Zu An stiffened when he heard the name ‘Eros Faction’. Why the hell would a people choose such a name? This word had an entirely different meaning in his previous world...
The Eros Faction was a nomadic group who roamed modern-day Inner Mongolia, around the Great Bend of the Yellow River. They were slightly weaker than the Qiang Faction, but were certainly no pushovers.
Pei Mianman lead her soldiers to battle again, and it took a long time for her to finally repel their advance.
Unfortunately, this was all they could do. These nomadic tribes were mobile and adaptable, and although fighting them off was relatively easy, wiping them out was almost impossible.
From time to time, these nomadic factions came back to attack them, forcing Pei Mianman to lead the troops and put out the fires.
Zu An couldn’t stand these long periods of separation, and began to select officers from among the court to take over Pei Mianman’s role.
These years of constant battle were the perfect stage for these officers to showcase their talent. Zu An ended up promoting Bird, Feather, Elephant, Sparrow, and many others to higher ranks.
He mocked them in secret even as he promoted them. These ancient people really were absolutely terrible at names. What kind of names were these? It sounded as though they were raising chickens or something.
Out of all these promoted officers, one of them stood head and shoulders above the rest: Ya Zhang!
It was none other than the dried-up corpse general in the tomb who had guided them to this trial.
He was originally the young master of the Zhang clan, which was to the south. The Zhang clan served Shang, which was why he had been sent to Yin Capital and given an official post.
However, this fellow hadn’t been satisfied with obediently doing his job. Instead, he stole secrets about the spinning, weaving, and metallurgical technologies of the Yin Capital. He wanted to bring this knowledge back home in order to improve the lives of his clan.
Unfortunately, he was caught doing this, and was about to be executed. Thankfully for him, Zu An just happened to be passing by. When he heard Ya Zhang’s name, a strange look came over him, but he still stepped in to spare him.
Ya Zhang was moved to tears, and willingly offered to fight on the front lines in order to make up for his crimes.
As a result, his military contributions grew and grew, elevating him above the other generals, and almost reaching the level of Fu Hao.
Zu An had tried to obtain some clues regarding this trial from him, but Ya Zhang had absolutely no idea about it. He had clearly been given the task of guarding the dungeon only later on.
After spending several years dealing with the Eros and Earth factions, the Shang Dynasty encountered another powerful enemy: The Ghost Faction!
The Ghost Faction roamed the Mongolian Plateau, and were very likely the ancestors of the Huns. Their men were innately stronger than those of the Earth and Eros factions.
Thankfully, after years under Zu An’s management, the political situation within the Shang Dynasty had already stabilized, and their nation was stronger than ever. Together with their well-trained army and the maturity of the other generals, there was no need for Pei Mianman to lead the troops personally.
This war continued for several years, and Zu An and Pei Mianman were hard-pressed to set up and maintain the logistics support.
In the cruelty of war, both sides suffered massive casualties, and even a seasoned commander like Ya Zhang was killed in battle.
Because of the chaos that reigned on the battlefield, by the time the soldiers of the Shang Dynasty retrieved his corpse, his body was covered in blade wounds, and his severed arm had been lost amidst the carnage.
Zu An was stunned. Remembering the bronze hand he had seen in the tomb, he ordered craftsmen to make an identical one so that it could be buried with him, allowing him to be buried as a whole person. This order earned praise from all levels of society. Such a gesture was truly the mark of a benevolent king.
Confusion clouded Zu An’s mind. He began to wonder whether he had made the decision because he had seen the bronze hand on Ya Zhang’s corpse, or if it was because he had given this order that the bronze hand had appeared. As he turned this puzzle over in his mind, he grew more and more perplexed.
Sometimes, he even felt as though this trial was the real world, while the world beyond it might have been the imaginary one.
When they had finally put down the Ghost Faction, the Shang Dynasty desperately needed time to recover after years of war.
They were not given the opportunity, however, because the Ba Faction from the southwest began to encroach on their lands.
Zu An was pissed. “Motherfuckers… Do you think this is a public restroom? Do you think you can all come and go as you please?!”
The constant parade of intruders had left him hopping mad. He finally couldn’t hold himself back anymore. Now that the country was stable, he decided to set out together with Pei Mianman.
The two of them were perfectly coordinated. Zu An lured the Ba Faction’s army to where Pei Mianman was waiting, successfully executing the first encircling ambush.
By now, a decade had already passed, and Zu An felt some things beginning to slip his mind. However, he was currently the ruler of a country, and watching it prosper under his rule was immensely satisfying. This task left no room for any other idle thoughts.
Not only did he have Pei Mianman, the charming Xiao Tuo was also by his side, serving him. He had no complaints about living such an extravagant and luxurious lifestyle.
After some time, more good news arrived.
Pei Mianman was pregnant!
It wasn’t a surprise that she would become pregnant after a decade of marriage. However, Pei Mianman had been constantly away, fighting on the front lines, which meant that they couldn’t spend as much time as they would have liked. It was only recently that they had begun to spend more time together as a couple.
Both of them were stunned when they heard news of the pregnancy. Was it even possible for souls to get pregnant?
However, this was merely a fleeting thought, and was quickly replaced with overwhelming joy.
They had already spent way too long in this world. Everything around them was so real that they had gotten used to it. It was easy for them to believe that their previous world was one that they had somehow dreamed up.
She carried the child for ten months, and Zu An took great care of her during this period.
Unfortunately, a problem arose.
Pei Mianman went into an extremely difficult period of labor.
The midwives of this age knew no other way of easing the delivery, aside from encouraging the pregnant woman to exert more force. The doctors of this age were more akin to witch doctors and shamans, and to a certain degree, they were no different from religious nuts.
Even though Zu An offered all types of suggestions and methods, he was not an obstetrician, and had no practical experience when it came to childbirth. In the end, he could only watch as she lost her life to the complicated delivery.
In the final moments before Pei Mianman closed her eyes for the last time, Zu An felt as if his body was struck by lightning. He didn’t dare to believe that this was really happening.
However, everyone else seemed accustomed to such a situation, and did their best to console him.
Because of the limited development of science and medicine in this age, humans had short lifespans, and it was common knowledge that pregnant women would always face such dangers during delivery.
Even though the queen was an extremely capable individual and enjoyed special status in society, she was no different from any other ordinary woman when it came to this.
This was not easy for Zu An to accept, and it was a long time before he could breathe normally again. All the while, Xiao Tuo stayed by his side, gently comforting him.
Even though the king fell into depression, the court continued to operate normally. Fu Shuo and the other important ministers handled the queen’s funeral arrangements.
Because of her immense importance to the king, as well as the queen’s miraculous contributions to their country over the years, they arranged for the most solemn funeral, and built the most majestic tomb to house her.
There was no way Zu An could delay the queen’s burial indefinitely. He could only personally oversee the burial ceremony and send her off one final time.
After Pei Mianman’s death, Zu An wandered around aimlessly, an empty husk with no soul. He was often either found drinking in a corner of the palace or playing with Xiao Tuo and the concubines. This seemed the only way for him to numb himself and make him forget about those painful memories.
Thanks to the efforts that he and Pei Mianman had put into growing the country, the other nations surrounding them could do little to harm them. His country only continued to grow in power, and the organization of the court and the personnel within it matured as well. Despite his absence from government affairs, the country was more or less able to run itself.
Just like that, time seemed to fly past. In the blink of an eye, several decades went by, and Zu An was now an old man. In this period, it was a miracle for someone his age to still be alive.
He watched as Fu Shuo and the other important ministers passed on, one after another. Even Xiao Tuo had passed away a few years ago. Many other concubines—most of whom he couldn’t name—passed on before him as well.
Many days, after he had numbed himself with pleasures, he would find himself alone in the palace in the dead of night. He always felt as though he had forgotten something, yet he just couldn’t remember what it was that had slipped his mind.
This troubled him at first, but as time went on, he slowly forgot about these conflicting emotions.
These past few days, however, something seemed to speak to him within his mind. He could sense the encroaching shadow of death, and knew that he didn’t have much time left to live.
Despite this, he felt at peace. He had already served as the king of this country for more than half a century, and had enjoyed everything there was to enjoy. What else was there to be unhappy about?
One day, unable to sleep, he took a stroll around the palace, and unknowingly found himself in front of a tattered house. His entire body froze.
He vaguely recalled that he had resided in this very place in his earlier days, and he couldn’t remember why he had insisted that it be preserved.
He pushed open the door and went in. The interior of the house was covered in dust.
Previously, the palace maids had known how much the king cared about this place, and they kept it meticulously clean, since he would visit from time to time.
As time went on, however, the king gradually stopped coming by, and they slowly stopped bothering with cleaning it altogether.
Zu An sat down by the bedside, wrapped in his own silence. Just as he got up to leave, he saw a glint of light.
Something was reflecting the moonlight that was seeping in through the window.
He glanced over and noticed something wedged in between the bed and the bed frame. It was in an extremely tricky spot, so not even the maids who cleaned this place before had noticed it.
It was a pendant with a flame insignia.
As the ruler of a country, he was accustomed to all sorts of treasures. Outwardly, this pendant was hardly special.
However, his entire body trembled the instant he laid eyes on this pendant. He finally remembered what he had forgotten about all these years. He remembered the reason why he had come into this world!
This was the black flame pendant that Pei Mianman had given him.
Perhaps they had had too much fun together in this room before, and this pendant had accidentally fallen into this little nook. With the two of them busy dealing with the country’s affairs, they had most likely forgotten about it.
“Manman.” In that instant, tears trickled down the old man’s weathered face.
Suddenly, his vision grew blurry, and the world began to warp. When Zu An woke up, he discovered that he was in another world.Previous Chapter Next Chapter