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In the garden of a high-ranking official’s residence in Chang’an, Xiang Shu coughed a few times.
Chen Xing was still in a state of panic. He looked at Xiang Shu; Xiang Shu’s breathing sounded a little deep as he looked into the sky beyond the high wall. Chen Xing released the puppy in his hand. Princess Qinghe’s dagger was still stuck in its chest, and its corpse was thoroughly cold now.
Chen Xing felt upset for a while and could only close both its eyes, then place it behind a piece of rockery. Xiang Shu was so tired that he could only lean against the corner of the wall with both his eyes closed.
The morning light was slightly warm, and there was a bell ringing in the distance. It was already daytime in Chang’an City. The two of them had somehow barged into this residence after flipping over a high wall; the servants of this large residence had risen, and old women were currently chatting as they prepared to clean the courtyard.
“Shift in a little more,” Chen Xing whispered, “You’ll be seen.”
One of Xiang Shu’s legs remained outside the rockery, and he didn’t reply. Chen Xing forcibly moved him in. When he touched Xiang Shu’s shoulder with one hand, he felt something wet, then when he looked at his hand again, Chen Xing got a sudden shock.
“Why are you bleeding so much?!” Chen Xing said.
“Shut up……” Xiang Shu finally replied to him.
Chen Xing hurriedly turned Xiang Shu over to look at his back. When Xiang Shu had escaped from the palace, he had used his back as a shield, so he got hit by several arrows. Arrows of the imperial army had a type of special blood groove carved into them, so he had to quickly take a bunch of arrows out.
At that moment, Chen Xing heard some noise come out from the woodshed in the backyard. A servant came out with some firewood in his arms. After waiting for there to be nobody else around, Chen Xing took Xiang Shu into the woodshed in a hurry and closed the door to hide inside for a while, then used a dagger to gouge the arrows out for him.
His old wounds hadn’t healed yet, but new ones were added. Chen Xing’s hands were covered with blood. He peeked out from a crack in the door, then hurried out to wash his hands and got some water for Xiang Shu to drink.
“What do we do?”
When the two of them settled down, Chen Xing said, “This is bad, we killed Princess Qinghe right in front of Fu Jian.”
Xiang Shu didn’t speak. Chen Xing sat down cross-legged and said to Xiang Shu, “That last strike……”
Within a split second, Xiang Shu had forcefully gripped Chen Xing’s neck.
Chen Xing, "......"
Xiang Shu pushed Chen Xing aside, trying to suppress the anger in his voice, “You were being held hostage then. If I didn’t deal a heavy blow, would you still be alive right now?!”
Xiang Shu was thoroughly infuriated. Chen Xing had no idea that Princess Qinghe would be colluding with that mysterious bunch. Judging from the black flames, she might have been invaded by resentment too. But she was dead now, so it was useless to say anything else.
“Sober up a little!” Chen Xing said angrily, “Can you blame me for that?!”
Xiang Shu was practically disregarding everything else as he roared angrily, “If only it weren’t for you! She wouldn’t have died!”
Chen Xing, “Then kill me to take revenge for her ah! Come!”
The two of them stared at each other silently for a moment. Chen Xing naturally knew that Xiang Shu regretted dealing too heavy a blow as he had misjudged the other party’s strength, so he was just taking his anger out on Chen Xing for a moment. But from the last scene they saw, Princess Qinghe had obviously already been enveloped by resentment and was also colluding with the mysterious group. If Xiang Shu had gotten caught, the other party would have killed Chen Xing without any mercy.
Chen Xing regained his calm, “Feng Qianyi, Princess Qinghe, who will be next?”
Xiang Shu finally calmed down and closed his eyes.
Chen Xing continued, “Now, we won’t be able to wash ourselves clean even if we jumped into the yellow springs. Fu Jian must be searching all over the city for us. We don’t know who else is behind Princess Qinghe either, the Yin Yang Mirror is still in the palace, and now I’m just afraid that they’ll kill Feng Dage……”
“She wanted to take revenge for the Murong clan,” Xiang Shu finally said slowly, “Ever since the day Great Yan was decimated by Fu Jian, she has never given up on that agenda. I just don’t know how she managed to partner up with the Feng family.”
Chen Xing suddenly remembered the words stammered by Princess Qinghe before she died.
Xiang Shu closed his eyes again and murmured, “It’s just a pity she was born a woman. A beauty on horseback, her horsemanship and archery skills were no less than that of a man, but she can no longer return to the prairie……”
Chen Xing recalled Princess Qinghe’s words and smiles. Judging from what he had seen the past few days, these two old friends should have shared a very deep friendship.
“Xiang Shu?” Chen Xing said.
Xiang Shu didn’t reply.
“I’m sorry.” Chen Xing said.
“It’s none of your business.” Xiang Shu said coldly but never opened his eyes.
It was silent again. Chen Xing whispered, “I’ll go out to see what’s going on outside.”
“Don’t go anywhere,” Xiang Shu’s cold voice rang out, “Stay here. Guwang will nap for a short while, I’m too tired……”
Chen Xing was also quite tired. They didn’t know if Feng Qianjun was dead or alive, and they’ll probably have to face Fu Jian’s anger head-on now. Interrogation through torture was now unavoidable, so they had to find a way to save him as soon as possible. But the more serious problem still remained for the Feng family, and it would be too late for them to warn the Feng family now.
How many people would have to die for this?! Chen Xing felt absolutely restless, yet Xiang Shu just fell asleep as if nothing was wrong. He wanted to go out and inquire about the situation himself, but without Xiang Shu, he probably wouldn’t even be able to walk out of the main street unscathed, so he could only stay still.
He felt about for the bamboo slip in his front lapels, but the bamboo slip had disappeared too. Chen Xing was very sure that the bamboo slip wouldn’t have been dropped while they were fleeing, and now that he thought about it, the only possibility would be that items in the mirror world could not be brought into the present world.
Chen Xing was thoroughly spent. He held a dead dog in his arms, feeling beaten down and weary as he leaned against a stack of firewood. As he continued thinking, he fell asleep; his head slipped down unwittingly and landed in Xiang Shu’s embrace. Xiang Shu wielded his sword with one hand and got a start while he was sound asleep. When he saw that there were no enemies around, he raised his right hand and placed it on Chen Xing’s shoulder.
This day was destined to be the most turbulent one after the day Fu Jian killed his own older brother, Fu Sheng. The entire Chang’an city was blockaded; only entry into the city was allowed, exiting was prohibited. Although a severe order had been placed to seal off the news of Princess Qinghe losing her life under the Great Chanyu’s sword, it still spread like wildfire. In less than two hours, when Chang’an’s morning market opened, everyone throughout the streets and alleys knew about it.
Ever since Fu Jian destroyed the Yan state, this was the first time such a shocking event had happened in Chang’an that perturbed all levels of society here. In the Qin Dynasty, the Murong family was still a force to be reckoned with. Murong Chui, the Lord Mayor of a subjugated country, had surrendered to Fu Jian, Murong Ping, the governor of Fanyang who had entered the capital to report to the Emperor on his work, and the Shangshu. Murong Wei requested an audience with Fu Jian as soon as it was dawn. People from the Xianbei Murong clan, the Tuoba clan who had marital relations with them, as well as the Qian people who had always shared a close relationship with the Murong family, and others were all kneeling outside the hall.
The Great Qin’s imperial court was instantly in an uproar. In a certain sense, Princess Qinghe symbolised the connection between the Murong clan and Fu Jian, who was currently in power. Ever since the death of Empress Gou, Fu Jian had never appointed another person to be empress, and Princess Qinghe was the one leading his imperial harem. Fu Jian even refused to accept any more imperial concubines because of Qinghe and Murong Chong, these two siblings. Yet she had died under the Great Chanyu’s, Shulü Kong’s, sword just like that. Fu Jian had to account for it to all of his civil and military officials no matter what.
The entire Murong clan was thoroughly shocked when they caught wind of the news. However, as an undercurrent surged below, they seemed more vigilant than anything else when they were questioning Fu Jian.
Fu Jian had seen that kind of expression more than once, and he couldn’t be any more familiar with it.
“Zhen is currently pursuing the Great Chanyu.” Fu Jian’s eyes were bloodshot, and he appeared extremely exhausted, as if he had aged ten years overnight, “There are a lot of problems regarding the unforeseen event last night, not just one or two. The Great Chanyu has already fled to escape arrest, and only he would be able to give us the answers we want.”
Descendants of the noble Xianbei clan stood in great numbers within the court, and not a single sound could be heard. Only the Yuwen family, who had a long-standing enmity with the Murong clan, could be seen to rejoice a little at their misfortune.
“Your Majesty,” Shangshu Murong Wei said, “Where were you when the tragedy occurred?”
The side profile of Murong Chui had been burned by the flames in the war in Xiangyang city several months ago, so he wore an iron mask now and kept silent.
“What do you mean by that?! Are you suspecting Zhen of being an accomplice?!” Fu Jian roared furiously at once.
Everyone below the steps had a clear look of distrust on their faces. Ever since the Great Chanyu, Shulü Kong, arrived in Chang’an, he had been stirring up storms throughout the whole city. Fu Jian’s fear of Shulü Kong had long since spread throughout the entire imperial court. The restraint of the Ancient Chi Le Covenant on Fu Jian, as well as the closeness between both sides had already made the various ethnic groups in Chang’an feel uneasy. They were afraid that even more northern nomadic tribes would enter through the pass and demand for a division of their hard-earned benefits that they had gained at the expense of the destruction of a country.
Murong Chui finally said slowly, “Your Majesty, I heard that there were two other Han assassins aside from Shulü Kong. One of them had escaped with him from Weiyang Palace, while the other is detained in the palace, and the one here is the Xifeng Bank’s Feng family’s youngest son. Is that true?!”
“Why would the Great Chanyu collude with a group of Hans?” Murong Wei uttered in disbelief.
Fu Jian said without answering the question, “Tuoba Yan has already led the imperial guards to surrounded Mt. Song. The Feng clan did indeed flee to avoid arrest; their entire family had left the city overnight.”
“Where is he?” Someone finally couldn’t endure it anymore, “Hand him over!”
“How brazen!” Wang Ziye spoke and chided him on behalf of Fu Jian.
Fu Jian answered, “I cannot hand him over to you all. Zhen is currently interrogating him. I’ll definitely give everyone an account within three days. Compared to everyone else, the pain Zhen feels can only be much worse. Go back to think it through clearly; calm down, this court session is dismissed.”
Fu Jian had just lost his beloved, so he no longer cared about how rude the Murong family was being. But on that afternoon, the military force in Chang’an City began to mobilise on the grounds that the Great Chanyu, Shulü Kong, was plotting a rebellion. However, Shulü Kong was alone here, and the Ancient Chi Le Covenant's army was all beyond the Great Wall. It would be clear to any perspicacious person that even if Shulü Kong were to issue a call to arms now to kill the incapable ruler and secure the land within the pass, it would still take the army at least ten days to arrive in Chang'an even when marching as fast as possible. It would not be any sooner before they could accomplish this great deed, then purge the nation of traitors and support the Jin family. So who was Fu Jian guarding against by doing this?
The only possibility was the Murong clan.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), kee.