The little Crown Prince was scared out of his wits in the chaos of battle. At a complete loss for what to do, he could only hold onto Chang Geng's hand tightly.
When the two armies were in disorder, all the civil and military officials fled, and the Emperor's chariot laid on the ground in complete disorder. But when the people were scattered, the target became concentrated — the assassins who had deliberately stirred the water rushed towards Chang Geng and the Crown Prince together.
Before coming here, Lord Fang had instructed them, "Yan Wang must be killed no matter what. If you have the chance, do not let the Crown Prince go either."
The assassins saw that two of their targets were all together in the same place, especially convenient for them!
An arrow grazed over the Crown Prince's head. The Crown Prince was carried around by Chang Geng like a puppy. He couldn't even cry out. He was so scared he could only choke in silence.
All of a sudden, someone reached out and wiped away the tears on his face. The Crown Prince saw his Fourth Uncle wipe his tears through his hazy eyes, his raised arm exposed a black iron wrist bracelet. A Xiu Zhong Si popped out in an instant, breaking an assassin's wrist. Yan Wang snatched the assassin's blade, spun the hilt, and swiftly delivered a slash.
"When I was your age, I was besieged by a group of hungry wolves outside the Northern Gate." Chang Geng's voice was very stable, "At that time, there were no people anywhere. I had only a small knife with me, the kind that the countryside children play with — it was not the common wolf that chased me, but the ones the Barbarians raised with their own method, especially used to kill people. They were very big, taller than me when standing up."
Yan Wang had always been famous for his outstanding demeanor. Whether it was his enemies or his friends, they all had to admit this. Unlike most of the high-ranking officials’ precious sons who grew up in the capital, he was not flashy, but different from the poor Han Lin sons or soldiers with military backgrounds. He was neither deprived nor ferocious. He appeared very calm, but not the same kind of calmness as Master Liao Ran. He resembled a stone statue of a fierce god placed in a temple — awe-inspiring and intimidating, lonesome and covered in ashes. Many people had secretly mimicked the calm and elegant demeanor of Yan Wang. It was difficult for others to associate him with hungry wolves outside the pass.
The little Crown Prince was stunned.
At this time, two assassins rushed forward one by one, one of them slashed at the little Crown Prince in Chang Geng's arm, intending to force him to back down, the other blocking his retreat from behind.
Chang Geng gave a low sneer.
How could a child who grew up playing swords with the iron puppets of the Marquis' Manor retreat in front of such an opponent of this caliber?
Chang Geng lifted his blade horizontally to block the assassin's sword. In a moment of fright, the assassin was unable to retract his sword, the sharp weapon in his hand flew away. He carelessly guarded himself with both arms but was 'cut in two' by Yan Wang.
Chang Geng kept on flying forward three steps, using the momentum from turning around, he turned back and threw out the blade, scared the pursuer to step back and into the point of a spear from an imperial army soldier rushing up.
The little Crown Prince hadn't even seen the killing of chickens, let alone the killing of people? Immediately, he closed his eyes from fright. But even then, he was still hit with the nauseating scent of blood, he weakly called, "Fourth Uncle…"
"There's nothing to be afraid of." Chang Geng said faintly, "Those who are really capable are either on the front line or are already dead. Those who are left behind are only cowards. Without the ability to fight the enemy, they can only scare children. Are you still a child?"
The Crown Prince thought with grievance, I am a child.
Chang Geng seemed to know what he was thinking, his lips were slightly bent upwards.
Still a child," he thought, "But that will soon change.
At this time, the imperial army who rushed over with a spear shouted: "Your Highness! His Highness the Crown Prince! This way!”
The little Crown Prince instinctively wanted to run up to him, and was dragged back by Chang Geng's scabbard.
The Crown Prince's staggering steps had yet to stabilize when his face had been splattered with blood. The shouting man was split in two, and a Heavy Armor army rushed out of nowhere——
At this time, Li Feng, who was being held tightly, finally found that the direction of the people 'escorting' him was not to go to the palace, but to run to a place where there was no one. His heart jumped, an unbelievable idea arose in his head, he immediately turned around and questioned, "What is going on? Subject Fang, where are you going to take me?"
Fang Qin kept on walking, without kneeling and bowing, he said loud and clear, "Your Majesty, I have something to say."
Li Feng could not believe this: "What are you saying? Stop! I tell you to stop! "
No one paid attention to him. Two fake guards, one on the left and one on the right, pulled up the Emperor's dragon body and forced him to walk.
"Yan Wang Li Min, the current Qin Wang of the court, is the person I want to accuse," said Fang Qin, one word at a time. "He colluded with unscrupulous merchants, and in the name of feng huo tickets, he sold official ranks to the point of no shame. This is his first major crime. Born as a son, yet he has no sense of filial piety towards the first Emperor, instead, he often sleeps in the Marquis' Manor at night in order to win over the army's heart, continuing to call him ‘yifu’ even after receiving his title. This is the second major crime. His heart is that of an animal, not placing either the ruler nor his own father in his eyes…"
If Li Feng still couldn't understand what was going on even now, his brain would have been soaked by water. He was both surprised and frightened. He immediately shouted: "Fang Qin, what are you going to do?"
Fang Qin said: "Your Majesty, we have set up many ambushes, only waiting for that traitor to be killed. Although us officials are incompetent, we are willing to follow the example of our renowned predecessors, if the traitor cannot be controled, we swear to use our very lives to rid the ruler's side of traitorous subjects!"
Before his words were finished, all the members of his party immediately agreed in unison, "Sworn to rid of traitorous subjects!"
Li Feng was stunned and dumbfounded. When he cast his eyes around, everywhere was full of strange faces, surrounded by the false and ferocious imperial army in armor. The familiar faces in the court were now becoming more and more strange. Each of them seemed to be a demon in human skin, ready to rush at him any time with their fangs.
These were the Emperor's subjects.
Was it like this when Emperor Wu was in power?
Was it like this when Former Emperor Yuan He was in power?
Li Feng knew that he could not compare with Emperor Wu's life that was spent opening territories, but could he not even compare to his own father who he had always been secretly dissatisfied with?
He could not accept this in any case.
However, no matter how difficult it was for him to accept, this seemed to be the truth, because during the reign of Yuan He, there were no foreign enemies surrounding the capital, nor waves of traitors trying to pull him down from the throne.
At that moment, Li Feng had no time to have too much anger or fear. He only felt a slap across his face. Since he ascended the throne, it had been more than three thousand days and nights, yet he never had a single peaceful sleep, exhausted himself night long. Now, it seemed that it was all in vain. Instead, wouldn't it have been better for him to be a coward spending all day in the arms of women and lamenting?
He watched his self-esteem crack and wither to dust in front of these cold rebels.
"Courageous…" Li Feng's entire body shook, "You are all truly...truly courageous! "
Fang Qin bowed his head and avoided meeting his eyes. At this point, Fang Qin knew he was no longer able to pretend to be a loyal and good minister: "Your Majesty, forgive me. That Li Min is covering the sky with one hand, does not put the laws in his eyes, disrespecting his ancestors. We, officials, are concerned about the country, there is no other way, we can only resort to this lowly strategy, our crime worth a thousand deaths. However, at present, the traitors are rampant, his party and forces are all over the country; once Yan Wang dies, his people will cause trouble. Your Majesty please make a decision early and clean them up."
Li Feng clenched his teeth, "You still want to threaten me?"
Fang Qin knelt down on the ground without changing his face and said: "I dare not. I know that Your Majesty is currently frightened and uncertain, thus I have prepared the decree in advance. Please have a look."
With that, someone immediately put forward an imperial edict with both hands. As expected, it was written in detail and covered all aspects, the only thing left was for it to be stamped by the jade seal.
Li Feng jerked away from the two men who were holding him. He stepped forward abruptly, grabbed the collar of the man holding the imperial edict with his hands, then gave a good shove ——
In his rage, Li Feng completely forgot his limping leg, which had never quite healed. Not standing firmly, the man he pushed was still, yet he had already tilted towards the side first.
In broad daylight, surrounded by a group of Great Liang citizens, yet not a single one supported him. The real aristocratic nobles and the fake imperial guards, everyone watched on as the Son of Heaven fell to the ground in anger with disdain and indifference.
At this time, a man in a guard uniform trotted all the way over, he also must have been a fake. He looked at Li Feng first, then turned his head to the other side and said to Fang Qin, "My Lord, the traitor has been killed!"
Li Feng's legs were devoid of strength. He sat on the ground and forced out a few words through his teeth:"What about the Crown Prince?"
The fake guard first glanced at Fang Qin, and with permission, he cautiously said to Li Feng, "The Crown Prince… the assassins already...Ah, Your Majesty please endure this loss."
Li Feng's mind exploded.
His chest was ice cold. When he came back to his mind, he already coughed out a mouthful of blood. Li Feng sat on the ground and watched the thick and black blood flow down his fingertips. He wondered, "How could I become this miserable?"
Fang Qin's face flickered with hesitation. He subconsciously extended his hand, seemingly wanting to help Li Feng, but still didn't touch him. His arm hung in the air, then was retracted. His hesitation faded like the tide. He said coldly: "Your Majesty does not have only the Crown Prince. Even if the Third Prince is young, there is still the First Prince who is diligent, studious, intelligent, and kind. Please take care of your body and prioritize the important matters at present!"
With that, he pulled the ‘imperial edict’ in his underling's hands and brought it to Li Feng: "Please have a look at it!"
Li Feng slapped Fang Qin's ‘fake imperial edict’ aside: "In your dreams!"
Fang Qin silently wiped the part of his face hit by the fake imperial edict, kept his kneeling posture, leaned forward slightly, sighed softly, and said in a very gentle tone: "Your Majesty, your dragon body is in our hands, even if there are hundreds outside...Even if the Northern Camp comes, no one will dare to make a move. Today, this imperial edict, you must sign it whether or not you are willing to. What's wrong with the First Prince? I heard that he is gentle and introverted, and has a royal demeanor. He is different from the bastard child Yan Wang, whose origin is unknown. That is what the royal family of Great Liang should have, don't you think?"
Li Feng felt a sharp pain in his chest. His whole body felt as if it had fallen into an ice cave. His heart and organs aching. He took a few breaths and said with a sneer: "And then? Of course, you will not wait for me to settle this debt afterward. What are you going to do with me? House arrest? Or simply kill me? The empress’s body is delicate and is unable to manage anything. The eldest prince’s mother's family had their possessions confiscated and were beheaded. He possesses all the qualities to become an excellent puppet...such great calculation!"
Fang Qin shook his head irrefutably: "Your Majesty, the Crown Prince met his demise. That traitor Li Min has also been killed. Oh, of course, if you like, you can also issue an imperial edict to pass the throne to the Third Prince. But His Third Highness is still too small to go to school, isn't this making light of the ancestors’ nation?"
There may be tens of thousands of ethical restrictions on a person. They seemed to be firmly bound, but in fact, they were not so strong. As long as one pulled down their integrity once, they could be as shameless as they wished in the future, without any restraint.
At least Fang Qin himself did not expect that one day, he would say such words with his expression unchanged.
Just as he was slightly distracted, the ground suddenly vibrated, all the people presented were momentarily tensed — such neat footsteps could only come from a well-trained team, and judging from the tremor, there was at least Heavy Armor among them!
Was it the Northern Camp?
Fang Qin's heart thumped. This was not part of their plan. It seemed that something had happened! He immediately waved his hand, and a few underlings rushed up to capture Li Feng: "Troubling Your Majesty to please escort us for a while."
A group of fake guards surrounded Li Feng on all sides and took him in another direction. Unexpectedly, just after turning a corner, the people leading the way suddenly stopped — there was a team of imperial guards that had been waiting for some time in front of them!
How on earth did they manage to get away?
No... getting out of the commotion was nothing. Although it was a little faster than planned, once they caught wind of what was going on in the palace, the guards would instantly mobilize their full forces, it would be very easy to suppress the situation.
The question was, how did they find this place?
Fang Qin was confused for a moment. He looked back and saw that the spy who came to report that ‘Yan Wang and the Crown Prince are dead’ had disappeared.
There were traitors!
The footsteps behind them were approaching gradually. After looking again, the Heavy Armor's that caused them to panic were just a bunch of iron puppets pulled out of someone's house!
Fang Qin broke out in a cold sweat and suddenly returned to his mind, knowing that they had been trapped by someone.
However, it was already too late for him to think deeply. He grabbed Li Feng and held his sword against the Emperor's fragile neck and shouted, "Who dares to move!"
The Emperor was a precious object; no one wanted to bear the reputation of indirect regicide. The steps of the guards stopped for a while.
Fang Qin never dreamed that he would do something this rebellious and immoral. For a moment, he was scared to death. His throat was dry, gasping for a few sharp breaths. His brain resembled a mass of glue and he was unable to think of a solution. The disordered imperial army finally arrived. At the same time, there was the sound of an Eagle outside the gates: they were the Eagles of the Northern Camp seeking permission to pass the anti-air net.
There was a sound next to them, one of the underlings unexpectedly knelt down from fright.
Fang Qin gritted his teeth hard and said to Emperor Long An, "Your Majesty, please order them to withdraw."
Li Feng was in a very miserable state yet he still sneered: "In your dreams."
At this time, an arrow suddenly came from behind and grazed past Fang Qin's shoulder. Although it did not cause any substantial damage, the burning pain at the moment of skin tearing and flesh breaking broke the string in Fang Qin's brain.
The delicate balance had been broken.
Li Feng saw the chance, pushed him hard, and intended to rush out at once.
However, the limping leg once again held him back. Li Feng was just about to take a step, but his feet were soft, he stumbled out uncontrollably. At the same time, Fang Qin raised his sword and chased him, instinctively thrusting his sword forward ——
Li Feng convulsed violently, like a dying fish making its last struggle. Fang Qin's face paled. He unconsciously released his sword holding hand and stepped back three steps, staring at the sword embedded into Li Feng's back with wide eyes as if seeing a demon.
The imperial guards rushed up in an instant.
All of a sudden, Li Feng heard a child's crying voice piercing his ears through countless disorderly subjects and traitors. He raised his head with difficulty and saw the little Crown Prince running towards him as he called ‘Royal Father’. Not far behind him, Yan Wang, his fourth brother, was standing there unharmed. Meeting his gaze, Yan Wang stopped, placing both hands behind his back, with his special kind of calm eyes, looking down from above at the incredibly miserable Emperor.
The imperial guards and the imperial army rushed up in a frenzy, and soon cleaned up the dumbfounded disorderly officials and thieves. Li Feng was carried out. The leader of the imperial guards rushed to find an imperial doctor, but they already knew in their hearts it was useless.
The little Crown Prince fell on him and sobbed helplessly.
Li Feng wanted to touch his delicate little son very much, but before he could gather his strength, a hand fell on the Crown Prince's shoulder. Yan Wang silently stood aside and gently stroked the prince's shoulder and neck as a comforting gesture. Everyone would think that this was a pair of both sad and warming uncle and nephew. Only Li Feng felt that he understood the threat implied in Yan Wang’s gesture.
Li Feng stared at Yan Wang’s placid eyes, remembered his mother's bitter and hateful words before she died many years ago — those barbarian women are all evildoers, and the little wild seeds that are born from them are also ominous things that will harm the country and the people.
The ‘ominous thing’ that was Yan Wang knelt down on one knee, but his hand still stopped between the Crown Prince's shoulder and neck. He asked Li Feng in a low voice, "Is there anything else Royal Brother wishes to command?"
Li Feng: "You... You... "
Yan Wang pressed his voice lower, and said in his ear, "Please rest assured, your brother will take good care of the Crown Prince."
Li Feng's lips trembled violently, a fire seemed to be in his eyes, then went out slowly with the passage of his life. He reached out a hand tremblingly, Yan Wang held it in midair.
...It turned out that such an ice-cold hand could also create such false respect and affection between brothers.
At this time, the ministers who had just been scattered by the rebellion army rushed in succession, charging like sheep and cattle. At an angle where no one could see, Chang Geng faintly smiled at Li Feng, his tone of voice sounding very sad and sincere: "Royal Brother, what do you wish to say?"
The little prince cried so much that he couldn't stand up. Li Feng looked at him then closed his eyes gently.
He had never compromised with anyone in his life, and had always been hard-headed to the end. Who knew that the last course fell into this desperate situation, traitors were on all sides, with layers or schemes, yet his young and inexperienced son still had no place to be entrusted to after his death.
"I... was mediocre for all my life," he murmured in an inaudible voice. The scholars of the two chambers and the attendants in his daily life knew what he was going to say, for a moment, they had no mind to cry and mourn. They all rushed to listen attentively while holding their breath, for fear of missing just one word from the Emperor.
Li Feng's eyes seemed to be glistening with tears, he continued: "I am ashamed facing the heavens, embarrassed towards the people. For more than ten years, my heart...has been in a state of unrest. After I pass away...the Crown Prince...is still too young, it is difficult for him to shoulder this heavy task…"
Chang Geng turned his face gently and looked at the iron puppets far away from the crowd. One of the lifeless iron monsters was watching him tenderly. It once practiced swordplay with him, carried snacks for him, and followed him to knock at that man's door countless times.
At this time, its eyes slightly flickered with purple light, as if there was a person in the far front, watching him quietly through this lifeless big puppet.
"...Passing the position to Yan Wang, to succeed the throne after me. Do not disappoint our ancestors. "
On the first day of March in the tenth year of Long An, Li Feng, Emperor of Long An had died, losing his life in the hands of disorderly officials and traitors. In his final moment, he himself had skipped the Crown Prince and passed the throne to Yan Wang. It was indeed quite strange.
Yan Wang decisively cleaned up the rebellious family and uprooted the several nobles in the capital that were involved.
Rightfully cleansing the imperial court with blood. The Grand Council pushed three laws and decrees overnight, strongly stabilizing the situation in the capital.
But before Jiang Chong and others finished performing the three refusals and three requests, Yan Wang — the Emperor to be, left the capital without warning.
If not for his trusted men at the Grand Council, who had experienced all kinds of chaos and were able to carry the sky even if it collapsed, things would have been chaotic again.
Chang Geng summoned Jiang Chong and instructed him a lot of things in detail, putting in a box the orders and decrees written in advance for him. He appeared to be very eager to leave, wishing he could fly off right away. Jiang Chong only thought it was due to the war situation in Liangjiang, thus he might also have needed to go in the near future, but he still didn't expect to be so caught off guard about his departure, he was in shock when hearing the news the next day.
Chang Geng borrowed a team of Eagle armor guards from the Northern Camp overnight, intending to fly directly to the south.
He was certain that the front lines of Liangjiang could not be peaceful — whether it was the two Lin Yuan spies in the foreign affairs group, Cao Chun Hua who he sent to Gu Yun's side, or even Gu Yun himself — their letters all seemed to state that the front line was alright, and the day to recover thousands miles of land was upon them. This was not normal.
Gu Yun who only spoke of the good and not the bad was one thing, but the reason Lin Yuan bore this name was because they had to possess clarity and caution when 'facing the abyss, walking on thin ice'. Even if the front line had really achieved overwhelming victory, they would find out all the possible risks in it, and remind both Gu Yun and the owner of the Lin Yuan wooden emblem in the capital city respectively.
But no, they did not mention a word. This was not right.
Chang Geng slowly carried out his plan in the capital, it all seemed to be easy, but in fact, he had soon been in a state of unrest.
But he could not visit Gu Yun in this life and death situation. There were too many variables in the capital. Until the last moment, he did not know whether he could achieve his goal smoothly or not —— once a small accident occured, he might have had to pick up the sword himself and bear the reputation of ‘disorderly subjects and traitors’ and ‘murderer of brother and nephew’, that was why he could not have even a little involvement with Gu Yun in this whole process.
He could only hold the man on the front line in a place where he could not see him.
It was impossible for the Eagle to fly north and south without rest. Just when Chang Geng was anxiously waiting for the Eagle armor to replenish fuel in a military post station, a red-label report rushed by, was stopped by the commander of the Northern Camp and was sent to Chang Geng —— the Western troops from the Dong Ying sea were mobilized, launching a counter attack.