On the third day of Ning Cheng’s assault against Skyriver City, internal strife broke out within the army!
“Deputy General Xue?” Han Yunxi’s first reaction was him, but the reality proved far worse!
“Princess, the turncoat was a deputy general named Chen. He took 10,000 cavalrymen away with him to side with Skyriver City’s Yuwen Guang!” the shadow guard reported.
“What?!” Han Yunxi couldn’t believe it.
The Ning Clan Head only had a portion of crack troops that were members of the Di Clan. Most of the soldiers were recruited from other sources, but how could they betray Ning Cheng after following him for so many years? Moreover, they hadn’t turned traitor when Ning Cheng wasn’t here, so why did they start now? Even a mere foot soldier could tell that this northern expedition was a sure win for Ning Cheng’s side. As long as he gained victory, all of the Ning Clan troops would enjoy endless glory and riches in the future!
“Could it be that this Deputy General Chen was a spy to begin with?” Long Feiye asked doubtfully.
“Your Highness, Yuwen Guang opened his city gates to let the soldiers in. Currently he and the 10,000 cavalry forces are attacking the Ning Clan troops in a pincer formation! It’s uncertain whether Great General Ning will win this battle!” the shadow guard added.
It didn’t matter whether Ning Cheng had a record of undefeated wins anymore. Under these circumstances, the entire Ning Clan army was in mortal danger. If they lost Skyriver City, then the battles for Northern Li’s southern regions would definitely extend into the winter months.
“Your Highness, if he was a spy, then what kind of miracle agent is he? How could he wait this long?” Gu Beiyue knitted his brows. “As this subordinate sees it, the Northern Li emperor doesn’t have such aspirations.”
Immediately, a thought flashed into Long Feiye’s mind, but he quickly dismissed it. Instead he ordered, “Tell Baili Yuanlong to hurry up with reinforcements! If they can’t take Skyriver City by the end of this month, this crown prince will hold him accountable!”
Baili Yuanlong had 100,000 soldiers of his own made of up Ning and Baili forces. Ning Cheng was in charge of the premptive attack against the north while he brought up the rear. While Ning Cheng was taking the south and Skyriver City, he was supposed to lead the troops north. Currently, the 100,000 soldiers under his command had just passed through Three-Way Battlefield. 50,000 were meant to head west and support Ning Cheng while 30,000 went north. The remaining 20,000 were to turn east and meet up with the naval forces. Even though Ning Cheng’s 30,000 troops were split apart by the traitorous faction, they wouldn’t affect the big picture as long as help arrived in time.
Long Feiye’s group were only shocked that spies had remained hidden in the army for so long. If this was the case, then what about the other military units?
The shadow guard hadn’t left long before a familiar face arrived--none other than Chu Xifeng. As soon as he recovered from his injuries, he and Baili Mingxiang had made their way to Three-Way Black Market with another piece of bad news.
“When did you come back?” Han Yunxi was surprised.
“Your Highness, princess, this subordinate has just arrived! Something’s happened on the western front. Half of the Chu Clan troops have turned traitor and sided with Western Zhou’s two factions. Three days ago, they started fighting with Chu Tianyin at the border!”
As soon as Chu Xifeng finished, another shadow guard arrived with an urgent missive. “Your Highness, this is the Chu Clan’s emergency report!”
Long Feiye and Han Yunxi exchanged looks. Gu Beiyue couldn’t sit still and finally stood up as well. Long Feiye opened the letter, which was written by Chu Tianyin, and read exactly what Chu Xifeng had just reported. Chu Tianyin didn’t have enough soldiers to fend off the traitors and Western Zhou alike. He retreated to a boundary beyond Tianning and Western Zhou in hopes of seeking reinforcements, but the Tianning garrison troops stationed there turned against him too to ally with Western Zhou, leaving him attacked on both sides!
Chu Tianyin’s letter detailed the following:
By the time Your Highness and princess sees this letter, my Chu Clan troops should have already fallen into enemy hands. This one vows that I was loyal to the end and only ask Your Highness to abide by your word to protect my father and uncle’s lives! The Chu Clan and Tianning garrison troops harbored traitors. This subordinate makes bold to declare that the princess must be on guard against Tianan’s Mu Clan!
“The Mu Clan?” Now Han Yunxi was beyond belief. What did Chu Tianyin mean? He guessed that all the traitors hailed from the Mu Clan? How could that be possible? If General Mu had such skills, Tianan wouldn’t be stuck in its present state today!
To plant spies in the Chu Clan, Ning Clan, and Tianning garrison troops with the ability to turn large numbers of soldiers to their side was some skill! Enough to send them to the top! That was equal to controlling massive factions on both the East and West Qin sides!
Long Feiye had never been more taken aback in his life, much less Gu Beiyue. He looked back just in time to meet the doctor’s eyes.
“The Li Clan…” (离族) Long Feiye muttered.
“It could only have been them!” Gu Beiyue was certain.
Besides the Li Clan, no one else had such skills! They were experts in the art of war and deployed troops in similar miraculous fashions as the Wind Clan and their command of of the Qimen Dunjia arts. However, it was simply well-planned military tactics. Anyone who wanted to learn had the chance.
Thus, the Li Clan had many “clan heads.” It didn’t accept tuition fees from its students, but required them to swear a military pledge to help out the Li Clan wherever they were if it was in trouble. Way back in the Great Qin Empire, the Li Clan’s disciples had spread far and wide in each and every one of the military factions. All of them held important positions. Thus, both East and West Qin factions had vied for the chance to win over the noble family. Fortunately, the Li Clan had always maintained a neutral stance, allowing the internal conflicts within Great Qin to remain at a stalemate.
Even when internal unrest broke out within Great Qin, the Li CLan maintained its middle ground. In the end, it even dissolved its biggest army. If they hadn’t bothered to move, Cloud Realm Continent would never have developed into the three big nations it had today. Both nobles and royals alike wanted to pull the Li Clan to their sides even as they dreaded its power. Thus, the nobles and royals of East and West Qin made sure to hold the command tablets for their generals firmly in their own hands. Once the Great Qin Empire was thoroughly destroyed, the Li Clan vanished without a trace. Everyone’s guard lowered as a result. Moreover, the populations of the royal and noble clans had decreased as well, so there was no choice but to return the military command tokens back to the generals and remind them to be careful.
Faced with these circumstances, it was impossible to guard against dangers even if they wanted to!
While everyone was still reeling from the news, the shadow guard in charge of reports from Tianan arrived. “Your Highness, princess, Tianan Country’s sent a secret missive. Long Tianmo has been put under house arrest and Great General Mu has taken control of all military power in the country. He is preparing to give orders for a punitive expedition to the three prefectures in the west.”
Now Long Feiye’s suspicions were confirmed. Great General Mu was none other than the direct bloodline descendant of the Li Clan!
“Looks like the Li Clan has long colluded with the Bai Clan,” Long Feiye said coldly. He never understood why Chu Tianyin couldn’t find the reasons for the Western Zhou emperor’s interference at the Hundred Poisons Sect affair. Now it was clear that this wasn’t the emperor’s intentions at all, but Great General Mu’s own plan.
A complicated look flickered past Han Yunxi’s eyes before she asked anxiously, “Could Mu Qingwu have fallen into Bai Yanqing’s hands?”
If the Li Clan wanted to disrupt the order of the Cloud Realm Continent chessboard and win a piece of the kingdom for themselves, why wait until now to act? With their current strength in the armies, they could raise chaos across the lands at any time! Even if Great General Mu had changed his mind and suddenly wanted to be a ruler, he wouldn’t need to wait for so long. The best time for the Li Clan to raise their troops would be while Jun Yixie was still alive. That would leave the East and West Qin factions contending with the threat of Northern Li and internal turncoats, guaranteeing pure chaos.
Han Yunxi recalled back to the news of Mu Qingwu’s disappearance and began to wonder whether the Bai Clan was threatening the Li Clan.
“Princess, the young general wasn’t kidnapped back during the incident at Hundred Poisons Sect,” Gu Beiyue reminded her.
No matter what deals the Mu Clan and Bai Yanqing were doing, Long Feiye’s group had to act fast to deal with the traitors on all sides! He looked at Han Yunxi and said, “We must lead the expedition personally. We can’t sew someone else’s wedding robes!”
If they headed for Poison Sect’s forbidden grounds instead and left the fighting to their subordinates, even the central regions would be in peril, to say nothing of the southlands. Ning Cheng wouldn’t be able to fight without worry from backstabbing in the rear factions, either. After all, if Great General Mu had the motive to raise troops, then he must have far more chips in his hand than they could see. Right now, Long Feiye’s most pressing matter was to personally lead Baili Yuanlong’s 100,000 soldiers and have the deputy generals and high ranking officials within the military reaffirm their vows. Only then could he insure no more traitors left the ranks. If anything happened to these 100,000 men, they would be in no end of trouble.
Han Yunxi had similar concerns. Although she was unwilling, she nodded and said, “Fine, send someone to tell Tang Li.”
Very soon, news reached the Tang Clan and Skyriver City. Long Feiye, Han Yunxi, Gu Beiyue, and Gu Qishao didn’t waste a minute as they set back for Three-Way Pass. Mu Linger personally submitted a request for a military assignment to become an army doctor, which Han Yunxi approved. However, they’d hardly reached the barracks that night when the 100,000 soldiers turned traitor too!
Two factions turned against them. One of them had already been deployed: the 5,000 crack troops who were supposed to act as Ning Cheng’s reinforcements. The other was the faction preparing to head north to deal with the Northern Li emperor’s 20,000 men. At the same time, the garrison troops in charge of guarding the border between Tianning and Tianan went missing, allowing Great General Mu to break through Tianning’s borders overnight. Meanwhile, troops stationed in the central regions and southern Jiangnan also broke into chaos, raising rumors that the south central regions wanted to break free from East and West Qin rule to stand as an independent country!
Throughout this night, Cloud Realm Continent was filled with the sound of battle and unrest from all fronts!
Long Feiye’s teacup shattered on the ground as silence spread throughout his tent.
“The Li Clan wants to wreck chaos upon the entire world!” he said coldly.
He finally saw clearly. The Li Clan had no aspirations of bringing East or West Qin down, much less fight them for a piece of the continent. They only wanted to stop them from uniting the lands by causing unrest everywhere. Otherwise, why else would the south central regions be clamoring for independence? Why else would Ning Cheng and Baili Yuanlong’s traitorous forces surrender to Northern Li instead of attacking them back?
Gu Beiyue was currently staring at the map on the wall. He half turned while pointing at a location to state, “Great General Mu has played a fine piece! With the south central regions in chaos, half of Cloud Realm Continent will be in an uproar. It will be impossible to hand over the autumn harvests and its grain this year, thus limiting our reserves! Meanwhile, the attacks on the east and west borders of Tianning might have been broken through, but Western Zhou and Tianan’s troops are too weak to overtake Tianning in a short time just yet.”
Long Feiye could also see the clues. There were only traitorous factions within the 100,000 troops to damage their fighting power. If they deployed too many troops south, it’d be impossible to finish up Northern Li quickly; if they deployed too little, then Tianning’s internal unrest would deteriorate all the faster. As things stood, all of Cloud Realm Continent was embroiled in battles from the east, west, south, and north, each of them checking and containing their enemies. Who knew how long this stalemate would last?
“These aren’t the Li Clan’s intentions, but Bai Yanqing’s I bet!” Han Yunxi declared.
Gu Beiyue turned serious. “Princess, Your Highness, we have no other choice but to…”
Gu Beiyue turned serious. “Princess, Your Highness, we have no other choice but to…eat humble pie."
My goodness I loved this chapter and how utterly helpless the FL and ML were. Can we have things like this happen more often? It's super satisfying to see them knocked off their high chairs for once and be too late to do anything about it.
At last, you can feel what the side characters and villains feel all the time!