“How did you know…oh right, that’s true. Xiang Shu you’re really smart! You’re seriously too smart! You’re so clear-headed! How did you remember that so clearly?! I had already forgotten about it!”
“Wait,” Wang Ziye, who was inside the carriage, said. “Stop.”
In all directions, soldiers dressed in black armor stood towering in the street in silence, resembling monsters that had been keeping watch for a long time.
“I thought you were here to thank me,” Wang Ziye said.
Within a flashall of the guards one by one, from the middle of the street outwards, nocked arrows on their crossbows. With a ‘click’, tens of thousands of people who had been lying in ambush revealed themselves, and Murong Chong walked out of the darkness.
“What should I thank you for?” Murong Chong said coldly. “Thank you for placing hundreds of thousands of the living dead in Luoyang? Or to thank you for making use of Feng Qianyi, which led to my sister’s death, then you stealing her corpse to turn her into what she is today?”
Wang Ziye waved the fan in his hand, saying with a carefree smile, “Murong Chong, you’re still too young. I’m someone who can even wake up the dead. How likely are you to win in a fight against me?”
Murong Chong observed Wang Ziye. Without saying a single word, a soldier behind him held up a torch and passed it to Murong Chong.
“I don’t know what you are,” Murong Chong said in a low voice. “I only know that you’re definitely not human, Wang Ziye.”
Wang Ziye smiled without saying anything as he stared at the torch in Murong Chong’s hand.
“I don’t intend to talk to you too much, and I’m not the least bit interested in knowing what you are. I just want to send you…” Murong Chong said, “To where you should be. Get lost ba, you shouldn’t have come to Chang’an.”
The torch fell to the ground.
Jiankang, in the afternoon.
“...and so, Murong Chong set fire to the entire street.” Xie An said, “Wang Ziye was burned to ashes in the fire, and we don’t know how many innocent people lost their lives in that fire either.”
Sima Yao sat in the middle, accompanied by Puyang. Starting from the left were Xie Xuan, governor of Yanzhou, Xie Shi, assistant minister of Huangmen, Wang Linzhi, governor of Dongyang, Commander Huan Yi of Jianwei, as well as several others. On the right-hand side were Xiang Shu, Chen Xing, and Feng Qianjun respectively.
In the middle, Xie An held a folding fan as he sat in front of a short table. At a moderate pace, he told the inside story behind this startling news that the monarch and minister of the Jin court had caught wind of. When Xie An was done, he drank a sip of tea to moisten his throat.
“Apparently, Fu Jian was furious the next day.” Sima Yao said indifferently, “As for the southern expedition, not only was it not put on hold, but he even claimed that he would fulfill Wang Ziye’s final wishes and massacre our Great Jin completely. In the puppet Qin now, from the imperial court to its common people, the ones who are the loudest advocates for investigating the cause of Wang Ziye’s death are instead us Han, which is quite interesting in and of itself.”
Chen Xing was silent. On the day after the Autumn Deity festival, such an earth-shattering case broke out so unexpectedly, which had really surprised him.
Xiang Shu, “Murong Chong got rid of him with just fire alone?”
“For the time being, yes.” Xie An replied. “Although An Shi was not capable enough to become a part of the exorcist group, for the past few days, I’ve heard little Shidi talk a lot about the principles of how the heavens birthed all living creatures. Murong Chong shouldn’t have had any magical artifacts in hand, and he was not accompanied by any experts. He, with his indignation alone, burned Wang Ziye to death. As for why the two parties bore such great enmity for each other, it is not known.”
“Princess Qinghe,” Chen Xing muttered. “It must be because of Princess Qinghe.”
Xiang Shu frowned slightly. Feng Qianjun said, “So he discovered that Wang Ziye was the main orchestrator behind everything?”
Chen Xing said, “No. I’m guessing he had found out that Wang Ziye resurrected Princess Qinghe by chance.”
Everyone was stunned in an instant. Chen Xing said to Feng Qianjun, “Feng-dage, do you still remember what you heard when you were following the Pingyang army? From that day on, I’ve always suspected that Shi Hai would resurrect Princess Qinghe one day, either to blackmail or bewitch Fu Jian.”
Although the monarch and ministers of Jin had deployed spies to Chang’an, they were limited in what they could do. The intelligence network had fallen apart ever since Feng Qianyi died. What’s more, after Du Jian and Murong Chong’s secret conversation that day, Murong Chong had ambushed Wang Ziye that very same day and burnt Wang Ziye to death. In the Qin court, everyone was overly suspicious for a while, with some saying that Fu Jian had incited Murong Chong to do it, yet it didn’t seem like that was the case either. After all, Fu Jian was the most vocal supporter of the pro-war faction.
Xiang Shu finally spoke, “How do we deal with the drought fiend camp in the Longmen gorge of Luoyang?”
Xie An shook his head and held his hands up, expressing that he had no comment.
Xie Shi said, “In the end, Fu Jian removed Murong Chong from his military position and ordered him to return to Luoyang alone to think about his mistakes.”
The palace was quiet for a long time before Xiang Shu said, “I don’t think Wang Ziye died. Supposing he is Shi Hai, it’s impossible for him to be burnt to death just like that.”
Chen Xing glanced at Xiang Shu. “I don’t think he’s dead either.”
Feng Qianjun, “Same.”
“But for now, at least, he is missing,” Xie An said. “On the surface, rumours in Chang’an say that Murong Chong didn’t hesitate to assassinate the Han minister of the pro-war faction in order to obstruct the southern expedition. As for the inside story, only the ones present know best.”
Sima Yao smoothed his head of sparse hair, then realised his hairline had already receded quite a fair bit, so he quickly put his hand down again. He looked up to arrange his fringe before saying, “If Shi Hai was that formidable, why didn’t he kill Murong Chong as well?”
“That would only put him at odds with the Xianbei Murong clan,” Xiang Shu said. “What Wang Ziye wants is for Fu Jian to assemble troops and fight through the Yangtze River, not for the Qin court to collapse and fall apart. That wouldn’t do him any good.. If Shi Hai was truly omnipotent, there would have been no need for him to lie in wait for so many years in the Qin court and wait until now to move. He must rely on Fu Jian’s power.”
The Murong clan wielded immense power in Chang’an, and the only one Wang Ziye could rely on was Fu Jian. They may not be able to eliminate Wang Ziye completely, but they could gather enough troops to rebel and leave Chang’an. If Wang Ziye’s plan was revealed, the already frail state of affairs in Chang’an would fall into pieces, turning Fu Jian into a loner. How could it be easy for him to find another king who would obey his every word?
Xiang Shu’s words instantly reminded Chen Xing.
Since he had to operate in secrecy next to Fu Jian for so many years, it could be seen that Shi Hai was not as powerful as they had originally thought. Most importantly -- he could not influence everyone through his evil arts. And from that, Chen Xing understood where Xiang Shu’s confidence came from - their enemies were not that invincible after all.
Thinking of that, Chen Xing roughly inferred the reason why Wang Ziye wanted to capture him to be a sacrificial offering.
When the light from the Heart Lamp illuminated the world, it could influence people’s hearts and expel evil. Then what if the Heart Lamp itself was refined by resentment as well? Would the wielder be able to control people’s thoughts at will?
“What do you guys plan on doing next?” Sima Yao asked Chen Xing.
Chen Xing originally wanted to answer that they would still go to Luoyang and get rid of the drought fiend army under Longmen gorge, but there was no need for the Great Jin to send an envoy out anymore. Before Xie An could send someone out to drive a wedge between them, the Qin state themselves had already fallen into busily infighting amongst themselves.
Moreover, Murong Chong had lost his power temporarily. In the short term, he would not be able to influence Fu Jian, so if they send a delegation over, it would only cause trouble for them. If Wang Ziye was Shi Hai, he would reappear someday sooner or later, so just burning one camp wouldn’t do much. If Shi Hai wanted to create an army, he could still re-construct one.
“Wait.” Without waiting for Chen Xing’s answer, Xiang Shu spoke first, “Wait for Shi Hai to reappear.”
Chen Xing glanced at Xiang Shu. He realised that at some point in time, the exorcists had started regarding Xiang Shu as their leader, and everyone seemed to naturally wait for his arrangement and decisions.
“In the next few days,” Xiang Shu continued. “Please send more scouts to search for the whereabouts of Wang Ziye along the earth vein streams. As for the map of the Divine Lands, I’ve already handed it to Xie An in advance.”
“Alright.” Sima Yao was obviously very relaxed today. He casually waved his hand. “Then I’ll have to trouble the Great Chanyu...no, the Protector.”
Chen Xing said, “Map from when?”
Xiang Shu answered, “During the months you were unconscious, I found the geographical distribution of the Divine Land’s earth veins amongst the ancient scrolls of the Xiang family.”
Chen Xing continued, “How did you know...oh right, that’s true. Xiang Shu you’re really smart!” Then he continued exclaiming, “You’re seriously too smart! You’re so clear-headed! How did you remember that so clearly?! I had already forgotten about it!”
Chen Xing recalled that day they were underground in Kuaiji - the mysterious man who was instructing Wen Zhe had dived into the earth vein and left through the flow of the earth vein. That is to say, if Wang Ziye wanted to escape, he most likely did so through an earth vein as well.
Xiang Shu really didn’t know what to do with Chen Xing sometimes. He would always say what was on his mind, and while such a big group of people were discussing matters, he started complimenting him like this without any reservation in front of everyone. And he even did so three times in a row. Saying it was one thing, but more importantly, now it made it seem as if the exorcists had no plans at all beforehand, so wouldn’t it just turn them into a joke?
So Xiang Shu could only cough really hard and awkwardness descended upon everyone for a moment. Xie An immediately said, “Yesterday, Xie Shi had something I wanted to discuss with everyone here.”
Xie An changed the subject and Sima Yao continued, “Actually there’s nothing much to discuss. Chen-xiansheng, Zhen has a request; I’m sending my Head of the Secretariat over to you.”
Chen Xing, “Wait...what do you mean by that?”
Pu Yang said, “After much consideration, His Majesty decided to send Lord Xie An to the Exorcism Department to be...to be...uh, the department’s scribe? And take up a post as an exorcist to assist Chen-xiansheng. As for all matters afterwards, if you have any requests, be it money or manpower, you need only ask for it from Xie-xiansheng.”
Chen Xing, “Why would I want more...Xie-shixiong, I’ll say this first, It’s not that I don’t think you’re good enough, but aren’t you the pillar of our country? Is it really okay for you to come to my Exorcism Department to play second fiddle to us? What about your Beifu forces? You won’t care about them anymore?”
Xie An said with a cordial smile, “The Beifu forces have finished their training long ago, so it’s not terribly urgent. His Majesty thinks I’m just a hindrance to him too, and my two nephews will take over temporarily. Little Shidi, I’m going to exorcise demons on imperial orders, so you won’t make things difficult for His Majesty, will you?”
Xiang Shu didn’t want to continue with this nonsense. “Okay, then it’s settled.”
At first, Feng Qianjun thought Sima Yao might have sent Xie An over to monitor them, but even if he wanted to plant a spy, he wouldn’t have forcefully jammed someone like Xie An, whose position was akin to that of their country’s Grand Chancellor, into their department, because that would just be madness! Also, with Xie An’s help, they would obtain the greatest assistance they ever could from the Jin court. It could be seen that Sima Yao had seriously considered Chen Xing’s words, but since it involved the dispute between Hu and Han, he didn’t want to be the scapegoat, so he was just going to do it through Xie An.
“What do you mean ‘settled’?!” Chen Xing was about to refuse, but after everyone heard Xiang Shu’s declaration, they all started clapping their hands.
“Congratulations uncle on taking your new office!” Xie Xuan was the first to say with a smile.
Sima Yao, “Xie-qing, you’ve finally realised your dream, aren’t you going to thank Zhen?”
“Much thanks to Your Majesty,” Xie An immediately got up, beaming as he cupped his hands, then he said to Xiang Shu, “In the future, I’ll have to trouble the Protector Martial God, the Great Exorcist, Lord Feng, Lord Xiao, and everyone else.”
And thus, Xie An had his wish fulfilled. At an old age close to the end of his destined lifespan, he became an exorcist, thereby realizing his childhood dream.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro.