Different Year, Same Thing (Part 2)
Arguably, the twenty-fifth year of Emperor Yuansheng’s reign was the most eventful year – in a turbulent way.
Divine Moon Sect was at their peak and the largest they had ever been. With Ximen Chuideng leading, it was the first time the martial world’s power matched the imperial court’s power so closely. After numerous skirmishes with the imperial court, Demon Sect finally accepted the fight to settle it once and for all so as to not involve any more innocent people. That was what led to the battle at Lawless Cliff on 33rd February (according to Divine Moon Cult’s calendar). Needless to say, both sides presented forces of magnitudes that had never been seen before in the dynasty’s history.
The imperial court’s forces included The Ultimate Three and all seventeen members of the Seventeen Hidden Dragons. That was the third time in the dynasty’s history that both groups were mobilised at once – the first being when they had to conquer the land to establish the dynasty and the second being twenty years ago, when the previous Emperor had to quell a rebellion in the kingdom. Elites from Liu Shan Men, Qilin Guards, the Emperor’s Entourage, Shaolin, Wudang, Mount Daluo, leaders of the Seven Champion White Princes and their countless adepts also took to the battlefield.
After an epic battle that went down in history, it concluded with the defeat of Ximen Chuideng’s forces. In the aftermath, Divine Moon Cult vanished off the map, leaving just their name behind in history. The remaining three factions that were part of the unorthodox sects’ banner tucked tail henceforth. The imperial court hoped to welcome in peace. Alas, the downfall of Ximen Chuideng only ushered in another rocky era.
After ousting Divine Moon Cult out of power, the pugilistic got a taste of true chaos as the power balance found itself again.
During Divine Moon Cult’s prime, their territory spread to every corner of Shenzhou; there was a branch in every region. Yes, they did call Jiangnan “White Princes’ Jiangnan”, but the demon sect’s influence was also prominent there. Demanding the Qilin Guards to handle the area was telling them to bite off more than they could chew.
Emperor Yuansheng was more than happy to reign over Jiangnan. Nevertheless, he had to reward the orthodox sects and seven white princes. That was where things got messy. “Orthodox sects” was an umbrella term for hundreds to thousands of sects. The Seven Champion White Princes already ruled Jiangnan. If he allowed them to expand further, they would be another Demon Sect. Consequently, how he split the pie was vital, leading to him dithering. The rest of the pugilistic world wasn’t patient enough to wait for him to make the call. As a result, the various factions began to divide it amongst themselves the proven old-school way – bloodshed.
Shaolin, Wudang and Mount Daluo were the only ones to stay out of the contest for Divine Moon Sect’s erstwhile turf. Ambitions were exposed and buried as blood rained and flowed. Frankly, this fight was far bloodier and intense compared to Demon Sect’s reign; the period put countless killers in employment. Four big sects, Nan Embers Five Palace and innumerous new unorthodox sects gained from all the fighting.
At the same time the turmoil was taking place, the martial world’s three governing offices were busy chasing down remnants of Demon Sect to nip the threat in the bud. Though the Qilin Guards were given the order to exterminate the remnants of Divine Moon Cult, they found anyone but members of Demon Sect despite the monetary investment. We’re talking about over ten thousand members vanishing into thin air.
After a year of attempts to wipe Divine Moon Cult off the grid, the turbulence in the pugilistic world reached a point where Emperor Yuansheng could no longer leave it be. He only had enough forces to take on one job, putting him in a dilemma. It, therefore, is easy to see how the campaign against Ximen Chuideng yielded an enormous loss. If Ximen Chuideng could defy logic and survive the fall from Lawless Cliff, the imperial court would think Ximen Chuideng’s fall was just a ruse and that his real plan was the mire they found themselves in.
Brotherhoods and friendships, concepts that those in the pugilistic world had to protect were replaced with “power”. As long as there was power to gain, turning one’s back on his friends became commonplace.
Not surprisingly, the Seven Champion White Princes coveted power and territory. Among them, Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary, the faction considered the most powerful of the seven, set their sights on no-man’s land – Hangzhou.
Three days after Chinese Valentine’s Day in Hangzhou.
Inside a room at Night Fortress, a maiden sulked, “Lies. I insist on trying.”
Dimpling, she adopted a relaxing pose on the couch and fiddled with a black weapon of some sort. Because she was sick of holding something so large, she leaned it on the bed, triggering a creak due out its weight that was unexpected for its size.
When she entered, Ming Feizhen was reading. Accordingly, she helped herself to the couch, deliberately assumed a pose where her thighs were vaguely visible from Ming Feizhen’s angle. Ming Suwen didn’t wear socks when she was in the comfort of her own room, yet even the grime and dust around the place couldn’t bear to sully those glistening feet.
Ming Feizhen sat with his legs up on the couch, hair a combination of black and white streaks at the time. Despite his exposed thin physique, he had absolute control over every inch of his body and every inch of his movements. Though he wasn’t trying to, he came off as frigid and imposing. The strangest visual feature on him was his sinister scarlet eyes. Even so, he came off as a husband at the mercy of his wife’s tantrum when viewing the two having a playful quarrel.
Someone might complain that it was inappropriate for the two to be sharing a couch with minimal clothing. Those who knew the pair, on the other hand, wouldn’t be flustered since they knew Ming Feizhen treated Ming Suwen as a Queen for as long as they could remember.
“Wait, wait, wait, that’s dangerous!”
“How do you know it’s dangerous unless you let me chop you?”
Ming Suwen twirled the long black weapon that resembled a rod made from firewood.
“Chop me?! Young Shiyi, why would you test a weapon you furtively stole from Vast Sea Submerged Pearl Hall to try on me?”
“Don’t even get me started on it! Why didn’t you tell me you had something so fun to play with? Do you no longer respect me?”
The more flustered Ming Feizhen was, the more joy Ming Suwen derived from her jesting. He couldn’t be blamed. After all, even his shifu feared her.
Ming Feizhen retired to Night Fortress for the months following Divine Moon Cult’s split and refused to see any guests. Ming Suwen, who grew bored of life in Beiping, decided to pay him a visit after stealing from Mount Daluo’s Vast Sea Submerged Pearl Hall.
“Every direct disciple has to leave behind an item they created there. Your shifu left his End of the World, which unorthodox and orthodox sects know of, there. I assumed you’d leave your celestial spider silk there, yet this is what I found.”
“If a broadsword name wasn’t carved onto the handle, I’d have mistaken this for a broom someone forgot there. In other words, you picked up something nice, yet didn’t tell me about it.”
Ming Feizhen’s face colour started to match his eye colour as he explained, “It’s not even valuable. That’s the first thing I produced when I learnt smithing.”
Ming Feizhen didn’t have elaborating on his agenda. When he produced that weapon of his, he blew up the furnace with his “excellent” skills, razing the entire building to the ground. Nobody could produce another exceptional-quality realm for the next decade thanks to him. Ming Suwen only asked about it to tease him.
“I can’t trust you until I try it.”
“Don’t! It’s heavy. What if you hurt me?!”
Ming Suwen giggled behind her hand: “I’ll heal you, then. Now, you going to stay still or not?”
Conscious of Ming Feizhen’s feelings, Ming Suwen gently set down the black weapon and lined her limbs up in one line. She licked her lips and took her time crawling over to him in a cat’s posture.
“I can let you off the hook.”
“Then, how sh-”
Ming Feizhen’s brain turned stupid the moment Ming Suwen placed her chin on his collarbone.
“Let’s… try something fun….”
Ming Feizhen’s breathing picked up: “L-like what?”
“Stop asking the obvious… We’re on a couch, you know…” Ming Suwen whispered in Ming Feizhen’s ear.
Ming Suwen’s success rate, when it came to teasing Ming Feizhen, was ten out of ten. She’d always tease him until he was able to cave in and then would stop and relish in his misery. How serious was she? Sometimes, not even she could tell.
Once Ming Feizhen’s hands started to misbehave, she decided it was time to call it quits, but…
Bang! Hong Jiu Booted the door open and belted, “Big Bro! Big Bro! We’re in trouble! A big group dropped by yesterday; even people from the imperial court were here. I do not know if someone found out we’ve been evading taxes or what, but you need to go take a l-”
Exposed legs across on his laps, head buried in his neck, their skin touching here and there and Ming Feizhen’s face was red… Usually, people would be scared witless and run before they cop a beating. Hong Jiu was no ordinary man, though.
“Amitabha, I never saw anything.” Hong Jiu covered his eyes, of course, not without an opening between two fingers. With the grin of a pervert and refusing to budge, Hong Jiu adopted Ming Huayu’s signature ‘melancholic gentleman’ tone and conveyed, “I don’t see anything. My eyes started playing up yesterday, twitching every now and then. Man, I don’t know what the problem with them is. I don’t know if I’ll last another three decades. Big Bro, please make sure to take good care of yourself after I leave. Don’t keep ducking taxes. It’s a serious crime.”
Shameless people? You’re likely to successfully identify one if you went into the pugilistic world and randomly pointed. They say: Wudang is yin. Shaolin is yang. Mount Daluo is just a preposterous gang. Ever need anything unbelievably ridiculous? Consult Mount Daluo, and they’ll do it with a bang.
Ming Feizhen scooped Ming Suwen up and gently placed her down on the couch; he’d need another nutsack if he wanted to drop her on the couch.
“Young Shiyi, I have business to attend to. You should return what you stole from Vast Sea Submerged Pearl.”
Ming Feizhen sped out. Hong Jiu apologised again and followed after his senior. Ming Suwen found Ming Feizhen’s scamper amusing even though it wasn’t the first time she saw it. Anyhow, she picked up the weapon she stole and left.
Mount Night Net originally didn’t have a name until Night Fortress was established there. Nobody really knew the reason behind the naming. Either way, the people referred to it as Mount Night Net out of habit ever since. The mountain was the second tallest if not the tallest mountain in Hangzhou.
The groups of people from the martial world intruding on Night Fortress’ territory were there in hopes of walking away with something they didn’t have before.