"Then your death is near."
Editor(s): juurensha, namio
Xie An took the four men to the outside of Taichu Palace, saying, "Little Shidi, I'll go in first to inquire about His Majesty's sacrifice to heaven tomorrow. You can wait here for a while. His Majesty is very talkative, so no need to restrain yourself."
Chen Xing said, "Don't worry, we won't." Chen Xing thought to himself: You didn't see Xiang Shu charging into the palace in Chang'an that day. By being well-behaved and standing outside according to the rules today, it's already giving face to the Jins.
Xie An left, and so, there were only the four exorcists left in front of Taichu Palace. Feng Qianjun frowned a bit, saying, "Thanks to your luck, this is the first time after returning to Jiangnan that Dage gets to meet the emperor."
Chen Xing said with a smile, "Why do I always feel like you want to ask something?"
Feng Qianjun was about to say something, but when he saw the look Chen Xing was giving him, he swallowed what he was about to say and shut his mouth. The four of them stayed silent for a while. After the conversation between Chen Xing and Xiang Shu a few days ago, there was a bit of a deadlock between those two. Chen Xing always felt that there was something between them akin to an undercurrent that might surge up, but when he opened his mouth, the responses were very normal.
"Xiang Shu?" Chen Xing tested the waters.
Xiang Shu: "?"
Chen Xing had wanted to make a joke, telling him not to suddenly attack people in all directions once they got in, but he was afraid he would say something wrong and upset him again. He was still thinking about it when a eunuch came all of a sudden. Holding a small box, he showed it to Xiang Shu and said, "These are flowers bestowed by His Majesty to the exorcists, please put them on first. Today, you are free to explore the palace."
Feng Qianjun said, "His Majesty is always so refined."
There were four begonias in the box. Feng Qianjun more or less knew the customs of the palace; he took one flower and put it on. Upon seeing this, Chen Xing also pinned the flowers on his and Xiao Shan's collars.
Xiang Shu: "More of Han people's customs?"
"To travel while having flower hairpins is quite a popular, refined activity for us." Chen Xing cheerfully explained. "Just do as the natives do."
Both Feng Qianjun and Xiao Shan strolled around the garden on the side of Taichu Palace. Xiang Shu, however, didn't put on the flower, saying, "Don't want to."
Chen Xing took the begonia, pulled Xiang Shu over, pinned it on his lapel, then said, "Don't move. See, it's pretty good."
Xiang Shu abruptly said, "Tomorrow, you..."
Chen Xing: "?"
At that moment, someone came out from Taichu Palace. Without waiting for him to speak, that person said, "Chen-daren, Great Chanyu Shulü, Young Master Feng Qianjun, Xiao-daren, His Majesty asks for your presence."
So Chen Xing said, "We'll talk about it once we're done," then called Feng Qianjun and Xiao Shan over before entering the palace hall. In the front, there was a painting by Gu Kaizhi, the Nymph of the Luo River. Sima Yao was sitting there in the center, wearing a gold-coated white robe, with hair draping over his shoulders and a pinned begonia on his lapel. He was sitting upright on the couch, speaking casually to a diviner beside him. On his left were Emperor Valet Xie Shi and Political Advisor Xie Xuan, both of whom Chen Xing had met during the light intellectual conversations that happened when he first arrived in Jiankang.
The first thing Sima Yao looked for was of course Xiang Shu. He hurriedly said, "Great Chanyu Shulü! Hello! Zhen has heard that you went so far as to travel thousands of li away just to come to Jiankang. Zhen had wanted to make an appointment with you, but since you had been very busy, it had to be delayed until today. It's still okay since we've met now. Zhen has heard a lot about Chief Great Chanyu's famous name, Zhen is very lucky!"
With that, Sima Yao got up from the couch and, despite his own status as the sovereign monarch, cupped his hands and saluted Xiang Shu.
Xiang Shu followed the custom of the Hus, putting his hand on his left chest then turning his palm over, nodding. After he finished with the etiquette for both countries' monarchs, he said again, "The pleasure is mine. I've already abdicated my position to Shi Mokun. Right now, my identity is the Great Exorcist Chen Xing's Protector."
This was the first time that Xiang Shu had introduced himself as his Protector. Chen Xing felt very complicated when he heard this.
"This commoner, Chen Xing, courtesy name Tianchi, salutes Your Majesty," Chen Xing smiled and saluted.
When Feng Qianjun was about to salute, Sima Yao said in a hurry, "No need to be over courteous, four Great… Great Masters, please sit, please sit. Ai——ya, it's really difficult to get to see Chen-xiansheng's face. Come, Zhen will introduce you to someone, this person here is Pu Yang-xiansheng. When Chen-xiansheng was unconscious, Pu-xiansheng went to see you."
The old diviner sitting beside Sima Yao nodded.
Chen Xing had learned from Xie Daoyun and Xie An that this emperor was really casual and blunt. After Chen Xing introduced Xiao Shan, Sima Yao came to Xie Xuan and said, "Move over a bit."
Xie Xuan shifted from his position with a smile and said, "I'm leaving now. I have something else to do. Tianchi, you and His Majesty can talk."
Xie Xuan and Xie Shi immediately excused themselves and left. With a smile on his face, Sima Yao looked at the four people in turn and asked "How's life in Jiankang?" Chen Xing exchanged some pleasantries with him, knowing that despite the emperor residing deep in the palace, he wasn't idle. It was obvious that the other party had already known what everyone had been up to.
"Speaking of Kuaiji," Sima Yao said, "Zhen has to express my gratitude. Chen-xiansheng knows what Zhen's identity was before Zhen ascended the throne."
Feng Qianjun took the lead and said, "Your Majesty was the king of Kuaiji."
"Ah." No, Chen Xing hadn't known about Sima Yao's past. After Feng Qianjun reminded him, he realized that before Sima Yao took over the position of emperor, the area bestowed to him to rule over was actually Kuaiji. It also meant that he was really sincere in thanking Chen Xing and the others.
"Really, thank you all very much for this," Sima Yao said. "You relieve my Jiangnan's people from their sufferings and eradicate the plague in one fell swoop."
Chen Xing originally thought Sima Yao was just curious about the exorcists, but he actually talked about the state affairs with much earnesty. He couldn't help but somewhat respect him, so he replied, "It's our responsibility to exorcise and subdue yaos… Xiao Shan, don't randomly touch things. What did I say before we came here?"
Once Xiao Shan had entered the palace, he kept wanting to touch everything or looking under the table. But Sima Yao just burst into laughter, knowing children that age was the most troublesome. He said, "It's okay, it's okay. Daoyun is in the palace, so why not let her look after Xiao-xiansheng and show him around first? You like weaponry, right? It's the perfect chance to have a look at Zhen's armory."
So Xie Daoyun was asked to come over by Sima Yao and she took Xiao Shan to the armory, which made Chen Xing very wary. He soon said, "Xiao Shan is actually a very good fighter, it's just he's still growing up at this time, begging Your Majesty's pardon."
"I've heard that," Sima Yao politely smiled and said, "you exorcists are all invincible in battle."
Chen Xing had always been shameless about this matter, so he said, "The martial arts of the whole world is equal to a dan. Great Chanyu Shulü Kong has eight dou, Xiao Shan has one dou, and the rest of the world, including Fu Jian, equally share a total of one dou."
Sima Yao: "..."
Chen Xing continued, "Else, in this kind of situation, how could we defeat Shi Hai? Your Majesty must've also roughly heard about the situation."
Sima Yao slowly nodded and replied, "Xie-qing has already told me about it, but I didn't expect that this sorcerer would extend his evil hand towards Jiangnan, killing my court officials…"
Chen Xing's heart thumped when he heard that. Xiang Shu's expression faltered at once. He frowned at Sima Yao, giving him a meaningful look. Sima Yao stopped midway and blankly said, "What?"
Chen Xing: "Which court officials?"
Sima Yao now more or less understood the situation. But the words had already been spoken, and to cover it up again would make it even more conspicuous, so he might as well explain, "Wu Qi and Zheng Lun both died three months ago in the battle in Kuaiji. They sacrificed themselves and died in the line of duty. Zhen has given financial support to their relatives. Chen-xiansheng, don't take it to heart."
Xiang Shu drank some tea, his whole face twitching, and his eyes were full of reproach.
Chen Xing felt distressed. "Oh… Is that so… En…"
Xiang Shu opened his mouth all of the sudden, "Sima Yao, you are the monarch of a country..."
Feng Qianjun muttered, "Not good." Xiang Shu had been hiding it for so long in order not to make Chen Xing feel guilty if he found out. Now that Sima Yao had disclosed it, he was afraid Xiang Shu would start swearing. When he was about to interrupt, however, Xiang Shu put one of his hands up, indicating Feng Qianjun to shut up. He then told Sima Yao, "...you must've known the situation better than us. Let me ask you, how's the situation in the North?"
"Of course," Sima Yao just answered, not minding about Xiang Shu's attitude at all. "The original intention of inviting you to come here today is also regarding Fu Jian. Not long ago, in the Qin court, Wang Ziye strongly proposed an expedition to the South and began to build a big army, preparing to go south and attack my Great Jin at the beginning of spring next year. According to the news gotten from an investigation report, Shouxian will be the first to bear the brunt of the attack."
Chen Xing went silent. Xiang Shu said, "Then your death is near."
Sima Yao: "..."
At once, Chen Xing gave Xiang Shu a meaningful look. But Sima Yao knew that this was Xiang Shu's way to spur him into action, so he laughed and said, "Our death is near? I don't think so."
Feng Qianjun also had his own intelligence network. He immediately told Xiang Shu, "Shi Mokun hasn't given the Purple Scroll to Fu Jian. Chi Le Chuan's people, at this moment, don't have any intention to participate in the war."
Xiang Shu didn't answer Feng Qianjun's words and continued, "The northern army will go south next spring. Unexpectedly, at this time, you, the Han Emperor, instead of quickly recruiting more troops to hold them off, are here being all curious about the exorcists?"
Sima Yao sighed and spread out his hand. "There's a reason for that. Zhen still has a knot in his heart. Great Chanyu…"
"I'm no longer the Great Chanyu," corrected Xiang Shu once again.
"Martial God," Sima Yao said, "is that okay? To put it simply, I also have no intention to fight with you. Did you know that Wang Ziye has secretly raised a 'drought fiend army' for Fu Jian?"
"What?!" Chen Xing became sober all of a sudden.
Sima Yao got up, walked a few steps within the hall, turned towards Xiang Shu, then said, "Our scouts said that they had found a completely sealed-off military camp at the foot of Mt. Longmen, north of Luoyang. According to local people's stories, there were millions of drought fiends inside. It might sound outrageous, but this drought fiend, Zhen has seen it before. In Xiangyang, after the city fell and Zhu Xu had defected, if I remember correctly, one living dead was still…"
Feng Qianjun said, "Yes, it's that person we sent back to Maicheng."
Xiang Shu was silent, frowning.
Sima Yao: "But Murong Chong seems to be aware of this and is trying to stop it. Rumor said that Chang'an is currently split into two factions. One has the Xianbeis' Murong as its leader. Together with the Dis, the Xiongnus, and some other clans, they're trying to oppose Fu Jian's expedition to the South. The other one is led by Wang Ziye, they want to dispatch troops on a large scale at the beginning of spring next year."
Xiang Shu mocked, "Dispatch troops on a large scale? Jiantou fights either by utilizing manpower or depending on his luck, what kind of troops could he dispatch? Let me see the roadmap."
In the whole world, only Xiang Shu dared to mock Fu Jian like this. Sima Yao, after hearing this, didn't dare to delay. He said towards the diviner, "Pu Yang, go to my study room, bring in the map."
Xiang Shu's skill regarding military and war was by no means inferior to Chen Xing.
Just like Chen Xing's ability to speak and boast to a group of scholars, regarding Fu Jian's expedition, such as the army's strength, deployment, and combat style, Xiang Shu knew them all like the back of his hand.
Chen Xing said, "I still can't quite grasp Murong Chong's stance in this."
Xiang Shu casually spoke, "Murong Chong's stance isn't hard to grasp, that is, with the Murong family."
Sima Yao said, "Feng-qing? I still remember Feng-qing's family used to run a business in Luoyang, surely you're quite familiar with the Murongs."
Feng Qianjun nodded, and when asked, he just replied, "Their sole purpose is to restore their land. If Fu Jian does move to Luoyang, listening to Wang Ziye's words to raise a drought fiend army, first of all, he will restrain the Murong family. Then, if he gets away with his southern expedition, the Emperor of Qin will have more prestige, and again, will continue to expand his territory. His influence will keep growing, and by that time, the Murong family will surely have no hope of restoring their land…"
At this time, the diviner brought the scroll and spread it on the emperor's table.
"Based on our conjecture," Sima Yao said, "Fu Jian's military forces will be divided into three. First is Chang'an, and then the Hus… the Guanzhong's Five Clans will be the main force. Martial God, please take a look?"
Sima Yao almost wrongly said the word "Hu" in front of Xiang Shu. But, he still gave him the greatest respect by not saying "a Hu person."
"I really am a Hu," Xiang Shu coldly said. "It's not a taboo topic. The last one must be his hidden army in Luoyang."
Sima Yao nodded and said, "Yes, the third army is the troops from Pengcheng, Huaiyin, Xiapi, Xuyi, and other annexed places. These three armies will rendezvous at the foot of Jiangjun mountain range in Feixi and Shouxian's area. According to us, this ruler's and ministers' calculations, the total number can't be lower than 500.000. The first battle at the start of spring next year will probably be..."
"Fei River," Xiang Shu said in a deep voice. "If I were Fu Jian, I would choose to cross the Fei River and go south towards Jiankang."
Sima Yao nodded.
Xiang Shu: "How many soldiers do you have?"
Sima Yao sighed. "Counting the Beifu Army, less than 100.000."
Xiang Shu actually answered with a light tone, "I think winning the battle by using fewer people is actually not impossible."
Chen Xing didn't expect that their meeting, which originally was just going to be a chat with Sima Yao, actually turned into finding countermeasures and ways to save the nation. People in Jiankang and Jiangnan, and other places were still not aware of the trouble that was coming their way —— the war with the North was imminent.
After Sima Yao explained the current situation, he returned to the couch in silence.
At this time, Pu Yang, the diviner, finally said a word.
Pu Yang only smiled as he said, "The reason His Majesty asked everyone to come here today is because he has a request."
For that one person who commented that they were glad that Wu Qi and Zheng Lun were alive, sorry!
Btw, Dinghai Manhua is out and currently has 3 chapters already! This is the PV with English sub if anyone wants to take a peek HOLY SHIT THE ARTS THE ARTS THE ARTS THEY’RE GORGEOUS
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro and opal.