This chapter has been brought to you by me, and larkspur.
Chapter 57: Unwelcome Guests
The country could not go a day without a ruler, the imperial palace not a day without its monarch.
Any imperial cavalcade would usually try to be as fast as possible when they were returning. Watching the scenery was something idle people did. A monarch was never idle.
Yet, the imperial procession of the Chu Dynasty stopped at Wancheng.
Wancheng originally belonged to the Han, and was a region that the Chu Dynasty acquired after the Han Dynasty was destroyed and divided. Wancheng and Deer Mountain were just several cities away, less than a hundred miles of distance. It naturally was a border city, and not an important city with soldiers and grain.
Staying for long at a place like this was unwise. Yet, almost everybody in the imperial cavalcade knew why.
The emperor of Chu was truly close to death. Many knew that this longest-reigning emperor had problems with his health long ago. As Deer Mountain Conference started, his energies were used up through the violent primal energies of the universe at Deer Mountain and the deaths of numerous grandmasters. His energy seemed completely used up, and the hidden wounds in his body exploded.
The emperor of Chu was without an appealing reputation. He was lustful, mediocre, and disliked governing. Only the old officials who had accompanied him for many years knew that his low-key peace and even his muddleheadedness were just a facade. His blindness and lack of actions were only forgiveness and inaction at many times.
So, in the Chu Dynasty, no one looked down upon him. Not many even opposed him. They could judge him, look down upon him, but they also respected him.
The palace at Wancheng had been completed long before the emperor of Chu had arrived. On the dragon bed, the emperor of Chu was leaning against cushions. His gaze wished to focus, but was scattered. So his expression was calm, and slightly helpless and sentimental.
Consort Zhao Xiang looked down at him and held both of his hands.
“I thought that you could at least last until the imperial capital.” She slowly said, “I hadn’t expected this to be so quick.”
The emperor of Chu felt the softness and warmth of her hands. He smiled slightly and said, “I also had not imagined this. Who would’ve thought I would encounter Mo Shoucheng at Goddess Peak.”
Consort Zhao Xiang was silent but her hands started to tense, the joints lighting up.
“Do not do this.” The emperor of Chu shook his head.
Consort Zhao Xiang shook her head stubbornly. She looked at him and said, “It is alright if you die on a war campaign, but dying on the way back from Deer Mountain … This is not good for your reputation. In the future, I do not wish to hear people say you were frightened out of your wits by Emperor Yuanwu’s sword, your illness recurred, and you passed away. While your reputation and mine have never been good, I do not want you to have a reputation like this when you leave.”
“This is also fine.” The emperor of Chu shook his head, looking at her and saying, “I just want you to endure.”
“Endure?” Consort Zhao Xiang did not understand his meaning.
The emperor of Chu nodded. “In your governance, you just have to endure, you do not have to do anything, just endure. No matter what losses you suffer, you shall endure.”
Consort Zhao Xiang still did not understand and asked, “Why?”
“Because this will let the Chu exist for longer than the Yan and Qi.” The emperor of Chu smiled and said, “Maybe you will endure until the Qin is dead.”
Consort Zhao Xiang looked at him and wanted to say something. But she sensed something, and her hands grew stiff.
The emperor of Chu smiled tiredly and said, “Regardless of what you seem like in the eyes of the Chu and the historiographers, I am very reassured giving the Chu to you.”
After saying this, he slowly closed his eyes and seemed to fall into an exhausted sleep.
Consort Zhao Xiang held his hand. She looked at him for a long time and said, “Your Majesty, do not worry. I will do my best.”
Then she stood up and walked towards the outside.
“His Majesty has passed away.”
Her voice echoed through the cold palace and formed into thunder in the spring.
“HIs Majesty has passed away!”
Orders and cries of grief rang out.
Her figure seemed to freeze under the eaves of the palace like a statue. Her face was like jade and did not show grief from start to finish. It wasn’t that she was not grieving, but for many, there was no time to linger over grief.
The emperor of Chu died during his travels.
For Changling, in the spring of Yuanwu Year Twelve, as the news passed into the streets and alleys, the noblest woman of Changling returned to Changling, and the inner palace which belonged to her.
When her figure appeared on the stone path with the statues on both sides, one could see Fu Su already waiting here.
Looking at Fu Su who delightfully bowed, her perfect eyes showed a doting that quickly turned to absolute calm.
“You can no longer attend the Min Mountain Sword Trials,” she looked at Fu Su and said.
Fu Su froze slightly, his face paling. He asked, “Mother-Empress, why?”
“I know that friendship is very important to you, and I know I promised to allow you to participate in the Min Mountain Sword Trials.” The empress looked gently at him and said, “I allowed you to participate in the Min Mountain Sword Trials, meaning you could move freely outside the palace. But your identity is now different.”
Fu Su was dazed.
“Because there haven’t been any accidents at the Deer Mountain Conference.”
The empress looked up into the distance and said softly, “So you will soon become the crown prince … It is nothing to have an imperial son moving around, but a just established crown prince is different.”
“It is not appropriate for the crown prince to attend an event like that. Also, I cannot give you more time to play … You have many things to learn and do.”
“I think you understand.”
Hearing these words, Fu Su’s head drooped. He understood these truths, but he couldn’t help but feel sad.
“I know you are a little sad, but if that wine shop youth is outstanding enough, you will naturally have more chances to interact.”
The empress seemed to have read his thoughts and her tone gentled greatly. “That youth performed well at Wu Mountain. I am very satisfied, and will reward him greatly.”
Hearing her words, Fu Su’s eyes suddenly lit up. He became happy, happy for his friend’s encounters.
“Thank you, Mother-Empress.”
In his view, since she had said “great rewards,” then the rewards would naturally be significant. Maybe this would be enough to make sure Ding Ning successfully pass the Min Mountain Sword Trials, and enter the Min Mountain Sword Sect to cultivate.
But he did not know that a person had many facets. The noblest woman in Changling would have many different aspects to how she treated one matter.
The reward was just one aspect.
“They are so extravagant and luxurious to carve so many flowers on even a window sill. But this is more suitable for firewood than the door. It saves some effort.”
“This is iron wood. It is not so easy to cut up.”
A man in rough clothes, holding an axe, looked at the wooden windowsill that only had a few extra marks. He looked up in disbelief at Ding Ning who had spoken in warning. “How can the wood be so hard?”
“It will sink if thrown into water. Of course it is hard.”
Ding Ning gave a small smile and said, “If you want to cut it into firewood, you have to find a large axe. Otherwise, I fear you will take till tomorrow morning with your axe.”
“Bah! They take such care with a windowsill and managed to carve such patterns into such a hard wood. How much effort did this take? How much silver did they squander with their extravagances?”
The axe-holding man spat, and shoved his axe into his belt. He no longer wanted to spend any effort on this windowsill. At the same time, he said in disdain, “No wonder the Chu Dynasty benefited so much from us, but aren’t able to win against us nine years later and gave such a large land to us.”
Ding Ning smiled and didn’t speak. At the same time, he looked along the man’s gaze at a courtyard.
This courtyard took up a large area, and had many buildings. It originally should have been beautiful, but at a glance, it was in ruins. The buildings inside had been torn down, the tall walls stained, and many holes had been made.
Shen Yi was next to Ding Ning.
Shen Yi looked at the ruined state through the large holes in the wall and sighed. “I had not expected Li Lingjun’s establishment to become like this in just a few days.”
No one was privy to the conversation that took place in the deepest part of the Great Floating Water Prison. Yet, everything corresponded to the words of the strongest strategist in the history of Qin.
When the celebratory air spread recklessly through the streets of Changling, many people could not avoid thinking of their enmity.
At the start, many Changling people who had lost relatives in the battle with the Chu only threw what they had on hand at the walls of Li Lingjun’s establishment. But when more people gathered, this kind of fury could not be easily controlled and turned into a frenzy.
The first day, the walls and gates were broken, and many valuables were stolen.
The second day, some furniture were looted.
The third day, even the valuable flora and usable wood were taken away.
Starting on the night of the third day, even stone material and the beams of the buildings were pulled down by ropes and hauled away.
At this time, the scattered objects of Li Lingjun’s establishment could be seen in many streets and alleys of Changling.
Li Lingjun’s establishment, that had once been a legend in Changling, in just these few days, was reduced to ruins.
Ding Ning had come to spectate on the first day of Li Lingjun’s establishment being looted. Just as he had thought, the people left to guard the establishment destroyed and took away everything valuable to cultivators or the court when they saw the situation was uncontrollable. He could only see if there was anything left of value to him, so he could obtain some clues.
A few days was naturally not enough to search for clues from the details of the enormous establishment of Li Lingjun.
Just like the many who were exceptionally content upon entering Li Lingjun’s establishment multiple times, Ding Ning once again entered Li Lingjun’s establishment.
The poor man with the axe on his belt roamed the untended establishment while Ding Ning and Shen Yi, who had entered with him, walked towards one of the half-fallen towers deeper inside.
At this moment, one could see Li Yunrui walking into Li Lingjun’s establishment from the other side.
Translator Ramblings: I forgot to even mention the teleportation that occurred in the previous chapter. Actual teleportion, not moving quickly.