This chapter has been brought to you by me, and larkspur.Chapter Five: Spend Money
A great snowstorm covered the north of the Yin Mountains. The Qin army that had encountered defeat retreated behind Yin Mountain and managed to stand firm. As more cultivators and military arrived, they gradually started to fight back, but as the Wuzhi army retreated into the plains, the Qin army was stopped in their steps by the thick snow.
Changling had not yet frozen, but the temperature at the Wuzhi border was so cold that the breath iced over, and the scalp numbed. Even cultivators could not avoid using vital energy to fend off the cold. Ordinary soldiers may not be able to maintain clarity of mind in such a place, much less travel far and fight.
An astounding army set up camp around the border cities. This was an enormous test of the Warden Office’s ability to transport grain and grass, and it was an astounding consumption.
In the more distant Donghu and Qin border, the temperature was even colder. Some of the salt-water lakes were frozen to the bottom, white as the wind scraped ice off. This kind of wind was called white hair wind. It hurt like stabbing needles when it blew at people’s faces, it blocked people’s sight, and made people easily lost when the wind rose.
There were some lakes that were not completely frozen, the deep freshwater lakes. The temperature of the lake deep down was close to the freezing point but did not freeze over. Large schools of fish gathered there, and seemed to hibernate.
An elite border troop was stationed by a lake like this, and relied on fishing in the winter to take care of their food problems. Multiple flying swords flew into the ice with terrifying roars. The large pieces of ice were cut apart, and then shattered into smaller pieces by strong sword energy, spraying in an explosion. Large winches were set up near the cut up ice caves, and ropes were used to drag fishing nets. The enormous fishing nets were dragged in the water for more than two hours. Each time they dragged, there were thousands of pounds of large fish.
“Who knows what she is thinking. If she started the war with Wuzhi just to force the cultivators of Changling into the army, then she paid too great of a price. So many armies are stationed at the Wuzhi border. Does she want to start fighting again after spring comes?”
“She destroyed so many cultivation places in one go, she drained the bog to fish.”
“It will be the fourth month before the snow melts outside the passes. This half year … to speak of nothing else, I do not believe that they will transport grain for the extra thousands of mouths waiting here to eat.”
Most people of the Qin Dynasty were both in awe and loathing of Empress Zheng Xiu, especially the remote border armies. They were direct and sharp towards the mistress of Changling.
This was near the time of the fish, and the matter concerned their winter food. But the Qin generals on the carriages dressed up in thick black robes and curled up did not look at the ice holes where the fish were coming from, but were gathered together and discussing the newest military news.
“What is there not to understand?” A slightly young but majestic voice came from the side. “Us Qin managed to defeat three dynasties, but you all know which cultivation place was responsible. Some of the cities had the way paved by those swords. These three dynasties were the closest to us. So even in those many years of war, the grain transports of our Qin Dynasty never went far. This is like doing business. When a shop opens, even if one product is very popular, the selling starts with a small amount. One has to see if the delivery and the workshops behind it can keep up smoothly. The jargon is whether it can turn. If it can turn, and turn smoothly, then the amount will slowly increase. It sometimes takes several big deals before we can see if the present workshops, shopkeepers, and the system can keep up and prepare for bigger business. If the Qin army reaches the borders and the Warden’s Office cannot keep up, then when the Qin armies go further to the Chu, Yan, and Qi, how can our transport keep up? Zheng Xiu is not stupid. Fighting the Wuzhi is just a try. If this turns smoothly, then it will be smooth against the other three.”
The generals sitting together stilled, and then looked up at the young general sitting at the side and directing some of the horses. One of the generals picked up a warm wine bag and threw it over. He laughed and cursed, “Xie Changsheng, you compare war to business, but you do it well and it is reasonable. I think the empress is really doing that. You are right. She is not stupid, in terms of intelligence, all of us added together cannot compare to her finger.”
The young general had a young and almost eternally dismissive expression. This Xie Changsheng was the famed Xie Changsheng of Changling, of the Guanzhong Xie Family.
Xie Changsheng raised an eyebrow, and took a drink from the wine bag. He said, “This wine is bad, when spring comes, I’ll get better wine.”
If the Donghu border was not at war, there were rarely people for hundreds of miles. Fish and meat was easy to get, but wine was rare. In the military, the stronger wines were the best reward that higher ranked generals could give their subordinate. Hearing Xie Changsheng say the wine was not good, the generals stilled, but then could not help but laugh.
At this moment, the white hair wind on the lake had a different sound. The generals stopped breathing, but in the next moment, there were many short whistles. The generals relaxed but were confused. As they looked towards the sound, the vital energy of the generals started to flow and their sight increased greatly.
Three figures came out of the white wind. The two figures at the front seemed to be hunched over, pressed down by the thick white furs. But the figure behind seemed thin and only wore ordinary fur robes.
“Do not worry, they are also from Guanzhong,” Xie Changsheng naturally was not as strong as these generals, yet when he saw the thin figure, he sneered and said.
The generals gradually saw the thin figure was someone about the same age as Xie Changsheng. They could not understand, but when the young man came closer, they felt their hearts tighten up. They felt this young man’s sword essence seemed extraordinary.
“Ordinarily, Ding Ning was the last disciple of White Goat Cave, but he managed to squeeze his way in and became Xue Wangxu’s last student,” Xie Changsheng adjusted his clothing and said as he threw the wine bag back.
“Shen Yi?” The generals immediately responded.
“Xie Changsheng, you are here as expected.”
“You search for people in such a place in such weather, you think you are a realm seven cultivator? You do not fear being frozen to ice.”
The two young people met. One was overjoyed, the other sneering.
Seeing Xie Changsheng have such an attitude, Shen Yi was stunned.
“Why have you come?” Xie Changsheng turned his head, not looking at the other, and at where the fish was coming out.
The ice caves where the nets were seemed to have faint sounds of large fish splashing.
Shen Yi froze for a moment, and said in a trembling voice, “Senior Sect Brother Ding Ning — ”
“If you came just to tell me that your senior sect brother died in battle at the ancestral mountains, then I can only say you are too stupid.” Xie Changsheng’s expression truly turned dark and he interrupted crudely. “Since I am able to get to the Donghu border army, you think I do not know what is happening outside?”
Shen Yi looked up, his eyes seemingly red from the wind. But he looked stubbornly at Xie Changsheng and said, “I did not come to tell you this, but I have a few things I like to say to you along.”
Xie Changsheng frowned but did not speak. He nodded at the generals, and then headed downwind. He walked until the surroundings were white and the cold wind howled by his ears like blades before he turned around and said to Shen Yi, “Speak.”
“Could you, could you not hate the empress?” Shen Yi looked at him and said seriously.
Xie Changsheng frowned deeply, “What stupid thing are you saying?”
“Your actions do not just represent yourself, they will also drag in the Xie Family.” Shen Yi looked at him and slowly said, “If … if my senior sect brother is going to kill the empress, and even the Holy One, what will you do?”
“He is dead, and you are still saying ifs to me—” Xie Changsheng sneered and laughed coldly. He did not care if other people heard, because there was no need to keep these words secret.
“Because my senior sect brother once asked me this,” Shen Yi looked at him and said softly, “he also told me, if ever news of his death were to arrive, to not believe it.”
Xie Changsheng was stunned.
“Answer my question, and then I will tell you the rest,” Shen Yi looked at him and said.
“What stupid question is that?” Xie Changsheng breathed with difficulty and controlled his voice. “I help those close to me, not the correct people, that is me, Xie Changsheng. Who cares about the Holy One, the empress, who cares about the Qin Dynasty!”
“You did not listen to the arrangements and ran here early to the Donghu border to wait for my senior sect brother but my senior sect brother was forced to go to Wuzhi and did not come here. But my senior sect brother gave me letters before leaving, and told me about these matters.”
Shen Yi’s eyes grew redder. “He predicted that you will not listen to anyone, and will help those close to you. You will make trouble if something happens to him. Even if he does not treat you as his own, you treat him as your own, so he asked me to give his wallet to you, and told me to tell you, are you not the best at spending money, then spend all the money in his wallet.”