This chapter has been brought to you by me, and larkspur.
Chapter 5: Time
Time passed steadily. This was perhaps the most just thing to every being in the world.
But for most of the powerful in Changling, the spring this year seemed to have slipped by faster than in the past years.
The reason it felt this fast was due to their urgency towards the great event that was the Deer Mountain Conference.
The Min Mountain Sword Trials was a proxy battle for countless nobility in Changling and a show of power and experience for the Qin Dynasty that all dynasties paid attention to, but it could not be talked about in the same manner as the Deer Mountain Conference that could determine the fate of the entire dynasty.
In the twilight, Fang Marquessate Establishment did not look any different than usual, but due to Fang Xiumu disobeying the Holy One and leaving without a farewell, it showed signs of decline in many people’s gaze.
In the military port of the Wei River, Ye Celeng stood on the deck of the enormous metal ship that had accompanied her out to sea. She looked into the distance at the Fang Marquessate Establishment and suddenly spoke to Han Sanshi, the old servant who followed her constantly, in a whisper. “The one who replaces Fang Xiumu to accompany the Holy One to the Deer Mountain Conference will be Fang Xiang.”
“Why?” Han Sanshi asked.
Her words were something that almost no one in Changling could understand.
Accompanying the monarch to the Deer Mountain Conference was a great honor. Now that Fang Xiumu had disobeyed the Holy One, even if Fang Marquessate Establishment was to use merit to make up for their mistake, moving the important Awesome General that was stationed at the passes was too great a move.
“Just wait and see.”
Ye Celeng shook her head and smiled coldly.
She was one of the few who understood Emperor Yuanwu. No one was clearer than her that the once most powerful of the thirteen marquises, the Fang Marquessate Establishment, would likely be the first to be destroyed.
As time passed, amidst the twilight, a beautiful mountain shrouded in mist appeared before Li Lingjun’s caravan.
The mountain was so clear, it felt like an entire world was pressing towards him. Li Lingjun’s eyes suffused with mist.
This was Mount Wu; this was the Chu lands.
After years of separation from the Chu lands, not to mention this great mountain, just a grass or a tree on this mountain would astound people.
In Li Lingjun’s caravan, naturally, there were many people from Chu who had followed him to Changling.
The way home was long, over many mountains and rivers. They had planned for the way home for more than a decade, and were prepared along the way with change of horses. They travelled day and night and reached this destination at half the usual time. Needless to say, everybody in the caravan was extremely exhausted.
Yet, at the sight of the lofty mountain, and the flora carpeting it, all of the people from Chu were thunderstruck. Their bodies trembled uncontrollably, and many started to sob.
The Wu Mountain was a natural barrier with many rapidly moving rivers. An army could not muster an ambush here. Usually, only merchant caravans traversed these roads, so on Li Lingjun’s journey back home, the last barrier of the Qin Dynasty was this Wu Mountain Fort guarded by hundreds of people. The Qin Dynasty and the Chu Dynasty’s most important strategic point was Yangshan Commandery, a breakpoint in the Wu Mountains. It cut deeply into the plains of the Chu Dynasty. The Yangshan Commandery had belonged to the Chu Dynasty since Yuanwu Year Three. Right now, the most important Qin military fort near the Wu Mountain Fort was the Cold Valley Fort, located just sixty miles from this place.
Unhindered, they had travelled from Changling to here. This checkpoint too had clearly received the relevant orders. When they saw the exit document of this caravan, they were allowed to pass, no one even inspected the baggage of the accompanying members.
When the caravan truly entered the path of the Wu Mountains carved by the passing horses and carriages, smelling the moist air of the Wu Mountains, Li Lingjun finally gave in to his emotions. He lifted the curtain and felt an impulse to kiss the earth of his homeland.
Yet, the moment he lifted the window curtain, a grey-robed old man sitting in a carriage at the front of the caravan suddenly opened his eyes. The clouds above the caravan seemed to spin as though a dragon was about to burrow out.
The expression of Li Lingjun and many other people in the caravan froze.
Even as the clouds changed color above the caravan, a patch of clouds ahead was as still as a rock.
It seemed that place had turned into a world belonging to one person. A middle-aged man dressed in blue gold patterned robes with a refined white jade hairpin in his hair appeared before everybody’s line of sight.
The moment he appeared, all the dust in the forest seemed to be blown away and everything became unusually pristine.
Feeling the flawless presence this person emanated, Li Lingjun’s breathing paused slightly. He deboarded the carriage without any hesitation and bowed slightly to this person. “Greetings to General Fan Wugou.”
As soon as Li Lingjun’s words were heard, the expressions of all the cultivators in the caravan changed. They knew that if this person came with the intent to kill Li Lingjun, even the elder in the first carriage could not stop him.
Fan Wugou was the master of Unsullied Palace, and also one of the strongest generals of the Chu Dynasty. His reputation and status was extremely close to the sect masters of the Qin Min Mountain Sword Sect and Spirit Void Sword Sect. And yet, he had appeared here today.
“Do not be nervous. I came on orders to take you to meet someone.” Powerful people naturally possessed their own aura. Fan Wugou nodded in greeting and said as he turned around, “Come along with me.”
Li Lingjun took a deep breath and nodded at the surrounding people. The spinning clouds above the caravan quickly disappeared as he followed Fan Wugou’s footsteps into the forest on the side.
Fan Wugou showed no hint of murderousness, but the presence he gave off put tremendous pressure on Li Lingjun. After a few breaths, Li Lingjun’s hands started to sweat.
“You have a good reputation in Changling, and I have also paid attention to your cultivation progress. In the past years, your progress has been exceptional, and surpassed almost all the disciples in my sect. But since five years ago, your cultivation progress has been unusually slow. Otherwise, by now, you should have entered realm seven. But you have not entered realm seven, and your energies are unbalanced … Since you have returned, do not worry so much. You have to know, your cultivation is your foundation for whether you can survive in the world.”
As he spoke slowly, Fan Wugou never once turned back.
His slight tension, was evident on Li Lingjun’s face even as he sincerely said, “This junior has learned.”
Fan Wugou stopped talking and continued to advance.
He passed through the forest without any paths. The surroundings grew more wild. After a quarter of an hour, he and Li Lingjun appeared at a meadow in the mountain.
With the mountains surrounding on three sides completely blocking off the cold wind, this place, clearly, was untouched by cold even in the winter.The unnamed grasses stood wait high here.
At the center of this alpine meadow was a small pond. Around the pond were several enormous tents that appeared unusually bright and warm with lanterns inside.
“The person who wants to see you is inside. You can walk over.” Fan Wugou said, coolly. He walked to the edge of the meadow and stood with his hands behind his back.
How important a person would have Fan Wugou act as the welcoming committee?
Li Lingjun thought of a possibility, but then dismissed it as impossible. His breathing accelerated. He did not dare to linger, and quickly walked into the meadow.
The closer he got to the tents by the pond, the more shocked Li Lingjun was.
The grass within thirty meters of the tents had been neatly cleared. The precious flowers covering the ground gave off a refreshing fragrance.
What shone with light inside the tents were not lanterns, but bright pearls.
Even the tent itself was pieced together with the hide of a white animal. Li Lingjun had never even seen this kind of animal before that would give off a unique fragrance.
A retinue of maids dressed in palace attire walked out of the nearby tents when he came close and bowed gracefully to him. They then held open the curtain to one of the tents for him to enter.
Li Lingjun’s breathing completely stopped.
These tents were connected together, as if a courtyard.
The interior of the tent was extremely beautiful, better than the best room in his establishment in Changling, and all the beautiful places in Changling.
This kind of beauty could only appear in the Chu Dynasty’s imperial palace.
Everything inside these many tents were the exact same as the beautiful palaces of the Chu Dynasty.
In the centermost tent, a beautiful woman with a breathtaking figure , stood with her back to him.
In front of the woman was a hot spring pool, whether man-made or natural, that emitted an enchanting white mist.
Li Lingjun finally confirmed that what he thought was impossible had come true.
He lowered his head almost in fear and after a moment’s hesitation said, “Mother-Queen.”
“When you left the city of Cheng, you were still a child …” A beautiful voice sounded. The stunning woman said slowly with a hint of emotion, “…you do not have to hurry back to Cheng City right now. What you need to do is to accompany me to Deer Mountain and wait.”
Li Lingjun’s breathing paused. He finally understood why this woman, who possessed endless power like Zheng Xiu, was here. He said in a trembling voice, “Is Father-King’s cavalcade about to arrive?”
The stunning woman did not turn around. She only nodded and said, “It’s about time … attend me into the bath.”
Li Lingjun’s body trembled all over. His mind was blank.
In the next moment, he started to understand what had happened.
He finally understood what method Su Qin had employed for him to return to the Chu so easily.
Yet, this kind of thing … Su Qin hadn’t even told him!
His mouth grew dry like he had swallowed sand.
As the stunning woman waited for him, her soft body slowly became hard and cold due to his hesitation.
Li Lingjun was filled with unspeakable emotion, but he knew what he should do at this moment.
“Yes.” His heart was brimming with the desire to kill Su Qin, but his expression was just as warm as usual. He slowly walked forward, and his hands landed on the stunning woman’s shoulders.
As the mist thickened, night started to gradually envelope the Wu Mountain.
In the hot spring pool inside the tent, the water sounded like whispers.
Translator Ramblings: I’m not sure if there’s a historical example of an emperor’s consort having relations with an emperor’s son but that feels like it is quite likely …