Diwu Qing Rou had travelled for almost two-thousand kilometres when he received an urgent military report. Surprisingly, he smiled as he read it.
"Bai Chang Tian and his army of five-hundred-thousand soldiers are completely annihilated." The expressions of all the generals - who were accompanying Diwu Qing Rou on the expedition - changed as they heard this. But, they were surprised to see Diwu Qing Rou smile.
"Speed-up the marching pace!" Diwu Qing Rou ordered insipidly. Then, he closed his eyes, and lay down partly-reclined in his carriage. He appeared to be meditating. So, no one dared to utter a single word. However, everyone was baffled, [This was such a major defeat. But… Lord Prime Minister doesn't seem to care at all.]
Diwu Qing Rou's eyes were closed, but thoughts were rapidly rolling inside his mind. He nodded with satisfaction as he recalled his entire plan once again.
"It seems like King of Hell Chu is indeed an important figure in Iron Cloud. Tie Bu Tian considers him awfully important," Diwu Qing Rou sighed.
"What does Lord Prime Minister mean by that..." Han Bu Chu - a member of the expedition - asked. He wasn't far off when Diwu Qing Rou uttered this in his carriage. So, he had been able to overhear it.
"Haha... " Diwu Qing Rou let out a relaxed laughter as he spoke, "Our victory is certain this time."
Han Bu Chu was even more puzzled by this reply.
He knew very little about this matter - Bai Chang Tian used to be in the Imperial Court of Great Zhao. In fact, he was the only survivor of the staunch royalists. So, he was a supporter of the King who Diwu Qing Rou had kept under house-arrest. Five-hundred-thousand soldiers being laid to waste! So, Han Bu Chu was disturbed to some extent. But, Diwu Qing Rou had felt relieved. Could this have some other hidden meaning…? Han Bu Chu didn't know.
"Send a letter immediately. Notify Jing Meng Hun — he must set fire to the mountain without hesitating about anything... including famines… if King of Hell Chu is able to escape beyond fifty-five-hundred kilometres!" Diwu Qing Rou closed his eyes and spoke in an indifferent manner.
"Yes…" Han Bu Chu complied. But, he was confused.
"This plan will probably succeed. Or… perhaps this plan will come to a premature end. So, I didn't make it clear to everyone during the deployment. I can only wait and watch it progress step-by-step. I can only observe whether this plan will work or not. If the plan fails… then the war will continue in a normal way; as before. If this plan works… then the war will probably end six months ahead of time… or... or it will be over immediately. At present… it seems that this plan is already half completed."
Diwu Qing Rou smiled; the sunshine that was coming through the carriage-curtains casted a mottled shadow on his face.
"Plan..." Han Bu Chu wasn't a stupid man. However, he didn't have the least bit of an idea as to what Diwu Qing Rou was talking about.
"Bu Chu, you lack an overall grasp over the present situation." Diwu Qing Rou spoke with partially closed eyes, "Do you remember that I had made some arrangements when I was in the middle of making layouts for troop-deployment and military formations…?"
"Yes, the humble subordinate wouldn't dare to forget."
"Then, you must certainly remember that I had given some instructions regarding the matter-at-hand when King of Hell Chu had escaped from the Continent Centre - to make some minor adjustments to the routes being taken by the nine army units?" Diwu Qing Rou said.
"So, do you know why I did that?" Diwu Qing Rou asked with a smile.
"That... " Han Bu Chu racked his brains, but couldn't think of a reason. He forced a smile and said, "The subordinate is ashamed."
"You can't think of a reason because you lack awareness. Well… it's not very unexpected of you," Diwu Qing Rou said with a smile. Han Bu Chu noticed that Diwu Qing Rou was extremely cheerful.
"I implore Lord Prime Minister to explain it clearly."
"The most important person in this plan is King of Hell Chu," Diwu Qing Rou stated softly. "The success or failure of this plan rests upon King of Hell Chu's body. This plan will fail if King of Hell Chu isn't able to escape. And, this plan will fail if King of Hell Chu doesn't hold much important in Tie Bu Tian's heart…"
"King of Hell Chu?" Han Bu Chu frowned, "What relation does this matter have with King of Hell Chu? What ability does this one man have to directly affect the course of war?"
"That's where you're wrong." Diwu Qing Rou smiled, but his voice became serious, "King of Hell Chu has already affected the course of war. In fact, it was him who initiated it. It may seem like this war has been initiated by me - Diwu Qing Rou. But, it's not so. It should be said that King of Hell Chu has single-handedly initiated this war."
Han Bu Chu sucked in a cold breath.
[King of Hell Chu has single-handedly initiated the war between two nations?]
"At present, the war's situation is the same as it was ten years ago — when I and Tie Long Cheng had waged a war. I think that I could've made him do anything with my strategies. He would've done everything according to my wishes even if he were sullen and aggrieved. Otherwise, it would've worsened the situation of the entire Iron Cloud Nation."
Diwu Qing Rou sighed and said, "It's a pity that King of Hell Chu holds the domineering position at present. And… the one who has to do everything according to the enemy is me - Diwu Qing Rou. This is the most shameful expedition in my entire life."
Han Bu Chu was so shocked that he was rendered speechless.
[King of Hell Chu is extremely ferocious. One thing that must be acknowledged is that he's exceptionally wise. He can also be classified as a dangerous person. He's the biggest enemy that Lord Prime Minister Diwu has ever faced in his life. But… I never thought that King of Hell Chu was capable of scaring Diwu Qing Rou like this.]
[Moreover, he's suffering losses like this! In fact, he seems sullen of suffering losses!]
"The time is moving fast... " Diwu Qing Rou's facial expression was hard to determine because of the shadow of the curtains on his face. He sighed and said, "The trend of events brings forth the hero… that's the way it is! King of Hell Chu is taking advantage of my circumstances. I've been pressurized to come out like this by this genius. And… this pressure has forced me into passivity. This is what you say - 'one can't get what's denied to him by destiny… no matter how hard he tries'..."
Diwu Qing Rou spoke softly. He continued to talk as they advanced on the long road.
It could be seen that Diwu Qing Rou had suppressed this matter for a long time. Now, it was finally the time when he could unburden himself; even if it was only in front of a single audience...
"You ought to remember that I had formulated a plan against Iron Cloud long ago - the plan to subjugate Iron Cloud Nation. But… it was going to happen three years later. Yet… I had to prepone it by three years because of King of Hell Chu's arrival.
"King of Hell Chu unexpectedly appeared in Iron Cloud, and started to mess with us. He pulled-out our roots from the Iron Cloud; one-by-one. I was forced to endure when that happened.
"He caught and killed my younger brother. I was heart-broken. I was left in extreme pain. But… standing before the present conditions of both nations… I was forced to endure it.
"After that, our Golden Horse Riders Department got trapped in Iron Cloud. One of our King Level Experts died, and another one was crippled. More than a hundred Revered Marital artists lost their lives. The Golden Horse Riders Department's strength was weakened to one-third of its original strength. But, I forcefully endured it.
"And, because I continued to endure… King of Hell had no other choice but to cross thousands of kilometres in order to arrive in the Continent Centre. He hadn't come to urge me to deploy my troops. Rather, he spared no effort in delaying our preparations to march to war.
"But… he made a mistake in this regard. He neither left me, nor himself, any room for manoeuvre. Or… perhaps it wasn't his fault at all. He couldn't have foreseen it; he couldn't have controlled it either. It can be only said that the Heaven was playing a joke on us..."
Diwu Qing Rou looked-up at the vast sky as he spoke in a lamenting tone, "Now… the situation has come to this… I'm being forced to play a passive role. This is a surprising turn of events. King of Hell Chu has certainly taken the initiative… but it's too late for regrets. This was beyond my expectations. I had no other choice but to prepone the war. I was helpless when I did that… but I believe King of Hell Chu was even more helpless… and speechless too."
Han Bu Chu hadn't uttered a single word ever since Diwu Qing Rou had started to talk. He had been listening quietly. He knew that Diwu Qing Rou didn't need his opinion; he needed him to be a good listener.
Moreover, he would get to know what was going on. He would also show his acknowledgement once Diwu Qing Rou started to declare his strategies and plans.
"So, King of Hell Chu started to cause havoc in Continent Centre. He caused complete disturbance and chaos. We could've delayed marching into war by a year or two if the situation had remained like that. But, that wasn't enough for him. He further aimed for the treasures to be used for war… and directly infiltrated the Imperial palace. In addition, he destroyed the Imperial Palace."
Diwu Qing Rou's facial muscles twitched as he said, "He robbed the palace's hidden treasury once the palace was destroyed. And just like that… this man made everyone fretful and overwrought...! An insignificant man changed the entire history!"
Diwu Qing Rou sighed heavily. He wanted to curse-out 'mothf*cker' aloud, but he collected himself, "… It's hard to tell how… but something unusual happened in the Imperial Palace that night... A fake royal decree was passed against me… deeming me at fault.
"If I had gone back even a step in a situation like that… then, it would've looked like I had withdrawn. The entire Diwu faction would've vanished in a puff of smoke. So, I could only go forward. But, going forward meant confronting the Imperial Power since there was no way left to redeem myself. So, I had to topple the Imperial Authority because I had to go forward."
Han Bu Chu gave a bitter smile as he heard this.
"Finally, the Imperial power had been deposed… but the nation couldn't go one day without a monarch. The entire country was in a racket. And, we couldn't have gone to war for 8-10 years if a new emperor were to be assisted to occupy the throne… "
Han Bu Chu sighed. He felt distressed by those words. [A change of sovereign brings a change of ministers. This never changes. If that had happened… then the transfer of the nation's entire military to the north would've been impossible.]
"At that time… our compatriots must've wanted something-done about this mess. After all, the domestic circumstances were like that. And… our roots were getting fewer on the Iron Cloud's side. We no longer had enough power in Iron Cloud. The roots we had placed inside the Iron Cloud's military some time ago had been silenced without a sound... the circumstances were compelling…
"Moreover, Iron Cloud's relations with wolf tribe of the Northern Grassland clan were getting better. They were clearly trying to interfere… and sever our interests there. Several of our large horse farms and arsenal industry had also faced different degrees of attacks... This explained that Iron Cloud had survived their domestic crisis… and were onto us.
"If we had given Iron Cloud three years… I'm afraid they would've been far more developed. Then… our scheme would certainly have gone to nought." Diwu Qing Rou sighed, "So, considering both the internal and external mess we are in right now… going to war with Iron Cloud was the only option. On the contrary… Iron Cloud is currently dispersed. It is at its weakest! This is the most advantageous opportunity for us.
"You say... Bu Chu… this matter… and so many other matters like this - which of these are short of falling under King of Hell Chu's influence?" Diwu Qing Rou sighed, "King of Hell Chu is a genius! His real intention was to maintain the status quo… and delay the war as much as possible. And I - Diwu Qing Rou - am not a person who devalues himself… I can be regarded as a resourceful and wise scholar.
"Both of us had the same goal… but we're enemies. Both of us are master strategists… yet none of us wished for the war to start so early. But, both of us ended-up working together to shift the war to such an early date.
"How can this not be regarded as a disastrous joke?"