Gu Fang Bu Zi Shang Vol03 Ch70
The wind tapped on the curtains, rustling them towards the courtyard.
Under the same moonlight, He Xia was sitting alone, not asleep.
After everyone’s repeated urgings, He Xia went to the Royal Residence of Gui Le. These brilliant golden walls made him even angrier than facing the overgrown wilderness of the Jing-An Ducal Residence.
It’s difficult to sleep.
After all the tangible enemies were removed, invisible enemies quietly emerged.
The four countries were crushed by the war horses’ hooves, and after all the official armies that dared to resist him were eradicated, a new instability emerged instead.
The rumours were spread everywhere.
The Yun Chang army had nothing to do now that they lost their opponents. They were harder to control than before, and the generals’ greed became even more difficult to fulfill.
He Xia restlessly paced by the window. He tried to restrain himself and sat down again, carefully studying the document on the table.
There had been absolutely no news from the party sent out to track down Chu Beijie, and they couldn’t find any real clues to their whereabouts. As expected of Chu Beijie, he could really hold back. He didn’t when the Yun Chang army was attacking Gui Le, using it as an opportunity for public recruitment. He didn’t declare it himself, summoning all the remaining rebels to resist.
He Xia guessed this much long ago and even gave Chu Beijie chances to do them, but Chu Beijie didn’t.
It was a little unexpected.
That person was just like a breath of wind, briefly popping out in the east before briefly popping out in the west. With just a few little tricks, they played until the tens of thousands of Yun Chang troops were a mess.
But in Bei Mo, there were rumours about the former Main General of Bei Mo, Ruohan, secretly recruiting.
Two guards and two officers on night shift came out from behind the curtain. They stood in two rows as they bowed, “Here.”
He Xia asked, “How has Bei Mo’s recruiting been?”
“There are young men escaping from the Bei Mo villages, approximately a dozen hundred every day to somewhere unknown. I have sent several orders about severe punishment, but those damn Bei Mo people seem to have gotten used to seeing fresh blood. They are no longer afraid of cruel punishment and escape without fear or death. I heard the little thief Ruo Han has secretly constructed several recruitment camps. I’ve sent spies who destroyed two or three of them, but…”
“I didn’t ask you about those remnants.” He Xia coldly replied, “I asked you about how many we have recruited after putting up our announcements?”
The person standing at the front lowered his head even more. He Xia coldly grunted. He hesitated for a few moments before finally reporting. “So far, about…about…four hundred maybe?”
He Xia was furious, wanting to slam his fist onto the table. He forced himself to hold back, lowering his voice, “Didn’t I tell you to give recruited soldiers lenient conditions?”
That officer cautiously answered, “I have. According to Marquess of Jing-An’s instructions, Bei Mo citizens who become soldiers will have huge rewards and family tax would be reduced by a half…” He stiffened in horror and didn’t say any more when He Xia’s eyes flickered to him.
Ever since the news of his intention to establish a new country spread, He Xia planned to gather talented individuals from every country. He wasn’t as kind to these old nobles of Yun Chang as before.
Last time when Official Cui, responsible for supplying tea to the Royal House, came into report, he entered in full health. No one knew what he said, but by the time he left, he became a battered and lifeless body. The guards carried his corpse, his blood splattering onto the bluestone tiles. It frightened the officers waiting outside. Two of them fainted on the spot.
“Then what about Gui Le?” He Xia continued asking.
Another officer who often dealt with this kind of thing already guessed He Xia would ask this. He was a bit more prepared. He stepped forward, carefully replying, “After the announcement was made, there were about four hundred recruited.”
Even Gui Le had so few?
He Xia’s handsomely shaped eyebrows wrinkled. Back when the House of Jing-An was in its glory, with just a raise of his two arms, the number of Gui Le people willing to fight for him without fear or death was too numerous to count.
But it had become like this now…
His eyebrows held a terrible pain. He reached out, rubbing them without changing his expression. His voice seemed to soften though, “You can’t be blamed. From today on, reduce the tax by a third in every place. Pass on my Order, at all costs. Regardless of whether they’re soldier or general, if they do not obey according to my orders, kill on sight. As for He Su’s family…give them the proper treatment of royalty by burial.”
The maids beside him could see he was a bit tired, so they quietly served up hot tea for refreshment. He Xia held it in his hands. He smelled it but didn’t drink any. He then asked, “Have the treasures for auspiciousness been collected already for the establishment of the new country?”
The people before him were all afraid he’d ask this. Their expressions darkened at his words.
“From the look on the face, it’s obvious you weren’t able to find a single one. Fine, I won’t ask that for now.” He Xia said, “There have been rumours everywhere recently. Something like failures surfacing as if symbolising disaster in the future?”
The two officers stood like logs. They snuck a look at each other, neither daring to say a word.
Who dared to report about the ominous incidents in the four countries while He Xia was currently putting all his ambition into building a new country? But Bei Mo, Dong Lin and Gui Le suddenly had several strange incidents.
Mud oozing blood, swallows dropping dead for no reason, statues crying…Everyone was worried enough. After these occurrences, one gossip turned to ten which then became a hundred and to even more people, scaring the world. All in all, the general opinion in establishing the new country would bring disaster.
These rumours gradually made their way to the army camps.
There were already generals in the Yun Chang army that didn’t support the establishment of the new country. Although they didn’t dare say much, their hearts were whispering elsewise. As for the prisoners of war from the other three countries, at least eight of ten didn’t approve of He Xia in the slightest.
He Xia saw they were quiet but wasn’t offended. He smiled, “Even though these jokes are ridiculous, they’re still enough to scare you. They’re just from someone messing around from the shadows. Pass on my Order, all countries are to have their forces strengthened. You pick a few talented individuals, dispatch them everywhere so they can clear things up. They can debunk all these little tricks for me.” He then lowered his head to read a few more documents before saying, “You can leave.”
The two officers hurriedly left as if granted amnesty. When they stepped out of the room, they looked at each other. Their clothes were completely soaked. When the wind blew, the cold swept right into their bones.
Dongzhuo received orders to command the Yongchang Regiment and hurried over from Yun Chang during the last few days. He had been by He Xia’s side since his early years, so his identity was very different to others. Other civil service officials or military generals had to stay in arranged living quarters, but he entered the Royal Residence straight away after entering Gui Le.
While the two officers stepped out, Dongzhuo stepped in. He saw He Xia’s eyes closed while leaning on the chair, as if getting some rest. He scanned the accumulated pile of documents on the table before whispering, “Since Master is tired, please get some rest soon.”
He repeated twice, before He Xia finally shook his head. “No need.” He opened his eyes, “You’ve been quite busy in the last two days, so go to sleep soon.”
Dongzhuo agreed but stood on the spot, not moving for a long time.
He Xia noted he wasn’t willing to leave and couldn’t help chuckle, “You brat, you’re more or lessa general when you go out now. How could you be so over-sentimental? Fine, if you don’t want to go, stay, since I also wanted to ask, how do you plan to control the Yongchang Regiment?”
“Shang Lu’s soldier training was decent. I have gone out to check on them outside the city two times in the last two days. The soldiers were doing the drills well, suggesting their foundation is solid. It’s just…” Dongzhuo was a little hesitant, “maybe because I don’t have experience in commanding troops nor military qualifications, so although the officers below me are respectful on the surface, they don’t approve of me as a general behind my back.”
He Xia murmured, “hmm” but didn’t say much.
Dongzhuo was feeling a little bit confused about this. He couldn’t help ask, “In terms of mobilising troops for war, Fei Zhaoxing is obviously a man with talent. Why wasn’t he given rights to command the Yongchang Regiment as well, since he did help Master get rid of Shang Lu?”
When He Xia heard the name, Fei Zhaoxing, he suddenly harrumphed. Dongzhuo’s heart jolted. He hurriedly shut his mouth.
In the magnificent royal hall, the suffocating silence surged.
Dongzhuo pretty much grown up with He Xia, so his words had always been casual, without restraint. In recent years, He Xia’s thoughts became more unpredictable day by day. Sometimes his expression was so cold, it seemed to fill his heart with a bitter coldness. His Master was nearing the throne closer and closer, but it felt like he became further and further away from himself. With just a harrumph, the supreme, dignified yet murderous air of an emperor would completely swallow his audience up.
At this thought, Dongzhuo couldn’t help feel a bit sad.
After a while, He Xia softened his expression. Seeing Dongzhuo stand there carefully, not daring to make the slightest sound, he beckoned to him, whispering, “There’s something I want you to do. Fei Zhaoxing hasn’t told me about this. He has been dealing with some dangerous men. Corruption, extortion, there’s no evil he hasn’t done. Find evidence of those crimes for me and take care to keep it a secret, so the news is not leaked.”
Dongzhuo was stunned for a few moments.
Needless to say, his Master was planning to deal with Fei Zhaoxing. Like Master’s usual actions, when he hadn’t started, nothing would happen, but once he did, the chances of Fei Zhaoxing escaping were very slim.
While Dongzhuo was still alarmed, He Xia asked, “Is that clear?”
“Yes.” Dongzhuo mumbled.
He Xia’s gaze lightly touched his face. He suddenly asked, “Do you think I’m too heartless?”
Dongzhuo hurriedly shook his head.
He Xia’s gaze was sharp as he studied him, his eyes black. Dongzhuo felt like there was absolutely nowhere to hide under his gaze, as if his thoughts were being read.
He Xia assessed him for a while before lowering his eyes. He sheepishly laughed, “Who would’ve thought that things would turn out like this? I’m about to establish the new country and ascend the throne to emperor. You, a reckless little thing, became the general of a huge regiment. Pingting…” He abruptly stopped his words, his handsome face revealing a hint of sadness difficult to describe.
Where was Pingting, the Pingting who stayed by my side during my early years, the Bai Pingting who once played qin for me in the old Royal Residence of Gui Le?
It was very difficult not to remember how her soaring laughter floated through the Jing-An Ducal Residence like a silver bell, pleasant to the ear, leaving glowing petals everywhere it went.
Because of that, He Xia easily found her. He pulled her from the corner of the small building, radiantly saying, “Pingting, let’s go riding.”
Go riding, go paint, go read, go listen to songs…
Together, to the battlefield…
He Xia stared at the candle, watching the flickering candlelight. Its brightness jumped on his slightly more gentle-looking face.
At that moment, Dongzhuo felt he was seeing the romantic Marquess of Jing-An in the Jing-An Ducal Residence from back then.
The evening breeze wafted over, causing the silk curtains on the open windows of the great hall to gracefully dance.
Dongzhuo whispered, “Master, do you think Pingting is still alive?”
“Chu Beijie left the mountains. Who else apart from Pingting can make him leave them?” At the mention of Chu Beijie, He Xia’s gentleness was suddenly missing, replaced by a sharp flashing light in his eyes.
Dongzhuo thought for a bit and couldn’t resist saying, “But even now, no one has seen Chu Beijie himself, not to mention Pingting. No matter what, we have to see them in person…”
“I’ll kill that person if I do!” He Xia suddenly clenched his teeth, heavily thumping the table.
Dongzhuo’s ears began to buzz. He was utterly stunned. It was a long time before he managed to stutter out, “Master…do you mean…Chu Beijie?”
It was very likely that Pingting was associated with Chu Beijie’s departure from the mountains. Even Dongzhuo managed to roughly guess that much from He Xia’s words. Now that these two unpredictable people came together before an impending battle, it really was the worst of the worst.
If Pingting really did help Chu Beijie fight Master, what could be done if those two were to meet in the future? Dongzhuo was troubled by this for a long time but didn’t dare to ask He Xia about it.
He still retained a bit of innocence from the former Jing-An Ducal Residence. He hoped to use today’s great opportunity to listen to his Master’s intentions and see if there was any hope for change. He didn’t believe Pingting would be so heartless.
He Xia’s face was very cold. He stressed each syllable, “No, I meant Pingting.”
That was definitely not a joking expression.
Dongzhuo never once expected He Xia would reply so directly and firmly. His body suddenly felt cold. It felt like his heart was clawed by a cat, extremely painful and uncomfortable. He shifted slightly backward.
He Xia’s expression was very fierce. He stared at the document on the table as if seeing his enemies. It was a long time before his taut expression finally relaxed, even revealing a bit of helpless melancholy. His smile was wry as he murmured, “Why would she do that? Does she not even feel a little bit sentimental?”
Under the red glow of the candle, his handsome face remained pale.
The two were silent as they faced each other, both feeling like they had nothing left to say.
He Xia waved, “Go sleep. Tomorrow still has things to come.”
Dongzhuo answered, “Yes.” He glumly lowered his head, retreating to the entrance.
From behind, vague and muffled sounds of He Xia’s voice came.
“Dance of the skies, dream of the vast emptiness, affection is not strong…” He Xia sighed deeply as if full of thoughts, each hiding indescribable regret.
When he returned to his quarters, Dongzhuo suddenly remembered. The day of the banquet with Yaotian at the Prince Consort Residence, He Xia took advantage of the time to dance out this line with his sword.
That night, the entire courtyard was full of melting yet not melting snow.
Bei Mo’s dance maids worn colourful skirts, having drums at their waist. They skilfully tapped the beats as they danced, their freshness appealing and earning Yaotian’s delight.
Both husband and wife were in an excellent mood, drinking together under the moon.
He Xia danced with his sword while Yaotian smiled.
Dance of the skies, dream of the vast emptiness.
Is not strong.
Dongzhuo finally understood why He Xia intended to kill Fei Zhaoxing.
He would never forget the time He Xia heard of Fei Zhaoxing’s advice to dispose of Yaotian. His own heart had been gently cut off by silent lightning.
It may be because of the messy war to see the peasants without homes and wandering around. The number of people entering the city had gradually multiplied.
“So what? There are many benefits for having many people. Excellent, excellent!” Fanlu listened to his subordinate’s report, laughing carefreely.
The Governor’s seemed quite refreshed these days, and it seemed his mood has gotten a lot better. His irritability from the last few days was definitely nowhere to be seen.
He crossed his legs as he chatted to the clerk for a bit until he suddenly thought of something. He instructed, “The people at my residence are all old acquaintances from the time I was still in the army. Each and every one of them can kill, and many of them don’t like to deal with others. They also hate people who inquire about them. You’d better be careful, don’t mess with them.”
Dujing knew the Governor was a person from the army. He obediently replied, “I wouldn’t dare disturb Sir’s friends. Absolutely not, absolutely don’t dare to.”
“Heh, wouldn’t expect you to.” Fanlu grinned and laughed.
He knew the news of Chu Beijie hiding in his residence mustn’t be leaked at all costs. Otherwise several hundreds of thousands of soldiers would immediately come surround them. Fortunately, Chu Beijie and his men were all shrewd elites trained in the army, so it was unlikely they’d slip up. None of the subordinates in his residence were particularly clever. Only Clerk Dujing was a bit smarter and could probably suspect something.
Fanlu wasn’t worried. He already told Moran he sent for a surveillance expert. The moment he became aware, the expert would immediately lash out, ending his life.
Even though he was just a governor, in the mere city of Qierou, he was the dictator. There was no one he couldn’t hide. It was also likely that at least eight out of ten of the recent influx of migrants were teams of Chu Beijie’s men once stationed outside the city.
While he laughed, he suddenly heard a crisp voice seemingly asking the cabinet officer outside, “Where is the Governor?”
Fanlu leapt to his feet, raising his voice, “I’m here.”
Zuiju pushed the door and entered. She held a square tray in her hands. When she saw Fanlu, she smiled slightly. “So even you do things seriously sometimes.” She gingerly stepped closer, gently putting the tray on the table. The tray held a bowl of steaming rice porridge.
Fanlu looked at Zuiju and then looked at the porridge. His smile came from his heart, but his mouth deliberately said, “I’ve already had breakfast.”
Zuiju wasn’t angry. She simply said, “Oh, then give it to the Clerk.”
Dujing hurriedly shook it off. “I dare not to! I dare not to! Sir, I must go to deal with affairs first.”
“How could you possibly dare eat my food?” Fanlu snatched the bowl, not letting go of it.
Dujing knew this was Fanlu’s personal problems. It was something he should never get himself mixed into it, so he didn’t. He immediately excused himself and considerately closed the door for them when leaving.
Fanlu held the bowl, sometimes saying it was too hot, other times saying the flavour was too bland. When he finished the entire bowl of porridge, he burped in pleasure, praising Zuiju, “Ever since seeing Father-in-Law, you’ve been a lot more obedient.”
Zuiju asked, “Shall I be obedient like this in the future too?”
Fanlu nodded vigorously, “Of course, of course! That would be good!”
Zuiju said, “Teacher said I should know what’s important, not get in the way. I won’t bother with your work, so I’ll come later to accompany you.” She got up and left.
This miracle made Fanlu very delighted, but because Zuiju praised him for taking his work seriously, he couldn’t shamelessly ditch his work to follow her. He could only attentively do his work, planning to indulge himself with Zuiju for a whole day when he was finished.
When he was about to finish his work, as expected, Zuiju pushed the door open. She smiled as she looked at Fanlu, “Are you still doing well?”
Fanlu retorted, “Very well. Why wouldn’t I be?” Seeing Zuiju’s expression, his heart plummeted. His expression changed, “What did you put in the porridge?” It would’ve been better if he hadn’t said that. As he did, Zuiju abruptly got to his feet and felt most of his energy completely depleted. His two legs shook, and his entire body felt a rather itchy.
Zuiju pursed her lips to a smile, pretentiously checking his pulse at the wrist. She giggled, “Miss Bai is amazing. Even though it cannot diagnose any illness, the victim cannot detect they’ve been drugged”
Fanlu was so angry his teeth felt like they’ve been grinded to dust. He reached out to grab Zuiju, but he didn’t have enough energy so his speed was naturally quite slow. Zuiju easily dodged. Fanlu fumed, “Why did you try it on me?”
Zuiju was laughing at first, but at his question, her expression cooled down. She stared at him, her hands on her hips. “Say, why did you tell Teacher that I…that I have…slept with you?”
Fanlu was angry at first but after hearing her question and seeing her blushed, he couldn’t help sit back in his seat. He clutched to his stomach while insolently laughed.
Zuiju shot daggers at him.
When Fanlu had his fill in laughs, he said, “That’s just idle chat, so I’ll admit it. Your drugging is justified. Though, why don’t we make this idle chat become something that isn’t idle chat tonight. What’s done cannot be undone…” He had yet to finish when severe hits and punches rained.
Fanlu whined a bit, asking, “How long is this stuff effective?”
She felt a lot more comfortable after punching him a few times. She replied, “It can be long or short depending on your constitution. You don’t know how difficult it was to prepare this. I know medicine and helped at the side. The extremely diverse types of herbs made even me feel a bit dizzy. It really is amazing Miss Bai knows so much.” She then triumphantly continued, “Even silver needles can’t detect it in rice porridge. Those who eat it only feel languid and further effects, depending on the person. Some will have their limbs completely drained of strength while others will completely sleep, but no detectable symptoms are left on the body. Even Yun Chang generals can’t suspect it. See, don’t you think that’s pretty interesting?”
Fanlu rolled his eyes at her, sighing, “I know you’re only delighted because the one who got tested was me. Sigh, if this result hadn’t been the way you expected, then you would’ve murdered your husband.”
Zuiju poked her tongue out at him, “Got that right. I really am happy because of that.” Ignoring the currently miserable Fanlu due to her actions, she went toward the backyard alone.
Pingting was busily preparing various drugs in the last few days, so she hadn’t slept at all. Once they were prepared, she was barely able to stand her ground. Huo Yunan hurriedly took her pulse and wrote a few prescriptions. After Zuiju shooed away the yet to recover Fanlu, she came to accompany her for most of the night.
Pingting advised, “You’ve always been helping beside me, so you’re tired too. Get some rest soon. What am I to do if you get sick too?”
Zuiju said, “I’ll stay for a bit longer before leaving. I’ll wait until you fall asleep.”
Pingting said, “I’ll only want to talk to you if you’re here. I wouldn’t want to sleep even more.”
At Pingting’s words, Zuiju smiled and returned to her room. Pingting leaned against her pillow for a while, gradually entering sleep. In her haze, she felt someone stroking her hair. She murmured, “You’re back?” She opened her eyes to see moonlight scattering in from the window, while Chu Beijie sat at the head of the bed. He had yet to get in his night clothes, appearing to have only just returned.
“Why is your forehead so hot?”
“Duke’s return has perfect timing. The drug has been prepared today. The drug is just as we want. We’ll prepare it again tomorrow, so we may have more doses and it will be enough for anything.”
Pingting knew he was annoyed at her for not looking after her health. She pursed her lips and smiled, “Has Duke accomplished the goal of this departure?”
“Sneaking into the enemy camp and cutting down once was enough. I didn’t use the Divine Spirit Sword this time, just a knife to prevent recognisable marks.” Chu Beijie undid the sword at his waist with one hand, placing it on the table. His expression was serious, “If I end up cornered in the future, I ought to be an assassin.”
Pingting gently replied, “I know Duke wouldn’t do such underground deals. If we have enough troops, Duke would definitely agree to decide victory against the enemy generals on the battlefield.”
Chu Beijie held her tightly, solemnly answering, “For you, I will agree to do anything. What is assassination when you’re supposed to do anything when it comes to clashing armies?”
This rang in Pingting’s ears for a bit before so she softly asked, “Any news from outside?”
Chu Beijie didn’t want to let Pingting know at first, but he couldn’t hide it now that she’d asked. He sighed, “I assigned Ruo Han and the others to create inauspicious disturbances, cause panic amongst the peasants so He Xia wouldn’t be able to immediately ascend to the throne. While this could fool others, it couldn’t fool He Xia. He sent his Order to get the elites of the army to trace them down and somehow managed to find the trails of our people.”
Pingting softly gasped.
Chu Beijie was silent for a while, “Huacan died. Luoshang’s side is unknown. Contact has been completely cut off, so I’m afraid the odds are against us. I have immediately ordered Ruo Han to stop all actions, so he wouldn’t catch any attention again. But no matter what, thanks to these disturbances, the number of established families against the the formation of a new country has increased quite a lot.” He hesitated before continuing, “He Xia also knows not every single one of the Yun Chang generals would agree to his desire of establishing a new country, so he is eager to expand his personal troops. He has been doing major recruitment in Bei Mo and Gui Le, but not many are willing to join.”
Pingting sighed, tucking herself deep into Chu Beijie’s arms. “Master is becoming more and more unpopular.”
Gui Le’s Marquess of Jing-An of the past used to recruit numerous willing Gui Le people to fight for him without fear or death by just a raise of his two arms.
Killing the entire family of the surrendered King of Gui Le was indeed He Xia’s fatal error.
Pingting abruptly shuddered. She was calculating each error her Master made, thinking how it can be used in her planning…
Reality seemed to be mocking people, in a way that was too heartless.
Master had already returned to the Jing-An Ducal Residence.
But those tolerant, gentle days were already a thousand miles away.
Like that, who else did his heart have left to yearn for under the moonlight?