"Chen Xing never expected that Xiang Shu would grow so emotionally unstable in front of this many people."
Editor(s): juurensha, namio
New Year’s Eve slowly approached, and Chen Xing’s emotions experienced several large ups and downs. In the beginning he had waited full of anticipation until he was anxious beyond compare, but that had turned into despair. Under Xiang Shu’s comforting, that hope once again rekindled, until finally he threw his hands up.
“I now have a very good reason to suspect that maybe it won’t be until the last day that I’ll know how to use the Dinghai Pearl,” Chen Xing said to himself.
“The last day?” When Xiang Shu walked into the bedroom, he coincidentally heard this sentence.
Chen Xing immediately changed his words. “The day the battle begins.”
In those many months, Feng Qianjun and Xiao Shan and the others had not managed to find out what happened to that rotten jiao, and the boundaries of their search had also slowly closed in around Jiankang. Based on this speed, when spring of the next year came, they would return to Jiankang proper. But the news from the north had them worried too; after Murong Chong returned to Luoyang he had been placed under house arrest, and under Fu Jian’s suggestion, Luoyang had already begun to go into full martial law as Chang’an began to organize their troops and supplies, preparing to go south to fight the country of Jin.
Countless troop reports were sent to Jiankang, but Fu Jian locked down most of the channels of communication, so Xie An could only determine Fu Jian’s next move by the movement of the troops and the tax records. Everyone knew clearly that this was a battle that had to be fought and was not one that they could avoid. But those in the Jiangnan area who supported the Jin dynasty going to war were very few, and to this day the great Jin dynasty didn’t dare start mobilizing to greet Fu Jian’s war machine that had never experienced defeat.
And even more so, they didn’t dare to tell the common citizens of the fact that there was a frightening troop of living dead in the north that was waiting to head south.
“The Han emperor wants to find you for a chat,” Xiang Shu said. “It’s probably about the battle.”
“There’s been no developments,” Chen Xing said, exhausted. “There have been no developments at all.”
“Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve,” Xiang Shu responded. “Are you all going to go offer sacrifices to the heavens?”
It was only then that Chen Xing discovered, unknowingly, that it was already the end of another year, and there was one year and nine months left. Tomorrow, Sima Yao and the rest of the imperial relations would offer the proper sacrifices in Jiankang. Luckily Xie An had made preparations beforehand, to give a speech to the citizens of Jiangnan tomorrow, informing them of the severe situation with the north as it stood today.
Sima Yao had specially invited Xiang Shu and Chen Xing, making sure that they would attend the ceremony tomorrow, probably because he had something to discuss.
The next day, Chen Xing could only clean up his appearance, and, together with Xiang Shu, they both put on the clothing for sacrificial rites, heading out with the Sima family to offer sacrifices to the heavens. Chen Xing held no official position, but he wore the uniform of the exorcists from the Han period: a cap inlaid with jade on his head, a snow white ceremonial robe gilded with gold highlights, while on his feet were seven star cloth shoes.
Likewise, Xiang Shu’s robe was also white with gold, cut in the style of martial robes, and he had on a sword and a pheasant cap.
The day of New Year’s Eve, all the citizens of Jiankang swarmed the two banks of the Huai River to attend the grand ceremony that was the Sima royal family’s sacrificial rites organized by Xie An. The martial officials had already cleared the grounds early on, and for ten li, the Huai River banks were all packed with the common folk. It took three sticks of incense to pay tribute to the gods, and the festive atmosphere of the New Year flickered in and out as the scented smoke curled upwards.
In the evening, the citizens would all go eat their New Year’s Eve’s dinners, and when the zi hour came, Sima Yao would bring the hundred and something civil and martial officials to Qixuan Temple to personally ring the bell, to spread fortune amongst the thousands of residents of the Great Jin. Today, every family wore new clothes, carried peachwood charms amongst men, in a large, festive celebration of leaving behind the old and bringing in the new.
When they left Taichu Palace, heading for the banks of the Huai River, Chen Xing and Sima Yao sat in the same carriage, while Xiang Shu and the martial officials acted as guards on their horses. Now and then the citizens outside the carriage would let out sky-shaking cheers.
Every time he went out and heard the gossip, Chen Xing knew that this Protector Martial God was once again being fought over as a potential marriage candidate. He had long since become accustomed to it, so he pretended to not hear it.
“Zhen believes that the Great Chanyu should assume his original role to attend the ceremony.” Today, Sima Yao was very carefree as he said that to Chen Xing.
In the carriage were only Chen Xing and Sima Yao. Chen Xing could guess that what Sima Yao wanted to see was Xiang Shu wearing the Hu royal robes of the Great Chanyu, riding a chariot, revealing his face in Jiangnan, so that the Sima clan and the Xie family would gain the support of the people in the oncoming conflict between the north and the south.
“Your Majesty, Shulü Kong’s identity is already no longer that of the Great Chanyu,” Chen Xing said politely.
Ever since last time with Sima Wei’s matter when they had offended Sima Yao, Chen Xing had no wish to interact overly much with Sima Yao. After all, as a ruler, he had his own position to fill; just like how Fu Jian was always preoccupied with conquering the south, Sima Yao had his own goal to accomplish. Oftentimes everyone didn’t want to fight, but the situation called for otherwise, and this kind of “I don’t want to offend you, but I have no choice” thinking, Chen Xing and Sima Yao both understood very well. If there was too much spoken, then their relations would sour, so there was no need to say any more.
“That dragon, has its whereabouts been discovered?” Sima Yao said.
“It’s not a dragon.” Chen Xing thought about it, before saying, “It’s a jiao. Its origins are very deeply intertwined with that of us Han people, so it’s very difficult to say for certain in such a short amount of time…”
“Great Master Pu has already told Zhen,” Sima Yao said easily, “that he believes if you could control that dragon, then maybe it would serve Zhen instead.”
Chen Xing said, “Your Majesty, this difficulty is really too high.”
“So,” Sima Yao said, “being born as the emperor is really very uninteresting; no matter what Zhen brings up, it gets rejected. Even Zhen’s hair won’t grow properly.”
Chen Xing said, “It’s better to concentrate seriously and prepare for battle. This is the only thing that cannot be cleverly manipulated away.”
For a while the two of them had no words to say, and Chen Xing was clear that many of Sima Yao’s requests did not come from the man himself. After all, he had to protect his country and his people, and that was a heavy responsibility, so for these suddenly appearing, strange suggestions, he was not surprised by them.
“Then there’s one thing that you can accomplish, right,” Sima Yao then said.
“I will do my best,” Chen Xing said politely. He thought again that he only had a year and a bit of his life left, and he couldn’t help becoming worried again.
Sima Yao said, “Detain that Wang Ziye and his dragon in Jiangnan. No matter what, the day that Zhen and Fu Jian start our battle, you can’t let the yaos, monsters, and devils come out and also participate.”
“This is exactly what we are doing,” Chen Xing said. “Gu Qing’s whereabouts are uncertain, and Feng-dage must find her.”
“That little girl is probably already dead ba.” Sima Yao sighed. “Tianchi, humans always have to accept reality. If she can’t be saved, then a dragon is good, and a jiao works too; if it appears on the battlefield, you know what effect it will have.”
As for the matter of the “dragon” appearing in Kuaiji, in that half year and some, the news had already spread amongst the people of Jiangnan, and rumors rose everywhere, believing that Sima Yao had gone against the will of the heavens and the region of Jiangnan was about to undergo a change in dynasties. Sima Yao was very frustrated and checked everywhere for the source of the rumors, but he couldn’t find the reason they spoke of him like this, so he could only put his hopes on Chen Xing to catch that fellow sooner rather than later.
Chen Xing naturally knew what would result. When the two armies clashed in their large battle, if suddenly something that looked like a dragon came flying in from the sky to help Fu Jian, the soldiers would not be able to identify this thing’s origins. They would only believe that the Qin emperor was the true Son of Heaven recognized by the heavens, and when their own soldiers lost their morale, the collapse would be instant.
Sometimes, whichever side the supposed “will of heaven” was on, that side would be established as the side that would not lose; this was not something to joke about.
“Your Majesty can rest assured,” Chen Xing reassured him, “as long as I am still alive, then I will definitely not let it wantonly wreak havoc on the battlefield.”
Outside of the carriage, in the midst of the martial officials, Xiang Shu rode his horse at a neither fast nor slow pace. His martial robe, accessories, and appearance were all the most eye-catching, and though he was mixed amongst the martial officials of the Great Jin, he got the most enthusiastic response from the citizens. Xiang Shu did not like being pointed at by others, so he slightly turned his head away, looking in the direction of the horse carriage, and amongst the wild shouts, he fixed his attention on listening quietly to Chen Xing and Sima Yao’s exchange. But when he turned his head, his side profile was even more beautiful, and the cheers grew even louder.
From the other side Pu Yang steered his horse over, making a gesture towards Xiang Shu, and Xiang Shu purposefully fell behind a little, falling into step beside him side by side.
“The thing that the martial god wanted to check,” Pu Yang said, “I have found a rough answer to. In these months, I read through all of the records pertaining to astrology and natal charts that were passed down within my sect.”
“Tell me,” Xiang Shu said in a deep voice.
Pu Yang said, “Regarding the matter of Iuppiter entering one’s life, it’s a very rare occurrence, but what can be confirmed is…”
The guard arrived at the Huai River, and Chen Xing supported Sima Yao as he climbed down from the carriage. The setting for the sacrificial rites had already been laid out, and today, it was also by Sima Yao’s leave that the exorcist and Protector Martial God were allowed to attend upon him for this ceremony. This was to let Chen Xing reveal himself in front of the citizens of Jiangnan, so that Sima Yao could show that he had the “will of heaven” by his side and improve his public opinion.
“Where’s the martial god?” Sima Yao said.
“Where did Xiang Shu run off to this time?” Chen Xing furrowed his brows, looking towards the tail end of the procession, and in an instant he saw Xiang Shu riding along like a jade tree in the wind, very eye-catching.
He looks so good, Chen Xing thought. Within the hundreds of neatly arrayed Jin civil and martial officials, there was only Xiang Shu who stood out from the crowd.
Xiang Shu was currently speaking with Pu Yang; to be exact, Pu Yang spurred his horse on so that he was riding next to Xiang Shu, explaining things in a low voice, but Xiang Shu wasn’t watching him. His deep-set eyes pierced through the gaggle of officials, and without even blinking, that gaze was fixed only on Chen Xing.
Chen Xing hurried to gesture, indicating that the rites were about to start. The thousands of citizens fell so silent that you could hear a pin drop, and now everyone was just waiting for Xiang Shu to finish. Pu Yang rapidly finished speaking, and Chen Xing was anxious beyond compare, only to see Xiang Shu flick the reins with a “jia!”, passing through the crowd of people. That warhorse almost knocked some people over, and the rest of the people hurriedly cleared out a path. Seeing this, Sima Yao’s expression changed.
Only to see Xiang Shu flip off his horse, and in front of hundreds of thousands of people leap onto the sacrificial platform in a few steps, fiercely grasping Chen Xing’s hand.
Everyone around them were greatly startled. Chen Xing said confusedly, “What?! What are you doing now?”
“You…” Xiang Shu’s forehead was furrowed deeply, as if he was extremely angry. He said, “You…”
“Don’t fight with me right now!” Chen Xing said quietly. “If you have anything you’re unhappy about, can we talk about it after we get back? There are hundreds of thousands of people watching!”
The banks of the Huai River were packed with the black mass of hundreds of thousands of people, and even the thousands of officials of the Jin dynasty, as well as the royal family, the emperor, and Xie An and them were all suspiciously watching Xiang Shu, only to see Xiang Shu lift up a hand, clearly grasping onto Chen Xing’s wrist without letting go.
Chen Xing: “Hurts… it hurts ah! You’re using too much strength!”
Xiang Shu put his hand down, panting nonstop. Sima Yao saw that things were not right, and he hurried forward to help bring about a compromise. He said, “Martial god? You two… if you have any conflict between the two of you, how about you young lovers wait until after you go back to settle it? Right now, on behalf of my reputation, could you first let it go? See, there are so many people down there…”
Countless citizens of Jiangnan first raised their heads to gawk at them, before whispers started to spread. Chen Xing never expected that Xiang Shu would grow so emotionally unstable in front of this many people.
“Alright,” Chen Xing said to Xiang Shu. “What exactly do you want to say? Here, let’s first straighten things out between us, have them wait. Your Majesty, please wait a little…”
Xiang Shu abruptly let go of Chen Xing’s wrist, saying coldly to Sima Yao, “Continue.”
Sima Yao observed both their faces, and he realized that it was really that their anger didn’t stem from one thing. If they were officials under him who had caused such a large commotion during these sacrificial rites, having them dragged off and whipped might not be warranted, but they would definitely have lost their officials’ roles. Yet the key was that Chen Xing was not his to control, and Xiang Shu was even less so. If he tried to use his role as the emperor to his advantage, maybe he would even be beaten up by Xiang Shu, so he could only swallow down his anger and nod towards Xie An.
Xie An cleared his throat and said, “Then let’s begin ba.”
The attendants spread out the yellow brocade and lit the giant brazier. Chen Xing held a peachwood sword, standing to one side and saying loudly, “The exorcist amongst the humans, and the Protector Martial God, specially bestow their protection on the emperor of the Great Jin, this Spring Festival of the Renwu Year.”
“A little louder,” Sima Yao said quietly.
Chen Xing: “My throat hurts… have Xiang Shu say it ba.”
Xiang Shu’s forehead furrowed deeply, and it wasn’t until Chen Xing nudged him that Xiang Shu shouted impatiently, “The exorcist amongst the humans Chen Xing, and the Protector Martial God Shulü Kong! Specially bestow their protection on the emperor of the Great Jin, this Spring Festival of the Renwu Year!”
That stunning shout was like a large bell ringing out, and instantly within the Great Jin troops, every man’s expression changed. The two banks of the Huai River, nearly ten li of land, could all clearly hear Xiang Shu’s voice. What level was this? Even the self-proclaimed world’s number one fighter Fu Jian couldn’t do such a thing! Across the land of Jiangnan, amongst the almost ten thousand martial officials below the platform, comparing their own skills against that shout, they were even more unable to do such a thing!
Sima Yao and Chen Xing were the closest, and they were so stunned by Xiang Shu that they almost spat blood. Chen Xing’s face turned sheet white, before Xiang Shu suddenly pressed a hand on his shoulder, and an abundant wave of warm energy entered his body, immediately making him feel a lot better.
“This day marks the sixty-ninth year since the Disaster of Yongjia,” Sima Yao adjusted his breathing and said slowly. “In these years, Zhen has never dared to forget the tragedies that were committed against our Great Jin…”
On the imperial brocade was placed the imperial jade seal, and Sima Yao pressed his hand on top of the seal, saying clearly, “Common citizens of my Great Jin! Today, aside from the spring rites, Zhen has more words that Zhen wants to tell you all --”
Some hundreds of thousands of citizens hushed along the banks of the Huai River to listen, and even the birds were silent.
And in that instant, a huge black shadow almost twenty zhang in length appeared at the bottom of the waters of the Huai River. Under the brightness of the day, some people began to notice that huge shadow, and when Chen Xing heard those small voices begin to whisper, he turned his head to look towards Xie An, his gaze filled with suspicion.
Xiang Shu also saw it, but Sima Yao continued onwards in his clear voice, “ -- Zhen must tell you all, even this patch of land that is Jiangnan, has already --”
In the next instant, Xiang Shu’s hand flew to his sword as the waters of the Huai River exploded outwards, and a rotten jiao exuding black energy rose to the sky!
With that the entirety of the Huai River, all the surrounding riverbanks fell into massive chaos. The citizens pushed and shoved at each other, and quite a few of them fell into the river. On the other side of the river, Feng Qianjun and Xiao Shan rose with a leap, bending over to touch down on the railings, their eyes locked on the rotten jiao that had appeared out of the Huai River.
Chen Xing: “!!!”
Xiang Shu muttered, “I just knew that you hadn’t left yet.”
Gu Qing sitting on the jiao’s head was enveloped in thick resentment, and she and that jiao had melded into one shadowy figure. Xiang Shu pulled out his sword, stepped in front of Chen Xing and Sima Yao.
“The Jin Son of Heaven hey --” Wang Ziye’s voice echoed across both banks of the Huai River.
Chen Xing’s blood seemed to have congealed, but Xie An had long since been prepared. He lifted his hand, and the ambush they had prepared all around in that instant suddenly revealed themselves. Almost twenty thousand of the Beifu Army troops wielding crossbows and grappling hooks appeared across the rooftops and balconies!
“You’ve finally come,” Xie An said slowly.
Chen Xing turned his head and saw that no one else was reacting to this as if this was something out of the ordinary. They had long since made preparations, and it was probably during the days when he was digging around about the Dinghai Pearl when Xiang Shu had made such extensive preparations. That feeling of horror he had gradually calmed.
“Your days are numbered and approaching their end,” Wang Ziye’s voice said, neither too fast nor too slow. “In this human realm, the new Son of Heaven will replace you. Nothing can go against the will of heaven, and the heavens themselves have sent me forth to issue this decree; if you refuse to recognize the error of your ways, then the region of Jiangnan will instantly turn into a wasteland.”
moon: you all thought they could catch a break? you all thought they could rest? hahahaha
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.