn’t have a chance, our Naihang Tribe will give him a chance.”
One of Duodun’s companions understood his master’s intent and took advantage of the momentary silence of the crowd to exclaim, “The Naihang Tribe allied with the Khan through the marriage of the Chief Consort and the Second Consort, which is a real alliance. The Dragon King should use it as a reference.”
Gu Shenwei didn’t speak, so Fang Wenshi answered for him instead. “Hehe, that’s a good idea. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that no princess of the prairie would be willing to marry into the Western Regions.”
“Women, you know, are like grass seeds. They grow wherever they are sown. Their willingness or unwillingness have no say in the matter.” King Rizhu, who had drunk a bit too much, looked very enthusiastic about this prospect. “I have a sister, fifteen years old. As for her appearance, you’ll understand just by looking at me. If the Dragon King likes her, I’ll send her over to you.”
“The Dragon King already has a queen and dares not belittle Your Highness’s sister. Besides…”
Fang Wenshi was still thinking of a way to redirect the topic back to Duodun and the Second Consort when Duodun coldly interjected and said, “Who said that the Norland must send our women out? If the Dragon King wants to solidify the alliance through marriage, then he can marry someone off to us.”
“Good idea!” The new King Rizhu readily agreed as he asked, “Dragon King, what women do you have in your family?”
“The Dragon King only has a queen, and no sisters or aunts.” Fang Wenshi was trying his best to prevent the Dragon King from being dragged into this inane topic by all possible means. “The Second Consort …”
Fang Wenshi had a silver tongue, but there was not much room for him to use it among a group of leather-strapped Norland nobles. Before he could say anything else, one of the Duodun’s friends had already interrupted to say, “The Queen of the Land of Fragrance. She’s like a sister to the Dragon King. Why not have her marry into the Norland?”
The proposal was met with cheers and two hostile pairs of eyes. One was from the Dragon King, which the proponent had been prepared and did not care about. But the other was from Duodun. His heart trembling, the man suddenly realized that his prince had already proposed to Shangguan Ru many times, and that bringing it up again was a big mistake. As he realized this, he hurriedly bowed his head and slowly retreated to the back of the group, feeling panic-stricken as he walked the rest of the road.
The new King Rizhu, however, thought that this was a brilliant idea. “Everyone says the Queen of the Land of Fragrance is beautiful and capable to the point that none of the women in the prairie can compare with her. I’m a little curious now. General, can I marry her?”
Zhesu said in a serious tone, “Your Highness, you can marry anyone you like. It wouldn’t be a disgrace for anyone to marry Your Highness at all, even if she were the Khan’s daughter.”
Duodun struggled for a while before smilingly saying, “I’m afraid that the Dragon King won’t agree.”
“Why would the Dragon King disagree? Doesn’t he want to ally with our Naihang Tribe? Or does he want to marry her himself?” The new King Rizhu’s interest was piqued.
Gu Shenwei could no longer stay silent. “Instructor Shangguan is not the Queen of the Land of Fragrance, and nor is she my subordinate. I can’t decide who she will marry.”
“That’s even easier then.” The new King Rizhu, who had missed the Dragon King’s hidden anger, turned to Zhesu and asked, “She’s not a queen. What good is it to marry her?”
“It is good. At the very least, you can use her to bear sons.” Zhesu stated defiantly as he stared at the Dragon King.
Gu Shenwei almost drew his saber upon hearing those inflammatory words, but Fang Wenshi burst out in laughter so loud that it drowned out everyone else’s voice. As he laughed, he regretted not learning some internal energy from the Dragon King since he knew this day would come eventually. “The people of the Naihang Tribe really like to joke.”
“Joking?” The new King Rizhu thought that this man’s laughter was very harsh. “Who’s this fatty? He doesn’t act like a man of the Norland.”
“I’m the counselor of His Highness, the Dragon King.”
“What the hell is a counselor? And what do you mean by ‘people of the Naihang Tribe like to joke?’ Can’t I marry that instructor or something?”
“Forgive me, Your Highness. You talk about women like you talk about playthings. However, the Second Consort is also from the Naihang Tribe and is quite independent. She can go anywhere and do whatever she wants on the prairie; she doesn’t seem like a woman who would casually follow the orders of others. That’s why I think that Your Highness is joking.”
The new King Rizhu flew into a rage and brandished his horsewhip as he yelled, “How dare you say that the men of the Naihang Tribe can’t control their women?”
Fang Wenshi smiled wryly but said nothing. It was already enough to provoke the other side to such an extent. Both the new King Rizhu and Zhesu were reckless men. As long as they entangled themselves in the complicated relationship between the Second Consort and Duodun, his scheme would already have half succeeded.
The Second Consort and Shangguan Ru arrived at the young king Shulitu’s camp at almost the same time and were talking and laughing happily as they entered from the front of the main tent. The ones following behind them were the female soldiers of the Land of Fragrance, followed by part of the entourage the Second Consort, and then, finally, the slowly moving convoy.
The new King Rizhu, who was still filled with anger, rode to the two women and stared at them briefly. After confirming that the older woman was the Second Consort, he snapped, “Second Consort, the Naihang Tribe wants you to remarry. Are you going to obey or not?”
“Who are you?” The Second Consort was stunned.
“I’m King Rizhu.”
“Who do you want me to marry?”
“I’m not sure yet, but you’ll marry whoever inherits the throne. In short, it’s up to me to decide. Just tell me whether you’ll obey or not.”
Furious, the Second Consort lashed out him as she shouted, “What complete and utter bullsh*t!”
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