Chapter 502: Getting the greatest gains Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Where are the residents of the Han Clan? Where is Han Yunxi?
The soldiers swept through the estate. It was only expected that massacres, plunder, and looting would happen in such chaos, but Long Tianmo still had the heart to protect those he cared for, so he had sent his men to find Han Yunxi after learning she’d been staying at the Han Estate for several days. Still, his efforts were for naught because the entire place was empty. Mu Qingwu sent a trusted subordinate within the imperial guards to check for himself, and got the same results. There wasn’t a soul left in the estate.
Actually, Gu Qishao had come to the Han Estate before them and searched the entire grounds, but he hadn’t found Han Yunxi, either.
Where is she?
Naturally, the three groups then headed for the Duke of Qin’s estate, only to find that it’d been emptied out as well. This double coincidence could only mean that the Duke of Qin had predicted everything long ago. Long Tianmo and Mu Qingwu were in the midst of storming the palace gates when they received the news. Mu Qingwu was silent, but Long Tianmo only sighed with great emotion. “None of this…escaped Imperial Qin Uncle’s control.”
The Duke of Qin had left the city ahead of time, evacuating both estates so cleanly that not a trace was left behind. Without nary a doubt, he’d predicted the armed rebellion between the two factions ahead of time and made his own preparations. Long Tianmo finally understood why his imperial father had moved so fast to drive him into a corner by suppressing the Mu Clan. More than likely, Imperial Qin Uncle gave imperial father a push as well. He knew that he’d been reduced to a chess piece on Imperial Qin Uncle’s own chess board, but he didn’t mind. With Imperial Qin Uncle adding fuel to the flames, Great General Mu was finally pressured enough to act. While everyone else thought the military had suddenly rose up in revolt, he felt that it was a long time coming and even a little late. His heart had long harbored hatred and resentment against his circumstances.
While they were attacking the palace gates here, the cannons were exploding over there. Without a doubt, they’d captured the capital! How could anyone block the advent of the artillerymen? They swept all enemies before their feet with no resistance.
The cannon booms resounded in the city, raising the morale of the crown prince’s troops. A gigantic wooden battering ram slammed against the thick palace gates, its impact resounding through the air. The doors looked like they were about to cave in.
Inside the palace, Emperor Tianhui was still sitting in the imperial study, but many of his servants and concubines had long packed away their valuables and fled. Of course, there were still a few loyal subjects standing guard outside the room, the ones who’d pledged their deaths to him. Currently, a few important officials and Meng Zhan, the new head commander of the imperial guards, were all trying to coax Emperor Tianhui to escape. The emperor’s complexion was ashen white and there was a trail of blood near his lips. He had been suffering through various illnesses over the past six months, so the shock now seemed to have aged him overnight. Though he was only in his forties, he looked like a man in his fifties or sixties. When he heard the sound of the fighting outside, the hands hidden inside his sleeves began to tremble. It wasn’t clear whether he was angry or truly afraid.
“Your Majesty, they’re about to break through the palace gates! Hurry and leave!”
“Your Majesty, it will be too late if we wait any longer!”
“The crown prince and General Mu’s clan have committed the worst offense of treason and heresy by namelessly deploying their troops. This doesn’t mean they’ll win the hearts of the people! This humble official begs Your Majesty to move the capital city to West Jing and transfer the troops from the west and central regions to surround those traitors! What we lose tonight will be nothing more than one single city!”
Hearing Meng Zhan’s words, Emperor Tianhui finally regained his senses. The man was right, all they would lose was a city tonight. But if they stayed any longer, he risked losing all of Tianning as well as the capital. The crown prince had gotten the advantage in the capital, but that was because the artillerymen were under his command. Still, Tianning had more than one set of artillery forces. The capital city, the northwest, and the central regions all stationed the first, second, and third regiment of artillerymen. And while the Mu Clan had presided over the infantry forces for years, not all of the soldiers were loyal to the clan. After a mutiny like this, the various troops stationed at different locations would naturally choose which leader to serve. It was unlikely for the Mu Clan to control them all. In the end, Emperor Tianhui could still hold his own. He issued orders for a retreat, only for the invaders to break through the gates and block the east and west gates. Now the only escape routes existed in the north and south. In the midst of all the chaos, Chu Qingge came up with an idea for the emperor.
Emperor Tianhui had agreed to it immediately. He would dress up as a eunuch while Meng Zhan would disguise a carriage and guard its passage as a decoy. Then the emperor would flee through the servants’ door by the north gate while his family and servants swarmed out of the south to attract the rebel forces.
As Emperor Tianhui prepared to leave, Chu Qingge stepped forward. “Your Majesty, chenqie grows bold so as to make a presumptuous request.”
With such a disaster hanging above their heads, Emperor Tianhui was in no mood to be patient. “What is it?” he asked coldly.
“Chenqie wishes to disguise myself as you and head for the south gates. It would not only attract the crown prince and the rest, but also…give me a chance to shoot him down!” Chu Qingge said seriously.
With her words, everyone suddenly remembered that their noble consort hailed from a military family and was superbly skilled in archery. It was unlikely that a eunuch disguised as the emperor would attract rebel attention for long, but if it was Chu Qingge doing the job, then she might even be able to turn things around. If the crown prince could die, then the soldiers would be a host of dragons without a head and naturally fall back.
Emperor Tianhui was thrilled beyond measure. “Good! As long as you can kill that unfilial son for Zhen, you will be Tianning’s empress!”
Chu Qingge was inwardly miserable. She would rather Emperor Tianhui died in this mess instead. But, for now she had to protect him, if only because she had no baby of her own to take his place on the throne!
“As long as Your Majesty is safe, chenqie shall be satisfied in my heart,” Chu Qingge spoke in a direct contrast to her feelings.
Emperor Tianhui was deeply moved by her words. He gripped her hand tightly and replied, “Qing’er, Zhen will be waiting for you at the end of the Seven Mile Bridge outside the city.”
Chu Qingge nodded before she finally extricated herself from the emperor’s grip and turned to leave…
The flames of rebellion burned the capital city for multiple days and nights.
Rumor had it, the crown prince was ambushed by a high-level expert before he ever caught up with Emperor Tianhui. Fortunately, a team of black-robed guards intercepted the attack in time to save his life.
Rumor had it, Great General Mu had found Emperor Tianhui by the south palace gates and killed him.
Rumor had it, Emperor Tianhui wasn’t dead at all, but had long fled from the north gates. Instead, it was Great General Mu who was killed by Meng Zhan instead…
After five days and five nights of continuous fire, the capital grew still. Much of the most fantastical rumors were dispelled to reveal the truth. Emperor Tianhui had smoothly escaped from the capital, while Chu Qingge had faced off against Great General Mu until both were wounded in the process. While Emperor Tianhui was heading en route to West Jing, the crown prince had already proclaimed himself emperor in the capital city. He split his time between sending killers after Emperor Tianhui and soliciting various military powers and able ministers to his side to expand his influence. Because the capital had been overtaken, various powers across Tianning Country declared their stance. Some denounced the crown prince and pledged their lives to Emperor Tianhui, while others supported the crown prince and turned their backs on the deposed emperor.
However, nobody had expected that Tianning’s central and southern regions, including its military and provincial powers, were all in favor of His Highness Duke of Qin! They even pushed out his name and declared the man their emperor!
Emperor Tianhui was in the carriage when he heard the news and violently smashed his teacup.
“Duke of Qin!”
He seemed to have suddenly remembered a face and flew into a rage. Because of that, he lost control and spat out a mouthful of blood before losing consciousness.
“Imperial Physician Gu! Quick, find Imperial Physician Gu!” Chu Qingge shouted for assistance.
But nobody found the imperial physician named Gu Beiyue, nor did anyone but him know he was the first to slip away on the night of rebellion.
Meanwhile, Long Tianmo had predicted something like this would happen, yet he still couldn’t keep from clenching his fists. His expression was dark for successive days as he digested the various implications. Tianning Country only had three prefectures, all of them massive in size. The one with the highest population and Tianning’s southern (Jiangnan) region not only contained the most fertile farmland, but the most wealth as well. It really was a land of fish and rice—a well-watered region where food was plenty!
In brief, it had more people because it had more grain to support its people.
He and his father had fought to the death while the Duke of Qin had gotten the greatest gains with nary a effort! Emperor Tianhui condemned Long Tianmo and the Mu Clan for treason and conspiracy against the throne, sinners of a towering crime that was absolutely unforgivable. Long Tianmo immediately retorted by accusing Emperor Tianhui of listening to slanderous talk and unable to distinguish right from wrong, thus framing the innocent and killing the loyal.
The father and son pair were biting each other to death while the Duke of Qin didn’t say a word. He was extremely low-key, yet he had the best reputation and won the most public feeling. One month later, Tianning’s situation had finally stabilized. Emperor Tianhui controlled ten prefectures in the northwest from West Jing, keeping the reigning dynasty name as Tianning. Long Tianmo took over the old capital and seven counties in the northeast, but called his reign Tianan.1 Meanwhile, the central and southern regions maintained their original borders. None of the residents dared to seek refuge with Tianning or Tianan, but neither were they keen to raise any rebellions of their own.
More rumors spread claiming that the Duke of Qin would take his troops to reclaim the capital, or swallow up the ten prefectures in the northwest. Both Emperor Tianhui and Long Tianmo were made restless by the gossip while the army in the south and central regions grew restless. But…despite such wild claims, nobody knew where His Highness Duke of Qin had gone off to. After that night in the capital, he seemed to have vanished off the face of the earth and never appeared in public again.
As for Han Yunxi…
She was currently sitting in a carriage. On the night of the insurrection, she had put all the pieces together herself. It wasn’t because of her intelligence, but because she’d stayed long enough with Long Feiye to understand his methods. Long Feiye’s chat with Emperor Tianhui in the imperial study was simply but a move on the chessboard. She had been telling Lady Helian to pack up and prepare to leave when the Baili Clan’s mermaid soldiers suddenly appeared to help them escape via the city’s waterways. After leaving the capital behind them, she split up from Seventh Madame and the rest of the Han Clan to board a carriage. The mermaid soldiers had said that His Highness Duke of Qin wished to see her.
Somehow, her journey had lasted an entire month, heading south all the way. The entire time felt like it was a pleasure trip, filled with beautiful scenery and occasional gossip about Emperor Tianhui and Long Tianmo’s latest news. But Han Yunxi didn’t care much about that. She was in low spirits the entire time. At first, she had kept mum and followed the mermaid soldiers’ arrangements. When she grew bored, she’d hide herself in the detox system and sleep away an entire afternoon. But gradually, she couldn’t take it anymore.
If Long Feiye wanted to see me, then where is he?
Where is he?
She had asked the mermaid soldiers multiple times, but none of them had any idea. They only had orders to take her to South Ning Prefecture.
That bastard, didn’t he say I could go back to the Han Estate? Why is he still looking for me? Fine, he can find me, but what’s with this whole trip south? Why hasn’t he shown up after all this time if he wanted to see me so bad?
Just what is he thinking about?!
Han Yunxi was almost angry enough to poison the soldiers and run away, but in the end she didn’t. She only grew more withdrawn and stopped asking about anything. Finally, her carriage slowed to a stop in front of a residence today.
“Esteemed wangfei, please dismount the carriage,” a mermaid soldier murmured as he made a please motion.
Han Yunxi had just exited the detox system, so she was feeling a bit drowsy. When she heard ‘dismount the carriage,’ she automatically obeyed, only to give a start at the familiar words over the gates…
- Tianan (天安) – literally “world peace.” ↩