Reign Of The Phoenix Chapter 8 – The Emergence Of “Sonorous”

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Murong Zhining's recovery went well. Imperial Physician Gao cleansed out all of the toxic remnants from her body with acupuncture, as well as using various herbs to nurse her health. After two months, Murong Zhining was up and about again, her face glowing with a healthy rosy color.

Cai Sang accompanied Murong Zhining on a walk in the gardens. Early autumn in the Imperial Palace, the leaves were already turning yellow and falling from the trees. Unlike many other women who liked to wallow in melancholy, the two girls animatedly tried to catch the fluttering leaves and laughing joyfully as they did so. Murong Zhining and Cai Sang hadn't been so happy for a long time. The two girls who had undergone all kinds of hards.h.i.+p since little were enjoying their currently peaceful life to its fullest.

Cai Sang smiled as she looked at Murong Zhining. "Zhining, you are so pretty! You don't look like a daughter of a common family at all, yet you have to suffer a harsh life like me. But it's all good now. You'll definitely be married off to a powerful husband."

Murong Zhining pinched her face. "You are pretty too. It's you who really wants to be married, isn't it? Already have someone you like?" Murong Zhining suddenly sighed. "If only I were a daughter of a common family. That way, at least I didn't have to constantly run from those people who want to kill me. If it wasn't to protect me, nanny wouldn't have had to die! It was me who harmed her in the end! I'm a person of bad omen, whoever gets involved with me never ends well."

Cai Sang grabbed Murong Zhining's arm and swayed it coquettishly. "Everything has just taken a turn for the better, and yet you're always thinking about sad things. If your nanny knew this, she would feel bad. Besides, since she was willing to sacrifice her life for you, it means you're very important to her. You must live on and live well. Then you can find the chance to figure out your ident.i.ty and find the killer to avenge your nanny so she can rest in peace."

Murong Zhining nodded her head in approval. "Mhm. Let's ask for a meeting with His Majesty. Once our misunderstanding is resolved, he should let us leave the palace. I want to visit Lotus Pond Hollow. Mrs. Yin who took me in and her family are all good people. I want to let them know that I'm alright. Also, I want to investigate who it was that sold me to Myriad Blooms House that year."

Cai Sang's eyes went wide upon hearing that. "What?! You're from Lotus Pond Hollow as well? My aunt lives there too. Her husband is a butcher. My family is in the neighboring village."

Murong Zhining was stunned. What kind of fate is this? When she was staying at Mrs. Yin's house, she once heard Mrs. Yin and the butcher having a quarrel about how her brother, Yin Hua, sold his daughter to be a maidservant to pay off his debt. So, Cai Sang was that daughter who got sold off.

Cai Sang was one year older than Murong Zhining. If using proper addresses, Murong Zhining had to call her "big sister." The two girls hugged each other as they sighed at how miraculously fate had played out. Cai Sang was so emotional that her eyes had already turned red from the urge to cry. "I'll accompany you to go visit auntie."

A palace servant reported to Yan Feng that Murong Zhining had asked for a meeting. He told the servants to bring the girls to the Imperial Study. Upon entering, Murong Zhining and Cai Sang knelt to pay their respects. Yan Feng told them to stand up to talk.

Murong Zhining dropped her eyes. "This servant thanks Your Majesty for saving my life! If Your Majesty has confirmed that I have no in-law relations.h.i.+p with the Zhuang family, I beg Your Majesty to grant me and Cai Sang our freedom and allow us to leave the palace."

Yan Feng spoke, his voice still as icy as ever, "You're in such a hurry to run? I only know that you're not pregnant. As for your relations.h.i.+p with the Zhuang family, it still needs verification. You just stay here while we wait for the results."

Murong Zhining said, "It's not that hard to verify. You only need to question the other servants. Or… I'm willing to undergo another body check."

Yan Feng's expression sank with visible malice. He walked over to Murong Zhining and lowered his head, his face virtually pressed to hers. His eyes were cold in the extreme as they stared fixedly at her almond eyes. The emperor emanated such a frightening, imposing aura of majesty that the very air seemed to grow stagnant because of it.

The surroundings were dead quiet to the point that the sound of a needle dropping would be heard. "Do I need you to teach me how to work? Where do you get the guts?"

Murong Zhining didn't evade his sharp stare. She quietly looked back into his deep black pupils. The two gazed at each other for a long time.

It suddenly dawned on Yan Feng that this was the first time someone dared to look straight at him in the eyes. There was not a second person in this world who had the guts to confront him for this long. This little woman truly isn't simple. "I am currently too busy to deal with this." Yan Feng took the initiative and retracted his gaze as if he was the losing side. He ordered a guard-in-waiting, "Take them back to Qixiang Palace."

Murong Zhining knew that if she said one more word, the emperor's fury could burn her and Cai Sang to ashes since she had witnessed for herself Yan Feng's irascible temper. She wisely grabbed the fearfully trembling Cai Sang and thanked the emperor before leaving.

As the area where a concubine of the previous emperor quietly reflected after she committed wrongdoing, Qixiang Palace was decorated quite simply. After the concubine pa.s.sed away, it had been empty ever since. To speak frankly, this place was only a little better than the Cold Palace. When Murong Zhining came down with her serious illness, she couldn't remain in the underground prison cell, so Yan Feng had temporarily let her recuperate in this unoccupied palace. Aside from Cai Sang, he had even appointed a young palace maid at Murong Zhining's disposal.

After returning to Qixiang Palace, it took Cai Sang a long time to recover from her fright. She cradled Murong Zhining's face. "Oh mama! That almost scared me to death! I thought the two of us wouldn't be able to return alive. Zhining, you have quite some big guts! I admire you!" Then, she pouted and continued, "Oh dear, now that we can't leave the palace, I will never be able to see brother A'Niu again."

The autumn night was as cool and refres.h.i.+ng as spring water. On the bank of a distant pond, flickering fireflies danced in the air. The two girls sat on the stone steps outside the door, leaning on each other as they chatted. Next to them, a young palace maid stood with her hands at her sides. Her name was Chun Xing.

Chun Xing used to be a maid serving by Chiyun Ping's side. One time, due to nervousness, she spilled tea on Yan Feng and was punished by Chiyun Ping with cutting off both arms. However, Yan Feng took pity on her. He forgave her offense and lessened the punishment to several planks .

Chiyun Ping then insisted that Chun Xing deliberately tried to attract Yan Feng's attention and demanded the maid be expelled from the palace. Since Yan Feng just happen to need someone by Murong Zhining's side, he sent Chun Xing to serve Murong Zhining and, while she was at it, report to him about the two girls' everyday details.

The next day, Yan Feng had a qin sent to Murong Zhining. From Chun Xin, he knew that Murong Zhining often held an old qin sheet lost in thought and made a playing posture as she looked at it in an engrossed manner. Yan Feng had also heard that she had studied qin since little, so he had people deliver her a random qin.

Murong Zhining's eyes lit up the instant she saw the qin. This qin was made of the best paulownia wood. Embedded into the qin's head was nacre intricately carved with a scene of "flowers and birds, fish and insects ". The sound box was ancient, thick, and l.u.s.trous. The qin looked very much like the legendary "Sonorous," one of the great four qins.

In the legend, the four great qins were Duke Huan of Qi's "Howling Bell," King Zhuang of Chu's "Sonorous," Xima Xiangru's "Green Damask," and Cai Yong's "Burnt Tail." Undergoing the transition of dynasties, some changed owners, some flowed into the imperial house, some fell in the hands of court officials or even common folks. The only exception was King Zhuang's "Sonorous."

"Sonorous" was an offering from a person called Hua Yuan to King Zhuang. Its name originated from an old tale: Legend has it that, back during the Zhou dynasty, there was a singer named Han Yu living in Han State. To avoid the war, she came to Qi State to seek shelter at a relative's house, but she used up her money on the way. When she arrived at Yong Gate , Han Yu had no other choice but to become a street singer to cover her food and traveling expenses. Her voice, graceful and heartrending, echoed like the cry of a swan in the sky, the twitter of an oriole in a deep valley. It left such a deep impression that even three days after she left, everyone could still hear her singing lingering around somewhere, unable to forget it. "The sonorous voice lingers by one's ears three days without end " came from this story. As for "Sonorous," whose name was taken also from this tale, it was clear that the qin's unique feature was its sonorous lingering sound.

When King Zhuang of Chu received "Sonorous," he loved it so much he didn't let it leave his hands. Day and night, the king played the qin, abandoning all matters of the state. A consort of his, Fan Ji, painstakingly advised him, "My king, you are overly indulging in music. In history, Xia Jie brought fatal calamity upon himself for being obsessed with a se called 'Mei Xi.' King Zhou of Shang caused the fall of his nation due to his fondness for evil music. My king, ever since you acquired 'Sonorous,' you have abandoned state matters and been absent from the court for seven days. At this rate, our country will collapse!"

Fan Ji's word greatly shook King Zhuang. However, he found himself unable to escape the temptation of "Sonorous" in the end. Therefore, King Zhuang endured the pain and ordered people to smash "Sonorous" with a hammer. Just like that, a famous instrument became an extinct legend!

As Murong Zhining observed the qin's sound box over and over, she fell into contemplation.

Murong Zhining's master, a qin expert named Qin Yue, was a fool for qin. To widen his knowledged on a variety of good zithers, he worked as a qin teacher in the palace, taught the junior of high-ranking officials as well as the girls in the brothels. Murong Zhining was the most talented student he had ever met. Qin Yue not only taught her the technique, but also imparted other traditional qin knowledge to her.

The master once let Murong Zhining have a look at the ill.u.s.trations of the four great qins. Those who loved qin took delight in increasing their knowledge of famous qins. Even if they couldn't see the authentic ones, they still collected the ill.u.s.trations for appreciation. Qin Yue used to explain to Murong Zhining in detail about the features in appearance, the characteristics of sound and materials, etc. of famous qins recorded in old books. Under his influence, Murong Zhining also developed a strong interest for the instrument. Not to mention, the old qin sheet music that nanny left behind still needed deciphering, which was all the more reason for her to prefer increasing her knowledge of the traditional qins.

Murong Zhining used her fingertip to pluck a string slightly. The sound of the qin was low and deep, and it lingered for a long time. She could almost conclude that this was the legendary "Sonorous" that King Zhuang ordered to be hammered.

Murong Zhining was filled with astonishment and joy at the same time. She never thought she'd have the luck to see this legendary qin for herself. She had Chun Xing fetch her some water. Was.h.i.+ng her hands clean and igniting a pot of sandalwood incense burner, she began playing a lost song that she and master revised together.

Yan Feng quietly listened to the music, his face surprised. He didn't expect there to be a person in the palace capable of playing this song. Also, the sound of this qin stunned him. He was immediately attracted by it when he pa.s.sed by the vicinity of Qixiang Palace.

Yan Feng was afraid to disturb the player, so he ordered his attendants to remain while he himself followed the music towards Qixiang Palace.

Murong Zhining was completely engrossed, oblivious as she picked the strings. As the sunset painted a golden halo upon her playing figure, she looked so mysterious and otherworldly that Yan Feng just stood dumbfounded at the door.

Cai Sang propped up her chin with both hands and gazed at Murong Zhining with wors.h.i.+p. The girls simply didn't notice that the young emperor, his hands behind his back, had entered the door of Qixiang Palace.

After the song was finished, Murong Zhining was still entranced within the charm of the song. At this moment, the emperor's dignified voice resounded from behind, "Was that the lost 'Tidal Rise under the Moonlight' that you just played? I didn't think that, in my palace, there is not only such a good player, but also such a great qin!"

Yan Feng walked over and caressed the qin for a long time. Murong Zhining performed a curtsy and said, "So, Your Majesty also knows of this lost song 'Tidal Rise under the Moonlight'!"

Yan Feng swept her a casual glance, his lips curling up a little, before he turned his gaze to the qin. "Are you mocking me to be shallow and ignorant? This song was composed based on 'Spring river tides washes into the calm ocean, with the tides a bright moon arises' from the Tang poem 'Moonlit Night by the Spring River.' To date, the song has been lost, and the last sheet music was given by me to a congenial qin master. How did you learn to play this song?"

Murong Zhining answered respectfully, "My master is Qin Yue. He taught me this song."

Yan Feng rubbed his nose and bragged, "So you are Old Master Qin's student. Just so you know, the song you played just now was a gift from me to your master!"

Murong Zhining inwardly sighed at the tricks of fate as she asked Yan Feng, "Your Majesty, where did this qin come from? Does Your Majesty know its name?"

Yan Feng's eyes never left the qin. He shook his head and said, "Chun Xing said you loved studying qin sheet music. I supposed that you liked the qins as well, so I sent people to find one in the storage and deliver it to you. I never thought there was still such a good qin in my imperial palace. Only, I really don't know its origin, nor how long it had stayed in the storage for!"

Looking at Yan Feng who was focusing his attention of the qin, Murong Zhining furtively covered her mouth to sneak a smile. "If I say this qin is the lost 'Sonorous,' would Your Majesty believe it?"

Yan Feng cast her a doubtful glance before his eyes fell on the qin again. He gently caressed it. "Impossible. Don't think that I know nothing about the qins! The real 'Sonorous' was soon smashed into several parts in front of everyone per King Zhuang's orders."

Murong Zhining's almond eyes flashed with an intelligent light, her face witty. "I didn't dare to believe this at first, either. But, after I carefully considered this, there is such a possibility: King Zhuang loved qin to the point of obsession, he definitely couldn't bear to destroy 'Sonorous.' So, he ordered an exact copy to be quickly made and destroyed the replica in front of the people. As for the real 'Sonorous,' he entrusted it to a qin master that was most congenial to him to take it away from the palace. This qin master swore to King Zhuang that 'Sonorous' shall never appear before the people's eyes again."

Yan Feng shook his head, unable to believe this. Murong Zhining pointed at an unnoticeable damage. "This wound was caused when, one time, King Zhuang played a high-pitched piece of music. He was too absorbed in it and broke a string. When the string snapped and sprang back at the tail, it created a small dent. This is recorded in the old book 'The Collection: Appreciation of Renowned Qins.'"

Reign Of The Phoenix Chapter 8 – The Emergence Of “Sonorous”

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Reign Of The Phoenix Chapter 8 – The Emergence Of “Sonorous” summary

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