There was a faint layer of smoke, strong stench of blood, and charred and horrifying scent everywhere. Jingdou had fallen into chaos. Other than around the Royal Palace, no one knew where else there was killing and murdering. The faintly heard sounds of killing did not come to a halt.
The Second Prince furrowed his brows and gazed at the indistinct images at the top of the Palace walls. Lowering his voice, he quietly said, “They won’t be able to hold it. We’ll see how long they can last. Aunt organized the matters around the perimeter of Jingdou, and all of the messengers have been killed. It is impossible for aid to come. Given Fan Xian’s personality, how could he resist so bravely knowing this is futile? Usually, he would have run away a long time ago.”
Ye Zhong’s armor was somewhat old. It shone with a dim light. This important Qing Kingdom military figure glanced at his son-in-law. His eyes flashed as he slowly said, “There are so many people in the Palace. How could he run?”
Anyone would have to admit that if Fan Xian, seeing that the situation was not good, led the Overwatch Council people in an escape, it would be difficult to dig him out again in Jingdou where hundreds of thousands of people lived, despite the number of soldiers under the Eldest Princess’s command. Everyone acknowledged Fan Xian’s power and skill in escaping.
Ye Zhong was silent for a moment and then said, “Since Fan Xian has not escaped, he must have something to rely on.”
The Second Prince’s expression calmed. He had listened to his aunt’s suggestion and temporarily hid his wild ambitions, standing behind the Crown Prince waving his flag and shouting. The note in his heart had been played countless times. It was only that the situation at hand was not yet settled, so he wouldn’t do anything too crazy. Particularly in comparison to the Crown Prince, he was more afraid of Fan Xian’s existence.
Fan Xian’s attack on the Second Prince had not been purely physical. He had also done a great deal of psychological damage. The Second Prince took a deep breath and said, “Fan Xian always brings out his trump card when people least expect it. I never underestimate him…”
Ye Zhong suddenly and coldly cut across his words, “We cannot continue to conserve our strength. The Great Prince is leading thousands of imperial soldiers and guarding the Palace to the death with the Overwatch Council helping in secret. Their strength is already much more than we originally imagined. If strict orders are not given to Taiping Square and it is allowed to drag on, it could cause problems.”
The Second Prince slowly lowered his head and thought something over. This time, the Qin and Ye families had joined to form the rebel army to surround the Palace. In name, they all supported the Crown Prince’s ascension. However, everyone knew, at least presently, that Dingzhou’s Ye family belonged to him. Thus, the Ye family had not given their all in the numerous attacks since the morning. On Taiping Square, where the main attack was, they had also been particularly careful. They were worried they would suffer too much damage to their strength.
It was because of this that the rebel army’s attacks appeared to be not connected enough. All of this made been implicitly consented to by the Second Prince.
Ye Zhong glanced at his son-in-law and said in a heavy voice, “I trust that Fan Xian had already noticed this. I think he will immediately use this to antagonize the relationship between you and the Crown Prince. I ask that you temporarily put aside your usual desires and first help the Crown Prince enter the Palace.”
The Second Prince took in a deep breath. A warm smile rose to his face. He nodded and said, “You are right. We cannot give Fan Xian any opportunities. The distrust between the Crown Prince and myself will only make the three brothers in the Palace happy.”
He turned his head to glance at Ye Zhong and said solemnly, “To have the Crown Prince and old Qin Master attack with an easy heart, I will go to the camp and ask if the Crown Prince has any orders.”
Ye Zhong furrowed his brows slightly. He knew the Second Prince was going to use himself as a hostage. He would use his safety to ensure the unity and will of the tens of thousands of rebel soldiers and not give Fan Xian any opportunity.
“Too dangerous,” The Commander of the Dingzhou army slowly closed his eyes and said. “As the Deputy, I should go to the central camp to receive the military orders. I will take a few trusted soldiers with me. The Dingzhou army will be left to you to manage. As for matters concerning the attack on the Palace, there will be orders from the central camp. There won’t be a situation where it will be difficult to send out military orders.”
The Second Prince said, with emotion and concern, “Father-in-law, be careful.”
Just as the Second Prince and Ye Zhong expected, Fan Xian saw that the Dingzhou troops were saving their strength. It was impossible for him to give up this opportunity to create division within their ranks. Standing on the Palace wall, he gazed in the direction of the rebel camp and once again began to call out to the Crown Prince.
At this time, the attacks at the foot of the walls were urgent. Drums sounded like thunder as the cries of killing rose up all around. Some of the rebel soldiers braved the dangers of arrows and rocks and began to climb toward the top of the wall. Even in such a tense moment and in such a brutal and dangerous environment, each of Fan Xian’s words imprinted themselves clearly in the ears of all the rebel soldiers and generals of the Qin family.
He only called down to the bottom of the wall, “Old man Qin, you’ve lost so many people. Does it not hurt?”
Not one word mentioned the Ye family or Dingzhou army. Currently, bodies were spread out on the field. The charred remains of the rebel soldiers still emanated a vomiting-inducing smell. As long as one was not blind, one could see that in these waves of attack, the people who died were almost all soldiers of the Qin family or Jingdou Garrison. Dingzhou had not suffered many casualties.
After these words were said, the leaders in the central rebel camp paused. The Crown Prince laughed and said to the generals beside him, “Such juvenile attempt to create division. Only an idiot would believe it.”
Even a blind person could hear Fan Xian’s intention in his public provocation. Only an idiot would fall into his trap and begin to guess at each other’s intentions. Although the Crown Prince and Second Prince had fought bitterly in court in the past, after experiencing the Dongshan incident and under the Eldest Princess’s light touch and powerful suppression, they had no choice but to be bound closely together. Both of the Li princes were not idiots. They knew that in the present situation, they had to maintain an appearance of unity and cooperation.
No matter how simple a plan, once it is turned into direct speech and falls into someone’s ears, it will have some effect on their emotions, particularly on the generals under the old Qin Master. Although they knew what effect that Fan Xian wanted to achieve, they still couldn’t help but feel a glimmer of rage. Up until now, the Qin family had carried out most of the attacking while the Dingzhou army basically stood and watched coldly from the side. How could the Qin generals feel good about this?
After he stole the banner back, Gong Dian had been standing two spaces beside the Crown Prince. At this time, his expression became unnatural as if he felt a sliver of remorse. Everyone had seen the Dingzhou army’s actions and knew that Ye Zhong and the Second Prince must have their own agenda. Although it wouldn’t have any major effect on the current matter, the Qin Family had to be angry.
The Crown Prince glanced warmly at Gong Dian and said, “Fan Xian already knows that he is out of options. That is why he would take such a useless action. As they say, if you face strange things fearlessly, they will lose their strangeness. There are only those people in the Palace. With my army already here, as long as we don’t fall into chaos, we will eventually succeed. I hope everyone will work hard.”
“Yes, Your Highness.” The generals around him all bowed uniformly. They knew what the Crown Prince said was the right way. One should engage in battle in an orthodox way and win through unorthodox means. If the right way was magnanimous and powerful, what need was there for unorthodox means?
The Crown Prince managed to shatter Fan Xian’s words. The generals began to go about their work. The Crown Prince said something to the old Qin Master in a low voice. At the same time, he turned his gaze toward the top of the wall.
Suddenly, a fast rider with a banner arrived and announced in a high voice before everyone’s gazes, “Deputy Commander Ye Zhong is here to ask for the Crown Prince’s orders.”
The Crown Prince’s eyes lit up. To the side, the Old Qin Master suddenly opened his eyes wide. Cold light glinted within them, but he immediately calmed down. The main situation was already settled. The old Qin Master couldn’t help but begin think of his only son, Qin Heng. Just what disaster had befallen him at Zhengyang Gate? Why had he still not returned? Although Ye Zhong had come abruptly, the old Qin Master was only slightly startled.
The old man guessed as to why Ye Zhong had come. He was not worried at all that Ye Zhong would steal any of the Qin family’s military merit. What was known as “following the Emperor,” the work the Qin family did to place the Crown Prince onto the throne was something impossible to ignore. As long as the Crown Prince took the throne and became Emperor, after the old Qin Master’s death, there would still be at least decades of peace.
The Crown Prince’s slight shock and surprise were because of other thoughts. He knew that Ye Zhong had come so that Fan Xian’s words would not affect the major plan of calling on the soldiers. This show of respect to him and Ye Zhong’s care toward the greater picture suggested a different light to the Crown Prince.
Fan Xian had placed the empress dowager and two others as idols at the top of the wall and had caused the Crown Prince and old Qin Master to engage in a vigorous conflict. In the end, the Crown Prince forcefully suppressed the ideas of the Qin generals. But, another idea grew in his heart—an idea Fan Xian wanted him to have.
A few days ago, the Crown Prince and empress dowager had discussed matters of death a number of times. They could never make up their minds as to whether or not to let the Qin family lead troops in Jingdou. They were afraid that in the future, the military would be a sole power. Seeing the situation now, the Crown Prince knew that in the end, he was not his father. His influence in the military was too weak. He had to find ways to equalize matters.
Ye Zhong’s abrupt arrival gave the Crown Prince a sliver of hope. Ye Zhong was the Second Prince’s father-in-law. Logically speaking, he should be the person the Crown Prince was most wary of. However, the Crown Prince did not believe the alliances in this world would continue on forever. Everything was related to loss and gain. It had nothing to do with feelings and family. He was the true Crown Prince and was about to take the throne. It would do the Ye family much more good to support him than the Second Prince.
He did not expect the Ye family would abruptly turn and support him. These were things that needed to be considered much later, but he had discovered their potential.
The Crown Prince thought bitterly in his heart as he looked at the group of people at the foot of the wall. They were all people who had turned against the Emperor and virtue. What was there that they wouldn’t do?
Ye Zhong entered and bowed formally to the Crown Prince and reported the battle situation in Taiping Square. His trusted soldier had been kept away out of the camp. Although the Qin family would not guard against him, they would also not allow him to bring in his personal guards.
The old Qin Master narrowed his eyes slightly and nodded toward Ye Zhong in greeting. Ye Zhong’s face was slightly dark. His expression was very composed.
The attack on the palace continued. Arrows flew in all directions. The sounds of killing never stopped. The Imperial Army was already showing clear signs of loss. However, the Palace walls were tall and strong, and the Palace gates were blocked with rocks and mud. It could still hold out.
Fan Xian narrowed his eyes as he watched the deaths happening in front of his eyes. No one knew how he felt in his heart. The Great Prince had already tidied his light armor and taken the sword at his waist down before accepting, from his personal guard, the long knife he used on the battlefield. He passed silently behind Fan Xian, who suddenly stretched out his hand and pulled on his arm. In a low voice, he said, “Let me go instead.”
“I admit that you are more powerful but leading soldiers in an attack is not the same as one person carrying out an assassination,” the Great Prince furrowed his brows and said. “It is better if I did such things. You watch the top of the wall. I’m putting my mother’s life in your hands.”
Fan Xian was silent. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to convince his brother that was about to leave.
The Great Prince looked at him and suddenly said, “I wonder if I’ve gone crazy to take a few hundred people to charge a camp without even knowing anything…” He laughed bitterly and spat on the ground. “After I die, if you can get out, remember to burn some paper money for me every year.”
Fan Xian smiled roughly. He knew the Li family’s tradition was to burn paper money. Hearing these words, he couldn’t help but pat the Great Prince’s shoulder. We wasn’t able to say anything. A moment later he could only squeeze out, “Brother, be careful.”
Hearing the word “brother,, the Great Prince laughed loudly and said, “Having you recognize me as your brother right before I die is not bad.”
The Great Prince knew Fan Xian didn’t even want to recognize the Emperor as his father, yet he was willing to recognize him as brother. There had to be some true feelings there.
Fan Xian turned his head and watched the gradually retreating Great Prince and ready and waiting members of the imperial army who dared to die. He watched them gently stroking the last 200 warhorses in the Royal Palace. His gaze gradually became soft. He knew that if he lost this gamble, he may still have a chance to turn things around for himself. For these people, as well as most of the people in the Palace, they would pay with their lives for his gamble.
If you all die, I will use years to kill everyone in the Li family in revenge for you all.
Fan Xian’s gaze slowly swept over the top of the walls and across the foot of the walls, past the imperial soldiers who were bravely resisting the rebel soldiers. He saw the Overwatch Council officials responsible for communications standing guard near the city guarding crossbows. He saw the scholars Hu and Shu, who stood resolutely at the front of the Palace despite their pale faces.
Shu Wu’s white beard floated messily in the wind. Fan Xian’s heart dimmed slightly. He didn’t know if this was the last time he would see these people’s lively faces.
He lowered his head and said some things to the Third Prince. He then clapped his hands and flipped up to stand on the three coffins.
The autumn sun was nearing noon, but it was abruptly blocked by a patch of dark clouds. The three coffins on the Palace walls became completely black. Fan Xian’s body also became black as he calmly stood on top. He welcomed the slightly cold wind as he looked at the distressing sight.
Everyone up and down the Royal Palace saw this sight. The hot-blooded soldiers did not have the attention to spare to watch. The people in the rebel camp saw the black-clothed man welcoming the wind on the top of the walls and involuntarily felt a chill in their hearts.
From the beginning of the battle until now, Fan Xian’s little tricks had not had any major effect. After Ye Zhong met with the Crown Prince, there was finally some small changes in the rebel camp. The entire camp began to slowly and methodically change their array.
The Dingzhou army had to take some of the responsibility of rebellion from the Qin family. This was what Fan Xian wanted to see. He watched this and found that although the Qing army was well trained, the Ye and Qin families rarely worked together. During the exchange, a number of holes finally opened up along their entire battle line.
The Dingzhou army was not yet completely in position, while the Qin family was still in the middle section. It was only in the spider web-like streets to the upper left that they left open some holes.
Fan Xian didn’t have much experience in military matters, but he knew that it was impossible for him to use those loopholes. He could only pray silently in his heart that the good luck that had accompanied him for 20 years would show itself brilliantly right now.
It was as if there was a will of heaven in the unseen spirit world while the will of heaven listened to the prayers in Fan Xian’s heart. In the chaos of the rebel soldiers changing array, the sound of urgent and deadly horse hooves finally came from the gap in that street.
Fan Xian’s attention peaked. He gazed in that direction. His eyes immediately froze over.
They were not relief troops. It was Qin Heng.
After experiencing the brutal killing outside Zhengyang Gate, Qin Heng, the general who had personally experienced the Nanzhao battles and was a descendant of a family of generals, finally managed to break through the Overwatch Council and imperial soldiers united attack with his 5,000 riders. After being an hour late, he finally reached the Royal Palace.
In a moment, one could see that Qin Heng and his subordinates had already charged into the street. Seeing the blood and wounds on the riders’ bodies and the 3,000 riders left, one could imagine how tragically the killing was at Zhengyang Gate.
The tip of Fan Xian’s heart felt like it was being pricked by a needle. He knew that his most loyal Overwatch Council subordinates had probably suffered great losses at Zhengyang Gate. No one knew how many were killed or injured. As for the imperial army group that the Great Prince had sent out, they had probably all died.
A bitter stench of blood rolled over between his lips and tongue. After coughing, Fan Xian stared at them with bloodshot eyes. He knew that while the Tyrannical ephedra pill forcefully raised cultivation, it also deeply hurt his heart meridian.
He only stared at the gap. Looking at the riders Qin Heng led, they appeared among the people with dust and traces of blood.
He covered his bleeding lip and spoke unclearly. Although the order was unclear and his voice was low, the member of the Qinian Unit who had been waiting at his side did not hesitate. He raised his right arm and pulled with force. The signal rocket shot into the sky and exploded into a beautiful firework in the dark, heavy sky.
From the previous night until now, this was the second firework in Jingdou.
After the signal went off, waves of strange noises came from the private residences behind the square in front of the Royal Palace, attracting the attention of many people. From the middle lane of the three rows of streets in the upper left, there suddenly rang out the sound of urgent hooves.
Qin Heng’s riders had arrived, so where was this sound coming from? Who did these determined and urgent hoof beats, which seemed to be moving even faster and filled with more killing intent than the Qin family’s blood-soaked rider, belong to?
Like two gusts of winds destined to meet, the riders following these two roads broke into the square in front of the Royal Palace at the same time. They finally met at the crossing of the two streets. They then violently and abruptly crashed together.
There were not many riders in this group that hid in the dark, but they had a different manner than the Qing troops. Not only was there a killing intent, there was also a darkness that was extremely cold. Their entire bodies were covered in black armor. It was as if not a glimmer of light could reflect back. It was a rich black that was absolute darkness.
The Black Knights of the Overwatch Council were rumored to be the most powerful riders in the world. Not many people had seen the way they do battle or their massive strength. In the internal military departs, there were many people who expressed a disdainful appearance toward the Black Knights. They believed Chen Pingping was only an old dog, so how could he train iron-blooded riders?
This mysterious Black Knights group finally clashed against the elite of Qing Kingdom’s cavalry. They used a blood reality to tell everyone that when it came to riding, the Black Knights would always be the strongest.
The abrupt appearance of the Black Riders was out of everyone’s expectation. With a flash of excitement running through his rising eyes, the old Qin Master found a problem at the first instance. A cold light flashed once again through his eyes.
No one knew how Fan Xian hid this cavalry in the continuous residents behind the rebel soldiers or how this silent and completely black group of riders managed to do it without a single sound.
Qin Heng led his riders quickly past the opening of the street. He then saw a terrifying black shadow coming toward him from another path.
There were not enough riders in this group. There were only around 200 people. If the Great Prince was still on top of the Palace walls at this time, he would definitely have guessed that this was the group Fan Xian had moved out of the Palace that was led by the Deputy Commander of the Black Knights, Jing Ge, who had disappeared without a trace for a long time.
Although there were only 200 people, this group of Black Riders were like 2,000 people or a single giant entity fighting. The general in the lead wore a silver mask and held a long spear tightly. He was like the sharpest point on a knife blade. With remarkable speed, he charged forward to the very front.
The riders behind him were like the sharp edge of the dagger and solid knife blade, maintaining a tight formation. They followed tightly behind the silver-masked Jing Ge with remarkable riding skill. They pierced viciously into the front of Qin Heng’s 3,000 riders.
Challenging 3,000 with 200, only the Overwatch Council would have such determination and boldness. Dozens of years ago, the previous Black Riders had once, under Chen Pingping’s leadership, attacked toward the North 3,000 li. Deep into the territory of Wei Kingdom, they captured alive the Commander of the Red Riders, Xiao En, and managed to retreat completely.
The Black Knights could surprise attack over 3,000 li, so this 900 meters was no challenge. Only those who remembered history clearly knew that the Black Riders were the most powerful riders and why the Qing Emperor had always forcefully ordered Chen Pingping to keep the number of Black Riders to within a 1,000 people.
The black-clothed Fan Xian stood on the black-colored coffins looking at his black colored riders carrying out a surprise attack in the dark. His lips were dry. He didn’t say a word. He knew that the counter-attack would start. The Black Knights surprise attack was the prologue to his gamble.