"Reporting!" Another warning sound echoed in the air. Everyone shivered subconsciously in fear of the bad news that these soldiers would bring. Before the soldier spoke, Zhao Qi interrupted, "Has anyone been killed again?"
The soldier was dazed, shaking his head. "No."
Everyone heaved a sigh of relief. At this moment, the soldier continued, "Your Majesty, something bad has happened! Zi Wei Square, outside the palace, the southwestern ancestral temples, Da An Temple, Jiu Wai Street, the southern lakes, Hua Rong City near Xi Zhi Gates, Western Residential Areas, Eastern Guwan City, Eastern Coastal Camp, Southern Scholar Residences… Fires have all broken out in these places. Also, bandits have run amok in the city, killing and committing arson on various shophouses. Jiu Wai Street is in chaos, with many casualties. We estimate that about 30 thousand people have involved themselves in this conflict."
A few older officials nearly fainted in panic after hearing these words.
Zhao Song raged, "What's going on? Is there a rebellion? Where's the Cavalry Camp? The Green Army? The Southwestern Envoy? Have they all been killed?"
"Thirteenth Royal Highness, Lieutenant Colonel Song has led a few hundred troops outside to restore order. Those people who committed the robberies and arsons have been found to be normal civilians. Some of them are local hooligans, some from the universities, some are highly skilled bodyguards from foreign lands. Some of the civilians also said that they wanted to take back what was theirs. Also, some troops from the various police departments."
"Even the troops from the police department participated in the robberies? Are they tired of living?"
The messenger broke out in cold sweat, replying, "Third Royal Highness, the troops went out to restore order. However, they were robbed by other people. Some of them were overwhelmed by anger, some of them were swayed by money, and some of them were coerced. Hence, they removed their uniforms and participated in the robberies. It is too chaotic, the few hundred troops outside are also helpless! Your Highness, there is no news from the Cavalry Camp and the Green Army. The forces stationed at the Southwestern Envoy's residence are nowhere in sight. Lieutenant Colonel Song has said that this rebellion is not coincidental. There is someone behind masterminding this operation, adding fire to the flames. Your Majesty, Lieutanent Colonel Song also said that the rebellion is escalating out of control. More and more civilians are participating in it. When all the civilians in the capital are involved, we won't be able to control the situation. Your Majesty, please make a decision swiftly!"
Everyone focused their sights on the Emperor. He stood high up on the stage, a solemn expression on his face. He remained silent for a long while.
"Your Majesty! Your Majesty!" A series of shouts echoed in the air. A soldier, covered in fresh blood, dashed into the pavilion. Everyone in the pavilion was unable to suppress their fear. As they looked at the messenger running into the pavilion, no one dared to speak a word.
Zhao Che stood amongst the crowd, frowning but calm. He probed in a low voice, "What else has happened?"
"Yan Xun has rebelled! He has brought the army from the Southwestern Envoy's residence to attack this place! The Green Army, Cavalry Camp, Seventh Army, Ninth Army, the troops from the Sixteenth Camp, the Magistrate's Residence are nowhere to be heard of! All the roads have been sealed. All the relay outposts have been cut off, and all messengers have been killed. The southern, northern and eastern gates have been conquered by the enemy. The commanders from the twelfth, nineteenth and thirty-sixth divisions have brought reinforcements towards the royal capital, but have been stopped by the unrestrained civilians. They are unable to break through the perimeters of Jiu Wai Street. Yan Xun has sieged the Zi Jin Gates. Lieutenant Colonel Song is weathering the storm over there. With less than three thousand troops there, we were unable to withstand their attack!"
Everyone was stunned with panic. A few elderly officials struggled to remain on their feet, collapsing in their seats, the color drained from their faces. Was this an indication that a change was imminent?
The Xia Emperor closed his eyes slowly. At this moment, he had no choice but to admit to the complete failure of Ba Lei and Wei Shuye's assassination plan. He had mobilized a thousand troops to eliminate a caged, defenceless bird, but the tables had turned around spectacularly. Even the Southwestern Envoy had defected towards Yan Xun now. In these eight years, what exactly had he nurtured?
The elderly Xia Emperor sighed to himself. Shicheng, how could I have forgotten? He's your son after all!
The entire Xia Empire, even the entire continent of West Meng, did not expect the Xia Emperor, Zhao Zhengde, to release the Prince of Yan Bei back to his homeland unscathed, after eight years of imprisonment. No one had expected the Prince of Yan Bei to submit obediently too. Everyone had expected Yan Xun, who had dared to fight against the royal troops on the platform that day, to plan a series of escapes, be it through methods like poisoning others or disguising himself as a civilian to sneak out of the city and being chased by the royal troops for thousands of miles. If he was lucky, he would have escaped to a place where he could have started anew, only wreaking havoc occasionally. If he was unlucky, he would have died in the hands of the royal army, his body never to be seen again.
In their eyes, the Prince of Yan Bei was only capable of such antics. After all, he had been under the surveillance of the Xia Emperor for seven or eight years. How capable could he have become? However, no one had expected Yan Xun to be capable of stirring up a rebellion of this scale. On the contrary, he looked courteous, peaceful and ordinary. However, when he struck, he was swift and determined to fight until the end. It was evident from his methods—the endless fighting and bloodshed, the scheming, the assassinations, the mutinies, setting fires to the structures of the capital and attempting to siege it without any consideration. Fueled by desperation, he had risen from the ashes. Yan Xun was the son of Yan Bei's Lion King, Yan Shicheng indeed! Scheming, resilient and brazen, he deserved to be named "the world's leading lunatic."
"Reporting!" With another long shout, Scholar Cui's old heart could not withstand any more shocks. He fainted, making a loud thud on the ground.
"You're panicking and making noises! What has happened? Has Yan Xun entered the city?"
The soldier froze and replied, "No, Seventh Royal Highness."
"Then what are you panicking for?"
"Your Majesty, I am here to inform all of you to get out of here. The fire has spread here!"
That night, the entire city of Zhen Huang was incinerated. Heart wrenching cries of agony reverberated everywhere. The city of Zhen Huang had indeed become a living hell.
"Master! I've finally found you!" Zhu Cheng clumsily untied Zhuge Yue. He added in a low voice, "Old Master instructed me to find you. I've been so worried. Let's move. The palace is on fire."
Zhuge Yue frowned and quizzed, "Zhu Cheng, what has happened outside?"
"Prince Yan has rebelled! He has brought the troops of the Southwestern Envoy to attack the city gates. The civilians have gone crazy! The Cavalry Camp, Green Army and the other divisions have been cut off, and are nowhere to be heard of. The twelfth division is also unable to provide reinforcements. It's too chaotic!"
Zhuge Yue's expression sank. Decisively, he replied, "No way. I'm going home to mobilize the family's troops to control the situation."
"Young Master, Old Master instructed you not to be rash. The other families have not taken action, let's…"
"It will be too late if we don't take action!" Zhuge Yue raged, eyes bloodshot. "What is Father thinking? At this time, do they still want to fight internally? I've said before that Ba Lei, that idiot, wouldn't be able to kill Yan Xun!"
Zhu Cheng was flustered. "Old Master said that the Elders' Clan would take care of this matter. This is not within Young Master's jurisdiction, you do not need to intervene."
"Elders' Clan?" Zhuge Yue sneered with rage. "What do they know? Internal politics? Scheming against each other for their self-interests? The survival of the country, the Xia Empire, they wouldn't give a hoot about this! Zhu Cheng, get out of my way!"
"Master," Zhu Cheng turned pale. "What are you doing this for? The families are not mobilizing any troops. If we were to do so, what would others think?"
"Who cares about what they think!" Zhuge Yue, eyebrows locked, added, "If the country falls, what would happen to our family? If the Xia Empire falls, where could the Zhuge family go? I'm not doing this for the royal Zhao family, but for the civilians of Zhen Huang, for the people of the Xia Empire!"
"Is…is it that serious? Old Master said, the city walls are durable enough to withstand 100 thousand troops for three days. The civilians would only be able to fight for another two hours. Once the troops from the twelfth division arrive, Yan Xun's forces would be eliminated. It's just a small rebellion."
"Small rebellion?" Zhuge Yue laughed in a fit of anger. "You guys think that Yan Xun is a fool? Would he fight all the way until the reinforcements arrive? He's about to escape. It's all chaos in the capital now. Who would be able to chase him? If we were to let someone this scheming and resentful escape back to Yan Bei, what would be the consequences? He's ten thousand times scarier than Yan Shicheng."
"Let go of me!"
A large rod hit Zhuge Yue on the head. He frowned, collapsing on the ground.
"Master, I'm sorry, these are Old Master's instructions." Zhu Cheng shook his head. "You're right, but we are a noble family. We have our own rules and protocols. Also, do you only wait to eliminate Prince Yan?"
Having lived in the capital for eight years, Chu Qiao had not witnessed Zhen Huang in this state. There was chaos everywhere. Cries of agony could be heard everywhere. Adding to the noises were unrestrained laughs and endless cursing. Amidst the heavy fires, robberies and bloodshed, the normally law-abiding civilians had shed off their morals and principles, transforming into lawless, savage beasts.
The robbers broke into the shophouses, killing the shopkeepers who pleaded for their lives. Their sons, witnessing what had happened, took their knives and killed the robbers for revenge. They looked at the house, stained with blood, laughed, and dashed out of their houses to join in the mass killings. Others broke into the shophouses and looted all the useable items. As for those items that they could not take away, they smashed or burned it. Their purpose of committing the robbery was not for their own interests, but purely to wreak havoc and vent their frustrations. People were killing each other everywhere. Dirty corpses and fires were everywhere. An air of desperation and craziness lingered along the upper skies of Zhen Huang. An aura of death enveloped the entire city.
Was this Yan Xun's foretold prophecy, that someone would block the troops of the 12th and 19th divisions for them?
Chu Qiao felt a cold shiver go up her spine. Her limbs turned cold. Setting fires in the capital and creating chaos had been the basis of their strategy. However, she had not expected that this would have caused such serious consequences. Too many people had run amok, too many people had died, and too many innocent people had been implicated. The city of Zhen Huang, under extreme desperation and the threat of a catastrophe, under the discord sown by the intentional, under the celebrations of the unrestrained, descended into a fiery living hell, with no possibility of reincarnation.
It was nighttime on the twentieth day of the fifth month. The civilians of Zhen Huang, who had been oppressed for years on end, finally gave in to their emotions, awakening the devils in them.