MN 75: The Final Battle (5)

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MN stands for Mystery Novel. Which one is this, actually? Probably starts with Lord and ends with Seventh. Who knows?]

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Zhou Zishu was consequently shocked hard, only managing to stammer out questions ages after, “You… you said who? Liang Jiuxiao?”

The Pane nodded. Seeing that the other’s human-skin mask couldn’t conceal the tragic expression he had, he promptly and tactfully lowered his head.

Helian Yi coughed lightly. “Zishu, how about you go take a look?”

Zhou Zishu mutely took back his gaze, then waved to make the Pane leave. Jing Qi sighed, as well. “Zishu, you should go peek. I’ll be here with His Majesty.”

Helian Yi side-eyed him. “It’d be the same without you, anyways. If we count on you to defend us, it would be a lot more straightforward if we just went ahead and found a piece of white silk to hang ourself from a crook-necked tree with.”

“You’ve misspoken, Your Majesty,” Jing Qi replied, deadly serious. “Even a chair or a table could be repurposed for blocking a sword on the eve of battle. I’m not big and strong, but a real-life person of such a size is enough to act as a meat shield.”

Helian Yi watched him, suddenly unable to say anything. He thought, this could be considered being together in both life and death, right?

Zhou Zishu paid both of their jokes no mind, tongue-tied for a time, but ultimately shook his head lightly. “You’ve ordered everyone to never leave their posts without authorization. It wouldn’t be good to make an exception for me.”

“We ordered you to go. How is that leaving without authorization?”

The other smiled bitterly, shaking his head again. “Once the battle is over, I’ll go nab him, hang him up in the torture room of Heaven’s Pane, and give him a good trashing with a switch. Now… now, knowing that he’s at the Princess’s side is fine.”

He didn’t want to go see him, getting the overall feeling that running off, especially at this time, would be exactly like going to go see him for the final time — it wasn’t lucky.

In this world, no one was anyone’s, and lonesomeness reined in each cardinal direction. Even so, he was deeply anxious for him, and honestly terrified.

On the sixth day of the siege, clamor arose from all over. The Nine Gates met with attacks of varying degrees, but still, no one retreated in defeat, nor surrendered.

On the seventh day of the siege, there was bitter fighting.

During the night of the eighth day, the wind picked up all of a sudden, and dark clouds densely coated the sky above the capital. The war stopped for a break, the lookout posts as strictly guarded as ever.

It wasn’t known who took out a flute, but they tooted out a little tune that was off-beat, sounded awful, and had no clear purpose. For some reason, however, hearing it caused one to feel a chill crawl across their back — the sound was not in-tune, yet the harsh, mournful peal of deep autumn automatically permeated it.

A number of horses were finishing being prepared. Jing Qi was in black clothes, making him even more thin. “Follow close behind me, and be careful,” he said, voice grave and hushed. “I know that you’re all more familiar with the outer roads of the city than I am, but don’t forget that the Vakurah cavalry are patrolling the camp outside.”

Two Panes in night-walking clothes ran over, hauling along a large, bulging cloth bag. Looking at the tracks it left on the ground, it weighed about several hundred catties.

“Prince, it’s ready.”

Jing Qi reached out to pull open the top of the bag, glanced inside, then closed it, smiling. “Our Retired Emperor actually managed to do something good.”

He got onto his horse, and quietly said, “Head out.”

“Beiyuan!” Helian Yi abruptly called out.

Jing Qi looked back at him, the gloomy color of his collar that was getting flipped up by the wind lining up against his pointed chin. The smile at the corners of his mouth hadn’t yet faded, his peach blossom-esque eyes raised slightly and shining brightly, his slender brows curving towards his temples — he was shockingly handsome.

Helian Yi’s heart skipped a beat. He regretted calling out to him like that.

“Your Majesty?”

Helian Yi paused, then slowly took a few steps forward. Under the impression that he wanted to say something, Jing Qi leaned over, only to be caught off guard by the other hugging him. A cheek that had been blasted ice-cold by the night wind was pressed close against his neck, as if he was about to be roughly dragged off his steed and firmly forced into Helian Yi’s arms.

The horse took a few tiny steps in place.

Jing Qi was stunned for a second, hand still clutching the reins, and didn’t know how he ought to react. Three hundred years… he had once waited three hundred years just for this hug. Yet, now that he had long refused to wait any longer, he had been put into this awkward position without warning. His shoulders were pulled down low, pushed into the hollow of Helian Yi’s own. It wasn’t the least bit warm, solely causing sorrow to emerge in one’s heart.

If only… if only, in the previous life, you weren’t the Rongjia Emperor, and I wasn’t Prince Nan’ning.

“Why must it be you that goes?” Helian Yi had kept bearing with this, but ultimately couldn’t bear with not speaking these words softly into Jing Qi’s ear, for him alone to hear. Coming to this point, he already couldn’t hold in even a bit of selfishness, and with manifold reluctance to part with him, he could only say this solely to him.

Jing Qi blinked, then replied with the same sort of softness, “Have you forgotten, Your Majesty? I’m the only one that knows the route.”

Helian Yi closed his eyes. “Beiyuan…”

Back when I told you leave, why didn’t you?

However, he had already asked that question, and gotten an answer. He also wanted to ask: that character of affinity that you calculated for me back on the roadside, could it be invalidated? Could it be changed? He also wanted to say: you calculated it badly, so can I have that rabbit that I used as a divination tip back?

Those words tried to outdo each other in getting out first, though, and crowded up in his throat. Jing Qi lightly patted his shoulder, shook free of his arms, straightened up, and immediately gave him a look. Cupping his fists in front of his chest, he threw out one serious remark: “Take care of yourself well, Your Majesty.”

Then, he spurred his horse on ahead, and left.

In this endless, transient life, from whence should reassurance come?

There was only silence, only one figure moving away, slowly merging into the night. Thus, the one with sentiments couldn’t see him, nor ruminate on him, left with only a mouth full of bitterness.

A sorrow that could not be surpassed.[1]

Jing Qi was indeed the only one that knew this route, and the area they were going to was just upstream of Fullmoon River. A few people of Heaven’s Pane followed behind him like shadows. Two young guys carried that big, several-hundred-catty sack across their shoulders on an iron pole, each tugging it along with one of its end. Fortunately, their horses were good, and didn’t get shoved down to their stomachs from the weight.

When their group noiselessly cut across the Vakurah’s circle, it was unfortunately spotted by a cavalryman. Jing Qi swiftly and decisively raised his hand, and a Pane immediately climbed over onto the back of the calvary’s horse like a demon, covered his mouth, then twisted, snapping his neck.

Heaven’s Pane had only scouts and killers.

Jing Qi felt that since he might have an origin that couldn’t be exposed to the light, he had innately grown a framework in his flesh that couldn’t be exposed to the light, just-so-happening to share the same stench as Zhou Zishu; he wasn’t a commander with the capacity for leading a vast army, but he had the ability to take advantage of the nighttime to perform some nefarious tricks. Horse not pausing in its tracks, he simply took a small bottle out from his lapels and tossed it to the one that murdered the guy.

That was something that Wu Xi had given him for self-defense before going to the Guangs — Skeletonizer.[2]

The Pane that had finished dealing with the corpse then quickly caught back up.

Passing through the Vakurah’s encampment like so, more on-edge than in-danger the whole journey, made Jing Qi unable to resist turning to look back. He thought to himself, if I could turn my horse around now and search out Jeshe’s tent, shooting him to death with an arrow would be more than great.

Of course, that was just a pretty fantasy. They had only detoured outside the cavalry’s circle, and that was already quite difficult. Were they to actually enter, they likely wouldn’t have enough good fortune to compensate for the losses.

They followed the small path Wu Xi had brought him down before, all the way until they hit the source of Fullmoon River.

Sighing ruefully on the inside, he thought of how stifled Wu Xi had to have been from living in this cell-like Imperial City, to have then strolled far outside in its outskirts. How many times did he wander around before he found a place as remote as this?

He ought to be back in Nanjiang now, right?

Him being safe and sound was good.

The wind curled dark clouds up. Finally, there came the sound of a harsh lightning strike, making the entire world even shake.

Jing Qi, however, was delighted. He had found someone to take a night survey of the sky’s tells, and they stated that there would be rain this night, but they hadn’t foreseen that there could also be lightning this season — seeing this at present allowed one to self-soothe with the line, ‘The Great Qing’s fate isn’t finished just yet.’ Several people dismounted at the area near the source in the upper reaches of the River. With large beads of rain now coming down, Jing Qi wiped his face. Only now did he learn of what was called ‘harsh winds and bitter rain’… he couldn’t care about himself right now. He called for them to open up that big bag, and inside it was two strange beasts.

However, upon a closer look, these weren’t strange beasts at all; it was clearly an extremely massive white wolf that had the size of two. The strangest thing was that, on top of its head, there was a tuft of gray hair that looked like a crown.

“Prince, is this… a wolf?” A Pane couldn’t keep from asking.

Jing Qi shook out a couple of blood-red ribbons from the bag, used his teeth to tear them up, and nimbly bound the big wolf carcass, using some sort of fairly peculiar method to tie the knot. Quickly following that, he sliced open his palm, causing blood to drip onto the wolf’s fur, and once that got hit by the rain, it immediately diluted, dying a huge patch.

After he finished, he chuckled. “Wolf? This isn’t an ordinary wolf.”

The rain fell down in buckets all night, yet the Vakurah guard’s night watch wasn’t slack in the least, and he remained cautious in his defense. All of a sudden, a crude wooden raft floated down from upstream of the river that flowed straight into the capital, and there seemed to be something on top of it. He rubbed his eyes, the rain having made his vision blurry.

As the raft got closer and closer, the guard got a clear view of what it was, and his mouth gradually came to gape wide, eyes nearly bulging out. With a grotesque sound coming from his throat, he slowly raised a hand to point at the river, too scared to even speak.

Jeshe was awoken from his dreaming with a start. He slept lightly, keeping his weapon by his pillow in wait for dawn — the instant there was a racket outside, he swiftly opened his eyes. Before he could rebuke them all, his personal guard came scrambling and stumbling in. “Chief, Chief… a white wolf! There’s a blood-smeared white wolf!”

Jeshe pushed him away, taking huge strides out.

An increasing amount of Vakurah troops had assembled beside the river without orders. Another lightning bolt struck, illuminating the terror on everyone’s faces with cold blue light.

“The alleged ‘blood-smeared white wolf’ is said to be an extremely malevolent curse.” Jing Qi carefully bandaged up the wound on his hand, lightly smiling. The clothes he wore were completely soaked through, sticking close against his body, but he spoke as calmly as ever. “The Vakurah believe that wolves are envoys from Heaven, especially white ones with gray fur on their head, which can fly. Such wolves may not be killed. Legend has it that a demon once enticed the Chief of the Luwa clan to drink white wolf blood, use a blood-red ribbon to tie the wolf’s body up just like that, then sprinkle blood-red carnelian about, so that he could obtain ultimate power. The Luwa Chief did just that, also on a heavily raining night, and then…”

Another lightning strike came down, nearly drowning out his voice in it. “Three days later, the entire Luwa tribe — men, women, elders, and children — had died, not a one left. There was not even a single living thing remaining for dozens of li around.”

A Pane opened his eyes wide. “Prince, is… is that… true?”

Jing Qi raised a brow. “It’s rubbish, of course. The Luwa were clearly annihilated by a nearby tribe. That tribe had once settled on an agreement with them, but took a liking to their pastureland, so they went back on their word. Out of fear that they’d be cursed as bitches, they made up a tale like that to establish a memorial archway that would keep their good name.”

The group of Panes were speechless.

Jing Qi started silently laughing, standing with his hands behind his back in the rain. “Jeshe probably knows this story, but those bullish soldiers he commands won’t understand that that raft going downstream had been made so everyone could see it clearly, disallowing him from keeping it hush-hush… even if he can rely on his accumulated might and tough methods to suppress this, he won’t be able to control the unrest in the heart of the army. At this moment, it would naturally be smartest to make a swift attack, using killing and fighting energy to dispel fears.”

The capital’s defense was akin to an iron barrel, but it wouldn’t last long, and couldn’t withstand Jeshe’s arduous prolonging tactics, nor him wearing it down by probing each and every place.

‘I’ll have you all be cautious, then force you to have no choice but to stake everything in one go…’

He spoke more, voice sullen.

“Jeshe has definitely thought up of someone playing a trick upstream. Everyone, prepare your weapons. We might not be going back.”


[1] The full line is ‘Being separated in life and death is a sorrow that can not be surpassed’, from the Nine Songs: The Little Lord of Lives in the Chu Ci. (Full version here.)
[2] This is literally another name for hydrogen fluoride. (Do NOT google the effects it has on skin.)

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Character Guide and Glossary

5 thoughts on “MN 75: The Final Battle (5)

  1. Can someone help me understand this statement:

    If only… if only, in the previous life, you weren’t the Rongjia Emperor, and I wasn’t Prince Nan’ning.

    Does it mean that JQ would be together with HY if that statement was true? For me, I would have thought that it would be more like ‘ thank goodness you’re the Emperor and I’m Prince Nan’ning, because I wouldn’t have met WX otherwise’!?? 😳

    Like

    • I think it’s more of nostalgia. The what ifs and the what could have been. The one that came too late kind of feeling. Ah if only… but in this life it didn’t have that feeling anymore.

      Like

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