“Life, aging, and death are all predestined by the heavens. All humans will eventually die. After your sister left, Zhen has been thinking a lot. I thought of Wang Meng, I thought of Shulu Wen; I thought of all the people who had conquered the North with me.”
Editor(s): juurensha, namio
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Three days ago, in Chang’an’s Jianzhang Palace.
Tuoba Yan had already moved to the imperial palace to recuperate. Due to a wound from a year ago, his entire left arm was now black. He sat in the resting hall, dazed, with half his body bare.
Murong Chong walked into the palace. He scrutinised Tuoba Yan, frowning. Tuoba Yan looked up and glanced at him. The two of them didn’t speak. Tuoba Yan was getting thinner and thinner each day; his eyes were slightly sunken, and his face seemed dark and gloomy. He looked as if he was a completely different person. Wang Ziye sat on one side as he prepared some medicine for him to be applied externally.
“I’m done.” Wang Ziye finished applying the medicine. He saw the imperial doctor personally bandage Tuoba Yan and said, “Rest for a while more ba.”
Tuoba Yan seemed a little tired, and when he was about to greet Murong Chong, Fu Jian walked into the hall and explained, “One year ago during the drought fiend chaos in Chang’an, Yan’er was harmed by a demon. Fortunately, the special medicine prepared by Ziye managed to control the poison.”
Murong Chong observed Tuoba Yan for a long time before coldly saying some callous words.
“How much longer can you live for?”
Tuoba Yan laughed bitterly in helplessness. Wang Ziye said, “Lord Murong exaggerates, if he rests properly, the problem wouldn’t be too serious. The trouble is that one year ago, Lord Tuoba didn’t tell anyone that he had been injured and left to the North without saying anything, which delayed his diagnosis and treatment.”
Murong Chong said, “Wang Ziye, why do you know how to treat this kind of injury?”
Calmly, Wang Ziye said, “After living for a long time and reading many books, I’d naturally know a little about everything.”
Murong Chong didn’t say anything in return, so Wang Ziye got up and took his leave. Fu Jian, Tuoba Yan, and Murong Chong sat in the hall. Murong Chong has never been the talkative type and wouldn’t even bother with Fu Jian, let alone someone from the Tuoba family. But seeing Tuoba Yan, who used to be so energetic and handsome, end up in such a state, he inevitably felt like he was witnessing the death of someone like him, and it made a chill run down his spine.
Tuoba Yan had been ill for quite some time. At the start, Murong Chong only heard that he got hurt while practicing his martial arts, and he didn’t expect that he had actually been infected by corpse poison. What was even stranger was that Wang Ziye had controlled the spread of that poison with some sort of medicine, such that he could remain as he was before and not turn into a member of the living dead.
However, Tuoba Yan had temporarily resigned from his position as the commander of the imperial guards with the reason that he was “recuperating”, and now the imperial guards were under the direct command of Fu Jian.
Fu Jian comforted him with some kind words as Murong Chong quietly sat at one side. Tuoba Yan asked again, “How’s the situation in Chi Le Chuan?”
Fu Jian said, “Shulü Kong resigned as the Great Chanyu. Zhen has already dispatched three groups of couriers to find Shimo Kun. The plan to conquer the South must go on; now it all depends on whether the other Hu groups know what’s good for them.”
Murong Chong said, “I heard Shulü Kong and that Han kid sailed down Goryeo to Jiangnan.” Fu Jian uttered an ‘en’. “It’s a pity. Shulü Kong was quite a talent, but for some reason, he left Chi Le Chuan behind… Never mind, we’ll talk about that another day.”
Tuoba Yan remained silent. Murong Chong said to him, “Rest up first. If there’s anything you need, send someone out to pass me a letter ba.”
Tuoba Yan nodded. Fu Jian said with a smile, “What else is there that he’d want in Zhen’s palace?”
Murong Chong felt really conflicted when it came to Tuoba Yan. On the one hand, he had stood up for Xiang Shu and Chen Xing without hesitation when they were heading north, which made him quite furious. But on the other hand, Tuoba Yan had gotten along well with his elder sister, Princess Qinghe. Plus, he was a Xianbei, and in consideration of his sister who had passed, he was still a bit reluctant to declare that they were friends.
Moreover, Murong Chong has always felt that Tuoba Yan was quite pitiful, especially the loneliness in his eyes -- Murong Chong understood that gaze at a glance; when he had been brought deep into the palace by Fu Jian, he couldn’t help falling into a trance all day. When he stayed in the palace, he had no friends, no family, and could only see the eunuchs and maids who came to deliver food. He was just like a prisoner then.
“Let Yan’er rest ba.” Then Fu Jian said calmly, “Follow me, Chong’er.”
Murong Chong followed Fu Jian out. They passed by Taiye Pond, which was on one side of Shanglin Garden. With both hands on a long railing, Fu Jian looked down at the fishes swimming in the pond.
“Zhen often thinks about it these days,” Fu Jian said.
Murong Chong replied, “I remember Wang Meng reminding you more than once before he died. Hasn’t he appeared in your dreams?”
Fu Jian smiled helplessly. “It has nothing to do with the Southern expedition. Chong’er, can’t you listen to Zhen finish first?”
“What are you thinking about?” Murong Chong’s gaze shifted to the pool.
Fu Jian turned around, leaning against the railing. As he stared at Murong Chong, he said, “About life and death, about when Zhen will die.”
Murong Chong was taken aback. He glanced at Fu Jian. For as long as he can remember, Fu Jian had never talked about this before. In fact, he had never even saids words like ‘living forever’ before, and that was why no one thought that Fu Jian would die in the near future. This was the northern monarch, who claimed his achievements were “unparalleled”, who was in the prime of his life. Even though many people cursed him in secret by saying he’d die one day, the truth was that Fu Jian would only become even stronger, and he’d get stronger day by day, becoming even more invincible than Shulü Kong, the one with the title of being “No.1 in the world”.
Murong Chong’s gaze changed for just a brief moment before he put his thoughts away. Instead, he said, “Why did Your Majesty say that?”
Fu Jian looked at Murong Chong with a gaze full of tenderness. He reached out to hold his hand. Murong Chong avoided him instinctively. He had been away from Chang’an for too long, so long that he was about to forget his past memories. It was only when Fu Jian appeared before him when he was reminded that everything that had happened in the past was real.
And after being in Luoyang for such a long time, it was difficult for him to return to the role he had been playing in Chang’an.
Murong Chong allowed Fu Jian to hold his hand. Fu Jian said, “Life, aging, and death are all predestined by the heavens. All humans will eventually die. After your sister left, Zhen has been thinking a lot. I thought of Wang Meng, I thought of Shulu Wen; I thought of all the people who had conquered the North with me.”
Murong Chong didn’t answer. Fu Jian continued, “When I saw Yan’er and the drought fiends, Zhen couldn’t help but think, ‘what exactly are they?’”
Murong Chong suddenly became a little wary. His brows furrowed as he remained silent while Fu Jian’s big hand rubbed his palm. Fu Jian parted Murong Chong’s long fingers and intertwined them with his as he murmured, “After that chaotic fight with the drought fiends, Ziye read many ancient texts and told Zhen that the drought fiends did not appear out of thin air, but that their origins date back to a long time ago.”
“What?” Murong Chong realised something was wrong. He turned his head sideways and looked into Fu Jian’s eyes.
Fu Jian gazed back and nodded. “Yes; just like the birds and beasts, like the mountains, rocks, and trees, they’re all a part of this world. The origin of the so-called ‘drought fiends’ is actually a mockery of the bitterness of human lives, a mockery of heaven’s will - a resistance against death.”
“And so?” Murong Chong frowned. “Your Majesty, what are you trying to say?”
Fu Jian said lightly, “Didn’t you often ask, who sent you that army in the Longmen gorge camp?”
Murong Chong, “...”
Fu Jian grasped Murong Chong’s hand and pulled him along as he went round the corridor on Taiye pond. They walked in silence the whole way and stopped outside Hanguang Palace.
“I brought Chong’er,” Fu Jian said in a deep voice.
Murong Chong stopped outside Hanguang Palace and suddenly realised a serious problem - his palm was covered in cold sweat. Still, Fu Jian gently pushed the door. The palace door opened, revealing someone sitting prim and proper with their side facing the door - it was Princess Qinghe with a mirror in hand.
Murong Chong’s breath halted when he saw Princess Qinghe’s beautiful face, which was no different from when she was alive. But on closer scrutiny, her pale face and neck were covered with rouge. The only difference from before was that both her eyes had turned turbid and lifeless, yet the moment she looked up, she smiled.
“Chong’er?” Princess Qinghe said quietly.
“Jie?” Murong Chong’s voice trembled.
“Ziye found records about the ‘drought fiends’ from the Feng family,” Fu Jian started saying slowly. “As long as we deal with it properly, the dead can be brought back to life. Zhen also found out that in the past, Feng Qianyi had taken the wrong path…”
Murong Chong’s forehead was covered in cold sweat. He stared at Princess Qinghe, his eyes wide open, and at that moment his blood ran cold - as if someone was strangling his throat.
At night, after the evening drums finished beating, a carriage left the west of the city and drove east. When its wheels ran over the road, water would splash, and the horses skidded, as if the carriage was driving on a road of oil. In the dark, on the courtyard walls lining both sides of the street, kerosene was quietly dripping down and converged towards the center of the street until the entire road was soaked in oil.
Zryuu: HOLY CRAP SORRY GUYS I’VE BEEN OFF CHAPTER DUTY FOR SO LONG I FORGOT TO POST LMAO. Also, this might be a little sudden but this is the last chapter I’ll be translating for Dinghai! El, Moon and Ice will continue in my stead :blobpats:
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro.