“No, absolutely not!” Zu An was incensed by the suggestion. What the hell is this? How can Manman be used as a pawn in a political marriage?
A court minister was quick to step in. “We all know that the prince and the princess share close ties as siblings, but this is for the sake of our country. My Prince, please do not let your emotions affect your decisions!”
“If you want a marriage, then send your own daughter or sister,” Zu An shot back.
More and more court ministers began to criticize him for being small-minded and refusing to look at the bigger picture. No matter how glib his tongue was, Zu An couldn’t win against all these old foxes.
He was pushed back further and further. Eventually, the whole court began to question his virtue and morality.
Just as Zu An was forced into a corner, a clear voice suddenly sounded by the main doors. “Let me be the one to go, then.”
The whole court turned to look. It was Princess San Cai, a resolute expression on her face.
Zu An was shocked. “San Cai, what are you doing here? Nothing’s going on here..”
The other ministers whispered among themselves and shook their heads. Clearly, they felt that this was inappropriate.
San Cai cut right to the point. “What is inappropriate? Am I not a princess as well?”
The ministers began to argue between themselves. In the end, Wen Ding, the Shang monarch, tapped his hammer on the table. “San Cai will be offered in marriage.”
With that, he sent an emissary to the west to discuss this with the Zhou court. The matter was thus settled.
When they had withdrawn from the court, Zu An and Pei Mianman anxiously approached San Cai. “Why did you volunteer for this marriage? Who knows if you’ll be happy if you go there! You might lose your chance at a lifetime of happiness.”
San Cai smiled. “Is big sis going to take my place if I don’t go?”
Zu An choked for a moment, then continued, “It’s not her place to go. Even if our two states are to be joined in marriage, can’t we just use any daughter from one of the noble houses? Why do either of you need to go?”
San Cai shook her head. “It’s not so simple. Our country is facing an unprecedented crisis. Father killed the ruler of the western Zhou state, who was the leader of the western states. How could any noble girl assuage the wrath of the people of Zhou? Only a princess can ease the tensions and allow our Shang State to focus on dealing with the Yi invasion. We cannot afford to be crushed from both sides right now.
“The only princesses of suitable age in the royal family are my big sister and myself. Big sis, since you aren’t willing to go, I am the only one left. As a princess, I’ve enjoyed a comfortable life. Now that my country needs me, I will have to answer the call.”
Zu An was at a loss for words. He didn’t expect her to already be so mature at her age. Too many daughters of the nobility enjoyed their wealth from birth, yet weren’t willing to take up the corresponding duty when the time came.
Now, it seemed as though he and Pei Mianman were the ones who were being selfish. However, the two of them had come here to pass a trial, and nothing more. There was no way for them to have any deeper feelings towards this country.
Pei Mianman spoke up quietly. “How can I let my younger sister sacrifice herself? As the big sister, of course I need to go.”
Zu An panicked. “Manman!”
Pei Mianman gave him a reassuring look. Given her skill and experience, she was confident that she could retain her purity while in the Zhou state, at least for a time. As for what happened afterwards, they would cross that bridge when they got there.
San Cai smiled and said, “Big sis, if you really do get married, what would big brother do?”
Zu An and Pei Mianman both froze. “San Cai, what are you saying?”
San Cai sighed. “The two of you were always playing around with each other whenever you thought you already put me to sleep. Do you think that children really are that naïve?”
Zu An was left speechless.
Pei Mianman couldn’t believe what she was hearing as well. She gave Zu An an embarrassed look. It was all this guy’s fault!
San Cai continued, “Others might not know about your relationship, but I’m your little sister. How could I not know? Even though I don’t know what awaits the two of you in the future, I can’t just watch as the two become separated.”
They hadn’t expected her to be doing this for their sake. Both Zu An and Pei Mianman’s eyes reddened. Now, they were even more unwilling to watch her sacrifice herself.
As they began to dissuade her, San Cai put away her smile. “Big brother, big sister, please don’t think that I am only doing it for the two of you. I was always puzzled whenever I listened in on your conversations, but I could at least tell that the people of Zhou might very well bring about the destruction of the Shang State.
“As a princess of the Shang State, I felt like I had to do something as well. Unfortunately, I was never good at anything, and I cannot compare to either of you. If a great strategist like big sister is married off to the Zhou state, that would be the greatest loss to our Shang State. Rather than being married off, she should stay here and help our great Shang State while I serve as an insider within the Zhou court. This way, we can work together and ensure the continued prosperity of our great Shang State.”
Zu An and Pei Mianman now knew that she wasn’t making this choice on a whim. On the contrary, she had already thought things through carefully.
“But this is unfair for you! You are sacrificing a lifetime of happiness!” Zu An and Pei Mianman both said. The three of them had grown up together, and they were all very close. The two of them really did see her as their own dear sister. There was no way they were willing to see her suffer any wrong!
San Cai giggled. “Who knows, maybe it won’t be so bad. For better or for worse, I am getting married to the leader of the Zhou people. In theory, I would become the queen of a country. Furthermore, I heard that Ji Chang isn’t a terrible person, and he’s actually quite handsome as well. What if we really do fall in love? I might even be able to convince him to offer his allegiance unconditionally.”
“Ji Chang?” Zu An’s mood immediately sank. Even though the Shang Dynasty was eventually brought down by King Wu Ji Fa, the bulk of the groundwork had been laid by King Wen Ji Chang. Ji Fa had merely finished the job he had started. How could someone like this be subdued by a woman?
San Cai shook her head when she heard his concerns. “Even if I cannot convince him to swear allegiance, I will help our country by giving birth to many children. Given my status, he cannot make me a mere concubine. My children will thus become the successors of the Zhou throne. They will be relatives of the Shang king, and will ease the tensions between the two great states.”
“But...” Zu An and Pei Mianman exchanged a look. This plan really did seem like it had a chance of working.
Putting aside the fact that they would be related by blood, these children would also be raised by San Cai, which would give them a strong connection to their Shang heritage. If this passed down for several generations, the people of Zhou might truly come to serve the Shang Dynasty. Such occurrences were prevalent throughout history.
In the end, this trial wasn’t a true recounting of history. By dealing with this critical situation and changing its course, they might just be able to succeed in this trial.
San Cai smiled and said, “Enough, I don’t want to talk about this with you two anymore. I still have a ton of things to take care of.” With that, she left with a spring in her step.
Pei Mianman sighed deeply as she watched her departing figure. “We didn’t try hard enough to keep her out of our discussions. We let her listen in, which was why she subconsciously began to see the Zhou state as the enemy, and eventually volunteered for this marriage.”
“I hope everything goes smoothly.” In the end, Zu An did not stop her. In his opinion, even if they failed this trial and both he and Pei Mianman died, it wouldn’t stop San Cai from becoming the founding mother of the Zhou Dynasty. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.
Soon, an emissary returned with news that the people of Zhou had agreed to the marriage. Ji Chang would meet them at the Wei River to escort his new bride home.
The Shang court was not opposed to such an arrangement. After all, they had just invited the previous leader of the Zhou state to Yin Capital, only to have him executed. If they insisted on having Ji Chang come to the capital as well, no one would show up.
As such, the Shang court arranged for some men to escort Princess San Cai to Wei River. Zu An volunteered to make this trip, while Pei Mianman disguised herself and followed as an attendant.
Their party arrived at the bank of the Wei River. There was no bridge across this river during this age, but Ji Chang was already prepared for this.
Zu An saw a bridge of boats stretched across the surface of the river. He sighed in admiration. This was probably the first bridge of boats in history!
They finally laid their eyes on Ji Chang. The man seemed refined, gentle, and elegant. He was both handsome and a good speaker.
Zu An felt a sudden impulse rising within him. If he killed this man, who almost single-handedly buried the Shang Dynasty, would that change history?
However, he quickly dispelled this thought. Leaving aside the multiple layers of Zhou guards that made this an extremely challenging task, even if he managed to succeed, it would only further cement the hostility between the two states.
They still had the eastern Yi invasion to deal with. If the western Zhou state were to march on them in a quest for revenge, it would only hasten the fall of the Shang Dynasty.
Several unpleasant things happened during this event, as many of the people within the Zhou state were against this marriage. Those who were sent out to collect fruits came back with empty baskets, cursing the Shang princess and implying that she would be doomed to be infertile.
Aside from this, some of the cooks who prepared the meals deliberately choose not to let out the blood from the animal carcasses, making the lamb meat taste foul and hard to swallow.
Zu An was infuriated by the insults. Ji Chang quickly apologized and ordered someone to sing a song for San Cai. “The ospreys call on the islet in the river. The modest, retiring, virtuous, young lady makes for our prince a good mate…” He named this marriage song ‘Match Made in Heaven’.
San Cai was beaming with joy when she heard this song, and her expression softened as she looked at her new husband. Even the other members of the Shang party gradually relented, and their anger slowly turned to happiness.
Zu An wore a rather strange expression. He didn’t expect the most popular piece of the Shijing—the Book of Songs—to be a gift for his own little sister! He had to admit that Ji Chang looked all right. Paired with his use of songs and poetry to woo girls, he could tell that this man was definitely an experienced playboy.
Of course, there was no way Zu An would let himself be tricked by a song like that. However, he also understood that an angry word now would only make things difficult for San Cai in the future. With that in mind, he could only suppress his rage, and try his best to mellow his hostility with friendship.
San Cai secretly sought out Zu An when she had a chance to, during an intermission within the ceremony. “My dear big brother, are you still sulking?” she asked him with a smile.
Zu An sighed deeply. “I can’t help but feel like this flower that I so carefully raised is about to be trampled by another man. How can I feel happy about that?”
San Cai blushed. “If you weren’t my brother, I would never have agreed to a marriage with some random Zhou leader.” She sighed. “Unfortunately, I’m not as brave as my big sister.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter