Long Feiye still had that tiny shred of rationality remaining, but the Mu Clan’s soldiers gave him no hope.
“This humble one--this humble one doesn’t know...I don’t know anything! Your Highness Duke of Qin, have mercy ahh! Have mercy!”
The soldier was so nervous that he even called Long Feiye ‘Your Highness Duke of Qin.’ Long Feiye had been conferred the rank of ‘duke’ in this imperial city when he was a child and ruled for many years as the Duke of Qin. Any faction here feared and dreaded him with healthy respect; it was a city who looked bright and neat on the surface, but hid plenty of bitterness that only he himself knew.
Perhaps many others were still nostalgic about the past, when the three countries were all at peace.
“You won’t say?” Long Feiye arched a brow.
“This humble one really knows nothing! The Great General obstinately clung to his ways, even the clan elders couldn’t convince him! This humble one--”
Before he could finish, Long Feiye tightened his grip and choked him to death.
All of the western gates were stained red with blood as corpses littered the ground in a mournful sight. Long Feiye stood waiting by the entrance, his figure a chilling sight against the moonlight. All was silent but for the constant thrumming of his sword.
Gu Beiyue felt saddened and wanted to coax him to stop, but Long Feiye spun on his heel and headed for the palace. At its entrance, he met three regiments of the Mu Clan’s soldiers guarding its gates, but there was no Mu Yuanbo. Still, the gridlocked entrance made Long Feiye break into a bloodthirsty smile.
He knew Mu Yuanbo had to be inside!
Long Feiye also knew that sooner or later, he would return to these gates. This was not only once part of Tianning and now Tianan’s imperial city, but also the old capital city of East Qin. Still, he never expected to be standing here under the current circumstances.
He pointed his sword at the soldiers and said coldly, “Those who don’t want to die, get lost! Otherwise, this crown prince will slaughter all of your Li Clan!”
But the hundreds of soldiers didn’t budge. Only an old man stepped forward--the Li Clan’s Head Elder. He fell to his knees and cried, “Your Highness Crown Prince, the Great General was forced! Bai Yanqing kidnapped the young general and gave him no choice but to obey him! Your Highness Crown Prince, none of those citizens were killed by Great General Mu, but Bai Yanqing’s subordinates!”
Mu Yuanbo had personally witnessed Bai Yanqing taking away Han Yunxi and Ning Jing. He rushed forward to snatch them away, but couldn’t do anything against Bai Yanqing. Only then did he realize Bai Yanqing’s deal was simply using him! Now that Han Yunxi was in his hands, the motion of events had been set. With the Li Clan’s reputation in tatters, he was already a useless pawn.
Unable to catch up to Bai Yanqing, he heard news that the matrix formation in the Mu Estate’s rear courtyard was broken. He immediately backtracked to bring Liuyue away with him. He had mistakenly assumed that Bai Yanqing would continued to trap Long Feiye and the others for a few more days, but who knew the man was so decisive? He left no way of survival for the Li Clan at all!
How could Long Feiye’s group ever forgive the Li Clan’s Mu Family after all they’d done?
Mu Yuanbo was pushed to a dead end and could only admit his helplessness to the elders of the clan, as well as the truth. All of them cursed him soundly for being an idiot, but had no choice but to help him clean up the mess. Currently, Mu Yuanbo was preparing to flee with the Li Clan’s military tactics manuals. He still held onto the last trace of hope that they could be used to exchange for Qingwu’s life. But the Head Elder stopped him and told him to surrender to Long Feiye so they could discuss rescue tactics. Thus, the old man had led all of the Mu Clan members to wait at the gates--not to block Long Feiye, but to beg him!
For forgiveness and aid.
As Head Elder fell to his knees, so did the rest of the crowd. Together, they chorused, “The Great General was forced. We beg Your Highness Crown Prince to show leniency! May Your Highness Crown Prince take charge for the Li Clan and rescue the young general!”
Even Gu Beiyue couldn’t accept words like these, to say nothing of Long Feiye.
Why should he? Why forgive them at all, much less save their heir?
Why were there always such laughable people, such ridiculous requests in this world?
As if “he was forced” and “he had no other choice” could make up for all their crimes? What man on this Earth hadn’t been forced beyond his limits before?
“Forced? He was forced?” Long Feiye laughed out loud. Ever since he was young, he had heard this line too many times and suffered many “forced” situations himself. What could he do then? Besides silently enduring it, what else? He had felt so lucky when Han Yunxi didn’t hate him or leave him after he’d tried to hide their identities for a lifetime! Besides that, there were countless unspoken moments where he’d been forced in other ways. He’d patiently borne year after year of helplessness all this time.
His mufei had placed him into Grand Concubine Yi’s court when he was still a baby in swaddling clothes. More than two decades after that, he had endured and paid plenty to accumulate power in Tianning. Who was he supposed to tell about the times he had no other choice? Did any of these people know just how close--how very close--he was to agreeing to let Han Yunxi give herself up for the sake of saving this city’s people?
So, just because he was forced, he could force others onto a path as well?
Long Feiye laughed coldly. “Speak, what do you want this crown prince to do?”
“As long as Your Highness Crown Prince saves the young general, my Li Clan will serve the East Qin imperial clan forever. We are willing to hand over all of our military tactic manuals to Your Highness!” the head elder proclaimed loudly.
Long Feiye smiled with disdain. “It’s a pity, this crown prince...doesn’t need it!”
At his words, everyone was stunned. After all, though the Li Clan’s Mu Family had all but withered in public opinion and lacked armed forces, with its students rejecting it in droves the past few days, those military tactics manuals were simply a treasure of the world! So many sovereigns had dreamed of getting their hands on the books!
Besides that, the Li Clan’s Mu Family had nothing else to negotiate with Long Feiye! The head elder felt cold before he chose their only path left. “Your Highness Crown Prince, the Li Clan is willing to offer ourselves up in place of Mu Yuanbo’s crime. We will be forgiveness from the world’s people! The slaughter of the captured city was a plan that Mu Yuanbo agreed to on his own with Bai Yanqing. None of the Li Clan was made aware of this! May Your Highness show mercy!”
“Tsk tsk!” Long Feiye was filled with contempt. “So this is the extent of your Li Clan’s Council of Elders’ powers?”
In other words, the Li Clan’s Council of Elders long had the chance to apprehend Mu Yuanbo and hand him over. What were they doing then? How had they acted when Mu Yuanbo planned to capture the city and kill its inhabitants?
In truth, the head elder was putting up a strong front this entire time. Long Feiye’s words made cold sweat break out on his back. He too, regretted not stopping his clan leader sooner. He had been half-hoping His Highness could rescue the young general back first. As long as they got him, the Council of Elders would definitely have the Li Clan accept all consequences for the crimes.
But he never expected things to develop so quickly. With no way to counter, the head elder could only resort to speaking of the past. “Your Highness, the Great General knows his wrongs. Please...please, Your Highness, spare the Li Clan on account of their refusal to join the Wind and Black Clans to attack East Qin! As long as Your Highness can save the young general, everyone in the Li Clan will accept whatever punishment you give!”
It would’ve been better if the head elder hadn’t mentioned the past at all, because Long Feiye’s killing intent all but exploded.
“You didn’t attack us? Heheh…” he walked step by step towards the crowd, forcing it to part on both sides and Head Elder to back away. “Your Li Clan was eating my East Qin’s salaries and military rations. It was my East Qin’s silver that paid you, and my East Qin’s citizens that fed your whole clan and army! When East Qin was in trouble, your Li Clan dissolved the army and fled. Is this crown prince supposed to feel grateful that you didn’t attack us as well?”
Long Feiye’s eyes swept coldly across all members of the Li Clan before he snarled, “This crown prince is telling you now, your Li Clan was the main reason for East Qin’s destruction! Your traitors are nothing but deserters! You let East Qin down--and all its people who fed and raised you!”
If the 100,000 soldiers of the Li Clan had stayed to protect East Qin, it wouldn’t have been annihilated! Once it fell, the Seven Noble Families were all heavy affected and retreated to hide in seclusion. Cloud Realm Continent didn’t enter any era of peace with the end of Great Qin’s civil way, but fell into a period of chaotic fighting. North, south, east, and west were plummeted into countless battles that left the citizens unable to find any refuge. That was the continent’s darkest, bloodiest times. Countless battles later, the three nations of Cloud Realm finally gained a firm holding and established themselves.
In Long Feiye’s eyes, the Li Clan’s neutral stance was simply hypocritical. They were irresponsible deserters! Compared to outright traitors like the Black Clan, Long Feiye hated the Li Clan more! Now these people were bringing that up in the middle of his temper? They actually wanted to negotiate with him to save Mu Qingwu?
This wasn’t just a joke, but pure humiliation!
His words shook the souls of his listeners. Everyone had always taken the Li Clan as neutral players who kept the peace. They too, felt that their ancestors had chosen the most reasonable choice. None of them had ever entertained the labels of “traitor” or “deserter,” much less expect the East Qin crown prince to denounce them this way.
“None of you have the right to talk terms with this crown prince. Either continue to live as deserters and scram, or die!” Long Feiye gave them his final show of diplomacy.
The hundreds gathered here actually began to scatter in different directions. In the end, only the Council of Elders and a few middle-aged members were left, a total of twenty to thirty people. Long Feiye didn’t act on his own because he didn’t wish to dirty his sword, much less waste time on such blindly devoted people. He simply said, “Gu Beiyue, I’ll leave it to you.”
So speaking, he continued to advance with his sword, scaring the elders into getting out of the way. He raised his weapon to cleave through the vermillion gates of the palace and began to kill his way inside. Aside from a few ordinary guards, there was no one left inside. Long Feiye grabbed a eunuch and prepared to question him about Mu Liuyue’s whereabouts in the palace.
At this moment, Gu Qishao suddenly darted out from the side and pushed a woman in front of him. This was none other than Tianan’s empress, Mu Liuyue. She tumbled to the ground before looking up to see Long Feiye’s heavenly features. For a second, she froze, thinking she was in a dream…
1. Here I want to reiterate. Although I used “Duke of Qin” for Long Feiye’s title, it’s a little more accurate to call him a “prince of the first rank.” However, when I realized LFY would become the East Qin Crown Prince later on in the story, I stuck with duke to highlight his elevation in ranks now. :)
What up what up readers! If you hate cliffhangers, I recommend you take a break from PGC for a few days 'cause these next few chapters are going to be filled with tension and suffering for our protagonists. I'll do my best to bring you guys up to speed with their agonies, though. ;)
And boy, those Mu Clan members. It's amazing what a change of perspective can do to you. Do you think the main bloodline's IQ starting decreasing throughout the successive generations? (>_>)