Volume 5, Chapter 9: High Mountains and Flowing Water1
The Tranquil Sea Manor at the beginning of spring was still and serene. Outside the Hearing Surf Pavilion, the turquoise ocean tide swept in, gigantic waves repeatedly striking the rocks, sending the water spouting up into the sky and splashing all over, almost as if it was the wind scattering the remaining snow from winter. With the arrival of spring, the Eastern Sea became exceptionally beautiful. It was early morning right now. Within the manor, the servants had already begun to softly and quietly2 begin their day’s work. At this very moment, an intense zither music resonated from within the Hearing Surf Pavilion. The music was like the tides, impassioned and uninterrupted. Everyone in the manor could not help but stop their movements, listening attentively to the zither music that tugged at the heartstrings. As they were distracted, the majestic grandeur of the music seemed to be falling over a precipice, almost as if it was before their very eyes. When the piece ended, each of the servants heaved sighs of admiration before returning to work.
Within the tallest tower of the manor, an elderly man with white hair set down the scroll in his hand. His gaze concentrated on the distant Hearing Surf Pavilion. Although this elderly man was older than seventy years old and had white hair, his youthful complexion was like that of a child.3 His expression and bearing were indifferent and tranquil. He was the Medical Sage, Sang Chen.
Just then, a sweet-sounding voice came from outside, “Master Ancestor, Qingyan is here to pay my respects.”
Sang Chen originally hailed from Penglai on the Eastern Sea. After he had returned to his home to live in seclusion, Jiang Zhe had specially dispatched people to build the Tranquil Sea Manor to serve as Sang Chen’s retirement home. Although Sang Chen was aloof and detached by nature, he treated Jiang Zhe as his own grandson. As such, he did not have any objections to moving. After Jiang Zhe had helped the Prince of Yong successfully seize succession and come to the Tranquil Sea Manor severely ill, Sang Chen had spent great effort to ensure that Jiang Zhe could recuperate. Over the last several years, the entire household lived joyously and harmoniously. Sang Chen was extremely loving of Roulan and Shen’er, losing a bit of his detachment and gaining some tenderness.
With the picturesque landscape of the Tranquil Sea Manor, Sang Chen had every intention of spending the rest of his life in retirement here. Even though Jiang Zhe and his family had already left, Sang Chen stayed behind. However, his care was handed to Jiang Haitao and Yue Qingyan. The venomous insect in Yue Qingyan’s body had already been removed through Sang Chen’s treatment. Although her body still needed to be harmonized over the next several years with medicine, it was of no impediment to daily life. Moreover, although Yue Qingyan was a woman, she was endowed with intelligence and had some unique insights into the field of medicine. Sang Chen was quite pleased with her intelligence and innate talent, keeping her in the manor to teach her medicine. Aside from handling official business, Jiang Haitao also lived in the manor. Who let the relationship between the couple be so harmonious that neither wished to be separated? As a result, the Tranquil Sea Manor was still quite lively, not possessing even a hint of loneliness.
Hearing Yue Qingyan’s voice, a faint smile appeared on Sang Chen’s face, as he asked, “Come in. Why hasn’t Haitao come over? Didn’t he return yesterday?”
With two maids, Yue Qingyan walked in and respectfully paid her proper respects. Even though several months had passed, Yue Qingyan’s skin was still as white as snow. However, the difference in her lay in her cheeks. They had become ruddier, making her even more beautiful. Hearing Sang Chen’s question, she answered with a smile on her face, “Haitao also wanted to pay his respects, but, just now, a messenger from Teacher arrived. It is paramount that Haitao receive him. As a result, I’m afraid that it will be a while before he can come over.”
Nodding his head, Sang Chen inquired, “Who was it playing the zither? He is truly a master.”
Yue Qingyan responded, “From husband, Qingyan learned that he is an envoy from Northern Han, Qiu Yufei. He is a direct disciple of the Devil Sect Sovereign. Father-in-law has handed everything for husband to handle. As a result, husband had him brought here.”
Sang Chen frowned slightly. The Devil Sect. Qiu Yufei. Ripples emerged in his mind. That was an unfamiliar and yet familiar name. Sixty years ago, he, Sang Chen, was also a candidate to head the Devil Sect. However, he had no interest. Ultimately, because of his identity as the Medical Sage, he had lost the opportunity to become the Sovereign of the Concealed Star Branch of the Devil Sect. However, Sang Chen had never regretted his choice. In addition, he was not a meddlesome individual. Although he had removed the poison in his body long ago, he had never had any thoughts about revealing the secrets of the Devil Sect. As a result, the Concealed Star Branch became nothing more than a distant memory in his mind until the day he met Dong Que.
On first sight, Sang Chen knew that Dong Que was a disciple of the Concealed Star Branch. He had once dimly hinted to Jiang Zhe about the secretive nature of Dong Que’s identity. However, Jiang Zhe only smiled and said, “I know full well that Dong Que has his secrets. However, as long as he is loyal to me, I will not pry into his personal matters.”
Hearing this reply, Sang Chen did not show any further interest. In any case, in his view, Dong Que did not have any malicious intent and was only looking for place to call home. However, to prepare for any eventuality, Sang Chen had still called Xiaoshunzi over, imparting to him some of the advanced martial arts that he had gained enlightenment on. With this, if the Concealed Star Branch had any conflicts in the future with Jiang Zhe, Xiaoshunzi would be enough to deal with the experts from that branch, and Sang Chen would not need worry about Jiang Zhe’s safety. However, because of the goals of the Concealed Star Branch, Sang Chen believed that the branch would oppose Jiang Zhe. As for his own martial arts, they were not of the Devil Sect. As a result, he had no worries that his identity would be discovered by Dong Que. Further, even if Dong Que found out, what could he do?
There was no need to worry about Dong Que for now. Qiu Yufei’s arrival made Sang Chen feel a bit strange. Northern Han’s Devil Sect and Jiang Zhe were enemies. There were definitely some ulterior motives for Qiu Yufei’s arrival in the Eastern Sea. He could definitely learn a bit about the Devil Sect’s strength by meeting Qiu Yufei. Although Sang Chen did not worry about Jiang Zhe’s safety since he was protected by hundreds of thousands of troops and the experts in Great Yong’s bodyguards. In addition, his personally taught Xiaoshunzi was by Jiang Zhe’s side. Besides, the techniques of the Concealed Star Branch’s martial arts had a slight restraining effect upon the Scorching Sun and Freezing Moon Branches. Even if Jing Wuji’s martial arts had exceeded the limits of those two branches and risen to the level of a grandmaster, this kind of restraining effect still existed. Jiang Zhe likely should not meet with danger.
Within the Hearing Surf Pavilion, Qiu Yufei gently stroked the strings of his beloved zither, his heart and mind calmed greatly. Several days ago, he had come to the Eastern Sea, invited by messengers from the Eastern Sea to the official embassy in Binzhou, waiting for Jiang Haitao to grant him an interview. Just yesterday had he been brought to the Tranquil Sea Manor. Before he had arrived, Qiu Yufei had already heard that this manor was where Jiang Zhe had spent years in seclusion. Now, this manor was occupied by the beloved son of the Marquis of the Eastern Sea, Jiang Haitao, and his wife, Yue Qingyan. Thinking of how he was about to walk into Jiang Zhe’s former residence, Qiu Yufei could not help feeling complex emotions. Last night, he had tossed and turned restlessly in bed, finding it difficult to sleep.
When morning arrived, he had servants lead him to the Hearing Surf Pavilion, wishing to gaze upon the incoming tide. When he arrived in the pavilion, he leaned on the parapet, looking off into the distance and breathing in the fresh and clean sea breeze. As a result, he played the zither to express his emotions. When the piece ended, he felt all of his worries and suffering dissipate. Rising to his feet, Qiu Yufei gazed at the waves below the pavilion, feeling the cold and fresh sea breeze upon his face. Qiu Yufei could not help thinking that if Jiang Zhe were present, how pleasing it would be for the two of them to contemplate the waves and listen to music. Unfortunately, the two of them were now enemies. They would likely never have this opportunity in this lifetime.
Just as Qiu Yufei was feeling melancholic, the sound of steady footsteps thudded. Qiu Yufei felt his heart leap out of his chest. The approaching footsteps sounded like a dragon or tiger, and should not belong to an ordinary individual. Returning to his zither, Qiu Yufei sat back down, waiting for the coming individual to arrive.
A clear and bright voice rang from outside, “Young master Qiu is truly in good spirits. Gazing upon the ocean while playing the zither must fill you with boundless joy. I wonder if you like the scenery of the Tranquil Sea Manor?” Before the voice had stopped speaking, a handsome looking youth came in. It was Jiang Haitao, who had hurriedly rushed back yesterday.
Qiu Yufei rose and saluted, replying, “The scenery here at the Tranquil Sea Manor is picturesque. I am very fond of it. As the little Marquis has specially come, does it mean that a decision has been made?”
Jiang Haitao placed a letter down next to the zither and said, “This morning, Sir Jiang’s messenger arrived in the Eastern Sea. This is Teacher’s letter for the young master.”
Qiu Yufei shook inwardly. Although he had expected that his presence in the Eastern Sea would be revealed to Jiang Zhe, he could not eliminate the shock in his heart. It seemed like the control that Jiang Zhe exercised over the Eastern Sea was extremely tight. If his request was not accepted, might he have to commit slaughter in the Eastern Sea? If this were to happen, he likely could only escape from the Eastern Sea.
Opening the letter, Qiu Yufei concentrated his gaze. The letter wrote:
Dear Worthy Brother Yufei,
Since parting at the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, I was extremely happy to hear that you have returned home safely. Although worthy brother tried to harm me in Zezhou, Zhe does not have any complaints as we serve different masters. Learning that Sir has been sent on a diplomatic mission to the Eastern Sea, Zhe wishes to retain Sir for a temporary stay at the Tranquil Sea. Although my humble abode is crude, it has a repository of tens of thousands of volumes. In addition, it benefits from being by the ocean. If Sir is interested, Sir can either gaze upon the ocean and play the zither or take a cruise on a boat. The joy of all this is great. What need is there for Sir to be involved in the battlefield and cover your hands with blood and make it difficult to feel at ease? The scenery in the Eastern Sea is beautiful and will be beneficial to Sir’s mood. Though wronging Sir by keeping you here, I hope that Sir can stay away from the disputes of the vulgar world. If we meet again in the future, I hope that we can relinquish of our bygone enmity. Zhe will definitely play music and sing happily, and relate everything that has happened since our parting.
At first, Qiu Yufei found himself relaxing. He was glad that Jiang Zhe did not harbor a grudge against him. However, as he reached the tail end of the letter, he could not help frowning. Surprisingly, Jiang Zhe wanted to detain him in the Eastern Sea. Truly preposterous! Setting down the letter, he coldly asked, “Does the little Marquis believe that you can detain me?”
Waving his hand, Jiang Haitou answered, “Young master Qiu is overthinking matters. In the past, my father received grace from the State Mentor, and the Eastern Sea received money and grain from your distinguished country. Why would we repay this grace with ingratitude? Moreover, young master’s martial arts are outstanding and Haitao does not have any way of imprisoning the young master. However, the Eastern Sea has already decided to not participate in the war. But from this point forward, the Eastern Sea will have no more ties with Northern Han. Henceforth, I’m afraid we can no longer have any involvement with your distinguished country.”
Though Qiu Yufei was overjoyed on the inside, he still suspiciously questioned, “Then for what reason does the little Marquis believe that you can keep me here?”
Smiling slightly, Jiang Haito responded, “Although the Eastern Sea has received favors from Northern Han, the Eastern Sea has also repaid its debts. In fact, neither side owes the other anything. Although the grace your distinguished country gave in our hour of need has yet to be repaid, no matter what happens, your distinguished country will surely not have any hopes about us sending troops, right? This time, we have agreed to not commit troops. In addition, we will help deliver the military supplies that your distinguished country has purchased. With this, we will have reimbursed all of our past grace. However, our side has prepared an extra batch of army provisions and medicines, all of which your distinguished country urgently needs. It is only that your distinguished country does not have the financial power to purchase it. Haitao has already funded the purchase. Your distinguished country can ship it away at any time and replenish your supplies. It is just that our side also has our conditions: young master Qiu will remain at the Eastern Sea for at most a year and at least a few months. What does the young master think?”
After remaining silent for some time, Qiu Yufei faintly understood that Jiang Zhe was determined to detain him at the Eastern Sea to go so far as to help the enemy. However, aside from martial arts and music, he was not skilled in anything else. Marching and battling, putting forth plans and ideas were not his strong suits. It could be said that he had not acquired the strong points of either the Scorching Sun or the Freezing Moon Branch of the Devil Sect. As for his martial arts, it did not have that big of an effect in the important matters of state. Was it worth it to pay such a hefty price to keep him in Eastern Sea? Had Jiang Zhe truly made this decision out of personal friendship?
Seeing his hesitation, Jiang Haitao added, “There is no need for young master Qiu to be suspicious. Sir is quite fond of the young master and is unwilling to see the young master be involved in the matters of the vulgar world. That is why he has ordered Haitao to provide your distinguished country with military supplies in return for young master Qiu remaining in the Eastern Sea. With this, young master Qiu can justify yourself before your sect. Once the storm has passed, it won’t be too late for the young master to return to Northern Han.”
Qiu Yufei heaved a sigh. Jiang Haitao’s words had spoken straight to his heart. Compared to those supplies, his return to Northern Han was insignificant. This was truly an excellent pretext. However, how could he be at ease abandoning and ignoring his sect?
Seeing the expression on Qiu Yufei’s face, Jiang Haitao already knew of his intentions. As such, Jiang Haitao continued, “If young master Qiu is unwilling to remain in the Eastern Sea, there is nothing I can say. But if that were to happen, it will be impossible for your distinguished country to retrieve even a small fraction of the military supplies currently prepared in Binzhou. Even if we are to be accused of ingratitude, the Eastern Sea will immediately surrender to Great Yong. Young master Qiu, I hope that you will carefully think over this decision.”
Qiu Yufei could not help smiling wryly. He replied rhetorically, “Since the little Marquis has said this so bluntly, do I have any other choice?”
Smiling faintly, Jiang Haitao answered, “The Tranquil Sea Manor was my master’s dwelling. The library here is quite impressive. Among them are a number of zither scores that will bring young master Qiu enjoyment. My wife is recuperating in the manor. If young master Qiu has any requests and I am not present, you can explain them to my wife. In addition, the Medical Sage, Sir Sang, is living in seclusion here. Teacher has said there is no harm in the young master meeting with Sir Sang if the opportunity arises.”
Qiu Yufei sighed lightly. “The Tranquil Sea Manor is a paradise on Earth. By staying here, Yufei doesn’t expect to experience any suffering. However, does the little Marquis truly believe that Great Yong will win?”
Jiang Haitao did not answer the question directly and only smiled. After he had wed, his temperament had steadied greatly. He simply said, “War is treacherous and ever-changing. Who can say?” However, mentally he thought, Since Teacher has already come out of seclusion, it will only be a matter of time before Northern Han is conquered. Although I do not know why teacher prefers to keep Qiu Yufei here in the Eastern Sea, I can tell that Teacher attaches serious importance to Qiu Yufei. And although Qiu Yufei has not stated it clearly, he also treats Teacher as an intimate friend. As such, I definitely can’t express such sentiments.
Seeing that the situation had been set, Qiu Yufei felt his heart and mind calm down. He thought, Regardless of Jiang Zhe’s motives, he truly understands my intentions, understands that I do not wish to get involved on the bloody battlefield. Regardless of who wins this war, what does this have to do with me? Besides, even if Great Yong is victorious, don’t tell me that the Devil Sect won’t be able to extricate itself? Furthermore, although Great Yong is powerful, the Northern Han army has over a hundred thousand elite cavalry and Qinzhou is easily defended and difficult to attack. Why do I need to worry about this? Why not spend some time here in the Eastern Sea and avoid the hostilities? After thinking these matters through, Qiu Yufei increasingly felt as if Jiang Zhe were an intimate friend and could not help but play the zither. The piece, High Mountains and Flowing Water, issued forth from the zither, painting the picture of lofty mountains and vast seas. When the music rose, the entire Tranquil Sea Manor stilled. Everyone who heard it became carefree and relaxed, causing each person’s heart and soul to feel luminous.
When the piece ended, Yue Qingyan walked in from outside, saying, “Young master Qiu’s mastery of the music is truly matchless. Qingyan is filled with admiration. Your servant’s Master Ancestor wishes to invite the young master for a meeting.”
Qiu Yufei was left somewhat dumbfounded. However, with the Medical Sage’s status, even if Jing Wuji were present, he could not remain aloof. Qiu Yufei rose to his feet and said, “I do not dare decline.”
With Jiang Haitao and Yue Qingyan’s guidance, Qiu Yufei passed through several buildings and corridors before reaching the Flora Pavilion that was Sang Chen’s residence. Before he had even walked through the entrance, Qiu Yufei felt an odd feeling in his heart. Even though he knew that someone was inside, he also almost sensed that the man did not exist. Qiu Yufei had experienced this feeling before. That was when he was in his master’s presence. Could it be that the Tranquil Sea Manor had a grandmaster-level expert present? Qiu Yufei forced a smile onto his face. Jiang Haitao likely had said everything earlier out of fear of being unable to suppress him. If he were to resist based upon his martial arts, he would likely be badly hurt. Jiang Zhe’s conduct was truly completely flawless. Once he had fallen under Jiang Zhe’s control, it would definitely be impossible for him to escape. However, strangely enough, Qiu Yufei actually felt his conscience clear. Since it was impossible for him to escape, then he had no other choice but to yield. Qiu Yufei could not help looking up at the radiant sky, feeling his soul unprecedentedly tranquil and happy.
Setting down the letter from the Eastern Sea, I draped a cloak over my shoulders and walked out of my tent. With the arrival of the second month, the snow and ice were gradually melting, and the spring planting was near at hand. During their morning exercises, some of the soldiers of the army even bared their arms. However, I still felt the cold penetrate into my bones. Alas, my former serious illness had left many scars upon my body. The cultivation techniques of the Shaolin Temple were truly efficacious. At the very least, my limbs were warm. Although they still lacked strength, I would not gasp for breath from walking about. In all likelihood, during this northern campaign, I would not have to suffer excessive hardships. It was only a pity that I could not hide in the Eastern Sea or Chang’an to rest. If Great Yong could not unify the world, it would probably be impossible for me to live a life of leisure.
From a distance, the sounds of footsteps thumped, making the Prince of Qi’s figure appear in my mind. I did not turn around, but asked, “Since Your Imperial Highness has come personally, could it be that something major has happened?”
The Prince of Qi melancholically answered, “Suiyun, what are your intentions? The Eastern Sea has already declared its neutrality. Moreover, they’ve delivered a set of military supplies to Northern Han. I do not believe in the least that this was the Jiang family’s decision. You have spent years in the Eastern Sea. Don’t tell me that it isn’t under your control.”
Smiling slightly, I replied, “What are you trying to say? In the Eastern Sea, Zhe was recuperating and living in seclusion. Why would I spend my time thinking of ways to control the Jiang family? The Jiang family and Great Yong’s Imperial Family are in-laws, and the little Marquis has received His Imperial Majesty’s and Your Imperial Highness’s great favor. Isn’t it your jobs to convince them to surrender and pledge their allegiance? Moreover, several months ago, wasn’t the Jiang family discussing its allegiance to the court?”
The Prince of Qi spoke, “Don’t give me these dignified and pompous excuses. The Eastern Sea’s surrender cannot be stopped nor changed. Just, why has it declared neutrality this time and even helped Northern Han oppose us? Don’t tell me that you don’t have any secret plans. If the Emperor sets down blame, this Prince won’t intercede on your behalf.”
I unrestrainedly uttered, “Good! When the time comes, we’ll just let the Emperor find me guilty. It would be best if he removes my noble rank and I can bring Changle back to the Eastern Sea to live in seclusion. Tell me, would it be a good idea to go with the Hai family’s ships to explore overseas?”
Between laughter and tears, the Prince of Qi answered, “All right. Stop trying to anger me. Have you and the Emperor reached a consensus? I have to explain the situation to my subordinate generals.”
After falling silent for some time, I said, “When did Your Imperial Highness have to explain things to your subordinates? I can explain things to Your Imperial Highness. However, it is best that the subordinates do not know about this for now.”
When the Prince of Qi walked over, the bodyguards at our sides had scattered, allowing us to speak privately while they guarded our surroundings. Without any qualms, I explained, “Right now, the Prince of Qing in Hanzhong intends to rebel. Although Southern Chu has been placated for the time being, we have to keep an eye on them in the event they renege. If the Eastern Sea were to surrender to Great Yong at this very moment, because of the pressure, Southern Chu and Hanzhong will definitely challenge Great Yong regardless of everything. The Eastern Sea expressing its neutrality right now and even providing supplies to Northern Han, regardless of what the people of the world think, will make all temporarily breathe a sigh of relief, even going so far as to believe that Great Yong will fall into the mire of war with Northern Han. As a result, we will be able to delay Southern Chu and Hanzhong’s response. This is the first benefit. Besides that, once the war starts, we will cut off the supply line between Northern Han and the Eastern Sea. As a result, Northern Han will still run out of supplies. Moreover, we have no plans to embark upon a prolonged siege campaign. It isn’t important if Northern Han has abundant supplies. I have already asked Changle speak to the Emperor about this. Once Northern Han has been destroyed, wouldn’t the Eastern Sea’s surrender be gilding on the lily? Furthermore, before we can consider victory, we have to consider defeat. If this offensive is not successful, the Eastern Sea can retain its neutrality and preserve its relationship with Northern Han.”
Pausing briefly, I placidly continued, “Besides, by handling things this way, I can detain Qiu Yufei in the Eastern Sea. I do not want him to die on the battlefield. His mastery of the zither is unrivaled in this world. That kind of individual must not die in Qinzhou.”
The Prince of Qi stared strangely at Jiang Zhe, as he replied, “This Prince does not believe that you will make this kind of decision out of personal considerations. Tell me. How are you preparing to use Qiu Yiufei this time? Was it not enough for you to use him to sow discord last time?”
Somewhat flying into a rage out of humiliation, I glared at the Prince of Qi and answered, “What are you worried about? When the time comes, you will naturally understand.” This man would always try to expose my sinister thoughts. However, I could not help but begin to sweat. After all, compared to Qiu Yufei, although he wanted to kill me, he was also sincere towards me. After thinking it over, how was I going to use a dignified-sounding reason to preserve a disciple of the Devil Sect if I couldn’t have him do some things for me while I was protecting him?
The Prince of Qi was tactful enough. Seeing my annoyance, he changed the subject and inquired, “Suiyun, with regards to this campaign against Qinzhou, do you have any stratagems?”
I languidly responded, “We have already set the date of the offensive. How has Your Imperial Highness prepared to attack?”
This question directly hit the Prince of Qi’s itch. He excitedly declared, “Let’s go. We’ll talk in your tent.” Finished speaking, he entered my tent with long strides. I followed him inside, personally taking out a map and placing it on the map.
Pointing at the map, the Prince of Qi said, “I have already had Jing Chi take fifty thousand men and set out in advance, leaving from Zhenzhou and marching through the Taihang Mountains4 using the Baixing Route5 to attack Huguan.6 I will personally lead one hundred and fifty thousand troops north. The supply train will follow soon after using the Qin River. The two armies will launch a pincer attack and meet at Qinzhou. What do you think?”
Having come up with an idea in my mind, I replied, “It will be enough for Your Imperial Highness to bring a hundred thousand troops with you. Leave fifty thousand behind in Zezhou. Moreover, your advance has to be done with full fanfare, pretending to be a hundred fifty thousand. Separately, on the way, I would like to ask that Your Imperial Highness dispatch scouts and agents on the way to intercept and kill their counterparts from Northern Han. They must definitely not be permitted to penetrate through our perimeter.”
A cold light flashed in the Prince of Qi’s eyes, as he replied, “Suiyun, do the Emperor and you have a plan?”
Smiling faintly, I pointed at the map and explained the entirety of my plan. As he listened, the Prince of Qi nodded his head. At the end, he proudly said, “Mayhaps we don’t need to make this move. Don’t tell me that my one hundred thousand troops and Jing Chi’s fifty thousand troops can’t take down Long Tingfei?”
Smiling lightly, I answered, “If Your Imperial Highness is able to make such an achievement, then that would be for the best. However, Long Tingfei is not an ordinary individual. This time, Northern Han will definitely marshal the entirety of its force to resist. Your Imperial Highness must not underestimate them.”
As he studied the map, the Prince of Qi pensively reviewed my plan. Ultimately, he said, “All right. However, with this, you will have to accompany the army north.”
“I also do not want to put myself in danger,” I replied with a sigh. “However, if I do not appear, it is likely that Northern Han’s agents will definitely stake their lives to acquire military intelligence from our rear. I don’t want this to happen. However, if I need to ride a horse or take a carriage, my entire body aches.”
Smiling, the Prince of Qi spoke, “I will have people prepare a fast boat for you. You can follow the Qin River north, so that you can reduce the hardship that you suffer. Qinzhou’s road is difficult to traverse. Your horse carriage will be useless.”
Just as the two of us had decided upon the plan, someone outside the tent shouted, “Your Imperial Highness, Army Supervisor, the Emperor’s Imperial Edict has arrived.”
Both of us walked out excitedly. Based upon our calculations, the emperor’s edict agreeing to the offensive should have been arriving any day now. Walking out of the tent, the dark clouds densely covered the sky. The Heavens and the Earth seemed to knew that a bloody battle was about to occur, somehow deeply worried about it.
Seeing the terrible look on the imperial emissary’s face, I could not help shivering. I shot the Prince of Qi a look and quickened my pace, nearly sprinting. Kowtowing to accept the edict, I waited for the emissary to read it aloud. I suddenly heard the words, “Her Imperial Highness, Princess Changle of Ning … she …”
BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH!
Footnotes:高山流水, gaoshanliushui – lit. high mountains and flowing water; a classical allusion from the story of Bo Ya (伯牙), skilled at playing the zither. When Zhong Ziqi (钟子期) heard him play, he could tell where the latter’s ambition lay: his lofty aims, his aspirations, etc. but how rarely one could meet people like Zhong Ziqi; refers to the harsh reality that talent and ability can rarely meet or find people who can really appreciate them轻手轻脚, qingshouqingjiao – idiom, lit. moving cautiously without making any noise; fig. softly and quietly鹤发童颜, hefatongyan – idiom, lit. one’s hair was white and one’s complexion was like a child’s, having white hair and a ruddy complexion; fig. hale and hearty太行山, Taihan Shan – the Taihang Mountains are a mountain range that run down the eastern edge of the Loess Plateau; Shanxi (山西, lit. west of the mountains) and Shandong (山东, lit. east of the mountains) get their names from being on the west and east of this mountain range白陉, baixing – this was a path from antiquity that cut through the Taihang Mountains connecting the north and south壶关, huguan – lit. jar pass; a county in modern-day Changzhi (长治) Prefecture of Shanxi Province named for a pass that was located within its boundaries