"As long as he agreed to do something, he would definitely accomplish it, and he never went back on his word."
A hundred emotions intertwined in Chen Xing’s heart as everyone raised their cups and drank. After Xiang Shu finished drinking, he then said, “I’ll also toast everyone with a cup.”
Murong Chong heard the words and drank, and everyone else also followed suit, before finally Murong Chong said, “I’ll toast everyone with one more cup, and afterwards, everyone feel free to go about your business.”
Murong Chong drank the last cup, and evidently his mind was not on the banquet, so he got up, made his farewells, and left the banquet, as if he was going to find Tuoba Yan. That left behind the Jin diplomatic envoy squad and Helian Shuang exchanging conventional formalities, which meant Xie An could only remain in his spot and wait. Everyone ate some of the food provided, and throughout the event, Xie An never stopped shooting looks at Xiang Shu, indicating that he should go figure out a way to get in contact with Murong Chong. However, Xiang Shu kept pretending like he hadn’t seen anything. When the 2nd geng came, Heliang Shuang sent for some servants to escort them back to the inn.
“What’s wrong with him?” Chen Xing said. “Tuoba Yan caught this severe of an illness?”
Xiang Shu sat cross-legged on the bed, one foot propped up on the table, not responding. Chen Xing continued, “I wonder what Feng-dage’s found out through his investigations. Why haven’t he and Xiao Shan come back yet?”
After Xie An returned to the inn, he did some simple cleaning and settled in, before he came to find the two of them, saying, “That young person weakened by illness today, what background does he have?”
Chen Xing told him about how they had met Tuoba Yan, and Xie An mused, “Since it’s like that, then that’s good news. Perhaps in Luoyang we’ll be able to ask for help from this unaffiliated bodyguard.”
“En,” Xiang Shu said mildly. “He even pursued Chen Xing for thousands of li from Chang’an all the way to Chi Le Chuan.”
Chen Xing, “You… Xiang Shu, are you still trying to pick a fight at such a time?”
Just as they were speaking, the floor-to-ceiling window in the back of the inn was knocked on three times. Xiang Shu picked up a chess piece and flicked it, pushing open the door.
Feng Qianjun said, “We’ve made contact with Murong Chong. We’re taking the secret pathway there, and he wants to go discuss matters with you.”
“We’re not going,” Xiang Shu said. “Close the window for me.”
“We’re going!” Xie An and Chen Xing said at the same time.
Chen Xing, “Such a difficult opportunity, how can we not go?!”
Xie An, “I’ll immediately go change into my night uniform, wait for me for just a little.”
Xiang Shu, “If you want to go, then go yourself.”
Chen Xing rounded on Xiang Shu. “What problem exactly do you have with Tuoba Yan?”
Xiang Shu said, “I don’t have any problems with him. Murong Chong hasn’t come himself, so does he want me to go see him? He’s gained the courage of a leopard now? Who does he think I am? A bodyguard that comes whenever he sends for me?”
“Hey!” Feng Qianjun said. “Can you guys not chug vinegar right now? My subordinate is waiting.”
Xiang Shu answered, “How much do you pay him every month? I’ll pay him double, make him wait.”
Chen Xing, “...”
Feng Qianjun, “Alright, alright, he’ll definitely be happy, you guys discuss things slowly.”
Chen Xing said, “If you don’t go now, then in a bit when Xie-shixiong comes over dressed in his night uniform, you really want to carry him over the rooftops? After arguing for this long of a while, I bet that you’ll still have to go in a bit. If you still won’t go, then I’m going on my own.”
“I’m already here.” Xie An was clad in a pitch-black outfit, hiding in the darkness of the night as he smiled. “See? The effects of this night uniform are really very good, right?”
Feng Qianjun said helplessly, “Xie-daren, after changing into this set of clothes, do you feel that you’ve become an assassin?”
Xiang Shu stayed as still as he had been, and Chen Xing didn’t pay him any more attention, straightening his own clothes before he went out of the door. Not a second later, Xiang Shu strapped the greatsword to his back, and with an expression of annoyance, he followed him out. Chen Xing just knew that he wanted to go as well, but he didn’t understand exactly what Xiang Shu was being so obstinate about; they had gone over it clearly before they arrived, that they would find a chance to go speak in private with Murong Chong, but just after reaching an agreement in the afternoon, Xiang Shu once again grew angry when they saw Tuoba Yan that evening.
Was he chugging vinegar? Chen Xing suddenly thought of their previous interactions, and he realized that Xiang Shu really might be chugging Tuoba Yan’s vinegar.
“Hey,” Chen Xing tentatively asked Xiang Shu. “Protector.”
Xiang Shu, "?”
Xiang Shu furrowed his brow as he shot a glance towards Chen Xing. Chen Xing had never really noticed before, but after that night, many of Xiang Shu’s actions seemed to become understandable; he was chugging vinegar over Tuoba Yan!
“You… don’t like Tuoba Yan, because…” Chen Xing probed.
Feng Qianjun casually followed up with, “Clearly because you’re chugging vinegar, right?”
Xiang Shu suddenly reached out a hand, and Chen Xing let out a loud shout, but Xiang Shu grabbed Feng Qianjun’s collar instead and dragged him over. Feng Qianjun was about as tall as Xiang Shu, but with this sudden lightning-speed movement from Xiang Shu, he almost lost all ability to retaliate
“That…” Xie An said. “Protector, on my behalf, no, and on His Majesty’s behalf, we’re in the middle of official matters, so why don’t you release your grip. You guys can settle any grudges after you come back.”
Xiang Shu released Feng Qianjun. The four of them suddenly stopped speaking, and the atmosphere became incredibly awkward.
Chen Xing wanted to say something to smooth things out, but he felt that the more he tried to cover it up, the worse it would be, so he could only let it go. Thankfully at this time his saving grace appeared: standing in front of the waterway outside of the palace was a black-clad assassin who whistled once towards them, before he turned and began to lead the way along the secret passageway into the Luoyang royal palace.
The Feng family had once supported many long-term visitors, but after their home in Chang’an had been wrecked by Fu Jian, those people had fled from the disaster in all directions, and after moving to Luoyang, they had still maintained contact with the Murong family. After Feng Qianjun returned to Luoyang and once again activated that network, he immediately came into contact with Murong Chong, and without another word, Murong Chong instantly invited Xiang Shu and Chen Xing into the palace after the evening’s banquet.
Within the depths of the palace, one of the side halls was still lit despite it being the 3rd geng. Xiao Shan sat in the hall eating the dinner that Murong Chong had provided, Tuoba Yan sat at one side soaking in the warmth of the fire, saying something once in a while to Xiao Shan, and Murong Chong stood outside of the doors of the hall waiting for them. When he saw Xiang Shu, that otherworldly, untouchable expression seemed to actually shift minutely.
“Someone who wants to seek revenge is letting his enemy personally come to his doorstep?” Xiang Shu asked in a deep voice. “Who do you think you are?”
Murong Chong sucked in a deep breath, before saying, “All of our previous debts and grudges can be erased with a single stroke of the pen.”
Xiang Shu said mildly, “Alright, then I’m leaving.”
“Great Chanyu, listen to this one word of mine!” Murong Chong immediately went forward. “Stop!”
Chen Xing said, “Since he’s this handsome, why don’t we hear him out?”
Murong Chong, “...”
Xiang Shu, “…”
Tuoba Yan said, “Tianchi? It’s been so long since I’ve seen you.”
Chen Xing turned and looked towards Tuoba Yan in the hall before looking back at Xiang Shu, and finally Xiang Shu gave up and followed him into the hall. Murong Chong hadn’t left any bodyguards within the hall, and Feng Qianjun turned and closed the door.
Murong Chong sucked in a breath and said, “The reasons behind Sister’s death, I’ve already basically figured them out.” And saying this, he turned to look towards Xiang Shu, continuing, “You guys knew about Wang Ziye’s true motives a long time ago, so why didn’t you say so then?”
Xiang Shu responded, “If I mentioned it, would you all have believed it? Revenge for the nation and family feuds have long since blinded the judgement of the Murong clan. This king has reminded her about that more than once.”
But Murong Chong said harshly, “But with the situation then, you could have spared her!”
Xiang Shu answered, “If I didn’t kill her, then Chen Xing would have died.”
Murong Chong was recalling past events, and he couldn’t help but become agitated again as he said, “So for a Han person, you didn’t leave even the last shred of hope for survival for my sister!”
“You want to get revenge?!” Xiang Shu was currently irritable, and he shouted angrily, “This king is willing to duel you right now!”
The hall suddenly fell silent. Xie An sat down to one side, and seeing that Xiao Shan was currently eating some pastries, he picked up a piece and said, “Whatever long-standing grudges you two have, it’s best that you first let them go for now. Strange… why have I been saying this phrase all throughout our journey?”
Murong Chong let out a long sigh before sitting down on the chair. After a few seconds of silence, Xiang Shu shot a glance at Tuoba Yan.
Ever since Chen Xing saw him at the banquet he was a little suspicious, and now he asked, “What’s happened to you?”
Tuoba Yan shook his head, and Murong Chong said, “He got wounded, and the wound hasn’t closed for a long time. Wang Ziye was giving him some medicine so that he at least wouldn’t turn into a drought fiend, but after Wang Ziye was killed by me, no one else could make this medicine for him. That’s why I brought Tuoba Yan to Luoyang, far away from that troublesome Chang’an.”
“Let me see?” Chen Xing said. “Where’s the wound?”
Tuoba Yan answered, “It’s not a big deal, after stopping the use of that medicine, I feel a lot better.”
Xie An said, “Prefect Murong, though we are in faraway Jiankang, we also know some things about the situation here…”
Xiang Shu only stood there, before he suddenly asked, “Xiao Shan, before I came, what were you all discussing?”
Xiao Shan, “?”
Xie An was suddenly interrupted and let out a cough, but Tuoba Yan said, “Nothing much, I was just asking where you guys had gone. It’s already been a year since I heard any news of Tianchi.”
“What does it have to do with you?” Xiang Shu asked darkly, with a menacing tone.
“Xiang Shu!” Chen Xing said angrily.
Everyone stilled again, and Xie An could only say, “That… if you guys have any grudges, then why don’t… oh whatever, everyone understands my meaning. Why am I so long-winded? When people get old, naturally they like to be verbose, apologies, apologies.”
Murong Chong said, “Fu Jian has taken away my military command, and he believed my sister’s words, so he’s keeping some hundreds of thousands of living dead at the foot of Mt. Longmen… go back and tell your Majesty to flee for his life ba.”
Feng Qianjun furrowed his brows and asked darkly, “Your sister is really still alive?”
Murong Chong responded, “I don’t know if she’s considered dead or alive, but the current her has already become a monster.”
Tuoba Yan said, “Thankfully Wang Ziye has already died.”
“If Wang Ziye had really died,” Xiang Shu said darkly, “then what was the monster that we met in JIangnan?”
In that instant Murong Chong felt fear, and he murmured, “He didn’t die?”
One month ago, such a huge transformation had happened during the sacrificial rites in Jiangnan, which spread to all the corners of the world in an instant, but for Murong Chong to not know even now meant that he was probably actually under house arrest within the palace, unable to receive any news from the outside world.
“What should we do now?” Tuoba Yan, on the other hand, was pretty calm as he turned to ask Murong Chong that.
Chen Xing had no response. He only activated the Heart Lamp and pressed it against Tuoba Yan’s forehead.
Tuoba Yan was originally pressing down on his forearm, not letting Chen Xing see his wound, but he hadn’t expected Chen Xing to directly insert the Heart Lamp into his meridians, and he was seized by extreme pain.
Compared to right before Che Luofeng died… or it was better to say, his condition was very similar to someone right before they turned into a drought fiend. Chen Xing could almost confirm definitely that Tuoba Yan had been given the Devil God’s blood by Wang Ziye, but perhaps it was because it was mixed with other medicines, when it came time for the Devil God’s blood to do its work, its effects were delayed for more than a year, and even today he had not yet been transformed.
Tuoba Yan bitterly held out against the effects of the Heart Lamp working against the Devil God’s blood in his meridians as sweat beaded on his brow. As soon as Murong Chong saw the Heart Lamp, he knew that he had found the right people, and he asked, “How is he?”
“You will get better,” Chen Xing said to Tuoba Yan.
Tuoba Yan breathed heavily for a second, closing his eyes. The Heart Lamp’s light dissipated, and he instantly fell over unconscious.
Chen Xing laid him down flat, before exposing the truth of the matter to those gathered there. “Within his body, his lifeforce is currently battling against the Devil God’s blood. Thankfully, the amount he ingested was not a lot, so he may yet be able to survive this. In these coming days, make sure that he rests in peace and quiet; I don’t know if he can actually survive this or not, so be sure to make preparations for the worst.”
“Living is also suffering.” Murong Chong, however, easily accepted it. All of the people that he cared for, one by one, his father and mother, his sister, his cousins, his relatives, almost all of them had died in this turbulent world. Some of them died at the hands of the Qin people, while some of them died at the hands of the Han people. “Death is also considered a kind of escape. He had me bring him to Luoyang so that if there came a day when he was unable to control it anymore and turned into a drought fiend, then he wanted me to personally kill him. He didn’t want Fu Jian to gain control over him.”
It was rare that Xiang Shu would compliment Murong Chong, and he walked over to one side and sat down. “You’re right.”
Xiang Shu’s relatives, his anda, and all the people that he cared about, had basically all died off as well. In this, he and Murong Chong seemed to be able to understand each other.
Feng Qianjun was silent, but he also agreed with those words.
For Chen Xing, it was even more obvious.
Xie An then said, “With that, in my humble opinion, I imagine everyone is standing on the same side.”
Murong Chong said, “Correct. You’re Xie Anshi?”
Xie An smiled with good grace, and not only did he not deny it, he even nodded liberally as he said, “The young overtake the old.”
Murong Chong asked darkly, “As an important official of a country entering such dangerous territory, if I kept you here within Luoyang as a hostage, have you thought about what repercussions that would cause?”
“The sons of Jiangnan have strived to grow stronger for many years now,” Xie An smiled. “We never seek the reason of one’s power. That is to say, even if His Majesty were to meet his demise, we would still do battle against Fu Jian as usual. But Murong-daren, if you think of the situation in the north, if Fu Jian disappeared in the span of a night, then what would that cause? This is the difference between our two sides.”
For a moment everyone didn’t speak anymore. Though Xie An’s tone was light, the words he had spoken were extremely weighty, and in the current situation where Fu Jian was about to bring the force of his great army down, those words revealed a strong conviction.
“Let’s come and discuss in detail,” Xie An said, “how to disrupt Wang Ziye’s plans ba. After all, this is the thing that our Majesty is most concerned with right now. If we get rid of his drought fiend troops first, then in the ensuing fair battle, we would definitely be able to win.”
Murong Chong said, “I thought you were really here to parley.”
“If we can engage in peace talks that’d be for the best,” Xie An smiled. “But humans have a destiny to fulfill, and so does the Divine Land; this is not something that can be forced.”
Murong Chong let out a long sigh. Fu Jian’s declaration of war was imminent, and beforehand he had been listening to Wang Ziye’s counsel, but now that Wang Ziye had not actually died, then he would probably quickly return to Chang’an, and the situation would only become more dire then.
Murong Chong was silent for a long time, before he said, “True. Since my sister has already essentially died, I want her to return to the dust and not let her be used by Wang Ziye anymore, then get rid of him and that drought fiend troop to avenge my sister.”
Xiang Shu then said coldly, “And at the same time, declare war against Fu Jian and re-establish your country of Great Yan?”
Murong Chong looked towards Xiang Shu, and in the span of a short instant, both of them understood each other. Xiang Shu suspected that Murong Chong’s real objective was to take over control of the drought fiend troop and use them to attack the Qin army. If Murong Chong didn’t explain himself clearly, then the two of them would probably never be able to reach a compromise.
“What kind of a person do you take me for?” Murong Chong said.
Xiang Shu replied easily, “Alright, then remember that you said this.”
Murong Chong asked Xie An, “How many people do you have?”
Xie An spread his palms open and smiled. “A group of not quite 20 people.”
Murong Chong, “....”
Murong Chong was asking for Xie An to represent Sima Yao and report how many troops they could provide, but Xie An didn’t want to give him a straight answer to that question.
Feng Qianjun said, “Count me in ba, after gathering up the visitors that the Feng family supported, we can have troops numbering 3000.”
Xiang Shu asked, “Murong Chong, how about you? Why don’t you tell us first what you can provide?”
Until recently, Murong Chong had been trapped within the depths of the palace, all on his own, and now he anxiously paced a few steps and answered, “My silver cavalry is still stationed within Pingyang, which has 20,000 people that can be summoned, but as soon as I issue them orders, then I’m burning all my bridges. Fu Jian won’t let me off the hook so easily, and the descendants of my Murong family that have been left behind in Chang’an as hostages would definitely be entirely slaughtered.”
Xie An thought for a bit, before saying, “As long as we can successfully get rid of Wang Ziye and let Fu Jian recover his clarity of mind, then I think this will not be a problem. Eliminating a traitor and supporting the Qin dynasty, for that the Heavenly Emperor might even thank you.”
“Speaking of it is easy,” Murong Chong said icily. “But now he seems like a wholly different person, and even the last bit of humanity that he had seems to have been lost…”
“You don’t need to worry about that,” Xie An smiled. “We have the Heart Lamp, and it will naturally help the Heavenly Emperor become clear-headed again.”
Chen Xing originally wanted to say that the Heart Lamp wasn’t meant to be used like this, but he was stopped by Xiang Shu’s stern gaze. He suddenly sensed that all the people gathered here seemed to each have their own agenda. If they successfully got rid of Wang Ziye and trapped Fu Jian, then Jiangnan would definitely not let him go so easily back to Chang’an, or else wouldn’t they be causing more problems for themselves?
Murong Chong also naturally knew that Xie An was only trying to urge him to form an alliance.
“The Feng family has 3000 people.” Murong Chong turned towards Xiang Shu and said, “What about you guys? Shulü Kong, you are already no longer the Great Chanyu.”
Xiang Shu answered easily, “I only have myself.”
Xie An immediately added, “We still have the exorcist, and he has magical artifacts, quite a few of them.”
Murong Chong looked suspiciously at Chen Xing, and Chen Xing said, matter-of-factly, “As long as Wang Ziye shows up at an appropriate time, then the rest of the matters can be left to us.”
Murong Chong said, “Even then, we only have 20,000 and the 3000 from the Feng family. You really think that with this small amount of troops, we can fight against the 300,000 strong drought fiend troop?”
“300,000?!” Chen Xing hadn’t expected for there to be that many. Where exactly had Wang Ziye gotten so many dead people from?!
“I am once again reminding you,” Xiang Shu said, “you’ve left me out once again. It’s twenty-three thousand and one people.”
“When the time comes,” Xie An said, “The Beifu troops of Jiangnan will provide their help, but we can only help you hold Fu Jian in check. We have no way to fight directly against the drought fiend troop.”
Jiangnan had already been frightened by the epidemic, and Xie An didn’t dare to take this risk.
Murong Chong was silent for a long time as he considered his options. Xiang Shu knew that the reason he was unwilling to make a decision was because this involved the survival of the entire Xianbei Murong clan. As soon as he lifted up the flag of betrayal towards Fu Jian, that might even cause the Five Hu tribes to mobilize as well, which would drag in even more people.
“Think about it slowly ba,” Xiang Shu said. “We’ll take our leave.”
“Wait,” Murong Chong replied. “I’ve decided.”
Murong Chong knew that time was running out, and the Jin people that Xie An represented were far away to the south of the Yangtze. Water far away wouldn’t be able to help put out a close fire, and what actually caused him to make a decision was Xiang Shu. Ever since Shulü Kong had taken up the duty of being the Great Chanyu of the Ancient Chi Le Covenant, becoming renown in the hunting grounds of Chi Le Chuan at age 16, he had never since tasted defeat. Hu youths all admired martial artists, and Xiang Shu seemed to have stratagems in place for every situation; based on the rumors from Saiwai, as long as he agreed to do something, he would definitely accomplish it, and he never went back on his word.
Standing on his side perhaps would be the correct decision.
Murong Chong lifted the pitcher and filled five cups with wine, before pulling out a dagger, cutting open his arm, letting the blood drip into the wine.
Chen Xing thought in his heart, no-no-no, no way, are we ingesting blood to form an alliance? It looks so painful!
Feng Qianjun and Xie An did the same, and Chen Xing’s expression wavered, but just as he was about to take the dagger, Xiang Shu didn’t let him draw his own blood, instead saying, “I’m counting the Exorcism Department’s share with this as well.”
And saying this, Xiang Shu dripped his blood into the cups as well. Murong Chong spoke. “May Chi Le Chuan and the Yin Mountains, and the dragon god of the North stand witness. This is the blood of the Xianbei people.”
“The blood of the Han people.” Xie An also seemed to be well-versed in this ritual.
“The blood of the Han people, and the blood of the Tiele people,” Xiang Shu finally admitted that half-Han identity of this, and saying this, he shot a look towards Xiao Shan before lifting his hand away from the wine cup, “and of the people to the north of the Great Wall, the blood of everyone who has made an alliance with the Shulü family, the blood of the Xiongnu, Gaoche, Rouran… and the rest of the 16 Hu tribes, as well as the blood of the Gorguryeo people.”
Chen Xing, “!!!”
Chen Xing remembered that though Xiang Shu was not the Great Chanyu anymore, in the past when they had formed a similar blood pact in Chi Le Chuan, he had drunk the blood wine of the Hu people! And that was to say that to ally with him meant that they were allying with everyone who had once allied with Xiang Shu.
Murong Chong then added, “In the region south of the Great Wall, the blood of those who formed an alliance with the Xianbei people, the blood of the Di people, the Jie people, the Xiongnu people, the Qiang people, and everyone else’s blood in an alliance, to fight back against the tyrannical Qin. If this alliance is broken, then the heavens and the humans alike will punish you.”
The four of them first emptied their cups, but just as Chen Xing was about to grab the cup, Xiang Shu drank his cup as well, before flipping the cup over and placing it upside down on the table.
“As for the details of the plan, Xie An will figure it out, and when the time comes you’ll be notified.” Xiang Shu shot Murong Chong a look, before indicating to Chen Xing that it was time for them to go.
Since the alliance had been formed, Murong Chong seemed to have lost all the strength in his body, taking the most difficult step in his life as he sat tiredly on the edge of the bed, keeping the comatose Tuoba Yan company.
Chen Xing shot another look at Tuoba Yan, saying, “When I have time these next few days, I’ll come by for him. Change to the medicine that I’m prescribing for now, and don’t take Wang Ziye’s medicine anymore.”
Murong Chong’s expression looked unclear, and in the darkness that couldn’t be touched by the lamplight he smiled bitterly and nodded.
moon: “Invite Murong Chong to join your party?”
xs: mashing the “no” button
cx and xie an: wait wait wait hold on
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.