Joy of Life - Chapter 599 - Return[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:50:09]
Chapter 599: Return
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The two parties were separated by a great distance, but they could see each other’s expression clearly. Fan Xian narrowed his eyes and confirmed that the Hu were leaving. He couldn’t help but shake his head. A wave of exhaustion surged through his heart. Having been chased by the pack of Western Hu wolves for three days, both sides were burned out. Since the Hu had given up, he didn’t feel any disappointment, only release.
The three days of waiting and three days of pursuit looked like children playing house. It did not seem particularly dangerous. Neither side had pulled out a knife, nor had arrows been fired. They both knew what this pursuit represented and what kind of dangers it hid.
Fan Xian and his group had ventured deep into the heart of the grasslands, kicked their heels, and left. Although they had not truly made battle, they had left a deep and dark shadow on the hearts of the Western Hu people. Many years ago, the Qing Kingdom’s biggest move to extend its borders was secretly carried out under the leadership of the Overwatch Council. Until now, Chen Pingping, who was still a legendary figure, was seen as comparable to a demon on the grasslands. Fan Xian’s journey to Western Hu could be said to have continued the Overwatch Council’s outstanding tradition, arrogantly surveying the land after taking over the position.
This time, it had been a great blow to the morale of everyone on the grasslands. The Western Hu court desired to unify the grasslands and rival the Qing Kingdom. Yet, they could not hold back a group of people who had entered into the depths of the grasslands. Presumably, this would give them a clearer understanding of their strengths and make the western Hu tribes, who had been basking in endless glory for two years, more careful when it came to sending out troops.
Su Bida had chased to no avail for three days and was forced to turn back gloomily. He appeared helplessly sorrowful. In Fan Xian’s eyes, it carried a different implication. The master of the grasslands had retreated with great determination. This brave surrender and his ability to suppress the Hu riders’ love for battle truly made him unconventional on the grasslands.
If, with Haitang’s help, he truly united the grasslands, Fan Xian was afraid it would become a great disaster for the Qing Kingdom.
Fan Xian blinked his eyes. His long eyelashes were covered with dust. He looked like a dirt man. Although he twisted the most powerful people on the grasslands around his fingers, he was not happy. On the contrary, he appeared lonely and helpless.
“Let’s go.” With a pull on his reins, he rode toward the meadow below the setting sun. the warhorse beneath him was jubilant.
Although it looked like the pursuing soldiers from the court had retreated, the soldiers of the Black Knights did not relax. No one knew whether the ruthless Western Hu people had created a false impression and would come charging out from behind them. On the grasslands, the Hu people had the help of hawks, which completely canceled out the effectiveness of the round tube telescope in Fan Xian’s hands.
Because of this, the group of people escaping from the grasslands did not reduce their speed. Forcing their exhausted bodies to continue, they urged the warhorses soaked in medicinal sweat beneath them and rode toward the east. Only when they had entered the mouth of Hong Mountain after seven days did they truly feel assured.
Hong Mountain was a particularly strange feature to the east of the grasslands. It was formed naturally through the piling of rocks and dirt. After experiencing countless millennia of northern winds, it had been shaped into a lonely mountain peak. The mountain was cinnabar red. It looked just like the red annotations of the imperial brush in the royal study. It was soul-shaking and full of a murderous aura.
The entrance to the path was under these red mountains. It was a small path like sheep intestines that wound back and forth. Fan Xian walked at the front of the group. Accepting a leather bag from Jing Ge, he drank a mouthful of water to soothe his sore throat and said in a raspy voice, “After finishing the matters here, I’m going back to the capital to rest for two months.”
Rustling sounds came from within Hong Mountain. It was as if someone had stepped on loose sand and stones on the mountain. Jing Ge couldn’t help but furrow his brows. Fan Xian knew what he was thinking and laughed uproariously. Due to the problem with his throat, his laugh sounded particularly ugly. The Qing Western Expedition Army that had been lying in ambush at the mouth of Hong Mountain must have also been extremely exhausted to catch onto such an obvious sound.
The sound of horses rang out from the gully in front. Li Hongcheng, covered in dust, led the Dingzhou army forward from there. He squeezed his horse with his legs and came to a stop in front of Fan Xian. Looking at Fan Xian’s wretched appearance, he couldn’t resist shaking his head. “I said it long ago, how could such an ambitious and ruthless character as Su Bida be provoked by you into falling into a trap?”
Fan Xian glanced at him and said, “At least I took lured him out for six days. Six days is enough time to time to do some things.”
“Is there a need to so careful just to kill those Northern Qi people in the court?” Li Hongcheng glanced at him with disapproval. After confirming the kid was indeed without injury, only then did he relax and continue. “Did you take a swing at the Western Hu people?”
“No, we only moved our feet.”
When the two sides joined together, the sound immediately grew louder. In a moment, it spilled out the mouth of Hong Mountain, which held thousands of years of wind and sand. In order to hide the news and stop someone sending a message to the Western Hu court, the 8,000 Qing elites lying in ambush at the mouth of Hong Mountain were close subordinates from the General’s manor and front-line soldier from Qingzhou. They didn’t go through Dingzhou to carry out a massive transfer.
“We waited here for seven days, but, in the end, nothing showed up. Should the Overwatch Council not give us an explanation?” Li Hongcheng pressed his lips together, which had grown blisters.
“Forget it.” Fan Xian gently squeezed the horse. There was not a spot on his body that didn’t hurt. Glaring at him, he thought to himself, The ambush at the mouth of Hong Mountain was only a pre-emptive measure. Who could have guessed how strong his jealousy would have been? They were still some days away from Qingzhou. Endlessly arguing here and not hurrying back was a very dangerous matter.
He was interested in the internal situation in Dingzhou. “Has a move been made?”
“I left before anything started. The Governor’s manor fully cooperated with your subordinates. I sent down a martial order, rest assured.” Li Hongcheng looked at him. “Although I don’t know the specific situation, there have been reports each day. The mission seems to be going smoothly. The spies the Northern Qi had placed in Dingzhou have mostly been swept clean by your people.”
Fan Xian nodded and didn’t say anything more. With this, the grasslands was again subsumed in conflict. More importantly, one group of the Overwatch Council had entered the grasslands while another scattered across Xiliang Road and successfully swept clean the spies the Northern Qi had hidden in the vast battlefield. Ku He’s ruthless methods before he died, which the Northern Qi Emperor and Haitang had used for two years and had been woven into a great set up, had become a pie in the sky because of his even more ruthless and shameless response.
After four days, almost 10,000 Qing elite troops left the grasslands and entered Qingzhou. This troop had not battled with the Western Hu riders. It had served as the backdrop to the Overwatch Council’s mission. The morale was not as high as when they left. Having endured in the mouth of Hong Mountain for too long, they looked as broken as defeated soldiers.
The Overwatch Council’s Black Knights also didn’t look much better. If it were not to give Fan Xian face, these people would probably have immediately fallen to the ground and slept.
Once they entered Qingzhou, Fan Xian ordered the Black Knights to rest. Jing Ge accepted the order and left, but they could not immediately go wash and eat. First, they had to look after the hundreds of fine horses the Overwatch Council had trained. The drug in these horses’ bodies was beginning to wear off. They wouldn’t be able to hang on for much longer. If they weren’t quickly seen to, they could gradually die.
These hundreds of human-like warhorse were the saviors of the Overwatch Council’s Black Knights. No one wanted to see them fall to such a tragic fate. Everyone knew that after this thousand-li gallop, this herd of black horses would never recover their initial spirit. Inevitably, they felt gloom in their hearts.
Fan Xian followed the Western camp’s troops and was met with speculating glances from both sides of the road in Qingzhou. The soldiers and merchants had all guessed his identity. They guessed that the imperial court must have carried out a massive mission on the grasslands. However, looking at the Dingzhou army’s exhausted and spiritless appearance, everyone thought that the imperial court’s mission on the grasslands failed. The gazes they turned on them were strange.
Fan Xian and Li Hongcheng had just entered the Qingzhou army’s yamen when Ye Ling’er, who had received the message, hurried down from the city walls and charged into the back room. Pushing open the door, she angrily said, “Do you think you’re a god? To take so few people into the grasslands, are you not afraid the Hu people will swallow you whole?”
Ye Ling’er had reason to be angry. Although Fan Xian had not lost anything on his journey into the grasslands this time, he had taken a great risk and been careless with his own life. Each time Ye Ling’er thought of this, anger raged in her heart. If Fan Xian had died on the grasslands, what would happen to Lin Wan’er? What about the two children?
As Lin Wan’er’s childhood friend, she had sufficient reason to dole out the severest criticism on his reckless actions. There was another reason she was angry. Fan Xian had come to Qingzhou but had not come to see her and had hidden such an important matter from her.
Fan Xian looked through the strands of fog to see the young lady of the Ye family, who had charged through the door. His gaze moved unconsciously from her light armor to her familiar and charming face. His heart was slightly moved. He knew that she was concerned about his safety but…
“Look at your appearance! You look more like you want to swallow me whole than the Hu people.” His expression was anxious. “Wangfei, Hongcheng and I are not wearing clothes, surely you are not in such a rush?”
After entering the Qingzhou military yamen, windblown and covered in sand with their entire bodies aching, the incomparably tired Fan Xian and Li Hongcheng had used their power and positions to have two large tubs of hot water brought into the yamen. They were soaking comfortably when, unexpectedly, this special girl had charged in.
Ye Ling’er had grown up in the Dingzhou army. Her character was bold. She was not quite like other girls. Hearing Fan Xian’s words, only then did she realize that he and Li Hongcheng were both naked as pigs and huddled in the big wooden tubs. These two were also purposely wearing embarrassed expression.
On the contrary, she was not embarrassed or angry, she only spat by her foot and leisurely turned around to leave.
On the grasslands, with the Left Virtuous Prince assassinated and problems arising in court, it was inevitable that it would sink into chaos. As the Qing official and head of the military stationed in Xiliang Road, Li Hongcheng had to quickly report this matter to Jingdou. At the same time, he had to go back to Dingzhou to hold the fort and move around troops to deal with the new situation arising in the grasslands. Thus, on the second day, he left Qingzhou.
Fan Xian stayed behind. It was not because the scenery was good in Qingzhou or because of Ye Ling’er. He had to wait for a few people to come back before he could truly feel at ease.
After a few days, the Central Plain merchant group Fan Xian had mingled into finally returned to Qingzhou covered in dust. Calculating the time, the merchant group had traveled quickly. The road the merchants took on the way back was not the same as the one Fan Xian left by, so they missed the terrifying pursuit.
Seeing this group of merchants returning safely, Fan Xian relaxed a little. He had been worried that because of the Overwatch Council’s actions, these merchants from the Central Plain would become the target of the Hu people’s vengeance. No one would have thought that the Hu people would still be able to resist taking action against the merchants even in their rage. It looked like Haitang’s indoctrination these two years on the grasslands and the Chief’s decision for the future had already influenced many people.
Immediately after, a lonely herdsman, who had lost his cows and sheep and could no longer survive on the grasslands, also entered Qingzhou. No one knew that in this half year, the lonely herdsman played the part of a mute servant used to keeping his body bent.
The Shadow had returned safely. Fan Xian’s heart relaxed a great deal. However, there was still no news from Thirteenth Wang. He didn’t know what his situation was like. This made him worried. They had great plans for the grasslands. Although the Overwatch Council was used to using sinister methods against its enemies, any plan needed a powerful executor.
Fan Xian was a powerful ace himself. He also had the Shadow to command. If he didn’t have such a terrifying assassin, even if he lured Haitang and the Chief away, it would be impossible to accomplish the Overwatch Council’s goal.
The Northern Qi people in the court were dealt with by the Shadow, while the Left Virtuous Prince, who had to die, needed another warrior. Fan Xian had thought hard about this. There were only a dozen top-notch aces in the entire world. After a long time, he, in a probing fashion, sent out an invitation to Thirteenth Wang through Baoyue Brothel.
After the Dong Mountain incident, Thirteenth Wang had stayed in the Sword Hut in Dongyi to serve the heavily injured and almost dead Sigu Jian. Miraculously, Sigu Jian stalled and refused to die, so Thirteenth Wang had not appeared again. Although Fan Xian and Thirteenth Wang had a deal two years ago, he didn’t know if the deal was still in effect. Thus, this invitation was a test.
Thirteenth Wang had not replied a single letter to this invitation. Straightforwardly, he had left Dongyi and come to the Qing Kingdom’s Jingdou to find Fan Xian.
Fan Xian, the Shadow, and Thirteenth Wang, three aces entered the grasslands, each with their own task. If one considered it from the executing power that each top-notch ace represented, the present-day Overwatch Council was even more terrifying than when Chen Pingping was in office.
It was because of Thirteenth Wang’s arrival that Fan Xian finally made up his mind to enter the grasslands. Since his identity was overly special, and Fan Xian didn’t want to the Royal Palace to develop too many doubts about him, he had purposely hidden his identity along the way. He only brought him into the merchant group and then split off.
He still didn’t understand why Thirteenth Wang was willing to continue the previous deal after Sigu Jian had been beaten into a cripple and an idiot by the Emperor. He didn’t have time to think about these things. He only hoped that Thirteenth Wang would be able to return safely after assassinating the Western Hu’s Left Virtuous Prince.
After many days, Fan Xian finally received the news he had been anticipating for a long time. Everyone knew that Thirteenth Wang had returned because his return was different than the Shadow’s quiet return. The return of the thirteenth disciple of the Sword Hut startled Qingzhou.
That day, the fierce sun hung high in the sky and shone down on Qingzhou, completely negating the chilly wind. The bricks outside the city gate seemed as if they were about to start smoking. Suddenly, a bloody man walked through Qingzhou’s city gate.
The soldiers of Qingzhou looked at the bloody man with caution. Holding long spears in their hands, they surrounded him. The chill and murderous aura emanating from the bloody man enveloped them and made their hearts tremble with fear.
The man wore a Hu leather coat. If a leather coat that had been sliced open more than 30 times could still be called a leather coat. Countless drops of fresh blood seeped out of the leather coat, congealing, extending, and smearing all over his body.
No one knew how long this bloody man had been walking on the grasslands. His bloody wounds were already rotting. Flies, mosquitoes, and bugs danced around his body. He looked unusually wretched.
The Qingzhou guards didn’t know who this person was, but they knew that to be able to walk out of the grasslands with such heavy wounds, he was certainly not a common person.
The man opened his eyes. His mouth was covered with bubbles of blood. He opened his mouth and said to the soldiers surrounding him, “Tell Fan Xian, I have completed the matter I promised him.”
Having received the message, Fan Xian sped over and grabbed him at once. Looking at the wounds on his body, his heart was full of ice. For the mission, he was responsible for luring out the Chief and Haitang. Haitang would not be able to kill him. The Shadow did things silently, so he also did not face much danger. The truly most difficult segment was Thirteenth Wang assassinating the Left Virtuous Prince.
Fan Xian didn’t know how Thirteenth Wang had killed the powerful Left Virtuous Prince in the unbroken Hu camp, but he knew that the matter he had promised him had been completed perfectly.
He held the fainted Thirteenth Wang and returned to the military yamen. With a solemn face, he began to tend to the fierce warrior. Ye Ling’er was at his side, handing him needles and knives. Her face was full of shock and curiosity. She wondered who this Overwatch Council official was who had been sliced more than 30 times. How could he survive like this?