“Because he likes that Han person named Chen Xing.”
Xiang Shu had actually, with his own ability, created such a strong threat for Fu Jian. A 100,000 troops surrounded Luoyang, and King Onobayashi and the Great Chanyu Shi Mokun sent messengers to the palace, requesting to attend the diplomatic talks on Duanwu.
Helian Shuang said, “You… you are… the Great Chanyu-daren?”
“I am no longer,” Xiang Shu said matter-of-factly. “They have come only because your guys’ Jian Tou Majesty has raised that group of monsters. After all, everyone’s already tired of fighting battles against living people, and they even more do not wish to keep killing after they’re dead.”
“Go back and tell him not to be worried. If he’s willing, it’d be best for him to set fire to the drought fiend army in one fell swoop, and if not, then we’ll negotiate conditions the day after tomorrow.”
So Helian Shuang went forth, preoccupied, to report back to Fu Jian. Chen Xing finally realized, what kind of a setup was this?
Qin, Jin, Xianbei people, the ancient Chi Le Covenant, Dongying, Feng Qianjun’s mercenaries, and exorcists. At this moment, in this place, seven great powers had gathered together to attend what would be the largest diplomatic talks in hundreds of years in the Divine Land. And in the end, if they couldn’t reach a compromise, then they would fight, which would definitely lead to a chaotic battle.
“Fu Jian asks you why you’re doing this.”
This time it was Murong Chong who came personally. Since Xiang Shu was no longer hiding his identity, Fu Jian had no way to treat him as an ordinary diplomatic envoy.
“No reason,” Xiang Shu answered mildly. “I like it.”
“You…” Chen Xing was also greatly surprised. “You’ve made this matter so large?”
But Xiang Shu didn’t respond to Chen Xing’s words, saying instead to Murong Chong who had come for the second time to request their presence, “Where are King Onobayashi and Shi Mokun?”
“They aren’t planning on entering the city,” Murong Chong said. “They’ll meet with us at noon, when the talks begin. Fu Jian wants to find you to discuss things in private.”
“No discussing,” Xiang Shu rejected him instantly. “I have nothing to say to Jian Tou. Past matters between us that should have been recollected were already dredged up two years ago; this path is one that he chose himself.”
Chen Xing said, “What about your sister?”
Murong Chong said, “She hasn’t appeared.”
Murong Chong hadn’t found any trace of Wang Ziye, and at the same time, the spies that Feng Qianjun had sent out were approaching the Longmen Gorge, secretly watching the movements of the troops near the mountains.
Murong Chong couldn’t get Xiang Shu to go with him, so he could only return back to make his report. Chen Xing began to conjecture with Xie An about what Fu Jian was thinking at the moment, what plans he had made, whether he was going to immediately send people back to Chang’an to bring more supporting troops over, or would he go according to his usual style, treating this new development with a cold indifference?
“No messengers left the city in the night,” Feng Qianjun said.
Xie An didn’t know if he should laugh or cry. “This is clearly Qin territory, so how has it turned into our advantageous terrain instead?”
Feng Qianjun answered, “From the beginning to the end, Luoyang has never truly fallen into Fu Jian’s hands. The greatest power in the city still resides with the Han people and the Xianbei people, so this is very normal.”
It had not even been 12 years ago when Fu Jian had used Wang Meng to conquer Luoyang. Before, the eastern capital was controlled by the Xianbei Murong clan, and before that it was Jin territory. In a short 12 years, to bring the Central Plains wholly under control was not very possible. Yet with today’s circumstances, for Fu Jian to still show such extraordinary audacity, bringing 20,000 imperial guards with him to come to the eastern capital to attend the diplomatic talks, was a result of him underestimating the strength of his enemies -- and of course, he had fallen prey to Xiang Shu’s ambush from all sides.
After Xiang Shu finished his preparations, he had even left a road eastwards for Fu Jian’s messengers to travel out of the city, to express his sincerity: if you don’t want to discuss things, then you can go, I won’t stop you.
Of course, they had also been correct in their prediction that Fu Jian wouldn’t run; otherwise, he would definitely become everyone’s laughingstock Chen Xing now had a strong sense of foreboding that Wang Ziye was definitely by Fu Jian’s side, but thankfully, in Fu Jian’s eyes, these Dongying people and the ancient Chi Le covenant were all but ants. In his hands were 300,000 drought fiend troops, and when it was necessary, as long as he set them loose from the Longmen Gorge, they were more than enough to raze the city of Luoyang to the ground.
Deep in the night on the fourth day of the fifth month.
“Tomorrow’s diplomatic talks will probably go like this,” Xie An said, finishing up the last preparatory meeting. “Little shidi, you have to stay by the Martial God’s side at every moment, not taking even a single step away. Whether we can lure out Wang Ziye and ensure our victory is all up to you two.”
“This is a matter that involves the entirety of the Divine Land, it’s not just our duty,” Xiang Shu said darkly. “Or else why would they have come as well?”
Chen Xing understood that tomorrow’s talks were not only heavily involved with their continued existence, but that they also would determine the future direction of the Divine Land. He nodded and said, “Iuppiter will watch over us. I now feel that its existence may have been for this very moment.”
There was still more than a year left; originally Chen Xing had thought that perhaps this wouldn’t be the last battle, and his heart was filled with unease. However, now that he thought about it, if this was a year of life that he borrowed from the heavens, then how happy would that be? Walking slowly from his initial thoughts of resignation to where he was now, he actually had already been unconsciously influenced by Xiang Shu, as if a seed of something called hope had been planted in the depths of his heart:
Perhaps I’ll be able to win against them? Perhaps we won’t need to take that step.
And perhaps even on the day I turn 20, nothing will happen?
Chen Xing silently rose. He had originally decided to borrow the Jin people to put more pressure on Fu Jian, in order to find a suitable chance to force Wang Ziye to reveal himself and fight with him, but he hadn’t expected this many people to come. Now, many of their forces would be swept into an unexpected power struggle with unknown results. If they failed, then the consequences they would have to shoulder would be much heavier than before.
But what Xiang Shu said was not incorrect, that this was a danger that the entire Divine Land faced, and it wasn’t a duty that only they had to shoulder.
Chen Xing turned his head back and looked at Xiang Shu, and Xiang Shu seemed to send him a glance in return. In the brief span of time that their gazes met, Chen Xing seemed to understand something, and he said, “I’m going to rest first.”
“Drink a little?” Feng Qianjun brought over wine, and he split it between himself, Xie An, and Xiang Shu.
Xiang Shu’s forehead was furrowed slightly as he looked in the direction that Chen Xing had left, as if he was thinking. Tonight was an important night, and they had to be prepared; otherwise if on the slim possibility that Chen Xing was once again kidnapped, they wouldn’t even need to think about tomorrow.
“It will be alright,” Xie An said as he saw Xiang Shu’s worry. “Xiao Shan will keep him company.”
Feng Qianjun’s smile was a little hurt. “Of all the people in this world, Xiang Shu, I admire you.”
Xiang Shu picked up his wine cup, staying silent and not speaking. After drinking a little, he put it down again.
Feng Qianjun said, “You’ve called over Dongying people, the Hu people of Chi Le, and spent all of your family fortune, all to save the life of one person.”
Xie An smiled but didn’t say anything as he began to tidy up the materials and maps on the table.
Xiang Shu, as usual, didn’t speak.
Xie An said, “Who hasn’t had this kind of wish when they were young?”
Feng Qianjun picked up his own pitcher of wine, rising to his feet and leaving.
“Xie An, do you think we can succeed tomorrow?” Xiang Shu suddenly asked.
“It’s hard to say,” Xie An said. “I estimate our winning probability at about 60%, since Wang Ziye is our final target, as well as the greatest unknown variable. But we have already done all that we can, so isn’t this good enough?”
The summer night was cool, and Chen Xing sat in a chair outside in the courtyard. Xiao Shan was on one side, already asleep. Chen Xing looked towards the Milky Way shining on the horizon of the summer night, and he couldn’t help but think, if Iuppiter really left one day, would it return to the sky? Would he turn into one of the stars?
He knew what that look of Xiang Shu’s meant, before he left:
Everything that I’ve done is all so you can keep living well.
Chen Xing looked up at the Milky Way, murmuring, “From birth until now, I have never been like I am now, filled with an obsession to keep living. But I still lied to him, Xiao Shan. I haven’t told him that in the end, I’ll still have to leave.”
Chen Xing closed his eyes. He had many things that he hadn’t thought through clearly, including the voice that had spoken to him before in his dreams, as well as his 20 years. Technically, if Iuppiter were to leave after a year and some more months, then that meant he would definitely not die before he turned 20.
So that was to say, choosing to do battle at this time, no matter what, Chen Xing himself would be able to survive.
Did Xiang Shu know some inside information? Chen Xing began to suspect, but with the gentle gusts of that cool breeze in that summer night, he quickly fell asleep. When he woke up the next morning, Chen Xing found that he was lying on his bed; someone had carried him inside.
The diplomats in the inn had already long since woken, and they were currently washing up. Xie An acted as he had usually, walking around and checking on his subordinates. Seeing his demeanour, Chen Xing couldn’t help but say, “Xie-shixiong has some skill, you’re actually not even nervous at a time like this.”
Xie An pulled Chen Xing to one side, saying quietly, “To tell you the truth, little shidi, I’m so nervous right now that I’m on the verge of cramps…”
Chen Xing, “...”
Feng Qianjun had already changed his clothes, and he walked over swiftly, saying, “We’ve found Wang Ziye’s whereabouts!”
Everyone grew alert at that, and they returned to the inside of the hall to listen to the news that Feng Qianjun brought. Feng Qianjun spread open the map, tracing out a path as he said, “There was a Han person driving a cart that passed through the Longmen Gorge, arriving in the western part of Luoyang. He showed a handwritten order from Fu Jian and entered the palace, and there might have been other people in the cart.”
“It’s definitely him,” Chen Xing said. “How big was the cart?”
Feng Qianjun described the exterior of the horse cart, which was only like that of a normal cart, and then Xie An spoke. “We’ll go according to the plan, and when the time comes, we’ll deal with whatever he throws at us. Everyone, prepare to depart.”
After they finished breakfast, Chen Xing changed into the uniform of the Exorcism Department. Arriving at Xiang Shu’s side, he saw that Xiang Shu had recovered his Hu attire, an indigo-blue 16 Hu tribe-style brocade robe embroidered with totems, carrying the Acala Blade on his back, standing in the courtyard, staring off into space.
“Where did you find this outfit?” Chen Xing couldn’t help but smile.
“Last night, Shi Mokun sent someone over with it,” Xiang Shu replied.
It was somewhat similar to what the Great Chanyu had worn in the beginning, but it was missing the rings that symbolized the ancient pact, the sacred soil, the military might, and the Shepherd and Mountain Gods. He no longer wore a carved jade tooth at his waist either, to distinguish him from the others.
“What are you thinking about?” Chen Xing said.
“I’m thinking that it’s all going according to your wishes,” Xiang Shu said. “Now, I can bring up my request ba.”
Chen Xing, “What’s your request?”
The summer breeze blew through the hall, and the trees in the garden let out sha sha noises. The shadows of the trees were like millions of meteorites, flying over their bodies.
“After today,” Xiang Shu thought for a moment. “If we can successfully get rid of Wang Ziye and you’re still alive, then you must leave with me.”
Chen Xing said, “But what about Chiyou?”
Xiang Shu saw how he looked, and green veins almost popped out of his forehead again as he said, “You’re just relying on me, just relying on me…”
“What am I relying on you for?” Chen Xing asked confusedly.
“For me to take care of it in the end.” Xiang Shu forcefully suppressed his rage; it would not be good for him to beat up someone on his own side before the diplomatic talks even began.
“In the end?” Chen Xing’s heart thumped once.
“There will always be a way,” Xiang Shu said. “Didn’t you want to travel across… travel across the entire Divine Land? Can’t you set it aside temporarily after getting rid of Wang Ziye?”
Chen Xing suddenly began to smile as he turned his head to look towards the mottled shadows of the trees in the courtyard, saying, “We… aren’t we already doing that?”
Xiang Shu froze, and Chen Xing said, “Actually, every day that I spend with you, I’m always very happy, and we’ve been to many places together as well.”
Xiang Shu was silent. At this time, a Tiele messenger came, personally bringing a small golden dragon, saying, “This is what the Great Chanyu Shi Mokun has sent over, if Shulü Kong-daren could please wear it on his person.”
Chen Xing knew that this was the Tiele people’s totem, which meant that though Xiang Shu had quit the role of the Great Chanyu, he was still the pride of the Tiele people. So he took it and helped Xiang Shu pin it on.
“Let’s go.” Chen Xing grasped Xiang Shu’s hand with his own of his own accord, and they left the inn.
The location for the diplomatic talks had been set to be on the plains by the Yi River north of the city of Luoyang, and Fu Jian was in name the owner of this place as usual, so according to the original rules of Saibei and the Western Liang, they had built a huge open-air hut on the plains, where three kinds of animals would be sacrificed to the heavens. The floor was covered in golden rugs, and golden plates and jade cups had been prepared as well.
But as the master, Fu Jian actually hadn’t been waiting ahead of time for the helpers that Xiang Shu had invited over, and it wasn’t until the sun had risen to the height of three bamboo poles that he brought Murong Chong with him onto his horse carriage.
Before this, he had tried to arrange a meeting with Xiang Shu multiple times, only to receive the cold shoulder, and it was now that the Heavenly Emperor finally understood that this time, the Great Chanyu was truly serious this time. Originally he thought that since Shulü Wen was already dead, then as the inheritor of the Great Chanyu position of Chi Le Chuan, the Shulü family that was as close as brothers with the Fu royal clan would always firmly stand on his side no matter what.
Fu Jian really could not understand why Shulü Kong would oppose him so thoroughly now. This time, the diplomatic talks were proposed by the Han people, but mere Han people would not be able to move him at all. They were just meat on the chopping block, and even Jiankang could be destroyed in the time it took for a flick of his finger, so how would Fu Jian, with his millions of cavalry, even have these kinds of scraps like Sima Yao, in his gaze?
“Before Zhen moved to come to Luoyang,” Fu Jian sat on the horse cart, holding Murong Chong’s hand as he said, “Zhen was thinking every day about where exactly he offended Shulü Kong.”
Murong Chong didn’t pull his hand back. He only silently watched the curtains of the cart.
Fu Jian said, “Why exactly would he go help the Han people? Zhen knows that he is half a Han person, but he’s really a Tiele person…”
Murong Chong said mildly, “Because he likes that Han person named Chen Xing.”
Fu Jian smiled. “The one that Yan’er is fond of? This brat’s not so simple then, for this kind of war to erupt just because of him… en, speaking of which… though it may seem absurd... if it were you instead, Zhen would also… not be unable to understand.”
Murong Chong didn’t say anything more; he naturally heard the hidden meaning within Fu Jian’s words, and with his forehead furrowed, he turned his head to glance at Fu Jian, a complicated expression in his eyes. Fu Jian scooted close, using his high nose-bridge to rub against the side of Murong Chong’s face, before pressing their foreheads together. And then he didn’t say anything more, turning his head around.
When the Jin diplomatic envoy arrived, the huge hut open to the air was already filled with people, and only the main seat was left empty. As soon as Chen Xing and Xie An came in, everyone rose to their feet, nodding to them in greeting.
Xie An naturally knew that this courtesy was for Xiang Shu, and he, along with the other gathered people, turned to the side. Shi Mokun was the first to salute him, followed by the Dongying king, as he and his scholars both saluted Xiang Shu. Xiang Shu just followed the customs of the ancient alliance in returning the salute, and no one said anything as they all went back to their seats.
Shi Mokun specially asked after Chen Xing; the two of them had met long since in Chi Le Chuan, and Chen Xing smiled as he made his greetings. He then looked over at the Dongying side, where their leader was a lithe, slender-fingered young man with single eyelids wearing the kingly armor. He was about the same age as Tuoba Yan, so that must be King Onobayashi then.
King Onobayashi saw that Chen Xing was watching him, so he said, “It has been a year since we last met, do you still remember me?”
Chen Xing felt a little surprised; the Dongying person’s Han words were very fluent, but when he thought again, ever since the Han dynasty had fallen, Confucian culture had been highly respected in all corners of the Divine Land. Dongying had opened an imperial academy to educate more scholars, and so therefore they probably also held Han people in high esteem. He then smiled and said, “Have we met before?”
One of the scholars said, “Back then when you left Pyongyang, the person who led the rearguard was His Majesty.”
It was now that Chen Xing finally had a revelation, and King Onobayashi said, “After this, please don’t suddenly summon another bolt from the blue, everyone still wants to return home alive.”
Everyone began to smile, and Xie An said surprisedly, “Shidi, you know how to call down lightning?”
“It was just good luck,” Chen Xing said, not knowing whether he should laugh or cry. “Let’s quickly change the topic.”
The banquet hall was silent for a moment, and Chen Xing glanced at the sky above for the time of day. Fu Jian had yet to arrive, and he was already late; if it was really just a kidnapping then that would be good, he was just afraid that Fu Jian had made some arrangements in secret. The open air hut was already surrounded by guards on the outside, and if they started fighting in a bit, then it would probably become a very chaotic battle.
But since Xiang Shu and Xie An had made preparations beforehand, he could only trust in their skills.
At this time, King Onobayashi opened his mouth again. “Shulü Kong, why did you give up the position of the Great Chanyu? You’re already the number one warrior, but you didn’t think that was enough, so you went to go learn how to call down lightning from the Han people?”
Chen Xing thought, seems like he’s also someone with a lot of opinions. If you weren’t a king, maybe Xiang Shu would be chewing you out right now.
But Xiang Shu didn’t spare him even a little face, saying coldly, “Go Gubu, why do you still have so much nonsense to say? You want to fight again?”
In an instant everyone burst out into laughter, and Shi Mokun said amusedly, “Do you still remember when Gubu was in Chi Le Chuan and you two were debating on how to shoot, and after you two came down you had a proper competition.”
King Onobayashi said, “Last time we didn’t determine who won. I brawled against Shulü Kong, one on one, but we didn’t have a clear victor, so now we can only compare our shooting skills.”
Xie An said amusedly, “I’ve long since heard that the Dongying Majesty is a famous godly archer, I greatly admire your skills.”
King Onobayashi cupped his hands and said, “And your Han people’s many schools of thought is something that I greatly admire. The greatest wish of my life would be to travel to Jiankang and learn from you all.”
Xie An immediately said, “Then this humble one will speak unauthorizedly on Sima Majesty’s behalf to invite you, and you must come to visit some day.”
“I must also thank the Great Jin,” King Onobayashi said towards Xie An, “for allowing our young people to go to Jiangnan to study. You see, though we have come from all places, even our communication is through the Han language, so the splendour of the Han people is very visible.”
Xie An smiled and said, “Dongying also has much that we should learn from, and we must never grow comfortable with standing still and making no progress.”
When Xiang Shu heard these, he sent a look towards Shi Mokun, meaning, see what the others are doing. Shi Mokun thought for a moment, before nodding.
King Onobayashi hurried to modestly decline, and Xie An took over control of the conversation, but Shi Mokun then said, “When I received the message from the previous Great Chanyu, Shulü-daren, we sped here over double-time, day and night without rest. Though us being able to get involved in this conflict between Fu Jian and you southerners is still unknown, with the current situation, some things cannot be tolerated.”
Xie An hurried to thank him, and with this, Chen Xing guessed that perhaps Xiang Shu had already written about the danger facing the Central Plains in the letter. They greatly trusted Xiang Shu, so naturally they believed his words and came forth, because it was not “a matter that others were involved in”, but rather “a danger the Divine Land faced”.
“There are things a ruler can do, and there are things that they cannot,” King Onobayashi said. “When two countries engage in battle, they must determine a victory on equal grounds. When I heard the Great Chanyu Shi Mokun describe the misfortunes that had happened in Chi Le Chuan, this is a point that I very much agree with.”
“The master of Dilong, the true dragon emperor, the joint master of the North, the Heavenly Emperor of the Divine Land, the number one warrior within Guannei, His Majesty, Fu Jian, has arrived!”
From outside the hut came that clear cry.
Though Chen Xing didn’t want to mock Fu Jian, he couldn't help but make a sly jab, and he said amusedly, “If I was not familiar with him, then hearing this, I would have thought that five people had come.”
At this time everyone in the hut burst into loud laughter. Xiang Shu had held it in for a long time, and finally he started laughing as well. When Fu Jian brought Murong Chong and Helian Shuang into the hut with large steps, what greeted them was a wave of bright laughter.
Fu Jian, “……”
No one got up, each of them only making a simple salute. Fu Jian had originally believed that he would arrive to a respectful, solemn scene, but he hadn’t expected for them to seem as if they had been discussing something this funny. He also didn’t know how to interject, and he could only say, “Zhen has come late.”
moon: i’m right.
20/12/2020: Next update will be delayed for a couple of days, thank you for your patience!
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.