Hooves clattered amid the silence, but it was Yuan Zhaoxu, galloping toward them with his robes fluttering loudly. Despite his urgent stance, he looked as cheerful as usual.
"Open the door," he ordered in a clear voice that wasn't loud.
"You've gone mad!" Yan Jingchen jerked his head around, yelling. "We'll die!"
Yuan Zhaoxu looked up with a shallow smile while twirling the rein between his fingers. He wasn't interested in having a conversation with Yan Jingchen.
Zhan Beiye, on the hand, laughed. "You'll be a fool if you don't open it. Who's going to get thrashed in a fight between 80,000 overpowering imperial soldiers and 50,000 gearless city guards? Open the door, and you can join forces with the gunmen, bringing the battle into the palace. There's lesser space for the guards to utilize their weapons, and they aren't as familiar with the layout as your people. Won't the outcome be less definite that way?"
He then turned to Yuan Zhaoxu, his brows perking up. "You're a talent, and I hope to gift you a good beating on the battlefield one day."
"Feeling's mutual." Yuan Zhaoxu waved smilingly.
Their gazes clashed in midair, seemingly producing a clanging sound as the sky was suddenly overtaken by rumbling clouds and blazing electricity. A muffled roll of thunder could be heard from afar, but it was pressing in on the seas and lands.
A pact destined to influence the fate of the Five Region Continent had been made by two exceptional individuals and imprinted into the sky.
Their gazes collided impactfully before both men turned and walked off in opposite directions. Zhan Beiye let out a prolonged laughter, a fiery passion and desire invading the space between his brows.
A snow-white furball popped its head out from Yuan Zhaoxu's robe and climbed onto his shoulder before lifting its fat bum up toward the brazenly egotistical punk and letting out a fart.
The palace door finally opened.
Meng Fuyao stared on as it happened, still amazed by her luck. The duo had foolishly gone in the wrong direction and then had their plans ruined by Yuan Zhaoxu. They had lost all hope upon spotting the heavily guarded doors, but the unexpected arrival of another army had saved their lives. Thankfully, the arson had paid off.
Zhan Beiye lowered his head to look at Pei Yuan. "I want to kill you so bad, but to take a resistless girl down... aye, I can't," he said with a frown.
He looked at Yun Hen with pleading eyes, only to be dismissed with a glare.
Vexed, Zhan Beiye added, "Then again, you probably feel that this is worse than death, so I'll do you a favor."
At that, he flung Pei Yuan up and outward, her body swinging high into the air and falling down like a dried leaf. Before she landed, Zhan Beiye retrieved his sword and slashed it upward, its blade flashing under the moonlight.
A miserable cry filled the air. Fresh blood spurted out from her shoulder, staining Yan Jingchen's face as he instinctively rushed forward to catch her.
A bloodied hole was visible on her left shoulder, and there was no flesh within.
Even her bare, white bone had been pierced.
"The second hole," Zhan Beiye muttered under his flittering hair and sharp eyes. "8 more to go."
Despite being unaware of his pledge, Meng Fuyao roared heartlessly in laughter, pulling up her sleeves and teasing. "Aye, aye, how lewd, Master!"
Upon hearing that remark, Master Zhan's face turned black.
"Ah," Meng Fuyao uttered in surprise as the door opened. She had never seen in her life such a messy battle that involved more than 100,000 men. Now that she had witnessed it for herself, she was convinced that there was a limit to the human imagination. Reality was the cruelest and the most brutal.
What entered her field of vision was an endless stretch of black figures and a spacious parade ground that was stained, like the yellow in the moon and the blue in the ocean, a rose red. It was a different sea, piled from waves of scattered flesh and bones, and the exhausting struggle between countless beast-like men. Murderous growls harmonized with the howls of wind as these men went tearing at one another's heads.
The red-armored, yellow-robed soldiers quickly surrounded the black-armored, golden-robed guards. It appeared as though two huge snakes, one red and the other black, were twisting and coiling around each other while pieces of meat flew in all directions. Anguished wails offered company as freshly produced blood splattered high into the sky, turning it as red as the ground.
Zhan Beiye and Yun Hen were both elite fighters, so a sight like that did not shock them as much. Without batting an eyelid, they focused on protecting Meng Fuyao and charging forward. The trio kicked approaching bodies and broken limbs away, conveniently stabbing at the frenzied, incoming soldiers. Not even two steps later, their faces were covered in blood and with scrap pieces of flesh.
Amid the hurry, Meng Fuyao turned around to look at Yuan Zhaoxu, who was seated on his horse, in front of the palace door. He was sitting quietly, observing the scene unfolding before him, ignoring Qi Xunyi's army and only returning Meng Fuyao's gaze.
The front piece of his plain silk robe flapped in the darkness, catching the moonlight. His sleeves, resembling those of the immortals residing in the highest of heavens, fluttered gracefully as he held back the reins amid the blood rain, as noble and elegant as before.
Meng Fuyao was being swept forward, further and further away from Yuan Zhaoxu. Nevertheless, she could still feel his soft, willow-like gaze floating toward and brushing against her back, which made her skin warm and tingly, almost aching.
She bit her lips, feeling rather gloomy. Weren't these people too excessive? Still scheming for Qi Xunyi at this stage and not wanting to leave? She didn't hate the fact that Yuan Zhaoxu was standing on the other side. Politics was a matter separate from personal attachments. In fact, from a different angle, she was spoiling his plans.
She opened her mouth, overwhelmed by the impulse to drive him on his way, but decided against it after some thought or rather, resigned to the fact that Yuan Zhaoxu was a firm man who wouldn't get swayed easily.
Meng Fuyai sighed softly and helplessly. She turned around, catching a side glimpse of a white furball, wiggling about in his chest in a dismissive manner, as if happy to see her leave.
"Why are you cursing me for no good reason?" Zhan Beiye glared.
"Aye, you're worse than that stupid mouse," Meng Fuyao spat furiously.
The unlucky man stared at her in major confusion, wondering if she had gotten off the wrong side of her bed that morning.
The trio pushed their way through the messy slaughter ground, slashing anyone who came unto them. With their skills and abilities combined, no soldier could hurt them. They gradually retreated from the parade ground, where guards and soldiers were still engaged in a chaotic battle.
Meng Fuyao inhaled, and as she was about to say something, Yun Hen collapsed without uttering a word.
"Oh my god, the poison's taking effect." Meng Fuyao reached out to grab him. His white face was whiter than a sheet, and she could see the fine veins on his forehead. Beneath his long lashes laid a faint layer of blackness, a clear sign that the toxin had entered his bloodstream.
Meng Fuyao took his pulse before informing, "He was injured, to begin with, and has been holding it in all this while. He also exerted too much energy in trying to protect me earlier. He's spent and needs immediate treatment."
"Come back with me. I have quality medication and will be able to get someone to purchase more herbs," suggested Zhan Beiye, offering his support.
Meng Fuyao nodded, stuffing the pill in her hand into his. "Feed this to him first."
Zhan Beiye fed it to Yun Hen, and Meng Fuyao leaped off before he knew it. A few steps later she reached an alleyway on the southern side of the parade square.
"You sly woman---" Zhan Beiye howled, carrying Yun Hen up and making chase.
Without turning back, Meng Fuyao dashed like the wind to the nearby soldiers who were busy in battle.
"Brothers! That man in black is a spy. The general has put up a reward of 10,000 and will offer it to whoever catches him alive. You get less if you kill him!"
Money bred bravery!
Tempted by the reward, the muddleheaded soldiers did not even question if the general was on the enemy or their side. They blocked the alleyway instinctively, the shine on their sword blades forming snow-white arcs under the night sky, squeezing to be the first to catch him alive.
Zhan Beiye flew into a rage upon getting obstructed by them. He pulled his pant leg up a little before throwing eight kicks.
Clap, clap, clap, clap---
The soldiers flew into the air, vomiting blood that fell down like rain. Shocked, the other soldiers shifted to empty out an area. Meng Fuyao, who possessed decent skills, had long vanished into the distance.
After standing before the alleyway for some time, Zhan Beiye bellowed, "You can't run away from me, Woman! I'll find you no matter what!"
She had chosen that alleyway since it seemed rather empty. However, after entering she was dazzled by a fish-like figure that slipped past her. She could vaguely see an ash-white face despite his extreme speed. Without turning back, she reached out to grab his arm. "Where are you heading, traitor?"
Startled, the man whipped his head around. It was indeed Yao Xun, who had thoughtlessly abandoned her in the old temple. Yao Xun had a panicked look on his face, and his whole body had turned greenish purple. He was trembling non-stop, but joy quickly spread across his face. Weeping, he greeted, "It's you, Sister... save me, save me!"
"Save you?" Meng Fuyao repeated, narrowing her eyes. "To await for another betrayal?"
"I was a fool." He hurriedly bowed with his fists cupped together. "Help me this time, and I'll do anything for you."
"Pfft, I'll be a fool if I believe you once more," Meng Fuyao flung his arm.
Before she could continue on her way, a series of bells rang, followed by the emergence of an eye-piercing, multicolored light that swept over. She could hear the sound of crystal beads dropping onto the ground from afar, and it carried a tinge of smugness, arrogance, and anger.
"Still trying to run?"
Meng Fuyao kicked Yao Xun into a corner before blocking the alley mouth and leaning against the wall. With a half-smile, she looked on, as if looking into a kaleidoscope, as Ya Lanzhu sped forward like a rainbow cloud.