Chapter 29 Qi Yue Wu Yi* Part 1
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* poem that describes the high morale of soldiers before an expedition
A neat caravan of carriages and horses slowly moved through the streets of Yan Country’s Shengjing city.
The common folk in Shengjing throughout their lives had seen a lot of princes and nobles enter the capital. This unremarkable parade of carts and horses was not taken seriously or as anything out of the ordinary and everyone went about their business in a lively manner. However, whether it was opening one’s store to do business, or carrying a pole on the streets to shout and attract customers was forbidden on this day. Everyone was given a strange order in advance: with the convoys entering the capital, no noise was allowed, and offenders were to be heavily punished.
So as the convoy entered the capital, usually lively and prosperous Shengjing city became mute for the first time. Many people were stuck on both sides of the road allowing the carts and horses to travel through. Most tried to look into the gaps in the carriages wanting to catch clues as to what was being transported, their curiosity getting the best of them.
“Hey, what kind of a celebrity is here that they won’t even allow the common people to speak freely on the streets?” someone asked in a hushed tone.
“I heard that he is very ill, so he can’t be disturbed. So they prohibited us from speaking loud” Another quiet voice answered.
“Well, he must be very important. It’s probably a close friend of the emperor. Who else would put on such a parade?!”
“Hush – Keep it down”!!
A complacent voice stated: “You really hit the nail on its head. Just now, the curtain was blown open and guess whom I saw?”
When hearing this the crowd immediately came alive with interest and curiosity and perked up their ears.
“Hurry and tell us, don’t keep us in suspense!”
“A person of great beauty is sitting in that carriage! Although it was just a quick glance, those eyes, that face…tsk!”
People stood around with great envy obvious in their gazes.
“Really!? I heard workers of the palace say that the emperor wants to personally take this noble into the palace to take care of!”
“Well, it won’t take long until there is another spoiled lady in the palace then!”
In the carriage, Yan Changqing slowly opened his eyes. He moved the driving curtain by a fraction and quietly looked out at the scenery. The prosperous main street of the Shengjing was lined on both sides by pubs, workshops, stands and pawn shops. Colourful business flags fluttered in the wind and various teas were sold under simple sheds. Whether it was the people in the stall or the people around the carriages, everyone exchanged gossip while pretending to cover their mouths. From time to time they would stretch out their necks and cast curious glances at the carriage.
As soon as the curtain was lifted, there was a burst of poorly suppressed exclamation from the crowds on both sides of the road. The guards of the convoy immediately stepped forward, sending the crowd scrambling, and motioned for the people to be silent.
Yan Changqing has never liked others staring at him, but this time, he pretended nothing out of the ordinary was happening around him and continued to look into the distance.
Along the bank of the moat, there were rows upon rows of tall and short houses. Festive spring couplets were still attached to many doorways. The bright vermilion had not yet faded, but the big trees at the doorways have already sent forth fluffy new leaves. Under the trees, laughing there were scattered groups of women and children.
Only now, everything was warm and quiet, as if far away from him.
The guard Ah Jing waited cautiously on the side of Yan Changqing. Seeing him dressed in plain clothes with satin-like blue silk draped over his back he couldn’t help feeling sad. Yan Changqing was leaning against the window lattice and watching the scenery around him silently. His eyes like two deep dark pools lacked their usual spark and brilliance gone. He said in a quiet voice: “My lord, do you need to take a break? It’s time to take your medicine.”
Yan Changqing didn’t even notice him speak and he didn’t turn his eyes. He was akin to an exquisite sculpture.
A Jing gritted his teeth and whispered: “Mr. Zhang has already helped the little girl whom you rescued that day settle in as instructed. So please stop worrying and take care of yourself.”
Yan Changqing, dumbfounded, finally turned his head. Looking at the low-ranked guard kneeling on the side and not daring to lift his eyes, he asked: “What about them?”
Without pausing to think, Ah Jing, somewhat puzzled, raised his head and said: “Them…?” He simply choked on the rest of his sentence when he was greeted with a pair of black and white and an extremely sharp gaze. Ah Jing paled.
“Fifty-three people.” Yan Changqing continued. “There were thirty of the black armoured troops and twenty-three guards accompanying them. Tell me, why are you alone and unscathed?”
“I…” Ah Jing opened his mouth but couldn’t find the right words to say.
That’s right, from the very beginning, under the secret decree of the Yan Emperor, Murong Xiu, he observed and reported Yan Changqing’s whereabouts along the way. But Ah Jing never felt like he had done anything wrong. He knew that the current emperor had a very good relationship with his generals, so he didn’t think there was any problem with the emperor’s order. He was just a monarch genuinely concerned about the safety of his subjects. Which, if anything, should make his subjects feel honoured. It wasn’t until the hijacking incident on the Jiaolu River that he suddenly realized something wrong. That night he still followed the emperor’s instructions, reported on the situation and moved in to rescue soldiers.
They were obviously rescuing their troops, but why kill everyone regardless of which side of the conflict they supported? Whether it was his brothers who fought with him or the villagers who smiled and treated them to delicious meals. Why was everyone slaughtered without any hesitation?
Could it be that his message was interpreted wrong or did the emperor change his mind?
Although after this incident he was awarded the special honour of being appointed the position of Sixth-Rank Feiji Captain. When he closed his eyes, he could still see the blood and carnage reigned upon Qixia Village and Yan Changqing’s pale ghostly face by the cliff.
Ah Jing plopped to his knees: “General it is my fault, it’s my wrongdoing!”
Yan Changqing quietly looked at him.
Was Ah Jing truly at fault? Even though Yan Changqing couldn’t help blaming him deep in his heart, he knew that the biggest responsibility for the events that transpired did not at all fall on Ah Jing.
Yan Changqing suddenly said, “Did you find him?”
Ah Jing was taken aback but almost immediately understood what Yan Changqing who referring to, and said, “Not yet… The river under the cliff is so fast that Master Zhang has been unable to search thoroughly. Perhaps… he escaped?”
Ah Jing didn’t know what Yan Changqing wanted to hear about Helian Rongchuan. While answering truthfully, he raised his eyes and carefully looked at Yan Changqing’s expression trying to gauge his mood. However, Yan Changqing’s looked as pale as when he had just awakened, his gaze ice-cold. When he heard the word “escape”, a flash of brilliance and emotion passed through his calm eyes. But it was just for a fleeting moment. An instant later the light in those eyes faded into a dead silence once more.
Yan Changqing turned his head away and closed his eyes. His long eyelashes trembled slightly as if trying to get some sort of emotional turmoil under control. Ah Jing hurriedly stepped forward, holding the medicine bowl high with both hands: “My lord! The doctor said you must not get angry anymore, please take care of your body!”
This request was followed by a sharp sound of metal clashing. Yan Changqing quietly looked down at the iron chain clasped around his wrists. When he woke up from his coma for the first time, he noticed shackles put on his hands.
What’s the meaning of this? Was he a prisoner?
Yan Changqing raised the iron chain and sneered: “How can I drink with these on me?”
Ah Jing felt awkward. He knew Zhang Jian, taking advantage of Yan Changqing’s coma and buckling him with an iron chain, would be adding oil to the fire. However, Zhang Jian insisted that this was the emperor’s wish, so he had to stay silent. He didn’t quite understand what was happening. The general was obviously a man of merit, how could he be locked up again? Did they fear that he might run away?
Ah Jing was genuinely distressed seeing his general wake up relatively calm. This usually arrogant man was wearing just a sneer, frustration and resentment colouring the linen between his eyebrows.
Deep in thought, Ah Jing didn’t notice that his hands were now empty. Yan Changqing took the medicine bowl, raised it gently, and poured its contents out of the window.
“My lord, what..?”
Yan Changqing closed his eyes in exhaustion and decided to ignore Ah Jing.
Another nightmare. In his dream, Yan Changqing was back in Qixia Village. Crimson blood dyed the sky a dark grey. To the soundtrack of the villager’s screams and crying, countless people in black came forth from all directions. A burst of cold light lit up the scene but Yan Changqing was no longer able to move, even half an inch. He could only watch as hundreds of sharp arrows rushed toward Helian Rongchuan, all of them plunging into his flesh and blood.
Helian Rongchuan was covered in blood, but he smiled nonetheless: “If it’s by your hand… That’s good… Very good.”
Yan Changqing suddenly realized that was holding a bow in his hands. The arrow which delivered the fatal blow was shot by him, now embedded in Helian Rongchuan’s chest.
His hands were drenched in Helian Rongchuan’s blood.
Yan Changqing screamed hoarsely and woke up. His chest was heaving and his forehead was covered in a cold sweat.
He felt a cool palm lightly brush his face, the man’s voice was full of concern: “Is brother finally awake?”
Yan Changqing raised his eyes and looked at the Yan Emperor, Murong Xiu, not responding.
The chains around his wrists jingled and as Murong Xiu embraces Yan Changqing’s right hand in his, a gentle, harmless smile appeared on his face.
Remarks about Protagonist’s age and zodiac: Yan Changqing is 20 years old and belongs to the rabbit. Helian Rongchuan is 21 years old and belongs to the tiger. Murong Xiu is half a year younger than Yan Changqing, and belongs to the dragon (no wonder he is the emperor =口=)