This chapter has been brought to you by me, and larkspur.
Chapter 4: Care
In this day and night, many astounding matters had happened in Changling.
Ding Ning, newly in realm five, killed Palace Attendant Rong who had reached the peak of realm six. The empress, who was usually secluded in the palace, had left the palace, allowing many people to see her face.
Then all the wells in Changling had boiled with crimson water. Supposedly, the rebel Bai Shanshui of Cloud Water Palace had returned to Changling again and killed a Qin grandmaster.
Even more shocking news came later. The general of the Northern Tiger-Wolf Army, Liang Lian, was assassinated in the camp.
For the ordinary people of Changling, this kind of matter was inconceivable. Yet for the people at the top of Changling, Liang Lian’s death meant that one rumor was true.
That person’s Nine Death Silkworm had been inherited. The Nine Death Silkworm had started its revenge.
Most cultivators in Changling were not as wise and sensible as Mo Shoucheng. Even though three years before Emperor Yuanwu’s ascension, the history books of Qin started to erase all of that person’s traces, but for a long time before that, that person had been a legend in the hearts of most people, and someone they worshipped fanatically.
His sword was enough to defeat the heroes of the world. He won all battles. He possessed the most perfect woman in the world. He defeated three dynasties in succession. He made the Qin Dynasty into the strongest dynasty into the world. A person like this, due to a simple betrayal followed by a long bloody suppression, disappeared from Changling.
Many people could not resist and silently accepted this reality. Yet many times, when they thought of that person’s name and dared to mention that person, that person was still the symbol of invincibility in their minds.
Even though he died in battle in the end, how many realm seven swordsmen died at his hands at the time? That person was invincible.
A feeling of invincibility would give people confidence.
The faint moonlight refracted off the clear crystals, turning into blurry lights that fell onto the lotus pond in front of the empress. A man dressed in cloth robes walked in on the path she faced until he walked to her side, and looked at the lotuses in the pond with her.
In all of Changling, only one man could possess such an air. He was naturally Emperor Yuanwu.
“Do not care about that Nine Death Silkworm.”
“The danger is not the Nine Death Silkworm itself, but that it can drive people’s hearts.”
“What are you preparing to do?”
“There is something I wanted to do but never did. All the cultivators of all cultivation places of Qin should be recruited into the army as desired to fight for the country.”
“How do you prepare to implement this?”
“The Yuezhi has already submitted, the Wu remains. If the Donghu is conquered, we will have no more troubles when fighting the Yan and Qi.”
The two conversed simply like a common husband and wife of many years discussing household affairs. Yet the pair both had an unquestioned and powerful presence in their tone, so if the contents of their conversation leaked, it was enough to create storms.
Cultivators were above the world, and had some special privileges in the mortal realm. Most cultivation places did not have relations to court and possess exceptional status. So even though White Goat Cave merging into Green Vine Sword School caused many matters, and Ding Ning killed Palace Attendant Rong in the end, this all appeared to be a victory for White Goat Cave’s resistance for many people.
There were also many cultivators from these cultivation places that would enter the military due to their sect, their fellow sect brothers and elders having positions in the Qin military. They would join the military, cultivate, and stay in the army, becoming commanders and making contributions.
Most of the generals and officials in the Qin military and court came from such ways. When military reward and killing enemies were closely related, gradually most cultivators entered the cultivation places with hopes of achieving great merit and receiving lands and titles.
For some cultivators of poor birth whose ancestors did not have military merit, they had even more urgent desires. So this was a process that had turned from habit to natural.
Yet the strongest empress in the history of Qin was discussing how to forcibly change this natural process. Recruiting cultivators from cultivation places into the army to fight through the court orders was no different than the court taking over all cultivation places.
If the cultivation places knew of this, they would be angry and panicked. Yet these cultivation places did not know, long ago before Ba Mountain Sword Field disappeared, the couple standing by the lotus pond had thoughts of applying this order to all Qin cultivation places except for Min Mountain Sword Sect and Spirit Void Sword Sect. Their thoughts had never rested over these many years.
Also, other than Mo Shoucheng who had hidden worries, no one in Changling would think that the empress would even dare to start a war just to implement this decree!
The emperor in cloth robes next to her did not even frown. He just thought and said in a calm tone, “Wait a bit?”
The empress thought, and then nodded without expressing any objection.
Emperor Yuanwu held her hand and stood quietly for a long time. Before leaving, he said peacefully, “Do not care about the past.”
The empress said after a moment of silence, “I only care whether you will forever stand by my side.”
Emperor Yuanwu smiled and said, “No need to doubt.”
The empress smiled as well.
When Emperor Yuanwu’s figure finally disappeared from her sight, so did her smile. Her perfect face shone with a porcelain-like light that would cause people to doubt that she even had a smile.
If you did not care, why mention it? She thought mockingly as she looked at the swaying lotuses in the pond.
In the black night, Ding Ning coughed violently and threw up blood again.
Nine Hell King Sword and Nine Death Silkworm appeared at the same time. When he released the power that had been dormant for many years, his meridians endured unimaginable damage. If not for the Heaven Replenishing Divine Art, he would have died.
As he struggled to breathe, the invisible little silkworms in his body started to appear at the most injured places in his body, gathering together, and replacing the broken meridians to forcibly continue the circulation of the Heaven Replenishing Divine Art.
Liang Lian had died. Realm five had arrived.
But he knew, when he reached realm five, he would be like a rich man who finished using most of his savings. From realm five to realm six, he would not have an easy time like before. He needed a lot of time. For him, the best way was to leave now, leave Changling and even the Qin.
But before the Great Floating Water Prison was broken, he had to stay in Changling.
The crux was, where would he find a powerful enough realm seven?
“I want to tell Shen Xuan some things.”
In the deepest water cell of the Great Floating Water Prison, Lin Zhujiu looked up, and his hair caused a string of ripples.
No one responded.
Lin Zhujiu laughed mockingly and said, “I want to tell him the secret concerning the bones in the tea garden.”
Still, no one responded. But a figure quickly appeared in front of him.
“You are also one of Zheng Xiu’s confidants. Now the palace attendant is dead, Xu Fenqin is dead, Liang Lian is also dead … Are you afraid?”
Seeing Shen Xuan looked like a grey metal tower in the dark, Lin Zhujiu laughed.
Shen Xuan did not answer but he could not help but take a deep breath. His emotions could not calm nor could he fathom.
Lin Zhujiu had been imprisoned in the deepest cell for these years, and cut off completely from the outside world. The only person he was in contact was him. Even the water currents that entered this place had undergone special treatment, their vibration rate and energies changed. Yet in these years, Lin Zhujiu was still able to learn what had happened outside, and even knew what happened today.
For an instant, he really believed Lin Zhujiu could read people’s minds. But he was one of the most cold-hearted people in Changling so his eyes did not change. His voice sounded. “You said you will tell me the secret of the bone words.”
“Zheng Xiu likely needed to stabilize my adopted brother, and so was very gentle and entangling for a night, using many secret boudoir skills.”
Lin Zhujiu laughed loudly.
In the neighbouring cell, another weak laugh sounded.
Shen Xuan’s expression changed, visible even in the darkness.
Lin Zhujiu laughed even louder. “If I tell you I guessed it, what would you feel? I know the day of the bone words, my adopted brother was in Changling, and should have gone to meet her. Yuanwu should also know that my adopted brother was in Changling that night. If I guess like this, do you feel he would also guess? Do you think he will not care?”
Translator Ramblings: It may seem strange for the emperor to not have the power to recruit his own soldiers but before centralization of power through the unification of China and even afterwards, aristocratic families (equivalent to cultivation sects in this story) held enormous power in the dynasty.
There is a saying for “aristocratic families are like forged steel, emperors are like flowing water” to describe how these aristocratic families existed for centuries while emperors and even dynasties had much less longevity. There were even dynasties where aristocratic families controlled a majority of government positions and so emperors and their aristocratic subjects essentially shared governance. Here, in the Qin of this story, achieving titles and positions through military merit actually promotes some “common people” in what may be a more equitable way than the old way of “having connections” and also having one’s first loyalty to the sect rather than the state.