1. Notes

The Marriage of the Empress of Autumn



Day 1 Morning - Bathing and Robing


Ying frowned at the glittering gold trim on the jacket before her, leaning in to inspect the ornate pattern of swirling leaves that had been embroidered upon it.

No sooner had she drawn away than her keeper started forward, stooping low and bowing, looking firmly at the floor as he began to speak, “I see the flaw, forgive me Gongzhu. I will ensure any error is corrected at once and have the tailor’s hands removed. He well be banished from the city.”

“I was merely examining it’s beauty, Xia Chen. Give the tailor my commendations and send me my Shiwu. I have no wish to be kept waiting.”

Chen gulped, straightened and hurried to the door, his black scales catching the sunlight. As she observed him leave, she considered his form carefully. Even in his rush, he had been careful in his steps, his black robes had not brushed against her, nor had he stepped beyond the white tiles that acted as a walkway from the door to the mannequin they stood before. She sighed, he was truly putting in great effort... a shame.

She turned back to the cuff, following the crimson thread interwoven among the opulent gold. She pursed her lips, a soft curling of smoke escaping her nostrils in annoyance, it was garish and unpleasant. The green of the sleeves was a little too deep for her tastes and the peacocks that decorated it where lost slightly in the floral patterns. Still, she cared less about the qungua before her, and would stomach the indignity just to cause him trouble.

No the room was empty, she removed the veil from her face and place it upon the stand next to the ceremonial attire. The Shiwu would be here soon and so she began to prepare for them, removing her decorated robe and placing it on a second, empty mannequin that stood next to the first. She felt a cool summer breeze dance across her scales through the high slatted windows and savoured the moment of vulnerability as she was bare to the elements... A knock at the doors behind her.

She turned to face it, striding forth her talons striking the glazed tiles and heralding her movement. She reached the door, stopping precisely five paces from it, “I am prepared.”

Three longxuni entered in single file, each sharing her nakedness, revealing fully the vibrancy of their opalescent scales. The first was ruby, and stopped after taking five paces into the room, bringing her level with the Gongzhu. As she was trained to do, she turned to face her and bowed deeply, sweeping her leg backwards so as be completely beneath her. The second women was a marine sapphire, stepping fours paces and imitating her bow. The final was gilded, like her, and entered only three paces after closing the door behind her. She did not bow like her fellows, instead holding out her hands before her, becoming impassive. As the clicking of their taloned feet stopped, the two prostrating her stood and waited, their heads tilted in reverence.

”My Shiwu...” Ying began, she could see the two longxuni nearest her tensed at her words, the golden figure looked up and held her gaze however. She hesitated... It was bold, a sign of disrespect to look upon her figure, even for one who was trusted with sight. She shrugged off the distraction and continued, ignoring the brash gesture. ”...You may begin.”

The two with their heads bowed finally raised them, her words a signal that formality may be temporarily and in part suspended. She placed a hand under each of their long snouts so she might look upon their faces. They both had their eyes shut, which irked her, “Open your eyes!” She commanded, “You are not granted such an honour to insult our hospitality.” A nervous shuffle from their pair. Both slowly parted their lids, revealing, hollow, empty sockets. Good, she thought, the mushi had done their job well. It was tradition that all but one of the Shiwu be deprived of the their sight during the ceremony, but the demeanour of the third had cast doubt in her mind.

She turned to them now and approached, “You!”

Their head tilted down slightly, but their gaze did not sway.

“Speak your name!”

Their head tilted, “I am Ai.” She said, unable to hold the Gongzhu’s gaze any longer.

Ying’s eyes narrowed. Ai? It couldn’t be. “Shi Fuqin selected you?”

Ai nodded, “We were chosen by Tianzi. It was the divine messenger who-”

“You will speak only when prompted to!” Ying cut across her, she was in no mood for rambling excuses, “You were trusted with sight and yet you disgrace yourself with such behaviour?” Ai said nothing. “You may answer,” Ying bade her.

“I thought...” Ai looked quite upset by the ordeal, but did not finish her sentence.

Ying nodded and finished her thought, “Indeed... you are not here to think.” She felt her insides twist, but contorted her lips into a smile, flashing her white fangs at the withering longxuni. She turned again, “Names!” she commanded.

The scarlet one spoke first, “Ayma.”

Then the second, “Qing.”

“We will begin bathing.” Ying strode over to the screen on her right. It stood out in this room as rather plain, being simple water reeds woven among one another with red trim, but even this had been made by distinguished weavers many centuries ago. In of itself, she had no doubt it would be worth more than the combined possessions of both Ayma and Qing.

The two had followed her navigating by the sound of her feet against the tiles. The white gave way to black and a slightly different sound to help them follow her and reed mats too offered guidance, but it was unnecessary. To undertake this task was the highest honour... They would not make a mistake, as they would have practised this countless times in preparation for this very moment. Ai trailed behind, walking evenly between the two and Ying could feel her gaze on her neck. Her scales itched slightly.

Behind the screen stood an enormous shell, supported by a wooden frame. The iridescent surface cast dancing light across the walls of this portion of the room and the waters surface rippled as Ying lowered herself into it. A cover of lotus flowers floated aside her as she leant back in the warm water.

For a moment, she relaxed, letting the vapour of the bath fill her nostrils and wash over her... but only for a moment. She opened her eyes and turned to Ai, who was waiting, her hands clasped over her stomach.

“You may direct them.” Ying affirmed as she stood, and Ai began to help the other Shiwu into the bath. This part was always awkward, no amount of practice could ensure that one would find even footing and the irregular shape of the shell bath didn’t help, so it had become customary that the one trusted with sight should assist the blind Shiwu. The cumbersome clambering of Ayma was displeasing, relying heavily on Ai to support her as she stepped over the lip of the tube, but Qing was a little better nimbly hopping over, despite her impairment. Ai placed sponge in both of their hands before placing several soap beads into the water. They fizzed as they dissolved, filling the room with the scent of the yitou bark and herbs.

Ying held her arms out at her sides, as Ai directed the Shiwu’s hands to them. Each ran their hands along her arms, feeling out her body, before submerging the sponges and dabbing at her. Ai would watch and occasionally tap one of them on the shoulder, indicating they needed to wash part of her again. The jade powder in the beads, gave her scales a greener tint, and caused them to flash and glint as they caught the light.

Ying could not fault Ai for what she could see, no part of her was neglected in this purification, but she noticed that Ai seldom looked beyond her face. It was a strange thing as the two Shiwu cleaned her; to hold the eyes of the golden longxuni for so long, but the Gongzhu knew why. Her previous suspicions had crystallised into certainty.

As her pruning approached completion, Ai unfurled the fur carpets and reed mats around the base of the bathtub. Ying stepped off, aided by the two blind Shiwu and Ai began to run a dry towel over her. She hesitated briefly when reaching Ying’s snout, taking care not to disturb the sensitive whiskers as she dried the fine fur around her maw. As she went to withdraw, Ying grabbed her hand, causing Ai to gasp. The Ghongzhu could sense the uneasiness of the her two servants behind her, but merely took Ai’s towelled hand back, using the towel to dab at the damp of her neck. She released it, and the hand was swiftly withdrawn.

With her bath complete, Ying moved to the other side of the room, passing the qungua, and instead seating herself in a slightly reclined throne. It wasn’t truly a throne, but its opulence would say otherwise, lavishly painted with scenes of battle, gilded with gold and silver, and veneers of the finest wood. At its base were two blocks of wood, tellingly sanded to have the depressions of footprints. As Ying took her seat she placed rested her talons against the wood and beckoned Ai forward.

As one with sight, only she could perform this task. She reached over to a compartment beneath the seat and withdrew a hefty file. Her hands were steady as she examined her charge and began to file away the Gongzhu's talons. One of such high stature regularly had their nails filed anyway, so the work was simple, but it was impossible to ignore the tension as the soft grating continued. Once the talon was ground down to the cuticle, Ai took a soft brush and began to clean the dust away. Ying's face did not change from her impassive stare, but Ai had noticed the involuntary flex in her feet as the light bristles trailed across them. With each talon carefully rounded, she withdrew.

Ying stood again, tapping her toes twice against the ground to signal to the Shiwu and all three moved with her to qungua. In most ceremonies it would be a simple two piece attire, but for the Gongzhu it included an abundance of extra ribbons and tassels that all had to be applied by hand. Ayma began with her arms, while Qing worked on her feet, both wrapping them tightly in white silk. Ai meanwhile prepared the more delicate jewellery that would adorn her, as well as preparing the makeup to apply to her face. As the wraps were applied, Qing began to apply golden rings to each of her toes, before tying them with silver thread to fur lined sandals, Ayma applied similar, albeit lighter, rings to her fingers, each containing a different gemstone. The ornate jacket of of the qungua was draped over her covered torso her arms put through the flared sleeves. Even in the heat of summer, the loose fit ensured it would remain cool. A long skirt as wrapped around her waist, neatly tied on the inside at regular intervals to avoid parting, this one bore dragon, a lung, twisting its way around her slender form.

With her robing nearly complete, the blind Shiwu withdrew and prostrated themselves again. Ying considered keeping them here, as was normal, but she had realised evermore that she could not keep temptation away.

“Ayma! Qing!” The two snapped to attention. “You may go.” Each stood in turn and nodded, bowing once more and turning to take measured steps towards the door. Their training did not fail them, both able to stop perfectly before the door, open it and step out.

Silence fell in the room, Ai had not begun to apply the cosmetics yet and was keeping her gaze firmly on the items. Ying did not hesitate and threw her arms around her. Ai did not flinch and allowed herself to be pulled into the embrace.

“Gongzhu Yu...” Ai voice was breaking as she spoke, but she did not return the embrace, ”...you will crease your attire.”

“I care not for it.” Ying was uncharacteristically emotional, “I- I’m sorry.”

“You don’t need to apologise- Gongzhu, please unhand me.” Ai squirmed free from her grip.

“Ai? Why are you here? You should not have-“

“It was more painful to be without you.”

“You would bear that which is to come?”

“A future with you...”

“A future at my side, not with me.” Ying corrected, “It would be as torture.”

“Compared to a life without?”

Ying was silent for a moment... “What of me?”

“I did not claim to be selfless... You owe me no apology, Gongzhu... I meant that.” Ai struggled to finish her sentence, but took a deep breath. “I must complete my duty, hold still.”

She leaned forward and took another brush, applying the makeup. Black lines around the eyes, between the prominent scales around the nose and brow, polish on the remaining scales, a foul tasting whitener on the teeth. She stepped back and bowed, taking the final piece, a small salakot with a red veil and placing it upon Ying’s head.

Ai bowed again, “It is done. I must be with the Shiwu before their sight is returned... I will see you on the morrow’s night... Farewell.”

Ying looked on as Ai departed, she so desperately wished to say something, but knew from the determination in her eyes that it would be in vain.


Day 1 - A Deviation from Schedule


Ying strode toward the grand door, ignoring the strange looks the two royal guards were giving. The door was tall, taller than she by three measures and decorated with characters, the names of the Tianzi past. She strode toward the door, but found it blocked as the guards thrust their glaives out. It was a comical display as the door was more than large enough for this to be no true blockade, but she was in no doubt they would stop her if she reached out for the bulbous knocker that hung from the maw of the dragon before her.

“Let me through.” She commanded. No change. “I must speak with Shi Fuqin!” No reaction. The invocation of the Tianzi as her father was an unlikely ploy to work, they knew who she was, but worth an attempt. She reached out a hand and the guard stepped towards her. She turned, spying him through the veil, although she was obscured. “You would not hurt me.”

The longxu frowned, ”Shilen Tianzi is not to be disturbed, even by you. This drill will not pass muster.” He set himself before her, levelling his glaive. “You must return!”

“You dare level your weapon at me?” Her voice rose.

“I complete my duty!” the guard responded, his tone matching hers.

“To cut me would be to damage that which is of the Heavens, she who is a step forth from divinity herself! I will bear the next Tianzi- You will let me speak to Shi Fuqin!”

The guard squared his shoulders, his colleague joining him and both preparing for retort verbally when the largest symbol on the door began to glow, ‘Zhi’.

“My loyal soldiers,” a thunderous voice addressed the guards, “You show high faith, I commend you... She may pass.” At the words, the guards immediately knelt, bowing their heads in deference. “Enter.” The words spoke, but the door did not move. Instead, a second door, rather more modest and what one may have easily discounted as a side passage, swung open.

She entered the room and the door ground shut behind her. The room was devoid of natural light, the navy and black drapes hanging from foot to ceiling were lit by lanterns and candles that illuminated a huge screen. The silhouette of a huge serpentine form lay behind it, seemingly at peace in the darkness. As the grumbling voice rang out through the room, she realised her heart was aflutter... She felt nervous.

“You disturb me... You disturb my guards... You disturb my preparations...” the voice was not one of pleasure.

“Shi Fuqin, I-”

“I am not your father, girl!” The voice boomed out.

“Sorry!” She whimpered, a foolish mistake brought on by her anxiety, “Zhi Tianzi- I need to speak with Shi Fuqin. It is important... it regards my Shiwu.”

“Your Shiwu?” the Tianzi’s temperament changed, now sounded curious, “Your father’s selection was not good enough?” A slight hint of bemusement, “You should know, Gongzhu, that we all held council in rumination on the selection. Your father pushed most strongly on the selection of a golden longxuni by the name of Ai.” The shadow shifted behind the curtain, the dragons head tilting before a spiralling body, “I hear the blood that flows through you- Yes, this is about her!” Victory rang in that tone. “Worry not, dear child, your secret is safe with me... That is, if your father does not know already.” His chuckle echoed, but the shadow behind the screen did not match this, instead the form writhed and contorted, shrinking down to the modest shape of a longxue.

"Xiaojia," A cautious voice, without its former grandeur, but still with a stern edge. "You ought to behave better..."

Ying quivered, had Zhi allowed him knowledge after all?

"...my guards are loyal to me and you should not test this."

She relaxed slightly, "I won't, father."

"Good. Now, what was so urgent that the Tianzi himself should be concerned?" He spoke with humour, but Ying was unappreciative.

 She hesitated, choosing her words carefully, "It is..."

”...Chen?” The shadow of the longxu moved, emerging and revealing her father. His tawny beard was styled to be long and dappled with grey, while his whiskers retained their fiery umber. His rich golden scales were almost bronze as they had tarnished with age, but his piercing yellow eyes imparted no absence of mind. “You disapprove of my choice of suitor?”

“I dislike him.”

“Dislike him?” The barest trace of a smile passed across his lips, “Dislike him? You are lucky Xiaojia. Your mother...” He moved over to a tall candle that stood in front of the screen and plucked the flame from the wick, holding it between two golden claws, “I despised her when we first met. We were at each other's throats, two nimbus clouds seeking to dominate the sky.” The flame grew in his talons, and split into two. “Yet, Tang Fuqin chose her for me, knowing she would manifest our destiny and carry the blood of Zhi.” The flames danced along his palms and began to writhe around his arms, “As we courted, we finally understood. Ours was not to complain, our lot was the duty of the divine and with that came understanding.” The fiery wreaths stopped moving, “Then love.” He clasped his hands and the flames came together. “Then the greatest gift of all... and she was gone.” The flame was extinguished, and she felt a mournful sadness from her father that she had never seen before. “We spent so long against one another and wasted so much time on regretful words.” He looked over at her, reaching a hand to lift the veil and stare imploringly into her eyes, “Xiaojia... I ask you to trust me. You must trust me! Chen is a good longxu. You will be the Empress of Autumn, and the new Tianzi will need both you to weather the winter.”

Ying turned away, letting the veil fall. “You do not understand father...”

“Of course I understand.” He took her trailing hand and squeezed it.

The tender gesture touched her and she looked back, catching his eyes and she saw it. Truth... and understanding. “You- You know?”

“You are my flesh and blood, of course I know.” He nodded, his expression shifting, “It is your duty, and Chen is a good longxu...”


Day 1 - Groom’s Hunt


Chen Houwei hunted all day for the white stag,

To offer to Yu Gongzhu, his bride to be,

Xia Chen cast his bow aside and cursed his steed,

The white stag eluded his grasp as dusk drew near.


Chen Houwei’s empty hands would bring great disgrace,

but Shixian took pity on him,

Chenshu Yiyuan slew the beast before him,

The great brown bear, a grander prize there was none.


Chen Houwei returned,

His arms laden with honour.


Day 1 Evening - The Wealth Feast

Ying sat cross legged, the veil nearly covering her completely. Next to her, Chen sat never so much as looking at her, his black robes striking in their simplicity against her cacophonous clothes. Before them a long table stretched out, as celebrants approached to make offerings to the couple under the ever watchful gaze of the royal guard.

After each gift was left, the giver would toss a coin into one of the bowls at the foot of the table and mutter a prayer. Ying heard many to Zhi Tianzi, her great ancestor, to Shilen Tianzi, her father, and for once, to Yixi Gognzhu, to her. The right to divinity had long been something she had been told of, but only now, as the ceremony progressed did she feel it. She would soon be carrying him, the next Son of Heaven, and she wondered if he would be kind like her father...

“My Gongzhu.” Chen’s voice brought her back to the world. The procession of people had come to an end, a mountain of food and gifts stacked higher than she on either side of her. The footmen, xinfu, hurried back and forth sorting food from ornaments and furniture.

Ying carefully rose and began her journey. The procession was the dividing line, and the waiting public had lined up along gangways, one for her and the other for Chen. Two gilded chariots awaited them as the xinfu filled them with currency. A pair of xiaolung boarded each chariot alongside them, as a mushi blessed the coins. Ying stole a glance at Chen, observing the crowds enraptured at the both of them. So rare it was that they would come so close to one such as her or Chen... and now both were due to become part of the divine bloodline it made them so much more tantalising.

The first xialung took the reins, his black skin had far finer scales than true longxue, but the muscle of his arms betrayed an inner strength. Ying had no doubt that Chen’s escort would be similarly capable. As unlikely as it was that any would try to harm her, and even more remote that any attempt would succeed, she would never be without such precautions in a place like this.

She gripped at the bar as the charioteers signalled. The reins on the horses cracked and they began to pull away. The xiaolung behind her began to throw coins from the back of the chariot, before the crowds of people. The desperate would scrabble and fight for a blessed coin, the loyal would follow in the wake of the chariot, and the superstitious would take a single coin and leave. The coins were of little value in of themselves, the lowest denomination in the Tianxia, but once blessed as the wedding coins of the Gongzhu they held an entirely new value. They would never more be used for barter, never more passed from one hand to another. Instead, they would be placed in jars, under pillows, in stoves, hung from mantles, all to obtain a little of the luck that could be bestowed by the divine union they had been used for. Her coins would bear her seal and Chen’s his own, specially minted for the occasion and granted to each attendee who presented a gift. The coins would find their rightful home, some families would wait generations for theirs to return, but it would always bring good fortune, for this was Shixian’s blessing.

The veil whispered in the night breeze as the chariots picked up speed, the cheering of the crowds and the excited laughter of children ebbing and flowing as they passed gathering points around the city. Through the open streets, she would occasionally catch a glimpse of Chen’s chariot, this too granting charity to those around him. They would never cross paths until the end of their journey, returning to the western gates of the palace city.

The chariot ride took them well beyond dusk, and it was dark as they dismounted in the southern courtyard. It was incredibly uncomfortable, remaining standing for such a long period, with the jostling of the chariot beneath them. She could see as Chen dismounted his movements betrayed a soreness she shared.

“Gongzhu,” he bowed to her, “If you would allow me?” He offered her his clawed hand.

Ying eyed the hand, she could feel her pulse rising, her insides churning. It was her divine duty. “You may.”

Chen took her by the hand, and led her through the quiet gardens, only the chirping of the night bugs piercing the silence. The excitement of the crowds felt so very far away. As was tradition, they would be alone as they walked, no guards observing, no servants roaming the halls of their wing. Complete privacy, until the hours of late morning when the servants would gather for morning prayers.

Chen cleared his throat, “I hope you do not begrudge the Tianzi for his selection.” Even with no-one present, Chen used her father’s honorific. He was one of their family now, he could call him father too. Ying said nothing, and Chen continued, “I know we have not always been close...”

“Are we close?” Ying interrupted, a stinging question, but Chen seemed prepared,

“We have known each other for many seasons. Secrets seldom exist between ourselves... It is the nature of our roles.”

“Your role as councillor blinds you too much, Chen Houwei.”

He looked a little surprised at her address, it was the first time she had recognised him by his true role, as her keeper, her partner.

“Does it?” He responded, “We are both aware of why this must be done, divinity cannot stagnate with you. Would you not rather it be with one whom you know?”

She gave him a look of uncertainty and regret.

He sighed, “Perhaps my words will not sway you, but I implore you Xiaojia, can you at least say that you trust me? My devotion to your father- to you- is unparalleled.”

She felt as though she had been punched in the stomach at the use of her shell name. The gall! Chen immediately seemed to notice his mistake and opened his mouth to attempt to head off her rage, but was far too slow.

“How dare you use that name! You have no right Xia Chen!” She spat the diminutive, ‘Xia’, ‘inferior’. She had used it previously as an illustration of their difference, but here there was outright malice in them. Chen looked wounded but indignant and retorted,

“I have every right! We are family now, just as you could use mine!” He took a deep breath, feeling the heat rise up within him. Ying was caught off guard for a moment, and Chen took the opportunity to calm himself and he began to speak again through gritted teeth, “If it offends you so, I shall refrain from using it. I ask again,” He opened the door to their own palace building, “...Do you trust me?”

Ying grimaced, trawling her mind. No memory of Chen was good, but not due to any intrinsic fault he possessed. He was loyal, even more so to her father. He had gone so far as to raise investigations into his own family, but they had borne no fruit. Then there was her father… he would never have chosen Chen if he had any doubts, and something made him think he was right for her, whether she knew it or not. To say she didn’t trust him, as much as her dislike persisted, would be to distrust him. That was something she could not do. Her father, Shi Fuqin… Shilen Tianzi… Zhi Tianzi.

She realised she had been standing at the open door for some time. She worked through it, Chen closing it behind him. “I trust you.” She finally relented, going against her obstinate emotions.

“Thank you.” There was a certain level of relief in his voice and Ying found her anger ebbing away. He motioned up toward the grand staircase, “Duty calls us.”

Ascending the steps, they walked passed ballrooms, grand lounges and balconies that looked out over the gardens and glowing city beneath.


“Yes, my Gongzhu?”

“I am sorry.” The words rested heavy in the air, but it was a weight that Ying found lifted from her.

“I know... Neither of us would have chosen this.”

It hit her then. Those words of her father. This was understanding, Chen wanted this no more than she, while she had presumed the opposite. From understanding would come... Love? She looked at him as they reach their destination, the very top of the tower, an expansive living area, the private chambers of the Gongzhu and Houwei. They made their way to the centre of the room and Chen turned to face her. The veil still covered her face and she reached up, slowly removing the salakot and tossing it aside. Despite herself, she attempted a sad smile, a forlorn expression that Chen mimicked.

“The work of your Shiwu is not unappreciated.” He finally remarked. A tasteful compliment and she merely nodded. Chen removed his robe, revealing the bindings beneath, setting it neatly down beside him. She turned, and he assisted in removing her jacket and skirt, leaving only her sandals and bindings. They each took of their shoes, which was a little more complicated given the knots and ropes and then stood, facing one another. Neither appeared to have words for one another, so stood in awkward silence.

“Time will not wait for us, Chen Houwei.” She strode toward the open door of the bedchamber, “Divine blood cannot be tempered.”

Chen went to bow, caught himself, and nodded, “Of course, Ying.” He closed the door behind them.


Day 1 Night - Union

It is said when two earth dragons meet, the mountains themselves tremble in awe and send mighty avalanches to dissuade interlopers, the skies send lightening and thunder, and the seas send mist. When the Empress of Autumn was joined in union by Chen Tianshang, they say the very stars themselves dimmed and the silken blanket of darkness warmed the city. Nature was in harmony.


Day 2 Morning - Prayers

Let not the morning breeze bring bitter weather and dead leaves, but warm currents and the brightest of suns. Zhi Tianzi blesses us and Shangdi will grant us his benevolence.


Day 2 - The Unveiling Ceremony


Chen had changed out of his characteristic back robes, his Fuwu had come bearing new robes for the event. Given that the Shilen Tianzi was attending, it was hardly a matter of uncertainty. The god emperor would be displeased by any show of ignominy and consequences, although not immediate, would be felt long into the future. Thus, he had ordered new robes for the occasion, from a seam master of lesser renown than the Gongzhu’s. His were blue, embroidered with black and silver threads in the pattern of his seal.

He stood before the open square outside the palace. Tables and chairs stretched as far as the eye could see and each was packed with longxue and xiaolung, it was a sight to behold. Each table, was burdened with heavy food, but nothing would be touched yet. Not even the insects would dare to broach a laden platter until he arrived.

The table he sat at was a few hundred meters from the base of the palace steps. He and the Gongzhu were closest to the centre, although there was a conspicuous gap between them. On his right, his Fuwu were all seated and on Ying’s left, her Shiwu. From there were councillors, military longxue, the highest positions in the nations all represented at the table. Waiting for the last arrival.

A horn blared and the crowds stirred before quickly falling silent. He immediately turned and opposite him Ying did the same, both bowing toward the palace. The Tianzi was arriving. A dropped coin could have been heard across square as absolute silence fell, the only sound the steady tapping steps of those honoured to carry the litter of the divine. It was an imposing, black box. Simple in design but intimidating none the less, with gold detailing around its edge and on its front face the Tianzi’s own seal ‘Zhi’ embossed in lacquer.

All bowed before the grace of Zhi, not a head was lifted as the litter drew ever closer. Finally, it was set down between Chen and Ying and its bearers quickly stood aside, they too bowing. The seal began to glow and a single word rumbled across the square, “Observe!”

It was a signal and all heads raised and watched. Chen could feel his palms twitching as blood rushed through them. He face Ying, who was once again beneath her veil... This was it, the moment... He reached up both hands and slowly lifted the veil.

Cheering rang out and the horns blared. Blossoms were thrown across the crowd and jubilations began, the seal glowed once again and the over the noise the decree was issued, “The Empress of Autumn has arrived!”

Created by Goldweight 8 months ago. Last modified by Goldweight 1 month ago