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Chapter One: Fate
The spring weather changed quickly, alternating between warm and cold. It was easy to catch an illness in such a season, and this was a nightmare for these people being sent away.
The “Chu refugees” that were being driven by the Qin army to travel each day had a worse time than normal refugees. They had no medicine or food, and did not get enough rest at all. After a few deaths, as many people became infected with illness, high fatalities could not be avoided.
From the start when the order to drive out all the Chu people out of Yangshan Commandery was issued, this was fated to be a cruel massacre. In a certain point of view, using such means to kill these ordinary people was more cruel than ordering the slaughter of an entire city. This cruel order came from the Changling imperial palace, from Empress Zheng Xiu.
In the deep Changling imperial palace, on the long path outside the empress’s study, there were many officials kneeling. These officials had come to ask the empress to take back her order. In their view, no matter the dynasty in history, a rule too cruel would cause premature destruction. Even if these were tactics used against enemies, the cruel reputation would make their dynasty’s people anxious.
But these officials understood Empress Zheng Xiu too well. They knew they could not persuade her with words, so they used a silent fast.
Zheng Xiu was sitting calmly at the table. The door to her study was tightly shut. She could not see the expressions of these officials directly, but her powerful perception meant that she knew the state of every official kneeling outside.
On her perfect face with a porcelain light, there was a hint of cold scorn. The coldness and scorn was not because she did not care for these people’s thoughts and dismissed them, but because these people could not understand her intentions, and know that some things were just some of her little tricks.
From the start of the Min Mountain Sword Trials, in the view of the outsiders, she seemed to have suffered many defeats, losing her halo of invincibility. But everything had proceeded according to her intentions. If she could reach her final goal, the process was not important.
Just like two people playing chess. One seemed to have lost many pieces, but the situation had been set up. From killing those three people from her family and completely taking control of Jiaodong Commandery, she finally started to play. These Chu people driven away from Yangshan Commandery were one of her pieces, the start of her counterattack. The order would be withdrawn, but there was technique in the timing. At a suitable time, this could be a killing move.
Even more importantly was the heart. Each person had emotions. Were not all attacks, in the end, an attack of emotions? Using soldiers was the inferior path, attacking the heart was the superior one.
The officials outside the study had been kneeling a day and night. Some of the older officials were near their limits. To her, if she walked out at this time, she would give them the result they wanted in exchange for their gratefulness. At the same time, they would feel more reverence towards her, and know that they had to pay a sufficient price in order to obtain her agreement. If they encountered such things in the future, they had to do so as well.
She stood up, the scorn disappearing from her face. She expressionlessly passed the spirit spring, and pushed open the study door.
“I can withdraw the order but I have a request.”
There were no extra words as she looked at the officials kneeling on the ground, her voice calm, powerful, and full of authority.
All the officials looked up.
She then said, “Help me spread through Changling … If they do not want me to exile the Chu people out of Yangshan Commandery, I want a Chu person of sufficient importance in exchange. In other words, if they want to save those Chu people, they need to trade the life of an important Chu person.”
These officials had first felt joy, but in the next moment, because of the cruelness in her words, they felt cold all over. Many people, because they were at their physical limits, felt iced over.
“What if no one important enough comes out?” the leading official could not help but ask in a trembling voice.
“Then it is a matter of the Chu for themselves.” Zheng Xiu shook her head and looked at the speaker. “If even the Chu can sit by and watch, what does it have to do with us Qin?”
This official immediately stilled and could not speak.
“Should we first have these Chu people stop,” one official took a deep breath and asked Zheng Xiu. He knew that there were no important Chu people near Changling, but the present situation was that each day many in the troop would die.
“That is also something for the Chu to consider.” Zheng Xiu said coolly, “If they come a day late, more people will die. So I hope that the person who will trade their lives will not hesitate.”
Hearing her tone, the officials kneeling here felt fury again, but they had nothing to say because this was a tactic she was used to using. Many years ago, she had used such means more than once. Shameless, but effective.
This decree quickly spread. No one questioned the veracity of her decree. For this was her promise to these officials, unless she could afford to lose all these officials.
When such a decree spread through Changling, all the cultivators on Changling’s turrets were on high guard, fearing missing a detail. Even if fated to die, such a Chu person of importance may do mad things.
But they did not get to see a Chu person walk out of an alley. This person came from deep within the imperial palace.
Deep in the palace, there were many streams close to the outside. The source of the streams were some wells. There was a lot of laundry waiting to be washed by the wells.
When such a decree was spread to here, a very old woman let go of the dirty clothes she was washing and slowly stood up. No one noticed her abnormality. When she walked out of the gates of this courtyard in a direction she usually would not go, someone suddenly realized.
There were many shouts, but she did not respond. The people shouting at her, including cultivators in the palace who saw her, started to realize she might be related to the empress’s decree.
A shrill alarm sounded in the palace.
The palace woman’s clothing was very dirty and gave off a bad smell. Her hair was a mess. Her eyes were bright now, looking like she was forty, but her face was at least in her fifties.
When the warnings were useless, a flying sword appeared in front of her, turning into a cold flame heading for her heart.
The palace woman smiled. She simply ruffled her hair.
During her “spare time” ruffling her hair, she caught this flying sword with her fingers and then flicked it out like she had pulled a loose hair out of her hair. But this casual move caused the flying sword to cut through the hearts of multiple guards along the way, and then cut off the head of its master.
“Since you have come to your fate, why kill more people? You do not fear I will find another excuse?”
When the head rolled off, a cruel and authoritative voice sounded at the end of the path the palace woman was on.
This was the voice of Empress Zheng Xiu.
“If I do not kill people, how can I let you understand I have enough importance?” This palace woman looked up at Zheng Xiu who was coming quickly and smiled. “But you, you are in such a hurry to speak with me, do you fear I will die too quickly?”
Translator Ramblings: We are one volume seven now, the penultimate volume (which doesn’t mean that much considering the last volume is super long). If the entire story is one of revenge, and Ding Ning has been making trying to get onto the world stage, now it’s time for him to make his way onto the board openly. At the same time, a story wouldn’t be fun if the protagonist won all the time, and now it’s time for Ding Ning’s enemies to take him seriously.