Chapter 1 Schemes
The full moon came with the tide, the river in spring connected to the sea.
With the moon high in the sky, Emperor Yuanwu, who liked dressing in plain clothes, walked out of the imperial study and stepped onto the star-viewing platform. Seeing the astronomer’s record showing “a demon star falls into the Wei River, deep red in color, feared to be inauspicious,” he used a brush and changed it to “The spring of Yuanwu Year Twelve, an auspicious star comes from the heavens, all things are suitable.”
The moon was not yet full, just lacking a corner. But when he looked up at this moon from a tall place, he was very satisfied.
There was never complete perfection in the world.
Even though the great rebels had not been killed, even though someone had wanted to use the situation to kill Fu Su, he had achieved what he needed. Before the start of the Deer Mountain Conference, Changling would be completely peaceful, and the Qin Dynasty would advance steadily. As to those pieces … sometimes, chess pieces were only valuable if they were alive. The strongest emperor was not the best one at killing, but the one able to play a peerless match.
One’s conception would determine their different states.
He did not care about the moves and victories of ordinary cultivators, but the entire world.
At the same time, a caravan that looked like a merchant caravan was advancing on the imperial highway. This caravan was about two days of travel away from Changling. Li Lingjun, whose hair had been dyed black by medicine, was also looking at the bright moon missing a corner through the window of his carriage.
The Li Lingjun Establishment in Changling looked the same as usual. There was even a lamp shining in his study. Yet no one knew that he had formally stepped onto the path home.
Fish Market grew busy as many people moved like ghosts under the rain huts. The hunchbacked old man holding the bamboo staff looked calm, and urged the red-dressed woman sitting in front of the zither stand. “Eldest Miss, you must leave Changling.”
“These are not just your wishes. Do the uncles in court also have the same intentions?” the red-dressed woman looked at him and asked softly.
The hunchbacked old man nodded and said, “The reason we survived in Changling was due to Emperor Yuanwu knew that we seclude ourselves from the world, and just ask for shelter. But since they have acted against us, this means they want this Fish Market to change. This time, they are giving us a warning because of the uncles in court.”
The red-dressed woman nodded and sighed. She said gently, “While they say so, when one is born in Changling, one will stay in Changling in order to see clearly, even if it results in death. Ye Celeng will not leave, how can I leave?”
The hunchbacked old man’s gaze darkened slightly. He could not think of anything convincing to say.
The red-dressed woman said softly, “Other people do not know, but we investigated Song Shenshu’s corpse immediately that day. It was undoubtedly the Nine Death Silkworm. Fourth Mister Zhao’s sword is destroyed, Bai Shanshui has left with serious injury. Even if the two of them are able to survive, Emperor Yuanwu can act as he pleases at the Deer Mountain Conference just as he wished to. He will not care about an orphan like me right now.”
The hunchbacked old man inhaled deeply and did not speak.
Fang Xiumu was watching the moon at this time. He was standing on the rock where Zhao Si and Ye Celeng had stood upon. He looked at the bright moon with its missing corner reflected in the river water.
There was also an incomplete moon in his mind.
The river water slammed onto the rock under his feet and created layers of waves.
While he had not been part of the situation and couldn’t have seen the astounding battle that occurred here with his own eyes, he could imagine the scenes of battle from minuscule traces and changes in the primal energies of the universe.
Fire falling from the sky, a blue whirlpool in the river, the One Sky Water shattering the whirlpool … the final scene imprinted in his mind was Ye Celeng walking here and sitting down on this rock in tiredness.
Why had Bai Shanshui and Zhao Yi been able to be so arrogant and willful in fighting? Why had Ye Celeng dared to appear in front of the pair and stay in Changling?
He looked at the incomplete moon in the river water and felt that he lacked something compared to these people.
Previously, unable to disobey the Holy One, his breakthrough had lacked just a sliver of spring. Now, feeling the presence left behind by the three spectacular women, he started to understand.
The lacking part could not be found again. It was really due to him. What he lacked was not mastery, but restraint and spirit.
“Take off clothing and go!” A shout sounded in his mind.
The worry on his expression immediately disappeared. A joyful smile hard to describe appeared on his lips. He took off all his clothes and jumped barefoot into the river. He laughed out loud as he allowed the black river water to wash his body further away from Changling.
This was the strongest sword essence he had formed ever in his life. He cut all the restraints tying him to the Fang Marquessate Establishment, the imperial palace, and this dynasty.
During this night, some people stayed and some people left.
In the great situation set up by the strongest Qin emperor in history, the first accident finally occurred.
Fang Xiumu did not become a powerful sword he could take along to the Deer Mountain Conference. He chose to leave.
“Luring Bai Shanshui into Fish Market, Zhao Si and Bai Shanshui fought. If Zhao Si was determined to get revenge for Zhao Zhan, after the fight and an ambush by Lian Bo, Shen Xuan and the others, I fear that Zhao Si, Bai Shanshui, and even Zhao Yi would have died. Such great acts,” In the wine shop in Falling Parasol, Ding Ning spoke slowly. He did not observe the moon, and looked at Zhangsun Qianxue’s features that were better looking than the moon.
Shen Yi was from a major household of Guanzhong and naturally had many sources of information. Two Level Tower had different means of getting information. Fish Market was also not far from Falling Parasol, and Zhangsun Qianxue had been able to sense many presences. So the astounding situation today grew clearer in Ding Ning’s mind at this time.
“There is the presence of the Tin Mountain Sword Box.”
Zhangsun Qianxue knew without thinking that her murder of Fan Zhuo had coincidentally been the spark to ignite this entire situation. She said with a small frown, “This is Li Lingjun’s trump card. The seal weapon has almost realm seven second class power. What benefit did Emperor Yuanwu promise him that he would give up something like this?”
Ding Ning sneered. “Naturally, to permit him to return to Chu.”
Zhangsun Qianxue said, “Isn’t the price be too great?”
Ding Ning glanced at her and said, “Who knows how many people in the Chu Dynasty do not want him to return? This price is not too great to guarantee his safe return to Chu.”
Zhangsun Qianxue’s brow furrowed and she said, “I do not mean that he paid a great price. I mean the Qin Dynasty paid too great a price to trade the safe return to Chu for the Tin Mountain Sword Box.”
“You feel that Li Lingjun is so exceptional that the Qin Dynasty will have another young and powerful emperor in its enemy country?” Ding Ning shook his head coldly. “In terms of cunning, Li Lingjun is far less than Zheng Xiu. Since Zheng Xiu has allowed him to return, it shows that she does not think that Li Lingjun is a match for her. Or rather, she has absolute control over this matter. In that great battle in Yuanwu Year Three, our dynasty’s army had two hundred thousand killed, and countless chariots lost. We had to surrender Yangshan Commandery. One son in exchange for six hundred miles of land. This is a great humiliation. Just watch. This time, at the Deer Mountain Conference, Emperor Yuanwu will primarily target the Chu Dynasty. After the Deer Mountain Conference, if there are no accidents, Yangshan Commandery will be returned. In the future, the first enemy country to be destroyed will be the Chu Dynasty.”
Ding Ning paused and then sneered. He said, “Compared to killing Bai Shanshui and Zhao Si, having Li Lingjun return to the Chu is the most important part of this situation. Li Lingjun is exceptional, but he has stayed too long in Changling. After staying so long in Changling, people know everything about him.”
Zhangsun Qianxue’s expression grew more displeased. She did not like complicated matters, and she disliked people with complicated minds even more.
Also, she had never liked Zheng Xiu.
A thread of coldness appeared in her eyes as she said slowly, “I remember that child’s presence.”
The words were abrupt but Ding Ning understood. He said after a moment of silence, “I know that he should be Fu Su.”
“Who wants to kill him?” she asked after a moment of silence.
“Someone wanted to use this situation to kill Fu Su. A person who is capable of doing this will not be any of the ordinary nobility. The two ministers? The nobility behind the other imperial sons, and even Zheng Xiu are possibilities.” Ding Ning shook his head, looked at her and said, “Conflicts of court like this are the most complicated, just like the conflicts between wives and concubines in rich families.”
Zhangsun Qianxue frowned and said in a cool tone, “Zheng Xiu is also a possibility? Why would she kill her son?”
“Maybe this is just an act. Even if I did not act with full power, she would have other preparations?” Ding Ning said coldly. “Or maybe this is another scheme where she is purposefully making people feel that this is a conspiracy from someone else.”
Conflicts of the palace were too complicated. Zhangsun Qianxue had no interest in thinking about them. She closed her eyes and started to cultivate. But just like the bright moon lacking a corner, she could not calm down and look inside herself.
She opened her eyes again and looked at Ding Ning, asking, “Is he that person’s son?”
Ding Ning looked at her eyes and shook his head firmly and seriously. “No.”
Zhangsun Qianxue did not say anything and closed her eyes. For some reason, her frosty expression was colder than usual.
Ding Ning also closed his eyes. At the same time, he thought, Maybe we can make the emperor feel he is.
Translator Ramblings: So there’s a man streaking through the water …