Purple River(紫川) By Lao Zhu(老猪)

edited April 2016 in Translations
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Brought to you by: Easy Going Scans

Title: Purple River <紫川>

Author: Lao Zhu <老猪>

Translator: Sharogy

Genre: Fantasy, War, Comedy, Intrigue.

Story sypnosis:

Two hundred years ago, on the Battlefield of the Blue River, the last remaining army of the Empire of Light collapsed in the midst of demonic outcries. As the last Field Marshal and Emperor fell, the chaotic world of the Western River no longer had a common ruler. Factions were formed and endless conflicts ensued, military might became the only currency of survival, and the dream to reunite the lands became the sole goal of many rulers in the generations that came after.

In the south-eastern part of the land, a powerful faction with over two hundred years of history – House ZiChuan – fought off the Demons to the east, defended against the House Liu Feng to the west, and contained the House Lin to the south. In order to accomplish their great ambitions and extend the bloodline of their family, countless heroes of ZiChuan gave their lives in order to make this magnificent hymn come to life. This is a story about this legendary family and a hundred years of their blood and tears.

Translator's Note:

If you first start reading this novel, you may find the story a bit bland and all over the place. Well, you are right. The story start off incredibly slow, and the author likes to introduce tons of random plot devices purely for comedy value with no actual impact to the story itself.

However the story is a very serious one, and will show itself as such as the story progresses. Slowly, but surely the story will pick up momentum, and will take a drastic turn once it reaches the first major campaign in the Far east, which happens somewhere in the second half of the first book. (Around chapter 10).

If you wish to give this novel a chance, I would recommand you to keep reading till that point, If you don't like it then, you should stop and move on.

Additional Note: Incase you notice any changes in the previous released chapters, this has to do with the published format that was changed after the first book. Initially the story was published as Web Novel, afterwards it was published in physical copies, and the initial chapters were republished as well. During which a few changes were made, to better suit the publishing format, including the removal of many time-line distorting puns. So after finding out the differences in the web-released chapters versus the physical copies, I have decided to edit the previous released chapters based on the physical copies of the book.

PS: I'm also looking for a PR with knowledge of Military Jargons for this project.

Schedule:

2 small or 1 long part every week.

Note: Updates are a week behind on wuxia world.

Available Chapters:

~~Try out our new Novel Reader Here~~

Chapter 1 - Part 01 - 08

Chapter 2 - Part 01 - 08

Chapter 3 - Part 01 - 08

Chapter 4 - Part 01 - 08

Chapter 5 - Part 01 - 08

Chapter 6 - Part 01 - 08

Chapter 7 - Part 01 - 02





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Comments

  • edited May 2016

    Chapter 01 Part 01 - Victory


    Deputy Banner Master, Luo Jie, watched in satisfaction as the elites of the Demon Army crumbled at the foot of the mountain like a sand castle in the tide. “So who was the one saying the Demon army was too powerful? Looks like I’m the one who is too powerful.”

    Deputy Banner Master Bai Chuan gave him a stern look, then ignored him.

    Deputy Banner Master Chang Chuan drawled, “Just the other day, someone was saying that we were dead for sure this time and we should all run for our lives!”

    “There’s nothing I hate more than a coward undermining army morale before a battle!” Luo Jie spoke with indignation, as if it had nothing to do with him, “He had better hope I don’t catch him, or I will hang him on the spot!”

    “Are you suffering from memory loss?! I’m talking about you!”

    “Huh? When did I say something like that?” He turned to Bai Chuan, “Surely, he is talking about you?”

    Bai Chuan watched emotionlessly at the two love rivals throwing jabs at each other, and turned his horse around. “I will go check if the Banner Master has any new orders for us.”

    Twenty thousand black riders stood in formation quietly on top of the hill, without even a whisper. There was only the distant rattle of the retreating Demon army, and the deep hum of the wind sweeping over the plain of Heng Chuan with a whoosh, as though the souls of the dead were unwilling to depart from the place of their final demise.

    A warrior fully clad in silver stood high up on the peak of the hill, his majestic stature and upright torso eliciting the kind of respect reserved only for the commanding officer of an army. Shining silver glinted on his armor as the dusk fell upon him. In the midst of the sea of black riders, he was as bright as the Gods themselves. Anyone who saw his plating would know that was the emblematic silver armor of the youngest —and the most legendary— of the “Three Young Generals of House ZiChuan”, ZiChuan Xiu.

    Yet, when Bai Chuan saw, from a distance, the one who had the utmost respect of the entire Far Eastern Army, she only let out a soundless sigh.

    She hurried her mount closer while scanning around herself: all those standing guard were the Banner Master’s personal guards. She whispered, “Gu Lei! Are you crazy?! How dare you wear Master Xiu’s armor and impersonate him?!”

    “ZiChuan Xiu,” (Captain of the Personal Guard —Gu Lei) answered, his face full of chagrin and fatigue, “Officer Bai Chuan,” he complained. “I don’t want to do it either. Master Xiu insisted that I dress up like this and stand here... The armor is very heavy. I don’t think I can do this anymore. I have already run three warhorses to exhaustion…”

    “The battle is still rampant! What is Master Xiu doing?!”

    “He just took a shower at the base camp, barbecued some meat, and is now sleeping,” replied Gu Lei.

    “Did he leave any instructions?”

    “Ah, yes.” Gu Lei remembered. “He said that if we were losing, we should make sure to wake him up immediately so we can all run for our lives.”

    Bai Chuan spotted ZiChuan Xiu’s tent underneath the shade. Inside the tent, a man wrapped in a sleeping bag snored rhythmically, “Zzz, Zzz.”

    “Sir, could you please wake up?” Bai Chuan urged. But the one in the sleeping bag did not even flinch. She sighed in defeat, “Sir, I’m afraid you leave me with no choice.”

    With that, she left the tent, only to return with a bottle of boiling water in her hand: “I will count up to three,” she threatened. “One, two… And three!”

    “Okay, fine. I surrender. I’m awake.”

    A man stuck his head out of the sleeping bag, squinting. His face was still asleep. A pretty handsome young lad nonetheless —or, more accurately, a boy, if judged by his childish smile.

    “What’s the emergency?” He yawned. “Are the Demons here?”

    After some thought, Bai Chuan replied, “Not yet.”

    “Have the soldiers mutinied?”

    “They will eventually, when they find out you have been fooling them with a fake,” She answered.

    “I will worry about it when it happens,” he grumbled. “And the officers? All acting like kids over something so insignificant. So, did Luo Jie and Chang Chuan fight a duel over you and die?”

    “Sadly, both of them are still hanging onto their shameless lives. The truth is, we won, and the Demons are retreating.”

    ZiChuan Xiu looked surprised, “Really? That was unexpected. We actually won?” He stuffed his head back into the sleeping bag, “Let me think on it.”

    Bai Chuan waited… and waited… Until the snoring sound came once again from inside the sleeping bag, “Zzz, Zzz.”

    Bai Chuan snapped at last, and poured the bottle of boiling water on top of the sleeping bag.

    “Aaaaaiieee!”

    Imperial Calendar Year 778: A shrieking cry let out by the victor of the third battle of Heng Chuan was not recorded in the history books.


  • edited March 2016

    Chapter 01 Part 02

    The Truth Behind History

    Bai Chuan explained the situation of the battlefield to the half asleep ZiChuan Xiu: “The current situation is that despite their decent defeat, the Demon Army is still over fifty thousand strong, and they have with them the powerful armoured beasts. They almost broke through our defences last time, but somehow for reasons unbeknownst to me, they suddenly decided to retreat, and are in complete disarray. We, the officers in charge can’t agree on whether we should give chase or not. We await your instructions.”

    Still muddled from the sleep, ZiChuan Xiu asked: “So who wants to give chase?”

    Bai Chuan: “Deputy Banner Master Luo Jie, he advocates for giving chase.”

    ZiChuan Xiu: “Then let him.”

    “But Sir!” Bai Chuan raised her voice: “I understand the way you feel about Luo Jie, he hasn’t accomplished a single thing since he was promoted to the Deputy Banner Master except being a blowhard, in fact, I feel the same way, but the five thousand soldiers of the Far Eastern Army under his command are innocent, surely they don’t deserve to die with him?”

    “Hey, come on now, how can you think that of your commanding officer? Master Bai?” ZiChuan Xiu’s eyes flashed a glint of cunningness, the kind when you are caught red-handed: “Let him go, it will be fine.”

    “But the enemy forces total fifty to sixty thousand; Luo Jie’s unit has less than five thousand.”

    “Bai Chuan, use your head, Luo Jie’s unit is made up of Cavalry. The mobility of his unit is far superior to those big demon brutes. Even if he can’t beat them, he can at least run, right?”

    “But Sir, you know as well as I do, once that idiot Luo Jie starts to charge, he stops using his head, what if he really forgets to…”

    “Don’t worry, I have prepared for all eventualities!”

    Facing Bai Chuan’s inquisitive gaze, ZiChuan Xiu took out a flyer from inside the tent, it reads: Imperial Capital Funeral Parlour, from June 1st to August 30th, sixty percent discount, everyone is welcome!

    “I did the math, if Luo Jie dies today, we can still make the discount, besides I’m a good friend with the owner, perhaps we can even get the urn box for free…”

    Bai Chuan rode back to the frontline filled with anger, causing puzzled looks between the other two Deputy Banner Masters.

    “Banner Master Xiu orders the Deputy Banner Master Luo to attack!”

    Luo Jie cheered loudly: “Long live the king!” as he turned his head towards his men shouting: “Follow me!” and charged forward. Following his lead, five thousand black riders lined up in formation and charged down from top of the hill, hooves thundering, shouts echoing: “Long live the king king king…” Like the descent of a black dragon, his unstoppable force surged downward, pouncing at the retreating Demon Army.

    “What an idiot! Still laughing even though he is about to die!” Bai Chuan cursed bitterly.

    “Maybe not.” Deputy Banner Master Chang Chuan spoke: “I think the demon army is in shambles, I wonder what happened to them, Luo Jie may actually win.”

    Bai Chuan: “So what do you think happened?”

    Chang Chuan: “We don’t know, but maybe Master Xiu does. Every time he sent for Luo Jie, it is like he is telling us: The time for thinking has passed; now you just need to charge forward. We will win. I have faith in Master Xiu.”

    Bai Chuan sniffed at the thought, thinking: “That is because you haven’t seen him sound asleep at the base camp, getting ready to run away.” She didn’t speak it out loud, fearing it may undermine army morale, or perhaps…

    But then the battlefield developed in a way she couldn’t believe her eyes: like a hot knife through butter, Luo Jie’s force exploded forward, charging almost directly into the heart of the Demon Army. The demons scattered in all directions without even trying to put up a fight, leaving their weapons and armors behind, a complete chaos.

    The Demon Army of fifty thousand strong was defeated, no, embarrassed by the Human Army with less than one tenth of their number, the like the history had never seen!

    Both Deputy Banner Masters gasped in unison: “But how!”

    Chang Chuan shouted: “This can’t be real, it must be a trap! Luo Jie is surrounded!”

    Bai Chuan shouted back: “It can’t be a trap, look at them, the way their forces fled, so disorganized, you can’t fake something like that! Even if it was a trap, he still has a chance!”

    Bai Chuan turned towards the back, raising her voice while giving the order: “All riders! Forward!”

    Chang Chuan stopped her: “You do not have the authority to give that order, only Master Xiu can!”

    Bai Chuan replied with a back fist and sent him tumbling down the horseback. Unsheathing her sabre, she laid it against his neck: “If you cost us this opportunity, I will kill you!” She glanced around at the stunned guards and couriers, and gave her order in a deeper voice: “What are you waiting for!”

    “Toooot” Sound of trumpets came from everywhere as the sea of riders lined up in formation, forming several lines in preparation.

    Bai Chuan’s cavalry regiment lined up in the front of the army; he casually raised his right hand, and like a statue, she waited. Suddenly, she waved her raised hand forward, and the riders began their charge, shouting: “Long live the king king king…”

    Rows and rows of riders rode past her in tandem. First they began with a trot, slowly accelerating, till the entire regiment galloped forward with shocking speed. Like a flood swallowing the land, they pounced on the Demon Army waiting at the feet of the mountain. The charging riders soon engulfed the entire hillside with their shining steel, and the intensity of their warcries made the heaven tremble in its wake.

    The sound of battle soon reached the base camp and awoke someone from his dream. He stuck his head out of the sleeping bag, attempting to discern the source of the interruption. Yawn: “So we went on the offensive… Looks like Bai Chuan has noticed… Jeez, if you want to attack then attack, what is the point of shouting, can’t even have a good night sleep over here.” He stuffed his head back inside, hoping to find the way back to his sweet dreams earlier.

    According to House ZiChuan’s History Record: Imperial Calendar, Year 778. During the third battle of Heng Chuan, ZiChuan Xiu personally led the charge and fought bravely against the enemy, greatly raising the morale of the soldiers! Under his command, the three Deputy Banner Masters, Luo Jie, Bai Chuan, and Chang Chuan remained calm under pressure and fought fearlessly in a coordinated fashion, allowing their thirty thousand Calvary forces to achieve a decisive victory over the elite forces of the Demon Army. Over forty thousand of the enemy forces were wounded or killed and over ten thousand were captured. Ge Sha, nicknamed to be the most fearsome demon warrior was slain by Banner Master ZiChuan Xiu himself. It was a heavy blow to the demons and the first turning point in the war of Holy Defence.


  • edited March 2016

    Chapter 01 Part 03

    Great Find

    "Have we really won?" After reviewing the aftermath of the battle, Zi Chuan Xiu muttered questioningly.

    "No doubt about it, Sir, we won big time!" With a really flushed cheek, Captain of the Personal Guard, Gu Lei shouted in excitement:" This is your triumph, Sir, allow me to congratulate you; given what you have accomplished here today, the promotion to the Red Banner Master will only be a formality. Just think about it, not even twenty years old, and you already have the same rank as the Governors of every province. That is a great accomplishment; there haven’t been many precedents even in the entire history of the House ZiChuan!"

    "Hoho, let me congratulate you back." ZiChuan Xiu smiled at him, absence of joy: "If I remember correctly, you are still just a Banner Warrior, correct? Perhaps becoming the Deputy Banner Master will only be a matter of time."

    Gu Lei couldn't be more excited: Thank you, Sir, for your guidance! I will do everything and omit nothing in my service to you, in order to repay the gratitude you have shown me. I won't hesitate to give my life if need be…"

    "Uh-huh." ZiChuan Xiu interrupted Gu Lei's monologue of a display of loyalty, and murmured to himself: "It must be a blessing to live a simple life."

    "What are you saying, Sir?"

    "Oh, I'm just saying to keep up the good work."

    Not long after, a squad of riders came in to sight. Seeing the banner of ZiChuan Xiu, they immediately dismounted and saluted. ZiChuan Xiu brought his horse to a halt facing the rider: "Which unit are you in? And what is your mission?"

    Calvary Captain replied: "We are part of Luo Jie's unit, third battalion seventh company. We are currently transporting the captives."

    "Oh? ZiChuan Xiu suddenly found himself intrigued:" Are there many captives? Show me."

    "As you wish, Sir!" The Captain gave a shout towards the back, ordering the riders to whip the captives forward and await inspection. The personal guards immediately surrounded ZiChuan Xiu, fearing a potential outburst from any of the demon prisoners. But that wasn't necessary at all. This group of captives are all goblins… some green skinned dwarves. They are incredibly handy little fellows, but can hardly put up a fight. They are tame by nature, easy to control. Even amongst the Demon Army, they are mostly handling the non-combative labours. You can purchase goblin servants from the human markets too; the words are that in the capital, the price goes up to thirty thousand per head.

    Calvary Captain seemed to have noticed the slight disappointment in ZiChuan Xiu's expressions, feeling embarrassed. In an attempt to please his superior, he offered: "Sir, you may not know, but we found something strange amongst the prisoners."

    "Oh?"

    Captain gave another shout towards the back: "Show it to Master Xiu!”

    Several riders marched forward, dragging a big bulging sack behind them. The Captain began to untie the ropes, showing a flattering smile: "Sir, this is the rarest of goods.”

    With that, he revealed what was inside the sack, a young female, a pretty one! Her garment was slightly ruffled, but no doubt it was made of very expensive material. Perhaps because she was just being let out of the sack, she looked a little embarrassed, but her alluring beauty had remained intact. Her pair of big blue eyes was the signature characteristic of a demon female. Even though she was a captive, she acted surprisingly calm, or at least, she pretended to be. She fixated her captivating gaze at the few humans standing in front of her, expressing her anger at those who dared to make her a prisoner. Without so much of a word, she had shown the dignity and self-control befitting of a noble.

    ZiChuan Xiu gave the Captain a frown: "Since when have the Far Eastern Army become kidnappers?"

    Captain complained in earnest: "But Sir, she is not just some average girl! We found her inside a well-embroidered carriage; she even had dozens of guards protecting her. Many of my men were wounded in the process of capturing her! She is definitely someone important, probably someone with titles in the Demon's Court!"

    "Has she been questioned?"

    "She didn't say anything, and we didn't have the time to question her thoroughly. But we can leave her in your care, Sir; surely you don't want to miss out on this opportunity!" The captain spoke suggestively.

    And ZiChuan Xiu replied with a sense of acknowledgement: "Hohoho, I definitely will… question her thoroughly." Those were the words from one man to another, something a man would understand merely from the tone of the voice, ranks did not matter.

    As soon as the Calvary Squad disappeared from sight, ZiChuan Xiu let out a streak of evil laughter: "Luckily that bitch Bai Chuan wasn't around, or else this could proof problematic." He turned towards Gu Lei and the rest of the personal guards: "If Bai Chuan asks about it… I hope you all know what to do, right?"

    Gu Lei answered with a straight face: "Rest assured, Sir, we saw nothing, we heard nothing!"

    "Smart man!" ZiChuan Xiu surveyed his surroundings: "So where can I set up a camp without risking being interrupted? Can't do it over there, too barren, lack of romantic scenery, not here either, too many mosquitoes, they may ruin the mood…" He rambled on while eyeing the young girl with his lecherous gaze, till she finally…

    "I'm the third Princess of the God King, Ka Dan. I'm a royalty. I demand to be treated in a way deserving of someone of my stature!" The girl spoke with her trembling voice, trying desperately to appear dignified.

    All the guards gasped in unison, making it sound much louder than usual.

    Gu Lei whispered: "If I may, Sir, you mustn't touch this girl, or you may incur the wrath from the Department of Military Justice!"

    ZiChuan Xiu responded without so much as turning his head: "Gu Lei, you pig-brained fool!" He grumbled: "This is a great find!"


  • edited March 2016

    Chapter 01 Part 04

    True Self

    Riding in the dark with her fellow riders, Bai Chuan found herself lost in thought: the joy of victory earlier today did not dispel her doubts, how did we win so easily? The Demons had the advantage, yet they suddenly retreated; and when the Calvary of House ZiChuan attacked, they were barely met with any organized resistance… that was not the usual etiquette of the powerful and the fierce Demon Army.

    But in the end a victory is a victory, irreplaceable and beyond doubt. The sea of Demon corpses stretched as far as the eyes can see, like the crops in the fall, waiting to be harvest… that was the proof. Only then did she realize her back was soaked in sweat. If there was the slightest error in her judgement, then the ones lying on the ground right now would have been the riders of House ZiChuan. And she would have to take responsibility for it. Even if she was fortunate enough to survive the battle, she wouldn’t be able to escape the punishment from the Military Constables of Ministry of Supervision[1]… I can’t take any more risks, she thought, surely the goddess of luck would not be so generous, to look after the same person twice.

    “Stop chasing.” She gave the order.

    Like taking a weight off their shoulders, the riders brought their horses to a swift halt. They were completely exhausted after chasing five hours nonstop, but none dared to suggest it to their lady tyrant… Everyone saw what happened to Chang Chuan the last time he tried. For the common soldiers, she seemed way scarier than the supposedly invincible Demon God King himself.

    “All units make camp, send out the scouts, increase the number of guards assigned to each sentry post at night time from four to eight, double the scout’s recon range and light torches as warning!”

    The couriers left as soon as she finished, Bai Chuan went on: “From now on, Deputy Banner Master Chang Chuan is in charge of the camp, I will go see Master Xiu.”

    Chang Chuan stepped out behind the riders with an inhospitable look on his face: “So, I’m in charge? Is Master Bai not afraid of me taking all the credit for myself?”

    In return, Bai Chuan gave him the sweetest of all smiles, and instantly, Chang Chuan’s anger subsided over half, and the rest… well, it no longer mattered.

    “Are you still mad at me? I’m apologizing to you now, aren’t I? Chang Chuan, you are a man amongst men, surely you won’t stoop down to the level of a girl, right?”

    Chang Chuan’s mouth twisted into a wry grin: “Fine, you win. It is not like I haven’t been hit by you before.”

    “I’ll let you in on something, I just questioned some of the captives and they told me a strange story. They said that during the attack, their Commander Ge Sha and Deputy Commander Yun Shen were both assassinated. Without the head of their chain of command, their morale buckled and their forces collapsed on its own.”

    “Really!” Bai Chuan was taken by surprise: “Who did it? They sure did us a big favour.”

     “I only know it was done by a Human… as you may already know, for a demon, we all look the same, in a sense, it is just like how those green skinned monsters all look the same to us. Anyways, he was a very terrifying human according to the demons; he hid himself in the sand and waited for the Demon Commanders to walk past him before he struck them down from below. Both of them were killed in one stroke. ”

    Bai Chuan considered the possibility: “I didn’t know someone like that existed in the Far Eastern regions, not only skilled, but also patient and ruthless. To hide himself in the sand….” She shuddered at the thought.

    Chang Chuan: “I believe that our Banner Master must have known. Or he wouldn’t have given us the order to attack…”

    Just the mentioning of his name made Bai Chuan flare up in anger: “You think too highly of that idiot! Did you know what he was doing when we were risking our lives? Shower, dinner and sleep… the only thing he didn’t do was fooling around with some woman… and the only reason for that was probably because he didn’t manage to find one. Which part of him looks like an army commander to you…?

    Chang Chuan replied in a leisurely fashion: “As long as we are victorious, he can do whatever he pleases, it doesn’t matter to me one bit. But what is making you so angry?” He glanced at Bai Chuan, hinting at the deeper meaning within the words.

    “He got lucky this time that something happened to the Demons!”

    “I doubt it is just luck. This time maybe, but what about six years ago during the counterattack at the Capital, was that a fluke as well? Both Subjugation Wars against House Liu Feng, only his army made it back in one piece. And three years ago, when we encountered Liu Feng Shuang, only his army escaped their encirclement without sustaining any casualties… For an idiot who enlisted at the age of eleven, and gone through, big or small, seventy battles, but never lost once… Surely he can’t be that lucky?”

    Bai Chuan rode forth in the darkness while Chang Chuan’s words echoed in her head: “Indeed, surely that idiot can’t be that lucky… Can he be hiding his true self all along?

    Right, I must confront him face to face and uncover his true self underneath his lazy, cowardly and perverted appearance!

    The lamp lights of the main encampment shined in the darkness, before ZiChuan Xiu’s personal guards could have reacted, Bai Chuan had already entered the camp.

    Gu Lei, Captain of the Personal Guard stepped forth to meet her: “Deputy Banner Master Bai, Master Xiu’s orders, you may not go inside!”

    “Why? Bai Chuan ignored him, thinking: “Could this be the one moment he is showing his true self? I have to get inside!”

    Without giving it a second thought, she entered the main tent of the camp, but what greeted her was the sight of ZiChuan Xiu attempting to kiss an innocent young girl in his arms…

    Unspeakable anger instantly rose up from inside of her as she lashed out with her sabre in hand: “So this is ZiChuan Xiu’s true self! Prepare to die!”

     

    [1] A unique Judicial Body in the Government of People’s Republic of China, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ministry_of_Supervision


  • edited March 2016

    Chapter 01 Part 05

    Heroic Return

    "Woah, luckily I stepped away in time, you almost cut me in half!"

    ZiChuan Xiu had yet to fully recover his senses: "Master Bai, you are being way too reckless… Do I really look like some pervert who would force myself on some innocent young girl? And you, Gu Lei, what are you looking at?"

    Bai Chuan argued back unconvinced: "Sir, if you put yourself in my shoes and you saw some pervert holding an innocent young girl alone in the dark… What would you think?"

    ZiChuan Xiu: "Well, I would think that the girl must be the third Princess of Demons, a very important hostage and military asset. The shock of her predicament must have been too much for her to bear, causing her to lose consciousness. This is why, your honorable and gentlemanly commanding officer selflessly and without ulterior motives, tried to give her a mouth to mouth resuscitation…. That is what I would think!"

    Bai Chuan: "Fuck that… There is no way in hell anyone would think like that!"

    ZiChuan Xiu:" Then clearly, you haven't seen enough soap operas; this is like one of its typical scenarios!"

    Bai Chuan:" What are you talking about, Sir?"

    ZiChuan Xiu:" Oh, never mind, I messed up the time, pretend I never said anything."

    Bai Chuan: "But even if the Demon Princess really did faint and needed resuscitation, surely anyone could have done it, why does it have to be you, Sir?"

    ZiChuan Xiu: "If anyone can do it, why can't I?"

    ZiChuan Xiu: "Give me your report, Master Bai.”

    Bai Chuan: "As you wish, Sir. After five hours of fighting the demons have sustained somewhere between twenty and thirty thousand casualties. We have captured their main camp and supply wagons. This time the Demon Army brought with them fifty three white cloaks in total. (White Cloaks are the battalion commanders in the Demon Army, they wore the white cloaks) My unit took down twenty one, while Chang Chuan's unit killed nineteen and captured three. The whereabouts of the rests are unknown.

    ZiChuan Xiu: "Deputy Banner Master Luo Jie just sent me his report. He took down seven White Cloaks, and a rough estimate puts his kill count at above ten thousand, which means the main force for the Demon Army no longer exists. All that left is the cleanup work.

    Bai Chuan bowed: “This is a great victory, Sir. Congratulations. You did a great job!” She cursed under her breath: “Indeed, sleeping, eating, and fooling around with some woman…what a great job.”

    “Ho, those were some really kind words, Master Bai… But truth be told, I did do a great job. However, after a day of hard work, it’s time for me to rest… So I’ll have to trouble you once more, Master Bai, the security of the main camp will have to fall on your shoulders!”

    Bai Chuan gave him the middle finger behind her back while asking politely: “Sir, there is just that one thing troubling me.”

    ZiChuan Xiu: “Oh?”

    Bai Chuan: According to the prisoners, the reason for their recent defeat has to do with the sudden assassination of both their Commander and Deputy Commander, but none of the officers in the frontline knew about this mysterious assassin. I can’t help but wonder how you become aware of this, thus giving us the order to attack?”

    ZiChuan Xiu looked surprised: “You said I gave the orders? Is that what happened? I remembered it differently. Weren’t you, Master Bai the one who gave the orders?”

    Bai Chuan: “But Sir, didn’t you say…”

    ZiChuan Xiu: “Well, when you came to me for instructions, you told me that Luo Jie wanted to attack, and I told you to let them do whatever they want… Was that not true? In other words, from the very beginning till the end, everything was decided by you and Luo Jie, correct? So when did I give you the order to launch an all out attack?”

    Thinking back, that was indeed the case, but ZiChuan Xiu’s tone of voice seemed to suggest that… Luckily we won, or else, I would have to shoulder all the blame… Suddenly she could feel the cold sweat dripping down her back.

    “You have nothing to fear, because you won. I doubt the Ministry of Supervision will bother investigate you for having purposely communicated a false order.” ZiChuan Xiu seemed to have guessed Bai Chuan’s thought as he spoke casually: “We are heading back to the City of Sha Jia tomorrow, leave the cleanup work to the unit of Banner Master Ge Xi.”

    Bai Chuan insisted: “But Sir, it was our efforts that led to this victory, we should be the ones to give chase!”

    ZiChuan Xiu: “If we take all the credits for ourselves, then the other units will get jealous… which in turn will make our lives harder later on.”

    With that, he walked lazily towards the tent: “It is getting late, Master Bai, you should rest as well. We still have a long road ahead of us.”

    Bai Chuan suddenly realized: The heroic triumph over eighty thousand demon forces with only thirty thousand men, no one can take that away from him. He might as well act generously and let the others have a small piece of the pie… What a cunning and crafty mind! Watching his shadow slowly disappear in the dark, she felt like she knew less and less about him by the second…

    The next nightfall, ZiChuan Xiu’s unit returned victorious to the City of Sha Jia and its citizens gave them an almost frantic welcome. The city of Sha Jia was situated closely to the Heng Chuan frontline. Whenever the demons invaded, they were almost always the ones to take the blunt of the attack, especially since the Far Eastern Army of House ZiChuan had been failing thus far, always losing more battles than winning. Therefore the citizens often had to run for their lives, it was not a pretty sight. So this time, upon hearing the news that House ZiChuan put an eighteen year old young Banner Master in charge of the defence against the demonic invasion, everyone had already given up hope and began packing their belongings, readying themselves for the eventual evacuation. They all assumed the only reason he was able to reach the rank of Banner Master at his age was due to his name, ZiChuan. But somehow, not sure which goddess’ ass this young Banner Master ended up kissing, the Demon Army collapsed on its own… Once the news arrived, the whole city was lit up with joy and celebrations!

    The welcoming crowd almost overwhelmed ZiChuan Xiu’s troops when they marched into the city.

    The citizens gave the soldiers all kind of worthless gifts: half baked eggs, sweat soaked handkerchiefs, silverwares and even potentially dangerous exploding cotton balls… Everyone was drowned in alcohol long passed their expiration dates! As it turned out, thirty seven tavern owners managed to avoid bankruptcy because of it, while eleven other tavern owners had their entire tavern smashed by the drunken soldiers and ended up bankrupt…

    The monks prayed in their name: “Thank you, our ever victorious guardians! May the god of war forever be at your side!” Normally nobody believed in their god, but it just happened that today was the day they were allowed to spread their prayers in peace without being thrown at…

    Many pretty girls holding flowers also managed to dance their way into the arms and mouths of the soldiers whom they didn’t even know the names of… According to the statistics, within the hour of entering the city, over seven thousand soldiers of ZiChuan Xiu’s unit had lost their first kiss which they had planned to save for their future lovers, the lost was catastrophic! Naturally, many touching love stories which will be remembered for the ages to come also began its first chapter there and then. Someone later calculated, despite the fact that ZiChuan Xiu’s unit stayed for less than a week in the city of Sha Jia, ten months later, the city’s birth rate was increased by 169%! And most of the newborns were even named as “Huai Jun”, “Nian Jun” and “Ai Jun”…[1]

    After nightfall, Luo Jie, Bai Chuan and Chang Chuan patrolled the streets, checking on the soldiers if they had violated any of the army regulations or had been causing problems.

    Chang Chuan: “Bai Chuan, is there something wrong with you today? It has been twelve hours, and not once have you cursed Master Xiu’s name… Are you all right?

    Luo Jie pretended to feel Bai Chuan’s forehead: “Hmm, it is definitely hot, you must be ill… Ouch!”

    Bai Chuan retracted her fist: “It’s nothing. I just changed my mind about him. That is all…” Suddenly ZiChuan Xiu’s voice came from a small tavern: “How much for a bottle of Greenland Beer?”

    The serving lady replied: “Three silver coins, officer.”

    ZiChuan Xiu: “Oh, even more expensive than in the Capital… I’ll have two!”

    Serving Lady: “Excuse me officer, are you serving in ZiChuan Xiu’s army?”

    ZiChuan Xiu: “I am!”

    Serving Lady: “Oh, our owner has left words. Tonight, everything for ZiChuan Xiu’s Army is on the house!”

    ZiChuan Xiu: “Why is that?”

    Serving Lady: “Because you are all heroes!”

    ZiChuan Xiu: “Heroes huh… I will take four bottles!”

    Serving Lady: “…”

    Luo Jie turned to Bai Chuan: “You were saying you changed your mind about him…”

    Bai Chuan[2] answered coldly: “And now I’ve changed my mind again… Let’s go, we don’t know him!”

     

    [1] They stand for “Yearning for the Army”, “Yearning for the soldier” and “Loving the Army”.

    [2] The name in the original text is Chang Chuan, which I believe is a typo.


  • edited March 2016

    Chapter 01 Part 06

    Promotion

    Gu Qi Mountain lay between the inner area of House ZiChuan and the Far Eastern Region. The strategic position of its high mountain range had formed an almost insurmountable natural barrier around the heart of House ZiChuan. The only pathway through the Gu Qi Mountain, connecting the Far East and the inner area of House ZiChuan, was the great road, the Chang He Highway.

    Fort Warren, also known as the greatest fortress on this side of the world, (except for the great Demon God Fortress in the land of Demons) built in Imperial Calendar, Year 456. It is an impregnable fortress guarding the only access point into the heart of House ZiChuan from the Far Eastern Regions, the Chang He Highway. There had been rumors floating around stating that: “Inside the Fort Warren, you are safe from even the wrath of Gods!” The evidence did seem to support such outrageous claim. The Demons had launched four major invasions in the past.  Each time House ZiChuan relied on the thick walls of Fort Warren to repel the invaders, each time the powerful Demon horde was forced to return, with wounded pride.

    The former head of the family, a famous general at the time, ZiChuan Yuan Xing once said: “Without Warren, we would have been wiped out twenty times over.” The fact that both the General Headquarters and Base Camp of the Far Eastern Army were located in Fort Warren showed its importance.

    ZiChuan Xiu and many others who had rendered great military service during the Heng Chuan campaign received an invitation to join Deputy Commander Luo Bo at the Far Eastern Army’s General Staff Department in Fort Warren. Alas…

    The gorgeous secretary politely informed ZiChuan Xiu: “Master Xiu, I’m sorry. Deputy Commander Lin Bin suddenly decided to hold a military conference. Commander Luo is thus still unavailable. He did say to have you wait in the drawing room in case you arrived early. I’m terribly sorry.”

    ZiChuan Xiu leaned sternly next to her face while looking suspiciously to the sides, then whispered to her: “Miss, do you recognize that man wearing the Banner Warrior’s uniform?” He pointed at a young officer coming out of the Headquarter Building.

    “Oh, that is the Communication Officer sent by Banner Master Ge Xi of the South Eastern Army. He just delivered a document to Deputy Commander Luo’s office…”

    “He is a fake!” ZiChuan Xiu spoke adamantly: “He is an assassin sent by the House Liu Feng!”

    Colours instantly fled from her cheeks: “But he had a valid Military ID and Access Pass, even the document…”

    “Do you doubt my words? Well, I don’t blame you. I saw the real Communication Officer on my way here, and he told us everything before he died.”  ZiChuan Xiu spoke with utmost conviction: “Commander Luo is his target! Where has the assassin been to? We have to perform a thorough search!”

    The young secretary was completely indoctrinated by ZiChuan Xiu’s overwhelming display of confidence: “He just went inside Deputy Commander Luo’s office, but he only stayed for five minutes and I was with him the whole time…”

    “Give me the keys!” Without explaining, ZiChuan Xiu took the keys from her: “Five minutes? He is a professional spy, five minutes is enough to plant over thirty bombs!”

    With that, he walked into the office, closing the door behind him: “Till the danger passes, nobody is to be allowed inside!”

    Once the Staff Department of the Far Eastern Army fell into chaos, the Military Constables quickly arrived to the scene, but were ordered by ZiChuan Xiu to stay out of the office. Only the sound of maddened table flipping and Master Xiu’s murmuring could be heard on the outside: “Where? Where is it? Come out this instant, I know you have been hiding them… I won’t stop till I find it!”

    The crisis went on for five full minutes, until Master Xiu emerged from the door drenched in sweat: “I didn’t manage to find any… He must have planted it elsewhere!”

    Since all officers, constables and staffs present were gaining a new found respect for Master Xiu’s bravery and calmness in the face of crisis, no one noticed the strange bulge in his briefcase… even the sound of bottles bumping into each other went unnoticed.

    Deputy Commander Luo only found out about it after the conference. Even though he rushed back as fast as he could, the content of his personal safe was long gone. His outcry could be heard everywhere in the building!

    Everyone thought the Liu Feng spy must have gotten away with some super secret documents…

    Deputy Commander Luo Bo gritted his teeth: “Ah Xiu, what have you done?!”

    ZiChuan Xiu replied with great trepidation: “Ah Yes! It’s my fault! I shouldn’t have acted so recklessly without confirming my suspicions first. I have caused chaos to the department, and wrongfully accused an innocent fellow officer, leading to his arrest. Please accept my sincere apologies!”

    Lu Bo roared: “I don’t give a hoot about that Banner Warrior!” Lowering his voice: “Where are my bottles? My three hundred year old wine and royal brandy!”

    ZiChuan Xiu looked confused… as though he had never heard of the word “bottle” before: “What bottles?”

    “Stop pretending! The ones you stole from my…” Luo Bo suddenly stopped himself.

    “Are you sure, Sir? The Far Eastern Army Regulation clearly states that, during service hours, alcohol is strictly forbidden. Could there be alcohol in your office, Sir? Surely that can’t be true. Everyone in the Far Eastern Army knows you for your discipline and rectitude. There is no way something like that could have happened. Someone must be spreading false rumours with the intent to tarnish your reputation, but don’t you worry, I have complete faith in you, Sir!”

    Luo Bo begged in earnest: “Come on, don’t be like that… Just give me my Brandy back.”

    ZiChuan Xiu’s answer was a simple and mysterious smile… a smile Luo Bo knew all too well… This was not the first time he suffered at his hands.

    “Fine, you got me! There won’t be a next time.”

    “The official decree has arrived: Banner Master ZiChuan Xiu’s outstanding performance during the Battle of Heng Chuan has brought honor to the family. After consulting with the Council of Elders, the High Command has decided to commend Banner Master ZiChuan Xiu for his efforts and promote him to the rank of…”

    Luo Bo purposely drew out his voice: “…Deputy Commander! Issued by: Supreme Commander Yang Ming Hua. Approved by: Chief of Staff Luo Ming Hai, Far Eastern Army Commander Ge Ying Xing, Border Army Commander Ming Hui, Central Army Commander Lei Xun, Black Banner Army Commander Fang Jin, and Imperial Guard Army Commander Pi Gu. Imperial Calendar, Year 778 July 28th”

    ZiChuan Xiu could not believe what he just heard: “Deputy Commander! Promoted from Banner Master directly to Deputy Commander, skipping the rank of Red Banner Master entirely!” That was not what he expected…


  • edited March 2016

    Chapter 01 Part 07

    The Past

    Far Eastern Army Fort Warren Staff Department

    “Ah Xiu, do you realize why Yang Ming Hua promoted you straight to Deputy Commander? Luo Bo glanced at him with a gloomy expression, lacking any of the usual joy he should have when promoting one of his own men.

    “Yes Sir, I do.”

    “Oh?”

    ZiChuan Xiu spoke with the same kind of seriousness: “It basically means… that I can start hiring a pretty doll like secretary too, for science of course and hiding alcohol in the office without fearing the inspection from the Ministry of Supervision!”

    “Dickhead, why don’t you use that head of yours for once and take a good look at the decree: It is ordered by Supreme Commander Yang Ming Hua!”

    “So then…”

    “You should know better than me what kind of person he really is, right?”

    ZiChuan Xiu readily recited: “Our esteemed Supreme Commander Yang Min Hua, at work he is wise, decisive in battle, brilliant and shows great foresight; at home he is morally impeccable, in possession of a great character, kind to his men, strict with himself, lenient towards others, loved by all, loyal to a fault to the Head of the family and most importantly, he is completely selfless as he always puts the family interest above his personal gain. No matter whether it is his kindness, wisdom or bravery, he can be seen as the role model for every soldier in the Army in service of House ZiChuan. He has my utmost respect! We are blessed by god to have someone like him amongst us, may he live forever, his contribution to the cause has been…”

    Luo Bo interrupted him: “Enough, I don’t have “Eyes and Ears” around here, you may speak your mind.”

    ZiChuan Xiu revealed his signature smile of innocence again: “What do you mean, Sir? Those were the words from the bottom of my heart. Please believe me Sir, my love and admiration for the Supreme Commander is coming from the bottom of my heart…”

    Luo Bo stared at him, eyes unflinching, trying to detect the slightest hint of pretentiousness in his smile… “ZiChuan Xiu’s smile” later became a common idiom used to describe people like sales agents or insurance companies making false promises. And like always, Luo Bo was left empty handed.

    “I hope you haven’t forgotten what happened seven years ago.”

    Imperial Calendar, Year 771 March, House Liu Feng launched a large scale invasion against House ZiChuan. The Army of House Liu Feng took a hidden path and circumvented Border Army’s defence lines, appearing undetected outside the walls of the Capital. The former Head of the Family, ZiChuan Yuan Xing thought it was a small group of enemy separated from their main force, instead of waiting for the reinforcements, he attacked with the Central Army and Imperial Guard Army stationed inside the Capital. The result was a bloody massacre that almost completely annihilated the Central Army and Imperial Guard Army. The death toll numbered over eighty thousand and ZiChuan Yuan Xing was gravely wounded during the battle as well. Only then did they find out, the ambush was led by the heir to the House Liu Feng, the cunning and calculated Liu Feng Xi Shan. His forces numbered over hundred-thirty thousand!

    Liu Feng Xi Shan believed the outcome to be certain, thus instead of trying to breach the thick walls of the Capital, he divided his remaining forces in two and sent fifty thousand back to encircle the Border Army while leaving fifty thousand infantry to besiege the Capital. The Far Eastern Army at the time found themselves at a critical juncture in the war against the Demons, while both the Border Army and Black Banner Army were pinned down by the Army of House Liu Feng. With barely any able bodies and capable generals left inside the Capital, and no help on the way, fear overwhelmed the City. Everyone thought that was the end of House ZiChuan!

    With Far Eastern Army Commander Ge Ying Xing’s acquiescence, (He was also the Principal of the Far Eastern Army Academy) ZiChuan Xiu who was only a student at the time, used “Military Exercise” as an excuse and led a group of 800 Calvary trainees back to the capital, where he got to see his stepfather ZiChuan Yuan Xing for the last time.

    After Yuan Xing’s death, the House was left in disarray. The Council of Elders, the House of Headmaster, the High Command and the Army Administrative Office all blamed each other, and while denying their own responsibility. They each advocated their own plans which they believed would save the House from its imminent destruction, but could not agree on a single course of action. Endless votes were taken, and countless conferences, debates and elections were held, but no one knew how to handle the fifty thousand menacing Liu Feng soldiers outside the city walls. In a sudden burst of rage, ZiChuan Xiu led the 800 Calvary trainees he brought back from the frontlines and instigated a coup, seizing power and control of the House of Headmaster, the High Command, Army Administrative Office and other military sites of strategic importance. After seizing operational control, he immediately gave out the emergency order to every commander in every garrison; ordering them to return to the Capital within the month, which was impossible of course. Even if they did, after dealing with the ambushes on the way back, there wouldn’t be much of an army left by the time they arrived. Not to mention the other Liu Feng forces they would have freed up in the process.

    Everyone in the Liu Feng camp laughed hysterically at the new Headmaster of House ZiChuan, an eleven year old child who just gave the order to send every last one of his men to their doom. The laughter continued till that dreadful night, the same night the orders were given. 800 riders under ZiChuan Xiu’s command snuck into the main camp of Liu Feng Army wearing their uniforms. Once inside, they set the camp alight, killing and spreading rumours that the main force of Far Eastern Army has arrived and all of House ZiChuan’s forces have gathered, over a million strong in total!”

    The Army of Liu Feng woke up into a nightmare of fire and swords… they couldn’t possibly have put up an effective defence… not that there was a way they could have defended in the first place. Everyone was wearing the same uniform and the one shouting: “Don’t attack! We are on your side, the enemies are over there!” was often the one stabbing you in the back… Under such situation where one could not separate friend from foe, the only way to survive was to be the first one to strike. As a result, over half of the twenty thousand casualties the Army of Liu Feng sustained that night, was due to friendly fire.

    Even Liu Feng Xi Shan himself only barely escaped with his life. He had hoped to able to regroup and counter attack when the light dawned, but before he could gather his forces, ZiChuan Xiu’s riders had already appeared. Another battle later, the defeated army was defeated once more. Later that night, Liu Feng Xi Shan tried again, hoping to regain control of his scattered forces and yet again, just when his forces were about to gather, the hooves of the pursuing riders sounded behind them…

    The exact same scenario happened seven times!

    By the eighth time, Liu Feng Xi Shan’s forces have already retreated to the border of the two houses. Waiting in front of them, was the three hundred thousand vengeful and angry soldiers of the Border Army of House ZiChuan, and behind them, was the ferocious pursuing riders led by ZiChuan Xiu… He would rather kill himself than to face ZiChuan Xiu again. The only reason he escaped alive that day, was due to his daughter, Liu Feng Shuang’s reinforcement, and a little bit of luck… Many war historians later believed that if ZiChuan Xiu was allowed to continue his pursuit, even with Liu Feng Shuang’s reinforcement, Liu Feng Xi Shan wouldn’t have been able to escape, even less inheriting the seat of House Liu Feng on his return.

    But the two hundred thousand soldiers brought here by Liu Feng Xi Shan did not have such a daughter or luck, less than one third of them made it back alive.

    On the side of House ZiChuan, the victor fared even worse than the loser. ZiChuan Xiu had hoped to be received by pretty girls with flowers, but instead, all he got was a rude awakening in the middle of the night during his pursuit, and to find out that his personal guards had all been disarmed. His entire camp was surrounded by a sea of Military Constables from the Ministry of Supervision and if he had so much as moved a muscle, he would have been executed on the spot…

    A rather well mannered Constable shamelessly informed him: “By Supreme Commander Yang Ming Hua’s order, you have been accused of “Inciting a mutiny”, “Insubordination”, “Unlawful force deployments” and “Intentional misconduct”. Therefore you have been removed from active duty, effect immediately. You have the right to remain silence, and you have the right to appeal at the Court Martial.

    Every one of those crimes was punishable by death.

    Luckily, the outcome was influenced by the support of ZiChuan Yuan Xing’s daughter, the help from the Far Eastern Army Commander Ge Ying Xing, and a fierce protest from the frontline soldiers. Also, his good friend Stirling, one of the three legendary young generals of House ZiChuan, delivered a heartfelt testimony at the Court Martial, declaring: “Loyalty is not a crime!” Thus, ZiChuan Xiu was absolved of the death penalty.

    Yang Ming Hua wanted to imprison him for life, but Far Eastern Army Commander Ge Ying Xing took the initiative: “Why don’t we let him serve in the harsh Far Eastern Regions? We need more men over there.” Due to Ge Ying Xing’s reputation, and the undeniable strength of the Far Eastern Army, Yang Ming Hua still had to respect his wishes… That was how ZiChuan Xiu ended up in the Far Eastern Army. From slave soldier, to Warrior, Banner warrior, Red Bannerman, Deputy Banner Master and finally, Banner Master…

    And now Yang Ming Hua wished to promote him directly to Deputy Commander!

    “My memories has never been very good, I’m not sure what exactly you are referring to from seven years ago? Can you give me a hint, Sir?”

    Luo Bo: “Ah Xiu, you know what they say, keep your friends close, but your enemies closer… A certain someone might want to keep someone of your skills and abilities very close indeed. If he lets you become a Red Banner Master like you are supposed to, you would have seventy thousand Far Eastern Army soldiers under your command… and that would cause certain someone many sleepless nights.”

    ZiChuan Xiu: “But promoting me to Deputy Commander, won’t that certain someone have even more difficulty getting a good night sleep?”

    “The problem is, the Far Eastern Army’s military structure only allows for three active Deputy Commanders at a time, we don’t have extra divisions to place under your command…Now do you understand?”

    “But I heard two days ago, Deputy Commander Lei was having some irreconcilable differences with Commander Ge Ying Xing and wanted to resign… which means you do have a place for me here.”

    “Well, they reconciled this morning, and Deputy Commander Lei has retracted his letter of resignation.”

    “I also heard our Deputy Commander Lin Bin is getting married, and will go on a honeymoon for three months?”

    “Well, her fiancé fled before the wedding, leaving only a note saying: I can’t take this anymore! So that old virgin who just had her love turn into hate is about to send a kill squad after him…”

    ZiChuan Xiu sighed in defeat: “Then you are my only hope, Sir. Is there any chance for your gastrohelcosis to turn into cancer any time soon…”

    Luo Bo: “…”

    “As I said, now that you are promoted to Deputy Commander, your only choice is to return to the Capital and be on reserve duty till further notice. Commander Ge Ying Xing believes that to be the best course of action as well, because Lady ZiChuan Ning has almost come of age (16), and will soon reach the lawful age for her succession. It is very likely that certain someone may try to assassinate her. By going to the Capital, you can protect her.”

    “But I’m terrible in a fight…”

    “Drop the act… save it for the idiots like Luo Jie! The one who assassinated the Demon Commanders in Heng Chuan was you right? I understand, you don’t want that “someone” to know about your true skills and abilities, but do you really think you can fool me?”

    ZiChuan Xiu looked surprised: “You…”

    Luo Bo revealed a cunning smile: “I’m a servant to the House ZiChuan, not a servant to Yang Ming Hua. The one I made my vow to is named ZiChuan.”

    “But Yang Ming Hua is your superior…”

    “I’m a Deputy Commander in the Far Eastern Army; my direct commanding officer is Commander Ge Ying Xing.” Lu Bo spoke amiably: “Commander Ge has asked me to take good care of you!”

    Thinking back over the past six years and the meticulous care and kindness Luo Bo had shown him, ZiChuan Xiu couldn’t help but feel a sudden surge of warmth in his chest. He gave the old man in front of him a deep bow: “My humble self does not deserve what you and Commander Ge Ying Xing have done for me over the years… I can never repay your kindness in this life time! But if you ever have the need of me, I will do everything I can even at the cost of my own life!”

    Luo Bo stood up gracefully: “Current Supreme Commander Yang Ming Hua is above the law and unmatched in power; he has already shown his unwillingness to serve! I, as an elder of the Family, am ordering you, Deputy Commander ZiChuan Xiu; keep Lady ZiChuan Ning safe, no matter what! She is the only surviving bloodline of the former Headmaster, ZiChuan Yuan Xing.”

    He gave a bow to ZiChuan Xiu in return: “Ah Xiu, I’m counting on you!”

    ZiChuan Xiu held his head up high: “Yes Sir! As long as I’m alive, I will not let harm come to Lady Ning! You can count on me!” Then he bowed deeply in return, feeling a sense of pride swirling in his chest.

    “Oh, there is one more thing. Didn’t you just say you would repay me with your life? Well, how about my bottles…”

    ZiChuan Xiu answered defiantly: “No way! I was just being polite… three hundred year old wine and royal brandy… they worth way more than my life! I won’t give them back even if I die!”


  • edited March 2016

    Chapter 01 Part 08

    Xiu’s Company

    At the most exclusive (also the most expensive) Heaven’s Dream restaurant in City Warren, Luo Jie, Bai Chuan and Chang Chuan celebrated their promotion to Banner Masters and arranged a farewell banquet for their commanding officer, Deputy Commander ZiChuan Xiu, for getting reassigned to the Capital!

    Bai Chuan took a look at the menu, and felt a bit shaken by what she saw: so expensive!

    She whispered to Luo Jie: “Are you sure you brought enough money?”

    Luo Jie whispered back bitterly: “At worst we will have to pawn you off for payment. Why did Commander Xiu choose a place like this? One dinner is going to cost me half year’s worth of my salary… and that is only when it is shared between the three of us.”

    Bai Chuan (whisper): “I suspect that idiot is purposely trying to mess with us. Just look at the dishes he ordered… Golden Roasted Piglet, Golden Broiled lobster, Golden Grilled Chicken, Golden Roasted Duck, Golden Fruit Basket, Golden Flossed Vegetables and Golden Brandy… so much gold, I hope he bloody dies from constipation!”

    Luo Jie (whisper): “Shh, keep it down! I saw him eyeing you suspiciously; he may have overheard us… Ah, shit, he is making another order… it is the Eight Golden Treasures of the Royal Palace! Fuck, my next year’s salary is now gone as well!”

    ZiChuan Xiu and Chang Chuan were having a good time, but then he suddenly turned around: “Bai Chuan, Luo Jie, what are you two talking about?”

    Bai Chuan: “Sir, you are getting reassigned. You won’t be our commander officer anymore… We feel really sad; we are going to miss you.”

    ZiChuan Xiu: “Oh ho, now that you mention it, I feel really sad as well… But you don’t look very heartbroken about it… you look more like… someone who just got liberated.”

    Bai Chuan: “Well, even though we are laughing on the outside, we are actually crying on the inside, Sir!”

    Luo Jie and Chang Chuan both felt the same way: They are both crying on the inside… in silence… for their wallet…

    ZiChuan Xiu rubbed his eyes, feeling a bit overwhelmed with emotions: “I’m so fortunate to have served with good men like you! Perhaps I should stay…”

    “Don’t!”

    Chang Chuan, Luo Jie and Bai Chuan shouted in unison!

    “Sir, we don’t want be the ones to keep you from your dreams!” (Yes, leave; go torment the idiots in the Capital!)

    “Yes, Sir, but do come back and visit us when you have time!” (Better if you don’t!)

    “Sir, I hope you won’t forget about us after you ascend to greatness…” (Don’t really care whether you remember us or not, we won’t be remembering you that much is for sure.)

    ZiChuan Xiu was about to burst into tears, he spoke weepingly: “We have risked our lives together… We are brothers in adversity… How can I possibly forget you? Come, for our friendship, let’s toast! Yo, lady, bring another five bottles of Royal Brandy, and a Golden Roasted Lamb!”

    By the time everyone had their fill and rubbed their bellies in satisfaction (Or pretend to be).

    ZiChuan Xiu suddenly remembered something: “Oh, I almost forgot to tell you guys! There is official business as well.”

    He retrieved an envelope from his briefcase: “Signed by Deputy Commander Luo Bo, this is your new assignment. Luo Jie, why don’t you take a look?”

    Bai Chuan was getting a bad feeling about this, but quickly comforted herself: Surely it can’t be worse than this, right?

    Luo Jie took the envelope, but merely a glance of it… made this fearless warrior who wouldn’t even flinch in the face of thousand demons, faint on the spot.

    Chang Chuan snatched the envelope: “Useless coward, at worst it is an order to attack the Great Demon God Fortress, shame on you!”

    As the words fell, he took a look at inside the envelope… and fainted as well.

    Bai Chuan picked the Appointment Letter back up from the floor, hands trembling… ZiChuan Xiu eyed her sympathetically, suggesting: “Would you like some wine to calm the nerves?”

    Bai Chuan mustered her courage and opened the envelope in one go, the order was surprisingly simple, just one sentence:

    “Bannermaster Luo Jie, Bai Chuan and Chang Chuan are being redeployed to the Capital and will continue to serve under the command of Deputy Commander ZiChuan Xiu. – Far Eastern Army Chief of the General Staff Luo Bo, Imperial Calendar, Year 778”

    Bai Chuan’s mind went blank for a second… but she managed to hang on.

    Her initial instinct was to reach for her sabre… but she didn’t bring her weapon today.

    She then thought to leap at him with the intent to kill… but she was unarmed.

    She wanted to curse… but looking at ZiChuan Xiu’s “honest” smile, she knew she would be wasting her breath.

    Finally, she thought of an even deadlier manoeuvre.

    Bai Chuan’s sudden calm caught ZiChuan Xiu by surprise; he couldn’t help but commend her: “No wonder they say women are more durable than men in the face of a crisis!

    ZiChuan Xiu: “Well, Bai Chuan, you see, it all worked out! We can all be together again, no wonder those two fainted from joy…!

    “Huh? Why aren’t you saying anything? What are you doing with Luo Jie’s coat… Why are you taking his wallet? And Chang Chuan’s wallet as well…”

    “Is it possible that we both share the same hobby… we both like to get our friends drunk then steal their wallet? Surely that is not right. I’m still awake… unless you share it with me.”

    “Why are you opening the window? It is quite cool inside…”

    Bai Chuan stood next to the window, taking a deep breath and shouted: “Someone is doing an eat and run! Catch him!” With that, she leaped out of the window.

    Suddenly voices stirred inside the Heaven’s Dream restaurant: “Who is doing an eat and run? Don’t let him get away!”

    “Catch that guy, he is doing an eat and run! Over there, the one spacing out next to the window!”

    “Stop right there, how dare you try to cheat us wearing Deputy Commander’s uniform and pretend to be an army officer?!”

    “I knew he was a fake the moment I saw him… How can someone so young be a Deputy Commander?”

    “Let’s beat him up before we take him to the police!”

    According to House ZiChuan’s History Record: Imperial Calendar, Year 778 July 29th, with Far Eastern Army Deputy Commander Luo Bo’s approval, ZiChuan Xiu who was on reserve duty at the time, formed what would later be known as the bane of demons and the most powerful army in the world. The famous “Xiu’s Company”, its creation has been crucial in the history of House ZiChuan. In fact, this newly formed army is what made it possible for the new Headmaster of House ZiChuan to successfully inherit the House. It also played an important role in the quelling of civil unrests, defending against enemy attacks, subjugating the House Liu Feng and the conquering of the Great Demon God Fortress. It will greatly influence the course of House ZiChuan for the hundred years to come!

    The three Bannermasters, Luo Jie, Bai Chuan and Chang Chuan were amongst the first officers to join Xiu’s Company. That day at the Heaven’s Dream restaurant in the City of Warren, they swore their fealty to ZiChuan Xiu. From that day forth, no matter in what kind of dire situation they found themselves in, none of them ever betrayed their vow and they remained loyal to ZiChuan Xiu, until the moment they died. It was also the first step ZiChuan Xiu took in becoming what would later be known as… the “King of Light”.


  • If someone can tell me why copy pasting from Word doc royally fucks up the formatting, please let me know.
  • edited March 2016

    Chapter 02 Part 01

    Return to the Capital

    “Di Du” was built in Imperial Calendar, Year 335 by the eleventh Emperor of the Empire of Light. It was originally intended to be a heavily fortified town for the purpose of denying the demons’ advance into the South Western Regions of the Empire. (Fort Warren wasn’t built yet at the time.) It was originally called Jia Shan Stronghold.

    In Imperial Calendar, Year 553, The empire of Light's most powerful royal army suffered a decisive defeat at the hand of the invading demon army on the battlefield of the Blue River. With the death of the last Field Marshal and Emperor, Empire of Light and its five hundred years of history was brought to an end. Factions were formed and endless conflicts ensued, military might became the only currency of survival. The military induced chaos continued on for roughly two decades, during which most of the smaller factions were quickly assimilated by the more powerful ones. Only a few managed to surviv till this day.

    The most famous one during the times of turmoil was Liu Feng Jun, the guardian of the old Capital of the Empire of Light. He proclaimed himself as the only legitimate heir to the throne of the Empire. (He even managed to produce the dying will of the former Emperor). Renaming the old capital to Yuan Jing, he founded the House of Liu Feng.

    Another famous figure at the time, the Garrison Commander of the South Western Regions of the Empire, ZiChuan Yun, declared independance. He seized the opportunity and took control of Jia Shan Stronghold, renaming it to “Di Du”. Using it as his base of operations, he rapidly expanded his dominion over the surrounding regions and founded House ZiChuan. ZiChuan Yun became the first Headmaster of the House.

    The rapid expansion of the Garrison Commander ZiChuan Yun had incurred the wrath from the self-proclaimed Protector of the Realm, Liu Feng Jun. He condemned his action as: "A traitorous act!"

    In Imperial Calendar, Year 558, the year of House ZiChuan's founding. House Liu Feng sent three hundred thousand light calvary eastward and vowed: "Vanquish the betrayer!" House ZiChuan brought forth two hundred thousand soldiers of its own to face the invaders. The two armies clashed on the plains of Luo Ke, ; the bloody battle lasted for seven days and nights. Eventually House Liu Feng's army was forced into retreating due to lack of supply. The army of House ZiChuan quickly gave chase, and inflicted heavy casualties to the side of House Liu Feng. Liu Feng Jun himself suffered grave injuries from the battle and died soon after he returned to Yuan Jing.  

    Ever since that day, the two factions had been at each other's throat. Both factions were equally powerful, and both had the ambition to rule the world. For the last three hundred years, time and time again, they had tried to wipe out the other, leaving chaos in their wake.

    Besides House ZiChuan and House Liu Feng, there was a third major Human Faction in the world. It belonged to the House of Lin situated in the south of the continent. 

    With the support of the Royal Advisor, Duke Zuo Jia, House Lin was founded by the daughter of the last Emperor of the Empire of light, Princess Lin Feng Xi. Even though it did not possess the same kind of military might of House ZiChuan and House Liu Feng, it was not under the immediate threat of either of the factions. The reason being both Liu Feng Jun and ZiChuan Yun began their rule by proclaiming themselves as "the Protector of the Empire of Light." Since Hosue Lin did not have the ambition or necessary military strength to fight for the supremacy of the world, neither faction felt the need to act against the royal bloodline of the Empire of Light. Besides, House Lin had the support of the most powerful fighter in the entire human history, Duke Zuo Jia. It would be foolish to make someone, who could crush an entire demon army all by himself, their enemy.

    Ever since Imperial Calandar, Year 558, the year of House ZiChuan's founding, Di Du had always been in the firm grasp of House ZiChuan. It didn’t matter whether it was the army of House Liu Feng or the furious demon horde, against the sturdy fortifications of the Imperial City and seven generations of ZiChuan soldiers’ sublime heroism and fierce resistance, none could bring the city to its knees. A string of glorious names were entwined with the history of this city: ZiChuan Yun, Sha Jia, ZiChuan Xing, Yun Shan He, Ka Miao… and later, ZiChuan Xiu. The Imperial Capital endured three hundred years of war, and is still standing.

    After hundreds of years of war, House ZiChuan’s territory had vastly expanded and the Imperial Capital was no longer the frontline. It is now the biggest of the three capital city in the world of Western River, ahead of “Yuan Jing” of House Liu Feng and “He Qiu” of House Lin. As the center of the world’s politics, economy, and culture, this prosperous city is the pride and crown jewel of House ZiChuan.

    Someday in Imperial Calendar, Year 778 August, a group of riders arrived in Di Du after returning from the Far Eastern frontline. Its members included the recently promoted Deputy Commander – ZiChuan Xiu, Captain of the Guard – Gu Lei, the forty personal guards under his command, and another three “unlucky bastards”.

    Bai Chuan: “Sir, when will you grace us with your benevolence and let us return to the Far East?”

    Luo Jie: “Yes, come on. We have known each other for so long. You can just pretend doing us a favour. Serving under you… I mean I’m still a virgin; I’m not ready to die yet!”

    Chang Chuan scolded Luo Jie: “Idiot! What are you saying, is that how you speak to your superior officer?  Don’t you have manners?! You have to be polite and respectful when asking for favours!”

    Chang Chuan turned towards ZiChuan Xiu, face in tears and snot: “Please Sir, in the name of my eighty year old mother and three year old child, please show us mercy!”

    ZiChuan Xiu pled for his innocence: “Come now, you guys have been complaining the whole way, aren’t you tired? There is nothing I can do; the order for your redeployment is given by the Chief of the General Staff, Luo Bo.”

    “Your eyes are betraying you… and that evil laughter… we know you are lying!”

    “That is right. Luo Bo is clearly your accomplice!”

    “I heard that you bought us from Luo Bo with mere two bottles of wine, such humiliation! At the very least, we are worth one bottle each!”

    “The two bottles of wine was to cover the cost for your equipment… as for you, Luo Jie, you are worth the bottle cap at most!”

    The party arrived at the Wagon Depot in Di Du.

    “Yo, I’m back! Di Du, you’re as magnificent as I remembered!”

    ZiChuan Xiu reminisced; six years ago, in order to protect the city, his younger self led an army for the first time, battling against the powerful army of House Liu Feng… A long time had passed since then. He couldn’t help but wonder how many citizens of Di Du still remember him?

    “The past is like a dream!” ZiChuan Xiu bewailed passionately…

    “Stop daydreaming! We are starving!”

    “If you don’t provide us with food, we are going back to the Far East!”

    “And we want an inn of the highest class!”

    He didn’t need to look to know who it was.

    After making accommodations for Gu Lei and the personal guards, ZiChuan Xiu and the three went out shopping. Coming from a place devastated by war to a bustling city like this, it didn’t matter where they looked, everything seemed interesting. Luo Jie grabbed hold of a young man on the street, asking: “Where can I find a restaurant?”

    The young man eyed him up and down, considering his worn-out uncivilized look and his heavily accented Far Eastern speech. Then replied harshly in local slang: “Hicks!”, and ignored him.

    Luo Jie didn’t understand, turning to ZiChuan Xiu: “Sir, what does Hicks mean?”

    ZiChuan Xiu acted as if nothing out of the ordinary: “It is a word the town folk use to describe someone from the countryside, and usually not in a positive way.”

    Luo Jie: “…I still don’t understand.”

    ZiChuan Xiu sighed: “Do you at least remember what we used to call those barbarians in the villages near the frontline, the ones wearing only animal skins who never washed their faces and had only taken three showers in their entire lives?”…

    Luo Jie eyes flared with anger: “I’m a bloody Banner Master, how dare he look down on me? I will teach him a lesson!”

    Not even five minutes, Luo Jie came back looking down in defeat.

    ZiChuan Xiu asked casually: “Well? Did you teach him a lesson?”

    Luo Jie: “He taught me a lesson… He was a Red Banner Master.”

    Chang Chuan strolled along looking around curiously: “People say that the girls in Di Du are all very bold and modern. Just look at what they are wearing, it has to be true. Wow! That one is hot!”

    He approached a girl passing by, using his most charming gesture and most gentle voice: “Miss, do you believe in love at first sight? The moment I saw you, it was like an arrow through my heart…”

    “Rapist! Help!” The young lady didn’t hear a word he said and ran away!

    Chang Chuan dared not to meet the gaze of his comrades.

    “I’m certain that every girl in this city has androphobia… there is simply no other plausible explanation!” Chang Chuan stated vehemently.

    Bai Chuan: “We know, we know… they are all lesbians ok? The handsome, gentlemanly and extraordinary Lord Chang Chuan, can you please spare us? You said the same thing forty times already; even my ears are bleeding!”

    Luo Jie: “Yo, another hottie over there… Unparalleled beauty and an aura of elegance… I give her a 9.8!”

    Chang Chuan: “I give her a 9.9. An absolute goddess! Just a little bit too young.”

    Frowning at the two jerks, Bai Chuan sniffed with disdain: “Look at yourselves; you are acting like you just came out of prison or something, complete lack of manners! Now take a good look at Commander Xiu, do you see how composed he is? He never even so much as mentioned…”

    Without saying a word, ZiChuan Xiu rushed forward.

    “Wow, he is in even more of a hurry than I expected… He couldn’t help it I guess, holding back for six long years in the Far East. He is a bloody man after all!”

    “Ha, look at him go! Suddenly approaching the young lady like that saying nothing at all except staring at her like a hawk… I foresee a slap coming!”

    “Look, he is scaring the girl… even her face turned pale.”

    “Indeed, she even dropped her bag in shock… Such a pitiful fellow, no woman in his life at all; no wonder he is always so eccentric! Bai Chuan, you should take better care of him in the future!”

    “Why are they still staring at each other? It is time to cry for help!”

    Whatever happened next made them doubt their eyes: The gorgeous noble lady leapt into ZiChuan Xiu’s arms in tears!

    ZiChuan Xiu gently but firmly, held on to her shoulders and gazed into her watery eyes. He slowly dropped down to one knee and kissed her on the back of her hand.

    Luo Jie watched in bewilderment:  “He is proposing to her already?!”

    Chang Chuan uttered regretfully: “If only I knew… I totally would have hit that… I see, so the girls in Di Du are indeed very open-minded!”

    “Stop your rubbish!” The three was taken by surprise: He somehow overheard their whispers from dozen of meters away? Even though he barely raised his voice, they could hear him clearly as if he was right next to them.

    ZiChuan Xiu’s voice was filled with the kind of sternness he had never shown before: “She is the only daughter of former Headmaster of the House – ZiChuan Yuan Xing, the niece of current Headmaster of the House – ZiChuan Shen Xing, and the first heir to the seat of the House – Lady ZiChuan Ning! Show your respect now!”

    Luo Jie, Bai Chuan, Chang Chuan instantly dropped to their knees, bowing their head in respect.


  • edited March 2016

    Chapter 02 Part 02

    ZiChuan Ning

    ZiChuan Ning’s beauty was the otherworldly kind: elegant long hair, smooth and flawless jade-like oval shaped face, arching eyebrows in the shape of a moon, but her most alluring feature was her pair of bright eyes. Even though they were glistering with tears at the time, it did nothing to diminish her exquisiteness, and instead, it added another layer of heart-gripping charm.

    She went up to ZiChuan Xiu; her refined posture was nothing short of perfection. Chang Chuan gazed in bewilderment, Luo Jie’ drool trickled from the corner of his mouth and Bai Chuan was simply in a bad mood (Jealousy obviously).

    ZiChuan Xiu exhaled under his breath: Only sixteen years old and already so elegant and alluring, how will the world resist her charm once she grows up?

    ZiChuan Ning: “Brother, you came back!” She got a hold of herself, the complex and unspoken feelings she managed to convey with the few simple words made ZiChuan Xiu shudder to even contemplate.

    ZiChuan Xiu smiled uncomfortably while replying in a respectful tone: “ZiChuan Xiu pays his respect to Lady Ning! Has my lady been well?”
    ZiChuan Ning was dumbfounded, not expecting ZiChuan Xiu to answer her in such formal manner. She regarded him for a few seconds with her sparkling eyes before she adjusted her tone: “All is well! How has Deputy Commander Xiu been holding up? When did you return to Di Du?”  Her voice lacked the joyfulness from before.

    ZiChuan Xiu: “I arrived in Di Du earlier this morning; I haven’t found the time to pay my lady a visit, I hereby express my deepest apologies.”

    “I see. Deputy Commander Xiu must have been weary from the journey!”

    “My lady is too kind; it’s my honour to serve the family.”

    ZiChuan Ning fell silent, not knowing what to say next. ZiChuan Xiu was the same. Everyone else, including the dull-brained Luo Jie could tell that ZiChuan Xiu had lost his usual EasyGoing and quick-wittedness… None of them would speak out and break the silence. It was their greatest pleasure to watch ZiChuan Xiu suffer!

    Bai Chuan thought to herself: “Something is wrong with this pair of siblings…”

    “So who are they?” ZiChuan Ning[1] only just realized there were others with him.

    “They are my fellow Far Eastern Army companions, and like me, they have also been reassigned to the Capital. Come, introduce yourselves to Her Ladyship.”

    Holding his head up high, Luo Jie introduced himself: “My name is Luo Jie, Luo Yan Ge[2], born in Sha Jia, rank Far Eastern Army Banner Master. I’m young, hardworking, capable and have good prospects. Currently 24 years old, single, and in search of a kind, virtuous and understanding single lady… Ouch!”

    Both Chang Chuan and Bai Chuan retracted their fists without even looking his way, as though the vicious blows had nothing to do with them.

    Chang Chuan gave her a handsome salute: “Chang Chuan, De Li An, rank Far Eastern Army Banner Master, currently serving under the command of Commander Xiu. I’m honored to have this opportunity to meet my lady, please allow me to pay you my respect!”

    Chang Chuan saluted: “Bai Chuan, Jia Na Ming, Born in Northern Sea, currently serving under the command of Commander Xiu, rank Banner Master.”

    “Woah.” ZiChuan Ning didn’t seem to care about Luo Jie and Chang Chuan, but was very interested in Chang Chuan: “Sister, you are so young and already hold the rank of Banner Master. I’m impressed, and besides, you are very pretty as well…”

    Bai Chuan bowed tactfully: “It is all thanks to Commander Xiu’s guidance!”

    “So where is Sister Bai Chuan going to stay in Di Du?”

    “I just arrived and haven’t settled in set. We will most likely stay at the barrack.”

    “Barrack is no good; it is old and dirty… Why don’t you stay at my place?”

    “But…” Bai Chuan looked towards ZiChuan Xiu. He coughed slightly: “I don’t think it is a good idea, there are forty of us…”

    “My home is very spacious… More are welcome, I love having a crowd!”

    While ZiChuan Xiu tried to come up with another excuse, Luo Jie had already lost his patience: “Since my lady insisted on having us, why don’t we just do as she says?”

    “That is right.” Chang Chuan couldn’t wait either: Former Headmaster’s home, it has to be lavish and magnificent, besides, we will have the company of a beautiful lady… who wants to stay at the barrack must be an idiot! “She is very sincere!”

    ZiChuan Xiu nodded grudgingly, thinking: I have to move out the moment I find another place, declining her now will only embarrass her. “Then we will have to trouble my lady!”

    ZiChuan Ning joyously scowled at him, as if she was blaming him for calling her my lady. That kind of indescribable amorous flirtation made a battle hardened warrior like ZiChuan Xiu’s heart skip a beat.

    Bai Chuan waited till the others had left before whispering to ZiChuan Xiu: “Sir, I assume Her Ladyship is not your sister by blood, right?”

    ZiChuan Xiu nodded bitterly: “She is ZiChuan Yuan Xing’s only daughter, I’m Sir Yuan Xing adopted orphan… Without him, both I and my mother would have starved to death, and thanks to him my mother could live out her days in peace…”

    Bai Chuan felt touched: She didn’t expect someone like him who seemed so care-free all the time, would have such a sad past…

    “How did you know?”

    “Well, from the genetic point of view, it was pretty obvious… Lady Ning is like a living Goddess, while you, Sir on the other hand…”

     

     


    [1] The name in raw was Bai Chuan, which I believe was a typo.

     

    [2] In ancient China, a person is given three names: the first name, the last name, and an additional one, which means literally “letter”. The first and last names are very similar to the western counterparts, except that a Chinese first name is the family name, reflecting the importance of filial piety in the Chinese culture. This is still true to present day, which is why people from china often write their names in reverse. Traditionally the third name is supposed to be an elaboration of the last name. For example during the age of Three Kingdoms, “Lu Bu”, has First name (Family Name) Lu, Last name Bu and third name “Feng Xian”. His third name means to honor the ancestors, while his last name means fabric, at the time, fabric was often used in ritual ceremonies to honor one’s ancestors. Another rather famous character from the same time period, “Guan Yu”, his third name is Yun Chang. In his case, his last name means feather, and his third name means Big Cloud. However the correlation between the third and the last name had slowly become less relevant over the course of history.


  • I am loving this on your site! YAY FOR RELEASES~
  • edited March 2016

    ZiChuan Chapter 02 Part 03

    Personal Affairs

    Sitting inside the carriage, ZiChuan Xiu admired the feasting and revelry of the prosperous city, a total opposite of the Far Eastern Regions. He deplored to himself: “This is what we risked our lives for, to protect this place of peace and happiness.”

    He and ZiChuan Ning were the only ones inside this carriage while Luo Jie and the other followed closely behind.

    ZiChuan Ning: “So many years, how have you been?”

    ZiChuan Xiu Sighed under his breath: “Six years, other children of his age enjoyed their care-free and cheerful childhood, while he had to endure the numbing pain and sorrow of the battlefield. He had to watch his closest comrade being torn apart and eaten alive by the demons; their horrifying screams constantly haunted his nights. The time he had to escape Demon’s pursuit, he had to hide neck deep in the muddy quagmire for a whole day and night, not daring to move even an inch. And the time he had to cannibalize the dead in order to survive when he was trapped without food or weapon; not to mention the unbearable pain that kept him awake in the night from the dozens of times he was wounded… How do you even begin to convey this kind of suffering to a little girl whose biggest worry in life was having a pimple on her face?

    ZiChuan Xiu nodded, speaking coldly: “It is ok, just the food was terrible.”

    Let’s talk about something else: “How is the situation over here?”

    “Great, under the leadership of Supreme Commander Yang Ming Hua, we are racing towards hell at full speed.”

    “Oh? What happened?”

    “His lust of grandeur; he launched three invasions against the House Liu Feng, and Liu Feng Shuang kicked the crap out of him every time. When the Council of Elders asked for his explanation, he shamelessly gave a speech saying that loyalty was his only fault…”

    ZiChuan Ning mimicked Yang Ming Hua’s voice: “We must destroy the House Liu Feng at all cost… If that was a mistake, then I will gladly make that mistake. I will not deny it, nor regret it!” And thus it was enough to fool the Council of Elders, and they let him go.”

    ZiChuan Xiu wasn’t surprised: “A bold speech. Without the first part, I almost thought it was some confession from a girl who is having an affair with a married man.”

    ZiChuan Ning laughed so hard she almost fell.

    Our Supreme Commander sure is brave and crafty… What about the House Liu Feng? If we kept losing, why didn’t they come and pay us a visit? It’s not Liu Feng Shuang’s style.”

    “You must have been out of the loop. Liu Feng Xi Shan has fallen gravely ill. His three sons are busy fighting for the seat of the House. Liu Feng Shuang is his daughter; she is not in the line of succession, but they are all wary of her. So they sent her far away from where the decisions are being made, all the way to Fort Xi Bing. She is now a Commander on the frontline.”

    “That was ill considerate of Supreme commander… Why was he trying to interrupt them when House Liu Feng was about to make a grave mistake? If he wanted to destroy House Liu Feng he could easily waited till they are done fighting themselves then pay them a visit.”

    “Not at all! Our Supreme Commander has no intention to destroy the House Liu Feng. In contrary, he couldn’t be happier for having an enemy like Liu Feng Shuang!”

    “Why is that?”

    “Before that, if he wanted to have someone removed, he had to at least come up with a valid excuse, like corruption, negligence or something of the sort… But now he just needs to give them a pep talk: “Go attack Fort Xi Bing!” And that unlucky bastard is done for. No one has ever managed to come out ahead against Liu Feng Shuang. For the past half year, the Commander position of the Border Army has been changing faster than the facet on a revolving lamp. All of them were demoted after losing to Liu Feng Shuang, and all of them were the ones Yang Ming Hua had problems with… So you tell me, does he not love Liu Feng Shuang to death or what?”

    “Then… Is Stirling all right? He is definitely against him.”

    “Yang Ming Hua can’t wait to let Stirling “talk” to Liu Feng Shuang, and have him battle it out with her, face to face. I heard they even met during the second invasion, but before the battle was decided, due to Uncle ZiChuan Shen Xing’s protest, Stirling was reassigned to the Imperial Guard Army as Deputy Commander. So he never had the chance.”

    ZiChuan Xiu thought to himself: Everyone kept saying what a fool ZiChuan Shen Xing was, but that decision was very wise.

    “Then your Uncle… His Excellency, does he not care what Yang Ming Hua is doing?”

    “He has bloody Alzheimer… I think so anyway!” Annoyance flared inside her at the mention of her Uncle: “I told him several times to watch out for Yang Ming Hua, but before the day had even passed, he already…”

    ZiChuan Ning spoke using ZiChuan Shen Xing’s feeble mannerisms: “About that, leave them to Yang Ming Hua. Eh? What did you say? I can’t hear you, speak louder… Oh, I don’t feel so well today. I’m getting too old for this, I should retire soon!”

    Her vivid imitation brought forth much laughter from ZiChuan Xiu. But he knew things were much more complicated than ZiChuan Ning had thought. He could still recall the vigorous new Headmaster, ZiChuan Shen Xing from six years ago. There was no way someone like that could turn into a useless coward in the short span of a few years.

    “You should stop saying things like that to him from now on.” It didn’t matter whether ZiChuan Shen Xing was really a fool or it was merely an act, ZiChuan Ning would get in trouble if Yang Ming Hua got wind of this.

    “Sure!” ZiChuan Ning nodded meekly while speaking in an even softer voice: “I’m glad you are back, now I can just leave everything to you!

    Sudden wave of emotion came over ZiChuan Xiu: ZiChuan Ning was only sixteen years old, yet she had already demonstrated a sense of matureness not often found for someone her age… Clearly, growing up alone in a place surrounded by enemies had to have taken a heavy toll on her. He spoke softly as well: “You can count on me.”

    In that moment, both of them were silent… and an aura of tenderness began to creep its way in, filling the void that was left behind by the aloofness separating them moment earlier.


  • edited March 2016

    Chapter 02 Part 04

    Deep Feelings

    “Woah! What a lavish mansion! Awesome!” Seeing ZiChuan Ning’s manor villa with garden and pools, Luo Jie sighed in resignation: “With my salary, I won’t be able to afford this even if I stop eating and drinking for thirty thousand years.”

    Chang Chuan turned to ZiChuan Xiu: “Sir, does your sister have a boyfriend? Would you mind hooking us up?  I have followed you into battle for so many years… Ouch, why did you hit me, Luo Jie?
    Luo Ji: “Sir, hook me up instead… Sir, you mustn’t trust him, he talks bad things about you behind your back all the time… Only I have always stayed true and loyal to you, Sir!”

    “Horseshit! You are always saying bad things about him. Like last time when we were still in the Far East, weren’t you the one saying Master Xiu thinks through his arse? I scolded and corrected you right on the spot!”

    “No you didn’t. You said that “It is because his head was stuck in his arse.” You even laughed hysterically… Sir, you mustn’t believe his lies!”

    “Please, Sir, if you introduce Lady Ning to the perverted douchebag Luo Jie over here, it will be a nightmare…”

     “Chang Chuan is a womanizer… Sir, I’m telling you: “The few nights we stayed in Sha Jia, he was gone every night. You would only see him the next morning, barely able to stand, as if he just went through several Battles of Heng Chuan. Even his shirt was covered in lipsticks… Chang Chuan, confess now. Where were you?”

    “I went to take care of the lost young ladies; I wanted to show them that there was still true love in this world… I wished to make the world a better place… Sir, now that it comes to this, I may as well tell you: Luo Jie is a pervert. He often goes to the female barracks to peep on them… You know their underwear that often went missing… Just search Luo Jie’s backpack and you will know. They are all there, every single one! If you really let Her Ladyship be with someone like him… can she really be happy?”

    “It is just a regular and normal hobby… In my opinion it is not that much different from collecting stamps really… I can provide happiness to Her Ladyship just fine! Sir, please listen to me, I know Chang Chuan’s darkest secret… Sir, hold on.”

    “Sir, where are you going? I haven’t told you about the shit Luo Jie has done yet, he…”

    Compared to six years ago, the manor hadn’t changed much. ZiChuan Xiu walked towards the old oak tree, surveying the strange yet familiar manor along the way. The knife mark could still clearly be seen. Everything was exactly the same as it had been before he left six years ago, only people changed… In that moment, ZiChuan Xiu felt it deeply: One does not mature from the passing of time, but experience. He had already crossed the stage of youth. From a boy, he had become a man, or even an old man.

    He stepped into the room and the servant respectfully welcomed him: “Young master, you have returned!”

    ZiChuan Xiu gave him a friendly nod, but sneered at the thought: “Tch, nothing has changed, even the way I’m addressed.”

    As he entered the room where he lived as a child, he was stunned: It was exactly the same as it had been six years ago! Books, bedding and even pillow cover, everything was the same. He sat down in front of his desk, reaching out with his right hand with a customary movement, and a block of ink appeared in his hand… even the positioning stayed the same!

    Has no one been to his room before? ZiChuan Xiu wiped his hand over the table, found no sign of dusts. Clearly someone had been cleaning the room on a regular basis. He was confused…

    “Everything was the same, right?” Not sure when or how, ZiChuan Ning had already appeared at the door.

    “Not even a speck of dust.” ZiChuan Xiu spoke casually: “How did my lady manage such a feat?”

    “I have forbidden anyone from entering this room. I would clean it once a week myself, then put everything back the way it was before.” ZiChuan Ning tilted her head slightly; her beauty was beyond words: “But I really can’t stand that pair of smelly sneakers anymore; even though I wash my hand eight times every time I touch it, I can’t get rid of its smell!”

    ZiChuan Ning’s word came easily, but ZiChuan Xiu felt the weight in his heart: How can I possibly repay her feelings…

    He instinctively tried to avoid that conversation, seeking for an excuse…

    “Lady, I…”

    “Your stomach is acting up again and you want to go to the bathroom? Your stomach always does that when things get heavy… I can tell from your eyes… Six years, you are still using the same excuse; it is getting old!”

    ZiChuan Xiu’s new revelation came as a disappointment: ZiChuan Yuan Xing’s ability to see people for what they really are has not only survived, but flourished in his daughter, ZiChuan Ning.

    “Lady Ning, you have misunderstood. There is nothing wrong with my stomach… just that my head really hurts. Ouch… I must have caught a cold! I have to lie down for a bit…”

    “Tch!” ZiChuan Ning walked out of the door: “I knew you would do that! Useless… Right, I have confiscated all the porn magazines under your bed! If you want new ones, there is a bookstore across the street. The owner usually hides them; just tell him that I sent you… I’m one of his regulars… He has all the latest editions.”

    ZiChuan Xiu’s headache suddenly got worse… much worse.


  • edited March 2016

    Chapter 02 Part 05

    High Command

    House ZiChuan's highest commanding structure is divided into two levels and four departments. The first level includes the House of Headmaster (who has the highest authority in the family), and the Council of Elders (which is formed by representatives chosen by the public from every province).

    The second level includes the High Command (led by the Supreme Commander and the six Commanders under his command, its mostly responsible for the implementation of specific administrative affairs.), and the Ministry of Supervision (The Chief of Supervision also holds the title of a Commander, but he is ranked higher than the other six Commanders and lower than the Supreme Commander. However, the Ministry is not under the jurisdiction of the High Command. It is mainly responsible for supervising the other executive offices, and reports directly to the Headmaster).

    Officially, members of High Command are appointed by the Headmaster (with the Council of Elder's approval) and are under the direct command of Headmaster and the Council of Elders. In essence, the Supreme Commander is just a high-ranking official serving in the House of Headmaster. But in reality (due to the current Headmaster ZiChuan Shen Xing's incompetence and Supreme Commander Yang Ming Hua's wild ambitions), the real power of the House has gradually fallen into the hands of the High Command. Therefore, when high-ranking officers like ZiChuan Xiu return to the Capital, the first place they must visit is the High Command and not the House of Headmaster.

    The guard on duty replied in a polite but aloof manner: “Supreme Commander Yang Ming Hua is very busy. If a newly appointed Deputy Commander wishes to see him, you better make an appointment several days ahead of time.”

     “I understand.” ZiChuan Xiu said: “So can I make an appointment now?”

    The guard browsed through his registration list: "Supreme Commander's schedule is full until next Monday.  Can you come by at three o'clock that afternoon? Supreme Commander has about five minutes for you."

    “Great!” ZiChuan Xiu smiled. He wasn’t really in a hurry and this way, he could get a few more days off.

    Just then, a middle-aged high-ranking officer walked past the hall. Upon seeing ZiChuan Xiu, he halted his steps.

    “Hey, isn’t that Ah Xiu? You’re back?”

    ZiChuan Xiu nodded and saluted politely: “Sir Fang, how have you been? It has been a long time!”

    Fang Jin was the Black Banner Army Commander, and was also his childhood strategy teacher. Later on the two had fought side by side during the counterattack against House Liu Feng; they were well acquainted. ZiChuan Xiu was glad to be able to see a familiar face in a place ridden with hostility like the High Command.

     “Terrible! My best disciple didn’t even come to see me after he got back. How well could I be?”

    ZiChuan Xiu could feel the warmth swirling in his chest. Fang Jin knew all too well how much Supreme Commander Yang Ming Hua distrusted him, and yet he still came to talk in the open. Even during this dangerous time when Yang Ming Hua was ruling supreme, he could still meet someone who cared for him. It was rare.

     “I only came back to Di Du yesterday. My plan for today was to report to the High Command first before I came to see you, but it just happens that—”

    “Fine, there is no need to explain!” Fang Jin wrapped his arm around ZiChuan Xiu’s shoulder. “Well? Do you have a place to stay yet? How about my place? My two stupid girls just happen to be at that age as well. They are always horny thinking about boys every day. How about I bring you home to them as a gift?” He sized ZiChuan Xiu’s well-built body up and down before complimenting, “You have turned out to be quite handsome indeed! Are you interested in becoming my son-in-law? You may choose either one of my girls…”

    “Sir.” ZiChuan Xiu interrupted abruptly. “I’m already staying at Lady Ning’s place.”

    “Oh!” Fang Jin cracked a smile: “No wonder…compared to Lady Ning, my two stupid girls are no match at all… Not bad, I approve of your choice!”

    ZiChuan Xiu didn’t know if he should laugh or cry.

    “The High Command is scheduled to be in a conference today, what are you doing here?”

    “Oh, I just came back yesterday. I wanted to report in, but I was told that I needed an appointment in order to see the Supreme Commander…”

    “I see…” Fang Jin took ZiChuan Xiu by his arm: “I will get you in!”

    ZiChuan Xiu hesitated: “But if the High Command is in conference, with my stature…”

    “What are you afraid of?! I have your back!” Fang Jin pushed and dragged ZiChuan Xiu into the conference room.

    The conference had yet to start, so only a few people sat loosely across the long table.

    “Come, let me introduce them to you!” Fang Jin pushed ZiChuan Xiu forward: “This one is the Border Army Commander – Ming Hui, my old partner!”

    Ming Hui looked nothing like Fang Jin. He was well educated, tidily dressed, suave, and wore a pair of golden laced glasses like a well accomplished scholar. He politely shook ZiChuan Xiu’s hand: “Defeating eighty thousand demon forces with an army of thirty thousand during the Campaign of Heng Chuan was very impressive, Deputy Commander Xiu!”

     “It was nothing. Your fame on the other hand is spread far and wide. I admire it wholeheartedly.” Not everything ZiChuan Xiu said was out of courtesy: Despite Ming Hui’s meekly and scholarly look, his forces had always been the ones to lead the charge during the recent invasions against House Liu Feng (And he was always the one charging ahead of everyone else). His unit was the first one to breach House Liu Feng’s Fortress – Lan Ling. But then the terrifying Liu Feng Shuang appeared, and he was the first one to run as well. In fact, he ran so fast that Liu Feng Shuang even praised his unit. “When you first saw them, you thought you could cut them down with your sabres; but when you reached for your sabres, you thought you needed spears; and when you grabbed your spears they had already gotten so far that you needed bows and arrows; by the time you readied your bows and arrows, they were already at a distance you could only hit with cannons!” Recently, almost every officer in the Border Army had suffered losses at the hand of Liu Feng Shuang, except Ming Hui. That was the reason behind his promotion to the Border Army Commander a month ago.

     “And this one is Commander Lei Xun, the Central Army Commander, also known as the “Number One Fighter” of House ZiChuan!” When Fang Jin used the words “Number One Fighter,” his tone was filled with sarcasm.

    ZiChuan Xiu knew him to be Yang Ming Hua’s most trusted confidant. His “Divine Arts of Wind and Thunder” had won him the title of “Number One Fighter” for five years straight in the annual martial competition of House ZiChuan. There was also another thing that he was known for. Before the final match of every competition, something would always happen to his opponent. They would either get diarrhea, get into a car accident, have family emergencies, or even get beat up by thugs in some dark street corner. All of them resulted in his opponent forfeiting the fight.

    He faked a smile as he shook ZiChuan Xiu’s hand: “Not bad for a kid, so young and already a Deputy Commander.” Secretly, he channelled his “Divine Art of Wind and Thunder,” purposely trying to humiliate ZiChuan Xiu by forcing him to scream in pain or to cripple his hand completely.

    Standing next to him, Fang Jin could feel something was wrong. Just as he was about to intervene, ZiChuan Xiu spoke concisely: “Thank you for your guidance, Sir!” He then retracted his hand effortlessly as if nothing had happened.

    “This one is Commander Luo Ming Hai, Chief of Staff at the High Command.” Luo Ming Hai always kept a straight, cold, and emotionless face. It was almost as if everyone in the whole world owed him two hundred dollars or something. He was also a close confidant of Yang Ming Hua.

    ZiChuan Xiu was planning to shake his hand, but seeing how little interest the man had showed him, he hesitated and decided to introduce himself instead: “ZiChuan Xiu at your service, Sir.”

    Luo Ming Hai kept his icy cold expression, and took his time before he hummed through his nose: “Hmm!” He didn’t show any more interest.

    “Just ignore him; he is always like that, no matter who he talks to.” Fang Jin spoke without reservation, disregarding Luo Ming Hai who sat right next to him.

    Strangely, Luo Ming Hai did not get mad and just made another deep hum through his nose: “Tch!”

    Next up, he was introduced to the Imperial Guard Army Commander – Pi Gu, an eighty year old elder. His age had long robbed him of his senses. When ZiChuan Xiu greeted him, he had to repeat himself three times before he got through to him: “Oh, right… so you are ZiChuan Xiu? So young… I’m Pi Gu.”

    Everyone else had to try their very best to not burst into laughter. His accent was so blurry that the way he said “Pi Gu” sounded almost like “PiGu”[1]!

    ZiChuan Xiu thought of the worst: Yang Ming Hua chose such an idiot as the Imperial Guard Commander; was he paving the way for his future coup?

    “And this one is like you. He just came back from the Far East, Commander Ge Ying Xing. You should know him right?”

    It was the first time ZiChuan Xiu met Ge Ying Xing. He was instantly intrigued by his unique features.

    He was quite handsome, and had definitely been a pretty boy when he was younger. His soft and already slightly yellowish hair draped disorderly over his forehead while his two curved and thin eyebrows made him appear incredibly gentle. It was obvious he had been ill. Even though it was the hot summer in August, his face was as pale as paper, and his body was wrapped tightly in the thick army coat meant for the winter, exposing only his shaking head. The struggle with his illness had robbed the last bit of his life but his eyes were still as clear as the stars, filled with a deep wisdom and tiredness as though he had long seen through everything the world had to offer. When he looked upon ZiChuan Xiu, his eyes were so incredibly warm and caring. What kind of eyes were those? ZiChuan Xiu was stunned. Only then did he realize that a man’s eyes could be like that; so indescribably beautiful.

    It was the first time ZiChuan Xiu saw someone so charismatic like that.

    A wave of respect surged forward inside ZiChuan Xiu: This patient on the verge of death was the only pillar holding the entire Far East and the wall shielding against the ferocious Demon invasions.

    It was thanks to this patient, who carried the House on his shoulders, that the ambitious and overbearing Yang Ming Hua had been kept at bay for the last six years.

    Without this patient’s shelter and protection, ZiChuan Xiu would have been killed by Yang Ming Hua before he could come of age…

    Painful feelings bubbled up inside ZiChuan Xiu’s heart: Ge Ying Xing looked so lonely and vulnerable.

    The two shared a look, and Ge Ying Xing revealed a slight smile: “Luo Bo told me about you.” His voice was as heavy and magnetic as he was: “Do your best while you are here; live up to the name of the Far Eastern Army, understand?”

    He spoke in a rigid way a superior would when addressing a subordinate, yet it sounded very natural to him. Many unsaid things were conveyed through the pair of magical eyes: We are on the same side, be careful!

    ZiChuan Xiu felt inexplicably moved by his words, like a lost child finding his father. He bowed deeply: “Yes, Sir!”

    The two men understood each other; there was no need for words.

    “Yo, Ge Ying Xing.” Fang Jin nonchalantly patted his shoulder: “What happened to you? What did you do to look like a dead man?”

    Ge Ying Xing smiled slightly: “The journey has taken its toll; I’m not feeling too well.”

    Fang Jin: “No shit! Those who know you would praise you for your diligence and dedication, but those who don’t will have to wonder: Didn’t everyone say the girls in the Far East were all dark skinned dwarfs? How come our Commander Ge Ying Xing didn’t seem to mind, and still worked so hard every night?”

    He spoke with concern. “Buddy, take it easy alright? Even if your body can handle it, seeing a Commander of the House ZiChuan like this on the street… it may tarnish the family honour!”

    Everyone laughed in unison, except Luo Ming Hai who smirked, showing that he was laughing in his own way. Ge Ying Xing scowled while laughing: “Jerk!”  

    The door opened soundlessly and the guard shouted: “The Supreme Commander has arrived!”

    Everyone stood up, waiting in anticipation.

      

    [1] Pi Gu sounds like Ass in Chinese.


  • edited March 2016

    Chapter 2 Part 06

    Conference

    Yang Ming Hua was a rather handsome man.

    With an upright and dignified look, a sense of righteousness in his eyes, and mastery in the rippling inner force technique, he still looked like a man in his thirties, despite being over fifty years old.  So naturally, he had an air of elegance about him. His pair of very bright eyes was filled with care and love. When this was combined with his respectable and amiable smile, he looked like a reliable and righteous elder in every way.

    ZiChuan Xiu smiled slightly, recalling the appraisal ZiChuan Ning gave Yang Ming Hua: “He was so despicable that you couldn’t even entrust him with your toothbrush!”

    Yang Ming Hua waved his hand, merely acknowledging everyone’s presence, except ZiChuan Xiu’s. He approached him directly, smiling, and like an old friend he patted his shoulder saying: “Our handsome lad is back!” He looked him up and down, smiling: “Not bad, I hope Luo Bo didn’t let you starve? When did you come back? You should have told me and I would have given you a warm welcome!” His enthusiasm could rival that of a caring father or brother.

    ZiChuan Xiu saluted: “I came back yesterday and today I’m here to see you, Sir. I didn’t intend to intrude while the High Command is in conference. I sincerely apologize. Please allow me to excuse myself.”

    “Well, now that you are here, you may as well sit down and listen in!” Yang Ming Hua replied bluntly: “You are a Deputy Commander now; it is only a matter of time before you have to join us at the High Command!”

    “You would kill me first before you let me into the High Command!” ZiChuan Xiu was not blinded by his ardor, acting flattered: “You are too kind, Sir. I’m not worthy of such praise. The rank of Commander is the highest of honors bestowed upon a soldier of ZiChuan, the perfect combination of the three virtues, benevolence, wisdom, and courage. How could a lowborn like me hope to reach such important position?”

    “Hahaha.” Yang Ming Hua was delighted; it looked like ZiChuan Xiu’s flatteries managed to hit the mark: “Come, sit down!”

    Though ZiChuan Xiu wouldn’t dare to sit at the table, he grabbed a chair and sat against the wall instead, while keeping his mouth shut.

    The first topic to be discussed during the conference was raised by Commander Ming Hui – How to handle the conflicts at the border with House Liu Feng.

    But the discussion was actually just Yang Ming Hua’s soliloquy. All the other commanders simply chose to abstain from voicing their opinion. Commander Ge Ying Xing even closed his eyes, napping. But he was sick, so nobody blamed him.

    The next topic was rather trivial. Black Banner Army Commander Fang Jing questioned the Chief of Staff Luo Ming Hai on the issues plaguing the Black Banner Army, like unpaid wages, bad food, lack of vegetables, etc.

    Luo Ming Hai replied nonchalantly: “I have already filed an inquiry to the logistic department.” Despite Fang Jing’s fierce protests, that was the only reply he gave.

    Central Army Commander Lei Xun demanded that the Central Army should have the priority this year in choosing graduated officers from the Far Eastern Army Academy. His reason was that the quality of Central Army was worse than the other armies. But his suggestion was quickly and vigorously refuted by Fang Jing and Ming Hui.

    Fang Jing raised his voice: “The lack of quality in an army is the result of having idiotic commanders!” That was just short of accusing Lei Xun straight to his face.

    Ming Hui calmly elaborated on his reasoning: “Border Army is the front line against House Liu Feng. There is simply no reason to not give us the best qualified officers!”

    The discussion quickly escalated to a shouting match, and in the end it was Yang Ming Hua who put an end to it by voicing his support for Lei Xun.

    Throughout the entire debacle, Luo Ming Hei didn’t say a word and Ge Ying Xing didn’t open his eyes. No one knew if he was really asleep. Pi Gu was so far gone that he started drooling.

    Afterwards, a few more topics were discussed, and for quite a few times, Yang Ming Hua had asked ZiChuan Xiu: “Ah Xiu, what is your opinion on this matter? Tell us.”

    Every time, ZiChuan Xiu would firmly reply: “Thank you Sir, for allowing me to participate, and bear witness to the wisdom and greatness of our commanders. How could I dare blemish their calculated foresights with my ill-educated opinion? It would be an atrocity!”

    ZiChuan Xiu knew very well that given his current inappropriate position, no matter what he said, right or wrong, it would be wrong! All Yang Ming Hua needed to do then would be to accuse him of “obstructing military operations”, and he would be done for!

    Ge Ying Xing, whom everyone thought was sound asleep, peeked at him and smirked in approval.

    “I’ve got a question.” Ge Ying Xing finally spoke in a drooping fashion after everyone else was done talking: “During the Campaign of Heng Chuan, Deputy Commander Xiu captured over ten thousand Demon soldiers, including the third Princess of Demons, Ka Dan. She has already been escorted to Di Du. As to what we should do with her, I leave that to the Supreme Commander.”

    Yang Ming Hua: “What do we usually do with the Demon captives?”

    Ge Ying Xing replied: “We usually send them to the Wagela work camp as laborers. We sometimes let the captor keep the goblins and dwarves as a reward or sell them at the slave market.”

    “But this girl is different. So far, she is the most important POW we have, and she is royalty. If we deal with her like we usually do… It may cause repercussions…”

    Ge Ying Xing didn’t specify, but everyone knew what the repercussion entailed. When the Great Demon God King found out that his daughter was sold to the slave market, he would come with several millions of Demon forces at his back… No one liked the thought of that.

    Fang Jing spoke in a serious tone: “So what, we just give him his daughter back on a silver platter, and say – Your Majesty the Great Demon God King, here, this is your daughter in pristine condition, even her hymen is still intact. Please check if everything is in order, and don’t let her run off next time. There are many bad guys out there; it was fortunate that we found her first and not them!”

    Laughter erupted from inside the room and even Yang Ming Hua had a hard time catching his breath. He pointed at Fang Jing: “You… you are the number one troublemaker here in the High Command!”

     “It is definitely a delicate matter. If we just hand her over, we will have tarnished the family honour, because everyone will think we are scared of the demons. But if we keep her, we may cause problems for later…” Border Army Commander Ming Hui lowered his head, deep in thought.

    ZiChuan Xiu’s head started to hurt. When he first captured Ka Dan, he thought it had been a great accomplishment. But as it turned out… he seemed to have brought more problems for the High Command than it was worth.

    Yang Ming Hua asked: “Did we get anything useful from her? How is she, anyways?”

    Ge Ying Xing smiled wryly: “She didn’t tell us anything… and without permission, we didn’t dare torture her. Every day she just ate, drank, and slept. She only eats things like sparrow liver, agave root, and bird’s nest; she drinks only three hundred year old honeydew and morning rain water after being filtered seventeen times… And she sleeps in a way even more demanding. We had to hunt over three hundred peacocks and pluck out their feathers to make her bed. When she sleeps, there can’t be any noises within fifty meter of radius. If we fail to comply with any of her demands, she will commit suicide. In fact, she has already tried twice. One of the guards died from a heart attack because of it.”

    “By now I don’t hope for anything, as long as the Demon God King is willing to take his daughter back; I would even pay him a year of my salary!”

    A wave of laughter later, Ming Hui spoke: “Perhaps the Great Demon King let us capture her on purpose, because he couldn’t stand her anymore and wanted to get rid of her.”

    Fang Jing: “Surely we can’t give her up for free? How about this, why don’t we use her as leverage and initiate a peace talk with the Great Demon God King? The truth is, if we wish to exert our dominion over the great plains of Western River, our foremost enemy is the House Liu Feng. Fighting against the Demons drains our resources greatly.”

    Lei Xun: “Great idea! Why don’t we send you to talk to the Great Demon God King?”

    “You asswipe! I knew you would say that, why don’t you go?” Everyone in the room was amongst the best fighters of House ZiChuan, but neither the courageous Fang Jing nor the braggart Lei Xun would dare volunteer to meet with the invincible Great Demon God King.

    “I have a suggestion.” No one knew when the feeble Pi Gu had woken up from his slumber, but he spoke, trembling: “Why don’t we select a few from the demon captives and let them deliver the news to the Demon God King?”

    “Good idea! Wisdom does come with age!” Yang Ming Hua cheered in approval, and everyone else did the same.

    Only Ge Ying Xing opposed the idea: “Tomorrow, I’m going back to the Far East. All the negotiations for peace will take at least half a year. I can’t just sit here and wait! Someone else will have to watch over Ka Dan.”

    ZiChuan Xiu suddenly got a bad feeling about all of this…

    Of course, everyone, including Ge Ying Xing, then fixated their gaze on him.

    “I’m not ready to die yet!” ZiChuan Xiu resented the idea, teeth chattering. He hurriedly declined: “I don’t think this is a good idea! I just came back to Di Du; I don’t even have a place to call my own. I’m not suited for this task.”

    “Aren’t you staying at Lady Ning’s place?” Yang Ming Hua’s smile was gentle and kind: “Let Ka Dan stay there as well; it will be a place worthy of her royal stature!”

    Everyone echoed their approval in unison. Fang Jing even winked at Ming Hua: “I’m so jealous of his position!”

    Ming Hui laughed evilly in kind: “Indeed. I heard that girl is super hot!” In that instant, he didn’t look like a prestigious Commander of the three hundred thousand soldiers of the Border Army. He sighed: “Why do I never get easy tasks like that?”  

    “Commander Fang.” ZiChuan Xiu wanted to bite him: “If you like it so much, I’m more than willing to let you have her!”

    “I can’t do that, man! I have an angry lioness at home!”

    Ge Ying Xing spoke, smiling as well: “Ah Xiu, since it was you who captured her, it is only fitting that you should be the one to guard her. A man has to wipe his own ass!”  Clearly, his biggest concern at the time was finding a scapegoat… He didn’t care if ZiChuan Xiu was even on his side!

    ZiChuan Xiu stared at him bitterly, but Ge Ying Xing pretended to not have noticed. Pulling his head back inside his cotton coat, he was once again that sickly person on the verge of the death.

    “Very well, as the Supreme Commander, I hereby approve of this suggestion!” Yang Ming Hua smiled: “It is an order!”

    “But Sir…” ZiChuan Xiu wanted to cry, but he didn’t utter another sound… Once the order was given, disobeying it would be a serious offence.

    “Don’t be the guard and the thief at the same time!” Lei Xun hinted at the underlying malicious intent.

    “It is ok if you do!” Fang Jing seemed to have forgotten about his dispute with Lei Xun earlier:

    “Who knows, perhaps you can become Demon God King’s son-in-law, and the war will be over in an instant!”

    “That’s right. For the greater good of House ZiChuan, Ah Xiu, give her your best!” Ming Hui burst into laughter.

    Soon the entire room was filled with a sneaky sound of laughter typical from a bunch of good-for-nothing boys. It made ZiChuan Xiu wonder if he was in a private room at the local brothel and not the conference room of the High Command…

    Suddenly, the door opened soundlessly and an icy cold voice pierced through: “ZiChuan Xiu, are you still alive?” The voice permeated bone-wrenching hatred and killing-intent…


  • Note: No update next week, I will be going on a trip.
  • edited March 2016

    Chapter 02 Part 07

    Duel

    Who dared to offend the non-voting delegates while the High Command was in congress?!

    Even the usually composed Yang Ming Hua seemed agitated: “Who?!”

    ZiChuan Xiu was already on his feet, staring in anger; he could tell it was Di Lin's voice!

    Everyone could feel the sudden chill in the room when one of the three Heroes of ZiChuan, the Red Banner Master Di Lin, walked into the room.

    Di Lin was quite tall and walked in large strides. Despite his imposing size, his face was rather feminine. He had crescent eyebrows over sparkling eyes, thin lips, a handsome nose and smooth skin. Just walking down the street, all sorts of perverts would have hit on him, were it not for his large, broad shoulders. In fact, when he was younger, he had so many admirers that they could fill up his entire backyard… But sadly, most of them were men, and the only girl among them was a lesbian. Perhaps one might wonder how his delicate features could fit so well with his unruly arrogance and cruel demeanor, but that was exactly his unique charm..

    However, at that very moment, no one would treat him like a girl, because no girl would ever appear so threatening and overbearing at the same time. At that very moment, every follicle of his skin reeked the scent of provocation.

    He was a capable general under Yang Ming Hua’s command.

    He glanced at ZiChuan Xiu in disdain as he apologized to Yang Ming Hua: “Upon hearing about my good friend Master Xiu’s return from the Far East, I was so excited that I couldn’t resist, and I had to come see him for myself. I’m terribly sorry for interrupting the Conference. I will gladly accept any punishment you deem fit, Sir!”

    Even though Di Lin spoke to Yang Ming Hua the whole time, his ominous gaze never left the face of ZiChuan Xiu, as if he would suddenly disappear from his sight given the opportunity. Clearly he hated his “good friend” ZiChuan Xiu very much.

    All of the commanders present knew the story. A couple of years ago, when the three young heroes of ZiChuan: ZiChuan Xiu, Di Lin and Stirling were still in the Far Eastern Army Academy, they were the closest friends, before they all fell in love with the same girl, Lin Xiu Jia…

    A fierce contest later, Di Lin successfully won over the girl, but the friends became enemies, like water and ice. With ZiChuan Xiu and Stirling on the losing side, and Di Lin on the winning side, they had fought each other many times in secret, with no clear victor. Their grievance had only deepened since then.

    In the end, Stirling went to serve the Headmaster of the family: ZiChuan Shen Xing, while Di Lin went to join the Supreme Commander Yang Ming Hua. Thanks to his talents, he easily won Yang Ming Hua’s favor, which led to his career on a fast track. By the age of 24, he had already been promoted to the rank of Red Banner Master and had become a capable lieutenant under the command of Yang Ming Hua.

     “Di Lin, you are out of line!” Yang Ming Hua snapped at him, as though he could barely suppress his anger: “Where do you think you are? Take a close look around you. This is the High Command! It is not a place where you can just come and go as you please!”

    Di Lin apologized again more sincerely: “I was too excited to see my “good friend” Master Xiu and I couldn’t control of myself… I deserve to be punished by death!” Even though he said “death”, he was not worried in the slightest for someone in his position. His tone revealed an aura of arrogance.

     “I suppose it is understandable!” Yang Ming Hua instantly softened his voice: “The downside of being young is being often too emotional. What wouldn’t you do in the name of friendship? Since you are being such a good sport, I will spare you this time… Remember to not do it again!”

    “Yes Sir! I will not repeat the same mistake again!”

    Just like a pre-rehearsed script, the two echoed each other, turning a death penalty for interrupting the Conference held in High Command into something insignificant, and then into nothing at all.

    “Di Lin, after coming here in such hurry, what is it that you want with Deputy Commander Xiu?”

     “I have not seen Commander Xiu for many years and I have missed him dearly. I wished to invite him over so we can talk and catch up on lost times… I wonder if Commander Xiu is willing to grant me this request.”

    Di Lin stared at ZiChuan Xiu with his eyes unmoving, and his mouth smirking in a provocative way. The way they eyed each other was like two hungry wolves challenging each other for territory in the forest!

    It was a duel invitation!

    ZiChuan Xiu muttered under his breath, but didn’t answer him directly. He was probably thinking about whether or not he should accept the challenge, and how likely it was that he would win… It wasn’t too surprising, because after all, Di Lin’s fast sword technique was notorious for its deadliness. If there was an official ranking, he would probably be considered to be ranked in the top ten fighters of House ZiChuan.

    Yang Ming Hua: “Oh come on, you’re being too hasty… Can’t you see Ah Xiu is here in his official capacity? Right now he is just going to politely refuse due to being on official business. And guess what, it will be a great excuse, especially when a “good friend” is asking to “speak” to you. In the end, we all treasure our lives! Ah Xiu, I’m sure you will do the right thing, no?”

    Yang Ming Hua wasn’t trying to mediate; instead, it was more like he was adding fuel to the fire.

    ZiChuan Xiu was getting nervous.

    Di Lin smiled coldly: “Ah Xiu, my friend. I hope it is not because you have been fighting demons for so long and have even learned their favourite move… Actually, why don’t you get yourself a shell as well and wrap yourself with it, then you would be truly safe!” He was comparing him to a turtle.

    Lei Xun commented in a peculiar manner: “Di Lin, don’t be so mean to Commander Xiu… What if he starts crying?”

    Di Lin suddenly seemed to have realized something: “Right, I shouldn’t have assumed… I can't believe I thought he was a man all this time… Isn’t that stupid of me?”

    Facing such humiliating insults, even ZiChuan Xiu couldn’t resist any longer!

    Ignoring Fang Jin’s pull on his sleeves and Ge Ying Xing’s eyes hinting the obvious, he answered defiantly: “I humbly request permission to have an extended “talk” with Red Banner Master, Di Lin!”

    “What a touching friendship!” Lei Xun chuckled: “What reason do we have to deny the reunion of such “good friends”?”

    Yang Ming Hua nodded in agreement: “Very well then, I will allow Ah Xiu to excuse himself. You may find a room here in High Command to “catch up”!”

    ZiChuan Xiu and Di Lin both bowed in respect: “Thank you for your understanding, Sir!”

    Di Lin and Yang Ming Hua gave each other a look of understanding, and then walked towards the door before ZiChuan Xiu could.

    Just as ZiChuan Xiu was about to follow, Fang Jin whispered to him from behind: “Be careful of his blade! Don’t let him take the initiative; close in on him first!” He added: “If things don’t work out, make sure to cry for help… We will intervene as fast as we can! There is no shame.”

    ZiChuan Xiu nodded, showing that he understood. But his stubborn face clearly indicated the opposite: He had already made up his mind; he wouldn’t call for help even if he was about to die.

    Ge Ying Xing kept his silence, but his gaze was filled with concern. They looked at each other, and everything was spoken without a single word… Ge Ying Xing nodded slightly, and ZiChuan Xiu bowed towards him in gratitude. His expression was exceptionally calm, as if he had nothing left to worry about. Ge Ying Xing had already sworn a vow that he would never break: If anything happened to ZiChuan Xiu, he would protect Lady ZiChuan Ning with his life.

    Escorted by everyone’s gazes, Di Lin and ZiChuan Xiu went inside a room and closed the door behind them:  Soon sound of curses, punching, kicking, weapons clashing and furniture breaking exploded from behind the doors…

    When the door opened, who would be the one to come out alive?


  • edited March 2016

    Chapter 02 Part 08

    Despicable Bastard

    “ZiChuan Xiu, today is your last!”

    “ZiChuan Xiu, let’s settle all our grievances here and now!”

    “ZiChuan Xiu, you didn’t see this one coming, did you? Hahaha, God is just. Your time has come!”

    While Di Lin was shouting in the door’s direction, ZiChuan Xiu casually ate the chocolate cookies from the jar. Di Lin, clearly unsatisfied, turned towards him and whispered: “Stop sitting on your ass! My throat is hurting; it is your turn! And why are you eating?!”

    Stuffing the last piece of cookie in his mouth, ZiChuan Xiu shouted inaudible words: “Di Lin, only one of us will leave this room alive!” Then he whispered to Di Lin: “I spent my entire morning listening to their boring speeches; how will I have the energy to put up an act if I don’t eat something? Anyways, how is Xiu Jia?”

    “ZiChuan Xiu, you bloody pervert! I will rid the world of your filth!” Di Lin whispered again: “She is fine! But can you stop asking about someone else’s wife whenever you meet them? And since when are you on a first name basis with her? You should call her Mrs. Di or Sister-in-Law! Or I might just beat you up for real!”

    “Tch, I'd like to see you try!” ZiChuan Xiu whispered: “Don’t be paranoid… If we didn’t lose that dice game back then, did you really think Lin Xiu Jia would want to marry you?”

    Di Lin responded in a whisper: “That just means that it was God’s will. Lin Xiu Jia was destined to be my wife. Don’t be a sore loser!”

    ZiChuan Xiu lowered his voice: “God’s will? Bullshit! When I cut open the dice later, it was filled with mercury and magnets… No wonder Stirling and I kept throwing ones and twos while you were getting triple sixes! Before the dice even came to a halt, you were already racing towards Lin Jia Xiu to propose! Even though everyone knew that she liked me!”

    Di Lin whispered back: “All lies! Even if we fought for it fair and square, she wouldn’t have chosen you. You weren’t even sixteen years old at the time; you were still wearing diapers. Why would my wife have fancied you?

    The two of them stared at each other, and suddenly, the mood changed.

    “Vile lowlife!”

    “Stupid shit!”

    “Shameless turd!”

    “F*ck you… son of a bitch!”

    “Go to hell!”

    “You first!”

    Di Lin continued: “Yang Ming Hua is planning a coup!” With that, he sent the table flying with a kick, splashing the furniture all over the wall.

    ZiChuan Xiu replied: “That's nothing new. I heard that same shit ten times a day back in the Far East, and now I’m hearing it two dozen times a day.” He quickly moved his own chair aside, afraid that Di Lin would kick his chair down as well. He didn’t want to sit on the table.

    Di Lin: “You are ranked number three on Yang Ming Hua’s must kill list… Is that news enough for you?”

    “Ha! Ha! Ha!” ZiChuan Xiu roared loudly, sending shockwaves throughout the entire building, as if a fierce battle was actually taking place… Then whispered: “Hmm. Who else is on the list?”

    Di Lin answered: “Ge Ying Xing is number one, Stirling is number two, and the Headmaster ZiChuan Shen Xing who couldn’t get into the top three, is number four.”

    “What about Lady Ning?”

    “Don’t worry, Lady Ning is fine. Yang Ming Hua is planning to make her into a puppet after killing the Headmaster!”

    “Should we try to inform Commander Ge Ying Xing? Perhaps he doesn’t know yet…”

    “How could he not?! There is nothing that the old fox doesn’t know! Don’t be fooled by his sickly appearance… Let me tell you, Yang Ming Hua has tried four times and sent over seventeen assassins after him!”

    “And?”

    “Nothing. Those seventeen assassins never showed up again, as though they never existed in the first place! The next day when the sun rises, you will still see Ge Ying Xing with one foot in the grave, as if he will drop dead any moment. Who knows, perhaps when we are all dead, he will still be around for another hundred years! He is insanely crafty; the entire Far Eastern Region is his territory. Yang Ming Hua’s men couldn’t get near him at all.”

     “But now that he is here in Di Du, doesn’t that make him an easy target?”

     “Yang Ming Hua wouldn’t even dream of it. Ge Ying Xing brought with him six thousand personal guards. Every one of them is brave and loyal only to him. Unless you attacked with a whole army, you wouldn't even get within two miles of his mansion!”

    “What about the number two, Stirling…”

     “Stirling is currently the Deputy Commander of the Imperial Guard; he doesn’t leave the House of Headmaster except for emergencies… Besides, there is no one under Yang Ming Hua’s command capable of silencing Stirling without anyone noticing… I mean except me, of course! Deliver a message from me when you see him, the Deputy Banner Master Yun He and Fang Ge under his command have been bought by Yang Ming Hua.”

    ZiChuan Xiu shattered a precious vase on the ground, showing the ones standing outside that the duel was still taking place!

    Di Lin watched him curiously: “I don’t understand why a certain someone isn’t worried. He is not the Deputy Commander of the Imperial Guard, nor has he the protection of six thousand personal guards. He is however unfortunately listed in the must kill list, an unimportant person whom no one would care about even if he was killed, the insignificant Deputy Commander of the army reserve. I suggest you leave Lady Ning’s house while you still can. It is bad enough that you may get killed any moment, but it will be worse if you give Lady Ning a scare, not to mention that she will have to clean up your corpse as well.”

    ZiChuan Xiu asked: “How much army does Yang Ming Hua currently control?”

    “A lot! Lei Xun’s seventeen hundred thousand-soldier Central Army is under his direct command. If a battle really does break out, Stirling’s Imperial Guards will be wiped out in under an hour!”

    “Any strong fighters?”

    “Central Army has historically always been House ZiChuan’s most elite force. There are many capable fighters amongst the Central Army. Even though their commander Lei Xun is notorious for his greediness and lust for grandeur, his technique of wind and thunder is not a joke. Every time someone calls him the number one fighter he would always crack a wide smile. Chief of Staff, Luo Ming Hai has always kept a low profile… Even now I do not know what he is capable of. And lastly, Yang Ming Hua himself is no slouch either; his inner wave technique is very scary…"

    Holding his chin, ZiChuan Xiu considered the possibilities and asked Di Lin again in all seriousness: “So, do you think I can just talk to Yang Ming Hua and work out our differences, you know, like friends…”

    “If Yang Ming Hua has so many forces at his beck and call, what is he waiting for?”

    “He is afraid of Ge Ying Xing, Ming Hui, Fang Jing and the other Commanders who command large armies in other regions… If Ge Ying Xing raises the banner and calls for support in response to his open rebellion, a million soldiers of the Far Eastern Army would arrive at his doorstep. Even with the Central Army’s support, Yang Ming Hua would not be able to fight against that.” Di Lin exercised the swift slash of his sword, and the sound of his blade carving through the air echoed throughout the room.

    “What is he planning now?” ZiChuan Xiu asked, while breaking another antique folding screen.

    “He has a two-step plan. Step one, rope Fang Jing and Ming Hui into his scheme… Once he manages to bribe either one of them, Black Banner Army and Border Army will have to contend with each other, and will be thus unable to respond to any disturbance in the Capital. Step two, he is sending me to the Far Eastern Army, to take over your former position. He wants me to destroy the Far Eastern Army from within.”

    “Should I tell Commander Ge Ying Xing of your true allegiance? The Far East is his territory. If you don’t tell him, you won’t be able to accomplish anything over there; he will have you on a complete lock down.” Having said that, ZiChuan Xiu broke another antique vase; the shattering sound pierced through the air loud and clear.

    “Fine, but only him… My position is very dangerous as it is; nobody else can know! Right now even I don't know whom I can trust.”

    During the three years that the three friends, who would die for each other, were separated, one had to fight for his survival in the field of battle, one had the go undercover and nest with the tiger, and one had to fearlessly face Yang Ming Hua in the open… And now Di Lin was about to enter the field of battle, while ZiChuan Xiu and Stirling had to fight a different kind of battle in this peaceful and prosperous Capital City, a battle without sound nor form, but deadly nonetheless.

    They looked at each other, witnessing the deep concerns in other’s eyes. Joining hands, the warmth of their blood transmitted their brotherly love from one to the other! They were deeply touched, but no tears were allowed, only a few unspoken words left stuck in their heart: “Brother, take care!”

    They both had to risk their lives. They were both loyal to a fault, for that one vow they made many, many years ago, without regrets, to someone who had passed but had not disappeared, to someone whose had shielded the entire Capital City – ZiChuan Yuan Xing.

    Di Lin suddenly remembered: “Ah Xiu, you can’t just go outside like this without any injuries; they will be suspicious. I think we have to…”

    A bunch of punches and kicks later, Di Lin decided to leave a few more marks of battle behind on ZiChuan Xiu.

    ZiChuan Xiu cried: “Hold on! Haven’t you done enough? Why are you getting more excited?”

    Di Lin explained (painfully): “You don’t understand. Do you have any idea how difficult it is for me to inflict such pain on a brother of mine out of necessity? The kind of heartfelt pain I’m experiencing right now is much worse than the physical one you have!”

    ZiChuan Xiu argued: “Then why are you smiling like that? How about we ease the pain of your heart, and let my conscience take the blame instead.”

    Another wave of kicks and punches later…

    Di Lin: “For realism's sake, we are still missing some cuts and blood…”

    ZiChuan Xiu (almost dead): “I can’t take this anymore… why don’t you just kill me instead?!”

    Di Lin sighed: "Now that it has come to this, I might as well…”

    ZiChuan Xiu’ eyes widened as Di Lin grabbed a make-up box from his pocket and a coloured bottle…

    “That… that is…”

    “Correct, this is the paint the actors use to appear being wounded. It's a type of red ink that looks like blood, and is super rare! I brought it today just for you!”

    “That is not what I meant… If you had something like that, then why didn’t you use it earlier; why did I have to…?”

    Di Lin smirked wickedly, leaning in close to ZiChuan Xiu, and whispered into his ears: “Answer A: Because I forgot! Answer B: Because I did it on purpose. Answer C: Because during my birthday party after I blew all the candles, someone stole a kiss from my wife. Answer D Because I have waited a long time for this! So which one would you choose, Ah Xiu, my brother?” His lips brushed against ZiChuan Xiu’s ear as he said that.

    The door was finally opened. With his head held high, Red Banner Master Di Lin walked out like a winner. He casually brushed the dust off his uniform and wiped his hands; it was clear that he had won the duel effortlessly!

    Lying in a pool of blood, ZiChuan Xiu was wounded from head to toe and was left on the verge of death. Using his last bit of strength, he raised a finger and cursed as loud as he could: “Di Lin, you despicable bastard!”


  • edited March 2016

    Chapter 03 Part 01

    Conversation

     

    “Ning, I love you!”

    After dinner, while reading the recently received letters, ZiChuan Xiu spoke thoughtfully to ZiChuan Ning, who sat on the opposite side of the table sipping tea.

    Splat! Bai Chuan’s tea cup shattered on the ground and Luo Jie coughed loudly; a big chunk of cake was stuck in his throat and he was unable to breathe. Chang Chuan stared as his mouth dropped open wide enough to fit a handful of eggs; he didn’t even notice when Luo Jie snatched his wallet…

    ZiChuan Ning could only feel her heartbeat quickening with shortness of breath, and her cheeks burned bright red…but it was with the flame of joy. All this time, everything she had hoped and ached to hear from her beloved…would today be the day it would happen?

    “I love you!” ZiChuan Xiu spoke solemnly: “So erm… Can you lend me some money? Damn those bastards at the High Command! It was obviously Di Lin’s fault; why are they sending the bloody bill for the broken furniture to me?!  My salary from last month was used to cover that stupid bill at the Heaven’s Dream restaurant…that reminds me; I will get you back, Bai Chuan! Hey, Ning, where are you going?! I haven’t finished yet, wait!”

    “Damn it, teenagers these days; how can she leave halfway during my confession? Nobody appreciates true love anymore!”

     

    ZiChuan Xiu sighed in defeat, turning towards Bai Chuan, and spoke thoughtfully: “Bai Chuan, I love you…”

    Smack! Suddenly, countless stars appeared before ZiChuan Xiu’s eyes, but they were all coin-shaped!

    Servants came to deliver the message; Deputy Commander of the Imperial Guard – Stirling, was coming to visit.

    ZiChuan Xiu couldn’t have been happier as he dashed out of the room.

    Stirling was twenty-three at the time; the brightest period of one’s youth. Everything about him was filled with energy. He was of medium height, had an avid short haircut, light brown skin and a pair of sharp eyes.  He was a rather dashing young man…but unlike ZiChuan Xiu’s fragile, spoiled unruliness or Di Lin’s arrogant and frosty aloofness, Stirling was more of a righteous and masculine man; he had the kind of straightforward handsomeness that was befitting of a soldier. He was dignified, outspoken, genuine, and passionate.

    Historians would later refer to him as the "'Model Soldier during the Golden Age." His contemporary friend, ZiChuan Xiu, would describe him as: “Stirling was born to be a soldier!”

    ZiChuan Ning had also made a comparison of the three young Heroes of the House: "Stirling was like a ferocious tiger and a natural leader; Di Lin was like a cobra, cold, cruel, and aloof; ZiChuan Xiu was…hard to describe, I can only compare him to a nasty slug…”

    In order to have some privacy, the two met in the garden.

    “I heard you went to the High Command today. Who did you talk to?”

    ZiChuan Xiu explained everything that happened earlier that day in detail and Stirling listened closely to every word, before finally exhaling sympathetically: “Di Lin has a tough road ahead! His situation is the most dangerous; he must be under a lot of pressure right now.”

     “But the information he provided has proven invaluable. What are you going to do about the two spies in your midst?”

     “I will keep an eye out for now…getting rid of them right away is like telling Yang Ming Hua that Di Lin is on our side!”

    “Brother, I have always wondered; if everyone knew that Yang Ming Hua couldn’t be trusted, then why didn’t Headmaster ZiChuan Shen Xing call back the Far Eastern Army and take care of him? Could he really be…as they say?” ZiChuan Xiu swallowed back the word “incompetent.”

    “Nobody knows what ZiChuan Shen Xing is really like.” Stirling sighed in defeat: “I’m one of his most trusted confidants, but even so I can’t tell what he is thinking half of the time…but he is definitely not incompetent. Aren’t there many who thought you to be stupid, spoiled, and incompetent as well?

    ZiChuan Xiu smirked as he thought of Luo Jie, Bai Chuan, and Chang Chuan.

    “As to recalling large forces to deal with Yang Ming Hua, that plan is simply unrealistic. In order to contend with the Central Army made of seventeen hundred thousand strong soldiers, we have to recall at least two hundred thousand soldiers from the Far Eastern Army, a hundred thousand from the Border Army, and eighty thousand from the Black Banner Army. It is impossible to camouflage such large military operation from Yang Ming Hua’s eyes and ears. It would only force him to show his hand. If that happened, we would all be fucked.”

    ZiChuan Xiu smiled bitterly: “And so, we are in a stalemate!”

    “Exactly, neither side dares to openly declare war on the other, so we are resorting to a form of cold war.” Stirling continued: “Di Lin’s advice rings true; you need to be careful. There have been many incidents recently in the dark corners of our Capital City – Di Du. Almost every morning, the garbage collectors find a dead body lying somewhere. Many powerful and influential figures ended up that way. Just last week, one of my Deputy Banner Masters was dragged away after getting drunk in a bar. We found his body three days later floating in the city moat.”

    “What did you…?” ZiChuan Xiu knew his friend all too well; Stirling would never let something like that slide.

     “Well, nothing…but two days ago, I heard that Commander Lei Xun’s stepson, Banner Master Lei Xiao Yun was found dead in his mistress’ home. The City Guards (Di Du’s security force) thought it was a robbery and are looking for the killer amongst the unemployed and the local gangsters. How unfortunate!”

    “Haha.” ZiChuan Xiu laughed wholeheartedly. This serious kind of humor from Stirling could always get a few kicks out of him.

    “So, Xiu, what are you going to do now?”

    “Well, since it is getting so dangerous…the honest, timid and cowardly ZiChuan Xiu can only find a place to hide until the two giants fight it out. I will come back when they are done and shake the hands with the victor.”

    “Timid and cowardly? Who are you referring to?”

    The two eyed each other and laughed.

    “Come with me, Xiu! We will serve the Headmaster together.”

    “Stirling, I remember when we were still children. You, me and Di Lin had all made a vow to the former Headmaster – ZiChuan Yuan Xing, to serve Lady ZiChuan Ning. Have you forgotten?”

    “I remember. But given our current circumstances, we can only protect Lady Ning by helping Headmaster – ZiChuan Shen Xing against Yang Ming Hua. Am I wrong?”

    ZiChuan Xiu hesitated.

    “I know you are still holding a grudge against the Headmaster for what happened six years ago. But back then, he had only just became the Headmaster, and everything was under Yang Ming Hua’s control. He had no choice but to side with Yang Ming Hua against you! He told me many times afterwards that he regretted what happened, that he shouldn’t have done what he did. He was sincere; please forgive him.”

    “Besides, we now all have a common enemy, Yang Ming Hua. No matter what you do, Yang Ming Hua will not spare you. The only way out is together!”

    ZiChuan Xiu smiled: “Let me think about it. I heard you and Banner Master Li Qing are getting married?”

    Stirling smiled back, he had always known ZiChuan Xiu’s signature move – whenever ZiChuan Xiu didn’t like the topic of the conversation, he would always begin with “Let me think about it,” and then come up with all kinds of unrelated topics to derail the conversation!

    Stirling didn’t press him further: “That is right. We are planning to hold the ceremony after everything is finished.”

    “I brought a whole bunch of goblins back from the Far East, how about I send her a pair or two?”

    “That would be great! She had always wanted a goblin servant, but the market price went up to thirty thousand a head. Clearly it is more profitable being on the front line!”

    “What are you talking about? In the entire House of ZiChuan, only the uniform of the Imperial Army is laced with gold…you are not fooling anyone! Very well, so that counts as your wedding present!”

    “No way! That counts as extra, wedding present not included. Don’t you dare skip out on me!"

    “Everything is such a mess. I really hope that House Liu Feng doesn’t come and stir the pot right now.”

    “You don’t have to worry about that. They don’t have time for us right now! Their Headmaster – Liu Feng Xi Shan is on his deathbed. They are doing pretty much the same thing we are; struggling for power. Liu Feng Xi Shan’s three sons are all incompetent, which is the reason for his indecision. He can’t seem to decide on whom to give his seat to, since each one of them looks worse than the other two.”

    “Thank the gods that Liu Feng Shuang is a girl and has no succession rights, or else we would be in big trouble.”

    “Indeed. But I heard Liu Feng Xi Shan has recently given her the title of 'The Guardian!'"

    “What does that mean?”

    “That means even though Liu Feng Xi Shan is not happy with any of his sons, it doesn't matter who succeeds; as long as they have Liu Feng Shuang’s support, House Liu Feng will not fall.”

    “What an effort. I heard you faced Liu Feng Shuang’s force during the second invasion. How did that go?”

    Recalling, Stirling exhaled deeply: “Liu Feng Shuang is the real deal!”

     

    “We had Liu Feng Ming’s and Liu Feng Qing’s almost two hundred thousand men surrounded…Their lines were beginning to crumble; just a bit more and they would have been annihilated, but then Liu Feng Shuang’s forces appeared. She didn’t raise her banner; her numbers were less than eight thousand and were all Calvary as well.”

    “Fang Jing, Ming Hui, Yang Li (The former Border Army Commander) and I were four officers on the frontline, and none of us took those eight thousand riders seriously. Fang Jing only sent three infantry formations to thwart their attack and it was a sound strategy. Nobody expected her to crush the three infantry formations in less than ten minutes; her unit was simply too well organized! She broke through another infantry division of Yang Li soon after, and then all the way through our encirclement.”

    “By the time we realized something was amiss and tried to organize a counter-offensive, it was already too late! By then the white banner with red letters was already raised high – ‘Liu Feng Shuang’. The moment the two hundred thousand encircled soldiers of Liu Feng Army saw her banner, the roar of 'Hail! Commander Shuang has arrived; we are saved! Kill the ZiChuan Dogs!' erupted and shook the earth. After a full day of battle, they should have been exhausted and distraught, but when Liu Feng Shuang arrived, it was as if they were possessed. Their warcries shattered our confidence…and Liu Feng Shuang, a meek little girl, unafraid of rain of arrows, stripped down to her waist and stood firmly beneath her banner. She let the entire battlefield watch her swinging her sabre shouting: “Soldiers of House Liu Feng, are you afraid when a woman is not? Muster your courage and attack!” You just have to respect that kind of gallantry. Her personal guards were crazy as well, shielding her from the incoming arrows with their bare body. When one fell, another one took his place…

    “So the army of House Liu Feng came at us like mad men. That snake Ming Hui hastily retreated the moment he saw Liu Feng Shuang’s banner; Yang Li gave the order to hold the lines in the midst of chaos and as a result, his forces suffered heavy casualties and soon crumbled. Luckily me and Fang Jing secured our backlines together. We had to fend her off constantly during the retreat and she kept chasing us for several hundred miles until Ming Hui’s Border Army joined us at the border. Only then did she give up.”

    Stirling expressed a sense of pride: “But I can say with certainty that my unit is not inferior to hers; despite her relentless attacks, my unit could always hold their ground, while the other units all crumbled under the pressure! She chased us almost a thousand miles, but she still couldn’t break my lines! During the last skirmish, I even gained the upper hand!”

    He turned towards ZiChuan Xiu: “Hey! Why…why the hell…are you asleep?!”

    “Blah blah! So bloody boring, who wouldn’t fall asleep?!”

    Entering the Guest Hall, the view left Stirling stunned.

     “Assassin?” ZiChuan Xiu reacted behind him and quickened his steps. Readying himself for battle, he dashed into the Guest Hall!

    All he saw was Bai Chuan, Luo Jie, and Chang Chuan, the three clowns sitting on the couch and shamelessly enjoying Lady Ning’s hospitality.

    “What is the problem?” ZiChuan Xiu followed Stirling’s gaze, and noticed the fourth person. Even though she sat on the soft couch, her posture was straight and dignified. She was not interested at all in the rich and well-prepared meal spread across the table.

    It was the Demon Princess – Ka Dan.


  • edited March 2016

    Chapter 03 Part 02

    Falling in Love is the Worst

     

    “Is something wrong?” ZiChuan Xiu poked at Stirling’s waist.

    “Huh, oh, what?” Stirling gibbered senselessly: “What’s wrong?”

    ZiChuan Xiu gave him a strange frown, but didn’t say anything.

    Stirling's composure instantly returned to normal, and he walked into the Guest Hall.

    Staring at the shadows casted by Stirling's back, ZiChuan Xiu was riddled with worries: “I hope it is not what I think it is…”

    Luo Jie, Bai Chuan, and Chang Chuan immediately stood up and saluted. Thanks to his exceptional talents, dazzling charm, and charisma, Stirling had become the new generation of ZiChuan Soldiers' idol. The younger officers like Bai Chuan might not have recognized more powerful figures like the Headmaster or the Supreme Commander, but they would never mistake the sight of Stirling. Luo Jie had admired him for a long time.

    Even though it was the first time they had met, all of them could tell that Stirling was different from his usual self…

    According to Commander Bai Chuan’s personal memoirs – “The Days with his Lordship”.

    “…He (Stirling) greeted us as expected and spoke appropriately for someone of his station. He even shared a frozen watermelon with us on the couch and answered any questions we had regarding the art of war… Everything seemed normal, but somehow I could always sense that he wasn’t entirely comfortable in his own skin… Very peculiar indeed. I told myself that perhaps it was what you would call a woman’s instinct?”

    Later, another officer at the scene, Adjutant General Luo Jie had this to say: “Don’t you believe the 'woman’s instinct' crap that old hag Bai Chuan has been spewing. That entire memoir of hers was a scam. It was all made up and written by a hired gun. She doesn’t even know the meaning of 'How are you?' Even an idiot could tell that Stirling was off his game! How else could a Master like Stirling hurt his own hand when cutting open a watermelon? Or ask us the same question five times? ‘When did you come back to Di Du?’, ‘You guys came back when?’, ‘When was it again?’ …Even though we gave him a clear answer every time, he had to ask it again in less than three minutes.”

    Chief of Staff, Chang Chuan added: “Also, Master Xiu just stood there, not saying anything, but kept laughing like two Yang Ming Hua’s and a Lei Xun added together. You could tell just by the sneaky way he laughed that something was afoot!”

    After leaving ZiChuan Ning’s mansion, ZiChuan Xiu decided to walk Stirling home.

    “The stars are really bright tonight!” Stirling spoke flatly, as if he was making a statement.

    ZiChuan Xiu looked at the cloudy sky, raised his eyebrows, and said: “Of course!”

    “The moon is exceptionally large as well!”

    “Sure.” Even though no moon could be seen that night.

    “Look at how clean the streets are in the capital!”

    “You are right.” ZiChuan Xiu had just stepped on a dead cat.

    “You didn’t have to walk me home. I’m sure you have a lot of things waiting for you to do as it is…”

    “Bullshit.”

    “…”

    “…”

    “Thanks for the gift by the way, Li Qing will be glad.”

    “You’re welcome.”

    “Is everything all right with Lady Ning? I didn’t get to see her tonight.”

    “She is fine.”

    “What was her name?”

    “Ka Dan.”

    The pair stopped where they stood. ZiChuan Xiu stared at Stirling, but the latter avoided the gaze of the former.

    Silence.

    Finally, ZiChuan Xiu spoke slowly, one word at a time: “Princess Ka Dan, the third daughter of the current Demon God King. She is my spoil of war from the fifth battle of Heng Chuan. The High Command made her my ward.”

    Stirling’s lips were trembling, lacking their usual calm courage.

    “You knew?”

    “I’m not blind.”

    “Do you think badly of me?”

    “Nope.” Turning his face away, ZiChuan Xiu replied after considering it a bit more: “Not more than usual, anyway.”

    “I have a fiancé, and she loves me very much.”

    “I know. Li Qing is a great woman.”

    “She is the Demon God King’s daughter, a Demon.”

    “And royalty, no less!”

     …

    The pair halted their steps once again, inspecting each other closely.

    “What should I do?”

    “Do you really want to hear me talk about how a high ranking officer of the ZiChuan Army should behave himself, have devotion to the cause, and the selflessness and courage to sacrifice oneself for the greater good?”

    “Fuck you @#4#&;&##!"

    “…”

    “Sorry, that was uncalled for.”

    “It is alright, but there are several ways to deal with this… Do you want to hear about the long-term solutions, the mid-term solutions, or the short-term solutions?”

    “Let’s start with the long-term.”

    “The long-term solution can also be called: The Decisive Solution. Solution number one: Tie a knot of rope on the ceiling, and step on a chair. Put your neck through the loop and kick away the chair. Solution number two: Go to the Great Demon Fortress and challenge the Demon God King to a single combat match. Solution number three: On the 1st of January, assassinate Yang Ming Hua during the annual military parade. So which one of the solutions do you prefer?”

    “…”

    “Not to your liking? That's alright, we still have the mid-term solutions! Like castrating yourself with a razorblade… Other than the technical difficulties which may become present when performing such a deed, its effectiveness and health risks are both inferior to the solutions mentioned earlier…”

    “Shut the fuck up!”

    “Or perhaps you can act like a horny teenager. Buy a dozen roses and send them to Princess Ka Dan. Wait beneath her window every night till the sun rises, sing her love songs, and play the guitar. Make your heart race without stopping whenever you catch a glimpse of her shadow…though you might want to watch out for your future father-in-law!”

    “I told you to shut up!”

    “No good? Well then, there is only one final solution left… Since I’m her guardian, I can lock her up somewhere alone and secluded; I can even give you the keys…”

    Stirling instantly punched ZiChuan Xiu in the face, sending him tumbling to the ground. Slowly regaining his footing, ZiChuan Xiu took a handkerchief from Stirling and wiped off the blood around the corner of his mouth, speaking slowly: “If you ask me, I’d rather kill you than see you walk down this road… Death can be swift and painless.” ZiChuan Xiu spoke in a deeper voice: “Give up, brother. This is madness. We both know that if there was the slightest hope, I would have helped you, no matter the cost. But this time… you are no longer fifteen years old! I’m sure you are just having a crush! She doesn’t even know who you are!”

    Stirling remained silent; the usual fire was missing from his eyes. He could have been paying attention to the conversation, but he could have been somewhere else entirely as well…

    "…"

    “This is the first time I have felt this way.” Stirling’s voice was soft, but the tone was resolute: “I love her.”

    “No, you don't!” ZiChuan Xiu argued back, softly: “And don't you love Li Qing, as well?”

    “It's not the same! With Li Qing…" Stirling wanted to continue but he stopped himself, then he continued: "Xiu, do you know what is the worst thing that can happen to a man?"

    "Impotence!" ZiChuan Xiu answered without a second thought.

    Both of them looked surprised at each other.

    ZiChuan Xiu carefully probed at the subject: "Stirling, surely you are not… you are so young and… sigh, that is really unfortunate. Don't be too hard on yourself. Being alive is a lot more than just… Somethings are just not meant to be…"

    "Fuck off, you are the impotent one! The "worst thing" i meant was something else entirely! So what is the second worst thing that can happen to a man according to you?"

    "If my wife sold my house, stole my money, took my car and ditched me for another man!"

    "Then you are wrong!" Stirling seemed to have made up his mind: "There are worse things that can happen to a man!" For example, if a promising young man had a few bottles too many after work, by the time he woke up in the moning, he found himself in a stranger's bed, in a stranger's room, and next to him lay a female co-worker whom he knew for a long time. While she was still naked, she cried and told you, you were her first. She didn't want to at first, but you overpowered her, and she couldn't stop you. Then suddenly the doors into the bedroom opened wide, an authoritive elder and a huge fellow over two meters tall walked in. One was the girl's father, the other her big brother. They told you politely that you basically have two choices in front of you, either you marry his daughter or castrate yourself, and you had to make the choice now…"

    "Hahahaha!" ZiChuan Xiu laughed so hard he couldn't even stand straight: "Who would be so stupid to fall for a trap like that?!"

    Stirling didn't say a word; he looked very intense.

    "Hahahaha…" Slowly, seeing Stirling's unchanging expression, the loud laughter turned into a giggle and then disappeared. Finally he asked carefully in whispers: "Stirling, surely you didn't…"

    Stirling nodded painfully.

    "Really?" ZiChuan Xiu stared dumbfounded at his friend; his face was filled with disbelief.

    "Really." Stirling's voice was a mixture of endless sorrow and helplessness.

    "I see." ZiChuan Xiu nodded reluctantly: "I understand."

    Stirling gave him an alarming look: "If you laugh one more time, I will kill you!"

    "I won't." ZiChuan Xiu tried his very best to keep his facial expressions in check: "Well… I'm very sympathetic for your unfortunate situation. On behalf of the entire male half of our species, I would like to express my sincere condolences for your loss, may you find solace…" He quickly jumped a step back, evading Stirling's furious fist.

    A game of cat and mouse later, they both ran out of breath and the chase stopped.

    "Stirling, so what are you going to do now?" ZiChuan Xiu's spoke more seriously.

    Stirling seemed lost: "Well, before I met Ka Dan, I thought I could just just to let it be. Li Qing is quite pretty, and I don't loathe spending time with her, who knows, perhaps we can learn to love each other over time." He smiled bitterly: "But it is too late now, I didn't know untill tonight, what it feels like to truly fall for someone. what a feeling that was…" There was more weight to his voice.

    ZiChuan Xiu frowned: "But that is not a solution to the problem."

    “I’m aware.”

    Stirling saw a little tavern next to the road and smiled: “I just found another solution—alcohol, the solution to all worries! Come, it is my treat.”

    “Wait, I can’t! I have to report to the Executive Office tomorrow! Yang Ming Hua wants me to be the Deputy Division Chief. I’m not allowed to drink tonight…”

    Stirling ignored his protests and entered the tavern.

    ZiChuan Xiu understood: “Shit, he is serious this time! Why can’t it be a good woman like Li Qing? Instead, he has to fall in love with the Demon God King’s daughter… What is wrong with this world?! Love… is clearly the root of all evil!”

    Yet, the one asking these questions could never have guessed that many years later, he would find himself in the midst of an even more bitter love struggle. It would be the most famous and heart-wrenching love story during the golden age. However, that is a tale for another time…

    Imperial Calendar Year 778, August: On the hottest day of the month, Stirling was 23, Di Lin was 24 and ZiChuan Xiu was 18. The three young heroes of House ZiChuan found themselves swept away by the whirlpool of time, unable to escape, struggling. It was a period of their lives when they had no control over the directions of their future. However, the days when they could were rapidly approaching…


  • edited March 2016

    Chapter 3 Part 3

    The new Deputy Division Chief

     

    “You claim to be the new Deputy Division Chief?” The security guard at the door looked like he had just heard the funniest joke in the world.

     “Err, Yes.” ZiChuan Xiu lowered his voice, knowing he didn’t look very convincing at the moment. Nobody knew how it actually happened, but after getting drunk last night with Stirling, they got into a fist fight with some local thugs. The event last night had taught him two things: First, the combat strength of two top tier fighters together when drunk is no better than a pig's; Second, the sewers in the capital smelled really bad… especially for sore losers who were thrown into it and had to spend the night in the mud. By the time the waste collectors came in the morning to find their bodies and wake them up, ZiChuan Xiu didn't even have time to change his clothing before he had to report to the Administrative Office, and thus…

    “Documents?”

    “I left them at home.” Though most likely they were stolen by the thugs when they searched for his wallet.

    “Of course, another one who left it at home.” The security guard sounded very understanding but the way he moved his giant baton proved otherwise: “Listen kid, we get a couple of troublemakers like you every month, but someone who comes all the way here like you did… well, that's a first!” He raised his eyebrow and continued: “Are you drunk?! God, what is that yellow stain on your shirt? Is it shit or mud? And what is with your face, why is it swollen like a panda?”

    “Please.” ZiChuan Xiu begged: “I have to report to your Division Chief – Ge Shan; I’m already late!”

    “Right, and I'm the bloody Headmaster!” The security guard clearly didn’t believe him. Then again, ZiChuan Xiu had to admit he had every reason not to.

    Glancing around to make sure no one was paying them any attention, ZiChuan Xiu took a deep breath: “I’m sorry, friend!” He casually tapped the guard’s shoulder, and suddenly, the guard fell limp at his feet. Quickly catching him in his arms, ZiChuan Xiu made it look as though the guard was taking a nap leaning against the wall.

    “Where is Division Chief’s office?”

    The question left the staff in complete shock; confused, they each pointed in a different direction. It could have only been a miracle that ZiChuan Xiu somehow managed to find the right way in the end.

    The female assistant outside Chief’s office was shocked by the swiftly approaching madman. Blocking his path, she shouted: “You may not pass! You don’t have an appointment… I’m calling the guards!”

    By then ZiChuan Xiu had already entered through the office door.

    At the opposite end of the spacious office room, a rather pretty lady sat behind a desk, reading documents. She wasn’t startled at all by the sudden appearance of ZiChuan Xiu.

    His male instinct automatically gave her a score of 8.5.

     “Please sit, Commander Xiu; you are 15 minutes late.” Her voice was ice cold, and she showed neither joy nor anger. In fact, she didn’t even bother raising her head when she waved her assistant off with a motion of her hand.

    “Right, Sir, I’m sorry, I had to…”

    “I have no interest in your personal life, but now that you are a part of my Division, I hope you can start following the regulations and avoid any future indiscretions. Are we clear?”

    As the score dropped to a 3.5, ZiChuan Xiu instantly put her into the category of the old virgins who wanted to be loved but weren't, and as a result, they ended up with a mental disorder hating other people who lived a happier life.

    “Sir, I’m sorry, next time…”

    “Thank you for your apology. I’m sure it will be very useful; who knows, perhaps it can give me back the time I had to waste due to your tardiness.” Ge Shan remarked sarcastically: “Also, there is something else you should know. We are of the same rank; we are both Deputy Commanders, which means that you don’t have to call me Sir.”

    “Yes, Sir. Oh, I mean, Chief. ZiChuan Xiu, reporting in. I’m at your command.”

    “Commander Xiu, there is just one thing… I wonder if you can do me a favor.”

    “Anything you say, your wish is my command.”

    “Get the fuck out this instant. Go home, take a shower, brush your teeth then come back to work! Because of you, we have to spend at least three air conditioners!”

    ………

    Facing Bai Chuan, Luo Jie, Chang Chuan, ZiChuan Ning and Ka Dan, ZiChuan Xiu sat in front of them on the couch. Despite the serious and stern look on their faces, the size of their swollen cheeks looked as if a giant frog could be sitting inside.

    ZiChuan Xiu sighed, waving in defeat: “It is ok guys, laugh away.”

    “Wuahahaha!”, “Hihihi!”, “Hehehe!”…

    Only Ka Dan managed to retain her princess-like demeanor, smiling slightly.

    “Sir, you look like a panda with those two black eyes… Hahaha.”

    Bai Chuan flipped a page from the “Di Du Daily Papers” and read out loud: “Today’s hot topic: Today a mental patient who claimed to be Commander Xiu, who recently returned to the Capital from the Far East, broke into the Administrative Office, injuring the security guard in the process. The patient was eventually repelled by the Division Chief – Ge Shan, after breaking and entering into her office. One of the witness, Miss Jing Mei Li, who is a staff at the Administrative Office, has this to say (The picture of a stupid-looking, fat, and ugly woman with a sad expression could be seen between the paragraphs): “It was so scary; he tried to touch me! He was… I mean, it's too embarrassing to say…” The main witness, Division Chief – Ge Shan, has refused to comment on the matter.

    Based on the initial report from the official investigation, it was probably the result of the recent collapse of the fences around the local mental hospital three days ago.  The investigation is still ongoing, the official announcement has stated that their aim is to re-capture all the unstable and dangerous mental patients as soon as possible, and that the citizens will have nothing to worry about. All the parties involved have been advised to improve on the maintenance of any local holding facilities. Please report any sightings of the fugitives to the following address: Di Du Ministry of Civil Administration, Public Safety and Maintenance, Section – Third Office.”

    A wave of wild laughter arose.

    ZiChuan Ning said: “Brother, you are now famous; can I have a signature?”

    Luo Jie laughed: “Sir, I knew you were desperate for some female attention… but surely you can do better than this?”

    Chang Chuan whispered to ZiChuan Ning: “Where is the Ministry of Civil Administration?

    ZiChuan Xiu asked Bai Chuan: “Where is the article posted? First page or the second?”

    After double-checking it, Bai Chuan replied: “It is posted… under the article of Special Treatment for Venereal Syphilis, and above the commercials for Viagra.”

    Another wave of wild laughter arose.

    The usually silent Ka Dan spoke: “Master Xiu, your eyes… perhaps I can help.”

    ZiChuan Xiu had heard long ago of the incredible powers of the Demons, speaking in excitement: “Are you a shaman?”

    Ka Dan shook her head.

    “Do you have healing abilities?”

    Ka Dan shook her head again.

    “Do you know healing spells?”

    Ka Dan shook her head yet again.

    “Then how can you help me?”

    Ka Dan reached for a wooden box behind her: “I have something here that can help you. It can disguise your eye injuries and make them invisible to the others… But it is very expensive, I’m afraid…”

    What was it? Magical pills? Divine medicine? Holy water? …None of it mattered. ZiChuan Xiu only wanted to not look like a panda anymore.

    Without hesitation, he reached for the last two hundred dollars in his pocket and handed them to Ka Dan.

    Ka Dan shook her head: “Not enough.”

    ZiChuan Xiu borrowed another thousand dollars from ZiChuan Ning and gave them to Ka Dan as well.

    Ka Dan spoke sympathetically: “Sigh, very well; I’m only doing this because I like your sister, Lady Ning…”

    ZiChuan Xiu took the box from her and opened it…

    A pair of sunglasses, priced at fifteen dollars, and it didn’t even have a brand.

    According to the historical records: when the King of Light finally took control of the entire Far Eastern region, he treated the lower-class citizens of the Demons exceptionally well, but the Demon royalties were treated harshly. He would punish them whenever he got the chance. As to the exact reason for his polarized treatment of the Demons, one thing was certain: Sometime, somewhere, and for some unknown reason, ZiChuan Xiu had to have suffered at the hand of a Demon Royalty…but the truth will forever remain a mystery, and lost to time.


  • I got fat and lazy over the holidays, the update will continue next week here @ wuxiaworld.

    though as usual it is a week behind.
  • edited March 2016

    Chapter 03 Part 04

    ZiChuan Shen Xing

     

    Stirling had to struggle getting out of the bed; the sudden headache made it difficult.

    The shower helped. Looking at the time, it was already past noon. A lot happened last night, but he could only remember that he was drunk and he got into a fight. As to what happened afterwards… he couldn’t even tell how he managed to get home. He did find two wallets inside his pockets… The other one belonged to ZiChuan Xiu. As to how it ended up in his pocket, well, he couldn’t remember it at all.

    His old servant told him that Lady Li Qing was here earlier and she left him a note.

    Picking it up, Li Qing’s elegant handwriting greeted him: “You didn’t come home last night; both me and Headmaster Shen Xing were worried. We are glad you made it back safely this morning. Though you should consider your status and what you represent, you cannot behave like a fool who spends most of his time drunk. Master Shen Xing has requested your presence. So make sure you do when your mind is clear.”

    Stirling let out a wry smile; Li Qing was still the same: kind, smart and reliable. There wasn’t a word of blame afraid of hurting his pride. What else can a man wish for when you have a great woman like that. If last night didn’t happen, she could very well have been his most suitable partner for the rest of his life.

    Meanwhile, Stirling had already prepared the excuses for when he sees Li Qing: “I saw Xiu last night. We were overjoyed and I drank a bit too much… I’m sorry. He forced me to go.” Stirling was almost certain that ZiChuan Xiu would tell the same kind of lies to Lady Ning: “Stirling forced me to go.” Friends were like that. It was a common excuse they use at the time.

    A cup of tea later, Stirling instantly felt re-energized, and with that, the usually confident Stirling once again returned to himself.

    ……

    First thing after arriving at the House of Headmaster, Stirling’s usual habit was to inspect its security measures. The best and the most loyal forces of the Imperial Guards – The Death Guard, posted sentries every five feet around the perimeter of the House, and like nails in the ground, they had the place on lockdown. But that was only the first line of defence everyone could see from the outside; inside, archers were secretly assigned to every high vintage point, rooftops, high walls and trees. But that was not all; countless sharpened blades were also hidden on top of the walls. There were even secret traps installed around every corner. The place was literally a fortress. Then again, it was he who designed its defence plans. After the routine inspection, Stirling sighed in relief: “Unless they bring an army, there is no way anyone can get in.”

    The Imperial Guards guarding the entrance let Stirling through without raising much hassle. Due to Commander Pi Gu’s old age, thus incapable of handling everything alone, most of the Capital’s defences were organized by Stirling.

    ……

    Stirling arrived at the Headmaster’s office located dozens of meters underground, and saluted politely: “Master?”

    “Stirling is it?” ZiChuan Shen Xing stuck out his head from behind the huge pile of documents. Pushing up his pair of glasses and said: “Please sit.”

    The current Headmaster of House ZiChuan was 53 years old. Six years ago, his famous and feared brother, ZiChuan Yuan Xing died in battle against House Liu Feng, leaving his only heir, Lady Ning who was only 9 years old at the time. Therefore he was the only logical choice to succeed the seat of Headmaster.

    None of his features resembled that of the great ZiChuan Yuan Xing, he was ordinary and boorish. He wasn’t tall either, a pair of small eyes and hunchback, even missing a few teeth. Many would have been disappointed merely looking at him. In ZiChuan Xiu’s words: “He is a ruler incapable of inspiring loyalty from his subjects.”

    His political skills didn’t change the way he was perceived either. Sure it wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t really stand out to inspire confidence either. Simply put, there was no awe inspiring aura befitting a Headmaster to be found within him. He was most commonly described as: An easily bullied, weak old man who only made it to his position by sheer luck.

    Yet only Stirling and a few close confidant of him knew: Just how incredible that spark of brilliance hidden between that pair of frail eyes could be…

    “I heard from Banner Master Li, that you were looking for me?”

    “Yes.” ZiChuan Shen Xing nodded: “Did you have too much to drink last night?”

    “I did!” Stirling instantly bowed his head and apologized: “I’m sorry, Master…”

    “I’m not blaming you. You are still young. It is good to relax once in a while. Just… it shouldn’t have been now… as you may know, “they” are watching you very closely! I was afraid that they got to you first. You went missing last night; I had to send out two Imperial Guard regiment to look for you… If something really did happen to you, I would have done anything to get you back, even if I have openly turn on Yang Ming Hua.”

    Stirling was deeply moved by his words: “Master, I’m terribly sorry. My selfish actions, I… I’m undeserving of your kindness. I would gladly give my life for your cause…”

    “There is no need for that. Stirling, I’d rather keep you alive and well.” ZiChuan Shen Xing smiled, and that smile gave his usual plain face an incredible charm.

    “Did you meet with ZiChuan Xiu?”

    “Well?”

    Stirling knew better than anyone of the meaning and its consequences of what he was about to say next: “He is not against us, but he has yet to make his final decision; he is still considering.”

    “I see. That is not very smart of him.” ZiChuan Shen Xing stood up and said: “He is my dead brother’s stepson. There is no way Yang Ming Hua would trust him. So why doesn’t he join us instead?”

    Stirling stood on the side, not uttering a word. Even though it wasn’t his fault, ZiChuan Xiu was still his best friend. He felt ashamed that he wasn’t able to convince ZiChuan Xiu.

    “Keep an eye on him! Stirling, I know he is your best friend, but if he somehow mistaken friend for foe and ended up on Yang Ming Hua’s side… I’m afraid we will have to strike first.”

    Chill ran down Stirling’s back, yet he managed to speak: “Yes, Master.”

    ZiChuan Shen Xing could guess his thought: “I hope we won’t have to. I’m not looking forward to fight an enemy as powerful as ZiChuan Xiu either.”

    “How good is he in a fight, do you know?”

    “I only know that ZiChuan Yuan Xing used to teach him some basics of the wave technique, but then he left for the Far East. I don’t know much after that…”

    ZiChuan Shen Xing looked serious and said: “He must have another teacher… Ge Ying Xing once told me, that he was able to hold his breath for four hours under the sand, killing two demon commanders in the midst of the demon army. Both top tier demon warriors were killed with one stroke; they didn’t even see it coming, and he managed to escape afterwards unscathed from thousands of demon soldiers. I doubt even my dead brother can raise someone as terrifying as that.”

    Stirling remained silent.

    ZiChuan Shen Xing changed subject: “What is your opinion on Di Lin’s new assignment? Yang Ming Hua is sending him to the Far East.”

    Stirling replied candidly: “I can only think of one thing right now: Yang Ming Hua sending Di Lin to the Far East means that he is not yet ready to openly turn on us. Di Lin is Yang Ming Hua’s close confidant, if Yang Ming Hua was planning to make a move, he would definitely want to have a capable lieutenant like Di Lin at his side. It also means, the moment Di Lin return to Di Du is probably the moment Yang Ming Hua will strike. He hesitated for a moment and continued: “I may be wrong, but that is all I can think of right now.”

    “Hmm, good, your thoughts are clear.” ZiChuan Shen Xing smiled: “Just a bit too naïve. Have you considered the possibilities from Yang Ming Hua’s standpoint?”

    “Please share your wisdom.”

    “We are afraid of Yang Ming Hua making a move, surely Yang Ming Hua is afraid of us making a move. Yet he chose to send away his most trusted lieutenant at a critical juncture such as this… Don’t you find it strange?”

    “Ah… Indeed.”

    “Therefore, after due consideration, there are only two possibilities explaining Yang Ming Hua’s actions.”

    “Do tell.”

    “First possibility, Yang Ming Hua has already discovered Di Lin’s true allegiance. He sent Di Lin away to avoid him getting in the way, however that isn’t his usual motto. He is not a patient or merciful man; he would have killed Di Lin. Surely dumping his body somewhere in the moat would have been more satisfying?”

    “Then what is the second possibility…”

    “Yang Ming Hua has more tricks up his sleeves that we don’t know about!” ZiChuan Shen Xing spoke slowly and clearly: “He definitely has, or else he wouldn’t have acted as carelessly as he did. And this secret person must satisfy three requirements: First, he is good enough of a fighter. Second, he is staying in the Capital. Third, he won’t raise our suspicions… So who can you think of that fits all the requirements above?”

    Stirling instantly got nervous, because he already knew whom ZiChuan Shen Xing suspected.

    “The timing of ZiChuan Xiu’s return was too peculiar. The moment he got back, Di Lin was reassigned. Other than him, no one else of importance has returned recently…”

    “Master.” Stirling spoke resolutely: “I will guarantee with my life, that ZiChuan Xiu would never side with Yang Ming Hua!”

    “Stirling, the last time you saw him was three years ago. People change…”

    “People do, but ZiChuan Xiu and Di Lin… Master, if any of them betrays us, I will atone by taking my own life.” Stirling answered proudly.

    ZiChuan Shen Xing didn’t say anything after that.

    Neither did Stirling.

    “Very well. Stirling, then you better make haste and convince ZiChuan Xiu to side with us. He is an incredible fighter and the four dozen personal guards he brought back from the Far East are all war-hardened veterans. Despite the small numbers, they are still good in a pinch. They could be a great asset to us. With him on our side, our ‘Lancer’ plan will more likely to succeed.”

    “Yes, Master! I will do everything in my power!”

    ……

    “A-choo!” In the midst of trying to steal Bai Chuan’s wallet, ZiChuan Xiu suddenly felt the urge to sneeze while he was still in her room: “Who is saying bad things about me behind my back this time?”

    “Oh. Hi, Bai Chuan. Are you awake? How lucky… that I’m able to find you in your bedroom!”

    “Bai Chuan, come on, don’t look at your commanding officer this way… Let me explain, I’m just looking for the bathroom and it is dark outside. I got lost on my way back, so I went into your room by mistake… It is totally logical!”

    “Oh, the wallet I’m holding? Hahaha, there is a perfectly logical explanation to that as well… You’re not thinking I’m here to steal your wallet I hope? Hahaha…”

    “Hey, Bai Chuan, you don’t need your sabres. Wait, hold on, I will give you a perfectly logical explanation in a second… Just give me some time to come up with an excuse.”

    “Heeeelp…”


  • edited March 2016

    ZiChuan Chapter 3 Part 5

    General Pervert

     

    Under the influence and active involvements of many, time quickly flew past. Yet, Di Du was as peaceful as ever, like the calm before the storm. Six months later…

    The aftershock from the far away Far Eastern region reached the Capital and another brilliant star was born. Di Lin, following ZiChuan Xiu’s footsteps, had achieved the second great victory against the Demonic Horde. During the sixth campaign of Heng Chuan, he crushed the invading Demon’s conventional Forces, inflicting over seventy thousand casualties and capturing close to fifty thousand prisoners. It was the greatest victory ever achieved since Humans first began this war against the Demons. The most shocking fact of this battle however, was not its glorious outcome, but Di Lin’s cruelty – He gave the order to kill all the captives, leaving no one alive.

    Upon receiving the report, the Chief of Staff of the Far Eastern Army at the time, Luo Bo was appalled by his act. Racing over as fast as he could, Luo Bo tried to stop the execution. But after he had arrived, Di Lin blindsided him with his graceful welcome while ordering his men to execute the last remaining five thousand captives in secret. By the time Luo Bo realized what Di Lin had done, the dead had already littered the earth. Looking down at the corpses drowning in the sea of blood, Luo Bo closed his eyes in agony and condemned Di Lin: “You bloody devil… You just destroyed everything the seven generations of House ZiChuan had built, fought for and paid in blood over the past two hundred years!” (That was how Di Lin earned his nickname, the Devil)

    Di Lin replied defiantly: “I’m building a grand future for House ZiChuan for the next thousand years to come!”

    ……

    When the news reached Di Du, the whole court was in shock. Due to Di Lin’s great achievements in war, being Yang Ming Hua’s close confidant and the fact that Yang Ming Hua was the most powerful figure at the time, only few whispers of dismay were heard and no one dared to file a formal complaint or impeachment, But that didn’t stop people talking about it in private of course, even Yang Ming Hua shared his disapproval within his inner circles – “Di Lin was out of line.”

    But he didn’t even know the half of it, in fact, it was only the beginning. After the battle, Di Lin didn’t wait for regroup; he immediately led the two hundred thousand soldiers of the Far Eastern Army in a chase after the retreating Demon forces all the way towards the Demon God Fortress, breaking the eternal status quo of the Far Eastern warfare – Humans defending and Demons attacking. His swift manoeuvre caught the defending Demon forces at the border completely off guard, sending them scattering to the winds. It only further encouraged Di Lin to continue his pursuit.

     

    Everywhere he went, if any none human populated villages, towns or cities dared to resist, he would immediately give the order to massacre its population. Old or young, man or woman, none of it mattered, he would simply kill them all, and then raze the place to the ground in a sea of fire. Most of the time, only smoke and ashes were left in his wake.

    Races resembling humans were given a chance to survive this encounter with the dreadful commander… But in order to survive, they had to relinquish everything they owned, provide provisions and volunteer to join his army. Under Di Lin’s Iron Fist and harsh military disciplines, none of the half beasts, werewolves, snake men or goblins dared to raise their voice despite their wild nature, afraid of catching Di Lin’s watchful gaze.

    He did not only rule the none-humans with an Iron Fist, even the soldiers of ZiChuan had to endure his harsh command.  The thousand or so riders caught for running away in battle were all sentenced to death and executed in front of the whole army. Over forty soldiers who arrived late this morning were dragged behind a horse for several kilometres and those who fell asleep standing guard were whipped fifty times. Well, it was more like twenty times really, because the soldiers in question were already dead, but the Marshals didn’t dare to defy the order and had to carry out rest of the sentence, completing rest of the fifty whips on a corpse.

    Under Di Lin’s command, no one defied their orders, no one neglected their duties and most importantly, no one dared to cowardly retreat. Whenever they faced Demons in battle, even against the powerful Armored Beasts, Di Lin’s forces would not falter. They would face it head on and fight it with spears, sabres and arrows… even if they only had rocks or no weapon at all, with just fists and teeth, they would not retreat. The Demons called them in awe: “Di Lin’s forces are all possessed!”

    And so his name became the avatar of nightmare and the embodiment of invincibility. The news of his deeds quickly travelled throughout the Far Eastern Regions still under Demon’s control. After massacring the four Demon Cities, Glenco, Kazi, Heng Lan and Kashalachi, not a single settlement resisted his occupation again. No matter where his army went, Demon cities would open their gates and welcome him on their knees. The city guards either fled or surrendered…

    While wiping out small pockets of Demon resistance here and there, Di Lin’s army was also attracting large contingent of non-human forces, boosting their numbers significantly. By the time he arrived at Demon’s second major city – Gamara, his forces was already five hundred thousand strong!  Since the war against Demons first began, Humans had never launched such a massive offensive, or penetrated so deep into the Demon Territory.

    However, in the city of Gamara, he was met with fierce resistance for the first time since the beginning of this campaign. A famous young demon general blessed with royal blood, Yun Qian Xue[1] had stationed his forces of two hundred thousand strong behind the sturdy fortification of the city, waiting to face his enemy…

    While Di Lin was carving his name on the wall of history, another one of the three famous hero of House ZiChuan, ZiChuan Xiu was working hard and diligently in the Administrative Office.

    When his newly assigned and pretty female secretary left the office, Deputy Chief ZiChuan Xiu pulled out a note: “38, 22, 37. One hundred dollar!”

    Luo Jie pulled out a note as well: “38, 21, 38. I bet hundred as well!”

    Chang Chuan showed his: “37, 22, 38. Hundred. However I think you guys are wrong about her bra size. Based on my many years of experience, I’m fairly certain that she is using bra pads… Don’t forget to ask her about it, Bai Chuan!”

    Luo Jie followed: “Right, and her xxx – is hanging a bit low. I’m pretty sure Master Xiu has underestimated it.”

    ZiChuan Xiu continued: “Bai Chuan, what are you waiting for? Hurry and go ask!”

    Bai Chuan complained: “What excuse do I have to ask for her bust?!”

    “Dude, that is super easy… Just tell her you need it for the staff survey.”

    Bai Chuan rolled her eyes in disgust at the perverts, then went outside and came back, announcing: “38, 22, 37!”

    ZiChuan Xiu shouted joyously: “I won! Pay up!”

    Chang Chuan grudgingly pulled out his wallet: “What the hell, how can I be wrong?”

    Luo Jie: “Damn it… boring. What do we bet on next, Sir?”

    Counting the bills, ZiChuan Xiu felt satisfied: “Money smells the best… How about we bet on if she is a virgin next? I bet one hundred that she is not!”

     


    [1] His name means Cloud Light and Snow.


  • edited March 2016

    Chapter 03 Part 06

    Love and War

     

    “Ah, this is the perfect life of a Commander I have always dreamed of!” ZiChuan Xiu inspected satisfyingly at the luxuriously decorated office. A majestic desk (with expansive wine and porn mags secretly stuffed in the draws), a comfy leather couch and a pretty secretary wearing mini skirt he could shout orders at: “Get me that decade old diary from top of the cabinet!” When she climbed up the ladder, he could raise his chins and enjoy the view in peace… You know, men. There is no need to explain!

    And the workload was light… Clearly ZiChuan Xiu, the Deputy Commander was not being taken seriously. Most of his daily work included counting how many chairs and tea cups each regiment had, and where the windows broke in need of repair etc. Even though Station Chief Ge Shan didn’t give ZiChuan Xiu any work of importance, at the very least, she didn’t discriminate and make his life difficult.

    ZiChuan Xiu sighed in relief: “This is paradise!”

    Suddenly, certain elements unbefitting his paradise appeared in the corner of his eye.

    “Luo Jie, Bai Chuan, Chang Chuan. Why are you in my office?”

    “Huh, Sir. Did you forget? We are your assistants!”

    “That is not what I meant… Don’t you have your own offices, why are you…”

    “Forget it, our offices are small and old, and there is no sunlight!”

    “My secretary is uglier than the mother of all demons… Sir, have you seen the movie “After midnight” yet? If not, you don’t even need to go to the cinema, just come around at my office and check out my secretary.”

    “Also, they don’t even provide drinks!”

    “Sir, you know what it is like. We are Banner Masters. Back in the Far East, a Banner Master is a title commanding over thousands of men!”

     “But here, we are being treated worse than the refugees!”

    ……

    ZiChuan Xiu felt a little bit sick: “Hold on…. Then why is Lady Ning here as well?”

    ZiChuan Ning replied calmly: “Well, I’m here as the heir of House ZiChuan, to inspect the Administrative Office. Is there a problem? Deputy Chief ZiChuan Xiu?”

    “Why is Princess Ka Dan with you then?”

    “Brother! Now you’re being selfish. How can we leave a little girl alone back at home when we are all outside having fun? She would get lonely. Don’t you feel ashamed? Doesn’t your conscience bother you?”

    “But people would talk seeing all of you gathered in my office…”

    “Oh, Commander Xiu, you don’t have to worry about that!” With that said, Ka Dan pulled out a sign from her bag saying: “Chief in Conference, please do not disturb.” And hanged it on the door. “You just have to tell them that Deputy Chief has to be in conference seven days a week. Everyone would praise you for your dedication!”

    “This is hell!” ZiChuan Xiu howled in despair.

    “Xiu, what hell are you talking about?” Stirling suddenly arrived at the doorstep, smiling: “Sorry for barging in on your conference!”

    “Welcome!” Everyone quickly stood up and welcomed him, only Ka Dan didn’t move from her chair.

    ……

    Ever since that day they parted ways, Stirling would pay Lady Ning a visit on a daily basis. It was obvious, everyone quickly figured out the reason for Stirling’s frequent visit, which was not because his close friendship with Master Xiu. Besides, the person of interest, Stirling didn’t try to hide his intention either. Whenever he visited Lady Ning’s place, he would scan around like a hawk, till he finds Ka Dan, only then would he calm down as if he just took a weight off his shoulder.

    Luo Jie used to lament about it to Bai Chuan: “Look at Sir Stirling. He is like a high-school kid falling in love for the first time… He must have a screw loose somewhere.”

    Bai Chuan would then reply: “We all understand the idea. Yet in the end we are all slaves of love, no one can escape it.” And lose in thought…

    However, the person of interest number two, Ka Dan did not seem to be affected by Stirling’s affection. If he visited, it was fine, and if he left, that was fine as well. She treated him just like anyone else. She didn’t push him away, nor did she welcome him with open arms.

    Stirling was a well-known figure in the Capital City – Di Du. Something like this could easily become a wide spread gossip if not for ZiChuan Xiu’s heavy-handed intervention. He threatened every servant in the house and men under his command: “If you value your lives, then keep your mouth shut!” Even to Lady Ning, he played a card he rarely used before, as her brother, he warned her not to send words to Li Qing. Only then did the gossips stay contained within Lady Ning’s mansion.

    ……

    Trying hard to keep a straight face, everyone watched Stirling drifting into the room. Chang Chuan sitting next to Princess Ka Dan immediately stood up and said: “Sir, here please sit!” Stirling bluntly accepted his invitation and sat down, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Even the usually thick-skinned ZiChuan Xiu had to applaud him for his shamelessness.

    “What is everyone talking about?” Even though Stirling said everyone, in his eyes he only saw Ka Dan.

    Ka Dan remained silent. ZiChuan Xiu replied for her: “Talking about Di Lin’s war situation in the Far East!” As he handed over the newspaper.

    Stirling had already read it before, but he pretended to read it for the first time, muttering “I see” while reading, as though the news was actually interesting. Several minutes later, he asked: “So what is everyone’s opinion on this matter?”

    “We all believe, that Di Lin is in danger.” Luo Jie raced to answer, hoping to give his Idol a good impression: “Deep behind enemy lines with no help on the way, now facing a powerful enemy ahead, unable to inch forward.”

    “Right, is that your opinion as well, Xiu?” Stirling eyed ZiChuan Xiu. The two shared a look and instantly, they knew what the other one was thinking.

    ZiChuan Xiu spoke softly: “Nope. I think at a time like this, Di Lin holds the initiative of the battlefield.”

    Stirling concurred: “I agree!”

    “Why” Several voices questioned at the same time.

    ZiChuan Xiu smiled: “You only see that in front of Di Lin, in the city of Gamara two hundred thousand Demons led by the famous Demon General Yun Qian Xue awaits. With an impregnable fortress in the way, Di Lin has no choice but to attack, and has no choice but to fail. Correct?”

    Stirling followed up: “But what if, Di Lin decides to not to attack Gamara, what happens then? What if he turns around and attacks the weaker city of Yi Ka to the southeast? Once he conquers Yi Ka, Di Lin will be able to make contact with Deputy Commander Lei Bang’s border army situated to the southeast, and will no longer have to worry about his supply lines. At the same time he could isolate almost five thousand square kilometres of Demon controlled territories, which they could swallow at their leisure…”

    ZiChuan Xiu continued: “If Di Lin does not attack the city of Yi Ka, he could move towards the Guo Sen plains to the northeast. Conquering the Guo Sen plains means cutting off Demon’s supply of magic crystal stones and land dragons, and with the magic crystals and dragons he seized, he could build a large contingent of magic wielding dragon riders of his own, which will make Demon’s life even more difficult.”

    Stirling nodded: “Even if Di Lin doesn’t attack Guo Sen either, he could choose to use his number superiority to surround the City of Gamara and wait for Yun Qian Xue’s two hundred thousand Demons to surrender by starving them out.”

    A wave of silence later, Bai Chuan questioned: “But all those possibilities hinged on one key element, Di Lin’s army’s supplies has to be able to reach him constantly. If his supply line gets cut off, he cannot possibly fight a prolonged battle. Right now the supply line already stretches thousands of kilometres deep into Demon controlled territories. How can he secure it?”

    ZiChuan Xiu and Stirling shared a look, both cracked a wry smile.

    Stirling spoke discreetly: “It is a tough problem to solve for someone like you and me, but for Di Lin, it is not a problem at all. Perhaps that is the difference between a capable general and an average one.” His voice was filled with unspeakable bitterness.

    ZiChuan Xiu smiled wryly: “It has nothing to do with your ability. It is merely a difference in perspective. You don’t have to apologize for yourself.”

    Everyone looked confused, turning their gazes at ZiChuan Xiu and hoping he would explain.

    ZiChuan Xiu sighed and spoke only a few words: “Take everything you come across, that solves all the supply problems.”

    Everyone suddenly understood: The reason Di Lin could afford a prolonged engagement was because he would send out many raiding parties, to rob everything the towns, cities, villages in the vicinity of everything they have. He would not let his soldiers starve. Which means, if Di Lin could hold out for two months, then Yun Qian Xue stuck inside the City wouldn’t even manage three weeks.

    Ka Dan cried out: “Then what about our people? Do they deserve to starve?”

    All the officers of House ZiChuan in the room turned away from her, unable to meet her sharp gaze. Only Luo Jie murmured a few words: “Casualty of war…” But nobody heard him.

    ……

    “That felt bloody awful.” When ZiChuan Xiu and Stirling were the only ones left in the room, ZiChuan Xiu lowered his voice: “I lost track, I totally forgot Ka Dan was one of them.”

    Stirling sighed.

    ZiChuan Xiu continued: “If it was anyone else, I would have had thousand of reasons to refute them. Like the way Demons treated us in the past several hundred years? This isn’t even enough to cover the interest! But when I saw the look in her eyes, I couldn’t say a word…”

    Stirling sighed again.

    “But really, Di Lin is making a huge mess in the Far East, who is going to clean it up?” ZiChuan Xiu went on: “He just cares about what is convenient for him. Killing all the prisoners like that, who would dare to surrender to us in the future? They would all fight to the death. Besides, killing civilians, robbing them of their livelihood, I just can’t get behind that … Without its people’s support, how would we ever establish ourselves in the Far East?”

    Stirling had no words, he could only think of Di Lin’s imperious and courageous voice: “We don’t need the support of those low-lives. We only need their obedience and for them to fear us! In the end, the reason we control the Far East is not because of public elections, but the sword in our hand!”

    Stirling didn’t truly agree with Di Lin’s cruel policies in his heart either, but Di Lin was the eldest of the three sworn brothers. ZiChuan Xiu, the youngest could complain if he wanted, but as the middle one, it was not his place.

    He sighed yet again.

    “Hey, Stirling. Don’t keep sighing like a nagging old hag. Say something.”

    “So what is new, I mean here in Di Du.”

    “Nothing surprising. Just Yang Ming Hua denying Ming Hui’s Border Army for receiving the latest equipments, and as usual, the new equipments ended up in the hands of Lei Xun’s Central Army. The second thing is that the Station Chief here, Ge Shan had a huge argument with Luo Ming Hai about it, she complained that Yang Ming Hua shouldn’t have violated the regulations. Historically, new equipments are always allocated to the Border Army first. I’m having trouble determining which side that old virgin is on.”

    “Oh, really? Looks like I can put some work on her, perhaps I can win her over.”

    ZiChuan Xiu frowned at Stirling and gave him a strange look.

    “Why are you looking at me like that?”

    “Bloody pervert, can’t you just keep it in your pants for once? Even if you really like Ka Dan, you don’t have to be so damn obvious about it. I’m afraid that… I can’t keep it under wraps for much longer!”

    Stirling had no words.

    “Does Li Qing know?”

    “She has doubts. She suspects that I have another woman somewhere. But she doesn’t know who.”

    “Ouch. A woman’s instinct is seriously scary! She went through Lady Ning asking me to help her spy on you. I used every trick in the book to reassure her, but next time it won’t be so easy. So what does Ka Dan say?”

    “You saw it for yourself. No reaction! She never gave me the chance to be with her alone…”

    ZiChuan Xiu cursed: “What a cunning witch! In my opinion, you should just be straight with the Headmaster. If he is ok with it, then no one else can interfere. You won’t have to hide it then either!”

    “I will, just not now… Yang Ming Hua would never let any opportunity slip if he could hurt us. In worst case, he could force me to resign. Besides, I don’t want to bother Headmaster with my personal affairs.”

    “You are right.”

    ……

    ZiChuan Xiu took a closer look at Stirling’s face. It had lost some weight, leaving his cheekbones more exposed and his eyes deeper in its sockets. He didn’t understand how his friend could suffer so much in the name of love yet was able to pretend as if nothing happened while dealing with all kinds of military assignments and plotting against Yang Ming Hua every day…

    He had great sympathy for Stirling, but most importantly, he admired his perseverance. He even thought: “If it was me, I wouldn’t be able to do it. Luckily I’m not as foolish either. What is love? Screw that! There are more than enough pretty ladies walking about in the halls of the Grand Hotel of Di Du. Which one of them is not as pretty as an angel? They only cost three hundred a night, why would you bother with love?”


  • edited March 2016

    Chapter 03 Part 07

    Storm is coming

     

    Imperial Calendar, winter of February, the war in the Far East had reached another turning point. While Di Lin’s army formed the encirclement around the City Gamara and Yun Qian Xue’s two hundred thousand Demons, new enemies appeared deep within the Demon territory. Leading two hundred thousand imperial guards, second Demon Prince, Ka Lan had come to Yun Qian Xue’s aid. After a few short skirmishes, Di Lin had realized that the adversary he now faced was not one he had faced before. Both the morale and combat prowess of the Demon Imperial Forces greatly surpassed that of the regular regiments, and they were loyal to a fault. Fearing the possibility of being pincered from both end, having to fight a winter war which the Humans are not accustomed to, and the increasing difficulties with gathering supplies, Di Lin immediately made the decision and gave the order to retreat.

    Due to Di Lin’s orderly retreat and his superior numbers, very little opportunities were left for Ka Lan and Yun Qian Xue. Neither of them dared to give chase recklessly. Instead of calling it a chase, it was more accurate to describe it as an armed escort. The chase continued all the way back to the contested border of Heng Chuan, restoring the original frontier and put an end to what would be known as “The First Great Invasion” that lasted over six months.

    During this campaign, House of ZiChuan suffered total fifty one thousand and three hundred deaths, and eleven hundred and six thousand wounded. (Of all the casualties, thirty thousand deaths and over eighty thousand wounded belonged to the non-human warriors forcibly conscripted into Di Lin’s Army).

    Demons on the other hand, had suffered two hundred and seventy three thousand deaths, and two hundred and eighty eight thousand wounded. (Out of all the deaths, over hundred and fifty six thousand were captured prisoners). Those were merely the military casualties.

    According to House ZiChuan’s Military Historian, Tang Chuan’s research: during the First Great Invasion orchestrated by Red Banner Master Di Lin, total five major Demon Cities, seventy two towns and over two hundred villages were massacred and razed. The final count of non-human civilian casualties suffered at the hand of Di Lin’s Army (Mass massacred or died indirectly from starvation and cold caused by Di Lin’s brutal gathering methods) reached over 1.8 million. (Later many Historians argued that Tang Chuan’s statistics were overly conservative, believing that his research was not conducted objectively. Clearly Tang Chuan was under House ZiChuan’s payroll at the time, and thus had the motives to be biased towards Di Lin.)

    The entire western border region of Demons was mercilessly purified by Di Lin’s blade; even a hundred years would not be enough to restore what was lost. As result, their hatred for Human-kind had also reached an unprecedented height. Despite House ZiChuan’s effort to improve the livelihood in the region in the days after their successful conquest of the entire Far Eastern Regions many years later, the animosity between the races could not be quelled.  Only till much later, when the King of Light, ZiChuan Xiu made his return to the Far East, did the many non-human races start to re-establish their connections with humans again…

    As of right now, Di Lin was praised as the new War of God of House ZiChuan, the first general since the days of Ya Li Mei. Though at the same time, many called him a cold blooded monster, butcher, or king of murderer…

    Meanwhile, he himself returned to the Headquarters of the Far Eastern Army in Fort Warren without a care in the world, and was awarded with a medal for his efforts and a new commission as the Deputy Commander.

    ……

    Imperial Calendar, Year 779, Eleventh of March. Supreme Commander Yang Ming Hua, as the representative of the High Command, advised Headmaster ZiChuan Shen Xing the following: “Deputy Commander Di Lin and his men fought long and bravely, their efforts and merits should be rewarded. We propose to transfer Deputy Commander Di Lin and the fifty thousand men under his command who had distinguished themselves during war back to the Capital for their awards.”

    Twelfth of March, Headmaster ZiChuan Shen Xing gave a short reply: “Approved.”

    Nineteenth of March, Di Lin received his new orders. Taking fifty thousand soldiers who had “distinguished themselves” with him, he left Fort Warren and began his glorious march to the Capital.  

    Inside the secret room of the High Command, with a smug look on his face, Yang Ming Hua slowly enjoyed a glass of wine and spoke to Luo Ming Hai: “The moment Di Lin returns… You will be the new Supreme Commander.”

    Noticing the slight hint of jealousy coming from the Central Army Commander – Lei Xun, Yang Ming Hua spoke calmly: “Don’t worry. You are the next one in line for the seat of Headmaster.”

    Luo Ming Hai’s reaction was merely a dispassionate nod, as he said: “Thank you for your generosity, Sir!”

    Lei Xun on the other hand, responded excitedly: “I can never repay the kindness you have bestowed upon me, Sir! However, it is my humble opinion that we are more than capable of finishing the job. We don’t have to wait for Di Lin! That brat is too arrogant and unpredictable…”

    Yang Ming Hua laughed cheerfully: “Lei Xun, are you jealous? There is a reason I requested for Di Lin’s transfer. You don’t have to worry about it. He will yet prove to be useful… Hahaha.”

    ……

    Inside the House of Headmaster, ZiChuan Shen Xing spoke bitterly to Stirling: “Yang Ming Hua has ordered for Di Lin’s transfer, he is about to make a move.”

    Stirling questioned back: “There is one thing I don’t understand, if Your Excellency wishes to share your wisdom.  Given their current military strength in the Capital, Yang Ming Hua has full control of Lei Xun’s Central Army; he vastly outnumbers us and has the absolute advantage. Why is he wasting time waiting for Di Lin’s forces to return to the Capital? What is the point?”

    ZiChuan Shen Xing smiled: “Stirling, what day is it today?”

    Stirling couldn’t quite figure out the meaning of ZiChuan Shen Xing’s question, thus he gave him a straightforward answer: “Twentieth of March, Tuesday.”

    “Next Monday, is the annual Military Assembly of House ZiChuan, almost all army officers with the rank of Banner Master or above will have to attend, including Ge Ying Xing. He will have to return to Di Du as well.”

    “Sir, are you saying that, the reason Yang Ming Hua requested for Di Lin’s transfer is to deal with Ge Ying Xing?”

    “Exactly! Ge Ying Xing will bring his six thousand personal guards, but Di Lin will have fifty thousand men with him. Almost ten to one, he wants Ge Ying Xing dead.”

    “Such bold move, isn’t he afraid that it would cause the Far Eastern Army to rebel?”

    “He won’t have to worry about that because by then, Ge Ying Xing would already be dead. Even if his subordinates, like Luo Bo or Lin Bing complained, the ones involved are all soldiers from the Far Eastern Army. Yang Ming Hua could easily cover it up saying it was an internal conflict inside the Far Eastern Army, and no one will be able to connect it to him. In the worst scenario, he could always sacrifise Di Lin to quell the anger from Ge Ying Xing’s subordinates. How is that for a perfect plan?”

    Stirling smiled: “He is too clever for his own good!”

    ……

    Inside the House of ZiChuan Ning, she spoke to ZiChuan Xiu: “Brother, I heard Di Lin is coming back with an army of fifty thousand strong! …What are you looking for?”

    “Oh, I’m looking for the bill for the stuff we broke during our last duel. Clearly he should be the one paying for them; why the hell do I have to pay?! It’s a huge sum, over seven thousand, and another six months of interest…”

    “Ning, do you think I should give him the official interest rate or the black market interest rates? I mean we are friends for many years after all, I guess I shouldn’t use compound interest…”

    “It is not like he can’t afford the extra interest. I heard he robbed the Far Eastern Regions clean… leaving the poor Demon villages with nothing but tears…”


  • edited March 2016

    Chapter 03 Part 08

    Love

     

    “Sir.” Guard Captain Cobra handed Di Lin a letter: “Just got it from the mailbox.”

    Di Lin opened the letter, revealing only one sentence: “xpsspnpulsbqmbsuofd.” He gave it a look and nodded. Captain Cobra knew better and dismissed himself.

    “What is it? What letter is so important? It came as soon as you returned to the Capital.” Lin Xiu Jia, his beautiful and gracious wife approached his side. Di Lin planned to hide the letter, but it was too late.

    “A love letter?” Lin Xiu Jia asked mockingly.

    Di Lin’s icy cold cheeks smiled in a way that was rarely seen: “You are the only one I love.” And handed her the letter.

    “I was kidding. You are always like this, no fun at all!” Even though she complained, she couldn’t be happier on the inside: “Is it about work? I don’t think I should look at it.”

    “It is fine. Between us, there is no secret.”

    With that, he instantly melted her heart. She was so glad that she agreed to marry Di Lin back then. It was the best decision she ever made: “Luckily I chose him…”

    Di Lin was young, handsome and talented. Given his position of prominence in the army, countless ladies were captivated by the Red Banner Master’s aloof charm. (He is now a Deputy Commander). But all of them were met with an icy mountain, a mountain made of Di Lin’s cold demeanor and calm, keeping them a thousand miles away. It was a common saying amongst the young misses in the Capital: “Di Lin was an impassable mountain of ice!”

    “Too bad they never saw the other side of him when he is at home.” Lin Xiu Jia smiled pleasantly.  Is there another husband out there who still loves his wife as much as he does after two years into the marriage? Everyone says that marriage is the graveyard of love, but in her eyes, this is the paradise, because she married an almost perfect husband…

    Almost, the only flaw was the position he found himself in, an extremely dangerous secret identity… and the cause of her constant worry…

    ……

    “xpsspnpulsbqmbsuofd.” “What does it mean?”

    Di Lin explained to her: “It is a simple substitution cipher, try substituting each letter with the previous one in the alphabet.”

    “worromotkraplartnec…” “It still doesn’t make sense!”

    Di Lin gave her a naughty wink: “Try reading it in reverse.”

    “Central Park tomorrow… Oh, I get it. Someone is asking to see you tomorrow in the Central Park!” Seeing the way Di Lin smiled, she leaped into his arms and pushed against his broad chest: “You are mean! You are making fun of me again!”

    Instantly, Di Lin was on his feet, pulling up his sleeves in anger and glanced around him: “Who?! Who dares making fun of my wife? I will kill him!”

    Lin Xiu Jia laughed happily at the sight of his act.

    Di Lin sat back down again, holding Lin Xiu Jia gently in his arms: “Like I said, surely my wife is the smartest of them all.”

    Lin Xiu Jia felt a wave of happiness wash over her… but then a question popped up in her mind: “Who sent the letter?”

    “Oh, just an idiot who thinks he is being cleaver!” Di Lin revealed another gentle smile, together with his usual cold demeanor, it was surprisingly charming.

    “ZiChuan Xiu!” Lin Xiu Jia guessed the name right away.

    Di Lin smiled again: “I’m glad. We both think alike!”

    ……

    In truth, ZiChuan Xiu’s extracurricular measures were mostly useless. If the letters were to fall into Yang Ming Hua’s hand, his cryptographic experts would solve a basic cipher like this in less than a minute. But it was in ZiChuan Xiu’s nature to do pointless things. In his words: “This is how you do things in secret!” and thus he insisted that all exchanges between him, Di Lin and Stirling had to be encrypted. And they weren’t allowed to use the same encryption either, sometimes shifting one letter in the alphabet, sometimes two, and sometimes the cipher even included highly sophisticated form of algebra…

    In the end the real victims of the whole ordeal were Di Lin and Stirling. Every time they had to go to great lengths in order to decipher the unreadable gibberish. Sometimes even after they finally deciphered the code, its content would appear to be simple messages like:

    “It is quite sunny today… I ate too many watermelons; my stomach is making noises.”

    “There is a new waitress at the Heaven’s Dream tavern, super hot, just a bit uptight.”

    “Stirling, the money I owe you, can I get a three month extension?”

    ……

    Lin Jiu Jia seemed a bit agitated: “Him again, is he asking you to do something dangerous again… I don’t understand. Aren’t the three of you supposed to share the burden together, why do you have to be the one to go undercover? You keep saying that he is your friend, but every time you are the one taking all the risks…” Di Lin’s face was cold as ice; she instantly knew the look and stopped herself.

    Di Lin stared motionlessly at the thick clouds covering the blue sky through the window, calm as ice.

    Lin Xiu Jia didn’t dare to utter a sound. She knew his husband, even though he loved her deeply and would do everything she asked, there was a place hidden deep in his heart so sacred, that she could never reach.

    After a long while, Di Lin sighed: “ZiChuan Xiu and Stirling are not my friends… They are my brothers. I didn’t hear what you just said.”

    Lin Xiu Jia lowered her head obediently: “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything.”

    “It is alright, just that…”

    Di Lin couldn’t finish the sentence; he kissed her lightly and said: “You should rest.”

    Only after Lin Xiu Jia’s shadow disappeared from his study, did Di Lin mutter the rest of the words he wanted to say but couldn’t: “Just that you don’t understand what we have been through… I guess it is hard to explain to a woman, what it means to be brothers!”


  • edited March 2016

    Chapter 04 Part 01

    Bloody

    “This is incredible!” Luo Jie was amazed by the impressiveness and solemnity of the Conference Hall. As a Banner Master, Luo Jie attended the High Ranking Military Conference of House ZiChuan for the first time. The place was simply magnificent, and was designed to provide space for over a thousand high ranking officers and more. Top notch red carpet, walls filled with hundreds of lively sculptures, the roof was so high and together with the countless crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling like stars in the nightly sky, it was a sight to behold.

    “How big is this place?” Bai Chuan asked Stirling sitting next to her at the table.

    Stirling smiled back: “I have no idea. But there was a legend, saying that a Banner Master once came here with his whole infantry division. That Banner Master was late, and by the time he got here, he couldn’t find anyone. So he left. The next day, his subordinates told him that his entire Division, over three thousand men stood at the left corridor of the hall, waiting for him…

    “Yo!” Chang Chuan called: “That banner in the middle… the handsome looking one… Who is that long haired idiot in the large portrait?!”

    “Watch your mouth! That is the founder of the house, His Excellency ZiChuan Yun!”

    “Huh? Where did Master Xiu go?”

    “Master Xiu, why are you cowering in the corner?”

    “Oh, I thought I could pry some the decorative gold from the wall, but they were surprisingly well fitted…”

     ……

    ZiChuan Xiu looked around; the conference had yet to start. Over a thousand high ranking officers were spread around the hall, chatting or casually taking a walk. He turned to Stirling: “Isn’t your Imperial Guard on security duty today?”

    Stirling smiled: “You really think Yang Ming Hua would leave the security of this place to me? The constables from the Ministry of Supervision are the ones in charge of the security.”

    ZiChuan Xiu nodded. Inspector General – Xiao Long had always maintained neutral.  He is the only one both parties would be able to accept if put in charge of the security.

    ……

    An officer greeted ZiChuan Xiu as he approached: “Long time no see, Xiu!”

    ZiChuan Xiu turned around: “Sir De Lei, it has been a long time indeed.”

    De Lei was the Deputy Commander of the Black Banner Army. They fought side by side six years ago during the counter attack against House Liu Feng.  Smiling, De Lei introduced his son, Banner Master De Ke to ZiChuan Xiu: “This is my kid, De Ke. It’s his first time being invited to a place like this. He still has much to learn from Sir Xiu and Sir Stirling.”

    De Ke was pretty much still in his teens, with barely any beard growth around his lips. He seemed a little bit shy and introverted. He quickly gave ZiChuan Xiu and Stirling a military salute, but didn’t quite know the right words for the occasion, so he cracked a simple, but honest smile instead.

    Stirling commended: “Such a spirited lad, I’m sure he has a great future ahead of him!”

    ZiChuan Xiu gave an evil grin: “He is quite a handsome devil isn’t he; almost as good looking as I am. Sir De Lei, are you sure he is yours? I have my doubts!”

    De Lei laughed: “When we remove that silver tongue of yours, we will have rid ourselves of most of the wickedness in this place!”

    “Most? Where is the rest?”

    “Well, you will have to ask our most honourable Supreme Commander for that!”

    They each gave the other a knowing smile, before De Lei excused himself to talk with the other high ranking officers.

    ……

    The bell rang and the conference began. On the podium sat the six commanders: Luo Ming Hai, Ge Ying Xing, Lei Xun, Fang Jin, Ming Hui and Pi Gu. But the seats of Supreme Commander and Headmaster remained empty. It had been a long time since Headmaster ZiChuan Shen Xing last attended a major conference, and thus no one really expected him to be here this time either.

    On top of the podium, Yang Ming Hua appeared on time, but what started both ZiChuan Xiu and Stirling was, that he showed up together with Di Lin who sat down somewhere in the middle. Di Lin had returned, but he had yet to make contact… Their eyes met, and they both could sense the worry brewing in the other’s eyes.

    Yang Ming Hua went and took the seat below the great portrait of ZiChuan Yun, the one reserved only for the Headmaster of the House. He was smiling, as if that was the most natural thing in the world.

    A wave of uneasiness spread across the hall. Many high ranking officers stared at Yang Ming Hua in disbelief as the same thought surged through their mind: Has he gone mad?

    ZiChuan Xiu whispered to Stirling: “He is paving the path for his coup!”

    “Yep!” Stirling said: “At the same time, he wants to find out if anyone dares to oppose him!”

    Suddenly, the door at the main entrance opened wide and Headmaster ZiChuan Shen Xing’s shadow appeared behind it.

    The air in the conference hall was immediately replaced by a cloud of uneasiness as all the officers could see how ZiChuan Shen Xing’s body quivered at the sight of the open provocation. Yang Ming Hua on the other hand, was very calm and had no intention of ever standing up… The awkward silence seemed would last for an eternity.

    A kick against the floor later, ZiChuan Shen Xing turned around and went back out of the door.

    Almost everyone let out a sigh in relief, counting themselves lucky that no conflict arose on the spot, that the hollow peace could continue its course and that they weren’t forced to pick a side then and there…

    Stirling’s tightly clenched fist shook violently… “He should be ashamed if his master had to worry, and he should die if his master was put to shame.”[1] He would not stand for the humiliating insult directed at his Master; he would die if it means the death of Yang Ming Hua… But a firm hand was placed in time on his shoulder, keeping him at bay. ZiChuan Xiu’s spoke with a calming voice: “Stay alive, you have much to do still!”

    ……

    Yang Ming Hua began his speech: “Fellow officers, let’s begin the annual High Ranking Military Conference…” As if nothing had happened, he announced the opening statement.

    “Sir Supreme commander, I’m sorry, but I think you are sitting on the wrong seat…”

    Everyone instantly turned their head towards the source of the disturbance – it was a shy young Banner Master still in his teens. Both ZiChuan Xiu and Stirling were shocked… It was De Lei’s kid, De Ke.

    “Oh.” Yang Ming Hua gave him a frown: “I don’t think we have met; I’m sitting on the wrong chair you say?”

    It was De Ke’s first time speaking in front of such audience, and criticising a figure of authority no less… His anxiety made his words come out in a stutter: “I’m De Ke, Banner Master from the Black Banner Army… I’m not trying to criticize you Sir; I meant nothing by it… I’m sure it was just an honest mistake… But in my humble opinion, you should make way for the Headmaster, Sir. In the end, rules are rules…”

    His father, De Lei got on his feet almost instantly and scowled at him: “De Ke, are you mad? What are you even saying?! Apologize to the Supreme Commander and sit back down!”

    “It is fine. Banner Master – De Ke. I know you mean well, but please do not interrupt the proceedings again. This is a very serious occasion!” With that, Yang Ming Hua gave Di Lin a look; his intention was clear and terrifying at the same time.

    “Of course! I would like to apologize for my intrusion earlier…” De Ke apologized hurriedly with his reddened cheeks… He didn’t even know why he had to apologize… I…”

    He was not allowed to finish, as a narrow long blade pierced his youthful, warm and broad chest with lightning precision, and it was retracted just as fast, leaving a trail of blood in its wake. He watched dumbfounded at the mark of blood slowly expanding across his chest. When he looked back up at Di Lin, who slowly wiped away the blood staining his blade, De Ke’s eyes widened in disbelief of what he just saw… and then, from where he stood, he fell… even then his dilated pupils were still so full of youthfulness and yearning…

    His Father, Deputy Commander – De Lei roared in anger as he leaped towards Di Lin, but before he could even take a single step, a heavy palm landed on his back, sending blood gushing from his lungs. “Bam.” He dropped to the floor; he probably wouldn’t be alive for much longer. Lei Xun somehow made his way next to him, and thanks to his Storm Technique, the blow was fatal.

    Shouts exploded throughout the hall; officers couldn’t believe what they just witnessed. Yang Ming Hua’s men openly executed two of their fellow officers, De Lei and De Ke, two high ranking officers of House ZiChuan!

    A few Officers from the Black Banner Army instantly rose to their feet…

    “Boom!” Thunder boomed across the Conference hall, temporarily stunning everyone caught in the blast. Lei Xun stood proudly in the center; his body acted like the eye of the storm as air swirled around him, spinning faster and faster. Those who stood near him couldn’t even keep their eyes open, even less remaining on their feet. Not even the locks could bear the terrifying pressure, “Bang,” and the entrance doors were blown wide open. Yet, even more shocking, it made him float in midair. Looking down from above, his intense killing intent quickly engulfed the entire hall, and that was the peak form of his powerful Storm Technique.

    ……

    Stirling murmured to himself: “Not bad for the number one warrior of House ZiChuan!”

    ZiChuan Xiu twitched his mouth to one side: “Yeah, he is more like a fan. The way he hangs in midair, let’s call him a ceiling fan from now on!”

    Every officer present was overwhelmed by Lei Xun’s display of force, and unable to retaliate.

    Yang Ming Hua stood high up on the podium, scanning the faces in front of him with his imposing gaze, as if he was trying to find out if there was another idiot who would step up and oppose him… But no one dared to look into his threatening eyes, not even ZiChuan Xiu or Stirling, as they averted their eyes unconsciously…

    “So when brutality reaches a certain peak, it could become a form of authority.” Stirling’s mind was in pain, the look of that young lad’s widened eyes the moment he died kept reappearing before him. He would not rest in peace. “Di Lin, how could you?!”

    ……

    “Good, let’s proceed.” Yang Ming Hua declared.

    And there was silence.

    Yang Ming Hua smiled in satisfaction, thinking: Bunch degenerates, if I don’t scare them a little, they just may forget their place!”

    “Next…”

    “I object!” A feminine voice interrupted his speech.

    “I accuse Far Eastern Army Deputy Commander – Di Lin of premeditated murder against Black Banner Army Banner Master – De Ke!”

    “I accuse Central Army Commander – Lei Xun of premeditated murder against Black Banner Army Deputy Commander – De Lei!”

    “I accuse Supreme Commander Yang Ming Hua being the mastermind of both of these cold-blooded murders. He must be held responsible!”

    “I, Banner Master – Bai Chuan and assistant at the Administrative Office, bring my accusation to the Inspector General – Xiao Long. I will take full responsibility for all my actions!”

    Bai Chuan’s clear and due to her nervousness, slightly trembling feminine voice echoed in the silent conference hall.

    Over a thousand brave men were gathered at the Annual High Ranking Military Conference of House ZiChuan, and all of them were to put shame by the courage and integrity of a young woman.

    ……

    The conference took place on Imperial Calendar, Year 779, March 26th. That day, would forever be known as the “Bloody Night of Di Du”.  The river of blood flowing in the Conference hall would soon rejoin the great sea later that night, drowning everyone who stood in its way…

    House ZiChuan’s hundred years of heroism and anguish, would begin its first chapter that crimson night.

     


    [1] It is a famous saying describing the proper conduct of a King’s subject. “臣闻之,为人臣者,君忧臣劳,君辱臣死”


  • edited March 2016

    Chapter 04 Part 02

    Before the bloodshed

     

    Suddenly, Inspector General – Xiao Long’s next step could very well decide everything.

    Not because he held an important position: He was House ZiChuan’s seventh Commander, a position that was above the other six.

    Not because he held great powers: He was in charge of the internal affairs, and was not under the direct command of the High Command led by the Supreme Commander – Yang Ming Hua.

    And definitely not because he was fair, just, revered or respected by everyone in House ZiChuan.

    The only reason being that at the time, the four thousand constables in charge of the security were all under his direct command! Whichever party he chooses would instantly gain several thousand fully armed elite forces to their side. If a conflict did break out, there was no way someone could withstand the onslaught even if they were the best fighters in the world.

    Not to mention the fact that all the officers present had to go through security before the Conference, and were disarmed. In other words, it gave them even less of a fighting chance against the well armed, well trained constables who held a significant number advantage in the first place.

    Every single pair of eyes was fixated on Xiao Long sitting in the front row, wondering how he would react to Bai Chuan’s accusations.

    Stirling’s face turned pale; he already knew which side Xiao Long was on – How did Di Lin get inside with his blade?

    Xiao Long’s solemn expression was like an iron mask, in the face of all expectations, he began slowly: “No murder has taken place; there is no need for an investigation. Case dismissed.”

    The murder took place right in front of him; the blood hadn’t even dried. Yet he claimed there was no murder! He couldn’t have made it clearer; everyone knew which side he was on by now. So apparently no one was killed.

    Yang Ming Hua was furious with Bai Chuan. He couldn’t care less about grace or manners at this point. Everyone else had clearly given up, except one stupid bitch who didn’t know her place. He gave Di Lin another look.

    Di Lin replied with a grin and began pacing in Bai Chuan’s direction. The tragedy that befell Banner Master De Ke was about to repeat itself.

    ZiChuan Xiu, Luo Jie and Chuang Chuan instantly rose to their feet and came to stand between Di Lin and his prey.

    Seeing ZiChuan Xiu, Di Lin hesitated and halted his steps, unsure of what to do next.

    Stirling on the other hand focussed his attention entirely on Lei Xun, making sure that he wouldn’t be able to ambush his friends like he did before.

    Small distance away, Xiao Long shouted the order. A party of fully armed constables rushed into the Hall and surrounded ZiChuan Xiu, Stirling and their men, holding them at arrow-point.

    Bows were drown; arrows were notched. The situation could turn violent at a moment’s notice! 

    ……

    With everything going as planned, Yang Ming Hua was appeased with the outcome. Yet, without warning, the always quiet Far Eastern Army Commander – Ge Ying Xing had already appeared behind him. Ge Ying Xing's hand lay gently on his shoulder, he could feel the powerful and icy-cold killing intent spreading through it, engulfing him, and caging him in a coffin of ice.

    He instantly knew, if he made even the slightest movement, he would have invited a retaliation of the most terrifying nature! Disappointed with himself, he thought: "How could I have let my guard down against that sickly old fart!"

    He spoke in a deeper voice: "How dare you! I will have you killed!"

    The only response that came was the sound of soft coughing, but the presence of killing intent enveloping him from behind had only increased in its intensity..

    Yang Ming Hua was fully aware how pointless his words were. How could a battle-hardened veteran like Ge Ying Xing be easily intimidated by a few menacing words? He took in the situation at a glance. ZiChuan Xiu and Stirling were having a stare down with the constables below him. His own helper, Di Lin and Lei Xun were over there too. The fact that he was taken hostage had yet to be taken notice by them; only the few commanders sitting on the podium knew the truth. Chief of Staff – Luo Ming Hai made a noise, trying to help by getting closer, but Border Army Commander – Ming Hui had either purposely or unintentionally shifted his hair, blocking Luo Ming Hai's path. Black Army Commander – Fang Jing's face was a mask of solid indifference, showing neither joy nor anger. Even the old Pi Gu stared at him with anger in his eyes.

    Yang Ming Hua's mind twisted nervously: "Shit, I'm surrounded. Do I call out for help? But as the Supreme Commander, I let myself be taken hostage so easily, I would have lost any respect I have had. Besides, will they even be able to rescue me in time…?"

    Unexpectedly, Ge Ying Xing’s gentle voice sounded from behind: “Inspector General – Xiao Long says that there is no need for an investigation – I disagree. In fact, I think we should get to the bottom of this! So I suggest we vote on it. Those who think we should start an investigation, please raise your hand!”

    The way he said it was very clever. He only asked everyone to vote on whether they should “start an investigation” or not, and did not directly accuse Yang Ming Hua of “the murder”. This way he had given Yang Ming Hua a way out, instead of pressuring him to make a move.

    Only then did the more observant ones amongst the Officers took notice of the strangeness on the podium. None of them could recall when the Far Eastern Commander – Ge Ying Xing had moved behind the Supreme Commander – Yang Ming Hua, even now half of his body was still shadowed by Yang Ming Hua's.

    Still sitting in his chair, Yang Ming Hua's expressions remained the same, except he was silent. All the other Commanders seemed a bit aggitated, nervous even… Nobody would have guessed that during all the chaos, Supreme Commander Yang Ming Hua was somehow taken hostage by Ge Ying Xing!

    The officers from the Far Eastern Army instantly raised their hands in support. They had resented Yang Ming Hua for what he did for a long time. They didn’t come out and say it before because they lacked a voice that would bring them together, but now with Ge Ying Xing’s backing, there was nothing holding them back.

    Far Eastern Army was the biggest armed forces of House ZiChuan, which meant a large portion of the officers instantly rose to their feet. Even Lei Xun and Xiao Long was caught off guard by the sheer volume of the resistance. Uncertain if they should continue their current course, they sought for directions from Yang Ming Hua sitting on the podium, and was left disappointed and puzzled by his lack of response.

    Border Army Commander Ming Hui sitting on the other side of the podium cracked a wry smile while looking at Yang Ming Hua: “I agree with Sir Ge Ying Xing’s opinion!”

    Black Banner Army Commander Fang Jing stood up almost immediately without saying so much of a word. He was in a terrible mood. Then again, the ones killed were all Black Banner Army officers; they were his men, so naturally he was furious.

    Even Imperial Guard Army Commander Pi Gu, whom everyone thought was dull-brained, got up on his trembling feet in protest!

    Suddenly noises erupted in the hall, almost everyone had stood up. Every single pair of eyes filled with anger fixated on Yang Ming Hua standing on top of the podium… His outrageous behaviour had angered the mass! Amongst all the officers standing up in protest, quite a few were even from Yang Ming Hua’s own force, the Central Army.

    The only ones still sitting on the podium at this point were Yang Ming Hua’s close confidants: Lei Xun and Luo Ming Hai.

    Facing them, was a great ocean of fury.

    ……

    At where ZiChuan Xiu stood, countless officers from the Far Eastern Army, Black Banner Army, Border Army, Imperial Guard Army and many more whom he knew or didn’t know had come to their aid. Even though they had no weapons, they stood fearlessly in the way of the constables, blocking their arrows with their bare chests. Out of nowhere, a multi-layered wall made of flesh and bone surrounded Bai Chuan, separating her from the constables.

    Facing the sudden outrage, even the usually disciplined elite forces, the constables of House ZiChuan were forced back.

    Stirling was moved to tears. He turned to ZiChuan Xiu: “Justice is in the heart of the people!”

    ZiChuan Xiu replied sarcastically: “Right… Justice is like a scared little girl… It only appears when there are many of us. I have yet to see any Justice showing up all by its lonesome.”

    Facing the ocean of fury and for the first time, Yang Ming Hua realized how insignificant he really was. He angrily signalled Xiao Long with a gesture of moving his wrist around the neck. His meaning was clear – Kill!

    But Inspector General – Xiao Long had other things on his mind: This was no longer a small matter involving a few officers from the Far Eastern Army and the Imperial Guard Army. If he moved against a thousand high ranking officers from every regiment in the realm, who represented the entirety of the armed forces of House ZiChuan, the outcome would be unthinkable, and the inevitable reprisals would be even worse. Even though the world was a vast place, as the one solely responsible for all the bloodshed, there would be no place for him to hide. Besides, there were many capable fighters present amongst the thousand officers here. His constables might not necessarily win the bout… All in all, it was a lose-lose situation eitherway..

    He sighed in defeat as he gave the order, telling every Constables to fallback and he himself left with them.

    The hall exploded in a roar of joy and a voice shouting: “Yang Ming Hua – Be gone!”

    Several hundred more voices instantly answered in unison: “Yang Ming Hua – Be gone!” Their outcries formed a river, rivers formed an ocean, seeking to engulf the entire podium.

    Facing the sudden turn of the tide, Yang Ming Hua had somehow regained his composure. He whispered calmly to his captor: "What do you want?"

    The answer came accompanied with Ge Ying Xing's soft laughter, he could tell he was making fun of him, but the killing intent detaining him did not weaken in the slightest: "That depends entirely on what do you want, Supreme Commander."

    Yang Ming Hua retorted threateningly: "Don't push your luck! I don't care how many of them protested. I can turn this place into an ocean of blood with one word!"

    "Well, guess who would be the first one to die?" Ge Ying Xing ignored Yang Ming Hua's threat: "Besides, do you really think someone as underhanded as I am would come to this conference alone?" As if someone overheard what Ge Ying Xing just said, suddenly, massive movement(horses, soldiers, weapons) sounded from outside the Conference Hall.

    One of the guards stumbled his way in, shouting in a panicky voice: "It's the Far Eastern Army! They have surrounded the Conference Hall!"

    The rowdy Conference Hall instantly quieted down. Every officer had shifted their startled gaze towards Ge Ying Xing who stood like a statue on the podium. Before everyone had the chance to recover from the sudden development, the same shocking realization had already coursed through their minds: "It this a coup?" It was fun and all, shouting "Yang Ming Hua – Be Gone!" but to actually be involved in a bloody street fight inside the Capital City – Di Du was something else entirely. No one was ready for something like that. So Fight or Flight?

    Yang Ming Hua's face instantly paled: Ge Ying Xing's personal guards had arrived. Even though he still had the control of the powerful Central Army, he was not prepared for this turn of event. No matter how many army he commanded, they were not in a position to save him now. If a conflict broke out, he would be the first one to go down.

    He whispered: "If you kill me, you won't make it out of Di Du alive! My Central Army will wipe your forces out in under ten minutes!"

    Ge Ying Xing sounded surprised: "Huh, you must have misunderstood me, Supreme Commander! I wouldn't dream of commiting treason! Those are my men outside. They are just worried for my well-being, and have come here to escort me back." He lowered his voice: "Besides, it wouldn't be wise to spill blood on the red carpet!"

    Yang Ming Hua immediately understood Ge Ying Xing's words. It would serve no one to spill blood on the day of a big gathering of all the high ranking officers of House ZiChuan. Not only would it be bad for one's reputation, it would also forever taint one's name in the book of history.

    Yang Ming Hua considered for a second; he only wanted to rally some support today, not to kill everyone. Luckily Xiao Long didn't listen to him when the situation got out of control and cause a big bloodbath, or else, he would have started an irreconcilable feud with every armed forces of House ZiChuan. Even if he was to become the Headmaster, he wouldn't last.

    Yang Ming Hua whispered back: "Very well. Then let me show you the way out, Commander – Ge Ying Xing!" With that, he stood up, face all smiles, albeit very slowly. The last thing he wanted was to cause an over-reaction from the one standing behind him and get himself killed.

    "Hoho, Supreme Commander, you are too kind!" Stepping to his side, Ge Ying Xing appeared from behind Yang Ming Hua, face full of smiles as well and no one was any wiser, except those few commanders sitting on the podium who had overheard every last word Yang Ming Hua and Ge Ying Xing said to each other. All of their palms were drenched in sweat, because one small misstep and the situation could have spun out of control. The Conference hall would have turned into a slaughter house, and the City of Di Du would have turned into Hell itself.

    Fortunately, the two characters in question were both capable of weighing the pros and the cons, allowing them to make calm and wise decisions. As a result, they had reached a non-agreeable agreement, prolonging the false peace for the time being.

    Ge Ying Xing smiled to them: "I'm not feeling too well. May I excuse myself from the conference, Supreme Commander?"

    Supreme Commander replied kindly: "Do as you may, Commander Ge. Please take good care of yourself!"

    Ge Ying Xing smiled: "You have given much for the good of the House! Please take good care of yourself as well!"

    The two smiled in turn, showing each other all kinds of courtesies. No one could tell they were at each other's throat just a minute ago.

    Ge Ying Xing increased his pace as he walked towards the entrance, where a large detachment of his personal guards waited. The rest of the Officers from the Far Eastern Army quickly followed without saying so much as a word. ZiChuan Xiu and Stirling exchanged a look and they each led their men outside as well.

    Seeing Ge Ying Xing leaving, Border Army Commander – Ming Hui smiled to Yang Ming Hua, and requested: "Supreme Commander, my headache is acting up, may I excuse myself as well?" Even though it sounded like a request, he didn't really wait for Yang Ming Hua to answer before he began marching in the direction of the exit. Naturally, the Officers from the Border Army quickly followed their Commanding Officer and exited the hall as well.

    Imperial Guard Commander – Pi Gu and Black Banner Commander – Fang Jing were the next ones to leave; they didn't even so much look Yang Ming Hua's way. Their men quickly followed suit.

    In the short span of a few minutes, what was once a packed, rowdy conference hall, now only had a few hundred officers left from the Central Army, and every one of them were confused, wondering if they should leave or not.

    Even though his life was no longer being threatened, glancing at the vacated Confering Hall, relief did not come to him, only senseless disappointment. Lei Xun came up to him and whispered: “Sir, We still have the Central Army! Should we close the gates, cut off their escape and kill them all?"

    Yang Ming Hua scolded him angrily: "Idiot!" and spat on the exquisite red carpet.

    ……

    Only until they came out of the Conference Hall, and saw the blue white sky, did Stirling and ZiChuan Xiu feel relieved and reassured. It was a close call!

    Under the protection of a large contingent of Personal Guards, Ge Ying Xing approached ZiChuan Xiu and Stirling: “Stirling, Xiu, I’m leaving for the Far East, Fort Warren tonight. Do you want to come with me? Any later Yang Ming Hua may have closed down the gates!”

    ZiChuan Xiu and Stirling gave each other a look, and spoke with determination: “No Sir. We will stay.”

    Ge Ying Xing wasn’t the least surprised. He had expected as much, extending his hand to the both of them: “Tonight, many heads will roll in the Capital. Take care of yourself!”

    ZiChuan Xiu and Stirling held tightly onto Ge Ying Xing’s fragile but warm hands; they could feel the warmth spreading through them. Yes, it was Ge Ying Xing who saved their lives once again. That weak sickly little man was the real cornerstone holding the family together. He was irreplaceable! Now he had to return to the Far East, not for his fear of losing his own life, but to take control of his army so he could better oppose Yang Ming Hua’s forces. For the same reason, ZiChuan Xiu and Stirling chose to stay; they all did what they did out of loyalty for the House ZiChuan!

    “Sir, you have a long and dangerous journey ahead of you. Take care!” ZiChuan Xiu spoke with all the sincerity in his heart.

    Stirling wanted to express his gratitude as well: “Sir, I owe you my life. I have no way to repay the kindness you have shown. Please be safe!”

    Ge Ying Xing smiled: “We will meet again. I’m sure of it!” His eyes turned to Bai Chuan standing beside them: “She has been incredibly brave… It’s your duty to keep her safe!”

    Bai Chuan was already in tears, the sheer volume of emotions had overwhelmed her. She could only bow to Ge Ying Xing as deeply as she could, in order to show how grateful she was for what he had done.

    ……

    Seeing Ge Ying Xing’s forces slowly leaving, ZiChuan Xiu asked Stirling: “Where are we going now?”

    “Central Park, to see Di Lin!” Stirling answered, but his gloomy expression said it all.

    Along the road, numerous parties of soldiers roamed the street, fully armed, and all carrying the banner of the Central Army. The riders from the Civil Police could be seen everywhere, putting up posters: “The High Command has declared martial law!  A curfew is now in effect until further notice. All citizens must remain indoors after eight o’clock. Any violators will be punished by death!”

    Onlookers scattered left and right; the Capital was on the brink of war…

    They looked at each other; their hearts felt incredibly heavy, being fully aware tonight was the night Yang Ming Hua would make a move. ZiChuan Xiu was even more worried for Ge Ying Xing, hoping he would leave the City swiftly and safely.

    Moment later, they arrived at the Central Park. Di Lin had been waiting for them, seemingly losing his patience.

    Sensing Stirling’s anger from miles away, Di Lin stole the initiative and spoke first: "Hey? What is with the attitude?"

    "Di Lin, you were out of line! You killed an innocent young officer!"

    “If you were in my position, what would you have done?”

    Both Stirling and ZiChuan Xiu froze; they had no answers.

    “My only way out at the time was to kill that noisy Banner Master, or Yang Ming Hua would instantly suspect me, and all our efforts would have been for naught.”

    “We were standing right there in the middle of it, between you and Bai Chuan. Why didn’t you kill us as well? That way you can proof your loyalty to Yang Ming Hua even more!” Stirling taunted him.

    Di Lin sighed: “So is a young Banner Master's life more important than ours, more important than the future of House ZiChuan? For my safety and for everyone else's safety… He simply had to die!”

    Stirling refuted sarcastically: “That is purely conjecture on your part. In the name of your own personal gain… you could kill just about anyone, even the ones loyal to the Family!”

    Di Lin replied without hesitation: “As long as my life is at stake, I would kill the whole world!”

    Neither of them could bear to look each other in the eye, both turning away in anger: “Tch!”

    Even ZiChuan Xiu was at a loss, unsure which one to side with. His rational mind told him that Di Lin did what he had to, but all his emotions were telling him otherwise; it was simply hard to accept the nonchalant way Di Lin acted after killing an innocent officer in cold blood.

    He could only try to downplay the situation: “Enough, this is not the time to fight amongst ourselves. Stirling, there is nothing you can say right now to bring him back. But if you insist, we can bring flowers to his grave and honor his sacrifise every year.”

    ZiChuan Xiu then turned to Di Lin: “It is entirely your fault. Yang Ming Hua told you to teach De Ke a lesson. You could have stabbed his legs or even his butt you know, why the hell do you have to stab him in the chest?!”

    Both Stirling and Di Lin laughed uncontrollably.

    Di Lin sighed in defeat: “I could kill the whole world… except you two.” For someone as arrogant as Di Lin, that was his way of saying sorry. In fact, the three of them often fought over matters in the past, it was always Stirling who won the argument while the other two surrendered, because Stirling was always standing on the side of just and truth.”

    Stirling sighed. Deep inside he knew, if he was in his shoes, he probably would have done the same.

    Knowing how the pain and difficulties Di Lin had to face as an undercover agent, he relented: “So what is the situation?”

    Di Lin immediately responded: “I brought fifty thousand soldiers from the Far Eastern Army with me. They will only answer to me. If I tell them to kill, even if it was the god himself, they would not hesitate. They are currently stationed outside the walls!”

    “Is you army allowed inside?”

    “Nope! Lei Xun’s Central Army is in charge of City's defence. He won’t let us in without a valid reason. In fact, Yang Ming Hua has already ordered me to chase after Ge Ying Xing and his guards! So technically I should be on my way to the Far East right now."

    Stirling seemed disappointed: “If they can’t get in… then they are no use to us. Or can they force their way in?”

    Di Lin lost his patience: “You want to try fight your way into a heavily fortified Capital City with only fifty thousand men?! The Central Army alone is hundred seventy thousand strong!”

    “Wrong, they can be of use to us!” ZiChuan Xiu revealed a mysterious smile: “I have an idea, what do you think?”

    ……

    “No wonder everyone says Xiu is the biggest pain in the ass!” Di Lin nodded satisfyingly: “As expected from the most cunning bastard of House ZiChuan!”

    Stirling hesitated: “But this plan clashes with His Excellency, ZiChuan Shen Xing’s Lancer plan, and it is very risky, the chance of success isn’t very high either…”

    “Fuck that! What is the point of holding onto a plan that won’t work? We are all going to die tonight. A shred of hope is better than none at all!”

    “Fine.” Stirling had made up his mind: “Then let’s fuck them up!” Stirling rarely resorted to vulgarity, but today he would make an exception.

    Di Lin continued “The moment the last light of the sun dims, when the Central Army locks down the city gates… That will be the moment of truth!”

    Everyone instinctively turned towards the sun; the reddish glow of the sunset had engulfed the entire City in a shade of bloody crimson…

    Stirling declared resolutely: “It is a good omen… The righteous shall prevail!”

    Di Lin smiled coldly: “Whose blood I wonder, will paint the street of Di Du in red tonight?”

    ZiChuan Xiu murmured: “I don’t know whose blood it will be, but it won’t be mine. I’ve anaemia; I don’t have that much blood for them to paint the street with! Though I did hear Yang Ming Hua suffers from high blood pressure…”


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