Translator: Atlas Studios Editor: Atlas Studios
"Where is he!? Where is he!? Where is he!?"
Meng Fuyao chewed on a blade of grass and answered lazily, "That long-faced fellow? There's a war going on ahead, and there's a shortage of men, so he's been pulled into it."
"Really?" Ya Lanzhu questioned half-believingly. "You look familiar," she then added with a crooked head.
"Makes sense," replied Meng Fuyao, laughing. "I'm the teacher of your neighbor's paternal aunt's older cousin's maternal aunt's sister's cheating husband's mistress' sister."
Ya Lanzhu opened her eyes wide while using her hand to calculate the tangled and complicated relationships. After some thought, she raised her brow in anger. "You're playing me," she growled, throwing a karate chop forward.
Meng Fuyao lifted three fingers, directly facing her palm's acupuncture point and immediately forcing Ya Lanzhu to shrink backward. Meng Fuyao then slipped her fingers into the ninth formation of Cleaving Nine Heavens, Illusion, gently pressing onto Ya Lanzhu's pulse.
Meng Fuyao laughed lightly and tossed her hand so hard that she made a 360-degree turn. Instead of falling after the turn, Ya Lanzhu had her hand up and immobilized. Meng Fuyao laughed and gave Ya Lanzhu's nose a little flick. "Only I can bully him, Sister. It's not your turn."
"Let's go," Meng Fuyao waved at Yao Xun.
Yao Xun scurried out from the corner and saw Fufeng Nation's noble princess standing on the ground, immobile, with a hand raised. He exhaled loudly before rushing over to Meng Fuyao's side. They sprinted out of the city amid the disorder, and when they were far away Meng Fuyao asked, "What have you done to her?"
Yao Xun explained with a bitter expression on his face, "Somehow, she found out about my thieving skills and had me steal Zhan Beiye's undergarment."
Meng Fuyao lost it. "Did you?" She roared while clutching onto her tummy
"Am I crazy? I did not agree, which was why she was chasing after me," he answered, revealing a crafty smile and taking something out from his robe. Swinging it in front of Meng Fuyao's eyes he added, "I didn't lose out. Members of the Godly Palm Sect will not simply let a goose off without plucking its feathers."
It was a light green jade medal with a vivid sculpture of a scepter, representing wisdom and authority. The two characters, "Wuji" could only be seen under the sunlight and at certain angles.
It was Wuji Nation's travel pass.
"Hah, good stuff!" Meng Fuyao snatched it, weighing it in her hand and falling into deep thought.
The sky was lightening, and the battle cries were reduced to low, prolonged groans. The wind, carrying a dry, metallic smell, blew against her hair softly, which then covered parts of her face. Her delicate features gave her a good-natured amiability, which was enhanced by the breeze.
Meng Fuyao smiled in a way that resembled Yuan Zhaoxu's – graceful yet remote, calm and collected.
"I say..." she started, setting her eyes on the southeastern land.
"It's better we leave this messy place. Xuanyuan Nation isn't any better, and I'm thinking of going to Tiansha Nation during the True Martial Arts Meet. Now that we have this pass, we..."
"Wuji Nation it is."
On year 0018, 23rd of September, a failed assassination attempt in Taiyuan Palace had caused complete mayhem in the whole capital, where city guards, imperial guards, and soldiers had fallen into a sea of fire and chaotic warfare. Within a few days, the streets were filled with tens of thousands of corpses, and the fight had extended to the western parts of the city. Red water flowed in rivers, and dead bodies surfaced continuously over many days.
It was a unique internal struggle, initially dominated by Qi Xunyi and then by the crown prince, who had retaliated and closed in on Fang Minghe's army. The crown prince's imperial guards had attacked, head on, and instantly robbed the upper hand. Just as he was about to gain victory, the enemy had received assistance from a powerful commander and a batch of highly skilled soldiers. Joining forces, they had managed to subvert the situation once again.
The changes were fast and extreme. Because of both intentional and unintentional variables, a potentially simple battle had turned into a lengthy one that stretched across the city, leaving citizens in a terrible situation.
Because of the frozen communication system, the news of the battle within the city did not immediately spread to the guards stationed in nearby cities, allowing Qi Xunyi's army to withdraw northward after the close match with the crown prince's troops. The latter wanted to surround the city and its surrounding land but dared not pursue. Qi Xunyi's army then continued up north, weapons pointed forward. Two months later, Qi Xunyi became an emperor in Ganzhou, a northern city in Taiyuan, and established the Shangyuan Nation. For three he reigned over the land of Qian, An, Huang, Gan, and Dingzhou. Taiyuan was no longer united.
The change shocked all seven nations, and influential powers had their eyes set on Taiyuan. A long time later, an insightful person analyzed the situation and came to realize that the biggest beneficiary was neither Qi Xunyi nor, more naturally, the unlucky crown prince of Taiyuan. It was the crown prince of Wuji Nation, known to act in ways that left everyone speechless.
It was because the land Qi Xunyi had conquered was located in the region between Wuji and Taiyuan, and also beside Xuanyuan. If Xuanyuan birthed plans to attack Wuji Nation, the former would need to go through this land. Now that the landowner had changed to someone who had had a feud with the regent of Xuanyuan Nation, the passage was practically off limits.
The battle of Taiyuan had occurred out of the blue, leading people to guess that someone must have instigated it. Those speculators fixed their attention, in trepidation, onto the core of the Five Region Continent.
The gaze of all seven nations enveloped the richly fertile nation land, while Crown Prince Zhangsun calmly took satisfaction in their involvement and conjectures. It was winter time, and he had congratulated the newly ascendant emperor of Shangyuan. He had even bestowed a southern tribe of unknown jurisdiction, that resided along their boundary, to Qi Xunyi.
Qi Xunyi was pleasantly surprised and paid a deferential bow. Yet another group of insightful individuals saw his action as a foolish one. How could anyone accept a gift from Zhangsun Wuji?
The old emperor of Taiyuan passed on in the wee hours of 24th September, from his illness and the shock upon being notified about the internal strife between his sons. His corpse was left unattended in the Qianan Palace as other princes and chancellors were busy picking sides, and the eunuchs and palace maids were busy plundering and then fleeing. It was two months after his death that the chancellor recalled the situation and had people collect the old emperor's body. Naturally, the body had more or less decomposed, and the palace was filled with maggots. His eyes were gone, and all they could see were two black eye sockets staring up at the sky. Teeth could be seen through his rotten flesh, such that he had on a permanent smile, seemingly deriding the greed and pride that had led to the demise of a wealthy dynasty.
People then talked about the fact that Prince Qi had failed, despite being amply prepared and confident, and eventually became Wuji Nation's child-emperor. Some concluded that fate was against him by citing an example. "If it weren't for the sudden fire and disorder in the Xin Palace, the crown prince would've been dead, and there wouldn't have been the after-chaos."
Indeed, the palace fire was a determining event that had steered the whole affairs of Taiyuan Nation downhill.
No one knew that it was a girl who had a random spark of an idea to start the fire. No one knew that it was her boldness and fearlessness that had erupted into unbounded flames that illuminated the nation's dim future.
Similarly, Meng Fuyao had not realized that while she was still an insignificant figure that could easily be smashed, every step she took was toward the political core of the seven nations. The historical record that belonged to the seven nations would ultimately be left empty and waiting for her to fill it. In the end, the legend that would inevitably contain conspiracies, contests over power and authority, and bloodshed, would be written by her. That was an unreplaceable fact.
It was during winter, in the 18th year of King De's reign, that Meng Fuyao had fled from Taiyuan into its neighboring nation, Wuji.
Not long after she had crossed the border, Wuji's advisor, too, had returned.
The story belonging to them and her was finally about to unfold from the very core of the Five Region Continent.
A longer journey had just begun.
Wuji Nation, winter, 15th year under the emperor's reign.
Southern border, Redstone Mountain.
The mountain range flowed unevenly across the horizon, abruptly stopping behind a plain field.
Where it stopped, a section of craggy cliffs continued, interrupting the flow of the wind. Looking down from the cliffs the horizon appeared extremely far away, and the lofty city could be seen.
It was Zhongzhou, the capital city of Wuji Nation, politically and strategically located in the center of the Five Region Continent.
Even from a significant distance away, the city was charming and majestic, its walls steel-like and secure. Looking from afar, one would subconsciously hold their breath and fall into an almost worshipping position as they admired the big city.
Yet there was a howl, sounding like that of a wolf, that broke the solemn, still air.
"Give me, give me a man! Let me bring him home for a happily ever after..."
A certain someone was standing on the top of the cliff, hugging herself and singing enthusiastically. She was expressing her utmost yearning for a male companion.
Behind, Yao Xun covered his ears, squirming in agony. The thought of betraying this howling wolf resurfaced once again.
Singing wasn't terrifying but going out of tune was. Want to live longer? Stay away from Meng Fuyao.
Meng Fuyao was done chewing and slapped her clothes before telling the fellow beside her, "Aye, Zhong Region is near but still quite some distance away by feet. We're almost out of coil, go borrow some."
"In this wilderness? Where are we going to borrow?" Yao Xun scowled miserably. "You steal from me, and I steal from you?"
"Bah!" Meng Fuyao spat, her eyes lighting up. "Isn't that a carriage over there? Go, it's time to rob! Take the money, and I'll take his body."
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