Your Majesty… did Ning City also fall?” Tong Shou cautiously asked .
Ji Feng Li’s cold face bore no expression, making it difficult to gauge what he was thinking . He glanced up at Tong Shou and moments later, threw the military report towards him . Tong Shou grabbed it with quick hands and after a brief glance through it, his eyes widened instantly .
“Your Majesty, this… . is it true?” Tong Shou asked in astonishment .
When he looked back up again, he saw that Ji Feng Li had already picked up his brush, continuing to look through the memorials . With his gaze lowered, it was difficult to fathom what was on his mind .
“It’s within expectations,” Ji Feng Li indifferently stated but Tong Shou could still recognize the heaviness in his tone .
There were movements in Northern Kingdom . The Northern Emperor Xiao Yin had sent his troops of 50,000 soldiers and horses to invade at Niang Zi Mountain Pass . Currently, Southern Kingdom was under attack from both within and outside . Rebel forces were staging a civil uprising while foreign enemies were invading at the border . Tong Shou furrowed his brows as this piece of news had taken him by surprise but upon thinking it over, it seems to have been within expectations .
Ji Feng Li placed the brush in his hand down and suddenly got up from the dragon seat . The eunuch standing on the side stepped forward and draped a cloak over his shoulders . Ji Feng Li then strode out of the hall and into the quiet night . Soon after, he had arrived at Tao Yuan Ju .
“You all stay here . Zhen(I) wants to be alone,” Ji Feng Li said in a cold voice .
Complying with orders, Tong Shou stood outside and waited .
Ji Feng Li strode through the peach blossom forest and stepped foot into the small courtyard of Tao Yuan Ju . The peach blossoms have long withered but the epiphyllum flowers planted within the yard were still in bloom, emitting a faint cool scent like night dew .
Ji Feng Li stood in the yard for some time . He didn’t even realize when it had started to rain until his clothes had become damp .
He stood there contemplating over the military report he had just received . He could clearly discern Xiao Yin’s motives for sending troops to attack the northern border at this particular time . Xiao Yin wanted to stall the military forces there, stall Wang Yu’s and Nan Gong Jue’s troops that were stationed at the northern border in order to prevent them from returning to Yu City to help quell the rebellion . Ultimately, he was lending a hand to help Hua Mu’s rebellion which was tantamount to lending a hand to help Hua Zhu Yu .
When Ji Feng Li had found out the truth behind the Ice Cloud Grass incident and realized that she had been schemed by Wen Wan and Huangfu Yan, his heart which had grown empty and dead had revived in an instant . When he found out that night that she was still in Yu City, he had sent people to search for her everywhere, but she had already left for Yan City . Now, finding out that Xiao Yin was attacking the northern borders to help the rebels, his heart was once again thrown into the pits of fire and ice, numbing all his senses, so much so that even he was unclear of the feelings in his heart .
He pushed open the door to the wooden house and gazed at the things inside, the tables, the chairs and the bed in the house . Looking at the empty room, a sense of desolation and sadness emerged in the depths of his eyes .
He stood there for a long time before silently turning around to leave . Walking out of Tao Yuan Ju, he ordered Tong Shou, “Send people to make preparations . Zhen will personally lead the troops!”
Tong Shou along with the other palace attendants were shocked . They knelt down together and said, “Your Majesty, please reconsider!” He wasn’t the Left Chancellor that could go supervise the battle anymore . He was the Emperor of Southern Kingdom . How could his precious self rush to the battlefield?
Remaining in place, Ji Feng Li stared expressionlessly at the peach blossom forest doused in the night rain . In his heart, he thought of the beauty and brilliance of the peach blossoms in bloom but lamented that it was too short-lived .
Ning City was not a large city but there was a massive military force stationed there simply because Ning City guarded the Qing Jiang River . If Hua Mu and Huangfu Wu Shuang are able to capture Ning City, their troops can head straight for Yu City by way of water .
Hua Zhu Yu arrived at Ning City at dusk . The skies were dark and overcast as if it was about to rain at any moment . She ushered the reins and her horse Zhui Dian(Chasing Lightning) headed straight for the army camps . As soon as she arrived, she felt something was off with the atmosphere in the camp . Did they lose the battle?
The moment she got down from her horse, An Xiao’er had quickly come out .
An Xiao’er’s complexion was pale with fright, even his voice was shaking as he said, “General, you’re here! Something terrible has happened!”
Hua Zhu Yu had never seen An Xiao’er so frightened . She quickly asked, “An, what’s the matter?”
“Something has happened to the Marquis!” An said chockingly .
“What happened? Where’s the Marquis?” Hua Zhu Yu questioned as she gripped his arms, trying to calm him .
An said with anguish, “In the tent, the accompanying military doctor said that the Marquis may not make it!”
Hua Zhu Yu let go of An .
The rain had begun to descend . Hua Zhu Yu ran straight for Hua Mu’s tent, by the time she got there her clothes had been drenched by the rain which felt cold and piercing upon her skin . But at the entrance, she suddenly came to a stop, not daring to take a step further .
Suddenly, Huangfu Wu Shuang stepped out of the tent . Seeing Hua Zhu Yu standing there in the rain, his eyes widened from shock . After the shock wore off, he quickly went over to her side .
“My father, how is he?” Hua Zhu Yu grabbed his arm and asked in a trembling voice .
Huangfu Wu Shuang’s eyes were clouded with weariness and pain . He quietly said, “Xiao Bao’er, don’t be anxious . He’s inside, I fear… . . “
Hua Zhu Yu slowly loosened her grip on his arm and entered the tent slowly, her steps heavy .
Inside, the lights were dim and Hua Mu was lying on the bed still unconscious . He was covered with blood and in the middle of his chest was a golden arrow . Hua Mu was gasping heavily, it was evident the arrow had pierced his lungs . The military doctor did not dare to remove the arrow for fear of cutting his last breath and not being able to preserve his life .
Tai had followed Hua Zhu Yu inside . After looking over Hua Mu’s injury and taking his pulse, he furrowed his brows and shook his head hopelessly .
“Everyone, leave!” Hua Zhu Yu said in a cold, painful voice .
“Xiao Bao’er!” Huangfu Wu Shuang stepped forward and said in a sorrowful voice, “Don’t be so sad . ”
“Get out!” Hua Zhu Yu repeated .
The people in the tent immediately all withdrew . Hua Zhu Yu went to the side of the bed and supported Hua Mu up . She placed her palm behind his back and began to gently infuse her internal force into his body . After a while, Hua Mu opened his eyes and saw that the person beside him was Hua Zhu Yu . In his dim eyes, a sliver of light flashed and he said in a trembling voice: “Yu’er, these past years, I’m sorry… . . I’ve let you suffer… . . In the future, live your life the way you want . Huangfu Wu Shuang, he… . . ” Hua Mu’s body shook and the tail of the arrow quivered in his chest as blood spilled from the corners of his mouth .
“Qing… Xin… Temple . ” After Hua Mu spoke, he coughed violently and blood continued to splatter from his lips . The light in his eyes gradually dimmed and his consciousness slowly faded . A gentle smile suddenly floated on his lips as he said, “A’Shuang… . have you come to take me?”
Hua Zhu Yu thought back and seemed to remember the maiden name of the Empress of Mo had the character “Shuang . ” Looking at her father now, it seems he had held a deep love for the Empress .
Hua Zhu Yu held Hua Mu’s hand tightly as tears trickled down her face .
Inside the tent, the candlelights flickered and swell . Outside, thunder sounded from the dark skies as wind and rain stormed the lands . Through the half-open tent entrance, the wind swept through carrying with it a cold chill .
A lifetime of war, a lifetime of planning, without a moment of peace to enjoy, in the end, right or wrong, success or failure, everything has been in vain .
After a long while, she dried her tears and slowly stood . She knew she had to face those outside . Walking out of the room, she saw Huangfu Wu Shuang, Ping, An, Kang, Tai, as well as the other generals already gathered at the table .
“In the end, what exactly happened? My father has fought for half his life, how could he be defeated so easily?” Hua Zhu Yu coldly questioned .
Huangfu Wu Shuang gazed at Hua Zhu Yu and quietly said, “Since Ji Feng Li’s arrival in Ning City to lead the troops, the morale of their army has greatly increased . In today’s battle, Lan Bing commanded the troops and had trapped the Marquis in his battle formation . After a long drawn out confrontation, his stamina gradually declined and he could not evade Ji Feng Li’s arrow in time . ”
“The arrow was shot by Ji Feng Li? Are you certain?” Hua Zhu Yu questioned as she looked up, her eyes glinting with a cold, sharp light .
Several generals nodded and said, “We were all fighting at that time, I didn’t really pay attention but it’s most likely so . ”
Hua Zhu Yu contemplated for a moment before coming to a decision . She slammed the table with her hand and the white porcelain tea cups on the table shook, splashing out tea . Her jade-like face furrowed with anger and her eyes glinted with a murderous light . “Tomorrow, I will lead the troops into battle! We won’t stop till we storm Yu City! ” She said resolutely before turning to leave, her robes trembling in the wind .
Hua Zhu Yu went back to a small tent of her own . After analyzing the military map for a long time, she called in Ping, An, Kang and Tai . Pointing at the map, she quietly said, “There is a Qing Xin Temple on Jinshan mountain not far from here . Tomorrow, under the pretext of escorting the Marquis’ coffin, you two go to Qing Xin Temple . “
Kang asked, “General, why do you want us to go to Qing Xin Temple at this time?”
“There must be someone there, my guess is that it’s Madam Xuan . You must escort her here . ”
“At this time, why escort Madam Xuan to the battlefield?” An asked in a deep voice .
“Just invite her to come . If she doesn’t come willingly, take her by force . In any case, after 3 days, I want to see her here!” If she had not come to Ning City today, she feared she would not have been able to see her father Hua Mu for the last time and would not have known about Qing Xin Temple .
An and Kang nodded . “General, what are your thoughts on the Marquis’ death?” Ping asked in a low voice .
“Do you all remember how Nie Yuan Qiao died?” Hua Zhu Yu asked . If Nie Yuan Qiao had not died that day, Hua Zhu Yu may not have suspected Huangfu Wu Shuang of being involved in Hua Mu’s death . Before he took his last breath, Hua Mu had told her to live her life the way she wanted . Which means that he did have reservations about staging this uprising . But Huangfu Wu Shuang would never hesitate . Moreover, Hua Zhu Yu felt that Huangfu Wu Shuang must already know that he’s not the prince of Mo . If Hua Mu discloses this secret, Huangfu Wu Shuang would have no rights nor standing in this army . But as soon as Hua Mu dies, all the power falls to Huangfu Wu Shuang’s hands . He is not afraid of losing a general such as Hua Mu because he still had another, her, Silver-faced Asura, Ying Shu Xie . But he must not have expected her to come so suddenly, that’s why he was so surprised when he saw her .
General, do you really intend to go to battle tomorrow?” Tai asked in a low voice .
Hua Zhu Yu nodded . Only by doing so will Huangfu Wu Shuang not suspect anything .