Stealing the Heavens / Chapter 100: Palace Banquet

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Chapter 100: Palace Banquet

Translator: StackThatCoin Editor: Hitesh

Amid the thunderous cheer of 'long live' that shook the entire Ji City, the slightly hoarse, tired voice of Yan Dan came echoed clearly throughout the city. "Today, we have been blessed with a great joy: Princess Zhang Le has formed her Gold Core. For that, I'll host a grand banquet in the palace. All members of Imperial Court are invited. Spread the news to the entire Great Yan with the communication array, I want all people of Great Yan to celebrate this moment together!"

He paused for a brief while, then continued saying, "I've been in a secluded cultivation for three years and paid no attention to the state affairs. Today marked the end of my secluded cultivation, and it has been greeted by the surprising news of Princess Zhang Le stepping into Human Immortal realm and forming her Gold Core. It is indeed a great sign that is worth a grand celebration. Three days later, the imperial council that is held every three days will be resumed, and I'll attend to every state affairs of either minor or major significance. I want no slackened behavior from all members of the Imperial Court. Prepare all important documents and scrolls related to these three years. I want them all prepared within these three days."

Wu Qi and Lu Chengfeng felt nothing unusual from Yan Dan's words, but Nie Baihong seemed surprised. He frowned wonderingly and muttered under his breath, "Emperor Yan is going to attend the state affairs personally? There is nothing unusual happened recently, what are the matters that could make him decided to handle them himself? I thought for the last few hundred years, the state affairs were always handled by the Eight Princes and the members of Imperial Court. Although the members of Eight Princes have been replaced a few times, it seemed he never attended to the state affairs personally before."

Nie Baihong shook his head, then decided to cast this question aside. He pulled up Wei Xiaoxiao with his hand, turned to Lu Chengfeng and said, "The purpose of my visit is to accept you as my disciple. There is an art that secretly inherited within Heaven Breaking Sword Sect- the 'Arts of Heaven Patching Formation', and it fits perfectly to your desire. Emperor Yan has called for a banquet. As you bear the title of Duke Yan Le, your attendance is required. I'll wait for you in your mansion. Once the palace banquet is finished, you'll come back and formally acknowledge me as your master!"

What Nie Baihong said made Lu Chengfeng startled. He turned to Wu Qi with wondering eyes.

Wu Qi smiled briefly, nodded his head at Lu Chengfeng and said, "Heaven Breaking Sword Sect is established on the legacy left behind by an ancient Immortal, and I reckon this Arts of Heaven Patching Formation is by no means an insignificant art. By becoming the disciple of Heaven Breaking Sword Sect, young master and I can take care of each other within the sect." He paused, then continued saying in a deep voice, "Heaven Breaking Sword Sect needs the energy stone veins found in young master's fief, and young master also needs a strong power to rely on. By becoming the disciple of Heaven Breaking Sword Sect, it is a decision that benefits both parties."

Wu Qi was honest and open in his words, as he straightaway pointed out the true reason why Heaven Breaking Sword Sect wanted to take Lu Chengfeng as their disciple. Nie Baihong didn't feel offended by Wu Qi's honesty, nodded his head slightly and stared at Lu Chengfeng. Lu Chengfeng bowed his head and sunk into a brief ponder, then a smile bloomed on his face. "What Wu Qi said is right. By becoming the disciple of Sect Leader, it is a decision that benefits both parties." Without hesitation, he kneeled down on both knees, and gave Nie Baihong a few kowtows. His action had confirmed the relationship of a Master and disciple. He then rose to his feet, pointed his finger at the fainted Wei Xiaoxiao and said, "I'll have to trouble Master to handle this girl from Wei Clan."

Nie Baihong answered delightfully, "Fine, I'll now go and settle with the people of Wei Clan. You can just proceed to the palace and attend the banquet." He then pulled up Wei Xiaoxiao, transformed into a streak of white beam and shot into a far distance. Cries of shock suddenly came from the entrance of Duke Yan Le's Mansion, as all the guards of Wei Clan that had just regained their spirit from the great changes in the environment were brought away by Nie Baihong using a mighty ability. They now turned into a large orb of white light and shot towards the outside of Ji City within the blink of an eye.

Lu Chengfeng proceeded to tidy up his appearance. He changed into the official costume of Great Yan Dynasty's Duke, and transformed himself into a Duke of Great Yan that gave forth an air of solemness and prestige. Wu Qi called up Luo Kedi, Ma Liang, Zhang Hu, and Hu Wei, all of whom had also changed into their official uniform, brought along a large group of guards and went off towards the direction of Imperial Palace.

Not only Lu Chengfeng had inherited the title of Duke Yan Le, he had also inherited the official post of West Supervisor. As the West Supervisor who was in charge of supervising the political affairs in all thirty-seven vassal kingdoms located on the west of Great Yan, Lu Chengfeng could have a couple dozens of official subordinates that worked for him. As a result, Wu Qi and the other men were now officially holding a position in the West Supervisor Court. Wu Qi’s current position was a Kingdom Supervisor who reported directly to the West Supervisor himself. If he left the territory of Great Yan and went on a trip of supervising all the thirty-seven vassal kingdoms, wherever he went, his status would be equal to the monarch of those vassal kingdoms.

Since he was holding such a supreme and unique position, of course, he and the other men were qualified to participate in the palace banquet.

When the company left the mansion, the street had been filled with long lines of coaches and people. They were all prestigious members of the Imperial Court, who were now on their way to the Imperial Palace. All the Clan Leaders of one hundred clans in Great Yan Dynasty, all the nobles with proper title of nobility, the officials who worked under three Prime Counselors and Nine Ministers, and all the Clan leaders and Elders from influential clans, as long as they were men with status, they had to rush to the Imperial Palace without delay.

The number of these great nobles and important officials had totaled up to more than ten thousand. Together with their guards and coaches, the street looked like it was flooded with a long stream of dark river, flowing slowly but surely towards the direction of Imperial Palace. If not for all the streets in Ji City being wide and spacious, the commute would have become a huge issue.

After entering the Imperial Palace, the crowd was divided according to the level of prestige and brought to different palaces and pavilions.

Obviously, only the Eight Princes, Clan Leaders of one hundred clans, all the Dukes and Marquises, the important officials of Three Prime Counselors and Nine Ministers, the Clan Leaders and elders of influential clans were allowed to enter and dined in the 'Towering Palace'- the grand palace used to host the council of Imperial Court, which was located at the highest place within the entire Imperial Palace. However, as all these top personnel and core nobles only made up to slightly over one thousand men, the spacious Towering Palace still seemed emptied with their presence. Thus, according to the level of prestige of the important guests that entered the Towering Palace, they could bring one to three companies with them.

With the official position of West Supervisor and the title of Duke Yan Le, Lu Chengfeng was allowed to bring three companies together and dined in the Towering Palace. He brought Wu Qi, Zhang Hu, and Hu Wei with him. Luo Kedi and Ma Liang, who both possessed the cultivation of Xiantian realm, were gazing at each other bitterly. They had no choice but to follow behind an Imperial Guard of the palace, and proceeded to the palace that used to host a banquet for middle and lower tier nobilities and other officials. Clearly, they knew in their minds that compared to Zhang Hu and Hu Wei, they were still not considered loyal servants for Lu Chengfeng. Thus, it was natural that they didn't have the chance to enter the Towering Palace.

The Towering Palace was a majestic building, the design and decoration within were of ancient and solemn. Numerous low tables with the length of three feet and six inches were neatly arranged throughout the grand hall. Sets of cutlery, plates, wine glasses were placed on top of these low tables. Guided by marshals, all prestigious guests who entered the Towering Palace were brought to a seat according to a strict arrangement based on the level of their status.

Wu Qi and the company were arranged to a seat placed at the rearmost region within the grand hall. Behind them were two rows of chime bells and drum racks. A team of more than five hundred musicians was softly adjusting the musical instruments held in their hands, as they were getting ready to play beautiful tunes when the banquet commenced. Sitting at where he was and peering forward, Wu Qi could only see the back of countless people and a dark ocean consisting of human heads. He couldn't even see where Lu Chengfeng was sitting.

The grand hall was now fully packed with nearly five thousand men. Except for those musicians, none of them made any noise. Everyone was sitting on a soft cushion behind the low table, their backs straight and their palms placed on their knees, eyes looking straight in front and not gazing to the side. Time passed, and not knowing when, streams of sweet perfume started to diffuse from all corners of the grand hall while melodious tunes began to gently rise and fall past the guests' ears. All the prestigious guests bowed their heads and bodies, altogether cheering 'Hail to our Emperor! Long Live our Emperor!'.

A parade came slowly from behind the grand palace, led by Yan Dan.

This was the first time Wu Qi had a clear glimpse of Yan Dan's appearance. He had a face that looked like a man younger than thirty years old. On his handsome, resolute and steadfast face was carried a look of unspeakable tiredness, as if his heart and body were burdened by many heavy matters. He was clad in a suit of dark green imperial costume, a crown set upon his brows. His eyelids were slightly hanging down as he walked slowly out. Quietly, he strode to the far end of the grand hall, where a dais was seen and a twelve feet long Dragon Table was placed. He brought himself to the back of the Dragon Table and sat down firmly.

On top of the dais, placed on the left side of Yan Dan's dragon table was a smaller narrow table. A man clad in a costume of Imperial Prince walked slowly to the back of this table. He had a facial feature ninety percent similar to Yan Dan, as if he was a twin brother of the emperor. He ran his stern eyes across the faces of all prestigious guests sitting below, and only then did he sit down slowly.

On the right side of Yan Dan's dragon table was another narrow table. It was carved with beautiful patterns and embossed with gold foils, decorated with gemstones of various colors and looked extremely luxurious. Zi Xuan the Princess Zhang Le, clad in dark green imperial dress, was sitting behind this unique table. Her face was filled with a joyful smile. All the tables in this grand hall, including the dragon table of Yan Dan, were painted pitch-black, and only this table in front of Princess Zhang Le took a different eye-catching design. Obviously, it was custom made just for her. Judging from this, it wasn't tough to tell what kind of position she had in Yan Dan's mind, and how much spoiling love had she received.

Princess Zhang Le looked differently today compared to the few times where Wu Qi had met her before. Behind her, a curtain of five colored divine rays could be seen glowing indistinctly, like a peacock flaunting its tail. Ripples of five elements energies kept bursting out from this curtain of divine rays, causing the natural energies lingering in this grand hall to be disturbed into a messy state. Wu Qi had no idea what keen eyes did this Princess Zhang Le own, that even though the hall was fully packed with five to six thousand men and Wu Qi was sitting lowly at the rearmost of the hall, she could still find him with just a glance. An upward curve appeared on her cherry lips, as she gave out a charming smile towards Wu Qi's direction.

The dais placed at the far end of the grand hall was divided into three layers. Yan Dan and the other two were sitting on the topmost layer, while on the second layer five narrow tables were placed parallel in a row. Five men with different looks were sitting separately behind each table. When Wu Qi’s eyes rested on these five men, his attention was immediately caught by the man in the middle. He was a burly man clad in a white robe. His hair were hanging loosely down on his shoulder, and a red belt was wrapped around his waist.

The man didn't have a handsome face, his facial features could only be described as wild and savage. However, every movement he took and every expression he made gave off a mighty air of power that felt like the fiercest peak under the heaven. Magnanimous, upright and simple-hearted, with just one glance, Wu Qi knew who this man was. He was a splendid man, if he was not that hero who sang the song of 'The wind blows, the river freezes. The hero fords, never to return!' [1], who else could he be?

Right after this man clad in white robe sat down on his seat, he immediately brought the wine bottle placed on top of the table and gulped down every single drop of fine wine in it. When the bottle was emptied, the man waved it unhappily, then suddenly slapped on the table forcefully and shouted out loud, "You bunch of ball-less fellows are getting pettier! Bring me wine, bring me wine now! Although the emperor doesn't announce the commencement of the banquet, he also doesn't say we can't drink wine now!"

The loud noise of table slapping had frightened all the prestigious guests in the grand hall, who were holding their breaths and focusing their thoughts. Their bodies suddenly trembled with fear. Yet, Yan Dan was bursting out into a loud laughter, "The Chief General is craving for wine. Ma Yi, Ma Yi, hurry up and bring more wine to the Chief General!"

Sounds of footsteps came echoing into the hall. An imperial servant, who stood over nine feet tall, with broad shoulder and back, and a face blushing red like it had been smeared with blood, was seen walking into the grand hall while carrying two large barrels of wine with both hands. Wu Qi was struck dumb by what he saw. What was carried in the hands of this imperial servant were not two bottles, nor two jugs, but two barrels of fine wine. The height of these two large dark clay barrels was over ten feet tall, and the diameter of their mouth was over six feet wide. The imperial servant had to spread and stretch both arms parallel to his shoulder, and support both large barrels from the bottom using his palm. Only then was he able to walk steadily into the hall.

When the Chief General Jing Ke saw this two barrels of wine, his eyes immediately flickered with joy. He turned his head to Yan Dan and smiled, then he said, "Only your majesty knows me well. With these two barrels of wine, you don't have to serve me other dishes. Come, come, bring me wine funnel, who would have the time to use small wine glasses?"

Before the banquet began, Jing Ke had placed two barrels of fine wine behind him, and using a wine funnel made from white jade, he had gulped down three funnels full of fine wine. Wu Qi secretly measured the size of the wine funnel: it could at least hold five liters of fine wine!

While Jing Ke was happily enjoying his wine, Yan Dan rose to his feet, and softly shouted towards all the guests in the grand hall with an indifferent voice, "Well, you may rise now!"

One after another, the guests who were bowing their heads stood back straight. Suddenly, Yan Dan cried out with a loud voice like a sudden thunderclap in a hot summer afternoon, "I've heard that Yan Buji of Duke Yan Le drowned? This is the biggest joke under the heaven! No matter how dissolute Yan Buji was, he was my descendant who possessed the cultivation of Mind Focusing tier of Xiantian realm. How could a mere river water have drowned him? Chief Supervisor of Center Wind Guard from Scouting Office, Qin Qingshui, get your ass out of here and answer me!"

'Dom' A muffled noise rang out as Qin Qingshui crawled and rolled on the floor and rushed out from the crowd.

"Your majesty, please spare my life!" Qin Qingshui had his forehead slammed into the hard surface of the floor, and the first word he said was asking Yan Dan to spare his life.

A dead silence reigned the grand hall, and a heaviness was in the air. The atmosphere became so oppressive that it was like lightning bolts were almost smote and rumbles of thunder were about to ring.

[1] The man is Jing Ke, a man who existed in real history. He is a famous assassin during the ancient era of China. From Wikipedia: In 227 BC, Prince Dan and other guests wore white clothing and white hats at the Yi River (易水) to send the pair of assassins off. Jing Ke reportedly sang a song "the wind blows, the river freezes. The hero fords, never to return!" (風蕭蕭兮易水寒,壯士一去兮不復還). (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jing_Ke).

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