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Chapter Three: Refugee
The old palace woman had been unknown her entire life, but with Zheng Xiu’s order having spread through Changling to start with, concerning the life of tens of thousand of Chu people, not just her, but even her student, that palace attendant Li Wanzhu’s life was mentioned again by the world.
What some people won with their deaths was reputation, and being recorded in the world of cultivators. But the deaths of some people won more than that.
When this old palace woman hiding in the Qin Dynasty imperial palace came out immediately to trade for the lives of the seventy thousand Chu people from the Yangshan Commandery, countless people in the Chu set up memorials for her. Many Chu people even set up memorial tablets for this woman in their homes, and worshiped her like she was a goddess.
For the army, the death of this old palace woman had an indescribable power. The armies of the Qin Dynasty were famed for their bravery, but in the many battles which erupted in the Chu lands after this, almost all the Chu soldiers appeared more fearless than the Qin. The most famous being the battle of the Yin Mountain Fort Deng
Fort Deng had about a thousand Chu soldiers stationed there, and about half were just residents who did not usually train. But they encountered over twenty thousand Qin soldiers who had taken a detour to attack a supply path.
This was an unbalanced battle, but these thousand Chu soldiers managed to stop multiple charges from the Qin troops. While all of them died, no one had fled. Each time the Qin soldiers charged, the surviving Chu soldiers laughed at them. “Is your imperial son Fu Su Wang Jingmeng’s son or Yuanwu’s?”
Even if I cannot win against you, I will spit blood on your face. This had been the Qin people’s spirit. But now, it had become the Chu’s.
What made the Qin troops feel even worse was they could be angry, but not shout back on this topic. They could not discuss this. Even many high ranking generals of the Qin thought that driving the Chu people out of the Yangshan Commandery and forcing out such a grand master was not Zheng Xiu’s counterattack, but the empress making another wrong move.
“Who is the old palace woman?” Zhangsun Qianxue looked at Ding Ning and said. At this time, she, Ding Ning and the old monk who followed Ding Ning were just a few mountains away from Fort Deng.
Before this, Ding Ning had judged that an army would take this path, but they were still too slow, and Fort Deng had been flattened. War was like this. Even if you knew some things, you were still too late. Some cultivators were powerful, but their cultivation was not enough to determine victory on its own.
Ding Ning had a complicated expression. He said, “She really was Consort Zhao Xiang’s master. In terms of seniority, she is a generation above me, but it is ironic. Ba Mountain Sword Field had arranged for her to enter the palace to be responsible for Yuanwu’s safety. While she was from the Chu, she had always been in Ba Mountain Sword Field to learn the sword.”
Zhangsun Qianxue knew that bit of history very well. From the start of the reformation and when Ba Mountain Sword Field protected Yuanwu to fight the other imperial sons, many people wanted to kill Yuanwu.
“The rumor was that she was already dead,” Ding Ning looked at Zhangsun Qianxue and added. “But now, it looks like she had created the rumor so she could hide more deeply.”
“What about Li Wanzhu? That palace attendant,” Zhangsun Qianxue took a deep breath and said.
In the past, she had only cared about her cultivation, and not the many things that had happened in the wine shop and in Changling. Of course, after learning Ding Ning’s true identity, she had changed greatly. She remembered very well that he had once had her use some means to change Fu Su’s appearance slightly.
In reality, there were only a few cultivators who could do this. Other than cultivation and the method they cultivated, the cultivator who did this had to be very familiar with Wang Jingmeng’s appearance, and remember it well. Then, with careful action, Fu Su could be made to possess some of Wang Jingmeng’s air and appearance.
Back when Ding Ning had her do this, she only felt that Ding Ning had been using his friendship with Fu Su and was very malicious. But when the palace attendant was mentioned again, she thought of how she had voiced some matters of implications at the banquet and paid with her life. Ding Ning’s maliciousness had a connection to the palace attendant’s death.
“Li Wanzhu was an orphan and once had a sickly younger brother. When I first came to Changling, she and her brother had been begging on the streets. Back then, there had been someone wanting to pressure her using her brother’s medicine money to have her be his concubine. I killed that person, and then gave that person’s wealth to her.” Ding Ning was silent for a moment. “Later, I had no more contact with her, and do not even know when she became Zheng Xiu’s attendant.”
Then it was, naturally, to return the favor.
Zhangsun Qianxue was silent for a moment. She rarely ruminated, but when she did, she could easily think through some problems. “She purposefully said those things at the banquet, not just so that Yuanwu would feel warier of Zheng Xiu, but to tell the world that the relationship between him and her was not as close. This is the conclusion that she gained after staying many years in the imperial palace. She used her life. This cannot be wrong.”
“You and I both understand Zheng Xiu.” Ding Ning nodded, but an usually solemn expression appeared on his face. “Since she could guess from Li Wanzhu that my sect uncle did not die, then she will not fear what will happen next. The more Yuanwu cares, the more she madly wants to act like this. This means she has started her counterattack.”
Pausing, he looked at the thoughtful Zhangsun Qianxue. He whispered, “She will not let the seventy thousand people of Yangshan Commandery go like this. The Chu Dynasty cannot ignore these people… She wants to force the Chu Dynasty to settle the battle at Yangshan Commandery as soon as possible.”
“So Yangshan Commandery will be the key to the war?” Zhangsun Qianxue easily understood his meaning. “Then we have to go to Yangshan Commandery as soon as possible.”
“We will not need to go. If Nine Death Silkworm is in the Yin Mountain area, it will keep many more powerful cultivators on this side.” Ding Ning shook his head. “But we cannot let her grasp our tracks. So next, we will have to cut off our contact with the Wuzhi military.”
“What makes you so confident?” After speaking to Zhangsun Qianxue, Ding Ning looked at the ruins of Fort Deng and these words appeared in his mind.
He understood Zheng Xiu too well. So from her actions, he felt her great confidence towards the war, one like the desire of a powerful predator hungry to devour the prey.
Some of their guesses were very accurate. At this time, in Yangshan Commandery, there was something shameless happening.
The Qin troops escorting the Chu people promptly left upon receiving the orders from Changling. Zheng Xiu had promised in front of the officials that if someone important enough from Chu died, she would stop driving away the Chu people of Yangshan Commandery.
But now, the Qin troops were quickly retreating, leaving these seventy thousand Chu people in the wilderness without food or medicine. Because battles had raged here before, many parts of Yangshan Commandery were not populated. These seventy thousand Chu refugees had walked for many days. Now, they had two choices. They could walk for many days back to their home, or walk towards Chu land. But with their state right now, they could not achieve this with their own power.
Unless a Chu army with enough food came to help.
- Sword Dynasty Volume Eight Chapter 23 “Give Eternal Life”
- Sword Dynasty Volume Eight Chapter 22 “Soul Setting Nail”
- Sword Dynasty Volume Eight Chapter 21 “Goal”
- Sword Dynasty Volume Eight Chapter 20 “Still The Past”
- Sword Dynasty Volume Eight Chapter 19 “Ceremony”