Han Yunxi gave chase until she was walking side-by-side with Long Feiye. In spite of this, he kept silent. After they reached the flower gardens, she asked, “What’s wrong?”
“I’m thinking about something,” Long Feiye replied faintly.
“Something you can’t figure out?” Han Yunxi inquired.
Long Feiye, Emperor Kang Cheng, and Great General Ning had agreed to combine their three armies by the 15th of the month. Today was only the 10th, five days away from the deadline to surround the Chu Clan soldiers. However, for the sake of guarding against Great General Ning, Long Feiye had privately arranged a time to meet up with Emperor Kang Cheng’s forces.
No matter what kind of rumors the Chu Clan was spreading, it wouldn’t affect the day’s battle plans. It was impossible for the now-exposed Nether Clan to gather new supporters on such short notice. So what else could be bothering Long Feiye’s mood besides this? After all, he never had so much as a crease between his eyebrows when it came to affairs of war.
Since Long Feiye still refused to talk, Han Yunxi asked, “Is it the matter of the West Qin imperial heir?”
“Mm.” Long Feiye didn’t deny it.
“Besides the Nether and Di Clans, there’s still the Shadow and Wind Clans. The Shadow Clan doesn’t have outstanding power or influence, and the Wind Clan’s status is still unknown,” Han Yunxi remarked. As West Qin’s former allies, it wasn’t clear if they were all still loyal to the old dynasty. But the Nether Clan’s rally to arms would certainly earn their support. If they finished the current war quickly, the news wouldn’t affect them much, but a drawn-out battle would introduce more unstable variables. After all, neither of them could estimate the true strength of the Shadow or Wind Clans, and there might be other supporters beyond the Seven Noble Families that would rally behind the banner of ‘reviving West Qin.’
As Han Yunxi spoke her mind, she had no idea that Long Feiye was worried about something else altogether. He was perfectly capable of dealing with any of the difficulties outlined above, but was far more worried about...her!
He feared that once Han Yunxi’s identity was exposed, she’d be exposed to a wide array of dangers---both from her environment and scheming hearts alike. More than that, he was concerned that she would no longer regard him with that dazed look in her eyes once she discovered that they were mortal enemies.
Han Yunxi, what is your lordship to do with you? If possible, your lordship would hide you away---forever!
Han Yunxi was carefully analyzing the situation aloud, but Long Feiye had long stopped listening. After a period of silence, he said, “Yunxi…”
Han Yunxi’s heart skipped a beat at the name as she nearly stuttered. After ‘Your Highness,’ she always called him by his full name. This hadn’t changed since their marriage, except for the last time when he’d bullied her. She didn’t even know how much distance laid between them, but hearing this intimate form of address made her feel closer to him again. Last time she’d been too drunk on emotions to process this feeling, but she could feel it clearly now. It was like they were a longtime couple, or a long-married husband and wife. She felt happy, fortunate, and ready to jump for joy.
“Mm, keep talking,” she said with a slight smile.
“Tell me, do you think the West Qin imperial heir will want to revive the West Qin Dynasty?” Long Feiye asked seriously.
Han Yunxi was too wrapped up in her happiness to truly consider the question. Moreover, it had nothing to do with her. She didn’t even think before replying, “Of course!”
A complicated look flickered past Long Feiye’s eyes before he asked, “Why?”
“Why not? Both the Nether and Di Clans have the ambition, much less the imperial clan. The civil unrest of the Great Qin Empire arose from old scores between East and West Qin. Whether it’s family grudges or clan aspirations, neither of those feelings can be dimmed with time! These are things that stay rooted within your heart,” Han Yunxi said, before sighing with emotion. “Time can’t penetrate a human heart. People might die, but their hearts live on.”
Long Feiye wanted to retort, but ended up saying nothing at all. How am I supposed to counter that? Wasn’t he the living example of someone who harbored ancient grudges and ambitions in his heart? All of the East Qin clansmen were dead, but their hearts were still alive in each succeeding generation. All of their longing and wishes rested on his shoulders, forcing him to continue on their path.
He himself still wanted to take revenge, so how could he blame others for feeling the same way?
Han Yunxi, was it fate or disaster that caused your lordship to meet you?
Whatever the case, your lordship won’t accept either of them!
“Just what’s wrong with you?” Han Yunxi’s curiosity pulled his gaze back.
“Nothing,” Long Feiye replied simply. “Let’s go and get ready for battle!”
“Get ready for battle?” Han Yunxi grew alarmed. “You...you’re going to personally enter the battlefield?”
“You don’t want to go?” Long Feiye arched a brow.
“I do!” Han Yunxi’s excitement ignited at his words.
“Prepare your poison needles, then. Your lordship will take you out to play a round!” Long Feiye’s eyes flashed with a sinister light. The Chu Clan had played with huge stakes this time, so he would keep them company until the end! They’ve claimed their life mission to hunt down the West Qin heir, is it? Then I’ll bring West Qin’s last princess to their battlefields, and kill the whole way over!
At high noon, the guards of the Chu Clan troops were just changing shifts. General Chu and Chu Yunyi were still waiting for news from Ning Cheng within the city when drumbeats filled the air. Boom! Boom! Boom! The beats were urgent and heavy, loud enough to shake the earth!
This is the signal for deployed troops! Did Western Zhou release its soldiers?!
Chu Yunyi and General Chu were both caught off-guard, but they remained calm. With four red coat cannons at their command and the Chu Clan’s own crack archers, they weren’t afraid of Western Zhou’s troops.
“Emperor Kang Cheng’s finally given up on Empress Xue!” Chu Yunyi mocked.
“So what if they sound such strong drums? Heheh, I’d like to see which is louder, their drums or our cannons!” General Chu was extremely confident.
They were waiting for Ning Cheng’s forces to supplement them so they could guard against the Duke of Qin’s army. If it was just a battle against Western Zhou, their victory was guaranteed. Even before the arrival of the red coat cannons, they were evenly matched. Now they had an even stronger advantage.
“Big bro, let’s go. Come with me to witness the battle from the city gates!” General Chu boldly strode out the door.
But before they could reach the gates, another soldier came with an urgent report. “General! General, it’s bad!” His face was pale as he gasped for breath before falling to his knees in front of General Chu.
“What’s bad? What are you getting so worked up for?” General Chu asked unhappily.
But the soldier only stammered, “Tianning….Tianning’s Duke of Qin...is personally...personally…”
Before he could finish, General Chu was already alarmed at the mention of the ‘Duke of Qin.’ He grabbed the soldier by his collar and demanded, “What’s going on with the Duke of Qin? Speak!”
“The Duke of Qin is personally...person...personally leading the troops! As head of the military expedition!” the soldier gasped out.
General Chu’s grip grew slack as the messenger nearly tumbled to the ground.
“Personally… Long Feiye is personally leading the expedition?” Chu Yunyi muttered to himself in shock.
How can this be? It’s not time for the three armies to meet yet! Ning Cheng said he’d arrive ahead of time, but why is Long Feiye already leading the army without him here?!
What kind of troops does he have to lead? Did his soldiers arrive even earlier than Ning Cheng’s? Instead of tricking Long Feiye, did Long Feiye trick him?
General Chu rushed up the watchtower first, just in time to see a row of fierce cavalrymen heading their way. They were about 5,000 men total, all dressed in black. Although they were still some distance away, making it impossible for General Chu to spot Long Feiye in the crowd, he could see between one and two hundred men riding treasured red horses ahead of the flank, like a burst of scarlet flame against the landscape.
He couldn’t see their leader, but he saw their billowing banners well enough! They were white on black, colors of the Tianning army, and each was emblazoned with a “Qin” character. As the word fluttered and unfurled in the breeze, it almost seemed alive with bloodthirsty intent!
For a split second, General Chu had a moment’s hallucination and mistook this fierce military display as the bygone Great Qin Empire! After all, the East Qin Dynasty also had banners of white on black, while West Qin used black on white. Both armies sported the same character on their banners as well: Qin!
In Cloud Realm Continent, Qin (秦) was a highly respected character. When Tianning’s late emperor conferred the title of “Qin” to Long Feiye, there had been talk aplenty across the continent. But the emperor had insisted, raising rumors that he had placed heavy aspirations on the Duke of Qin. Although Long Feiye went by the Duke of Qin, this was the first time since Great Qin’s fall that any banners bearing this character had been displayed on the battlefield.
General Chu quickly recovered his wits. He knew that the Qin banners were proof that Tianning’s Duke of Qin was personally leading the troops. Most likely, he was the man in front of all the soldiers! 5,000 men were nothing in the Chu Clan troops’ eyes, but if they were part of Long Feiye’s army, he had to be careful. Chu Yunyi quickly caught up and saw the army as well, causing his complexion to turn ghastly.
“Do we defend or attack?” he asked.
If they defended, they would turn the city into a fortress and attack any invaders that tried to scale the walls. If they attacked, they would have to open the gates and charge before the army reached them, or they would lose the initiative in battle! Both options had their advantages and shortcomings. General Chu had plenty of battle experience and never hesitated to make decisions, because he knew a moment’s doubt could mean the difference between victory and defeat. But this time, he had no choice but to reconsider the question! His opponent was Long Feiye, a man who had never participated in battle until now.
“What are you dawdling for?” Chu Yunyi asked. “Are you afraid of that calf who’s never been on a battlefield before? A single man might be powerful enough to have no peers, but a single army? Heheh, not necessarily the case! Many a time, an ambitious man has lost his entire army because of his wild aspirations!”
Chu Yunyi’s words made sense. There was no reason for General Chu, who had experienced hundreds of battles, to fear Long Feiye. Long Feiye had never led troops into battle before, much less fought wars. He was simply a fresh recruit before the likes of General Chu. Still, General Chu continued to delay his decision as he mumbled, “I’ve never measured my strength against him in the battlefield before…”
But as he watched the troops grow closer and closer, General Chu knew he would lose his advantage if he didn’t release his troops. He prepared to issue deployment orders when another soldier suddenly came with the newest report. “General, something’s happened! Something big…”
Reuploaded with edits: 12/12/2020