Nirvana In Fire - LightNovelOnl.com
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Mei Changsu had spoken with casual carelessness, but a muscle in Xie Yu’s cheek jumped, and he beckoned one of his servants over and spoke to him in a low voice for a moment before the man ran off to carry out his orders, most likely to go and see whether there really was an army at their gates.
Mei Changsu smiled and said, “Looks like it won’t come to blows for now. As we are standing around in any case, Miss Gong Yu, perhaps you may finish what you had to say? Perhaps Chief Zhuo will realize it was simply a misunderstanding after all, and that we have made a mountain out of a molehill, and that could only be a good thing, no?”
“Alright.” Despite the tense atmosphere, Gong Yu still looked calm, her every word crisp and clear as she spoke. “As you have already heard, my late father was an assassin, and because his skill was formidable, he quickly became known for his craft. But though his reputation spread far and wide, the only person in the world who knew his true identity was the leader of the group of assassins to which he belonged. It is said that killers must be heartless, because those whom they love would only become a hindrance to them. And so it was that after my father met my late mother, he decided to wash his hands of this profession. At the time, Mother had just discovered that she was with child, and the leader of the assassins group asked my father to complete one last mission before retiring. This last mission was a request from a very important person in the court to kill a yet unborn infant.”
She was speaking slowly, her tone even, but the words made those listening shiver with dread. Xiao Jingrui was shaken out of his stupor by the sudden realization that he was the infant who was supposed to have been killed, and the pain in his heart doubled.
“The instructions of the mission were given in great detail, from the identity of the pregnant woman, to her appearance and whereabouts, to the appearance of the momo always by her side – all of this was detailed thoroughly. Father followed the Grand Princess for a month, and finally, she went into labour. Who could have thought that such a great storm would rise up that night and cause such chaos? The woman and the child were both surrounded by so many people that Father could find no opening to act, and so he could only return to the forest in the hills to hide for one more day. He returned the second night, and as he had already learned to recognize the Grand Princess’ momo, he quickly and silently killed the infant in her arms….”
Mistress Zhuo let out a wail, swaying as her daughter clutched her tightly, holding her upright.
“My father thought he had completed the mission and so he left Rui mountain, not knowing that the families had confused the infants on the night of the storm after his departure from the scene. When Xie Yu returned and learned that the surviving child had an even chance of being the infant that he had wanted to kill, he was furious and said it was better to risk killing the wrong child than letting him live, and forced my father to go back to finish the job. By this time, my mother had been with child for some time, and as my father started to feel the movements of his own child in her womb, he could not find it in his heart to murder another infant, and so he took my mother and fled. The leader of the assassins caught us, but he had known my father since their youth and couldn’t bear to kill him, so he let us go. Who could have thought that the assassin would let us go, but Xie Yu would not? He sent other assassins after us, and we had been on the run for two years when, finally, my father settled my mother and me in a brothel in a small town, and ran off alone to lead away the assassins on our tail. He never returned. After I grew older, I investigated in depth and learned that he had been killed by Xie Yu’s men seven months after he left us.”
“But if Father-in-Law……ah……Marquis Xie was unwilling to let even you go, how could he have spared Jingrui, and let him live until now?” Zhuo Qingyao, who had managed to remain relatively calm, immediately asked.
“For the answer to this question, we must ask the Grand Princess.” Gong Yu turned slowly to the woman they were all pitying. “No one knew why that infant died, but you knew. That’s why, for the first few years, you protected the remaining child almost frantically, refusing to leave his side day or night, isn’t that right?”
Mistress Zhuo felt her heart lurch as she remembered the early years of Jingrui’s life. When he lived in the capital, Princess Liyang never left his side, and when he stayed at the Tianquan manor, Princess Liyang still followed him closely. At the time, she had thought this was because it was her first child, and she had received a fright previously, and had not thought much more about any other reason for her protectiveness.
“As Master Xiao grew older, Xie Yu’s determination to kill him grew weaker, because he too knew that the Grand Princess was aware of some things, and he did not want this to come between them. Most importantly, he had discovered that he could use Master Xiao as a tie to forge a close relationship with the formidable Tianquan Manor, and use the power of the Zhuo family to accomplish his goals.” Gong Yu looked at Zhuo Dingfeng. “Chief Zhuo knows this quite well, do you not? With a son in common, and increasingly frequent interactions, you began to develop a friendship, and even familial ties, and gradually, you started to trust this person unconditionally, and were willing to act in the dark for him, believing that what you were doing was right and for the good of the country, and that soon, your actions would bring glory to Tianquan Manor and the Zhuo clan….”
Zhuo Dingfeng’s lips were purple and he retched, vomiting fresh blood. The Zhuo family immediately clamoured in panic, but Mei Changsu said quietly, “He has taken the heart-protection pill, no harm will come to him.”
Yan Yujin heard this and jumped as if he had been reminded of something. He ran over to the table, picked up the bottle, and shook out a pill for Xiao Jingrui, shoving it into his mouth when there was no sign of any response from the latter and pouring a cup of tea down his throat afterwards for good measure.
Mei Changsu watched them, his gaze gentle, and let out a deep sigh.
“Brother Yue,” Meng Zhi looked at the Da Chu master with deep feeling. “If you had been willing to meet Chief Zhuo another day, he would not have had to injure his wrist for Xie Yu’s sake, and sacrifice all these years of work.”
Yue Xiuze’s face was stiff as he answered coldly, “My time was short. I only knew that he would discover on this night that this son was not his own, and worried that this would affect his mental performance when he came to fight against me, so I had to seize the chance and challenge him first. Who could have known he would be so foolish as to allow himself to sustain an injury, and how complicated the whole situation would turn out to be?”
“I do not blame Brother Yue, it was my own fault, I had eyes but could not see, and I was mistaken in my judgement.” Zhuo Dingfeng’s eyes were shining as he looked at Xie Yu, his forehead beaded in sweat. “When I think back on all the passionate words you said to me, it is enough to make me nauseous.”
“Not everything I said was a lie.” Xie Yu had actually managed to keep his calm. “Supporting the Crown Prince is a cause of great righteousness, all those others with wild ambitions are only traitors and usurpers. I once promised you glory for the Zhuo clan, and at least, up until now, I have never thought of going back on my word.”
“But as soon as he expressed the slightest doubt or dissatisfaction, you did not hesitate to wipe out his entire family?” Xia Dong laughed coldly. “In the end, how are you any different from those with wild ambitions?”
“The end justifies the means.” A corner of Xie Yu’s mouth curled in a smile. “His Majesty will understand my loyalty to the court.”
Mei Changsu suddenly interrupted. “Marquis Xie, has the man you sent to look outside the manor returned yet?”
Xie Yu gazed at him steadily for a moment, and then suddenly laughed. “So it is indeed Mister Su who is the first to react. I have naturally had my own reasons for allowing you all to tarry and delay for so long.”
Mei Changsu thought for a moment, and then raised an eyebrow. “You have summoned the Capitol Patrol?”
“Correct.” Xie Yu’s face was like ice. “What fighting power could Prince Yu’s household troops have? The Capitol Patrol is certainly capable of preventing them from entering.”
Meng Zhi said in a thunderous voice, “Xie Yu, the Capitol Patrol is not your household army, it is a great crime to seize them for your private use, are you truly so daring?”
“The Commander General should not make false accusations, how could I dare to summon the Capitol Patrol into my manor as my personal troops? But whether Prince Yu shows up or not, I am still able to have them stand guard on the street outside the manor to help keep the peace, am I not?”
Mei Changsu had never expected this night to pass peacefully, and with Xie Yu’s summoning of the Capitol Patrol, the situation would only escalate, which might not entirely be a bad thing. But the most important task at hand was to protect the Zhuo family, young and old, and ensure they were not wiped out, and so he turned and glanced significantly at Meng Zhi, telling him to be ready.
Xie Yu’s face was cold as frost, and he raised a hand, clearly about to give the order when someone ran forward and collapsed in front of him in a kneel, wrapping his arms around Xie Yu’s legs. He lowered his head to look. It was Xie Bi.
“Father, I beg of you, reconsider!” Xie Bi’s face was wan, his eyes shining with tears, as he pleaded, “The Zhuos and the Xies have been close for many years, as close as true family and perhaps closer, so whatever the misunderstanding, Father must not give the order to kill!”
“Useless!” Xie Yu shoved him aside with a foot. “How could I have raised someone as soft-hearted as a woman?”
“Father!” Xie Bi ignored the pain and crawled back to clutch his father’s hand. “Who has not heard of the close ties between our two families? Is Father not afraid of the rumours and gossip that will be spread?”
“What do they know? You remember, and remember well, only those who survive have the right to speak. This is a matter of sacrificing family for the sake of righteousness, so get out of my way!”
Xie Bi’s last hope died, and the hand clutching Xie Yu’s sleeve shook. Suddenly, he lunged forward and grabbed the dagger hanging at his father’s waist and laid it against his own neck, tears streaming down his face as he said, “Father, pray forgive your son for being unable to witness the choice you have made. If you must kill them, then kill your son first!”
Xie Yu looked at him coldly and scoffed. “You want to take your own life? Alright, do it.”
“I have raised you all your life, do you think I do not know what kind of a person you are? If you truly have the guts to cut into your own neck, then I as your father have underestimated you.” As he spoke, Xie Yu strode forward and sent the dagger in Xie Bi’s hand flying with one swift blow, then slapped his face with the backhand and gripped him by the neck, wrenching him to one side as he shouted, “Take the heir away and keep him under guard! The situation is chaotic, assist the Grand Princess and the young mistress back to the inner courtyard as well.”
“The woman in the hall is in league with the Zhuo clan, kill them on the spot according to the law!” Xie Yu turned and retreated to one side as the soldiers surged forward in his wake like a wave, full of bloodlust and murderous intent.
Xie Yu was a military man, and so his household troops were well-trained, particularly in the use of the long spear, and they seldom fought in close hand-to-hand combat, preferring to attack in formation. Although Meng Zhi and Xia Dong were masters, they could not use killing blows against these soldiers who were only following orders, and so the speed and strength of their attacks were somewhat limited. Besides, Meng Zhi was worried that Fei Liu would not be able to protect Mei Changsu on his own in the midst of such chaos, and so was often distracted. Two hours into the fight, the Zhuo family was in danger on all sides.
Zhuo Qingyao did not have a sword on his person, and only had a soft Emei sword Mistress Zhuo had handed to him, and he had to protect his newly-injured father besides, so it was not long before his arms were covered with blood. Zhuo Dingfeng’s Tianquan sword had been seized by Xie Yu, Zhuo Qingyi only had the short dagger she carried for protection, and so Mistress Zhuo, wielding the other Emei soft sword, was standing guard in front of her husband and daughter, fending off attacks left and right, and it was clear she could not continue for much longer. She had just fended off several spears when there was a flash on her left, and when she retreated to defend herself, this left an opening to her front. The gleaming tip of a spear descended towards her, and by the time she saw it, it was too late to dodge. Zhuo Qingyi screamed in terror, “Mum!”
The spear was about to pierce her stomach when a shining sword swept over like lightning, slicing off the tip of the spear. A long, slender figure dropped down in front of Mistress Zhuo, and the ten or more soldiers facing him retreated, several carrying wounds.
“Rui’er……” Mistress Zhuo’s voice trembled, her eyes filling.
Xiao Jingrui said something to her quietly without turning his head, and from the back, it was impossible to see his expression. His low voice was shaking so much it was difficult to make out what he was saying.
But Mistress Zhuo answered tenderly, “Mum is alright……don’t worry….”
When she saw Xiao Jingrui seize hold of the ceremonial sword hanging on the wall and leap into the fray, Yuwen Nian, who had been watching from the sidelines, stood as well and began cutting a path through the soldiers towards him. Yue Xiuze gazed doubtfully down on the scene for a moment and then let out a long sigh, and the Eyun sword was swept from its sheath once more as he began making his way to Zhuo Dingfeng’s side.
Xie Yu’s voice was furious as he shouted from the back, “Yuwen Xuan, didn’t you say you would not interfere?”
“I haven’t,” Yuwen Xuan spread his hands. “I said this has nothing to do with me, and so I have not moved so much as a step, so don’t wrong me like this, alright?”
Xie Yu had no time to deal with him, so he only scoffed and gestured for his subordinates to increase their attack. His two hundred spears were good fighters, and although the other side had just gained some strength, they had not yet managed to turn the tide, and all was yet quiet outside the manor, so it seemed that there would be no reinforcements.
“Officer Xia, I have heard that there is a kind of firework that is used for communication between Xuanjing officers, is that right?” At such a critical moment, Mei Changsu was actually striking up casual conversation with Xia Dong.
“Yes.” Xia Dong immediately understood his meaning and drew out a stick of firework from her pockets. She was about to turn to fight her way out to an opening when Mei Changsu stopped her.
“Let Fei Liu go, he likes these.”
Fei Lou did indeed like this, and he was much quicker at making his way out of the fight. The soldiers couldn’t even touch a corner of his robes, much less get their hands on him.
The firework soared into the sky and lit it up in a blaze of colour. Fei Liu lifted his head to watch, absently breaking the necks of two soldiers who had come chasing after him. Mei Changsu nodded at him approvingly, then turned to Meng Zhi. “Commander General, it seems that Prince Yu’s household troops cannot make their way in for now, and it will be some time before Officer Xia Chun arrives. I’m afraid I must impose on you. To catch a thief, one has only to catch their king. Let us take a hostage so that everyone might have a rest, look, some are wounded already, and not lightly.”
Meng Zhi understood immediately, and with a loud shout that stunned the soldiers all around him, he flew over their heads like a great gray bird out of Rain-Shower Hall, straight towards Xie Yu.
Xie Yu saw him coming and shuddered, knowing that Meng Zhi meant to hold him hostage to force the Xie manor’s troops to stop fighting. He shouted hurriedly for his guards to surround him and retreated quickly. Meng Zhi’s fighting prowess was almost second to none, and Xie Yu’s guards could only hold him for a moment, but in that moment, the Marquis of Ning had managed to disappear.
At the sight of Meng Zhi’s efforts ending in failure, and his wife and children exhausted and injured all around him, the pain in Zhuo Dingfeng’s heart swelled. At the beginning, he had only wanted to hear Gong Yu tell the truth of the story, and had never thought that Xie Yu would turn on them so ruthlessly. Now, faced with a seemingly endless wave of soldiers, and with their own side growing weaker and weaker, he feared they would only last another hour at most before they were defeated. The thought that his clan would be wiped out because of his own misplaced faith made him bow his head with unbearable shame, and he gave up resisting, closing his eyes and turning to face the descending spears.
Xiao Jingrui threw himself at his father and shoved Zhuo Dingfeng out of the way, raising his sword to catch the spears and averting the danger, although he gained another wound on his ribs for his troubles. Yue Xiuze, his eyes bulging with fury, shouted, “You defeat me only to die at the hands of these bastards? How can I ever lift my head again?”
Zhuo Dingfeng was shaken awake by these words, and he turned and picked up a spear in each hand, shouting back, “You’re right, if I die, I will die with honour, and take a few of them with me!”
lol at medicine in (fantasy) Ancient China. MCS, you might be the qilin prodigy, but you are clearly unaware that hematemesis has nothing to do with the heart, and is still perfectly life-threatening.
Also, “traitors and usurpers”, huh Xie Yu? I’m surprised the heavens don’t drop a ton of bricks on you for that hypocrisy.
……all this redirection because I still cannot talk about Jingrui.