Book 2: The Infinite Heart
Chapter 18 – Every Desperate Step (Part B)
Stars flickered in the deep night.
A line of dark iron clouds crushed down on an eccentric courtyard in the eastern city.
Eccentric, because in the midst of the layers of white-walled, dark-tiled courtyards built in the style of the inner continent, a completely Rong-styled wooden villa suddenly protruded out. Besides the Han-styled boundary walls and gate, the buildings within the villa were all made of the most primitive cedar-bark structures. The hallway pillars were constructed from iron-grain wood, a southern border specialty. Ox horn-shaped lanterns could be vaguely seen, slowly swaying from pavilion eaves, while a faint yellow glow spread out into the distance.
Clearly, the builder of this villa that didn’t conform to the rest of the city had to be obstinate and unyielding – he held the deepest respect and belief for his birth culture.
Late night. The villa was silent. Wind rustling past the tips of the bayroots had yet to blow over in this direction.
“Honorable City Master!”
A sober cry suddenly shattered the moment of peace. Before the sound fell, someone already began frantically knocking on the door’s bronze knocker!
“Which person is making such a ruckus!” In almost an instant, the inside of the seemingly silent villa suddenly erupted out with a deep yell with no sign of drowsiness.
On top of the bark-layered building also came faint glints from some dark objects that pointed guardedly at the night visitor.
“This lowly one is Second Guo! Head of the attendants!” The person desperately clanged the door knocker. “City master, something major has happened, something major!”
“His Honor doesn’t see anyone at night! Why wait until midnight to come disturb!” The voice didn’t back off. “Scram back to Su’s hall!”
“Elder Su was assassinated!”
The loud shout cracked stone and shook sky. The deep voice inside the gate suddenly hesitated, as if processing the shocking information, after which scattered footsteps could be heard inside the villa. A while later a voice rose again, but was not the previous deep voice, but a steely, fierce tone. “What is the matter?”
“This subordinate isn’t clear either … there was an assassin … the killer even left a letter on Elder Su’s body!” Second Guo stood back from the door to let the lantern light within shine on his face, then held out the letter over his head in a deep bow.
Some light slowly passed out from inside the gate, passing over Second Guo and the couple of Guo attendants beside him whose features seemed familiar. Then the light moved aside, and after a while, a person vaguely gave an affirmative “en”.
The large gate, thicker than normal doors, finally opened.
Two ox-horn lanterns drifted out guarded by a group of people. A middle-aged man strode out with steady steps. Following with Rong tradition, even in the winter he still was bare-chested, only draped with a multi-colored felt robe. However, he wasn’t as tall-statured as normal Rong – he was actually of average height. A pair of light brown eyes darted around with a flash of ferocity that quickly faded.
He lifted his head, seeing that inside a wheelbarrow in front of him was Su Xuanyong’s body covered in grass. He couldn’t help but pause in shock, saying, “How come you even moved the body over?”
“Your honor.” Second Guo bowed down. “Elder Su was assassinated nearby. He had heard that the Han inside the city were making strange movements. As he hurried over to pass notice to you, an unexpected mishap occurred, and us servants couldn’t do anything, that’s why …”
Ah Shina  frowned, saying, “Nearby?” He suddenly thought of something. “Let me see the wound, perhaps I can discern the killer’s origins.”
Second Guo bowed down to deliver the letter. When Ah Shina frowned, the guards beside him immediately rebuked, “Don’t move your filthy hands close to His Honor!” while shoving Second Guo aside, grabbing over the letter in his hands. Only then did Ah Shina take it. As he opened the letter, he walked over to the wheelbarrow. Su Xuanyong’s ghastly pale face was exposed to the moonlight. His dead fish eyes gazed towards the sky, creepy and chilling.
Ah Shina naturally was not afraid of the dead. He unhurriedly opened the letter, but the paper seal was stuck very tight. As he studied Su Xuanyong’s corpse, he subconsciously licked the seal to wet the paper, then tore it open in a fluid motion.
In the moment he opened the letter he had already walked to Su Xuanyong’s side.
As he lifted up the corpse’s grass covering, he went over the thin piece of paper inside the envelope.
The parchment was thin and soft. The characters on the paper were large and powerful, like coiling dragons and dancing phoenixes. “Let me borrow you as a hostage for a moment.”
In almost the exact instance his gaze touched the paper, Ah Shina was immediately on guard, swiftly reacting and retreating backwards.
Unfortunately, it was already too late.
A pair of hands – a pair of bloody yet dexterous hands suddenly pierced out of Su Xuanyong’s chest, in a flash passing through the corpse and clawing towards Ah Shina’s throat!
The hands were like a lightning bolt chasing after starlight, darting and jumping in the air. When Ah Shina tried to evade, he suddenly felt the breath in his chest stifling, while his feet unexpectedly turned rubbery! With that moment of softness, the hands had already reached his throat, clamping around his throat like steel.
Once the fingers gripped him, Ah Shina instantly felt in his heart that his life was forfeit. Despite it only being two hands, the steady power exerted from the other’s fingers could crush boulders, causing one to feel that once caught, they would never be able to escape.
The fingers flicked out, sending the bits of flesh stuck on them flying out. Then, Su Xuanyong’s corpse slowly sat up. Under the cold moon, the pale corpse had a huge hole in its chest, within which stretched out two hands that grasped Ah Shina on the neck – no matter how one looked at it, the scene was truly bizarre and horrific.
Some were already so scared their feet went numb. With a pa sound one of the ox-horn lanterns fell onto the ground, quickly setting ablaze, yet no one scolded the person. No one spoke.
In their stifling shock, a laugh unexpectedly sounded out like silver bells.
“Zhangsun Wuji’s schemes are so good. A pity I don’t have transparent gloves.”
With the laugh, Su Xuanyong’s body suddenly crumpled to the side. A dai-colored figure stood up from the wheelbarrow, their hands still clenched around Ah Shina’s throat. Chuckling they said, “Many thanks city master, you truly are generous. I asked to borrow, and you let me borrow.”
Ah Shina stared at the unfamiliar youth, sucking in a breath saying, “Who … are you?”
The youth didn’t answer him. They tilted their head to sniff the death odor on their body, then gave a vicious glance toward the distant darkness. “Lazy bum, I did all the dirty work, are you still not going to come out!”
A person gave a quiet chuckle. A white shadow materialized from the darkness, his pale lips smiling calmly. It was Zong Yue.
The youth was naturally Fuyao. She extended her arms to push Ah Shina back. “Come, come honorable City Master, it’s so late in the night, why are we standing outside the door?”
She shoved Ah Shina to walk towards the door, swaggering the whole way to the inner room. With a sweep of her sleeve the room door shut, after which she pulled over a piece of paper, saying, “I talk, you write.”
When she said the first couple words, Ah Shina’s face changed, and he furiously yelled, “No way!”
Before his voice fell, a hubbub arose outside, sounding like people’s war cries that shook like thunder. From the distance it sounded even more city-shaking and mountain-splitting, while within the bellows was vaguely the clashing sound of swords and knives, wave after wave crashing into the room.
Meng Fuyao’s face changed. She carefully listened. Zong Yue beside her suddenly spoke. “A large crowd of people are coming this way, perhaps … something was leaked.”
Following his words, torrents of bashing sounded on the door like the cracking of whips. With only a couple bangs the gate was broken through. A stream of colorfully dressed men howled as they charged in, and in their leader’s hands was carried several human heads. Fresh blood splattered out a long trail on the ground.
“Honorable City Master, this family of Han conspired with outsiders to kill the Sun God Ge’s descendants! We’ve already slaughtered his entire household! We ask the City Master to send out troops and capture the murderers!”
A head swayed in the grasp of the Rong leader’s hand. The hair on the temples was aged, its whole face covered in scars. From its features, it was tragically apparent it was the old Han named Hu.
The Meng Fuyao who had already retreated into the building recognized the head with only a glance, and immediately her expression twisted. Zong Yue was near her, and could hear her teeth grind, as her entire body shook uncontrollably. Worried that in her explosive fury her true qi would deviate, he lightly steadied her with a palm on her back.
Fuyao, though, didn’t register his actions at all. She only felt her entire body alight in flames, while her limbs were immersed in icy coldness. Inside her chest seemed to be battering fierce surges of water, great stretches of pain spreading out, swiftly radiating out to encompass her entire body and causing her heart to almost split apart.
It was her who arranged for old Hu’s family to enter the shelter; it was her who couldn’t completely eliminate all the Rong, which caused the man’s entire family to be implicated; it was her careless assumption that nothing would be leaked, that let the old Han’s family leave her protection; it was her, who was an unintentional accomplice in their murders!
The entire family killed, three bodies, four lives!
I didn’t kill Bo Ren, Bo Ren was killed because of me! 
Boiling rage made Fuyao’s vision go dark. Her strength also went out of her control, and her fingers clutched on the man’s throat slightly convulsed. Ah Shina only felt the hands on his throat clench tighter and tighter. He desperately tried to pull away but had no strength to. His face bloated with purple-red, looking as if he were about to suffocate to death.
When Zong Yue saw this, he quickly pointed over, and Fuyao’s mind cleared. Her hands loosened. Ah Shina sucked in large gasps of air, desperately straightening his throat to breath. Fuyao turned her head. In her pupils were red veins. As she coldly looked at Ah Shina, the glow in her eyes causing even the Ah Shina famous for his cold-heartedness to unconsciously shiver.
Meng Fuyao slowly enunciated her every word. “Everyone is here? Very good. Aren’t you the master here, why don’t you quickly ask them in?” ——-
Infinite Empire Zhengning 15th year, twelfth lunar month. On a bitterly cold winter night, in the Rong-Han split Yao city on Infinite Empire’s southern border, the city’s first ever rebellion arose.
The origin of the situation arose from a typical incident of Rong seeking revenge, but because of the interference of a woman, it became a scene of secret-keeping slaughter. The only Rong man who escaped gathered many clansmen to march to the City Master’s villa and plea for justice. Unexpectedly, the woman was a step ahead, taking initiative to kill the vice-administrator and forcing the City Master Ah Shina to “invite the tribesmen into the villa to discuss matters”. Due to the respect the Rong had for the City Master, they sheathed their knives and entered. Once inside the building, several people among them were “summoned for a private meeting”, and they excitedly entered the inner chamber.
No one knew what happened afterwards, only knowing that several people had disappeared from then on. The only traces they left of their former existence, was several days after, when a servant complained that the room’s door sill had some fresh red marks that couldn’t be wiped away no matter what he tried, as if it had been soaked through with blood recently. The blood marks on the sill were around a foot off the ground – put in another way, only fresh blood that had filled up to a foot off the ground, covering the whole floor and soaking for a long period into the tough wooden door sill, could have resulted in these marks.
What volume of fresh blood would have needed to flow for that to happen?
Whose blood could it have been?
The disappearance of those Rong would forever become a frightening mystery of Yao City’s history. Along with a certain slender shadow billowing with killing intent that night, their blade tip dripping with blood, the entire event would be buried under the flows of time.
Besides these unlucky fellows who only themselves knew what they provoked, the others were all invited to the formal hall to await the City Master. As they envied their compatriots who were “privately discussing matters with the City Master”, they also chatted eagerly while drinking tea. Before managing a couple mouthfuls, they all orderly fell to the ground.
Once they awoke, they all met the same fate as the City Master – separately imprisoned in the basement jail cells of the City Master’s villa. The tribesmen were all of one enraged mind and were determined to resist the enemy until their deaths. Unexpectedly, however, the enemy didn’t even show themselves. They only courteously sent over food and water. For some reason the clansmen were all particularly hungry and thirsty, and once they were sure that the opposite side wasn’t planning to kill them, they ate and drank without hesitation. After dining, though, their stomachs began to turn, quickly making them find a toilet; there was a communal toilet in the jail, only a pity that on the toilet was engraved a carving of their exalted Sun God Ge!
Even if you killed them they would still refuse to commit such blasphemy against their Sun God Ge, plus the toilet outrageously used the God’s mouth as the opening. If anyone dared to use the toilet, they could give up on the rest of their lives.
Then do the duty in public on the ground? Everyone still had their own pride, this was still absolutely impossible. But as the saying went, hunger could be endured but shit couldn’t – not even a day passed, and from Ah Shina to the other clansmen, they were all tortured to their last breaths.
At this time a piece of paper was placed in front of them. Someone shouted it out – write out my demands, and I will give you the freedom to shit! Thus the men who didn’t fear death or interrogation, yet could not blasphemy their god, all obediently wrote out the orders, handing over all of the swords and weapons of the clan. Afterwards if they needed to use them, the Rong would need to request the county government, as well as set down a blood oath towards Sun God Ge to never have thoughts of rebellion.
The only one who refused to cooperate was City Master Ah Shina. He stubbornly squatted in a corner, not budging for three days and three nights, afraid that any movement would cause the foul stench in his pants to waft out. This willpower was quite admirable. Thus he continued to sit in the cell, while his tribesmen continued to enjoy the freedom of defecation.
An event that originally was enough to embroil the entire city, a great catastrophe to the city’s Han residents, was erased into nothing by such crooked methods. While the cause of the events, that world-moving woman, quickly announced to the entire city with a document with the magistrate’s seal: City Master cannot oversee his duties due to sickness, vice-official has died of a sudden flu. First have a substitute City Master control all of Yao City’s daily administration.
This was a considerably insignificant commotion in the small city of Yao on Infinite Empire’s southern border, and originally would have vanished into the pages of the long scroll of history like a wisp of foam. However just like a needle in a bag couldn’t have its sheen be covered, some of the high-level figures of the Seven States were still able to smell out some abnormalities within the situation.
“A deep conspiracy, a brutal slaughter.” Polaris leader Feng Xuan reclined in front of a light purple lamp in his chamber, carelessly playing with the draped tassels in front of the bed while chuckling.
“In light of the events and how they controlled the people and opportunities first and foremost; the originator must be extraordinary.” Xuanyuan State’s prince regent carefully finished reading his state cavalry’s secret report, then quietly praised.
Lifting Wind’s Sacred Saintess Fei Yan leaned against the wall atop of Lifting Wind’s tallest building. Through the fluttering golden curtains and floating clouds, her obscured gaze looked towards the south. After a long time, her fingers lifted. In between her originally empty fingertips suddenly appeared a black crystal. She silently stared at the black stone that looked like an eye, then quietly said, “God’s will, her direction.”
Nemesis State’s Fierce Majesty sat on horseback in the Geya Desert. Amidst the vast expanse of yellow sand, he looked into the distance towards the Infinite Empire. The pupils darker than those of normal people had glimmering light shining in them, flickering with a blaze of exuberant flame, just like that unceasingly burning sun above the desert.
“Woman, is that you?”
Suddenly he threw his head back in a great laugh. The Fierce Majesty spurred his horse with his whip, causing the steed to whinny and rise up on its hind legs, then charge forward while splitting through the wind. He left behind a trail of deep hoof marks, a trail traveling ever south.
Near the city gates of Yao was an elegant man wearing light indigo robes. He inspected the proclamation near the city gate with a small smile, then murmured:
“I was only slightly late by a step, and now you’ve even stolen my city …”
He raised his brows and looked in the direction of the City Master’s villa. There, was the willowy, slender girl whose smile was resplendent like the blazing sun, yet acted like an unstoppable force of nature. What was she doing right now? Would she sometimes think of that person she had abandoned without even saying goodbye?
Presently, inside the City Master’s villa, the new city master Meng Fuyao was not thinking of the Yuan Zhaoxu she had heartlessly thrown aside, and couldn’t even have dreamed that her actions in the small city of Yao would result in the attentions of the highest figures of the Seven States. She was crouching in the jail of the villa, her eyes dazed with disbelief as she stared at a corpse on the ground.
The great tribe leader of tens of thousands of Rong in Yao City, the true leader of Yao’s Rong people who held absolute prestige in their eyes. The previous city master of Yao, who, if anything happened to him would cause a great revolt – Ah Shina.
Had suddenly died.
- Name in previous chapter should be “Ah Shina” not “Ah’Shi”
- Phrase that means “even though I didn’t kill him, his death was my fault”
- 凤旋 = Feng Xuan, means “Twirling Phoenix”