Shen Mu – Volume 1 Chapter 6

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Volume 1 Chapter 6: Panicked Bloody Battle

“Wait a minute.” Chen Nan hurriedly drew back. “Your Highness the princess, you’re too merciless. Earlier today, I clearly knew that you and your group of subordinates were vulnerable and weak. Nevertheless, I was too honourable to just abandon you guys, so I came over to help. How can you still treat me like this?”

“Heihei. Smelly thief, you really are smooth. You’ve known all along that after the Third Prince makes his move, he’ll definitely kill you to silence you. Otherwise, how else would you be brave enough to ask for a deal with me at that time?”

“Hai… This… Because it’s like this, you have more of a reason not to kill me. Your guards are already seriously injured. In any case, I still have some strength left to fight.”

The princess mumbled to herself. Seeing his smile, she said, “Alright. Since it’s like this, I’ll let you off the hook for now. Here, it’s on my back.”

Seeing the princess hand over the case fitted with Houyi Bow to him, Chen Nan cried out, “Don’t! Just kill me instead.” He knew that the princess was already firm in her decision. Her plan was to divert everyone’s attention onto Chen Nan by having him carry Houyi Bow while she looked for an opportunity to escape on her own.

“Alright, I’ll kill you.” The princess unsheathed a length of her sword.

“No, don’t! I’ll do it.”

On that tranquil night, the urge to kill was latent in the forest. Traces of moonlight reflected off blades at the Third Prince’s tent. At the moment, he and his subordinates were quietly plotting.

The leader of the Third Prince’s subordinates, Yang Chong, said, “We were fooled during the day. No way is that old man Zhuge Chengfeng anywhere in our vicinity. Your Highness, let’s make our move now; a long night invites nightmares1.”

The Third Prince contemplated for a moment and then said, “First of all, we mustn’t rush. In any case, we already have them surrounded. Keep a close eye on them for now. We don’t have to act rashly without thinking. Let them be anxious for a night. When they relax at daybreak, we’ll make our move.”

Yang Chong replied, “We don’t have to take them so seriously like this; almost all of them are injured. Although that little witch is somewhat difficult to deal with, how can she possibly overpower Your Highness?”

The Third Prince indifferently said, “Yang Chong, you aren’t experienced enough yet; you’re still impulsive. How can I feel at ease letting you assume personal responsibility? Correct, they’re already injured, but injured tigers can still fight back. Don’t ever treat your enemy with contempt. Since one night’s time is enough to crush their fighting spirit and weaken their strength, why would we not take advantage of that? The way to overcome your enemies is by exhausting every possible means to create favourable conditions for yourself. You must learn this well.”

Yang Chong’s forehead was already covered in sweat. He felt both veneration and fear towards His Highness the Third Prince. The faint domineering aura emanating from the Third Prince caused him to feel heavily oppressed.

“Yes, subordinate knows his mistakes.”

With his hands clasped behind his back, the Third Prince took a few steps in his tent. “Once we succeed, immediately return to Baiyue with Houyi Bow. You can’t stop for even a minute on the way back. Do you understand?”

“Your Highness, are you not leaving?”

“I can’t leave yet, I still need to go to the Luofeng Mountain Range to see the qilin.” The Third Prince smiled.

Yang Chong said, “Your Highness, that is much too dangerous.”

“It’d be even more dangerous if I were to immediately rush back to Baiyue. Everyone would realize that it was all my doing. Heihei, I’ll remain here, leaving no evidence. No one can say I did it.”

“Your Highness is brilliant.”

“Alright, go make your arrangements with the troops. Tell them that when we make our move at dawn, it must be neat and tidy. Don’t leave a single survivor.” The Third Prince’s face was icy.

“Yes, subordinate understands.” Despite the fact that Yang Chong held innumerable life or death experiences under his belt, he still broke out into a cold shudder.

Princess Chu Yu gathered all her subordinates. Her face lacked its usual playfulness. At the moment, her expression was incomparably serene, like an unflustered general.

“I’ll inform you all now regarding the matter involving that degenerate Chen Nan. ‘An ordinary man is innocent; treasuring a jade ring becomes a crime’2. The Third Prince of the Empire of Baiyue is as ambitious as a feral wolf. He plans to steal our Empire of Chu’s national treasure, Houyi Bow. There’s a huge discrepancy in strength between us. Even if I were to give Houyi Bow to them now, there’s no way they’d be compassionate and lenient. They’ll still kill us in order to silence us. But there’s two ways for us to die. One way is to not fight and die humiliating deaths. The other is to die as heroes. You guys decide the way you prefer.”

All the guards in the tent lowered their voices and snarled, “Die as heroes.”

“Right! Even though we’ve been forced into dire straits, we definitely can’t surrender. We need to fight to the death and make them pay the bitterest price. Are you guys willing to use your blood to uphold the honour of our Empire of Chu?”

“Willing!’

“I want to fight for the princess!”

“I want to fight for the Empire of Chu until I bleed my last drop of blood!”

Chen Nan gasped with admiration at the princess’s exceptional method. She obviously wanted to get everyone’s support in helping her escape, yet she still gave such an impassioned speech.

“Alright, now we’ll begin our preparations…”

The princess assigned a position for every imperial guard. After her explanation, they were to take advantage of the shade of night and covertly lie in wait at their respective positions.

After that, the princess turned to face Chen Nan and said, “Degenerate, considering your martial arts is so pathetic, I don’t need you to kill them. You only need to take good care of Houyi Bow.”

“…”

“Do you guys have anything to add?”

A female guard stood up and asked, “Princess, why don’t we take advantage of the night and break out of the enclosure?”

The princess shook her head, sighing. “You guys come over here.”

She lifted up a corner of the big tent, picked up a little stone off the ground to serve as a bullet, and fired it into the trees. The little stone made a soft sound when it landed in some underbrush not too far away. At the same time, the sound of the light cry of bowstrings could be heard. Ten plumed arrows shot towards the location of the underbrush.

“So you see, they’ve already made preparations. They’ve long ago set up an ambush for us. Heihei, since it’s like this, we’ll wait here. We’ll wait for them to fall into our own ambush.”

All the imperial guards thought of the princess admiringly.

The princess also said, “I’m guessing if they don’t mobilize their attack within two hours, then they’re probably putting it off until dawn. You guys must by all means be careful. You absolutely cannot slack off. Alright, you guys go prepare.”

Chen Nan inwardly sighed, “I didn’t expect the little demon to be so meticulous. It’s a pity that she doesn’t have an army to command. If the power she had was equally matched with that of the Third Prince, then to whose hand the deer falls would be really uncertain; either of them could end up as the winner. This little girl is truly formidable!”

Just before everyone went off, a guard suddenly kneeled on the ground and vowed, “Subordinate will definitely spare no effort in helping the princess escape from here.”

Upon seeing this, the other guards also kneeled down in succession.

“I pledge my life to protect the princess.”

“I’ll protect the princess until I bleed my last drop of blood.”

Everyone present quietly vowed to use their lives to safeguard the princess.

Of course, there was one exception. It was the one who the princess viewed as a ‘degenerate’, ‘a smelly thief’, Chen Nan. He inwardly said, “What a joke. Protect this little demon? She already prepared her escape a while ago. What a repulsive girl, actually wanting me to carry Houyi Bow to my death. Ai, if Houyi Bow wasn’t sealed, who’d be able to stop me?”

After those several guards withdrew from the tent, they promptly lied in ambush nearby.

Chen Nan just began heading over to the side of the tent when a swordswoman suddenly unsheathed her longsword and pushed it against his neck. She said, “You need to stay behind and protect the princess. Stay here diligently.”

Chen Nan felt that compared to the character Dou E3 from the ancient legend, he suffered even more injustice. It was an unfathomable mystery how he had gotten wound up in this mess in the middle of a danger zone.

Death is not at all painful. It happens in an instant, nothing more. The most painful thing that nothing can surpass is waiting for death. Every minute was torture. With every passing moment, the heartstrings are pulled tight until they can no longer bear the continuous immense strain and snap, falling apart.

Despite the outstanding martial arts of the imperial guards under the command of the princess, the endless wait still caused them to break out into cold sweats. In contrast, the character who they viewed in their eyes as ‘shady’, Chen Nan, was quite relaxed. Chen Nan was continuously surveying escape routes. He relentlessly revised his plan to escape.

“En! Step one: I’ll fling Houyi Bow at that poor devil. Step two: I should run to that place. Then… en! The umpteenth step: won’t I meet my death at those trees? I need to think… En! At last, I’ll take advantage of the chaos and slip away.”

If the people helping became aware of what Chen Nan was thinking, they’d surely kill him straight away.

Over the eastern horizon, only the planet Venus remained dazzling in the sky. Chen Nan knew that the moment of life or death would soon approach. He took the pitch-black Houyi Bow out of its case and gently rubbed it. He used the language of ten thousand years ago and lowly said, “Old friend, do you remember me? I’m Chen Nan. Who could’ve imagined that I’d be able to meet you again after ten thousand years?”

A guard beside him gave him a shove and said, “What are you muttering?”

“Oh, nothing.”

Just then, twenty or so human figures assumed a ring-shaped encirclement around them. The guards under the princess’s leadership let out long breaths. They had painfully waited for this moment to finally feel some sense of relief. Regardless of whether or not they survived, they were unwilling to endure this kind of torment.

When the endless night ended, murderous intent soared in the forest. Like tigers and wolves, those twenty or so people rushed forward. Meanwhile, the guards under the princess’s command already had in their hands bows and arrows aimed at the intruders.

Sou!

Sou!

The plumed arrows simultaneously flew, resulting in wretched screams. Six people were shot to death on the spot, falling onto the ground.

The leader of the Third Prince’s guards, Yang Chong, cursed in a low voice, “F*ck this devil princess! It’s already daybreak, but she’s still on guard.”

When the ninth person was shot to death by a plumed arrow, the Third Prince’s guards finally arrived in front of Chen Nan and company. Their bows and arrows lost their effectiveness.

One after another, the princess’s guards wielded their weapons to meet them head on. Only two people didn’t move from their original positions. One was Chen Nan. The other was one of the survivors who experienced the great battle with the Monolithic Snake: a magus-in-training. Presently, Chen Nan was still searching for an opportunity to escape, while the magus-in-training was reading aloud an incantation, preparing to use his magic.

Magical elements fluctuated in the air. A massive awl of ice rapidly coalesced. The ice awl transformed into a white light and forced its way into the group of enemies. In the blink of an eye, it impaled two people through the chest, finally stabbing a third person to death before disintegrating.

After launching such a successful attack, the magus-in-training was pleasantly surprised. When he wanted to once again make use of his magic, he discovered that his body had exhausted its magical power. Originally, his body was seriously injured; the fact that he was capable of casting a single spell was already extraordinary. But now that he was unable to use his magic, he was a dead man. A steel sword was launched by an enemy towards him. It accurately pierced the magus-in-training’s heart. The magus-in-training carried an unreconciled expression on his face as he slowly shut his eyes.

Chen Nan still didn’t move. He lied on his stomach in the underbrush, waiting for the best opportunity to flee.

Currently, both sides fighting to the death suffered casualties. Despite their injuries, the princess’s guards persistently propped themselves up. The whole group was using all their being to battle.

Suddenly, the princess rushed out of the tent as fast as lightning. She burst into the group of enemies with a slender sword in hand. Wherever it passed, someone would fall dead. They left behind a splattering of blood in the air.

Chen Nan stared blankly. He originally believed that the princess would take advantage of the chaos to escape. He didn’t expect her to actually storm the enemy group instead. It seemed like she had a change of heart when the time came for the painful struggle. If this were not the case, then she wouldn’t have forcibly given Houyi Bow to him earlier.

“It’s hard to imagine that the little demon hasn’t evolved into a genuine demon yet. Ai! In the end, she’s still just a young girl. Her heart can’t be regarded as too frigid yet. She still can’t bear to abandon her subordinates on their own while she flees for her life. If she was older by a few more years, maybe this would be a different case.”

While the enemies were in a state of confusion, Chen Nan lifted up the pitch-black Houyi Bow and stood up. In an instant, he became the focus of everyone present. Ten or so enemies with murderous intent rushed towards him at the same time.

Seeing Chen Nan successfully attract the enemy’s attention, a look of unwillingness flashed across the princess’s eyes, but then she became incomparably furious.

Chen Nan loudly shouted at the Third Prince’s guards, “Brothers, I’ve accidentally become your enemy. Don’t you guys want this Houyi Bow? Catch!” He tossed Houyi Bow towards them, but he deliberately angled it in a certain way. Houyi Bow landed right beside the princess.

“Kill!” The Third Prince’s guards flocked forward. With her safety in mind, the princess’s guards also rushed forward. The encirclement immediately collapsed. Everyone clashed towards either the princess or Houyi Bow. Troops from both sides fought in frenzy.

The princess glared fiercely at Chen Nan. Her eyes were about to breathe fire. If her gaze was capable of killing, then Chen Nan would’ve been burnt to ashes long ago. Her extremely unreconciled gaze shifted from him to her charging enemies whom she welcomed with her blade.

Chen Nan coldly smiled. “Don’t blame me. If others don’t offend me, I won’t offend others. It was you who forced me to carry Houyi Bow to my death at first. I’m only acting in my own best interests.”

He bent over and picked up a longsword off the ground, equipping it. He turned around and just began to run towards the depths of the forest when suddenly, the sound of a patter came forth. Houyi Bow literally dropped from the sky to his feet.

“No way! How can it come back to me so quickly!” Chen Nan turned his head and saw the princess coldly smiling among a group of enemies. Meanwhile, several of the Third Prince’s guards were already charging towards him.

“Little girl, you sure are fierce.” He already didn’t have enough time to throw Houyi Bow back. He turned around and dashed towards the depths of the forest, but after running only a dozen or so steps, he suddenly stopped in his tracks, his body ice cold.

The Third Prince, leading four guards, emerged from the depths of the forest. He had on his face the trace of a faint smile and said, “Interesting, interesting; marvellous, marvellous. I didn’t expect Princess Yu would lose because of a hole that you’ve dug. I truly underestimated you. I didn’t think you’d be this quick-witted. At first, I was waiting for Her Highness Princess Yu here. Who would’ve known that you’d be the first to run away.”

“This… Your Highness the Third Prince, I’ve never regarded you as an enemy. I didn’t come out of the imperial palace with them, and I’m certainly no palace eunuch. That little demon—oh, that Princess Yu—she’s the reason why I’ve become entangled in this mess. It’s because I know a gargantuan secret that she’s been wanting to keep my mouth shut all this time. But… in the end, it seems like her wishes won’t be fulfilled.”

“You call her a little demon? Haha… Chap, you really are amusing,” the Third Prince heartily laughed, but his face quickly became heavy. “In front of me, you’re nothing but a little crafty at best. Don’t try to put on whatever act in front of me, and don’t vainly try to use whatever ‘gargantuan secret’ to beg me to let you go.”

Chen Nan’s heart sunk and a cold layer of sweat covered his body. “It’s true. I accidentally discovered a map in some ancient cave. Although I’m not particularly proficient in ancient civilizations, I still know a few words. The surface of it has the three ancient words ‘Black Tortoise Shell’.”

“What?” The Third Prince was alarmed, but in a moment, his face chilled. He coldly said, “You sure have guts, to have the impertinence to babble nonsense in front of me!”

“Your Highness, everything I’ve said is true. Absolutely true. If not, that little demon wouldn’t chase me for a thousand li to kill me.”

The Third Prince’s eyes emanated a chilling glint. He coldly looked at Chen Nan for a moment before saying, “Where’s the map?”

“This… It’s already been hidden in a secret place.”

“Hmph!” The Third Prince gave a cold humph and called out to him, “Grab Houyi Bow and come.”

Seeing the Third Prince withdraw, several guards who were originally pursuing to kill Chen Nan for Houyi Bow also followed suit. At the moment, Houyi Bow was in the underbrush not too far away.

The Black Tortoise Shell immortal treasure which had never been obtained by anyone before truly had an incredible attractiveness. Although the Third Prince didn’t believe Chen Nan’s words, he left him alive so that he’d be able to more thoroughly investigate him later.

“Hu~” Chen Nan let out a gasp of air. He handed Houyi Bow over to the Third Prince whose face stirred emotionally. He used his hands to continuously rub the bow’s dark back.

“At last, the continent’s immortal treasure Houyi Bow is in my hands. Haha…” His two eyes emitted a blazing light.

The daylight was already bright. A layer of faint mist hovered over the forest. The prickling smell of blood saturated the air. Corpses were disorderedly littered throughout the depths of the forest.

The princess’s white clothes were already cut open at various locations. There were more than ten splatters of blood on her body. Her eyes contained a baleful look. Blades were pushed up against her. Over half of the Third Prince’s guards were killed by her, but nearly all of her guards were exterminated. Only a few lying on the ground sporadically let out weak groans.

“Stop!” ordered the Third Prince loudly. “Your Highness Princess Yu is indeed outstanding. All the guards under my command are experts; one can be considered as ten. It’s unexpected that this many still died.”

The leader of the guards, Yang Chong, and three other attackers backed away from the princess.

The princess propped herself up against her sword, panting for air. Locks of her long jet-black hair were drenched in sweat. Her spirit was weary, strength exhausted, but the violent deaths of the guards under her leadership deeply stung her heart. She had relied on her fury to support herself until now.

The princess glowered at the Third Prince and directly called him by his name, “Ren Jian, by doing this, aren’t you afraid of inciting a war between the Empire of Chu and the Empire of Baiyue?”

“Heihei, Princess Yu, you should already understand. What conspired today will forever be an odd occurrence. No one will know what kind of incident had happened here to the princess of the Empire of Chu.”

“There isn’t a wall that can thoroughly stop the news. Sooner or later, this matter will become well-known throughout the continent.”

“There is no wall here, and no one to hear the news.”

The princess pointed at Chen Nan and said, “What about him?”

“Haha, thinking about this really makes me laugh. The princess of the grand Empire of Chu, the brilliant, famous little witch, was unexpectedly made a fool by this insignificant character.”

The princess turned her fierce gaze to Chen Nan. If she could still move, she would have stabbed him to death long ago. Chen Nan was inwardly angered. Even at this time, the little demon was still trying to frame him.

The Third Prince shot a cold glace at Chen Nan before turning back to the princess and said, “Princess Yu, pray tell, how should I handle you? I really can’t bear to kill a beautiful woman as attractive as you, but if I were to leave you at my side, I’d have to constantly be on guard for your assassination attempts. Ai, this is really a big headache. It seems like the only thing I can do is quietly send you away. I think there are some princes of other states who would definitely want to receive you as a gift.”

The princess seemed like she was hard at thought, her face full of pain.

The Third Prince coldly said, “You mustn’t make a vain attempt at exploiting those princes’ powers to get revenge. Maybe some of them will be kind-hearted enough to let you go. You can be a special favour that we give away. Merely a present that an alliance of others and I can pass around among each other. Heihei, I know you won’t commit suicide. You won’t give up an opportunity to live; only if you continue living can you try to get revenge.”

Powerless, the princess sat on the ground.

The heart of the nearby Chen Nan became desolate. The Third Prince was truly too terrible. This was absolutely an ambitious and ruthless character.

Suddenly, the princess lifted up her head. She firmly looked at Chen Nan, then faced the Third Prince and asked, “Ren Jian, why won’t you kill him?”

The Third Prince smiled. “Oh, I forgot to tell you. This guy will give me the hidden precious map pertaining to the location of the Black Tortoise Shell.” Although he didn’t particularly believe Chen Nan knew the secret of the Black Tortoise Shell, he felt that the resentment between Chen Nan and the princess was due to this hidden precious map. He wanted to take this opportunity to inflict another blow upon the princess.

“Haha~!” The princess suddenly gave out a large, graceless laugh. She was even crying.

“Ren Jian, you huge idiot. Haha~! It’s funny enough to kill me! You actually believe that guy has the Black Tortoise Shell? That’s too funny! Haha~!”

The Third Prince Ren Jian’s face became ashen. He coldly looked at Chen Nan.

Chen Nan’s heart instantly became heavy. He suddenly brandished a palm and struck at the pit of the stomach of the guard standing beside him. He easily wrestled Houyi Bow out of that guard’s grasp. Learning from the princess’s teacher Zhuge Chengfeng, Chen Nan used Houyi Bow as a club. With strength, he faced another guard to the side. His actions were simply too abrupt, and that guard still didn’t fully comprehend the current situation. His chest was bashed in and he instantly died a violent death.

“Haha, amusing. Degenerate, nice going!” shouted the princess, who found joy in someone else’s misfortune.

“Kill him for me!” Ren Jian bellowed.

Two other guards wielding steel swords chopped towards Chen Nan. He was left with no option but to raise Houyi Bow to meet the blows. Even though he used Houyi Bow to deflect the guards’ attacks in the beginning, he couldn’t defend against twenty or so exchanges. He was eventually forced onto his back by a guard’s palm strike. He spat out a mouthful of blood onto the ground.

When his blood sprinkled over Houyi Bow, a warm current surged from the bow to his hands. The pitch-black Houyi Bow began to emit a faint golden glow. The bowstring lightly vibrated.

“This… Wasn’t Houyi Bow like this ten thousand years ago? Whenever I gripped it, it would be lively and gently cry, releasing a golden glow. H-has the seal been removed?”

As all this was happening in an instant, a guard was charging towards Chen Nan who was lying on the ground.

Chen Nan quickly climbed up off the ground and nocked a dried stick into the bowstring. He pulled the bowstring back a little bit. A golden radiance, like a haze, surged towards the stick. A faint golden ray shot forth from the bowstring like lightning. A squall erupted in the forest as the wind thundered.

The golden ray ran into the steel sword, colliding with it in a shower of golden rain. The steel sword was shattered in an instant, its fragments sprinkling down from the air. The stick, in the midst of the golden rain, was like the God of Death’s lance. It instantly split the guard’s chest open. Blood gushed out wildly from the massive, bloody hole. The guard died without even closing his eyes.


1 夜長夢多/a long night invites nightmares; meaning ‘circumstances can become unfavourable over long periods of time’.
2 匹夫無罪,懷璧其罪/an ordinary man is innocent; treasuring a jade ring becomes a crime; meaning ‘a normal person hasn’t committed a crime, but is accused of such due to hiding a treasured possession’.
3 竇娥/Dou E; the main character from the ancient Chinese play 感天動地竇娥冤/The Injustice to Dou E written by Guan Hanqing; spoilers: she suffered a lot of unfair injustices.


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