Chapter 745: The Rainbow In The 12th Year Of The Qing Calendar (3)
The Qing Emperor’s fist was always so steady and powerful, and filled with the air of a ruler. It easily broke through all obstructions in front of him just as he had often done in his life.
In this land, in its decades of history, there were not many people who could survive an attack by the Qing Emperor. Sigu Jian, that old creature, had been heavily injured and had only managed to hang on to life thanks to Fei Jie’s miraculous poison. Fan Xian had depended on the magic left to him by Ku He to fly back dozens of feet in an incredible display of bodily movement, surprising the Qing Emperor and forcefully dodging the terrifying strength contained in the punch.
Wu Zhu did not dodge this attack. He stoically endured the boundless zhenqi in the Qing Emperor’s body crashing into him. A piece of his chest collapsed, but he did not fall. If the highest realm in the world was that of a Great Grandmaster, and if the only flaw of a Great Grandmaster was that they still had flesh bodies like a mortal, then Wu Zhu clearly did not have this flaw. His body was definitely the most powerful of the Great Grandmasters.
He just stood again and moved closer toward the Qing Emperor across the wet ground.
Once again, he approached the Qing Emperor. The black cloth on his face had not moved at all. The metal rod in his hands swung through the air without sound because it was too quick. The people could not see what was happening on the stone steps or hear any sound.
The Emperor did not retreat. A faint gray light flashed through his eyes. His feet were planted firmly on the stone steps, filled with the same boundless Tyrannical qi and confidence as he when he was in Hanging Temple. In his life, no matter what enemy he faced, he had never retreated even half a step.
He launched another punch that emanated a faint light like a piece of jade. It instantly steamed away all of the moisture in the air and crashed firmly into Wu Zhu’s abdomen.
However, Wu Zhu’s metal rod was like a streak of clear light that fell from heaven, completely unstoppable and incredible, striking ruthlessly onto the Qing Emperor’s left shoulder.
For warriors who had reached a realm such as theirs, in the last battle of their lives, they had long tossed aside all facades and techniques. It came down to the words “true strength.” Strength was within the manner of their bodies while pureness touched on the realm of the true. Just as Master Ku He’s Grandmaster said in the Adages of Old, “Take off your clothes and go!”
A duel between two extraordinary warriors was only the coldest, most indifferent, and simplest form of art. Stripped away of all external things, one just stood naked like a primal man in the snow, by a volcano, or in the group of beasts on the grasslands, putting into practice the most perfect killing technique.
The Emperor’s left shoulder chattered with a crack. Blood seeped out between his lips, but his cold eyes were only focused on Wu Zhu’s figure, which was flying further and further away.
Wu Zhu was once again sent flying by the Emperor’s punch. At this time, his leg was broken and body crippled. His supernatural powers of calculation no longer had the support of his body’s powerful ability to carry them out. He could not avoid the Emperor’s fist, which broke the boundaries of time and space.
Wu Zhu’s body, bent into a crescent shape, flew back quickly through the light rain that was about to stop. The cold wind made his clothing flutter loudly. With a slap, his feet landed on the ground. He slid back across the wet ground for a few feet before barely coming to a stop. However, his left leg could not stand, so he almost fell to the ground.
After taking this punch head-on, Wu Zhu did not fall to the ground. On the contrary, his condition seemed better than before. The confidence and powerful light that appeared on the Emperor’s face, as well as Wu Zhu’s slightly lowered head, seemed to indicate a different conclusion.
Wu Zhu, standing quietly in a pool of blood in front of Taiji Palace, lowered his head to look at his own abdomen. He was silent for a long time.
Before the Emperor’s fist landed against his abdomen, Wu Zhu had put his left hand in front. Thus, the Emperor’s fist had actually struck his palm and then his abdomen.
Wu Zhu’s hand was like an icy sheet of metal, and his body was like an icy ball of metal. However, the Qing Emperor’s punch had been like a hammer of the gods and melded the metal sheet into the metal ball. His palm had been deeply engraved into his abdomen like two pieces of metal had been forcefully stuck together.
The corners of his brows not covered by black cloth furrowed slightly. Wu Zhu coldly pulled at his left hand. After using an unknown amount of strength, he finally pulled his hand out from his abdomen. This also brought out a large piece of no-longer bleeding and pale white flesh, accompanied by the sound of tearing. It appeared particularly terrifying.
The Qing Emperor’s first punch landed against Wu Zhu’s chest, and he didn’t block it. The second punch landed against his abdomen, and he didn’t manage to block it. Two different choices represented two different levels of injury. It seemed that the weakness of the Temple’s emissaries was not a secret to the powerful ruler. This reality surprised Wu Zhu a little. It also made the spectators, who were cold all over and still waiting, begin to feel boundless fear.
The metal rod pressed against the ground that was filled with blood and rain. Wu Zhu used his left hand to twist straight his left leg, which was almost broken into two pieces, and took a step toward Taiji Palace with great difficulty. His cloth shoes stepped on the hand of a dead body, which almost made him slip. A crack rang out from Wu Zhu’s abdominal area. It was as if a spider web-like shattering was spreading out through his boy with his abdomen as the center, pulling him apart.
Wu Zhu’s body began to tremble and fall. It was as if it would become countless shattered pieces, break up, fall to the ground, and collapse in a heap at any moment.
Yet, the metal rod remained tightly gripped in his hand and supported his swaying body valiantly, allowing him to take another step forward. His first step had already been difficult, slow, and accompanied by a dry sound. He still continued to walk step by step toward the Emperor without any hesitation.
The Emperor withdrew his fist. His indifferent and completely emotionless eyes glanced at his own chest. It was as if he wanted to see how many of his ribs had been shattered by that hard metal rod. He didn’t remember how many punches he had fired out or how many mouthfuls of blood he had spat out. He only remembered that he had not retreated a single step but had also not progressed. He just stood like a puppet on the stone steps, in front of his own palatial hall, robotically and repeatedly punching out.
How many times has Lao Wu fallen? How many times has he climbed up? How many times have I fallen in my life? And how many times have I climbed back up? Why did Lao Wu struggle to get back up again, even though he was clearly about to fall? Did he not know that, even for a strange creature like him, there would be a day he truly died? If Lao Wu is not a dead thing and is alive, knew life and death, feared life and death, then why did he not show it? Lao Wu’s movements have clearly become much slower, so why was the hard metal rod in his hand still able to smash against my body? Was it because I am also old and near the end of my life?
No, impossible. It shouldn’t be. Unsatisfied and unconvinced, a dark fire lit up in his cold eyes. In the end, it dissolved into endless exhaustion and irritation.
Was this a shocking battle that was destined to enter the records of history or was it a small drama that was destined to disappear in the long river of history? No matter which it was, the Qing Emperor still felt fed up with it. It was just like how he had to endure his heartache and prepare the matter of the Taiping Courtyard a few years after his father ascended to the throne. Years later, there was another night when Jingdou ran red with blood. Killing those two old things in Dong Mountain and An Zhi killing the shameless bastards in Jingdou that dared to betray him earlier in the year had also made him want to lure out that chest. Now, Lao Wu was here.
There were boundless and endless tricks and conspiracies. Just like how Lao Wu fell and then climbed up again in front of him, they repeated endlessly. It was as if the stories of many years ago stubbornly replayed again and again. This kind of repetition truly made one annoyed and irritated.
But, the Qing Emperor could not grow tired. He was unsatisfied with growing tired. There are still many things I have not done. I have not knocked down the most powerful enemy in front of me, yet I cannot let go.
As the Emperor slowly wiped away the blood that seeped out endlessly from the side of his mouth, he suddenly felt a chill in his body. A year ago, he had suffered a heavy injury and had never recovered fully. He was constantly afraid of cold, light, and wind, which was why he preferred to lie on his soft bed with the silk blanket Wan’er brought from Jiangnan over to him.
He liked that feeling of warmth very much and did not like the coldness he was feeling now. This sensation made him feel powerless and tired, as if the warmth and confidence in his body flowed out with his blood.
Looking at the battered Wu Zhu, who was once again climbing up, the dark fire in the Emperor’s eyes suddenly lit up. His old visage appeared unusually thin and sallow following the sudden paling.
The rain had stopped. The dark clouds in the sky were turning white at a rate visible to the naked eye. They grew whiter and whiter, more and more beautiful, and brighter and brighter. The air in the square in front of the Royal Palace was filled with the wonderful breath of a clear day washed clean by rain. On the horizon over the palace wall to the extreme north, there was something indescribably beautiful happening.
With wide open and empty eyes, the Emperor’s clothes trembled. He finally swept up into the air from the stone steps of Taiji Palace. In this rainless sky, he brought up a streak of rainwater parallel to the south and left countless shadows in the air.
The clear sky reflected this rain dragon. The roar of a dragon seemed to ring out from somewhere in the Royal Palace. Wu Zhu, with his metal rod in hand, was immediately surrounded by this dragon and the countless dragon roars. The streak grew. Solemn and beautiful rainwater breaking through the air immediately became a powerful attack against Wu Zhu.
Other than the two extraordinary warriors present, no one could clearly see what was happening in the curtain of rain. After the roaring stopped and wave of terrifying and absolute silence, countless sounds rang out one after another. It was like a series of thunder but also as if the wind in the sky had broken into countless yellow paper lanterns that lovers offered in sacrifice.
Wu Zhu finally fell, falling to the Qing Emperor’s Way of the Emperor’s fist and finger that were like a thunderstorm. In this instant, his body endured innumerably heavy attacks and was finally sitting decrepitly in front of the Qing Emperor’s feet. His pale right hand was spread open to the sky, completely empty.
The silent and noble head hung down powerlessly at this moment. Fallen in front of the Qing Emperor, he let go of the metal rod grasped in his hand with dissatisfaction and helplessness.
He released the hand holding the metal rod, but the metal rod did not fall to the ground of the Royal Palace and make the clear ringing sound like a morning bell because the metal rod was stuck in the Emperor’s abdomen trembling slightly.
Fresh blood surged out from the Qing Emperor’s abdomen and dripped down the metal rod, falling down from the side of the metal rod that had been worn flat. It dripped into Wu Zhu’s pale palm and gradually spread out following his clear life line, blossoming into a brilliant peach flower.
The Emperor’s very thin and emotionless lips were slightly parted. His top lip appeared slightly dry. His face was pale, and his eyes were empty and emotionless as he lowered his head to see the metal rod in his abdomen. He felt a boundless and endless exhaustion and annoyance as he prepared to pull out this metal rod that was buried deep within him.
He had the greatest willpower in the world. Even when all his meridians shattered and he experienced the bitterness of being a useless man, his spirit was not weakened at all, much less the current pain in his abdomen. He knew that Lao Wu was done for. A faint sense of pride flashed through him quickly, but all that was left was endless exhaustion because he realized that he could taste a rustiness in his mouth.
Fan Xian had still not appeared. This reality surprised the Emperor. A self-mocking smile rose to the corners of his mouth. It looked like his son’s state of mind was more powerful than he expected. Thus, he waited indifferently, coldly, and cold-heartedly until now. He watched as Wu Zhu was crushed by him, yet he was still unwilling to come out.
Remarkably, feelings of admiration and appreciation once again rose in the Emperor’s heart. He seemed to feel that the son that was most unlike him was actually becoming more and more like him in cold-bloodedness.
He thought that Fan Xian should have come out a long time ago when Wu Zhu first fell to the ground or when Wu Zhu’s leg was broken in two. This was what he had been secretly prepared for. However, Fan Xian did not. Thus, he felt a faint disappointment and a glimmer of inauspiciousness.
The sky was clear after the rain. Is she here to see my last failure? Is she going to use her own son’s eyes to see my failure?
Fresh blood surged out between the lips of the powerful ruler and from his abdomen. He once again felt a wintery chill and remembered the soft blanket on the bed and the woman in the royal study. Then, his right hand steadily grasped the metal rod and began to slowly pull it out of his body with heart-trembling indifference.
An old saying once said that the pain was greatest when the blade was pulled from the wound. This could be used to represent life. It could also be used to represent the present situation.
When the Emperor slowly pulled out the metal rod, it was as if he revealed injuries that had always been hidden under the darkness of his mask that he thought had long since fully recovered, making him think of many people and many things. The pain made his pale face even paler until he no longer resembled a normal person.
It seemed that even this ruler’s arm did not want him to face such pain. Suddenly, a very strange twist happened in the cold and clean air. It was a twisting and separation of bone and flesh. It transformed the structure of the human body. Twisting out at a strange angle, it rather resembled Wu Zhu’s leg.
Blood blossomed under the clear sky while flesh and bone separated from the Qing Emperor’s body. His left shoulder was cleanly severed by some mysterious power. The broken arm flew into the spotless sky illuminated by the clear sunlight at the slowest possible speed, carrying with it frothing blood at the splintered end, spinning, leaping, dancing, dancing…
Then, the crisp sound of the gun began to echo through the main courtyard of the Royal Palace, which was completely empty of people. Alone and rising in spirals, the broken arm seemed to dance, accompanying the sorrowful music.
Other than when the Northern Expedition had been defeated by Zhan Qingfeng and all the meridians in his body shattered and he sank into darkness, this moment was definitely the Emperor’s most painful and weakest moment.
The report of a rifle that had been silent for decades, then silent for another year, finally rang out in the Royal Palace. After staying silent for a year and then silent for a morning, Fan Xian’s figure finally appeared beside the Emperor.
What painful urge did Fan Xian have to suppress to stop himself coming out as he watched Wu Zhu be so heavily injured by the Emperor? However, when he appeared, he chose the most extraordinary time and appeared in the most extraordinary position, right at the Emperor’s side. Only the time for one touch was needed.
The bitter cultivation of more than 20 years in his new life; incentive of the life-and death-situation on the meadow; unrelenting willpower at the snowy palace; comprehension beneath the large tree; thoughts on the snowy plain; creation of yuanqi in the world; clash of life and death, union and separation, weakness and strength; a cowardly and detestable life; and the pain of autumnal rain all melded into one sensation and strength that exploded from Fan Xian’s body.
He had no sword, arrows, dagger, poisonous smoke, tricks, and or Coffin-Breaker Technique. An exploring arm did not follow the way of the sword. Martial prowess did not pass the heavens. Fan Xian abandoned everything. He turned himself in a gust of wind, a streak of gray light, to force all of the strength in him out of his fingers and hand in the shortest possible time as he chopped toward the Emperor’s heavily injured and weak body.
The vigorous Tyrannical zhenqi did not hesitate to slice through his sufficiently thick meridians and poured fiercely out of his body with a resolute attitude and speed beyond his capabilities. Countless streams of smoke and dust chopped through, which were bright in the cold and clear autumn day.
The zhenqi reached the finger and did not spill out. Rather, it accumulated within. The sword qi did not exist in the finger. Instead, it formed into metal and stone before plunging ruthlessly into the hole at the Emperor’s shoulder.
The zhenqi circulated to the palm, like the wind of the East Sea, which gushed out violently, sweeping everything away and not leaving a single stone as it slammed heavily onto the Emperor’s chest.
Chop, finger, palm. Chopped through all of the past, pointed out a road carved broad by life and death, and a single palm separated the line between ruler and subject, father and son.
Fan Xian had before been so powerful in his life while the Qing Emperor had never been so weak in his life. The father and son didn’t even have time to meet each other’s eyes before they dissolved into two shadows in front of Taiji Palace, each doing the intimacy of life and death. It seemed that countless more yellow paper lanterns were torn through by the wind as endlessly spluttering rang out. It made one’s heart tremble, and made one irritated.
Fan Xian’s speed at this time had reached a shocking level. Leaving behind nothing, only a wisp of gray shadow, he wrapped around the Emperor’s body and attacked dozens and hundreds of times in an instant.
The water accumulated on the stone ground was suddenly split in two to create a passage. The water moved toward the two sides and revealed the clean stone bricks beneath. About half a palm’s width above the stone, the Emperor and Fan Xian’s shadows flew about. They then instantly left their position in front of Taiji Palace and flew like lightning toward the northeast.
Along the way, water sprayed to the side as a line of blood fell from the sky. With a boom, the bright yellow figure crashed decrepitly through a palace door in the walls and shattered the thick door, sending up a spray of wooden shards.
The wooden shards were like arrowheads filled with great power as they shot in all directions. With a series of thuds, they shot through the round stone gate behind the palace gate and sent up a patch of gravel pieces that sank deeply into the cinnabar red palace walls.
It was because of these wooden shards the bright yellow figure sent in all directions that forced Fan Xian, who seemed to be chasing the wind or a shadow, to slow and show himself in the air.
The bright yellow figure smashed through the palace door. Immediately after, he crashed heavily into a copper water vat between the walls. There was a muffled thud as he showed himself.
His hands, which were still free of blood, moved through the air and slapped open a slender wrist. Peeling away icy metal like lightning, he flipped the wrist up and squeezed his hand around a soft throat. His hands squeezed around the serving girl’s throat.
With a huff, the Emperor leaned decrepitly and weakly against the large copper vat and sprayed out a mouthful of fresh blood. A faint and strange smile rose to his pale face. One of his arms was broken. There were four or five extra finger holes and three handprints on his body. Fresh blood stained his dragon robe, making the golden dragon on the bright yellow clothing appear particularly malevolent but also particularly dismal.
Fan Xian slowly put down the left palm right fist bridge he used to cover his face. The wooden shards made blood start to seep endlessly out of his clothes. He coughed violently and coughed out threads of blood. The attack earlier had concentrated all of his life into one attack. Now, it had been forcefully stopped. If he wanted to achieve such supernatural speed again, it was impossible. Furthermore, much of his meridians had been injured. It was as if countless little knives were slicing through his body. The pain was difficult to endure.
The Emperor’s injuries were even more serious, incapable of being any worse. They were so grievous that the Emperor could disappear from this world at any moment. However, there was not a glimmer of joy on Fan Xian’s face. After a wave of urgent coughing, his expression became calm again as he looked silently at the Emperor leaning against the copper vat and panting.
Only his eyes revealed his true emotions. Those emotions were very complicated. He stared at the Emperor in a daze, feeling that the scene before his eyes could not be real. Could the Emperor, who was as unconquerable as a large snowy mountain, icy to the bone, and incomparably powerful be at the end of his strength? When had the Emperor’s face become so old?
“Your Majesty, you’ve lost.” Fan Xian lowered his head slightly. He used the sleeve of the eunuch’s outfit to wipe at the blood by his lips as he looked at the Emperor with a complicated gaze.
His words had very little meaning. There were at least a dozen wounds on the Emperor’s body. In particular, blood poured out endlessly from the gaping hole on his left shoulder and the wound in his abdomen.
Just as the Emperor had said to Wu Zhu earlier, there was no such thing as gods in this world. Wu Zhu was not one, and neither was he. During this year, he had suffered betrayal, assassinations, and a lingering injury that had still not gone away. Now, he also had a shocking battle with Wu Zhu, had his arm severed by an assault rifle, and suffered a secret attack from Fan Xian that was out of his realm. Even the most powerful ruler in the world would have reached their final moments.
However, a mocking and cold smile was still hanging on the Emperor’s face. His three fingers were still gently placed around the serving girl’s hand. In her hand was a gun.
The Emperor glanced at Fan Xian but did not acknowledge his words. Instead, he gave a raspy cough and looked Fan Ruoruo beside him with a warm gaze. After he looked at her calmly for a long time, he said, “I have said that it was not easy to be a good Emperor. One has to abandon unnecessary emotions and cannot be soft-hearted. Ruoruo, today you were soft-hearted, which was a fatal mistake.”
The young lady of the Fan family in a serving girl’s outfit maintained a calm expression. However, the slight furrow between her brows showed that she was not as calm internally as her outward exterior.
From the beginning of autumn last year, she had been brought into the Royal Palace by the Emperor and had been by this lonely ruler’s side in the royal study. Day after day, she had too often seen the thin figure reading through memorials by oil light, heard too many times the sound of coughing from the sickbed, and saw too many furrows between this thin old man’s brows.
On the windy and snowy night of Jan. 8, she had looked at the bright yellow figure through the glass from Zhaixing Tower and felt that it was not real. Thus, her finger had not trembled at all. Through the crack of the Palace doors today, she had seen that gradually aging face, the incomparably familiar face of the ruler. For some reason, she had chosen to aim at the Emperor’s arm rather than in the fatal spot. The Emperor was right. In that moment, Fan Ruoruo’s heart softened a touch.
“Women are extroverted. During this year, the Chen girl endlessly tried to soften my heart, but I ignored it. You like An Zhi, that rascal, I know that. However, have you girls ever wondered if you had softened my heart during this year or if your hearts had been softened by me?”
The Emperor spoke calmly and indifferently. He didn’t summon the internal court eunuchs that he had sent to the back palace or stop the bleeding. It was as if he didn’t care that the blood flowing out of his body and a slightly mocking smile rose to the corner of his lips.
Fan Ruoruo’s body trembled slightly. Fan Xian narrowed his eyes slightly as he looked at the familiar but also unknown Emperor, with whom he had an unusually complicated relationship. No one knew what shock he felt in his mind, but his admiration of the Emperor’s willpower and plotting had reached an extreme. Even during such a dangerous moment as before, when the Emperor and he were engaged in a fatal battle, it seemed that he had been defeated. In reality, he had chosen the best path. He broke open the palace doors and found the gun wielder, as well as took control of her.
Fan Xian pressed his thin lips together tightly and suddenly gritted his teeth. “Your Majesty, don’t try to use her life to threaten me.”
“Will you accept my threat?” the Emperor slowly turned his head and asked with a mocking tone, allowing blood to thoroughly stain his dragon robe.
Fan Xian was silent for a moment. He then shook his head. Looking toward Fan Ruoruo, he said in a raspy voice, “If you die, I will come to keep you company.”
Fan Ruoruo’s face was slightly pale. She was silent for a moment before she said, “I am actually not very afraid of death.”
“Is losing the fear of death an incredible achievement?” The Emperor stared into Fan Xian’s eyes and suddenly laughed hoarsely. “Your face is just like your mother’s, but your lips are like mine, thin and emotionless. It is indeed true.”
After a moment, the Emperor suddenly said with an indifferent expression, “I have never been defeated in my life.”
For some reason, after Fan Xian’s rebirth, he had always been able to have a collectedness and coldness that others could not have. At such a tense moment, an ache, a sliver of emptiness and a touch of anger rose, from the depths of his heart as he listened to the Emperor’s words. In a cold and stern voice, he roared at the Emperor, “Enough!”
The Emperor stared calmly into his son’s eyes, looking at his handsome face that was slightly twisted because of anger. Suddenly, he smiled coldly. It was as if he was laughing at his loss of control, fear, and the strange rage that seemed to come from nowhere.
In the empty Royal Palace, other than the flesh of countless bodies and accumulated rainwater, there were only four people who could still stand. Fan Xian stood beside Uncle Wu Zhu and silently observed the bright yellow figure not far from him, thinking about something. He was indeed fearful, but his rage was not because of this fear. Instead, it was because of another sorrowful feeling.
There was very little distance between here and there. Fan Xian seemed to have an opportunity to act but, the Emperor was within three feet of Fan Ruoruo’s side. No one dared to take such a risk in front of a Great Grandmaster, even though Fan Ruoruo’s hand still held the assault rifle and everyone could see that the Emperor was at the end of his strength. It was still dangerous.
“I have never been defeated in my life,” the Emperor said coldly as he looked at his son and Wu Zhu beside him. Slowly, he raised a sleeve to wipe away the blood at the corner of his mouth. “I just feel that… It seems like I am about to die.”
Defeat and death were two different things. Defeat implied victory and loss, while life and death often belonged to fate. A ruler’s defeat would certainly cause his death, but a ruler’s death may not be because of his defeat.
Perhaps, the Emperor was surrounded by the aura of death, but he was not defeated. His death today had been fated a long time ago.
There was no true Way of the Emperor in the world. The Emperor’s body had not found a moment of rest during these years because of the ruthless zhenqi. During this past year, many things had made the zhenqi find ways to injure his body, quickly breaking his life force and accelerating his aging process.
The Emperor’s slightly sunken eyes looked at Fan Xian coldly and did not lightly speak of these truths that would shock the other party. “Even if I die, I will kill you, traitor.”
The Emperor coughed a few times and slightly bent at the waist. There was a faint sense of dissatisfaction in the coughing. “The territory of the Li family is destined to unite the world. As long as you die, no matter which of my two sons take the throne, the world of the future will still belong to the Qing Kingdom.”
The raging fires of the wall beneath Nanjing were just a spark to force Fan Xian to show himself. Otherwise, after Fan Xian returned from the Temple and hid from the world, where would the Qing Emperor go to find him? If Fan Xian did not die, the Qing Kingdom’s ambition to last a thousand generations could not be realized. Even if the Qing Emperor knew that his body was failing, how could he rest?
The situation now was nothing more than a ruler killing a subject, a father killing a son. Who would have thought that the situation would change and in the isolated palace it would be the Emperor alone facing all of the enmity?
The Emperor felt tired. He looked quietly at Fan Xian and suddenly realized that his desire to kill this son was not as powerful as he imagined. Why was this? Perhaps the origin of the Emperor’s desire to kill was only because of the anger he felt at Fan Xian’s betrayal and had nothing to do with the future of the Qing Kingdom.
Once a heartless and emotionless person became angry because of disappointment, once their emotions were moved, they were nothing more than a mortal.
The Emperor suddenly felt that if he died like this, he would be very lonely. What kind of cold gaze would his family under the Yellow Springs, Chengqian, Chengzi, the empress, look at him with? How was his mother in the netherworld? Would that woman’s soul after she died still use that seemingly warm but actually very distant gaze to look at him?
A sense of loneliness and desolation took over the old Emperor’s body. He suddenly found that in the last battle of his life, he was still faced with her gun, her servant, and her son. After squandering a lifetime, in the end, he was still fighting against her. Thinking of this, a sorrowful smile appeared on the Emperor’s face. Was he destined to fall at her hands?
The bright yellow figure trembled slightly. The gun in Fan Ruoruo’s hands was caught by his good hand from the air. His finger’s exerted a little strength. The Tyrannical zhenqi in his body flowed out like rivers and oceans. With a light sound, a section of the barrel of the gun bent over.
The Emperor’s zhenqi was activated, making his injuries grew more serious. However, he only narrowed his eyes and looked coldly at the hunk of useless metal thrown at his feet like he was interrogating that woman. He did not speak for a long time.
“How wonderful it would be if Lao Wu never again took a step into the mortal realm.” The Emperor lowered his head and suddenly let out a quiet sigh. Slowly, he raised his head and looked at Wu Zhu sitting on the ground and leaning by Fan Xian’s leg and shook his head with great difficulty.
“Uncle can no longer remember many things,” Fan Xian said.
“What has happened has happened. He would have eventually remembered something of the past and learned something from it. He would have eventually come to kill me.” The pale-faced Emperor stared in a daze at the dumb and mute Wu Zhu, who was trying to stand up like a child but always not managing to stand. Suddenly, he said, “Lao Wu, you forgot some things again. That’s truly fortunate.”
When a powerful person becomes so chatty, did it mean he was truly old? Or, was it a dying flash? Fan Xian stared in a daze at the Emperor with a severed arm and suddenly felt an emptiness in his chest. He felt that everything that had happened today was too strange and completely unlike reality.
The light in the Emperor’s sunken eyes gradually dissipated. Looking at Fan Xian, he said in a quiet voice, “Not you. In the end, it was your mother who won.”
He looked mockingly at Fan Xian, without any sense of being disheartened. On the contrary, he was very much like the incomparably powerful ruler of the past. With a mocking smile, he said, “The kid of the little Emperor of the Zhan family is yours. You know what kind of person the Third Prince is. No matter what you do, this world will eventually be the Li’s.”
“You once said that after you die, even if the world floods, I will have no choice but to think of you.” The Emperor looked at Fan Xian. The smile growing at the corners of his mouth filled with more and more mockery. “You mother only tried to change the progress of history, but you arrogantly want to stop the progress of history. What an arrogant and naïve thought.”
Fan Xian was silent for a long time. He then suddenly said, “Actually, you and I are both unremarkable ripples in history.”
“No, I will have a page in history.” A cold and proud light flashed through the Emperor’s eyes.
Fan Xian didn’t say anything more. It was only now that he realized he had still underestimated this Emperor. It turned out that he couldn’t hide anything he said and did. He even knew about Hong Duofan in Northern Qi.
The current scene was filled with blood. Fan Xian didn’t move. He didn’t dare to move because his sister was still under the Emperor’s control. He didn’t even know how to resolve the situation at hand. He didn’t know if the Emperor’s weakness was a kind of illusion or if one could truly see through some matters when one was near death.
When it came to the Emperor, Fan Xian had a natural fear and respect, even now. He didn’t know if the Imperial Army outside would break through the backup he had prepared and once again open the palace doors by force. He also didn’t know how the Shadow and Ye Zhong were doing or why Eunuch Yao and the others had still not appeared.
What chilled him the most was whether the Emperor’s counterattack before his death could take Uncle Wu Zhu, his sister, and himself to the grave with him. Until now, he still believed that the old Emperor had such strength.
The Emperor raised his head with difficulty and narrowed his eyes as he looked into the blue sky in the east across the palace wall. It was as if he realized that something marvelous could happen in that direction.
As he looked at the sky, the lines by the corners of his eyes trembled slightly like he had thought of something. The right hand extended out of the dragon robe twitched a little, as if it wanted to grasp something. The dissipating light in his eyes gradually gathered together, as if he wanted to see something more clearly. Countless images rose in his mind, as if he wanted to remember something.
No one knew better than the Emperor about the condition of his body. Perhaps from the wind and snow of Jan. 8 he had already foreseen the arrival of such a day. This was not a repayment of debt. This was karma. But, why was there still such a powerful sense of discontent in his heart? It was powerful enough that he furrowed his brows like he had a question he asked endlessly as he faced the unusually clear blue sky after the rain.
In his childhood, he endured humiliation in a rundown manor. In his youth, he traveled the world with his friends and expanded his horizons. In his prime, he rode in the northeast on the sunset plains, leading countless men in conquering a vast territory. His sword pointed at the world to create a larger territory for the sake of a thousand generations and leave his name in history.
Now, all of this was going to come to an end. How could he be content? There were still many things he had not done.
If the Emperor knew that these people laying across the river of his life, such as Ye Qingmei, Wu Zhu, and Fan Xian, were not actually people of this world, would he have the sense that this was heaven wanting him dead rather than his warmongering ways?
He was just thinking.
If there wasn’t that woman, then there wouldn’t be Lao Wu who followed her into the world and there wouldn’t be An Zhi. There may also not be the palace treasury and many other things. But, could I not have conquered this territory by myself?
No, I would certainly have been able to, even if it was just a bit later. So what if there wasn’t the Unnamed martial method? Such things as Great Grandmasters that dared to challenge me shouldn’t even exist! Wasn’t that right?
Only if there was no if. If there was no Ye Qingmei, perhaps I would never have had that truly happy period of my life?
The Emperor’s brows furrowed together, forgetting the outward flow of his lifeblood as he sank into this question. Fan Xian had once raised this question in the little tower. It was not until now that the Emperor truly asked it of himself. Perhaps it was because in these decades, he had not dared to ask himself this question.
He drew back his gaze and recovered his calm. A ruler faced with death still possessed supreme might and willpower. He coldly looked at Fan Xian and Wu Zhu in front of him. It was as if, at any moment, he could use the last moments of his life to burn away the other’s life.
A long silence settled in.
Once again, Fan Xian wiped away the blood at the corners of his mouth as he nervously watched each of the Emperor’s movements. Even he didn’t realize that not only were his thin lips very similar to the Emperor’s, this movement of wiping away blood was also very similar to the Emperor.
The Emperor suddenly smiled. The corners of his lips twitching strangely. He then gradually withdrew his smile and coldly said, “Today, I learned what was in the chest, but there is still something I am very curious about.” He narrowed his eyes at Wu Zhu. “I would very much like to know what exactly is hidden behind this black cloth.”
For his final target, the most powerful ruler in the world chose Wu Zhu rather than Fan Xian. Perhaps it was because Fan Xian was his flesh and blood. Perhaps it was because he thought that Wu Zhu, this irritating emissary of the Temple, needed to die. Perhaps it was because the Qing Emperor had always believed that matters of the world should be resolved by people of the world and should not be interfered in by some bullsh*t god.
Perhaps it was because the Qing Emperor, in his last moments, realized that some of Fan Xian’s expressions and actions were very much like his own. In any case, his lightning-like hand cut through the air and headed for Wu Zhu’s face, letting Fan Xian go.
Fan Xian survived. In front of the Emperor’s final attack, his hand was shaken off like a fallen leaf, completely unable to stop it. He could only watch as the Emperor’s palm, containing within it the final vestiges of the zhenqi in his life, reached ruthlessly for Wu Zhu’s face.
The Qing Emperor reached. Wu Zhu’s vertebra abruptly bent as he leaned back. The black cloth fell and time seemed to freeze in this moment.
The black cloth slowly floated down in the gentle breeze.
A piece of black cloth covered the glass window in the Overwatch Council, it was used to block out the Royal Palace’s dazzling light. A piece of black cloth covered Wu Zhu’s face, it was used to block out the sky.
Who knows how long this piece of black cloth had been worn? It seemed that there was never a day it would be untied. For centuries, millennia, tens of millennia, it has always been like so.
Now, this piece of black cloth fell down. Beneath the black cloth was a rainbow.
A rainbow surged out between Wu Zhu’s young and delicate brows, from that pair of clear and spirited but perplexed eyes. In an instant, it illuminated the square inside the Royal Palace and shone through the bright yellow figure.
The rainbow flowed through the Qing Emperor’s body and illuminated his disbelieving expression brightly. Then, it fell heavily on Taiji Palace, dissolved into a fiery dragon, and instantly set the entire palatial hall on fire.
It was just an instant, but the Emperor’s expression abruptly became calm. Amidst this fire, he proudly straightened his body. Although he only had one arm, he stood straight. In the moment before he went, a disdainful thought floated through his mind. So, it was like this. It was nothing more than this. It was still like this.
Even at the moment of death, powerful people still leave behind a very powerful figure. Amidst this warm rainbow, this figure appeared particularly cold, silent, bleak, and lonely but also unusually proud.
Ash flew through the air and gradually fell down. Firecracker fragments used as offering for the impermanence of the mortal world settled in the bloody puddles in the square in front of the Royal Palace.
At the same time, over the palace wall to the east, where it seemed that something marvelous was going to happen, a rainbow finally appeared after the rain and looked down at the entire world.
By night, the blazing fire of Taiji Palace had been extinguished. Fortunately, it had rained. Otherwise, the fire might have burned the entire Qing Royal Palace into a pile of rubble.
Not long after the strange appearance of the rainbow, the closed front gates of the Royal Palace were forcibly opened by the military. No one could hide the news of the Emperor’s assassination and death. Although, until now, the mournful and angry people still had not been able to find the Emperor’s remains.
The person who had assassinated the Emperor was not a Northern Qi assassin. It was the most unforgivable traitor and bastard in Qing history, Fan Xian. The court confirmed this at the first instant. If it were not for Hu the Scholar and the heavily injured, but still not dead, Ye Zhong, forcefully suppressing the mournful emotions of the entire Jingdou City, perhaps in this night, the Fan manor and many homes in the Duke’s Alley would have been burned to the ground, along with the people inside.
Other than Scholar Hu and Ye Zhong, the person who truly took control of the situation was the Third Prince, Li Chengping, who took the throne as danger faced the nation. Under this Qing Emperor’s powerful control, the situation in Jingdou did not spin out of control.
Of course, no one knew what effect the old Overwatch Council and those factions hidden in the darkness had in this matter.
The criminal Fan Xian, who was once again under pursuit by the court and had a bounty so high that it struck people dumb, unexpectedly appeared at a place no one would have thought of.
He was still in the Royal Palace. Under the cover of darkness, he drew back his gaze from the direction of Taiji Palace and walked by the little tower that was even more isolated than the Cold Palace. Taiji Palace had been destroyed in the fire, and the little tower had long been burned into a pile of ash. He walked in the knee-high grass with his head slightly lowered, thinking about something. Or, perhaps he was just here to narrate everything that had happened to Ye Qingmei.
Fan Xian’s pupils narrowed as he looked at the person who appeared beside the ruins of the little tower. He tilted his head slightly as if not expecting this.
The person who appeared was Eunuch Yao. Expressionlessly, he approached Fan Xian and handed him a small box. In a raspy and low voice, he said, “The Emperor left you this.”
Fan Xian accepted the box woodenly and watched as Eunuch Yao disappeared into the dark night. He was not worried that he would summon aces to surround and attack him. It was one world outside the Palace and one world inside the Palace. In the world inside the palace, presumably, there was no one right now who wished him harm. Even if there was, it could not be at this time.
What had the Emperor left him? Why did he leave it? Did he know ahead of time that he wouldn’t be able to survive what happened today? Fan Xian stared in a daze at the box in his hand. Only now did he understand why Eunuch Yao had not been by the Emperor’s side earlier was because the Emperor had given him a strange task.
Opening the box, there was a white handkerchief and a thin letter inside. Fan Xian’s body froze slightly. He immediately recognized what it was.
This was one of the three items he had seen under the empress dowager’s phoenix bed when he explored the Royal Palace at night that year. Among them, there was a key he had long replicated and successfully used to open the chest. The white handkerchief and letter were the other two items.
During the Eldest Princess’s rebellion in Jingdou four years ago, Fan Xian had tried again to find these two objects but discovered they were no longer in Hanguang Palace. Thinking of it now, the Emperor must have put them elsewhere.
Naturally, the Emperor later knew that the key was in his hands, so he only left this letter and white handkerchief to him.
Fan Xian used the tip of his finger to rub against the surface of the white handkerchief to center himself. He then opened the unsealed letter and carefully read it. Gradually, his brows furrowed together and then loosened again.
This was a letter Ye Qingmei had written to the Qing Emperor. From the contents of the letter, he learned what the white handkerchief was. This was the white scarf the empress dowager had granted to the witch Ye Qingmei to use to commit suicide. After Ye Qingmei received the edict in Taiping Courtyard, she returned the white scarf back to the palace to the empress dowager’s bedside.
Presumably, only Uncle Wu Zhu was able to do such a thing. And, presumably, the empress dowager received quite a fright that day so she kept this white scarf to deepen her hatred of the witch Ye Qingmei.
Other than relating this matter in a mischievous tone to express her powerful discontent, there was nothing else in Ye Qingmei’s letter worthy of attention. The rest of the letter was domestic matters, about how Wu Zhu was doing, and how Fan Jian was doing in the brothel. Combined with the clumsy and forced handwriting, it did not bear reading.
Fortunately, it was only two thin pages. Fan Xian still did not understand why the Emperor treasured this letter so much and had even left it to him. Was he wrong in his thinking earlier? Had the Emperor hidden the white scarf, key, and letter in Hanguang Palace and not the empress dowager?
He shook his head and refused to think further on this question, which was destined to remain submerged in memory, that no one knew the answer to. Immediately after, he noticed the writing on the back of the second piece of paper.
This handwriting was robust but controlled in emotion. It was writing particularly centered and ordered. It was very clearly the Emperor’s handwriting.
Fan Xian looked at it closely. After looking at it for a long time, he sighed gently. His hands tightened. He unconsciously wanted to destroy his letter. Afterward, he carefully put the letter back in the envelope and tucked it into his clothing.
“I was not wrong.”
These were the last words the Emperor left on the back of the letter. It seemed like an unusually powerful and proud announcement, but it was an announcement on a letter to an already dead woman. In reality, it was only a faint self-reflection.
However, no one could resolve this question other than history. Even the confident history books probably could not judge the Emperor’s achievements and failures in his life.
Because of Ye Qingmei and Chen Pingping, he only felt hatred toward the Emperor. However, the relationship between him and the Emperor was not as simple as blood. His soul within could deny their blood connection, but he could not shake off the interactions of these years. Such emotion was complicated to the point that it could not be expressed through words.
The Emperor was dead. Even until now, he still felt a numbness from his body to his heart and was unable to believe this reality. He always felt that man was the most powerful and undefeatable man in the world. How could he have died? He seemed to be relieved, but there was no joy of having achieved revenge. He seemed to be mournful, but he could not cry. He was just numbly standing in this freezing wind.
From the letter, he knew that there was no such thing as a true Way of the Emperor in the world. The Emperor’s body had been deteriorating. Even if each person were to become their own king as Ye Qingmei had said, that is still not the Way of the Emperor. Fan Xian, and the ideal he supported, was even further from that.
Just as she said to the Emperor that windy and snowy night, he just wanted peace of heart, a resolution of a private grievance. It did not implicate the larger question of whether it was right or wrong. He had to know that humankind was not a creature that sought correctness. Correctness was not justice because there was always a side in justice.
He suddenly remembered Ye Qingmei’s memorials and letters that King Jing collected. In the past, Ye Qingmei’s letters to the Emperor always discussed the world and people of the world. There was only one letter in as casual a tone as the one he read now. Perhaps it was because of this reason that the Emperor particularly treasured it.
Thinking of this, his lips rose involuntarily in a bitter smile. Without a doubt, the Emperor and Ye Qingmei were both distinguished and accomplished people in the world with incomparable talent, but their meeting was truly not a happy matter. For the Emperor to meet someone like Ye Qingmei, was it not a kind of pain? For Ye Qingmei to meet the Emperor, it was a difficult to speak of sorrow.
Fan Xian stood woodenly in the palace, in the long grass, looking at the remnants of the little tower in a daze. Until now, he still didn’t know where Ye Qingmei was buried. He now knew that his father, Fan Jian’s words, in the past had only been a kind of consolation. The woman in the yellow robe in the painting in the little tower had already turned into ash and gone with the wind. The Emperor had also dissolved into ash and gone with the wind. Perhaps in some corner of the world they would bump into each other again.
He stood silently for a long time. He used the cover of darkness to head toward Taiji Palace to leave the Royal Palace. He saw the lights of the Royal Palace amidst the night, heard the clear voice in the royal study, and saw the seemingly sorrowful but actually calculating officials who had been newly promoted and could not help but feel affected to some extent.