Zhong Cheng has always considered himself a man of his word. He never gave empty promises, and never threw words in the wind, which could be called his secret pride. And for such a noble and decent man who is always responsible for his words, there is no worse torture, than the one experienced by Cheng. Torture of conscience and betrayal pressed his mind, displacing all the feelings and emotions but endless feelings of guilt and helplessness. If only he could move, he would have escaped from the shackles of his captors and be reunited with the army and the emperor, hoping to prove his loyalty.
Cheng was in captivity for quite a long time, and often was moved from one place to another. Due to its limited activities, he mostly indulged in thoughts and memories of his military life. Frankly, he had nothing more to remember, for all his life the barracks have replaced him a house, the soldiers became a family and the service to great Emperor Qin was the meaning of his life. For the first time he saw the Emperor after his arrival in the recruitment in Qian, where Emperor spoke to all the soldiers with incredible and inspiring speech. For faith in the future to which he aspired, Cheng, like any other servant, was ready to give his life with no doubt. For aspired future without war and contention, without endless and bloody struggle between the provinces and regions, the future in which all peoples concatenate to live and work for the good of China, its development and expansion of the territory and land. A future in which China will become a celestial empire, and its fame will shine in the blue sky.
Cheng recalled this speech word by word, the confidence with which each next word was getting in line with the previous ones, the burning eyes of the emperor, where his spirit sparked as a bright flame, broad and imperious gestures. All of this Cheng vividly imagined exactly like that day, the day when he made an oath of his life to follow His Highness, to serve him with all his heart, and be faithful to him as much as Cheng is true to his word. Every soldier uttered the oath of allegiance, each and every loudly shouted three deep, “Hou”, which merged into a thousand voices, uniting the soldiers once and for all, making them brothers in arms. The pledge of loyalty was given, and only death could stop them to serve it.
After, Emperor Qin ordered the five of his generals to enter the platform, and workers rolled out a cart, veiled with a cloth top. “The Glory of China will not be limited on the Earth”, said the Emperor, ”China’s celestial glory, which will shine in the blue sky over the world – is not a figure of speech, not a beautiful metaphor, it is our goal. That voice of thousands of hearts that I heard with those oaths of fidelity that you have given me, are not limited by time and circumstances, as we will be reunited on the other side of death.” Cheng could not understand what His Highness meant, when he abruptly pulled the sheet from the cart at the platform, and all those present gasped. Generals, bolt upright on the dais, were slightly higher than their precise and identical copies, standing on the cart. The emperor declared that “The copies – are ones of the soldiers of my future, the afterlife army, but each of them are an empty vessel, worthless without your hearts, your vows and faith. You are my army on the Earth, so be my army in heaven!”
At that time, each soldier in his oath gained immortality, and everyone was ready to go for the Emperor to the end of the skies themselves. Memories of that day surely warmed the soul, but it is fair to recognize that Cheng had something to see while being imprisoned as well. Being captured here was truly unusual, since Cheng was treated like a king. They touched his armor with care and admiration, blow away any speck of dust from him, did not allow anyone, but only a narrow circle of trusted individuals. Today, however, unusual course occurred, as a place and people where he was held was different from all the previous ones. In the early morning they threw silky fabric on him and Cheng just listened to the sounds going on. At first it was rather noisy, multiple rapid footsteps of his capturers sounded in the dark. Gradually it became quieter, people became less and less, until Cheng did not sink into silence. Suddenly, a voice in the silence spoke an incomprehensible dialect and sounded everywhere conventionally. While Zhong Cheng thought what kind of magic it is, it was over, he heard the applause and fabric fell off, with hundreds of eyes fixed on him.
Oh, what kind of people was there! Snow-white and dark skins, hair and eyes of all colours, the incredible heights and proportions. Everyone was so different from each other in all respects that Cheng’s eyes tossed from one to another until they met with widely opened and blue, like a vast sky, eyes of a little girl standing in front of the others. One of her hands held a little red flag with yellow constellation, the other was clutching a toy panda to the white bright dress. But even the dress didn’t shine as brightly as her admiring gaze on the stone figure of Cheng. He looked into her eyes, and though his face was changeless, his soul was crying with tears of gratitude for this girl. After so many centuries of suffering, through her blue eyes full of admiration, he has managed to find his own sky, which truly shone with the glory of China. Cheng thought that even centuries later, he will be able to serve his Emperor, his infinite oath.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, flanked by Secretary of Defense James Mattis attends the afternoon Ministerial Plenary of the Global Coalition Working to Defeat ISIS at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on March 22, 2017. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain].
Informal meeting of EU Heads of State or Government – February 2017. From left to right: Ms Theresa MAY, UK Prime Minister; Mr Francois Hollande, President of France. Shoot location: Valetta – MALTA. Shoot date: 03/02/2017. Copyright: European Union.