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Chapter 875: A Dispatch
Translator: Henyee Translations Editor: Henyee Translations
The two people in the tent had been staring at each other for a long time.
If it were an hour ago, then Gu Shenwei would have declined without any hesitation. But now, when he looked at those green eyes and that determined face, his will wavered.
Rejection of any form would be a huge blow to Tie Linglong at this moment. She had taken Chu Nanping’s choosing swordsmans.h.i.+p over her as a personal humiliation. If she failed to find comfort from the Dragon King, n.o.body knew what she would do next.
Gu Shenwei hoped that this silence would continue, and that Tie Linglong would not make the next move.
Meanwhile, Tie Linglong found that she wasn’t as brave as she had thought she was. She had already paved the way and all that remained was to make the last remark. But she was still too embarra.s.sed to say it. She hoped that the Dragon King would walk to her, but this man was even more cold and stubborn than Chu Nanping. The deep look in his eyes seemed to be prompting her to move but also seemed to be severely warning her from doing so.
Gu Shenwei took a step forward, but he didn’t know what he wanted to do. Tie Linglong opened her mouth slightly, but she similarly didn’t know what she wanted to say.
An urgent clatter of horse’s hooves broke the subtle silence and saved the two people from the awkward silence.
Gu Shenwei abruptly turned around, as if a formidable enemy had suddenly launched an attack on him, while Tie Linglong quickly took a deep breath, a feeling of dizziness overwhelming her. She was deeply ashamed of what she had been planning on doing just now, but she was also a little disappointed.
Outside the tent, a guard reported in a nervous voice, “Dragon King, there’s a dispatch from the counselor.”
“Come in,” Gu Shenwei said immediately. Fang Wens.h.i.+ was a.s.sisting Shulitu right now. There must be something urgent in his dispatch.
Originally, Nie Zeng also had the privilege of entering the Dragon King’s tent without prior permission. But when he left to serve Shulitu, this privilege had been withdrawn. Sweating buckets, he walked in. His lips were parched and his eyes were red, as if he hadn’t slept for days. After glancing at Tie Linglong who was sitting on the couch, he nodded at the Dragon King, unfastened a leather sack from his waist, and handed it to the Dragon King without saying anything.
Gu Shenwei took the leather sack and took out a hurried letter from it. He raised his head in shock after taking just one glance at it, and then he hurriedly read the rest of it while striding out of the tent, also without saying anything.
Nie Zeng had finally accomplished his mission. The longest period of time he had to sleep over the past twenty days had been less than two hours, and three horses had been run themselves to death during the journey. He had had to steal horses from various herdsmen to finish the last leg of the journey.
Now, the heavy responsibility had been s.h.i.+fted onto the Dragon King, so Nie Zeng didn’t follow him out of the tent. He glanced at Tie Linglong again, opened his mouth to say something, but all that came out was just a string of hoa.r.s.e “ahs” – twenty days without sleep had temporarily deprived him of his ability to talk.
Tie Linglong stood up. She was the Dragon King’s bodyguard, and if she kept sitting on the Dragon King’s bed instead of hiding in a dark corner, she would feel weird. “I… was cultivating the Balanced Power with the Dragon King.”
The moment she finished speaking the last word, Tie Linglong felt a little regretful – she didn’t need to explain anything to Nie Zeng.
Nie Zeng nodded. He felt like his brain was about to stop working and as such, he hadn’t fully comprehended the possible connotations of this scene in front of him. And neither had he been able to hear Tie Linglong’s words. He painfully licked his lips and felt like his throat was swollen and in pain, as if a hard stone was stuck in there. “How are you?”
Nie Zeng’s voice was hoa.r.s.e and peculiar. Tie Linglong immediately said, “You need rest. Just sleep here. The Dragon King won’t mind.”
Nie Zeng clearly knew that this was not the right occasion to do so and that he was also not qualified to do so. But like a drunk alcoholic, he had lost control of himself, and he was not sober enough to realize how impulsive his words were. “Stop trying to be a killer… You, me and all the others around the Dragon King – none of us are suitable as killers. The Dragon King is a killer himself, but he can never make us qualified killers. Hu s.h.i.+ning can only teach techniques, and in the end, he will fail without the Dragon King’s support.”
These remarks had been simmering in Nie Zeng’s heart for a very long time, and he had always been meaning to keep them secret. But in these circ.u.mstances, he had spilled them out. Because of his hoa.r.s.e voice, these remarks sounded somewhat funny.
But he himself couldn’t feel this and the only feeling he had was that of relief. The letter had been handed over to the Dragon King, and his words had been heard by Tie Linglong. At this point, there was no longer any burden on him anymore. But he still couldn’t sit down and rest. Like a length of rope that had been stretched out for too long, he was unable to relax any time soon, as if he were still heaving on horseback.
“Thud” Nie Zeng had fallen onto the ground, unconscious.
Gu Shenwei went straight to Dugu Xian’s tent and directly entered it without having the guard announce his arrival. He woke up the General of the Left.
Dugu Xian opened his sleepy eyes and was startled by the sight of the Dragon King at his bedside. Surprisingly, his first thought was that he was about to be killed. He abruptly sat up and then saw that there was a letter in the Dragon King’s hand.
A guard quickly lit an oil lamp. After taking a look at the letter, Dugu Xian raised his head in shock just like the Dragon King had done previously. “Impossible!”
Dugu Xian quickly finished reading the letter and returned it to the Dragon King. Hurriedly putting on his clothes, he asked, “What should we do? This is a huge problem.”
“Come with me to meet Prince Xiao. He’s the only one who can handle this.”
The guards outside the tent had already prepared two horses. The rare nervousness and anxiety on the Dragon King’s face had spread to everyone nearby. Gu Shenwei and Dugu Xian had scarcely got on the horse when Long Fanyun was carried out of the tent.
Gu Shenwei thought for a while and then said to Long Fanyun, “Tighten the security. Send a dispatch to the Shule army in the west. Tell them that I’ll be there soon.”
“Yes,” Long Fanyun answered and asked no further questions.
It was not easy for anyone to enter the encampment of the Central Plains late at night, and the Dragon King was no exception. Even when they were still a certain distance away from the outer gate, a group of soldiers on patrol had stopped Gu Shenwei, Dugu Xian and over a hundred guards. After some diplomacy, those soldiers agreed to escort them to their camp.
More and more soldiers came out of the encampment of the Central Plains, and eventually, the total number reached two to three hundred. Even so, the people of the Western Regions still had to wait at the gate of the camp, and the general on duty refused to go inside the camp and inform Prince Xiao, who was asleep, of their arrival no matter how hard they tried to convince him.
“No matter how urgent this issue is, it can surely wait another two hours. Please return, Dragon King, and come back after daybreak. If you could comply, Prince Xiao won’t be unhappy, and I won’t have to make any difficult choices.”
Gu Shenwei was just about to speak when Dugu Xian, who was beside him, angrily yelled, “Prince Xiao will be unhappy if you wake him up now, but eventually, he will forgive you. If you delay us for two hours, then the death penalty will surely be given to you. Now go!”
The general was shocked. Though very reluctantly, he still said, “Please wait a moment, Dragon King.”
After a full quarter of an hour, the general came back and invited the Dragon King and Dugu Xian to enter the camp, a displeased look on his face. “The Dragon King’d better really have urgent business because I vouched for you… ”
Prince Xiao still looked as easy-going as usual, and the smile on his face was amiable while he was dressed in neat clothes. “The Dragon King has come here on a snowy night, which reminds me of the saints of ancient times. I think that this will become a much-told story in the future.”
Luo Ningcha wasn’t present, and Gu Shenwei’s impression of Prince Xiao became slightly better. “Something huge happened in the Norland. Please take a look at this letter, Prince Xiao.”
Prince Xiao took the letter and unfolded it slowly, saying with a smile, “The bigger, the better. The Central Plains is more than glad to be a bystan-”
Prince Xiao abruptly raised his head and his smile disappeared instantly. This was the first time that Gu Shenwei had seen this expression on his face.
“How… How is this possible? Where did you get this letter, Dragon King?”
“Both the one who wrote this letter and the one who delivered it are reliable. They’re my trusted men whom I stationed in the Norland.”
Prince Xiao paced up and down for a while. When he spoke again, his voice was resolute and decisive, completely different from his usual voice. “I have to return to the Central Plains right now, and I can’t afford to be delayed for even a single moment.”
Gu Shenwei nodded. He had always been suspicious of Prince Xiao’s competence, but at this moment, he finally confirmed that Prince Xiao, who was seemingly easy-going, was also a decisive person. He wasn’t an incompetent royal uncle whose mind was full of idealistic concepts.
“I share your opinion, but regarding the Western Regions, you’ll have to make some arrangements first, Prince Xiao.”
“Yes. What do you have in mind, Dragon King?” The Central Plains was all Prince Xiao could think about now, and he couldn’t spare any energy for the situation in the Western Regions.
“The 10,000 troops outside the city should stay where they are. I want to recommend someone to Prince Xiao – General Dugu is very familiar with armies of the Central Plains, and he can serve as the acting commander-in-chief.”
“General Dugu indeed once defeated the Norland cavalry and he’s highly competent, but-”
“There are precedents for a man of the Western-Region to be the commander of a Central-Plains army.” Gu Shenwei knew what Prince Xiao was worried about.
Prince Xiao thought for a while and then seemed to have made a great resolution. “All right! Before I leave, I’ll issue an appointment. But General Dugu can no longer be the Commander-in-chief of the Dragon Army.”
“I’ll select someone else then.”
The two consulted with each other on the appointment of the Commander-in-chief. Dugu Xian stood to the side, staying silent out of prudence.
“Regarding the Commanding Officer of the Western Regions, Wei Song,” Gu Shenwei said as a reminder towards Prince Xiao. “After you leave, he will be the supreme officer of the Western Regions. We must take precautions against him.”
Wei Song was one of Prince Xiao’s political enemies, so Prince Xiao naturally wouldn’t let his guard down. “This issue quite is tricky. I’m afraid that the Dragon King and General Dugu will have to play it by ear. Unless the Imperial Court says otherwise, my appointment to General Dugu will always be valid, and Wei Song won’t dare to make any bold moves.”
After saying these words, Prince Xiao suddenly thought of an idea and said excitedly, “General Du can handle everything here, so why don’t you go back to the Central Plains with me, Dragon King? Your explanation for this issue will be more convincing than anybody else’s.”
On his way to this camp, Gu Shenwei had indeed considered this idea, and he had even hoped to take this opportunity to uncover the ident.i.ty of that Central-Plains n.o.ble who had colluded with the Unique King. But eventually, he had given up. He had built an extensive and complicated network in Jade City, but none of his men – from the killers around him to the prince and Shang Liao in the Shule army to Shangguan Yun who was in Xiaowan Kingdom – were trustworthy enough. If he left, there might be unimaginable consequences.
“I used to be a man of the Central Plains, but now I’m one of the Western Regions. If I explain this to the Emperor, it’ll just arouse more suspicions.
Prince Xiao gave up this idea immediately. “You have a point, Dragon King. But please rest a.s.sured. The Emperor trusts me very much. The great victory over Norlanders was won collectively by you and me, and n.o.body can steal that away. As for electing the Lord of Jade City through a kung fu compet.i.tion, it will be held on schedule. In a word, just wait for my good news, Dragon King.”
The Central-Plains general, who had let the Dragon King in, soon heard two shocking pieces of news. First, Prince Xiao was going to leave before daybreak. It turned out that he had indeed received an important message. Second, unexpectedly, that one-armed general, who had severely reprimanded him previously, had been appointed as Commander-in-chief and become his immediate superior.
That general led the two out himself and saw the Dragon King off. The look on his face was so warm that it almost seemed a little obsequious. He was full of doubts but didn’t dare to ask about the situation.
When the sun was high up in the sky, Dugu Xian called a meeting with those Central-Plains generals. When Luo Ningcha started angrily breaking things in her tent, that general’s confusion had finally dissipated.
Fang Wens.h.i.+’s letter to the Dragon King said that Second Consort had led her 10,000-men army as well as large numbers of residents and livestock towards the east, planning to surrender to the General-in-chief of the Central Plains, Pang Liao.
It was even possible that she had already surrendered when that letter arrived.
The great achievement that Prince Xiao had worked so hard to make, their biggest fruit for the taking, was about to fall into the hands of his political enemy. How could he not be anxious?