The battle of countering the old forces was played fast and excitingly. Several hundred thousand soldiers tightly surrounded the capital while Yaotian panicked over finding herself pregnant. Her pregnancy helped He Xia immensely. He had an excuse to send the esteemed Princess into the depths of the Royal Residence or put under house arrest and forbidden to interfere with complicated national affairs any more.
Within a few days, a document containing Gui Changqing’s signature admitting treason was brought before Yaotian. Soon after, he was displayed on Yun Chang’s city wall alongside many other traitors and the rest of the Gui family so the peasants could recognise their crimes.
“Never expected that the Senior Official would…really…”
“The Gui family has always held positions of authority generation after generation, yet why are they all traitors this time?”
“Human hearts are unpredictable, very unpredictable indeed…”
The evidence steadily surfaced without end and everyday someone would report of the Gui family’s treason. Now that the almighty Senior Official admitted treason, what did these utterly oblivious ordinaries know what was true or false?
Not to mention, the Dong Lin army controllers were disadvantaged in this expedition. The two disappointing generals from the Gui family, one trying to flaunt and the other an alcoholic, ended the lives of an entire regiment of several thousands.
How could anyone who sent their sons to a brutal death in war not bitterly detest these generals who cared nothing for their subordinates?
But fortunately, in such an occasion of national crisis, the Prince Consort demonstrated excellent military organising abilities by rapidly weeding out the traitors. Not only that, he re-appointed all ranks within a very short time frame. Less than a month later, the passionate atmosphere that caused the peasants of Yun Chang to be so patriotic was seen once again.
Flags flapped in the sky while a hundred thousand set off.
The Prince Consort, brighter than any light they’d ever seen, once again led the army on an expedition.
“The world is vast but there is no place where my Yun Chang can’t reach!” On the city wall platform, He Xia slashed with his sword.
The Princess’ dignified figure was no longer seen by He Xia’s side. She was deep in the Royal Residence, pregnant with Yun Chang’s future king.
The soldiers’ bloods raged regardless, and they jumped for joy.
They cheered for He Xia, raged for He Xia. Because, they had a hero.
Gui Le once had He Xia, Dong Lin had Chu Beijie and Bei Mo at least had Ze Yin. But today, Chu Beijie’s whereabouts were unknown, and Ze Yin retired to seclusion.
Yet He Xia now belonged to Yun Chang.
With He Xia, there was no place where the Yun Chang army couldn’t reach.
What was much more surprising though was that when He Xia had led the troops out of the capital, he commanded the entire army to set up a camp just after fifty miles. He summoned all of the generals into the advisory tent for a meeting.
Once everyone had all arrived, He Xia immediately said, “The army shall change direction, not heading towards Dong Lin.”
These people had already gotten used to his odd, twisty-style of thinking a while ago, so they weren’t too surprised. They simply asked, “If not to Dong Lin, then where are going?”
“From now on, the army shall split up and travel at night. We’ll meet at Bei Mo’s borders.”
Everyone seemed to understand he was planning to attack Bei Mo first.
Attacking Bei Mo first was right. Although the Dong Lin army no longer had Chu Beijie, even tattered ships hold power in their heavy metal nails. They weren’t easy to defeat. The Bei Mo army wasn’t that strong in general, not to mention they no longer had Ze Yin. War was like eating persimmons where you always had to choose the softest first.
Qing Tian had several experiences of expeditions. He pondered for a while and thought of a question that could not be ignored. He submissively asked He Xia, “Prince Consort wants us to attack Bei Mo which is totally fine. However, Dong Lin is my Yun Chang’s utmost enemy while Gui Le is also eyeing on all of us. What if we fight against Bei Mo and the other two countries decide to join in the battle, causing us to be attacked from three sides?”
“No one wants to be attacked by three sides. That’s why Bei Mo definitely doesn’t expect us to suddenly attack them.”
He Xia lightly laughed, “Don’t worry, Generals. I naturally dare challenge Bei Mo because I already have plans to wipe out the Bei Mo army rapidly. Dong Lin is currently administrated by the Queen. When it comes to battle, women are always hesitant and never make their mind. By the time she has set her mind on attacking us, the Bei Mo army’s power would already be completely wiped away by us.”
The crowd wasn’t quite as courageous as He Xia. “Once we’ve wiped away Bei Mo, we still have to counter Dong Lin. How could we possibly have the resources to stop Gui Le?”
“That’s the most interesting part.” He Xia looked proud. He raised his voice. “Zhaoxing, come in!”
The flap lifted and crashed. A thin military general strode in. He acknowledged the generals before standing by He Xia’s side. He looked fairly calm.
He Xia introduced, “Fei Zhaoxing is Gui Le’s General Le Zhen’s most trusted confidant. He was the one who notified the ambush prepared by the King of Gui Le last time.” He raised a hand and lightly gestured at Fei Zhaoxing.
Fei Zhaoxing lowered his voice. “The Queen of Gui Le asked me to bring the message to Prince Consort in secret. The King of Gui Le had planned to ambush Prince Consort’s men. As long as I write a letter and get someone to send it to the King of Gui Le, informing him about the Queen of Gui Le and the Le family, the infrastructure of Gui Le will completely collapse. They wouldn’t have time to care about the battle between Yun Chang and Dong Lin.”
The General of the Weimo Regiment was curious, “The Queen of Gui Le’s Le family is completely devoted to Gui Le. Why would she actually send a private report to Prince Consort and betray the King of Gui Le?”
Fei Zhaoxing simply replied, “To stop Bai Pingting from entering the Gui Le harem.”
The generals were relieved.
Hearing Bai Pingting’s name, He Xia’s eyes darkened. He was silent for a long time before the colour returned to his eyes, “Fei Zhaoxing’s private letter is already on its way to the capital. The King of Bei Mo isn’t suspecting us at the slightest while Dong Lin is momentarily fearful of us, so they won’t fight again so easily. Everyone, now is the best time to conquer Bei Mo.”
He Xia’s plan was carefully and meticulously arranged. At first the generals couldn’t dare believe what they had heard, but now the colour of joy had returned to their cheeks. They shouted in reply, “Always listen to Prince Consort’s instructions!”
All traces of the Yun Chang armywere were suddenly lost. No one knew where they’d gone.
Pingting hurriedly walked into the room. She saw little Ze Qing placed on Yangfeng’s knee, his little bum revealed. Her hand moved up and down as she slapped the tender skin.
“Yangfeng, what are you doing that for?”
Yangfeng’s anger was apparent. She reached out a hand to point at the ground, “Look what he dragged out from underneath the bed. Not only that, he was playing it with Changxiao. What would we do if he hurts Changxiao in the process?”
Pingting lowered her head and became shocked to see a sword shining on the floor. “These two children are far too naughty. Changxiao, you need to be punished too.” She pulled the standing Changxiao down too.
Changxiao still couldn’t speak. He looked quite chubby, his eyes bright and clear. He simply just grinned when he saw his mother returned.
“Yangfeng, don’t hit Ze Qing any more. I bet it was Changxiao at fault. Don’t judge him by his small size. When he walks and runs, you have no idea how much of a rascal he is.”
Ze Qing’s little bum was struck a few times. He was like Changxiao, didn’t like to cry so he immediately wriggled out onto the floor when his bum no longer hurt. Yangfeng struck a few times. It hurt her heart dearly, so all she could do was helplessly let him free.
“Ah…smile…smile…” Once Ze Qing had gotten onto the ground, sprinted away from the mother who had painfully struck his bum, heading straight towards the merry Changxiao. He grabbed a hold of Changxiao and dashed outside, declaring “Bamboo, bamboo…” He was much faster than Changxiao at running, so Changxiao jumped and staggered, dragged out of the wooden door.
“Ze Qing, you are not to shake the bamboo poles of the clothes line.” Yangfeng chased them out of the door,“Let go of Changxiao and take care so he won’t fall.”
“Yangfeng, it’s fine.” Pingting walked to a stop behind her, placing her hands on her shoulder. She smiled, “Look at that anxious look on your face. Don’t worry about Changxiao. Just let children fall so they may grow.” She turned and picked up the sword on the floor.
It was a fine sword. The blade was like water. Just one slight shake was enough to quiver sunlight with its chilling glint. Pingting flipped the hilt and as expected, the words “Divine Spirit” were carved into it. She couldn’t help but become silent. After a while, she asked, “Why does the Divine Spirit Precious Sword that once shook the world so many times remain here in the dust? Such a pity.”
Yangfeng turned around to see Pingting staring at the sword. Her heart leapt. Chu Beijie came up onto the mountain, received the news of Pingting’s death and soon after left utterly dejected. She hadn’t told Pingting that Chu Beijie left the precious sword, Divine Spirit, behind. She had stuffed it under the bed. Perhaps it was a trick of fate that those two brats fished it out. She thought for a while and lowered her voice, “Chu Beijie left it behind. He once came here to find you.” Seeing Pingting silent, Yangfeng couldn’t help add, “Pingting, do you still miss that man?”
Pingting didn’t reply, just stood in the room. Several moments later, she slowly slid the sword back into the scabbard, hung it, and turned to go outside. She called, “Changxiao, come, come, your mother will like to sing a pretty song for you.” On her delicate face was a doting smile.
“Mo…mother!” Changxiao giggled as he pounced forwards.
“I’m listening too!” Ze Qing was always by Changxiao’s side. He forced a spot by Pingting before Changxiao.
The sun was shining. Tiny ripples stretched across the surface of a pond at the front of the small hut.
Someone was softly singing.
“When there is trouble, there are heroes; when there are heroes, there are beautiful women; surviving the turmoil, surviving the turmoil…”
My son, your mother holds a story in her heart.
This story had heroes, beauties too.
The beauty and the hero once swore to the moon, to never turn against each other.
To never, ever, turn against each other.
The song was gentle and touching, full of love from the heart and anger from the mouth. Although the two kids didn’t understand the deeper meaning in it, they listened quietly, enraptured. They sat by Pingting on the threshold.
Before the song finished, Ze Yin’s figure suddenly appeared on the other side of the fence. He hurried in, his expression looking very dark.
Pingting immediately stopped singing when she saw Ze Yin’s expression. She stood up, imploring, “What’s wrong?”
Ze Yin’s expression remained dark as he shook his head. He was closely followed by Weiting. Both of their expressions were extremely twisted. None said a word as they strode into the room.
After a wet nurse was called to take the two kids to another place to play, Ze Yin closed the door before lowering his voice, “The King is dead.”
Yangfeng was taken aback by this. “The King has always been healthy, so how could this be?”
“It’s He Xia.” Weiting painfully replied, “He Xia sent an invitation to the King to meet at the borders for a banquet. Yun Chang and Bei Mo have always been allied by friendship, so the King didn’t suspect anything and just went…”
“That villain He Xia, he actually dared to poison the wine. They were also ambushed by armed soldiers, causing the King and his accompanying officials and guards to be killed instantly. The message has now spread throughout the country. Everyone is full of panic.” Remembering the many favours between himself and Bei Mo, a tiger-like general such as Ze Yin couldn’t help his eyes turn red with tears.
Yangfeng’s face was full of disbelief. “Is He Xia crazy? Now that the King is dead, the Bei Mo army protecting nearby will suddenly command to attack.”
“The Bei Mo army definitely doesn’t dare to immediately attack.” A crisp and decisive voice was heard from behind them.
The three people turned back. Pingting was standing by the table. She thoughtfully added, “Since He Xia dares murder the King of Bei Mo, then he must have enough troops to finish off the Bei Mo army, even if they’re driven by revenge.”
Ze Yin froze at the thought. “If Yun Chang dares to fully attack Bei Mo, then Dong Lin and Gui Le won’t just sit around and spectate. Does He Xia dare to fight in a three-way war?”
“Main General, you’ve never fought against He Xi, correct?” Pingting pursed her lips, not sure whether to resent or to sigh. She whispered, “On the battlefield, he will never do anything he isn’t sure of.”
“Then should we send someone immediately to Ruo Han, to tell him to be careful?”
“…It’s too late…”
Fei Zhaoxing’s one private letter seriously intensified the conflict between the King of Gui Le and the Le family.
The matter regarding Bai Pingting was one that couldn’t be publicized, so the King of Gui Le found a random excuse to banish the Queen to the Cold Palace.
But the Le family’s power in Gui Le had already taken root and became very difficult to clear. Elder Statesman Le Di had long prepared for this. Before the King could take action, he made his smartest move ever. He raised his son Le Zhen to become the Main General. Before the King of Gui Le could order an attack, his son left the capital to take the soldiers on training.
Like that, the Gui Le king remained inside the capital while Main General Le Zhen took of the majority the soldiers outside. When the two finally clash, it would be quite the sight.
The Gui Le Royal Residence was caught in the shadow of civil strife, so even when the news of the King of Bei Mo’s assassination was reported, no one cared about who He Xia was attacking.
Of the four countries, Dong Lin was most anxious over He Xia’s actions.
“Please do discuss this.”
In the Royal Residence of Dong Lin, the Queen of Dong Lin was seated at the throne. She nervously glanced at the silent officials below her. “You have read the military report, so don’t tell me you don’t have anything to tell me? Generals and Officials, please discuss it.”
Chen Mu sighed. He hardened his resolve and stepped out. “Madam, my words remain the same. If He Xia dares attack Bei Mo’s army, then the next one he’d attack is us. Time is precious. We must immediately send the army to join forces with Bei Mo to counter Yun Chang.”
“Absolutely not.” Chu Zairan’s hoarse voice rang out.
The Queen’s two princes had been murdered by the plotting of the King of Bei Mo. She really didn’t want to help Bei Mo out of their crisis. Hearing Chu Zairan’s words of disagreement, she busily added in a warm voice, “What does Senior Official suggest. Please do tell me.”
However, Chu Zairan walked out unsteadily. He raised his head and spoke, “Madam, our Dong Lin is no longer like the old times. If we still had the Duke of Zhen-Bei, what need is there to be afraid of He Xia? But now, the Duke of Zhen-Bei’s traces are all gone. I reckon that He Xia mustn’t be provoked, so don’t provoke him.”
Chen Mu urged, “He Xia is ambitions. Even if we don’t provoke him, he will still make a move on us. The Duke is gone now; my side is weak, so all the more reason for us to take the initiative. We must collaborate with the army of Bei Mo against He Xia to be able to protect ourselves.”
“Soldiers are fierce, and war is dangerous. The only way to survive is to protect ourselves.”
“The only true way to survive is to attack now.”
“If you have words, speak clearly and slowly. Senior Official…”
“After the battle between the Yun Chang and Bei Mo armies, they need time to recuperate. We can use this time to carefully train…”
“Don’t be too hasty, let us carefully discuss…”
“Discuss what? If we wait for He Xia to conquer Bei Mo, Dong Lin will become the next target. I’m afraid that the enemies will have already reached us before training has even begun!”
“Stop quarrelling!” The various officials in the hall debated without rest. The Queen scanned from left to right, then back again. Unable to bear it any longer, she slapped the armrest, causing all of the bickering people to quieten instantly.
“Sending soldiers to fight is an important national affair; it mustn’t be a hasty decision.” The Queen of Dong Lin rubbed her temples and sighed, “We must think about this again and continue discussion tomorrow.”
Chen Mu’s eyebrows furrowed. He impatiently took a step forward, “Dear Queen, we mustn’t hesitate any longer. The Main General of Bei Mo, Ruo Han, has already launched attack. He Xia’s tactics are never without loophole so I’m afraid that in just a few days, the entire Bei Mo army will be annihilated.”
The Queen of Dong Lin was slightly angry. “Did I not say to think for now and continue discussion later? General Chen, don’t say any more.” She stood up and hurried to the other side of the bead curtain.
The Queen of Dong Lin’s reaction was exactly what He Xia had expected. Without the threat of Gui Le and Dong Lin, He Xia freely moved all of the military forces to attack Bei Mo.
What happened next shook the entire four countries.
Under the foot of the Songsen Mountains, in a place known as Zhouqing, the Yun Chang soldiers appeared to have formed from thin air or drilled out from the ground, assembling into a strong army. They raised the head of the King who died such a painful death, the enraging the grieving Bei Mo soldiers. Under He Xia’s meticulous planning and command, this decisive battle became an unprecendent massacre.
The Yun Chang army completely annihilated Ruo Han’s troops and casualties in the Bei Mo army were numerous. Less than a tenth managed to escape with their lives.
And that was Bei Mo’s hugest and most important military force.
The Battle of Zhouqing once again proved He Xia’s outstanding military skills.
Following that, He Xia’s forces rapidly expanded beyond all imagination. After defeating Ruo Han’s army, He Xia proceeded to annihilate Bei Mo’s other reinforcements at the speed of light. They then turned their gazes to Dong Lin who missed their only chance.
Yun Chang’s warriors never thought taking over the four countries would be so easy. The victories caused their morale to boost even higher.
After several hundreds of blades, they managed to cut open Dong Lin’s checkpoints. In the midst of gushing blood, He Xia’s flag always flew in the very front.
In the eyes of the soldiers that followed him, he was like a god of war.
The blood seeped into several hundred miles worth of land. Yun Chang was the centre of the shadow of war, spreading in all directions as they advanced their army bit by bit.
The Bei Mo army was annihilated. Even the corpses of Bei Mo’s Royal House ceased to exist.
The Dong Lin army was annihilated. General Chen Mu was killed in battle while Moran led the remainder to protect the Queen of Dong Lin as she left the Royal Residence.
The captured Senior Official, with his elderly long white hair, was humiliated. He committed suicide by poison before Yun Chang soldiers broke into his house.
No one thought that He Xia could do all this in such a short period of time.
“The army of Yun Chang is coming! Yun Chang’s army is coming!”
“Run! Have to run…”
“Daddy! Daddy, where are you?”
Bones were left everywhere on the muddy plains. Defeated soldiers and fleeing peasants were scattered throughout. Everyone scrambled to be first, afraid of being left behind. Others steadied the old and pushed the young in a desperate attempt to escape.
But who could possibly be faster than He Xia’s battle horse?
- “Cold Palace”: When the women in the royal harem are no longer “active”. This may suggest that they aren’t loved (detested even) or aren’t fertile. It’s better than execution…however, you drag your family down (most of the harem are daughters of wealthy/noble families). There wouldn’t be much medical treatment, quality food, or fine clothes they are used to. Many die without funerals or get driven crazy by lack of love.
- “Persimmons…softest”: You can substitute the “softest persimmon” to “weakest opponent”. Although likely to be unintentional by the author, it is interesting to note that soft persimmons are really sweet. Victory is considered sweet so this implies that war is about the sweetest victory. Attacking Bei Mo supposedly leads to a rewarding victory, because they are a better country yet they fall without too much sacrifice from Yun Chang.