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Chapter Four: Ash
The water roared. The enormous ships filled the river surface and advanced towards the Chu capital. The water currents on the river were compressed by the energies of the ships and gave off sounds of glass cracking.
This was like the arrival of a new world and time. The pressure could not be described.
There were many warships and business ships of the Chu Dynasty wharfs and ports on the river. But just the impact from the water currents were enough to squeeze these ships into colliding together. Many ships changed shape and exploded.
On the city walls along the river, many cultivators and soldiers wore miserable expressions. They still stood like metal on the walls, not retreating a step at all. But when even a grandmaster like Bai Shanshui was unable to stop this fleet at all, and had been sent into the bottom of the river, status unknown. How could they stop this? Standing here was their last glory.
Many of the important people and rich businessmen in the city wanted to flee or surrender. Their caravans even collided together and blocked the usually wide streets. Some wild scholars recited some famous poems and threw themselves into the river water.
Only the Nether Floats maintained their absolute coldness. Wrapped in the sword energy, there was not even a single person on the deck. No one knew what kind of thing would appear when the doors were opened.
The Chu palace was deathly silent. Even the sound of panic and crying had disappeared. It seemed to have become a silent grave.
Zhao Mu walked deep into the imperial palace. His feet stepped across the fine jade bricks, and he entered the grandest and most majestic hall.
This hall was one of the largest buildings in the history of the world. It looked thin, but each detail, each carving on a beam would take dozens of years of hard effort from a top crafter. It would take nearly a hundred years to create such a hall. But what about a dynasty that could possess such a building? The outside looked slender, but on the inside, it was very large. This was very the court usually gathered.
This was the ability of the crafter.
At this time, there was only Li Lingjun on the throne. So the hall appeared even more empty. It was so empty it was like a leaf floating in an ocean, so empty it was panicking and uncomfortable.
Zhao Mu stopped when he was a hundred paces from Li Lingjun, and then knelt to greet his monarch. Then he stood up, looked at the young ruler on the throne and waited for him to speak.
Li Lingjun’s tears and dirt had been cleared away from his face. But his face was exceptionally white like he had put on a layer of flour. His body kept on trembling on the throne, his snowy white skin shaking in the dim light. After many breaths, a pleading voice echoed into the hall, “Surrender.”
Zhao Mu had two very fine looking brows. When they rose, they were as sharp as knives.
“We cannot surrender.”
Li Lingjun had spoken simply, and he answered simply.
Li Lingjun’s body froze. He appeared to have never thought that this general who usually was very humble in front of him would refuse so simply and calmly. This kind of calm caused him to think of the youth he had once encountered in a Changling street.
Many quiet sounds occurred in the silent hall. The sound was like many rats moving and tearing at clothing.
Zhao Mu looked up. He looked directly at Li Lingjun, his gaze no longer one of that looking at an emperor.
“I am very disappointed in you.”
He said slowly and gravely, “The capital can be lost, but the soul cannot die. In the past, no matter how childish you were, how many problems you had, you are the emperor of the Chu and represent the Chu. Even if we cannot flee far, and we die in battle on our country’s land, the Chu still has a lot of land and many armies. But if you send an imperial decree to surrender, you will betray all of Chu. You will abandon the border armies fighting to the death for Chu, and cause them to be attacked from the front and back.”
“Do they not know they can surrender?” Li Lingjun’s voice trembled even more.
“Do not think so naively.” Zhao Mu shook his head and said, “The Qin will not let millions of Chu troops live. Think of the outcome of the tens of thousands of Zhao soldiers after they surrender.”
Li Lingjun could not speak.
“Everything that happens today in the Chu capital will be recorded in the history books. So I urge you to think seriously, think about what kind of record you want to leave behind.”
Zhao Mu took a deep breath and said seriously and slowly, “Do not betray the entire dynasty, think of your meaning as the imperial blood of the Chu. Do not think you can kill me because I will not surrender, even if you have already set up a trap in this imperial palace.”
Li Lingjun buried his head lower and did not dare to look up.
Zhao Mu’s eyes narrowed. This kind of cowardness meant an answer in his eyes.
“I am not the only one who wants to kill you. Zheng Xiu has prepared.” Li Lingjun’s voice sounded again.
As he spoke, the fine sounds of rats chewing intensified in the hall. Killing intent shrouded Zhao Mu’s body.
“You will not have a chance to send the decree. If death is necessary, then the key is the attitude at the end. I am willing to turn to star light, and light the way for the people lost into the night.” Zhao Mu did not move. He looked regretfully and sadly at Li Lingjun as he spoke.
Li Lingjun suddenly felt terror.
I am willing to turn to star light, and light the way for the people lost in the night.
Zhao Mu did not create the phrase. This was one recorded in the military records of the Chu dynasty. He had been a famed general of the Chu, and when under siege, he had left these words before his death.
Just as the killing intent filling the hall was about to tear Zhao Mu apart, a heated presence covered the entire imperial palace. Everyone seemed to burn, like there were hundreds of suns falling into the palace.
Li Lingjun finally understood what Zhao Mu was going to do and screamed.
“If you did not want to kill me and summoned me, how could I have the chance to get my guard to come to the outside of the palace with me.”
Zhao Mu did not have a proud expression and said softly in sorrow, “Our Chu is first in the world for weapons. The weapons guarding the capital are for when our lives are on the line. Can they not burn a mere imperial palace?”
His figure, Li Lingjun’s figure, this grand palace, and all of the buildings in the imperial palace instantly disappeared into the golden flames. His voice still lingered in the flames as everything turned to scorched earth and flames.
Many soldiers outside the palace wailed. The golden flames shot up into the sky like phoenixes flying up or like many proud souls leaping at the stars.
The Chu palace was ash.
Translator Ramblings: Li Lingjun is a coward, he can be blamed for being weak but he never had control of his own destiny, from being a hostage, getting manipulated by Zheng Xiu, becoming emperor in name but not in truth, and then getting betrayed.