Out of the 108 dukes, more than half of them had already openly sided with the Duke of Soaring Dragon.
“The remaining half of the dukes should be loyal to me. Even if there is a forty-sixty split, I have the Tiandu army, the city guard, the royal personal guards, as well as the royal experts and the court officials’ elite personal guards. My strength will absolutely not be lower than that of the Duke of Soaring Dragon.”
Eastern Lu was calculating the other’s strength. As long as the rest of the dukes were loyal to him, and he added to that the trump cards the royal family held, what need did he have to fear the Duke of Soaring Dragon?
Of course, Eastern Lu hadn’t given up his illusions even now. He was still dreaming of forcing others to submit without a fight.
Except, reality was much crueler than he thought. The rest of the dukes that trickled into the palace one by one only numbered between twenty and thirty.
This was to say that the neutral attitudes of the other twenty to thirty dukes were quite clear. They wouldn’t side with Soaring Dragon, but neither would they listen to the royal family’s deployment.
To Eastern Lu, these neutral dukes were a disaster for the royal family.
However, the twenty to thirty dukes who entered the palace were true friends of the Eastern clan. They were diehard Eastern supporters. They also knew that if the Eastern clan was done for, it would be the end of the road for them too. Once the Duke of Soaring Dragon seized power, he would absolutely not allow them to live free and unfettered lives.
Their profits had long been tied together with those of the royal family. No matter if they were willing to or not, they had to render services to the royal family unto their deaths.
If the royal family lived on, their fortune and prosperity would live on as well.
If the royal family was no more, their family clans would, without a doubt, be annihilated and be replaced by those aristocratic families behind them, who were eyeing their positions with covetous eyes.
Out of the four great dukes, the Duke of Vermillion Bird had clearly sided with the Duke of Soaring Dragon.
The Duke of White Tiger and the Duke of Black Tortoise had sided with the royal family.
These twenty some dukes now looked towards the Duke of White Tiger and Black Tortoise for guidance. With these two great pillars strengthening them, it more or less gave them some confidence.
“Your Majesty, the Duke of Soaring Dragon rising in revolt is now a fact. According to your subject’s thoughts, we should gain the advantage by striking first, and by deploying the Tiandu army, city guards, royal personal guards, and royal experts to suppress the Duke of Soaring Dragon. Otherwise, the capital will be in grave danger when their army arrives.”
“The Duke of White Tiger speaks sensibly. If we suppress the Duke of Soaring Dragon now, not only is our power not too weak, we’re even slightly stronger than him!”
Eastern Lu contemplated. He had tragically discovered that this battle seemed to be unavoidable and couldn’t be delayed. His plan of delaying until the elder grandfather emerged from his closed-door training wouldn’t work.
“Royal brother, the personal guards of the Duke of Soaring Dragon have been rampaging through the streets of the capital and disturbing the citizens. Will you continue to sit idly by?” Princess Gouyu was also extremely agitated these days, and frantically rushed in.
“Gouyu, good timing. We were discussing with the various dukes…”
“Royal brother, the capital will change owners if you just keep discussing. They’re searching around for and arresting members of the Jiang family now, how is this not terrorizing the other dukes as well? If he does arrest members of the Jiang family, how will the other dukes think and feel? Even if they have loyal inclinations to the royal family, will they have the courage to stand up to the Duke of Soaring Dragon’s threatening demeanor?”
Princess Gouyu was irate. She was irate that her royal brother hadn’t listened to her, and had actually withdrawn the Tiandu army when Long Yinye had besieged the Jiang Han manor previously.
After he had made the wrong move then, the balance of the heavens had tilted immediately. The royal family had been severely disadvantaged afterwards, and had lost the people’s hearts.
Although these dukes proclaimed their allegiance to the royal family, it wasn’t because they were loyal, but that their profits were too closely tied in with the royal family’s and couldn’t be broken apart.
Why would they fight along with the royal family if they had a way out?
“Your Highness, the Jiang family is a subject of the royal family but has gone missing and fled at this critical moment. You shouldn’t care too much about the remnants of a family who decided to flee on the brink of battle.” Some dukes spoke out.
Princess Gouyu’s phoenix eyes glared, “What do you mean fleeing before battle? The Jiang family cannot turn the situation by themselves. Without the protection of the royal family, it’s a wise choice to avoid the edge of advance.”
“Heh heh, having been fed and paid by our ruler, we should be loyal and follow our liege’s every thought and step. If Jiang Feng is willing fight to the death with the Duke of Soaring Dragon, then I’ll think highly of him… who doesn’t know how to run away?”
Eastern Lu also nodded. “Gouyu, the Jiang family’s actions have caused Us great disappointment. We wish to suppress the Duke of Soaring Dragon, but have no obligation towards the Jiang family.”
Gouyu was speechless. Her heart sank to the bottom after hearing Eastern Lu’s words. She knew that there was no convincing her royal brother.
What nonsense was this about the Jiang family’s actions disappointing him? Why didn’t he think of how much his previous actions have disappointed the Jiang family?
Gouyu smiled bitterly, her expression ghastly. “Royal brother, if you want me to fight to my death, your little sister will obey your commands at any time. Your sister will not be involved in these courtly matters anymore.”
Nothing was more lamentable than a dead heart. Princess Gouyu could see the shadows of the ruler of a dead nation on Eastern Lu. She saw the shadows of a vacillating failure.
“Gouyu, you must remember to stand by my side at this moment. Don’t think of those random thoughts anymore. Jiang Chen fled before the brink of battle, you don’t need to think about him anymore.”
Princess Gouyu’s mouth was filled with a bitter taste. She was stricken, yet said nothing as she walked outside.
At this moment, a shrill bird call sounded from the air, with a loud yell ringing out from overhead. “Eastern Lu, come out.”
It was Jiang Chen.
A trace of surprise and joy flashed through Gouyu’s almond-like eyes. Had Jiang Chen changed his mind in the end and was willing to aid her royal brother in suppressing the Duke of Soaring Dragon?
“It’s Jiang Chen.” All the dukes had made out Jiang Chen’s voice.
Eastern Lu’s face was purple. This Jiang Chen dared to say his name without any of the courtesies that should be observed by a subordinate to his superior.
A crisp metallic sound of metal striking the ground crashed onto the stone steps of the palace.
Everyone looked in the direction of the sound and saw a jade encrusted gold medallion. The design was unique and was the emblem of the right to a dukedom.
“Eastern Lu, take back this dukedom medallion. Henceforth, my Jiang family has broken off all relations with your Eastern family and we will have nothing more to do with each other in the future.”
Jiang Chen’s voice was remote as he rode a Goldwing Swordbird, occupying a high vantage point. He was coldly invincible in the air, causing Eastern Lu and the other dukes to all feel a bit ashamed of their ungainly appearance.
“Jiang Chen, you are fed and paid by the king, yet you fled before the brink of battle. Your Jiang family…”
“The Eastern clan was unworthy of my Jiang family first. You all are not blind, and should be able to see it. Don’t give me the bullshit of the subject must die if his liege commands it. Now that chaos reigns under heaven and the strong are revered, if you have the time to waste in empty blather with me, why don’t you spend it on thinking how to deal with the Duke of Soaring Dragon instead.”
Jiang Chen turned to leave after he finished speaking.
“Jiang Chen.” Princess Gouyu’s heart ached. Tears gathered at the corners of her eyes as she cried out sorrowfully, “Is there really nothing more we can do? I beg you, help me one more time.”
Princess Gouyu was a proud and headstrong person. Her background was awe inspiring and her cultivation high. When had she ever pleaded with anyone at all?
But, at this moment, she was begging Jiang Chen with tears on her face.
“Gouyu, I can help you escape the sea of fire that is the capital, but I won’t help that coward Eastern Lu.”
Eastern Lu’s face burned.
“Jiang Chen, you and the Duke of Soaring Dragon have a blood feud. Even if you don’t help my Eastern clan, you should at least put aside your differences and help us fend off the Duke of Soaring Dragon together.” Princess Gouyu tried persuading again.
“Long Zhaofeng? Heh heh, rotten bones in a graveyard is all he is. If his Long family wins this battle, I naturally have my ways to annihilate the Long family. What need do I have to cooperate with Eastern Lu?”
Princess Gouyu felt a mix of complicated feelings. Of all these people, she knew Jiang Chen the best and knew that there were simply too many secrets hidden on him.
She had no doubt that Jiang Chen absolutely had the power to wipe out Long Zhaofeng. Except, with the way things were, what reason did Jiang Chen have to help the Eastern clan?
“Jiang Chen…” Princess Gouyu said painfully. “Treat it as that my Eastern clan has wronged you. I only have one favor to ask, can you take Ruo’er away from here? If you can, please take care of her for the rest of her life.”
“That I can do.” Jiang Chen nodded.
Eastern Lu snorted coldly. “Jiang Chen, what need do We have for you to take care of Our daughter? My Eastern clan has numerous methods to suppress the traitor Long Zhaofeng. How is my royal family’s princess someone that an uncivilized churl like you can dirty?”
“Royal brother!” Princess Gouyu was aghast. He was cutting off the last avenue of retreat.
Indeed, Jiang Chen’s expression darkened. “Gouyu, if you need me to take care of Princess Zhiruo, find a way to contact me. I’m leaving.”
Gouyu’s body collapsed and she sat dejectedly on the stone steps, her heart as dead as ashes.
She had also thoroughly given up on Eastern Lu.
The Duke of Soaring Dragon’s search and arrest grew more and more violent. The entire capital was engulfed in chaos. Corpses could be seen lying everywhere on the streets.
When rules and regulations lose their power, violent factions will rage out of control — like a wild beast out of its cage — bringing forth untold disasters.
People started to die in the capital. Many died.
Killing and raiding. Noise so loud that chickens and dogs could get no rest. Ghosts wailed and wolves howled. No peace whether day or night.
It was a good thing that the place Qiao Baishi had arranged for was exceedingly secluded and they didn’t have to worry about it being found immediately. Except, with these kinds of methods continuing, Jiang Chen was also worried if the Hall of Healing could withstand it.
He thought, and still decided to retain the initiative in his hands.
He immediately deployed large numbers of Goldwing and Silverwing Swordbirds to enter the city at night, removing all the core family members who still remained within the capital in several batches.
Under the cover of night, the mobility of aerial troops was quite high. All the people had been had been sent out of the city within two hours.
After continuous days of fruitless searching, the movement finally turned into revolt.
That night, the Tiandu army and the elites of the Duke of Soaring Dragon had their first conflict.
Afterwards, two of the commanders of the city guard announced their allegiance to the Duke of Soaring Dragon. The city guard fractured from the inside.
Following that, one of the commanders suddenly revolted while executing his duties within the palace. He brought his troops to charge down the palace and met the royal personal guards in pitched battle.
The capital became overwhelmingly disorderly in the span of a night.
Jiang Chen, at this moment, had detached himself from the situation and was quite at ease. His people had left the capital and the main force of Swordbirds had mostly arrived.
As soon as he gave the order, they would charge into the capital. Whether it was the Duke of Soaring Dragon, or the royal family, he would be able to suppress them within two hours.
Except, the battle wasn’t at an impasse for too long. Eastern Lu had never thought that the Tiandu army and city guards, entities he’d always viewed as staunch subjects, would be divided by the Duke of Soaring Dragon.
The Tiandu army and the city guards were rife with internal discord, greatly chipping away at the royal family’s battle strength.
Long Zhaofeng had made many preparations in the dark for this coup and had recruited many experts. Their battle strength was not the least bit subpar in comparison to the experts of the royal family’s retainer.
The royal experts were tied down. That meant one less trump card for Eastern Lu.
Three days later.
The palace’s outer defensive perimeter had been penetrated. The Eastern clan and the royal personal guards hung onto the core parts of the palace with a death grip, making their final stand. The personal guards of those loyal to the royal family had basically been exterminated.
The dukes had retreated to the palace within the Eastern clan, stubbornly fighting to the end.
The outskirts of the palace, three levels within and three levels on the outside, had been fully besieged.
The Eastern clan was on the verge of destruction.