~The Evershining Empire~
Welcome to the heart of the Tiandi Realm, the Evershining Empire that persevered for at least five thousand years. The recipe for this remarkable longevity is its people, the Shen, though our Emperors insist otherwise. They seem to think that mingling with the Celestials during the Dynasty of New Dawn, 5,650 years before our story begins, awarded their ancestors the Heavenly Mandate to guide the Empire forever.
The Celestials themselves departed the Earthen Realm abruptly after they've issued The Final Interdict that prohibits them from setting foot on the mortal soil. They however left behind the race of Faeries to protect the Shen against the Demons who would otherwise hunt the Shen with impunity to prey on their qi, the life force. The Faeries build their Temples on the ancient grants of land that are touched by the Celestials and may be linked to the Heavenly Realm of the Celestials. Most Humans worship both the Celestials and their ancestral spirits.
The Evershining Empire went through many turbulent periods, but none was bloodier and more rife with both heroes and villains than the era approximately 500 years after the Final Interdict. At that time, the last scions of the Dynasty of New Dawn failed to uphold the Heavenly Mandate and fell to greed and corruption.
The Emperors of the Dynasty of Purifying Glory painstakingly united the land by using means that may shock the modern readers or secretly excite them. Depending on who you chose to quote, they've achieved their goal of ruling the entire Evershining Empire from their capital in Sutao between 4,300 and 4,800 years before this humble Court Historian was born.
Until this day, the storytellers tell about the excesses of the three Empresses of this Dynasty - the cruel Empress Mei, the wanton Empress Du and the duplicitous Empress Luchan. The men were not the paragons of virtue either.
At the time our story begins, the Empire is ruled by the Celebrated Emperor Wo Jia, of the Dynasty of Clear Foresight, that lasted for 235 years. Wo Jia assumed the throne 13 years ago, aged 28, and engaged into the aggressive expansion of the Empire's borders to the South (beyond the Province of Luitong), and to the North-West (gaining the Province of Quantong).
He signed treaties with numerous barbaric tribes from the Northern Steppes to fight even more numerous other tribes and, more importantly, gained the allies in the ancient pirate republic of the Laughing Men Islands located about four days' sailing to the East-Southeast from Sutao.
Almost immediately upon his ascension to the throne, Wo Jia moved his capital from the coastal Sutao to the inland Xichon, in the Middle Province.
The heroes of this novel also spend a lot of time in the Province of Shantong and its capital, Kefei. It's famed for its orchards, and has no brothel of note (trust me).
Leaving the Emperor to his brooding and his wars for the time being, allow me to introduce you to the many characters you might meet on these pages.
Be warned however, the list below may contain what you would call 'spoilers':
The Ambitious People in Xichon and Kefei:
The Chen Family:
Lord Chen Xi: "the man who doubted anyone would believe he was NOT a conspirator."
Lady Chen Guang: "the woman whose private name 'Dew-on-a-Petal' is almost certainly a joke."
(Chen) Tien Lyn: "the pretty girl who learned to say 'Maybe'."
The Mage's Coven:
Uncle Zhu Zhao: "the War Mage with a selectively lousy memory"
Senior Apprentice Finch (aka Rustam the Unsworn): "The man who wishes to be remembered as the author of the epic poem about mucking the pigsty."
Junior Apprentices: Darting Swallow (aka Aynu); Sparrowhawk; Falling Feather, and Duckling "the talented bunch"
Celebrated Emperor Wo Jia: "The glorious despot with a lot of unhappy memories"
Han Zheng aka Zha Yao: "the son of the most skilled concubine that had ever lived."
Won aka Zha Yao the Pretender: "the kind of Outlaw the poets sing about or as close to it as he could manage."
Deserving Du: "the woman who was named after the Wanton Empress Du, only to grew up to be her exact opposite in terms of looks and standards."
Shan Jiang the Honest: "the storyteller who wrote one decent song."
Zha Yao's Five Sworn Companions: Zhenshi the Old and his grandson Zhenshi the Younger, Ma the Smiley, and Wu twins, "great warriors all, but more importantly, the Emperor Wo Jia is crossed with all of them"
The Ambitious People of Port Sutao and on the Laughing Men Islands:
Chong Ho: "The man who abandoned his filial duty, but otherwise was the gentlest of men."
Thirty Claws: "the Pirate Chieftain who became a loyal Imperial Admiral, shot dead on the street."
Jung Hwa: "the Pirate Chieftain who also became the Imperial Admiral, loyal to Thirty Claws' memory alone."
Dian, Gao and Huo: "the three sons of the two Admirals above, with Huo being the best, Dion - the quietest, and Gao - the loudest of the lot."
Prefect Bu Liang: "the scholar bored with his many successes"
Serene Mother Weynala: "the Mother Superior of the faeries, the firebrand rather than the queller."
Acolyte, then Sister Sayewa: "the young and ambitious faery, and the self-proclaimed friend to Yu."
Mother Xho: "an old dear who randomly points and screams curses. The pirates love her."
The Ambitious People in the Land Beyond Understanding
Ahem, you will have to talk to the guy below to find out.
The Unambitious People of the Evershining Empire:
Demure Yu: "the red-head healer in the country of the black-haired men, denounced as blasphemer by the faeries."
May your daughters be few and beautiful, and your sons - many and strong.
Shan Jiang the Honest
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