Editor(s): juurensha, namio
In the past, the War of the Eight Princes had brought calamity to the Great Jin Dynasty. Each and every single one of the eight princes of the Sima household had been an expert in military arts and a professional at leading an army. Nevertheless, under the crafty empress Jia Nanfeng's provocation and own interest, they launched a crazy, bloody war against their own brothers in order to fight for the title of "Emperor." For 10 or so years, it was constantly "you killed me, and I also killed him." Jin's millions of troops collapsed completely because of this internal friction, leading to empty northern garrisons, which was used by a Xiongnu, Liu Yan, to command an army to traverse the pass. The final winner, Sima Yue, led the Chang'an court as well as the majority of army and civilians to flee in a panic, but they were intercepted by Liu Yan; they were annihilated. The Jins had been doing large-scale southward migration, and the event was named "the Disaster of Yongjia."
The Disaster of Yongjia had also marked the beginning of all kinds of Hu uprisings that lasted for nearly a hundred years. Still, when the northern tribes were fighting over Guanzhong, Luoyang, and other places, the Sima's family heir, who had reorganized flags and drums on Jiankang, wasn't idle. During the wartime, he displayed his formidable skill of using the "vertical and horizontal alliance" strategy, which made him not only succeed in inciting disharmony among the tribes, making them fight against one another, but also made him succeed in retrieving the country's imperial jade seal, as well as Prince Hejian and Prince Qi's coffins, burying them on the imperial mausoleum of Zhongshan.
"That's great," said Chen Xing. "That's really great! Wait, wait… en, according to what we've seen back on Longzhong Mountain, the revival of an ancient corpse and its transformation to become the Drought Fiend King takes about seven times seven, forty-nine days; this process must be very complicated. In fact, there's no need to worry about destroying it. En… I think…"
"Clever!" Feng Qianjun said with a smile. "I've already dispatched some spies to keep an eye on the imperial mausoleum all day long. In case there's an anomaly, we'll be notified right away. At first, I was still hesitant. If Shi Hai wants to revive these two princes, he will undoubtedly send his men or even come in person. Isn't it more straightforward if we destroy the princes' corpses in advance? But, hearing Sima Wei's words that you’ve just repeated, maybe we can still guard the trunk to wait for rabbits…"
Chen Xing made a "hm" sound and came up with a daring idea. When that strange masked man resurrected Sima Wei in Longzhong Mountain, it seemed that because the Heart Lamp had been nearby, it brought about some change. In that case, can we use this variable instead? Make the remaining two princes rebel and take Shi Hai by surprise?
"I see that at least, up until now," Feng Qianjun said, "Shi Hai still has yet to arrive in Zhongshan to hastily resurrect the two princes. This, certainly, has a profound meaning."
Xiang Shu also made an "en" sound. Chen Xing felt a little baffled and asked, "What profound meaning?"
Xiang Shu folded his arms and pondered in silence. After half a day, he became slightly impatient and said, "I had just praised you for being clever, how come you became stupid again? The reason why Shi Hai leaves the two princes alone, isn't it obvious?"
Feng Qianjun just smiled. Xiang Shu looked at Chen Xing who was still thinking and simply explained, "Because south of the Yangtze River isn’t Shi Hai's domain!"
That brief sentence awakened the person inside the dream in an instant —— the cause and effects all become connected in a split second. Longzhong Mountain was no doubt near Xiangyang, and so, the mysterious masked man invaded Longzhong Mountain when the Qin army was besieging the city. That is to say, Shi Hai's activity scope, up until that point, had always been limited to the northern part of the Yangtze River.
He can't get through?! What does "can't get through" imply? Shi Hai is a person from Fu Jian's side! Thinking back about the drought fiend chaos in Chang'an, the Yin and Yang Mirror that had returned to Feng Qianyi's hand midway through due to some unexpected turn of events… The answer gradually became clearer.
"Shi Hai is currently hiding by Fu Jian's side," Chen Xing said. "Who could it be?!"
This was also the truth that Feng Qianjun had wanted to find out no matter what up until now: Shi Hai's identity. Namely, the person who had lured his elder brother in and turned him into a devil —— this was his most important target for revenge.
Chen Xing couldn't help but sigh: Sure enough, a person still needs other people's help. Looking at this conspiracy, he couldn't make heads or tails of it, but unexpectedly, with the deduction of three people, it slowly surfaced and became clear!
"Other than Fu Jian, who else entered the palace that night?" Feng Qianjun said. "The Murongs? Tuoba Yan?"
"It's not Tuoba Yan," Xiang Shu denied and said, "Although I don't like him, it can't be him. It was a dark night, and nothing could be seen clearly. I only caught the sight of Fu Jian and several personal bodyguards. There’s always the possibility that it's Fu Jian himself."
Feng Qianjun said, "That possibility shouldn't be ruled out."
Chen Xing thought for a moment and said, "Let's not talk about whether Fu Jian has the motive or not. Do you think an emperor has the time to run west and east just to perform this big play?"
"Oh, that's true," Feng Qianjun expressed his approval.
"Wang Ziye?" Xiang Shu came up with another candidate. "Fu Jian always finds him to discuss everything."
"You saw him?" Feng Qianjun asked.
Xiang Shu recalled that night, but he couldn't remember whether Wang Ziye was behind Fu Jian then. The three people discussed it over and over, and in the end, Xiang Shu said, "So, based on what happens after this, we may be able to clearly determine who that person is."
Chen Xing's train of thought was already slightly behind Xiang Shu's, so he had to humbly ask, "Why? Can you explain it more clearly? Protector, I find you very clever ah."
Xiang Shu: "I dare not. Compared to the Exorcist who talked in circles during light intellectual conversation and fought with his words with a group of scholars, this Protector is only a little bit clever. How could I enter other people's eyes?"
Chen Xing had already developed an admiration towards Xiang Shu. He also really hadn’t understood what had just been said. Unexpectedly, Xiang Shu stabbed him again, and so, he replied in a polite manner, "A wise person reflecting a thousand times will make a loss; an idiot reflecting a thousand times will make a gain. One shouldn't be ashamed to ask questions once in a while ma."
Xiang Shu: "......"
Feng Qianjun saw that the two had begun to disagree and feared that it would turn into a quarrel again. He hurriedly said, "Asking Brother Xiang for advice."
"To resurrect the remaining two princes," Xiang Shu thus said, "one requires a large amount of resentment released by the dead, precisely like the war in Xiangyang. To have dead people, there must be a big war. In case Fu Jian goes south in the near future to attack Jiangkang, it proves that there's someone by his side that is inciting one. Shi Hai's identity must be a high-ranking advisor."
"Ah," Feng Qianjun actually hadn't thought about this, so he just nodded.
Chen Xing thought that Xiang Shu was indeed really clever. Today, they were reunited with Feng Qianjun, but the happiest thing was not the sudden meeting with an old friend, but rather the change from their passive behavior into the opposite. Shi Hai's hiding place, once confirmed, would make them have a clear goal. It'd be easier to formulate a plan with that.
The scariest thing was to not know the enemy's location and even more, to not know what the enemy was. They had come a long way and had to pay so much for it, but their hardships had finally paid off. This allowed Chen Xing, for the time being, to breathe a sigh of relief.
Feng Qianjun still frowned. When Chen Xing was about to ask for more information, Feng Qianjun said, "Sometimes, it's not necessary to start a war if you want dead people. Jiangnan may look peaceful, but in fact, there is a vicious current surging underneath. You two have returned to Jiangnan now. We can say that the Will of Heaven works in a mysterious way."
Xiang Shu's complexion suddenly changed. Chen Xing, who was about to get up to move, heard what he had said and replied, "What? What's the matter?"
Feng Qianjun hesitated for a moment before he simply said, "I also don't know whether this is really as I've speculated… but since we're all involved anyway, might as well say it now. Still remember a soldier's body we found in Longzhong Mountain a year ago?"
Chen Xing: "!!!"
Chen Xing immediately remembered the time he, Xiang Shu, and Feng Qianjun had gotten to know each other. Xiang Shu had kicked a corpse off the cliff to warn them not to advance anymore. Yet, that night, Chen Xing and Feng Qianjun tied the corpse on the horseback, making the horse carry it back to Maicheng.
"The corpse transformed?" Xiang Shu's voice turned serious.
Feng Qianjun slowly nodded and said, "Fortunately, the situation isn't that bad."
That dead soldier's corpse, in less than 24 hours after it had been delivered to Maicheng, turned into a living corpse. The knowledgeable Maicheng City's magistrate associated it with the folklore about the jiangshis' rebellion from the ancient book, and at once, locked the corpse up in a big cage. However, the coroner who had been inspecting the corpse, along with several soldiers, were scratched and got injured on the spot.
The living corpse was thus locked and sent to Jiankang. It was secretly presented to the Jin Emperor, Sima Yao, as to not alarm the masses. But very quickly, in less than ten days after the coroner had returned home, he became infected, fell ill, and bit his wife and child. Following that, many people were turned into living corpses.
Chen Xing: "…………"
Feng Qianjun said, "At that time, we still didn't know that the drought fiend army was that formidable. We shouldn't blame ourselves."
Xiang Shu turned pale and said, "What happened next?"
Feng Qianjun said, "Many people in Maicheng got corpse venom. Fortunately, later on… eer, it's not really glorious, but it has been resolved."
It was such an understatement that contained so much information. Chen Xing sighed, and Xiang Shu said, "It really has been resolved?"
"On the surface," Feng Qianjun said. "Last year, in the late autumn, that is, when you were in Chi Le Chuan, a small-scale plague broke out several times in Jiankang, Moling, Kuaiji, Wujun, and some other places. They're still spreading to this day."
Chen Xing frowned and said nothing. Feng Qianjun described the state of the plague: this disease's origin was inexplicable, and it came without warning. Some said it was brought back by the Jin Army who had been sent on a mission to Maicheng, while others thought it was an ordinary plague. Only, the strange thing was, this epidemic didn't kill anyone, and the majority of the infected preserved their lives, but, it was followed by signs of prolonged sleepiness.
"Is there a cure?" Chen Xing said.
At that time, Feng Qianjun was still investigating the imperial mausoleums in Luoyang, Pintang, Youzhou, and didn't actually see it with his own eyes. He replied, "I heard some have completely recovered. It's said that people can slowly get better by basking in the sun."
Xiang Shu thought for a moment and said, "It's probably okay if they can get better then."
Feng Qianjun had also specifically paid a visit to those who had completely recovered. He discovered that their actions were still the same as before, and there was also zero indication of them turning into a living corpse, so he decided to just wait and see for the time being. However, as the time went by, this plague was akin to consumption; they wouldn't get better, but they wouldn't drop dead either. Moreover, it was still slowly spreading to many cities south of the Yangtze River.
Chen Xing said, "Then, it's not alright after all. We need to take a look at the patients as soon as possible." Even though he said this, he didn't know what to do after that.
Feng Qianjun said, "This leads to another problem."
"There's still more?!" Chen Xing grudgingly said. "Can't you just say everything at once?!"
Feng Qianjun rushed to give a hint. "This matter has nothing to do with Shi Hai, Chiyou, or exorcists. It's Xie-daren, Xie Anshi's…"
At this point, the housekeeper next door suddenly shouted, "My Lord! My Lord! Someone help!"
This very much alarmed them. The three of them were just talking about the plague, and now, they heard a sound of someone falling down next door. Xiang Shu got up and rushed out like a gust of wind. Chen Xing activated the Heart Lamp and followed suit.
Only to see a hobbling Xie An who propped himself on the couch and said, "It's okay, I just meditated for too long and got leg cramps."
"Xie-daren," Feng Qianjun bowed with hands clasped according to formality then said, "it should be the time for you to pay back the money ba?"
"What you guys were talking about," Xie An pulled his lapel, looked left and right down the couch to look for his shoes, then said, "I roughly heard most of them. This money affair ne, may I ask Young Master Feng to extend the deadline for a few more days? You see, I'm already this old, I can't stand the shock…"
Chen Xing was confused. He looked at Feng Qianjun before looking back at Xie An and said, "What? Not the other way around ba? Shixiong, you owe Feng-dage money? How much?"
"He's your shixiong?" Feng Qianjun was at a loss, "Isn't your shixiong Wang Meng? Why did it change to Xie An?"
Xie An explained, "It's like this…" He first told the housekeeper to leave, then said to Feng Qianjun, "Since you and my shidi are familiar with each other, everyone is on the same side. This money of mine, how about we leave it first?"
"‘Same side' my ass!" Feng Qianjun said, "You made it all sound great before. 70,000 silver taels on your behalf to support the Beifu Army. The legal document was issued; all debts will be paid off at the beginning of this spring. I don't need the 10,000 tael interest, but Xie-daren, please pity our pathetic Xifeng Bank. Our Chang'an property has been wiped out, and also, there are still many places in Jiankang to make money ne. What did you expect me to do?"
"Calm down, calm down," Chen Xing persuaded. "Everyone, look at me. No need to quarrel, there will always be money."
"That's right," Xiang Shu nodded in approval. "Chen Xing will stand on the road outside later; the money will come on its own."
Ehem, WE’RE BACK! And we’re all fine, thank you for those who ask on Twitter I guess at this point we all can agree that Chen Xing and Xiang Shu will try to quarrel, anytime, anywhere… SOMEONE MADE A MEME ABOUT THIS BUT I CANT FIND IT
Anyway, we’re giving a mass release today, up till the end of Chapter 55, for a total of 9 chapters to make up for the last month. Enjoy~
Message from Ice:
Hello, sorry for going MIA for such a long time. Originally, I had just planned to take a one-week break for my midterms, but because of various reasons, I ended up losing contact with the rest of the Dinghai team for another three weeks. Once I regained contact with them, I wanted to quickly finish the parts I was responsible for and give a mass update to everyone, but a soon expiring visa and a round of school projects caused another week-long delay.
I want to apologize for the long wait and thank Elestrea and Zryuu for filling in the next three parts while I was gone… I owe them one (literally) and will make it up to them both. (つ﹏⊂)
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Elestrea and Caro.