Volume 5, Chapter 20: Startling Insider Information

Setting down the intelligence report in his hands, Li Kang gazed with satisfaction at Huo Yi. Although this ordinary and honest looking youth seemed to be a guileless individual lacking in schemes, who would suspect that he was among the top members of the Embroidered Union? During these days he had spent at Li Kang’s side, Huo Yi had performed many things on Li Kang’s behalf, helping the prince eliminate many officials leaning towards the court. Although Li Kang was still on his guard against the Embroidered Union, Li Kang actually quite trusted Huo Yi.

Huo Yi, or better known as Baiyi, respectfully stood below. Only after Li Kang had finished reading the report did he speak, “Your Imperial Highness, this subordinate has already received news that Xiahou Yuanfeng has already arrived at San Pass. Over these days, Your Imperial Highness has intercepted the imperial envoys and documents, and sealed off the road between San Pass and Hanzhong under the pretext of bandits. Although there are no overt weaknesses, and the Great Yong court is preoccupied by the war with Northern Han and inevitably overlooks the things occurring in Hanzhong, Li Zhi and his subordinates aren’t ordinary. They have already discovered that something has happened. If not for their desire to prevent Your Imperial Highness from rebelling, the Yong army would’ve likely marched in long ago. However, since Xiahou Yuanfeng has come personally, my Union has already captured more than a dozen agents of the Bright Inspection Department outside of San Pass. When is Your Imperial Highness prepared to act? There is no time to lose.1 If we wait until the Yong court is free to act, we will likely no longer have the opportunity.”

Smiling, Li Kang replied, “There is no need for you to feel anxious. At present, Li Zhi does not dare to show hostility towards me. In addition, although I seemingly intend to defy court orders based upon my army, in Li Zhi’s eyes, I intend to fight for power and authority. Who would think that I, an Imperial Prince of Qing, would want Great Yong to disintegrate? As a result, the court will definitely focus on appeasement. Hasn’t Li Zhi already issued several edicts praising this Prince for the sake of preventing this Prince from opposing the court? He wants to wait until after Northern Han has been conquered before dealing with me using the post-victory glow. In fact, this Prince would find it strange if Xiahou Yuanfeng had not come. However, the timing isn’t right just yet. Although Li Xian suffered a defeat, he has not suffered enormous losses. Based upon Long Tingfei’s abilities, and holding the terrain advantage and popular sentiment, he will definitely be able to inflict a crushing defeat upon Li Xian. Once that occurs, it won’t be too late for me to act.”

After hesitating, Huo Yi replied, “However, the one fighting with Northern Han is Li Xian, the Prince of Qi. He is still one of the top generals of the current age. In addition, with the support of the Marquis of Chu, Jiang Zhe, if the one defeated is Northern Han, what then?”

“What does it matter if Jiang Zhe is brilliant?” asked Li Kang rhetorically, shaking his head. “Even if Long Tingfei can’t push back the Yong invasion, as long as he fights a war of attrition, defending each and every fortified town and city, it will be enough to completely tie up the Prince of Qi. When the time comes and victory is delayed, I will be able to bribe ranking officials of the court to denounce the Prince of Qi for squandering the Yong army. Facing problems both domestically and abroad, Li Zhi will be hard pressed. Besides, even if Great Yong has recently come to an agreement with Southern Chu, when the time comes, even if Shang Weijun is dithering idiot, he will definitely hit a person who is down. In reality, if I were Li Zhi, the most urgent matter isn’t to invade Northern Han, but to pacify the Hanzhong region. It is necessary to pacify internal threats before dealing with external ones.2 This is the reasonable thing to do.”

After some thought, Huo Yi said, “It is possible that the Yong court has no alternative. At present, Southern Chu is watching from the sidelines. Although Your Imperial Highness has revealed signs of rebelling, they are not overt. Li Zhi probably wants to conquer Northern Han like a thunderbolt.3 When that is settled, they will be able to deal with us unhurriedly. It is only that they probably didn’t suspect that the Northern Han army would remain so formidable after being defeated at Zezhou.”

Li Kang nodded his head and advised, “Remain careful. The timing will be extremely crucial. Oh, that’s right. Establish layered ambushes at the San Pass and ensure that no agents from the Bright Inspection Department sneak into Hanzhong.”

“Your Imperial Highness, rest easy. My Union’s protector is personally overseeing the operation,” replied Huo Yi, well prepared. “We will definitely not allow the Bright Inspection Department to succeed.”

Smiling slightly, Li Kang nodded his head. He also had his own trusted subordinates and naturally knew that the Embroidered Union had already captured or killed a lot of agents sent by the court. The methods they used were extremely ruthless and cruel. At the same time, the Embroidered Union themselves had also suffered heavy losses, allowing the prince to see the Embroidered Union’s sincerity and loyalty.

After bidding farewell and walking out of the hall, Huo Yi put a faint smile on his face. Two youths were waiting outside for him. One was refined and scholarly, while the other was doughty and fierce. Both looked to be twenty-five or twenty-six years old. These two were Shangguan Yan and Xiong Bao. Both of them had looks of extreme indifference on their faces. A few days earlier, after they had been denounced and were allowed to redeem their crimes, they had followed Huo Yi and entered into service within the residence of the Prince of Qing. Although they were afraid of tyrannical abuses of authority, they were extremely deferential towards Huo Yi, not daring to offend him. After all, Huo Yi was Huo Jicheng’s adopted son and a confidant of Chen Zhen. In addition, the two’s family and elders were in the hands of the Embroidered Union. However, because of all of this, the negative feelings in their hearts only increased. Even though Huo Yi was always courteous towards them, their feelings did not change.

Seeing the looks on their faces, Huo Yi sighed mentally. Only able to feign ignorance, he instructed, “Send a message to Protector Ma and increase the surveillance upon the San Pass. We must definitely not allow any of Yong’s agents to sneak into Hanzhong.”

Ma Cheng, the Embroidered Union elder responsible for intercepting agents from the Bright Inspection Department, was over forty years old and an ardent supporter of the mission to restore Shu. This time, Chen Zhen had purposely dispatched Ma Cheng to preside over this matter because his hatred towards Great Yong was quite deep. In addition, the majority of the men dispatched to help Ma Cheng were all experts from the Union who, of course, felt strongly about their opposition to Great Yong. Because they had long been dissatisfied with the years that the Embroidered Union spent in hiding to bide its time, they were fierce tigers released from their cages when they were ordered to act, leading to the brilliant achievements.

Although there were two others participating in the operation at San Pass, they had zero accomplishments. One of them was Gu Ying, the only son of the head protector of the Embroidered Union, Gu Ning. A few days earlier, after Union Head Huo Jicheng decided to collaborate with the Prince of Qing, Gu Ning had lost all of his authority because he had enraged Huo Jicheng. This caused everyone to witness first hand, once again, the Union Head’s methods when it came to eliminating dissenters. Worried about his situation, Gu Ning had asked his good friend, Ma Cheng, to take care of his only son. Although Ma Cheng was not a direct part of Huo Jicheng’s faction, he had long been valued highly by Huo Jicheng and Chen Zhen. Gu Ning could relax with Gu Ying under Ma Cheng’s protection. Out of consideration for Gu Ying’s safety, Ma Cheng had brought his friend’s son along even after he had taken the heavy responsibility and headed for San Pass. Ma Cheng only prohibited Gu Ying from getting involved personally. After all, although Gu Ying’s martial arts were pretty good, he was only seventeen years old. As a result, Gu Ying could only watch as others took action.

The other individual was quite different. His name was Luo Jianfei and was one of Chen Zhen’s trusted bodyguards. Speaking of, after Chen Zhen began to manage the daily affairs of the Union, the authority and power of the majority of long-time members of the Union began to fall. At present, the one most valued by Chen Zhen was the Union Head’s adopted sons, Huo Yi and Huo Shan. Huo Yi was able and efficient, possessing incredible martial arts skills. In comparison, Huo Shan was a master of trap mechanisms and analysis, the best at making arrangements and laying ambushes. Although these two were young, they held power and authority in their hands, resolute in carrying out their duties. There were none within the Union who did not admire them. Reportedly, the Union Head had another adopted son, Huo Li, who had once made an enormous contribution. However, at present, he had vanished without a trace. There were some rumors that he had died an untimely death, although no one dared to investigate.

Apart from this, Chen Zhen had a mysterious group of men protecting him. This guard was composed of members of similar age. Each and every member was an elite who was a master of the brush and sword. No one knew their numbers and their whereabouts were always kept secret. Aside from Chen Zhen, it was likely that no one could ascertain their strength and structure. In the event that something major occurred within the Union, these guards would often take charge. As a result, no one dared to be contemptuous towards them. There were rumors within the Union that, because these guards were all of similar age and bearing to Huo Yi and Huo Shan, they were likely all personally trained by Huo Jicheng. As a result, they were likely tools used by Huo Jicheng to control the Union, and serve as his eyes and ears by Chen Zhen’s side. This Luo Jianfei was one of these individuals.

Luo Jianfei was a bodyguard who was actually well-known amongst the members of the Embroidered Union. He had participated several times in important missions, cooperating several times with Ma Cheng. Although he had a cultured and handsome appearance, he was vicious and merciless. Everywhere he appeared, a bloodbath would result. This man was not only ruthless towards his enemies; he was also quite vicious towards his own allies. Aside from Chen Zhen, he obeyed no one else. Even Huo Yi and Huo Shan did not dare to casually issue him orders. This time, Chen Zhen had dispatched him to San Pass to utilize his savagery. Knowing, that Luo Jianfei had secret orders from Chen Zhen and could assume control at any moment, Ma Cheng treated him as an army supervisor and did not dare to offend him in the slightest.

Luo Jianfei’s temperament was eccentric, sleeping during the day in the secret hideout while heading out alone during the night with his sword. Several times he returned, reeking of the smell of blood and seeming to even have some wounds. However, no one saw any captives nor any heads, keeping everyone in the dark about his accomplishments.

It wasn’t an easy thing for the Embroidered Union to establish a defensive perimeter to intercept Yong agents who came from the San Pass. The talents of the Yong agents were all pretty good. In addition, their concealment skills were outstanding. During the day, it was tolerable. As long as scouts occupied high points and kept watch, the agents could be easily discovered. Afterwards, the scouts could use any methods available to pass the information back to the Union’s experts to intercept and kill. However, it was different at night. With sight hampered, the Union could only dispatch some experts to wait idly for opportunities by the major paths. In any case, there was another defensive line behind. Even if these agents were able to slip past this line, it was not so easy for them to reach Hanzhong. However, the nightly missions were undertaken by teams of several experts. Luo Jianfei was the only one who came and went alone.

On this night, with the clouds hiding the moon and the stars, Gu Ying stealthily departed from the camp. He followed Luo Jianfei in the hopes of seeing what this secretive and eccentric bodyguard was up to. Gu Ying knew that his martial arts were inferior to that of Luo Jianfei’s. As a result, Gu Ying kept his distance. Fortunately, Luo Jianfei did not make any special efforts to hide his figure. As a result, Gu Ying, to his surprise, was able to follow Luo Jianfei to a valley.

This valley had a small path leading from San Pass to Hanzhong. Because the route was craggy, there were few travelers who took it. Because of this, many secret agents and spies used this path. During the day, it was impossible for anyone to hide themselves from scouts overlooking the valley from nearby cliffs. However, it was pitch-black at night, making it impossible to see anything. There were no hiding spots within the valley for one to lie in ambush. As a result, it was not an ideal location to intercept Yong agents.

Gu Ying found this strange. Why had Luo Jianfei come to this location? As suspicions gradually grew, Gu Ying watched as Luo Jianfei climbed onto the cliffs overlooking the valley. Clearly, Luo Jianfei had no intentions of hiding in the valley to wait for the opportunity to intercept and kill.

After hesitating for a moment, Gu Ying also stealthily climbed up onto the cliff. There was a bamboo forest located on the cliff. The bamboo forest surrounded a dilapidated mountain temple. There was a prominent, level boulder behind the temple. Gu Ying was well aware of the terrain here. Once before, Gu Ying had followed Ma Cheng on a patrol to this position. From a distance, he caught sight of a sparking light within the temple before disappearing in a flash. Gu Ying knew that Luo Jianfei had lit a bonfire before shutting the door of the temple to prevent the blaze from being seen. Gathering his courage, Gu Ying crept closer and made his way to the back of the dilapidated temple, looking to see if there was a way to get into the temple without being discovered by Luo Jianfei.

Although the moonlight was dim, Gu Ying could still faintly see the scenery before him. It wasn’t long before he discovered a large opening in the broken wall hidden behind overgrown weeds. Silently, he parted the weeds and discovered that the hole was barely large enough for him to squeeze through. He quietly squeezed through. There was only complete darkness before him, unable to see the light of the fire. According to his position, Gu Ying guessed that he had come out underneath the table where sacrificial offers were made to the mountain deity being worshipped in the temple. As for why he couldn’t see the fire, it seemed that the table covering had not yet been stolen. Curled up in this narrow space, Gu Ying did not dare move a finger.

In reality, Luo Jianfei should have noticed something was off because of his strong martial arts. That he hadn’t noticed anything during the journey was because Gu Ying had been extra careful. In addition, because he was impatient to meet with someone, Luo Jianfei had not paid attention. After all, there was no one in the entire Embroidered Union who dared to target him. Who would have thought that Gu Ying would be like a newborn calf who was unafraid of tigers?4 After he had entered the dilapidated temple, Luo Jianfei had been preoccupied with lighting the fire and tidying up the main temple hall. The moment Gu Ying had snuck underneath the sacrificial table was the moment when Luo Jianfei had headed outside to find some firewood. As a result, through a strange combination of factors,5 Gu Ying was able to sneak to his present location. Although Gu Ying was young, his martial arts originated from authentic internal energy traditions. Although Luo Jianfei’s martial arts were impressive, he was only considered an expert, not omniscient. As a result, he did not discover Gu Ying’s presence.

Softly making a hole in the cloth, Gu Ying attentively regarded the flickering flames and the gloomily cold looking features of the young man in black. Luo Jianfei sat with his legs crossed next to the fire with his eyes closed, recuperating. Although he was young and handsome, the sinister expression on his face and the faint murderous aura surrounding him was filled with deterrence. Although the flickering fire illuminated his sharp, handsome features, it also caused him to feel as if Luo Jianfei could be dispersed from the firelight into the darkness at any moment. Gu Ying remembered something that Protector Ma had told him before. Luo Jianfei had probably once served as an assassin. At this moment, Gu Ying finally understood the meaning behind Uncle Ma’s words. With this kind of murderous aura and gloom, it would be strange if he wasn’t an assassin.

Just as Gu Ying felt all of his limbs grow numb, soft footsteps suddenly thudded from outside the temple. Gu Ying was startled and further controlled his breathing. The door to the temple was pushed open. As the cold wind blew in, Gu Ying felt himself shiver. In the doorway stood a tall figure. The man had a gray cloak draped around his shoulders and had a conical bamboo hat on his head. The hat was very low and hid the man’s features. At the left side of his waist was a sword hilt. With one look, Gu Ying determined that he was someone from jianghu. After standing in the doorway for a moment, the man removed his hat, revealing a delicate and handsome smiling face. His pair of eyes, like the cold stars in the night sky, glistened with teardrops as he gazed tightly upon the composed-looking Luo Jianfei, almost as if he was emotionally moved at seeing a close relative after many years of separation.

Gu Ying felt himself relax. He thought, Could it be an old friend of Luo Jianfei’s? Is this why he did not speak of it? After all, even though Gu Ying was not fond of the members of Chen Zhen’s faction, he did not wish to see internal strife.

Who would have expected that just as he breathed a sigh of relief, Gu Ying saw the flash of a sword. The gray-clothed youth suddenly leaped forward, flinging his cloak. The powerful wind created extinguished the bonfire. Gu Ying felt his gaze darken before he heard the sound of weapons clashing. Resting his hand on his own sword hilt, Gu Ying bent his ear to listen closely. The scene before him was pitch-black. With no light from the moon and stars, he could only rely upon his ears to follow the bitter struggle within the hall. In addition, as he had secretly followed Luo Jianfei here, Gu Ying would not intervene lightly even if Luo Jianfei were on the verge of death.

After a few moments, Gu Ying’s eyes gradually grew accustomed to the darkness. Through the hole in the cloth, he could see the violent fight before him. Both Luo Jianfei and the newcomer seemed to be accustomed to battling in the darkness. The sword energy crisscrossed, almost like the two were fighting in broad daylight. Although Gu Ying could only see the flickering glints of the swords and the two faint figures, he could not distinguish who was Luo Jianfei. The unfamiliar youth had sometime earlier cast aside his cape. Both of them were dressed in close-fitting clothes and had similar builds. In addition, their martial arts and swordsmanship were quite similar, almost as if two disciples from the same master were comparing skills. However, Gu Ying could clearly discern that the two were ferocious to the extreme, not holding back in the slightest. After the two had exchanged over a hundred blows, one of the two steadily seized the advantage, while the other could only resist. Gu Ying was filled with anxiety, as he did not know who was winning.

At this moment, the one at the disadvantage leaped back in retreat. He smiled and said, “Fine, I’m convinced. Over these years, your martial arts have improved quickly. Presumably, you once again received Lord Li’s guidance.”

Gu Ying found this voice strange. Hearing that Luo Jianfei had won, Gu Ying found himself have misgivings at the same moment he relaxed. It seemed like the two of them were old friends. However, why were they sparring in the dark and attacking so mercilessly?

At this moment, a spark was created. The gray-clothed man lit a match and reignited the bonfire. Conveniently, he picked up the cape he had cast to the floor. As for Luo Jianfei, he retook his original seat. Indicating for the gray-clothed man to sit down, his face revealed a warm smile as he stated, “Hualiu, in the time of our separation, you now hold a high position. Who would have thought that you would remember an old friend like me?”

The gray-clothed man heaved a sigh and replied, “Were it not because of fate, I would rather that I continued to serve under the young master. At present, Chiji is on the northern frontier serving the young master, Daoli is operating in the Eastern Sea, Lü’er’s business extends throughout the world, Baiyi and Shanzi are in Sichuan, and Yulun and Quhuang are in Southern Chu. As for all of the other brothers, they continue to serve under the young master. Although I have become an official and serve in close proximity to the Emperor, I am the only one who cannot help the young master. Alas!”

“What are you saying?” said Luo Jianfei with a smile. “At the time, if you hadn’t helped the young master take control of General Qin, the Crown Prince likely would have already become the Emperor. At present, it is extremely important that you are serving in the Bright Inspection Department under Xiahou Yuanfeng. If he intends to harm the young master, you will be able to discover it immediately. Lord Li has said that if the Emperor wishes to kill the young master, Xiaohou Yuanfeng would be the first to know. That is why monitoring Xiahou Yuanfeng is the same as monitoring the Emperor. Besides, are you really willing to part with your adoptive mother and brother?”

Although Gu Ying’s knowledge was limited, he was still greatly shocked by what he heard. Even though Luo Jianfei was a key member of the Embroidered Union, who would have thought that he was actually a secret agent from Great Yong? Naturally, although Gu Ying would not suspect that Chen Zhen was also a Yong agent, he still racked his brains as to how to expose this matter and make Chen Zhen too ashamed to show his face. Gu Ying could not help putting a smile onto his face.

Afterwards, Gu Ying realized that, with this man as a mole within the Embroidered Union, he had likely allowed quite a few agents of Yong’s Bright Inspection Department into Hanzhong. This matter needed to be reported to Protector Ma as soon as possible. When all was said and done, Gu Ying was still too young. Extremely anxious, his breathing grew heavy unconsciously. Fortunately, Luo Jianfei and the stranger were close together, single-mindedly focused upon their quiet conversation and did not notice. Gu Ying promptly let out a soft sigh and strove to listen attentively. However, the two were conversing too softly and Gu Ying could only hear a few scattered words. The phrases that popped up quite frequently were the “Prince of Qing” and the “Embroidered Union.”

After some time had passed, the two finally ended their conversation. After exchanging grins, Luo Jianfei rose to his feet and said, “All right. Since we’ve finished discussing, you should go back. In a few moments, when dawn breaks, your movements will be limited.”

Hesitating somewhat, the gray-clothed youth replied, “There is one matter that Xiahou daren wanted me to pass on. He hopes that the young master will consider handing over the Embroidered Union to him after Hanzhong has been pacified.”

Luo Jianfei’s movements suddenly halted. After quite a while, he frostily questioned, “What is Xiahou daren thinking? The Embroidered Union is young master’s sharp weapon. How can it casually be handed over to anyone? In addition, why should we allow Xiahou Yuanfeng to garner such an advantage?”

“Xiahou daren has said that the entire world belongs to the Emperor and Hanzhong is Great Yong’s territory,” answered the gray-clothed man, heaving a sigh. “Regardless of whether the Embroidered Union are rebels, as the one in control of the Bright Inspection Department, he cannot permit such a force to exist outside of the court’s control. Moreover, since the young master is now a marquis, he will continue to rise steadily. It is best that these shadowy matters be handed to Xiahou daren. If the Embroidered Union still has value, then it should fall under Xiahou daren’s control.”

Sneering for a few moments, Luo Jianfei replied, “You sure are talking big. You should clearly know what’s going on with the Embroidered Union. If it were two years ago, I would have agreed if the young master wished to hand over the Embroidered Union. However, at present, the Embroidered Union controls fifty percent of our operations in Hanzhong and Western Sichuan. In addition, the Embroidered Union is working alongside the Pavilion of Heavenly Secrets and the remnants of the Fengyi Sect in Southern Chu. You should know full well the importance of the Embroidered Union to the young master. This time, for Great Yong, the young master is prepared to sacrifice at least seventy percent of the Embroidered Union’s strength. Unexpectedly, Xiahou Yuanfeng is still so greedy and refusing to let off the remaining thirty percent. And to my surprise, you’re actually speaking on his behalf. Hualiu, have you forgotten who has allowed you to obtain your current position and wealth?”

Without a hint of a smile on his face, the gray-clothed man raised his right hand and vowed, “I swear to the Heavens that if I had any evil intentions towards the young master, then I will die an unnatural death without a complete corpse!”

Hearing these words, Luo Jianfei’s expression softened. However, he still angrily said, “If so, that’s good. However, I want to hear why you are speaking on Xiahou Yuanfeng’s behalf.”

Sighing, Hualiu responded, “I only just heard Xiahou daren speak of this and also spoke up to reproach him. However, Xiahou daren has said that because Hanzhong was under the control of the Prince of Qing, it was not inappropriate that the Embroidered Union was under the young master’s control. But once Hanzhong has been pacified, if the young master’s relationship with the Embroidered Union that is focused upon reestablishing Shu is too intimate, the Emperor will likely become suspicious. Young master’s talents are Heaven-sent and has enormous power in his hands. It would unavoidably be considered as excessive to continue to control the Embroidered Union for the sake of self-preservation. If the young master is willing to hand over the Embroidered Union, it would express his loyalty and cut off his relationship with a rebel faction. It is quite suitable to suffer negligible losses to obtain the Emperor’s wholehearted trust and eliminate the suspicions that the young master would suffer. I also feel that Xiahou daren speaks the truth.

“In addition, even if the Embroidered Union is given up, not only does the young master still have sufficient strength for self-preservation, our people will be able to disengage from the Embroidered Union to concentrate on the young master’s protection. That is why I hope that you can explain this matter to Lord Chen before passing the message on to the young master. Xiahou daren does not want to directly discuss this with the young master. Even if these negotiations fail, no hostility will be wrought. What do you think about my words?”

Luo Jianfei’s features changed several times. It was a long time before he could reply, “I will report this matter to Lord Chen. However, the ultimate decision is still the young master’s.”

“If the young master disagrees,” spoke Hualiu, “I will do everything to dissuade Xiahou daren.”

Luo Jianfei nodded his head slightly before turning and departing. It wasn’t long before the gray-clothed man also left. Only then did Gu Ying discover that he had practically forgotten to breathe. How was this possible? How could the Embroidered Union be no more than someone’s pawn? If what they said was true, then who was their young master to be able to control the Embroidered Union and also have ties with the Bright Inspection Department? Gu Ying was not fully aware of the current situation. If it were his father or his adopted elder brother, Shangguan Yan, they could guess at the young master’s identity. However, as for Gu Ying, he did not understand the horrifying ramifications of what he had heard.

After a few moments, after he had determined that the two had gone far away, Gu Ying finally came out from underneath the sacrificial table, preparing to return to Ma Cheng to report the inside information he had heard. When he walked out of the temple, he unexpectedly felt his back grow numb and he tumbled to the ground facedown. Afterwards, a man’s foot stepped on Gu Ying’s back and said, “Sure enough, I didn’t hear wrong. There was indeed someone hidden within the temple. Jianfei, do you recognize this man?”

Gu Ying felt his entire body grow cold. It wasn’t that he was afraid of death at his age. If he were a few years older and had a taste of the pleasures of life, he would likely be afraid of death. However, he was currently in the prime of his youth, filled with youthful energy and vigor. This was the moment that he was most liable to lightly cast aside his life. What he was worried about were his father, his uncles, and his relatives. If he died here, it was likely that none of his family could escape alive.

Using his foot, the gray-clothed man rolled Gu Ying over onto his back. Gu Ying’s pale face was revealed to Luo Jianfei’s eyes. Luo Jianfei’s eyes suddenly narrowed and his right hand fell to the hilt of his sword. However, very quickly, a difficult look appeared on his face. Ultimately, he did not draw his sword.

Footnotes:

事不宜迟, shibuyichi – idiom, lit. the matter should not be delayed; fig. there’s no time to lose
攘外必先安内, rangwaibixian’annei – to pacify internal threats before dealing with external ones; this was the excuse used by Chiang Kai-shek in dealing with the Communists and warlords prior to the Second Sino-Japanese War/World War II
迅雷不及掩耳, xunleibujiyan’er – idiom, lit. as swift as a sudden clap f thunder which leaves no time to cover one’s ears; fig. like a thunderbolt
初生牛犊不怕虎, chushengniudubupahu – idiom, lit. a newborn calf is unafraid of tigers
阴差阳错, yinchayangcuo – idiom, lit. an accident arising from many causes; fig. a freak combination of factors

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