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Wu Xi made the miracle of traveling a thousand li in a day become a reality.
The Great Qing-Nanjiang border army had withdrawn as well, going at various speeds in its rush. Yet, when they had just gotten out of Shu territory, he caught back up with them. The Nanjiang people, who had once caused Great General Feng’s four-hundred-thousand strong elites to be buried here, showing up again made the border army that had been at peace for many years mentally break out into a cold sweat.
They were a race that was intrepid, but likely to be content with their corner. They dared to love, and to hate; they could do both, and so purely, so simply.
Having taken over the role of Great Shaman, Wu Xi had absolute authority in Nanjiang. The Great Qing army barely managed to follow along with him after several days of this, once they figured out his purpose in coming. It was just like they already considered the newly-appointed Nanjiang Great Shaman a spiritual leader, and walking with him like this aroused the potential in these armymen. After a few days passed, that sluggish and nearly-lifeless atmosphere in the ranks vanished by over half from watching him.
Wu Xi merely wished that he could be like a willow puff, riding the wind all night to blow over to a certain someone’s side.
When the night was deep and the people were still, everyone that had so desperately traveled for the day fell into a deep sleep, leaving only him to toss and turn. Terrified, anxious, and indescribably fearful in a way that stuffed up his chest, he could recount none of that to anyone; in the blue sky and white sun, he repressed them behind his expressionless face.
Purportedly, after the Shamanet had become the Great Shaman, he appeared to have gotten even colder. From the start of the day until night, his face didn’t even have a half-trace of any of the four emotions to be seen, nearly giving him an immeasurable overtone. However, Wu Xi was just thinking of how he wasn’t being like this on purpose; his heart was simply unwell, and he was startled awake by nightmares every day. Recalling the bloodied appearance of the one in his dream, he felt pain like his insides were tearing apart, and he wasn’t sure what expression would be right to use aside from this one.
If he didn’t have him… if he didn’t have him from now on in this long, slow life…
Every time he thought to here, he forced himself to stop. He feared that he would go crazy, otherwise.
The color of the evening was deep. Camping out in the countryside, after Wu Xi carelessly ate a couple bites of stuff, he wiped his face with the wet handkerchief Nuahar had, then waved him off to have him go out.
He leaned against the front of the tent alone. Using the faint moonlight, he reached into his lapels, then took out an embroidered pouch from a place close to his chest, its opening sealed with a pulled string. He raised the tiny thing in hand, looking at it for a time, and opened it up. A couple charmingly kitschy, ivory little animals rolled out from within it, and he caught them in his palm. In the light of the moon, the pure white ivory seemed to shine.
He remembered that day. Jing Qi had returned to the capital, travel-worn, and casually gave these to him, saying “I bought little trinkets for you” with that nonchalant look.
He remembered his phrasing of, “Who else would I get them for?”
The pouch had been placed against his chest, making these little objects warm from his body heat. He stared at them mutely for a time. It wasn’t clear what he was bringing to mind, but the corners of his tightly-pursed mouth lightly raised, and then his eyes dimmed, the gleam of his faintly-picked-up smile ephemeral.
The moonlight stretched his shadow out long. One of his slender legs was curled up, and his head was tilted to the lonesome night sky, making him look like a particularly solitary figure.
Nuahar suddenly came over, whispering, “Shaman…”
Wu Xi’s expression didn’t change as he indifferently gave an mn.
Nuahar gathered in close. “That day… that the Prince sent us out of the capital, he previously asked me to bring some words to you. You’ve been busy with other things ever since you woke up, so I didn’t have time to say them yet.”
Wu Xi turned his head. “What did he say?”
“He said, ‘I owe him for today, and if there’s another day that we meet again, I’ll definitely repay him.’”
Wu Xi paused for a long time, then quietly began to laugh, finally feeling like he was beside himself. “Repay me… repay me? What’s he going to repay me with? I want him to repay me with his whole life, but when… when is he going to sincerely want to give that to me?”
The sound of his laughter stopped all of a sudden, and he tightened his fist. Those little ivory animals gave off creaking sounds. Nuahar looked on helplessly as the rigid ivory pieces, getting clenched by him like so, slowly turned into a powder that leaked out the cracks of his fingers. “Great Shaman,” he cried out in alarm, “the Prince gave you those, y-you…”
Wu Xi opened up his palm without a care. The fine powder promptly scattered in the wind. “If he won’t give it to me, then I’ll go steal it…” he answered, word by word. “Those were what he used to cajole a child. I don’t want them.”
With that, he stood up, and made his way into his tent without even looking at Nuahar.
Meanwhile, the war of the capital had been fought for four days.
To a certain degree, Jeshe and Helian Yi could be described as being strangely similar. Helian Yi had good fortune; he had been born as the royal Crown Prince, was the orthodox heir to the title of Emperor for the entire Great Qing empire, and had a relatively stable environment he had grown up in. His friends were Lu Shen, He Yunxing, Jing Beiyuan, and Zhou Zishu — ten years of prosperity were placed aside in alienating chaos, and even though they were still inexperienced now, if they were given enough space and time to grow, they would end up being a pack of men that could overturn the realm.
However, that was also only if the world always had not many things go just right, and just like people’s expectations.
Jeshe went to the other extreme. He had used half of his own lifespan to take, rob, and scheme for everything he had. Right in his robust years, with his ambitions swelling, he was in the most glorious stage of a human’s life. The edge of his sword was pointed straight at these young people that had just recently spread out their wings, but hadn’t yet had the time to grow them fully.
No one understood an ambitious person more than an ambitious person.
Jeshe successively dispatched small platoons to serve as vanguards and go probe the defenses of the Nine Gates.
At the end of it, he realized that those guarding the capital were a bunch of lunatics. Lunatics could not be reasoned with, making using any sort of strategy quite difficult.
In that very moment, Jeshe’s brother-in-law, Lurcata, stood up, and proposed aligning to a weakpoint in the Great Qing’s guard — the one at Black Tortoise Gate.
Lurcata expressed optimism about this, because he had recently gleaned through special channels that the title of the Gate’s defending general wasn’t ‘General’, or ‘Sir’, but ‘Princess’. He believed that the Great Qing already no longer had any people to use, so even their women were putting on armor to go fight.
His strategy was quite simple, too; lay it on heavy with the attack on Black Tortoise Gate to stall with them. At the same time, wind troops around the city to be prepared to sneak-attack at any time, causing the other gate defenders to be too afraid of rashly reinforcing them. The city gate could then be pierced through with even a blunt iron truncheon.
After listening to him, Jeshe said nothing, silent for a long while. Only after Lurcata’s smile stiffened on his face did he gently nod, assign Lurcata forty-thousand men, and order him to bring them to attack Black Tortoise Gate. Lurcata was a bit unsatisfied with this, as he thought this was a totally great way of handling things, yet the Chief only gave him so many people.
But, soon after, he was optimistic again, because according to reliable information, the sum of all living things at the Gate was no more than ten or twenty thousand people, so forty-thousand would be enough to take down that little woman. There were advantages to fewer people, such as having less folks to divide the credit among when the time came.
On the afternoon of the siege’s fourth day, Black Tortoise Gate met with the most intense assault since the war’s beginning, the Vakurah flooding up like an earth-quaking tsunami. Lurcata rode in the lead with the others akin to brown bears, the sound like a flood of deep bells, one roar of theirs making one’s ears ring for a minute where they stood; that was how they came rushing forth.
Princess Jing’an, Feng Xiaoshu, was mounted on a horse and holding her sabre, quietly stationed under the city gate to meet the enemy head-on.
Her waist probably wasn’t even as thick as Lurcata’s neck, but she, just like everyone behind her, had no kind of fear.
Lurcata was surprised to discover that, behind this woman and the silent, solemn Great Qing army, the gate was shut up tight, not even a single thread of a gap left behind. Also, when they drew close, the Great Qing army completely abandoned defending the city to directly pounce upon them in an even more wrathful, even more fierce manner.
Princess Jing’an courageously urged her horse to charge into the enemy ranks, not even turning her head back. It was like whether the soldiers were following behind her or not was none of her business.
Even if there are a hundred-thousand foes, I will advance.
As the defending general, she naturally wouldn’t actually break through enemy lines recklessly by herself. Though she appeared to people as one person on one horse, in reality, the army behind her had divided into right, middle, and left lines, having long since been separated with corresponding deputy generals and commanders. They followed after her extremely quick advance without lagging behind in the least; the petite woman headed the troops, so would the men just be waiting around to die?
Lurcata was wrong. Black Tortoise Gate wasn’t easy to attack at all — and that was because the defending general was a young woman.
In a split second, the besieging side and the defending side seemed to magically flip.
A Pane rushed over to Helian Yi with quick steps and eloquently reported on the battle situation. Zhou Zishu frowned. “Your Majesty, should reinforcements be given to the Princess?”
Helian Yi shook his head.
Zhou Zishu wanted to say something else, but Jing Qi extended a finger to stop him. “Jing’an can handle it. She’s Great General Feng’s daughter.”
Helian Yi softly smiled upon hearing that, turning his head to ask, “When Father Emperor told you to take her as a wife back in the day, why didn’t you?”
Jing Qi shook his head with a bitter smile. “How could a good-for-nothing hedonist like me be a match for a heroine like her? Don’t be silly, Your Majesty.”
Immediately following that, his face grew stern again. “It looks like Jeshe is using that oaf to test the waters. The Vakurah cavalry has been running about all over the place all this time; is it to make us unable to figure out what their next action will be?”
“If that’s the case, then wouldn’t their next step be Jeshe’s army storming Martial Order Gate?” Zhou Zishu picked up.
Helian Yi shook his head. “It’s not the time for that… even though he will want to go head to head with us, that old wolf Jeshe is a bit more crafty than that. If he attacked Martial Order Gate right now, it likely wouldn’t be an inexpensive fight, though his military power is ultimately several times bigger than ours…”
“What you’re saying is that he’s paying his people as a price to wear down our army’s willpower, then ultimately succeed in one go?” Zhou Zishu asked.
Helian Yi slowly nodded.
The three of them were briefly silent once more. After a little under half a shichen, another Pane came to report, cheerfully stating that the Vakurah had already seen defeat at Black Tortoise Gate.
Helian Yi’s complexion, however, didn’t look great. After a long time, he said quietly, “Jing’an has a life-staking style of fighting. Even if this one was a victory, there will inevitably be a final time it won’t work.”
Jing Qi pondered for a while, then said, “I actually have a bit of an idea.”
Before he had time to speak it out, another Pane came in. “Reporting to the Emperor, the Vakurah army at Black Tortoise Gate was defeated and fell back!”
“What about Jing’an?” Helian Yi quickly asked.
“The Princess received some superficial wounds on her arm. It’s no major trouble,” the comer replied.
Helian Yi relaxed his heart some, but the Pane cast a look at Zhou Zishu, like he wanted to say something but was stopping himself. Zhou Zishu took notice, asking, “What? You have something else to say?”
“Manor Lord… no, Sir, this subordinate just caught sight of someone at the Princess’s side. It’s said that he’s a warrior, and has received quite a bit of her commendation…”
Zhou Zishu got an ominous feeling in his heart.
All he did was listen to the Pane proceed to say, “It’s Young Master Liang.”
The translator says: That’s what you get for disrespecting Mulan.
Also, for some reason, this chapter says that Feng Xiaoshu is at High Grace Gate (multiples times), when the last chapter said she was at Black Tortoise Gate, while Tie Ru was at High Grace Gate… and I don’t recall anything saying they were switching. Very odd. I converted it all to Black Tortoise Gate because I think that was an oversight.
 From Mencius’s Gong Sun Chou. (Read it here.)