"You have to understand that he's no longer the same 'Your Majesty' you once had."
Editor(s): juurensha, namio
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While Tuoba Yan's hair was indeed in disarray, his martial robe was still in good order. It was clear that when the scouts had discovered him, they had spent quite an effort just to bring this man under control. Although Tuoba Yan's martial arts was in no way on the same level as the Great Chanyu’s, the title of the commander of the imperial guards was not one that could be casually conferred to just anyone after all. Moreover, Fu Jian had also been giving him pointers in person.
"Good morning, Great Chanyu," Tuoba Yan said with a polite smile. "Good morning, Great Exorcist."
Chen Xing was completely baffled by the fact that Tuoba Yan, even this time around, had actually gone so far as to run thousands of miles to Chi Le Chuan.
"How many people did he bring?" Xiang Shu didn't shrink back from Tuoba Yan and got up to change his clothes.
"Replying to the Great Chanyu, we found him by himself at that time," a scout said.
Chen Xing raised his eyes and looked at Xiang Shu. After changing into his royal garment, Xiang Shu motioned for them to untie Tuoba Yan.
As Tuoba Yan calmly smiled and fixed his martial robe, Xiang Shu asked in a deep voice, "Fu Jian sent you here?"
After thinking for a moment, Tuoba Yan replied, "His Majesty sent me to look for Princess Qinghe's whereabouts."
Xiang Shu: "You went in the wrong direction. The place you should go to right now is Pingyang."
Tuoba Yan couldn't help but look at Chen Xing in the eyes. Xiang Shu, who immediately noticed this action, cast him a vigilant look.
Tuoba Yan nodded at Xiang Shu's reply and continued, "When I passed through Chi Le Chuan, I discovered that, apparently, the North is also not so peaceful."
"It's none of your business," Xiang Shu said. "Someone! Tie him up and send him back to Chang'an! No, sending only his head back will suffice."
Chen Xing: "Wait!"
"Great Chanyu!" Tuoba Yan said. "Please listen to what I have to say!"
Even though Tuoba Yan was talking to Xiang Shu, his eyes were on Chen Xing.
Xiang Shu frowned. After hesitating for a long while, Tuoba Yan finally asked, "In the end, what exactly happened back then in Chang'an City? His Majesty has changed, he isn't like how he used to be."
Chen Xing: "......"
Tuoba Yan said, "To be honest, His Majesty had put me in prison and also confiscated all of my family's wealth. After escaping, I truly had nowhere to go. I came to Chi Le Chuan just because I want to ask this one question: What exactly has Wang Ziye done to His Majesty? If you send me back to Chang'an now, I can really only be sentenced to be beheaded."
As he exchanged glances with Xiang Shu, Chen Xing could perceive that Xiang Shu didn't really like Tuoba Yan very much. However, all kinds of divisions seemed to be extremely busy today. Chen Xing, after seeing people reporting in one after another not long after they had gotten up, urged Xiang Shu to go deal with the clan matters. He also knew that Xiang Shu had merely tried to scare off Tuoba Yan, and that in fact, he wouldn't really kill him. He then slowly explained things to Tuoba Yan before inquiring about Fu Jian's court situation.
As it turned out, after the drought fiend chaos in Chang'an, the Great Qin's court was thrown into intense turmoil. Moreover, Fu Jian had ordered people to search all over the place to find Princess Qinghe's whereabouts and even intended to raise an army of drought fiends in Xiangyang, Luoyang, and other places. Those corpses would then serve as the vanguard of his conquest to attack the Southern Jin.
While this proposal had been met with opposition from the alarmed Han officials, the Murong family, who had been observing the hustle and bustle from the sidelines, with the Xiongnu and other ministers who had different ideas at their back, added fuel to the fire. In a rare move, they approved of Fu Jian's actions. So long as the fire didn't backfire on them, since the expedition to the South would result in fewer deaths of the Hu people this way, then why not? In any case, the victims would either be living corpses or just the Han people, both of which were none of their concern.
Back then, only Tuoba Yan stood on the civil officials' side as he tried his best to convince Fu Jian, for fear it would lead to another major unrest and affect the Great Qin instead. Sure enough, he was thrown into jail by the infuriated Fu Jian soon afterward. He left for Chi Le Chuan after seizing an opportunity to escape. Now, he had been hungry for days, and as soon as the Tieles sent them food, Tuoba Yan practically wolfed down his portion as he sat opposite of Chen Xing. In response, Chen Xing also didn't conceal anything from Tuoba Yan and told him all about Wang Ziye's plan.
The expression on Tuoba Yan's face only changed for a moment before returning to its original bright, elegant state. Chen Xing said in his heart, Since he hasn’t seemed to fall for me at first glance this time around, this response should be okay ba?
"His Majesty treats me as a brother in name, but the feeling is more like father and son." Tuoba Yan put down his teacup and let out a long sigh before he, filled with frustration, continued to say, "Now, he has already been immersed in carrying out his grand ambition of refining an army of drought fiends. The words Wang Ziye said before he left were rooted in His Majesty's mind..."
This thing had already happened during their first life, so Chen Xing wasn't in the slightest bit surprised and merely pondered about Wang Ziye's next course of action.
"Is there any way to make him regain his clear mind?" Tuoba Yan anxiously asked. "I know you must have a way. Although the chaos in Chang'an was able to be pacified by the troops led by the Great Chanyu, in the final analysis, it was because of your contribution after all. You might be able to wake His Majesty up! Chen Tianchi, you must help me with this."
Chen Xing was left frustrated. "How could I not know the pros and cons of this situation? Once Fu Jian does go crazy and raises an army of drought fiends, the following war is bound to become a huge mess. But Tuoba Yan, don't you understand? While Princess Qinghe and Feng Qianyi's actions were indeed influenced by the blood of the devil god, Fu Jian's ambition is clearly due to his own desire!"
Since there was no devil blood's seed nor corruption by resentment, from where should Chen Xing start then?
Yet Tuoba Yan only said over and over, "His Majesty wasn't like this before! It wasn’t until Wang Meng's death and Wang Ziye's arrival did he turn this way, turning a deaf ear to everything people say..."
"People can change, Tuoba Yan," Chen Xing said to him. "You have to understand that he's no longer the same 'Your Majesty' you once had."
Still, Tuoba Yan insisted, "He will sober up. Chen Xing, this is not just the matter of one person —— but also the matter of the people of the whole world."
"Do you need help?" the phoenix flew in once more.
"Who? Who's talking?" Tuoba Yan got startled by the voice.
Chen Xing: "You're also able to help Fu Jian regain a sound mind?"
The phoenix: "I can't. But it's surely not a big problem if you want me to spray fire at him until he dies."
Chen Xing: "If he's burned to death, won't that just make it so that no one is sitting on the throne? Does this even solve the problem? Don't cause trouble, just go."
Tuoba Yan watched the phoenix fly away with eyes full of astonishment before looking at Chen Xing again.
Chen Xing recalled that when they had informed him of the cause of Tuoba Yan's death in the first lifetime, his heart had been filled with sorrow. He had known that Tuoba Yan back then didn't have much time left, but he just didn't expect that it would arrive as soon as it had then. If Tuoba Yan returned to Fu Jian alone now, Chen Xing was afraid the same thing would repeat itself. He couldn't let Tuoba Yan die in vain again.
Chen Xing said, "I can only promise you that I will try my best. I'm unable to change Fu Jian's heart, but as long as everything goes according to my plan, there will be no drought fiends for him to use in the end, and the situation you expect will not occur."
Tuoba Yan and Chen Xing just looked at each other for a good while. After thinking for a bit, Chen Xing asked, "What are your plans after this?"
Tuoba Yan replied, "What else do you think? Before I arrived in Chi Le Chuan, I had thought about it. In order to avoid watching helplessly as His Majesty embarks on the devil's path, I can only assist you."
Chen Xing had wanted to say "don't make a fuss, what can you do?", but thinking about it again, Tuoba Yan also had nowhere to go now. As long as Chen Xing opened his mouth, Xiang Shu would naturally drive Tuoba Yan out of Karakorum; he even had the right to banish him to the South of the Great Wall. But... Tuoba Yan, all on his own, would have no other choice other than to drift about. Where could he go then?
"I can help protect you," continued Tuoba Yan. "While not comparable to the Great Chanyu’s, my martial arts are still acceptable; it's not a problem for me to go fight against the enemy. The Great Chanyu takes care of all kinds of affairs every day, and after returning to Chi Le Chuan, not only does he need to lead the army to fight, he also has to take care of your safety. In case you get into an accident, who will be able to vanquish the drought fiends then?"
"Enough!" Chen Xing immediately called him off the moment he saw the development started to go wrong. He thought to himself, With Xiang Shu here, I had better turn down this kind offer. If there's an area Xiang Shu can't handle, there's still Xiao Shan with his excellent fighting strength.
Tuoba Yan said, "It will be enough as long as you promise that you will bring me when eradicating Wang Ziye and burning clean his drought fiends."
Chen Xing said, "Even if you didn’t request that, I would still do it. Whether I require your protection or not has nothing to do with it."
"I am the one at fault." Tuoba Yan sighed. "It's me who didn't protect His Majesty properly. Had I stayed by His Majesty's side that day, things... things wouldn't have developed into this."
Chen Xing finally understood: Tuoba Yan felt ashamed and wanted to atone for his mistake.
After rising to his feet, he patted Tuoba Yan's shoulder and said, "I'll go ask for the Great Chanyu's opinion."
Tuoba Yan: "I can start following you from now on. If there's anything you need, don't hesitate to tell me."
Chen Xing: "If your martial arts are really that outstanding, you wouldn't have been caught by several scouts like that."
Tuoba Yan showed a gentle smile. "If I were to say I deliberately let them arrest me, would you believe it? Otherwise, how could I smoothly see you face-to-face like this? Where are you going? There's a strong wind outside..."
Chen Xing: "No need. What do you take me for? At the very least I have learned..."
As soon as Chen Xing opened the door, his entire body was swept away by the wind.
In the main hall of Karakorum's imperial palace.
The wind was so strong it seemed as though it could lift the entire palace up. Endless quarreling could be heard inside the hall as the Hu chiefs denounced each other in a loud voice. Xiang Shu, wearing two rings on his hands, sat on the throne with a gloomy expression as he fiddled with a wine cup with his slender fingers.
Chen Xing braved through the wind and, after arriving at the entrance, shouted while knocking on the gate, "Xiang Shu!"
As Xiang Shu, who instantly heard him, got up and cut through the crowd, the quarrel in the hall stopped. Xiang Shu then opened that stone door weighing 100 jin with one hand and pulled Chen Xing inside before immediately closing the door again, shutting Tuoba Yan outside.
The hall was all silent as everyone focused on Chen Xing.
Chen Xing thought in his heart, Is this the kind of private meeting that allows no outsiders? And so, he said, "You... look busy? I'll go back first and wait for you then."
Xiang Shu passed him his wine cup while raising his eyebrows in inquiry. Chen Xing reluctantly drank a bit before saying, "Tuoba Yan wishes to stay."
Xiang Shu replied, "I see."
The rest of the people inside the hall just silently looked at Chen Xing with gazes that seemed to contain a multitude of feelings. Chen Xing knew that Xiang Shu's "I see" was equal to the emperor's "Zhen has reviewed it," which actually meant "all right" or "just do whatever you want, as long as you're happy." If he wanted to say "not okay" he would say "shut up" or just look at the other party in the face to make them give up on their own initiative.
Chen Xing first looked at Xiang Shu before moving to the other people. He then asked in a low voice, "What happened?"
Xiang Shu replied, "The white-dust gale is coming soon, and we're discussing a counter-measure. Sit ba."
Xiang Shu didn't care about their stares and just let Chen Xing sit on the throne, making them sit side-by-side. In the Hu people's assembly etiquette, this kind of move was truly held in extremely high regard. Chen Xing still remembered that when he went to Chi Le Chuan during their previous life, Xiang Shu didn't let him participate in any of the meetings.
For a good while, everyone just stared at Chen Xing's wine-cup-holding hand, which also happened to have Xiang Shu's signet ring on it.
Remembering that, Xiang Shu told Chen Xing, "Give the ring back to me for the time being."
So Chen Xing took off the signet ring and handed it over to Xiang Shu, who put it on thereafter.
"Get to work ba," Xiang Shu said. "We don't have much time. Once the white-dust gale comes, the snow will just make things worse."
After the crowd got up one after another and dispersed, Chen Xing asked, "What's white-dust gale?"
Xiang Shu simply explained that the white-dust gale was one of the major disasters that occurred in the land outside of the Great Wall. It was a type of gale that carried over snow motes. Once it blew, it would instantly swallow the whole land; livestock would scatter away, people would turn to ice blocks in the fierce gale, and snow fog would completely cover both heaven and earth to the point that if one was to hold their hand forward, they wouldn't even be able to see their fingers. The shape of the clouds, the direction of the wind, the strong wind that blew all night long yesterday, and the dark clouds that densely gathered outside the city of Karakorum were all precisely the first signs of the coming of the white-dust gale.
Had they been in Chi Le Chuan, they would naturally be able to avoid this event. But now that they were staying in Karakorum, which was located in a plain, the gale would certainly blow in from all directions. At this moment, Chen Xing finally saw for himself the reason why the Hus had refused to move to Karakorum. While they could manage the storm, there were also enemies around! They just didn’t know when the enemy would come right now.
The wind outside was so strong that it hindered Chen Xing to the point he couldn't walk steadily. At this, Xiang Shu freed one of his hands and proceeded to pull him into a half-hug. After leaving the palace, they hurried to the city gate tower, with Chen Xing relying completely on Xiang Shu to stabilize his pace, only to see that outside Karakorum, a blizzard had already formed and had turned heaven and earth to a vast expanse of whiteness.
"Oh, Great Chanyu, this isn't good, yo!" Still pulling the dog, the bei actively sniffed with his nose as it stood with his hind legs to observe the situation outside from the city gate tower. Each time Chen Xing saw this yaoguai walking his own attack dog, he could only try to just let the scene go and not think about it too much because to him, it really felt like it was a dog walking another dog.
"Move aside." Xiang Shu picked up the bei by its nape and threw it to one side before looking into the wind.
The bei: "It'll be troublesome if the drought fiends come at this time."
"Don't jinx it!" Chen Xing and Xiang Shu reprimanded in unison in an annoyed voice.
The first time around, an evening where snow fluttered around in the air like this had also happened. Chen Xing felt a bit of a predicament in his heart now, but it was just that he didn't dare to say it out loud. Xiang Shu turned around and ordered, "Gather the troops, reinforce our defense!"
The torches were all extinguished by the gale. Even though it was daytime, there was only gray before their eyes, one that left them unable to even distinguish between the sun and the moon. Amidst the wind, Xiang Shu, who suddenly tilted his ear, seemed to have identified a subtle noise.
"What did you hear?" Chen Xing nervously asked.
Doubt appeared in Xiang Shu's face, but he still said, "The sound of something treading on the snow."
Chen Xing: "The enemy is coming!"
Xiang Shu: "......"
In the next moment, the first skeleton rushed out from within that seemingly boundless gale and proceeded to pounce on the city wall! Immediately afterward, the rest of the legion of the dead appeared with a loud rumble and flooded the area outside Karakorum!
Unlike the first time, there was no Rouran cavalry who had been turned into drought fiends, and there were no Youduo nor old corpses of the Akele people either. This huge sea of skeleton army, borrowing the power of the raging snowstorm that currently hit the city, climbed over the city wall like some kind of tidal wave!
As the white-dust gale came, snow swirled all around the place together with the wind that carried over sand and gravel. While the sound of Zheng Drum could be heard coming from the wind gap, it never got nearer. Chen Xing lit up the Heart Lamp and aimed it at the skeletons that were bombarding the city. The Heart Lamp flashed brilliantly, but with the vast expanse of greyness that made it impossible to discern the sky and the sun, it was unable to break their offensive. He then activated the White Tiger Pennant, only to see that it had absolutely no effect.
Watching wolves, tigers, leopards, and even falcons all rush one after another, Xiang Shu shouted, "Heart Lamp!"
Chen Xing, seeing that he couldn't use the Heart Lamp to disperse this storm mixed with sands, gravels, and snow, had no alternative but to press both of his hands together and pour the Heart Lamp's power onto Xiang Shu's back. Moving to one side, Xiang Shu instantly turned into the personification of the Martial God. Golden light erupted, and with a big "boom!" he flew out of the city wall!
After Xiang Shu disappeared with a flash, long trumpetings of elephants came through from under the city wall, which was quickly followed by two giant elephants crashing into it in an earth-shaking manner! Chen Xing lost his balance and was about to shout "I'm gonna fall!" when a hand suddenly reached out from behind, grabbing him.
"Run!" Che Luofeng shouted. "We won't be able to hold this!"
Still in shock, Chen Xing and Che Luofeng just looked at each other; they were both stunned for a while. Chen Xing then said, "Th... thanks."
Xiang Shu flew back and shouted, "Shi Mokun! Pass my order! Order everyone to withdraw to the palace! Abandon the wall!"
Surrounded by the fierce gale, the inside of Karakorum turned into a scene of full chaos. The skeletons poured into the city continuously from both the eastern and northern sides. The warriors hadn't had the time to figure out what happened yet when they were ordered to swarm out to protect the old, the weak, the women, and the children. Xiang Shu had made a decisive and wise order for everyone to retreat to the palace, otherwise, all four city walls basically wouldn't be able to hold on.
Che Luofeng, dragging Chen Xing along, ran down the city wall with the bei and the dog following behind. Seeing the dog was so excited that it couldn't sit still and just ran all over the place to get a bone to hold with its mouth, Chen Xing hurriedly shouted, "Xiang Shu! This side! Come here!"
The very next moment, Xiang Shu appeared from within the storm, his whole body covered in fine snow as he yelled, "What?!"
Chen Xing: "I... I was calling the dog... Go cover everyone's retreat, I didn't call you."
Xiang Shu snarled angrily, "Guwang is going to beat you to death!"
Che Luofeng: "......"
Tuoba Yan, wielding a halberd, also rushed out and shouted, "Come with me!"
Chen Xing followed Tuoba Yan while Che Luofeng drew his bow to provide cover for Xiang Shu from behind. At last, the whole group managed to withdraw to the palace. Shi Mokun and the rest had closed off four doors of the palace, leaving only the main door open, and the four men rushed into the crack of the door. Then, pushing it with his shoulder, Xiang Shu closed the door with a crash.
At the last moment, Chen Xing caught sight of those innumerable bones of the dead that had covered the entire area.
As soon as the main door was closed off, the world was plunged into total darkness. Torches were lit up in quick succession, and the palace hall was completely packed with the Hus from all clans.
Xiang Shu calmed himself down. "How many of them?"
Nobody gave him a reply. That army of skeletons was not of the human race, its number couldn't be estimated at all.
"It was them." Shi Mokun was gasping for breath. "It was them who chased us all the way here."
Chen Xing lit up his Heart Lamp and looked at the Hus around them. The old, weak, sick, and disabled, plus some people in their prime; a total of about 120,000 people were gathered inside the palace.
"How about the horses?" asked Xiang Shu again.
"There wasn't enough time," the Rouran chief said. "They're all outside."
Che Luofeng seemed to have lost all his strength and slowly sat down with his back against the main door. Not long after, the sound of skeletons climbing up could be heard from the outside; gurgling sounds traveled from the main door to the roof of the palace's main hall.
"The skylight has been sealed," said Shi Mokun.
Xiang Shu looked at Chen Xing, who frowned and said, "We can't use the White Tiger Pennant. These skeletons were not originally human beings."
Xiang Shu knitted his brows. "Think of another way. What is that rattle-drum?"
"A magical artifact," Chen Xing answered, "which should be in Zhou Zhen's hands. He must've been hiding behind the army right now."
Right now, sounds of stones falling to bits came through from the outside —— the skeletons had now begun to tear open the palace.
"Do you need help?" a refined and courteous voice said.
The Hus all around cried out in surprise and backed away in horror. The phoenix flew in and perched on the head of the stone dragon that the Xiongnu King had placed inside the palace hundreds of years ago.
The phoenix, whose whole body was glimmering, illuminated the dark palace. One by one, the people made way for it. They looked at it, full of confusion, before turning to look at Chen Xing.
Chen Xing took a deep breath. It would seem that this time, there was no other way.
Just as he was about to open his mouth to say his third wish to the phoenix, Xiang Shu pressed Chen Xing's shoulder and coldly said, "No need."
Chen Xing: "!!!"
Xiang Shu ordered, "Shi Mokun, prepare my armor. Divide the soldiers into two lines. You go out through the back door and attract their attention. Che Luofeng, follow me out, we're going to look for Zhou Zhen's whereabouts."
Shi Mokun: "Great Chanyu! It's too dangerous out there!"
Xiang Shu, however, just turned a deaf ear to it and asked Chen Xing, "Verify it one more time! All of our magical artifacts are incapable of destroying this pile of bones?"
Chen Xing frowned deeply as he thought in his mind, Should I just ask the phoenix to go fight and be done with it? But if it's like that, then undoubtedly... What should I do, ne? The Yin Yang Mirrors have been shattered, and both the White Tiger Pennant and Zouyu Pennant are only effective for those drought fiends who had once been humans before. Feng Qianjun and Xiao Shan aren't here. Confronting an army with tremendous power like this, if we had Cangqiong Yilie or similar magical artifacts...
"Can you establish a defensive wall like that of Wang Ziye's here?" Xiang Shu asked. "As long as you can ward them off for Guwang for a moment and wait until I catch Zhou Zhen..."
Chen Xing said, "Right now, I only have the White Tiger Pennant and Zouyu Pennant in my hands. I'll try it ba, but I need to draw a magical array first!"
Xiang Shu: "I'll go change my armor. You try your best to hold it as long as you can. In a moment, Guwang will go and ambush Zhou Zhen. You stay here..."
"No." Chen Xing knitted his brows. "I have to go with you!"
"No room for negotiation!" Xiang Shu said in a deep voice. "The enemies are not drought fiends, so using the Heart Lamp won't have any effect."
"But after you snatch the Zheng Drum, can you even use it?" Chen Xing took a step forward, the center of his brows was full of worries.
Xiang Shu: "I'll bring it back for you."
Chen Xing said, "Wang Ziye used resentment..."
"I said, no room for negotiation!" Xiang Shu angrily roared. "Can't you hear me?! You wait for me here! You're not allowed to take a step out of the palace!"
As soon as Xiang Shu roared, his imposing ruler's aura came out, causing everyone in the palace to tremble with fear. Chen Xing had already gotten used to the Xiang Shu who was different from his former self; everything had been so easy to discuss that he actually had gradually forgotten that Xiang Shu was full of authority. He meant every word he said, and there was no room for questions. Chen Xing saw that none of the people of Chi Le Chuan dared to contradict him, and it was clear that they all held a great amount of respect for him. Once he had made a decision, nobody would dare to say otherwise, let alone in front of so many people.
With an obviously angry look on his face, Xiang Shu stretched out a finger and pointed down to the ground, a gesture that clearly meant "stay here," before turning around to leave.
Chen Xing stood for a moment while thinking in his heart, This guy's temper can't change at all. He then said, "Someone, help me fetch the cinnabar from the medical hall."
Xiang Shu, crowded around by the warriors, hurriedly left to change into his armor. Chen Xing remembered that for the defensive wall magical array, the preparation was to draw the array on the ground. However, this imperial palace was filled with resentment all around, which actually isolated the spiritual qi of heaven and earth's power as it covered the palace like a barrier.
But suddenly, Chen Xing remembered something. He immediately turned around and ran toward the palace's back corridor.
Dinghai Donghua is out on Bilibili, two episodes for VIP members! The YouTube version should be coming soon, in 2 weeks? AND HOLY THE MOUTH-TO-MOUTH FEEDING SOMEHOW MADE IT PASS THE CENSORSHIP (。・∀・)ノ
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Elestrea.