Title: Long Fu (Dragon Talisman, 龙符)
In the vast world, when revolution and chaos strikes, who would prove to be the true dragons?
The royal court, the sects of the pugilistic world, the saintly cultivators, the millennium-old clans, the barbaric tribes, the demon gods, the demon tribes, the ancient witchcraft cults.
The different powers would cross one another by the calling of fate.
Chapter 1: Great Yong Dynasty
Chiselling River Yun to connect to the ends of the world; constructing the Great Wall to ward off the barbarians; annexing the hundred countries to unite the world; eradicating the evil cults to restore moral to the world; annihilating the demons to bring peace to the desert; punishing the corrupt and bringing order to the royal court; establishing traditions to educate the population; modifying the great laws for the future generations; crippling the vile deities and sealing the gods.
These were the ten greatest feats of the Great Yong Dynasty's 'Emperor Tianfu'.
The Tianfu was the era name.
(Tianfu = Heaven Talisman)
Heaven symbolized an unparalleled existence.
Whereas Talismans were marks of the world's law.
The names of the emperors were taken to be the era names during their reign, and the notion behind it was that they were operating in the stead of the heavens. The entire world, be it the demons or the gods, had to bow to them.
The Great Yong Dynasty was located in the Endless Continent
The reason why the continent was named as 'endless' was because there was truly no end to it. Even the supreme cultivators who had reached the Thirty-Sixth Transformation of the Dao Realm could only peer into a small corner of the world.
In the summer of the Fourteenth Year of Tianfu.
In the capital, the Great Study within the royal palace, the sons of the royal family were in the midst of their studies despite the sweltering weather.
"When a flood, drought, or famine strikes, how should the people be placated, and how should aid be provided to them? Nineteenth Prince, you shall answer this question." Dressed in the silk robe of a scholar, the teacher had a neatly-tidied beard and silver hair, and his gestures carried a magnanimous disposition. His name was Liang Tao, and he was one of the elders of the royal court, as well as the Grand Tutor in charge of educating the crown prince.
"If they've no rice to eat, they could eat meat." The Nineteenth Prince stood up and replied.
Despite being fourteen this year, he had the appearance of a dunce. Even his clothes were creased, as though magnifying this fact.
"Nineteenth is indeed an idiot! He is bound for another scolding today."
"If the civilians have no rice to eat, they could eat meat instead? If his words were to spread out, he would surely be criticized by the entire populace. It'll go down in history, and even a thousand years from now, he would remain a huge laughingstock."
The entire room burst into laughter.
"Is this child truly foolish, or is it an act?" A red-robed lady muttered. "Regardless, I have to be wary of him. After all, he possesses the bloodline of the Xian Dynasty."
Traditionally, women were not encouraged to appear in public. However, ever since the Emperor Tianfu ascended to the throne, he did away with the old conventions and strongly encouraged women to undergo education and practice martial arts as well. After years of propagating changes, the dynasty eventually adopted an open culture.
"Gu Chensha, you'll stand outside for two hours. For the next three days, you shall rearrange the books in the library." Grand Tutor Liang Tao pointed to the door.
Gu Chensha was the name of the Nineteenth Prince who had just spoken of 'eating meat'.
"Yes… Yes…" Gu Chensha nodded doltishly. Kacha! When he stood up, he even nearly tripped on the legs of the chair. His appearance was as embarrassing as one could imagine.
"This fellow is truly a goner. In chess, he's unable to retain his composure. In martial arts, he is sloppy. Seems like he is of no threat at all." The other princes exchanged gazes.
"He's too inept in his martial arts." The red-robed lady sneered coldly. "Our Great Yong Dynasty is built on martial arts, and the only way for the princes to win the emperor's favor is through their strength. Nearing fifteen, Gu Chensha has passed the ideal age for learning martial arts. It'll be difficult for him to accomplish anything in the future. Seems like there's one less threat for our Lou Clan young master."
The various nobles within the Great Study harbored many thoughts about Gu Chensha's plight. Standing beneath the scorching sun, Gu Chensha's mind was plagued with many worries as well.
It had been more than five hundred years since the establishment of the Great Yong Dynasty. The founding emperor, Gu Yongxue, had united the world, and generations of emperors to come had used their military might to dominate the world. This was especially so for the current 'Emperor Tianfu', Gu Taxian. Skilled in martial arts, he brought the influence of the royal court to new heights. Even the powerful demons and supreme cultivators didn't dare to act audaciously in fear of the royal court's wrath.
The royalty was devoid of kinship.
Trust was something absent between father and sons; bloodshed often spilled among brothers; royal consorts utilized all kinds of despicable means to vie for favor. Every single step was treading on thin ice, and the slightest misstep could result in fall from grace.
Gu Chensha had more than forty brothers and thirteen sisters, and of them all, he came from the humblest background.
The strength of a prince depended on his maternal family.
Some of the princes had uncles who were generals that wielded military might.
Some of them were governors.
Some of them were peerless experts.
Some of them came from clans with thousands of years of history.
But Gu Chensha's mother was a 'Xian Dynasty' princess, a tribute given by a hostile state to the Great Yong Dynasty as a show of goodwill.
Eventually, the Great Yong Dynasty destroyed the Xian Dynasty, and the nobles of the country were purged clean. Even the Xian emperor immolated himself within the nation's treasure vault.
After hearing that her country had been destroyed, the princess committed suicide as well.
This resulted in Gu Chensha's current plight in the royal court. Without any backing, even the more notable servants, maids, and eunuchs dared to discipline him.
And oppression was the least of his worries. Innumerable people wanted to make use of this opportunity to kill him.
The 'Xian Dynasty' and the Great Yong Dynasty had fought for a hundred years, a grudge of bloodshed between the two ran deep. It was only until 'Emperor Tianfu's' ascension to the throne was the Xian Dynasty finally destroyed thoroughly.
In that war, the Great Yong Dynasty saw the demise of a king, a few marshals, and several dozens of generals. The war between the two countries was intense. After the Great Yong Dynasty breached the walls of the capital of Xian Dynasty, slaughter continued for the three consecutive days. The army purged the entire city, killing all of the civilians in the capital.
Until today, the Xian Dynasty populace was still planning a rebellion against the Great Yong Dynasty, unable to forget this deep bloodied grudge.
Due to this identity of his, many old elders of the royal court who participated in the war with the Xian Dynasty then held deep hostility against Gu Chensha.
It was impossible for him to ascend to the throne under such circumstances, and even survival was a huge problem to him.
It was fortunate that he had suffered from young, and this taught him how to retreat from the limelight and play a fool. It was only through this that he managed to survive to this day.
The discussion in the Great Study continued.
"Lou Baiyue, what do you think about it? How should aid be provided to alleviate a disaster?"
The Grand Tutor Liang Tao pointed to the red-robed lady.
Lou Baiyue stood up, "I'll first kill the governor and claim that he has docked the rations provided for the aid so as to placate the refugees."
"But what if the governor is an incorruptible official, and it's solely due to the calamity that the populace is suffering?" Liang Tao asked.
"I remember that there was an event in history books regarding an emperor leading an army on a campaign. However, there was a lack of rations in the army, and complaints and dissatisfaction were rife. Thus, he chose to execute the rations officer and say that he had stolen from the military rations. Through this, he managed to successfully placate the troops." A cold gleam flashed across Lou Baiyue's eyes.
"But isn't that too ruthless?" Liang Tao frowned. "Benevolence should be the key to governing a nation."
"If we don't placate the people with the head of the local governor, what if a ringleader were to stir the dissatisfaction of the hungry refugees and stage a mutiny? If so, how many people will die? My elder brother went to the Yin Province to provide aid for a crisis, and every single village he walked by was torched. Houses were burning and trees were charred black. Furthermore, there were many evil cults and power-hungry men fanning the civilian's dissatisfaction, urging them into action. Back then, there was a severe lack of ration, and a riot could have been triggered at any moment. If not for my brother killing the local governor to placate the civilian's heart before decapitating several hundred troublemakers to send a severe warning, that matter could have spread across several provinces and rattle the royal court's foundation." Lou Baiyue spoke calmly. "If a mutiny were to occur in a province, then no matter how incorruptible the local governor is, he has already failed in his responsibility. Thus, he should use his death to compensate for his mistake."
The red-robed lady was known as Lou Baiyue. She wasn't a member of royalty, but she was the daughter of an important official of the royal court, Duke of Yuan, Lou Chongxiao.
Even though most of the students taking on the imperial education were royal offsprings, there were a few sons and daughters of meritorious subjects among them.
The Lou Clan had accompanied the founding emperor in leading an army to unite the world. After numerous generations of emperors, the clan remained in favor, and in the current Tianfu era, their influence even reached a new peak.
Duke of Yuan, Lou Chongxiao, had two younger brothers; Lou Chongtian was conferred the title of 'Weiling Marquis' and Lou Chongyun the 'Wu'an Marquis'. Putting them aside, the Lou Clan also had many outstanding clan members who became generals and governors, thus earning the Lou Clan the nickname of 'Half-Empire Lou'.
With such influence, even the princes would have to defer to the Lou Clan.
"My brother has achieved merit in bringing aid to the catastrophe at the Yin Province, and His Majesty has personally complimented him on the matter." Grand Tutor Liang Tao nodded. "However, the core to governance should still be benevolence. Not only is killing an act that harms one's karma, it also cultivates ruthlessness in one's heart, causing one lose one's morals. I hope that you can relay these words to your brother."
"I will make sure to relay it to him." Lou Baiyue nodded and sat down quietly.
Zhi le… Zhi le…
Cicadas stirred a cacophony in the garden. A few accompanying eunuchs of the royal offsprings used a bamboo stick to get rid of the spider webs in the surroundings. The scorching afternoon sun caused one to feel faint-headed, and the call of the cicadas caused one's heart to fall into unrest. As time went by, Gu Chensha found himself reaching the end of his tolerance.
While he was forced to stand outside, the literature lesson of the royal offsprings ended, and the group entered the Grand Martial Hall to train.
"Baiyue, Liang Tao is the leader of the incorruptible faction of the royal court, and he has once impeached your father. I think that there's a deeper reason to why he preached about benevolence in the lesson. Based on my investigations, the local governor your elder brother killed in the relief operation is his student." A prince approached Lou Baiyue and whispered in her ears. Dressed in silver, the prince had a carefree and dashing appearance, forming a stark contrast to Gu Chensha's doltishness.
"Who doesn't know how to preach values?" Lou Baiyue sneered coldly. "There are too many righteous people in the royal court, and all they are capable of is words. They contribute nothing to the livelihood of the civilians."
The silver-robed prince didn't pay any heed to her appalling words. Instead, he glanced at Gu Chensha, who was standing outside, and said, "Say, do you think that he's really foolish, or is he just feigning it? He has been like that ever since he knocked his head when he was ten, and for that matter, you were even grounded for ten months."
"Fourteenth, don't speak nonsense. Tenth is the one who did it. You were present then as well." Lou Baiyue's face turned cold.
The silver-robed prince was fourteenth in terms of age among the princes, and his name was Gu Yunsha. With a slight smile, he said, "Weren't you the one who provoked him? You told Tenth that that lad spoke badly of him knowing that Tenth is a rash person. Hearing your words, he immediately beat that lad up without even trying to clarify the matter. Your father was aware of the matter as well, otherwise he wouldn't have grounded you either. Because of you, Tenth suffered a heavy caning from the royal family."
"So what?" Lou Baiyue said indifferently. "My eldest brother died trying to breach the Xian Dynasty capital, and two of my uncles died in the battle within the capital then. Furthermore, my cousin was poisoned to death by the remnants of the Xian Dynasty. Those wretched remnants still refuse to give up even at this point. Just last year, my father even faced an assassination from them. Do you think that it's possible for me to bear goodwill to that lad?"
"No matter what, he comes from my father's bloodline. Since he has already become a fool, I think that you should tone it down." Fourteenth Gu Yunsha chuckled.
"Fourteenth, stop acting like a samaritan here. You were also one of the main bullies back then." Lou Baiyue calmly flicked her finger. "You ordered those eunuchs to confiscate his monthly allowance and the pills that royal princes are entitled to for their martial arts training, causing him to be inept in both academics and martial arts."
"Isn't this what you hoped for? Besides, when that lad's mother was still alive, she often fought with my mother over my father's favor, and she used quite a few despicable schemes back then. If I don't get back at him now, when should I?" Gu Yunsha glanced outside. "Baiyue, I heard that your martial arts have improved recently. Why don't you demonstrate it?"
Without a word, Lou Baiyue lightly placed her palm on a wooden pillar used for martial arts training. Kacha kacha, the pillar suddenly burst apart, and wooden fragments scattered all over the floor.
Simple, inelegant, but destructive.
"Divine Maiden Palm, your martial arts cultivation has reached the level of a Grandmaster?" Fourteenth Gu Yunsha's eyelids twitched.
"There are four mortal realms of martial arts, Entry, Amateur, Skilled, and Outstanding, and they correspond to Fighter, Adept, Master, and Grandmaster. But in the end, they are all mortals. The true path only starts when one reaches the Thirty-Six Transformations of the Dao Realm." Lou Baiyue replied.
"But how can reaching the Dao Realm be easy? Even though the resources and cultivation techniques of the royal family are unparalleled, only four of the princes have been able to reach the Dao Realm." Fourteenth Gu Yunsha frowned. "Reaching Dao Realm depends heavily on a combination of talent and luck. Even with sufficient talent, if one is unable to encounter a suitable impetus, it'll be for naught."
Lou Baiyue glanced into the skies and said, "The Dao Realm First Transformation, Qi Consumption, allows one to stay away from material needs and consume qi to sustain oneself. By absorbing the spiritual qi in the air through one's powerful will, one would be able to cleanse one's body of filth. This is truly a realm to look forward to."
"Baiyue, the Divine Maiden Art you are practicing now is created by the Ancient Maiden. Back then, my father obtained this manual by subduing the Maiden Sect, but to think that he would bestow it to you. It seems like my father dotes on you even more than most of the princes." A slight envy slid into the tone of the Fourteenth Prince Gu Yunsha. "This Maiden Art is an emperor grade cultivation technique, and the Ancient Maiden is the queen of an Ancient Son of Heaven. Even the Cloud Grinding Might that I cultivate is only king grade."
"I've heard that the Seventh Prince has recently reached the Eighth Transformation, True Samadhi Fire. As long as he survives the True Fire Immolation Trial, he'll be able to cultivate the Ninth Transformation, Immaculate Jade Body. His cultivation is probably at the top among the princes, right?" Lou Baiyue asked deeply. "The first Nine Transformations of the Dao Realm are Qi Consumption, Immense Might, Steel Skin, Metal Corrosion, Spirit Gathering, Celestial Qi, Void Treading, True Samadhi Fire, and Immaculate Jade Body. Together, they form the basis to immortalhood. Once one successfully cultivates the Immaculate Jade Body, one will be free from illness and impurities, and one would be able to live from three to five hundred years."
"Hmph! Seventh is the child of the queen, and he's the di child. Who knows how much fortuitous encounter he had stumbled by and how many formidable experts had trained him before he managed to reach that level. It's perfectly normal for his cultivation to surpass ours. However, the True Samadhi Fire's immolation trial is indeed dangerous. There were many talented figures who were burnt to ashes in this trial." Gu Yunsha's complexion looked extremely awful. "I don't think that he can succeed."
(Di child refers to the child of the main wife)