Portent of Pivotal Change
Shaman Monarch Palace finally made its move on Ah Neath after making her wait for two months. Every time she wanted to send intelligence agents to Wanyu, Feng Xue would advise against it with an indescribable smile and say, “Wait a bit more. Your opportunity to turn the tables is coming.”
Ah Neath could accept being confounded, but she had an issue with letting a group of adepts she didn’t recognise run amok in her palace. If they were just some bums trying to leech off her, she would’ve kicked them out already; she wasn’t going to let someone leech off her on account of some ugly Ming Feizhen. She let them stay because she judged them to have real skill, especially Hero Li… Hero Li’s two bodyguards.
The Beijiang man was always wearing an affable smile, but he monitored everything around him. The sleeping bamboo pole was always sleeping, but, like the Beijiang hunk, he gave Ah Neath the same vibe only Feng Xue gave off. Her intuition told her that, as long as they were around, practically nobody could have their way in her palace.
As well, the others had shown they were all adroit in their own rights. Ma’am Ming and her sister went for a stroll in the garden at the rear after Ah Neath shared her problems. Ever since then, every two or three days, there’d be snake, insect, rodent invasions at Princess Consort’s palace, or there’d be a fire.
One night, a bizarre billow struck the interior of the rear palace, withering all the plants it grazed and sleeping Qiushui’s elite soldiers – and her guards whom nobody besides her had seen before – who were assembled there. All of the unconscious warriors had a balloon each on the back of their head when they were found.
Before Qiushui could file a report, Ma’am Ming’s erudite sister-in-law asserted that, with her head as a guarantee, a nefarious spirit had possessed the rear palace. For that reason, she requested a shaman priest banish said spirit. Touched, Ah Neath had a dozen shaman priests wearing monster masks wave weapons around and start fires outside Princess Consort’s palace daily. To compound the effects, they sang some song nobody could understand, ensuring nobody within earshot was going to get any shuteye.
Qiushui didn’t make any moves no matter how many days went by for she was waiting for her reinforcements so that she could repay the favour in one fell swoop. Thankfully, an emissary was finally dispatched.
During the wait, Ah Neath brainstormed numerous strategies with the adepts in her throne room, attempting to account for all possible scenarios. Knowing Qiushui’s patience and ruthlessness, Ah Neath predicted the helper Shaman Monarch Palace sent would be extremely dangerous. Despite her preparations, she was still struck.
“Shaman Monarch Palace is grateful Baimu’s previous King left his son behind to succeed him. We hereby grant King Neath permission to complete the ascension ceremony from Baimu instead of Mount Wanyu.”
After hearing the announcement, Qiushui fled Baimu from a secret passage in the night, not even bidding Ah Neath farewell.
Ah Neath thereupon began her takeover of the military, keeping her happily busy.
Mount Wanyu soon sent a second letter to Ming Suwen.
Sima Huai, trusted with the messenger role, also received a letter from Hong Jiu but didn’t open it until he was in Ming Suwen’s presence.
“… Leader is the model everyone in our generation should aspire to be. Not only did he rescue dozens of gorgeous girls dressed in skimpy clothing, but he also rescued thousands of girls of Nanjiangs. His future will be challenging, noble and bright. As inheritors of Shifu’s will, we need to court more chicks and marry more wives than him. We are currently pursuing the ideal. Don’t miss us.” Sima Huai turned the sheet over and continued, “Leader says you have to keep this a secret. You better not let Grandaunt and Miss Shen know… Hong Shiba.” Hands shaking more and more, Sima Huai cautiously cast his gaze up from the letter.
“He’s dead!” Ming Suwen inflated her cheeks. “Third, how long has your first brother been gone for?”
“Uh… ten days?”
“My foot!” Ming Suwen whacked Sima Huai over the head.
Sima Huai squatted down and grabbed his head. “… If we calculate from further back, it would probably be twelve, thirteen days.”
Ming Suwen used her fingers to run a calculation. “He’s been gone for thirty years.”
Tianfeng Xuanyuan immediately grabbed a mirror to check for white hair.
Sima Huai inquired, “Grandaunt, I do not understand.”
Ming Suwen answered sternly, “One day lasts as long as three autumns when we can’t see each other.”
Ming Suwen instinctively mumbled, “Hmph, claims he’s here to hunt beasts, but it looks like he’s here to find himself another mistress. One is not enough, so he goes for dozens. No wonder why he wants to be Shaman Monarch. If I don’t discipline him, he’ll forget who’s main.” Ming Suwen flapped her sleeve and then strutted off to where the black bear was kept – and where the armoury was located.
Sima Huai dropped into the adjacent room to repeat the letter for Ma’am Ming. “… In any event, First Brother says he needs t-”
All the girls First Brother likes are the same type.
Shen Yiren squeezed the table she was resisting the urge to flip. Luckily, Ming Xialou was there to appease her and save another one of Baimu’s tables.
“Third, how many days has your first brother been gone for?” questioned Shen Yiren, huffing and puffing.
“Uh… does it count as three autumns?”
“What three autumns?”
“When you can’t see each other, one day l-”
Smack! Shen Yiren threw a book flush onto Sima Huai’s face.
“Women are just unreasonable creatures.”
“He’s been gone for ten days without a word, only to send an incomprehensible, stupid letter?! Does he think I don’t dare to rip his spine out?! He’s an adult, yet he doesn’t notify me. Is he trying to…” Shen Yiren stopped herself before she could blurt, “… worry me to death?”
Ming Feizhen’s whereabouts had been on Shen Yiren’s mind ever since he left. Subsequent to learning of his past with the Fengpeng, she kept having dreams of herself reliving his experience, igniting an urge to stop him from risking himself again. Howbeit, she couldn’t have imperial court agents search for him, lest they find out his identities. Thus, she had to bear with her burgeoning concern.
Needing to vent, Shen Yiren pushed her door open to see Ming Suwen bringing a bear along on one hand and carrying a big scissor on her other hand.
Shen Yiren and Ming Suwen: “I’m done putting up with this!”
The three Mount Daluo disciples inside didn’t have the faintest idea what was going on when the two ladies came back in.
Emperor Yuansheng was holding a party in his head since he believed that they had good chances of allying with Baimu in the future now that he was helping Ah Neath.
“Constable Ming deserves the most credit for this mission. He must be dealing with Shaman Monarch Palace around now. I wonder what strategy he used to conquer Mount Wanyu’s Great Spirit Shaman because that is commendable accomplishment.” Emperor Yuansheng instructed, “Dugu, call over, uh… Ma’am Ming and her sister. I’d like to ask them if they know any more.”
Dugu came back with a pallor visage not long after.
“What’s the matter?”
Dugu quietly answered, “Hero Li, the two… left a note and departed.”
“Say what?! They’re going out to play without inviting me?!”
“The wind billows against Xianyang City’s eastern tower when the rain has yet to fall,” I uttered as I gazed at the charcoal sky. “Second, is this weather, this sky, this temperature similar to when Shiniang caught Shifu at Wanhua Brothel?”
“Yes, very yes. I wonder who the next unlucky bugger is.”
“Tsk, tsk, tsk, when has any idiot escaped the grasp of his wife before? Take note, Second. Do not let yourself be a victim.”
“You truly possess immeasurable wisdom. I will never go wrong as long as I heed your advice.”
“Shameless, narcissist.” Wood Guardian looked away.
Equipped with my designs and Hong Jiu’s leadership, we erected five well-ventilated, spacious houses by the time the sun dipped. When the silver choir came out, the villagers lit a bonfire to drink their finest wine with us until late at night. I taught the two hundred followers to drink and dance overnight, so I deserved to feel proud.
On today’s journey to the next village, Wood Guardian still treated me coldly. I let White Cleric ride in a horse carriage, which was why he kept rambling ceaselessly about how he was supposed to alter the tax system. Seriously, I’d applaud him if he could fix the system.
“Brother Your Majesty, have you married a Divine Consort yet?” Yangyang flapped her eyelids innocently.
Iron Guardian warmed up to me a lot after yesterday, so he quickly explained, “Shaman Monarch’s wife is referred to as Divine Consorts. At your age, you certainly should have several Divine Concubines already. If you wish, you can choose a few from the followers. If you like, even she is acceptable.”
“Ehehe, I do not want to marry yet.” Yangyang’s cheeks turned rosy.
Oi, don’t categorise me as a lolicon already!
“Divine Consort, huh? Nah, let’s settle business first.”
Why would I take a Divine Consort when I was going to leg it in a few months?
Iron Guardian was touched to hear me so devoted to work…
“Whoa, what the flying fook? The last village was poor, you say? Compared to this village, the last village is loaded,” Hong Jiu commented when we arrived at Yangyang’s village.
The fields were abandoned. Houses were depilated; many of them didn’t even have a roof. The villagers looked ill and emaciated.
“Yangyang, has your village always been in this shape?”
“No. When I left last month… I think…” Yangyang dragged me along into the village.
Hong Jiu and I exchanged a nod. Judging from the damage to the buildings, it was unlikely a plague hit them.
Upon seeing her house, Yangyang sped up into a jog: “Dad! Mom! I’m back!”
“Yangyang! Why are you back?”
I was glad to hear a happy gentleman’s voice. Her parents may have looked somewhat tired, but at least their heart beats and voices were all right.
“Dad, what happened to the village? I just saw Village Chief lying in bed. Is he sick?”
“It’s all because of those highwaymen. Wait, wait, wait. Yangyang, haven’t you…” Yangyang’s father started to tremble with fear. “Aren’t you Great Spirit Shaman’s? Wh-why did run off without permission?! What are we going to do if you get caught?”
Yangyang’s mother voiced, “Why did you sneak off, Yangyang? Run! If Shaman Monarch Palace’s people find you…”
“Please do not worry.” I stepped inside, trying to offer the most polite smile I could. “Leave it to me. All will be well.”
Yangyang’s father pulled her behind me. “Who are you, bandit?! I won’t give you my daughter over my dead body!”
“One day lasts as long as three autumns when we can’t see each other.” – The line depicting how time seemingly flows painfully slow when apart from one’s loved one comes from a poem in the first Chinese poem omnibus. The poem’s name can be translated as “Capital’s Breeze. Vine picking.” (王风·采葛). It won’t produce results if you reverse search it by the English name because the “vine” is actually a specific type of vine without an English equivalent; “Capital’s Breeze” is actually written “King Breeze (there are omitted characters). Can’t remember if I said this before, but archaic Chinese breaks a lot of language conventions taught nowadays and is incredibly concise. Even if you understand the characters, putting it together is like an entirely different language.