Demi-Gods & Semi-Devils Chapter 27 - Quelling The Rebellion With Golden Axe

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Demi Gods & Semi Devils Book 3

XXVII - Clearing enemies with a halberd in a fierce battle

Demi-Gods & Semi-Devils Chapter 27 - Quelling The Rebellion With Golden Axe

Chinese title: 天龍八部 - 金戈荡寇鏖兵
Original novel written by Jin Yong (Louis Cha)
Wuxia Novel Fan Translation by darksinz


Chapter 27: Quelling The Rebellion With Golden Axe

As Xiao Feng watched, he suddenly heard someone shout: "Is that venerable Master Xiao?" 

Xiao Feng thought: "Who recognized me?" Turning his head, he saw someone ride out of the green cavalry troop. It was the Captain sent by YeLu Ji to deliver the gifts a few months ago.

He rode toward Xiao Feng until he was within 10 zhang, quickly dismounted, rushed forward and knelt down with his right knee and said: "My Lord is waiting for you not far away. His Lordship talked about Master Xiao frequently, he misses you terribly. What good fortune brought Master Xiao here? I invite you to meet my Lord with haste." 

Xiao Feng heard that YeLu Ji is near the vicinity, with great joy he said: "I was just roaming around freely, I did not know my sworn brother is near. This could not be better. Good, please lead me to meet him."

The attendant blew a whistle, two horsemen came riding swiftly. The attendant said: "Report quickly, say Master Xiao from Changbai Mountain is coming!" The two riders received the order and sped off quickly. The rest of the troops continued to shoot the deer. The attendant led a troop of green-robed cavalry to protect Xiao Feng and AhZi and they travelled west. When YeLu Ji sent large quantity of gold, silver, cattle and sheep, Xiao Feng knew instantly that he was a Khitan noble. After seeing such a sight, he expected that his sworn brother must be some general or high ranking official.

On the grass plains, troops travelled back and forth endlessly, all of them wearing brightly colored armor. The attendant said: "Master Xiao arrived at a good time. Tomorrow morning it will be bustling with activity here.” 

Xiao Feng saw AhZi light up and he asked: “What kind of activity?” 

The attendant replied that there would be a martial arts competition. There are two vacant positions for commanding officers of Yongchang and Taihe military. The Khitan soldiers will showcase their martial art skills. Whoever is lucky, they will become the commanding officers.

Once Xiao Feng heard that there would be a martial arts competition, he was naturally exuberant and in high-spirits, he laughed: "This truly is a coincidence, I will finally get to see Khitan’s martial arts.” 

AhZi smiled and said: "Captain, just display your skills tomorrow, I will congratulate you in becoming the commanding officer.” 

The attendant replied: "I am a lowly person, why would I dare to try?" 

AhZi smiled and said: "What’s so difficult about winning the commanding officer post? As long as my brother-in-law is willing to teach you two or three moves, you will definitely win the commanding officer post.” 

The attendant happily said: “If Master Xiao is willing to give directions to me, it will really save my life. But as for the commanding officer position, I do not have the fate and I do not wish to hanker after it.”

They travelled around 10 li as they gossiped along the way, suddenly they saw a cavalry troop gallop over. The attendant said: "It’s the Flying Bear squadron from the fur-skin army of the main camp.” The squadron officers wore bear skin clothes, a black bear skin robe, a white bear skin hat, and they looked very mighty. As the squadron neared, they cried in unison, dismounted at the same time, separated into two columns and said: "Respectfully welcome Master Xiao!" 

Xiao Feng replied: "I don’t dare! I don’t dare!” and raised his hands to salute. He moved forward and the Flying Bear squadron followed closely behind.

After travelling for 10 li, they saw another squadron, clothed with tiger skin. The Flying Tiger squad came over to welcome them. Xiao Feng thought: “I don’t know what ranking official my Brother YeLu is, he can organize such grand stuff.” But the attendant refused to comment, and YeLu Ji refused to reveal the last time they met, and thus Xiao Feng did not want to probe further.

As they travelled until dusk, they reached a large tent. A troop wearing leopard skin clothes, the Flying Leopard squadron greeted and escorted Xiao Feng and AhZi to the center of the large tent. Xiao Feng thought that he would be able to meet YeLu Ji when he entered the tent. The rugs and items in the tent were all exquisite. The table was filled with dishes and fruits, however there was no one in the tent. The leader of the Flying Leopard squadron said: “His Lordship invites Master Xiao to rest here for tonight. He will meet you another day.” Xiao Feng did not inquire further, sat down, and started drinking wine. Four army sergeants refilled the wine and cut the meats, respectfully serving him.

After waking up the next morning, they travelled west for 200 li, and they rested in another large tent during night fall.

In the afternoon of the third day, the attendant said: “After crossing that mountainside, we will reach our destination.” Xiao Feng saw the atmosphere of the mountain was magnificent. The “Hua Hua” sound of flowing water as it flows swiftly from the mountainside to down south. As the group crossed the mountainside, they saw flags fluttering before their eyes. Tents were packed closely and filled the entire grassland. Tens of thousands of cavalry circled a vast open space in the center. The officers of the Flying Bear squadron, Flying Tiger and Flying Leopard took out their horns, they blew and a “Wu Wu Wu” sound reverberated.

Suddenly the drums rang out loudly. “Peng Peng Peng” cannon fire came from the mountain. Officers and soldiers at the open space split into two columns, a majestic yellow horse galloped towards Xiao Feng, and someone shouted: "Brother Xiao, brother misses you terribly!" Xiao Feng mounted a horse and met up with him, both dismounted at the same time, their hands grasping, their joy cannot be contained.

From all four directions, the soldiers shouted in unison: “Long live the king! Long live the king! Long live the king!”

Xiao Feng was shocked: "Why do the soldiers keep cheering long live the king!” He look around, every single soldier was bowing, their blades leaning on the ground. YeLu Ji was holding his hand and standing in the middle, looking to the east and west, his expression pleased. Stunned, Xiao Feng said: "Brother, you ... you are ...” 

YeLu Ji laughed and said: "At that time, if you knew I am the current Emperor of Great Liao, I'm afraid you would have refused to swear brotherhood with me. Brother Xiao, my real full name is YeLu HongJi. I survive due to your grace, I will remember it forever and never forget it."

Although Xiao Feng was open-minded and heroic, he had never seen an emperor before in his life. Seeing such splendor, he could not help but feel embarrassed and said: "Subordinate did not know your majesty, I greatly offended you, I deserve to die!" and he knelt down immediately. He was a Khitan, he should kneel down and worship when meeting Khitan’s emperor.

YeLu HongJi quickly held out his hand and propped him up, smiling he said: "You are not guilty as you do not know about it, brother, you are my sworn brother. We will only talk about our brotherhood today, it won’t be late to pay respect to the monarch tomorrow.” He waved his left hand, and the troops started drumming music to welcome the honoured guest. YeLu HongJi held onto Xiao Feng hands and both of them entered a big tent.

The tent of the Liao Emperor was made of several layers of leather with numerous flying gold ribbons, it was glorious and brilliant. The residence was known as the Great Leather Tent. YeLu HongJi sat in the middle, and ordered Xiao Feng to sit at the first seat across his. After a while civil and military officials came in to pay their respect: Lord of Northern Chancellery, Chancellor of Northern Chancellery, Chancellor of Southern Chancellery, and many more, generals of the Great Leather Tent, junior generals, cavalry commanders, infantry commanders, etc. Xiao Feng couldn’t possibly remember all of them at the moment.

A banquet was held in the tent that night. The Khitan people respected women, and thus AhZI was also invited to feast in the Great Leather Tent. Wine as deep as a pond, meat piled as high as mountain, AhZi was jubilant when she saw all this.

Everyone drank to their heart's content, the Khitan’s warrior entertained the emperor by duelling in front of him, their upper body naked. It was an intense fight as they wrestled fiercely. Xiao Feng saw that these Khitan warriors were skilful, had strong muscular strength, a set of martial art moves could be seen in their tossing and lifting, although the variations were not as ingenious as martial arts from Central Plains, but if employed in a real battlefield, it was actually more effective than martial arts from Central Plains.

The various Liao officials all approached Xiao Feng to propose a toast. Xiao Feng could not refuse and emptied every cup of wine toasted. Eventually he drank over 300 cups, his expression completely unchanged, the crowd was astonished.

YeLu HongJi was proud of his own bravery and prowess. The deed by Xiao Feng capturing him was known throughout the Liao Empire, thus he intended for Xiao Feng to showcase his superhuman abilities to cover up the humiliation of being captured. He did not expect that Xiao Feng did not need to take part in tomorrow’s martial arts competition to display his abilities. The current display of drinking prowess was sufficient to convince the crowd and gained everyone’s admiration. YeLu HongJi was overjoyed, he said: “Brother, you are the number one hero in my Liao Empire!”

Suddenly AhZi interrupted and said: "He is not number one!" 

YeLu HongJi laughed and said: "Little girl, how did he become number two? Then who is the number one hero?” 

AhZi said: "The number one hero is naturally your majesty. Although my brother-in-law’s ability is great, he has to obey you and he cannot go against you. Aren’t you the number one hero? " She was the Xingxiu Elder’s favoured disciple, proficient in the art of flattery; all these words were a piece of cake for her.

YeLu HongJi laughed and said: "Well said, well said. Brother Xiao, I want to confer an extremely high-ranking post on you. Let me think, what should I confer on you?” At this moment, he was already 80 to 90% drunk. He drummed his forehead with his finger. 

Xiao Feng quickly said: "No, no, subordinate is careless, not suitable for riches. I have always roamed the four corners of the earth, never staying for certain. I really don’t want to be an official." 

YeLu HongJi replied: "No problem, I’ll confer on you a high-ranking post that does not require any work be done. You only need to drink wine ..." Before he could finish speaking, the “Wu Wu Wu” sound of bugle came from afar, the sound was sharp and urgent.

The Liao people were originally sitting on the floor, drinking wine and eating meat, but upon hearing this bugle, they stood up in unison, their face frightened and devoid of color. The bugle call came quickly, the original call was 10 li away, the second call came a few li closer, the third call came even closer by a few more li. Xiao Feng pondered: "Even with the fastest horse, or the highest level of lightness martial arts, it can’t be faster than this bugle call. Yes, signal stations must have been pre-arranged and used to deliver urgent military news. Once the first bugle call is heard, they will relay it to the next station, so forth and so on." The bugle call was delivered quickly and it stopped abruptly when it reached the Great Leather Tent. Hundreds of officers and men in the tents where originally cheering and partying, it was extremely noisy and chaotic. Upon hearing the call they became mute.

YeLu HongJi’s expression was calm, he slowly lifted his golden cup, drank all the wine and said: "There’s a rebellion in the capital, de-camp, we will return immediately.”

The marching generals immediately went out to issue orders. Once they heard the single word “De-camp”, they relayed the words and it became ten, and this ten became a hundred, a hundred became thousand. The word became louder and louder, it was serious and orderly, and it seemed there was no hint of panic. Xiao Feng pondered: "My great Liao Empire has been established for over two hundred years, our Empire shook the entire world by force, currently there is civil strife, but no one panic. It seems every generation of Liao leader is competent in commanding the army.”

The sound of horses hooves were heard, the advance party galloped off, followed by the left and right vanguard. The forward troops, left troops, right troops; troop after troop headed south back to the capital.

YeLu HongJi held Xiao Feng’s hand and said: "Let’s go take a look." He went out of the tent alone. In the middle of the night, lanterns were hung on every military banner, red, yellow, blue and white. All these colored lanterns illuminated the area. The remaining tens of thousands of troops were travelling down south, no one spoke a word and only the neighing of horses could be heard. Xiao Feng was greatly impressed and thought: "Look at the way he has control of the army, who can go against him? That day the emperor bravely went out hunting alone and he accidently got captured by me. If his army really did press on and attack, although the Jurchens are strong and valiant, they will hopelessly be outnumbered and defeated."

Once the two of them left the tent, the guards de-camped immediately and kept everything orderly, luggage and supplies all loaded onto the horse carriage. The commander-in-chief of the main army 
issued his orders, and the main army moved off immediately. The Lord of Northern Chancellery, chancellor, advisers and tutors, all of them stayed near YeLu HongJi, their face solemn, but they all acted in unison. Although they knew about the rebellion, but they still did not know who led this rebellion and what was the exact situation of the chaos.

The huge party travelled south for three days, during the night after setting camp, a scout galloped back and reported to YeLu HongJi: “The Lord of the Southern Chancellery staged this rebellion, he has occupied the main Palace. The empress dowager, empress, prince, princess and over one hundred officials and their family members, all have been captured."

YeLu HongJi had a huge shock, and his expression became grave.

The military affairs of the Liao Empire were handled by the Northern and Southern Chancellery. The Lord of the Northern Chancellery accompanied the emperor for the current hunting trip, and the the Lord of Southern Chancellery stayed behind to guard the capital. The Lord of Southern Chancellery was YeLu NieLuGu, his title was Prince of Chu. It didsn’t matter if he rebelled, but as his father was YeLu ZhongYuan, the uncle of the emperor and Supreme Commander of the Army, it was no small matter.

YeLu HongJi’s grandfather YeLu LongXu, was known as the Holy Emperor in Liao’s history. The Holy Emperor’s eldest son was ZongZhen, the second son ZhongYuan. ZongZhen’s character was kind and generous, ZhongYuan was valiant and gifted in military strategy. When the Holy Emperor was about to pass away, he designated ZongZhen to succeed the throne, but the empress favoured her second son, and she plotted to make ZhongYuan emperor. In Liao’s tradition, the Empress Dowager was extremely powerful, thus ZongZhen could not fully consolidate his power as the Emperor, and his life was also in danger, but ZongZhen informed his brother of their mother’s scheme, and her scheme was thwarted. ZongZhen was naturally grateful to his brother and bestowed the rank of royal emperor brother, making him next in line to succeed the throne.

YeLu ZongZhen was known in Liao’s history as the Prosperous Emperor, but after his death, the throne was not passed on to the Royal Emperor Brother ZhongYuan, but passed on to his son HongJi.

After assuming the throne, YeLu HongJi felt apologetic, and he conferred ZhongYuan as the Royal Emperor Uncle, and this again made him next in line to succeed the throne. In addition, he also made ZhongYuan the supreme commander of the entire army, exempted him from kneeling during court sessions, bestowed on him gold and scriptures, a mortar board, a two-color robe, and gave him preferential treatment. He became the most powerful figure in the Liao Empire; YeLu HongJi also conferred ZhongYuan’s son the title of Prince of Chu, giving him full control of military affairs in Southern Chancellery, and hence he was known as Lord of Southern Chancellery.

When the Holy Emperor died YeLu ZhongYuan could assume the throne with the help of the Dowager, but he gave it up and supported his brother, and this showed that he valued loyalty, and he also kept quiet about the entire incident. When YeLu HongJi left to go hunting, he did not have the slightest suspicion and let his uncle handle all the military affairs. When the bugle call came, and the rebellion was actually led by the Lord of Southern Chancellery YeLu NieLuGu, Ye Hongji was naturally shocked and worried. Rumor had it that NieLuGu’s disposition was vicious and ruthless. Since he plotted the rebellion, there’s no reason his father would do nothing about it.

The Lord of Northern Chancellery said: "Your Majesty need not be overly worried, your uncle is an understanding person. He will not allow his unfilial son to rebel, it’s possible that he had already deployed the army and quelled the rebellion." 

YeLu HongJi replied: "I really hope so."

After they finished their dinner, the second scout rushed in and reported: "The Lord of Southern Chancellery made his father the Emperor. The imperial decree announced it to the rest of the world.” He did not dare continue his words, and presented the new Emperor's edict with both hands. HongJi perused the edict. The edict said that YeLu HongJi was a fake emperor who tried to usurp the throne, the Royal Emperor Brother was the legitimate emperor, and hence the army was mobilized to resolve this issue. YeLu HongJi was so furious that he threw the edict into the fire and burnt it to ashes, but his heart was worried and he pondered: "This fake emperor affair sounds convincing. Once the Liao army and citizens see the edict, their loyalty will waver. My uncle is the Supreme Commander of the entire army, he has the authority to mobilize eight hundred-thousand troops with just a wave of his hand, not to mention the troops under the jurisdiction of his son the Lord of Southern Chancellery. I only have around one hundred-thousand troops following me. I am heavily outnumbered, what should I do?” He tossed and turned throughout the night, unable to sleep.

When Xiao Feng heard the Emperor wanting to confer an official post on him, he wanted to take AhZi and leave during the night without saying goodbye, but seeing the crisis faced by his sworn brother, it was inconvenient to simply walk away. He wanted to do something for him on account of their brotherhood. That night as he was strolling outside the camp, he heard secret discussions among the troops. The Emperor’s parents and wife all lived in the capital. Since they were held hostage by the Royal Emperor Uncle, they would most probably not survive. Some of the troops were worried about their own family members and they suddenly cried. The crying was infectious. The rest of the officers and soldiers could relate to their situation, and one by one they begin to cry. The commanders and generals tried to persuade them to stop. They targeted those that cried especially loud, but they could not stop them from crying.

The cries were earth-shattering, YeLu HongJi knew the troop’s spirit was broken and he became even more troubled.

Early next morning, the scout came to report. The Royal Emperor Uncle and his son were leading five hundred-thousand troops, they were heading north to intercept them. YeLu HongJi pondered: “In such a situation, we cannot retreat, even if we are utterly defeated, we can only fight till death." Immediately he summoned his officers and began discussing. The ministers and officials were all extremely loyal to YeLu HongJi and they were willing to fight to the death, but they were worried about the army’s morale.

HongJi pass down his orders: “All officers and soldiers, after we resolve this situation, you will be promoted and also receive heavy rewards." He donned his golden armour and helmet, personally led three troops, and galloped off to meet the troops of his uncle. All the officers and men saw the emperor personally leading the troops to meet the enemy; at once their courage received a large boost. They gave three cheers and pledged loyalty till death. The one hundred-thousand troops divided into four sections. The advanced troop, left troop, right troop and main troop, their armor clanking, they marched southward. In addition a small squad scattered and roamed both flanks.

Xiao Feng took up a bow and spear and followed beside HongJi, becoming his personal bodyguard. The Flying Bear troops protected AhZi and they were positioned at the rear of the army. Xiao Feng saw YeLu HongJi frowning, and knew he did not have confidence in winning this battle.

As they travelled till noon, they heard the bugle call out again in front. The main army general commanded: "Dismount!" All the troops dismounted and pulled their horse bridles; only YeLu HongJi and his ministers were still on horseback.

Xiao Feng did not understand why the troops dismounted, he was puzzled. YeLu HongJi smiled and said: "Brother, you stayed in the Central Plains for such long time, you don’t know about how we Khitan fight wars, correct?" 

Xiao Feng said: "I was about to invite your majesty to enlighten me." 

HongJi smiled and said: "Haha, this Emperor position, I don’t know if I can hang onto it until sun down. We should address each other as brothers, why do you have to address me as your majesty?”  

Xiao Feng heard bitterness in his laughter and said: "The two armies have yet to cross swords, you majesty, please do not worry." 

HongJi said: "When clashing on flat terrain, the horse strength is of utmost importance. We can charge into enemy lines and press forward relentlessly. We Khitans attacked the east and west and secured victory in every battle, this is the secret to our success."

As he finished speaking, dust clouds began gathering in the distance and towered over ten zhang high. It was as if a yellow cloud was gushing over the ground. HongJi pointed with his whip and said: "My uncle and his son are war veterans. They are valiant generals of the 
Liao Empire, but now why do they gallop over anxiously and not conserve their horse strength? Hmmm, it seems they are over-confident and thinks they will win for certain.” As he finished speaking, the bugle call was heard simultaneously from the left and right troops. Xiao Feng looked to the distance. The enemy had two cavalry troops to the east, another two cavalry troops to the west, they were outnumbered five to one.

YeLu HongJi turned pale, he said to the main army general: “Get into formation and set up stockades!” 

The general replied: "Yes!" He rode off and passed down the orders. Immediately the advance troops, left troops and right troops all turned back. The sergeants nailed the pillars of the Great Leather Tent with a large hammer into the ground, spread out the tent cover, set up an abatis (an barricade of trees with bent or sharpened branches directed toward an enemy) on all four sides, and built a large wooden stockade on the grassland. The troops defended all four sides during construction; around ten thousand archers took up position in the wooden stockade, their bows drawn and waiting for the order to shoot.

Xiao Feng furrowed his brow and thought: "Once they start fighting, regardless of the outcome, countless dead bodies of my Khitan tribe will be strewn all over the place. It would best if we win, but if we lose, I can only escort AhZi and my sworn brother to a safe place. It doesn’t matter if he can’t be the emperor anymore."

Not long after building the stockade, the enemy troops arrived but they did not engage immediately. They stood at a distant spot, beyond the range of the archers. The drums beat endlessly. Troops after troops of rebels came from all four directions, formed their battle formations and surrounded them. Xiao Feng gazed across the battlefield, the enemies were everywhere and he couldn’t even see the end. He pondered: "My sworn brother’s army is too heavily outnumbered, I'm afraid we will lose for certain. It’s not convenient to escape during the day. We can try to hold out until nightfall and then I will think of something to save them." Seeing the huge stockade cast a small shadow on the ground, it was currently noon.

There were numerous “Ya Ya Ya” sounds, a flock of geese flew by in the sky. YeLu HongJi raised his head and gazed for a long time. He said bitterly: "Unless we can transform ourselves into geese and fly away, we will never be able to escape.” The expressions of the Lord of Northern Chancellery and generals changed. They knew the emperor became fearful after seeing the rebel army.

The drums thundered within the enemy ranks, over 100 skin-drums vibrated with “Peng Peng” sound. The general of the main army shouted: “Beat the drums!” Hundreds of skin-drums in the stockade also vibrated with “Peng Peng” sound. The drums echoed in unison with enemy’s drum, over tens of thousands of cavalry cried out and shook the field. They stuck out their spears and charged forward.

Seeing the enemy rush towards their front troops, the main army general waved his command-flag. The drums stopped drumming, and tens of thousands of arrows shot out simultaneously. The enemy’s front troops all fell onto the ground. But the next wave followed closely behind, and charged forward bravely. Horses that fell down in front became the meat-shield for those behind. The enemy infantry archers were armed with shields; they rushed forward and shot their arrows towards the stockade.

YeLu HongJi was only shocked in the beginning; as the fight broke out, immediately his courage multiplied. Standing on high ground, holding onto his blade, he gave orders and commanded. The soldiers in the stockade saw the Emperor personally supervising the front line, and they shouted loudly: "Long live the King! Long live the King! Long live the King!" Hearing "Long live the King" the enemy troops looked up and saw YeLu HongJi in his golden armor, standing on the high platform in the stockade. Under his impressive display of power, they could not help but leap back and stop pushing forward. HongJi saw this golden opportunity and shouted: "Left cavalry out flank, charge!"

The left troop was led by the Lord of the Northern Chancellery. Once they heard the emperor’s orders, thirty thousand cavalry immediately moved to out flank the enemy. A moment of hesitation in the rebel army, and cavalry from the stockade had arrived. The rebels were thrown into confusion and quickly moved back. The drums in the stockade thundered, after a short engagement, the rebels were quickly forced to retreat. The cavalries from the stockade pursued and killed them, their manner sharp and imposing.

Xiao Feng was overjoyed and cried out: "Brother, we scored a huge victory for this round!" YeLu HongJi got down from the platform and mounted his battle horse, leading more troops to provide support. Suddenly, the bugle sounded. The main rebel forces drove forward. The rebel’s front troop turned around and fought back, in a split second, arrows and spears flew back and forth across the battlefield, screams shook the sky, blood and flesh flew in every direction. 

Xiao Feng was secretly shocked: "I have never seen such ferocious fighting in my life. Even if your martial arts are peerless, it’s completely useless in the mist of millions of cavalries, at most you can use it to protect yourself. Such large armies engaging in war, it cannot be mentioned in the same breath as those group fights or duels in the martial arts world."

Sudden the gongs rang out behind the rebel’s army, it was the gong to call off the battle. The rebel’s cavalry retreated, arrows rained to provide cover for their retreat. The main army general and the Lord of the Northern Chancellery led the troops to charge three times, they broke through every time and caused confusion in the enemy formation, but thousands of them were also shot dead. YeLu HongJi said: "Our soldiers suffered too many losses, let’s withdraw for the time being." and they beat the gongs and withdraw the troops.

The rebels also sent out two troops of cavalry to pursue, but the Central Army was prepared. They pretended to retreat but encircled them from both wings, three thousand rebels were surrounded and annihilated. The remaining few hundred dismounted and surrendered. HongJi wave his left hand, soldiers came out of the stockade armed with spears and pierced the hundred rebels to death. This ferocious battle lasted no more than an hour, but the killings were unusually tragic and cruel.

The main forces of both sides retreated ten zhang from each other. The middle zone between them was filled with corpses, the wounded were moaning and wailing, it was unbearably tragic. Both sides sent out a troop of 300 black robed soldiers- the people from the stockade wore yellow hats, the enemy wore white hats. They moved forward to the middle zone to examine the wounded. Xiao Feng thought these black robed soldiers would carry the injured back for medical treatment, but instead they took out their blades and killed the wounded soldiers. After all the injured soldiers were hacked to death, the six hundred black robed soldiers shouted in unison and began to fight each other.

The martial arts of the six hundred black robed soldiers were not weak, their blades flashed and they fought bravely. After a while, over two hundred people were cut down. The black robed soldiers from the stockade had better martial arts, they only lost around ten men, and the situation immediately became two versus one, thus the victor became obvious. After a while, it became three versus one. Officers from both sides only cheered their men. The rebel army stood by and watched, they did not dispatch any soldiers to provide assistance. Eventually the three hundred black robed soldiers from the rebel army were eliminated. The remaining two hundred black robed soldiers from the stockade returned back into formation. Xiao Feng wondered about the customs of Khitan: "The way they clean up the battlefield, although it is not a large scale, it is exceedingly horrifying.”

HongJi raised his saber and shouted loudly: "Although there are many rebels, they have no fighting spirit. Once we fight another round, they will definitely be routed!"

The officers and men in the stockade chanted: "Long live the King, long live the King, long live the King!"

Suddenly a bugle call was heard within the rebel ranks. Five men slowly rode out to the middle, one of them was holding onto a sheet of sheepskin, and he recited loudly from it. He was reciting the Imperial Edict from the Royal Emperor Uncle: "YeLu HongJi usurped the throne, his a fake king. Now that the Royal Emperor Uncle has assumed the throne, he urges the soldiers and officials of the Liao Empire to return to the capital and pledge loyalty to him. All of you will be promoted three grades.” A dozen archers fired their arrows from the stockade, whizzing sounds rang out as they shot towards the announcer. The four men by his side raise their shields and protected each other. The man continued to recite aloud. Their five horses were shot down but they were still hiding safely behind their shields. Finally he finished reciting the edict and they turned around and left.

The Lord of the Northern Chancellery saw his officials wavered after they heard the edict, he shouted: "Go out and curse them!" Ten “professional-cursers” went out. They had loud voices and thick throats, good enunciation, the first curser started insulting. Words such as ‘treacherous traitors, being buried right here’, etc. The second curser took over and carried on insulting, all sorts of vulgarities came spewing. Xiao Feng did not understand most of the curse words as he had limited knowledge of the Khitan language, but he saw YeLu HongJi nod his head repeatedly, his expression approving. It seems these “professional cursers” really put up an exciting show.

Xiao Feng looked over at the enemy formation. At a far distance, under the reflection of their yellow hats, he saw two men, each riding a fine horse. They were holding horsewhips and pointing around. One was clothed in a yellow robe and wearing a crown. He had a long gray beard. The other person was wearing gold armour, his face gaunt, but his expression fierce and brave. Xiao Feng thought to himself: "Look at their appearance. This must be the Royal Emperor Uncle and his son."

Suddenly, the ten “professional-cursers” discussed among themselves for a while. They shouted in unison and revealed the shameful secrets of the Royal Emperor Uncle and his son. It seems the Royal Emperor Uncle was upright and had proper conduct, there wasn’t any scandal from him. The ten men mostly targeted his son, the Prince of Chu. They said he raped his father's concubine and used his father’s power to commit all kinds of evil. These words were obviously meant to sow discord between father and son. The ten cursers shouted in unison. They cursed the exact same words, the words resonated over a few li and over hundred thousand men all heard it clearly.

The Prince of Chu waved his whip, the rebels howled in unison. They made “Ah Ah” sound and shouted randomly. The noise drowned out the words of the ten cursers.

The enemy suddenly separated and they pushed ten carts towards the stockade. The sergeant dragged out over ten females from the carts. Some of them were white-haired grannies, some were youths, their clothes all grand and exquisite. Once these women were brought out, both sides stopped cursing immediately.

YeLu HongJi shouted: "Mother, mother! Son will catch these traitors and dismember them to help you vent your anger!"

That white-haired granny is the current Empress Dowager. She is YeLu HongJi’s mother Empress Dowager Xiao. The rest are Empress Xiao, concubines and princesses. When HongJi went hunting, the Royal Emperor Uncle and his son surrounded the Forbidden Palace and captured the Empress Dowager and the rest of the royals.

The Empress Dowager said: "Your majesty need not be concerned about this old lady or your wife and children, do you best and kill these thieves!" A dozen officers drew their sabers and placed them against the neck of the females. The young concubines immediately cried out in fear.

YeLu HongJi was furious and shouted: "Shoot down those crying females!" There were whizzing sounds and over ten arrows flew out. The concubines who were crying were all shot dead.

The Empress said: "Your majesty that was well shot! Well shot! The foundation of our forefathers cannot be destroyed by the hands of these traitors."

The Prince of Chu saw the Empress Dowager and Empress were stubborn; not only would he be unable to coerce HongJi, but it might also shake the morale of his own troops, and he issued the order: "Detain these women on the carts and withdraw." The soldiers detained the Empress Dowager and Empress in the cart and pushed it to the rear of the army. 

The Prince of Chu ordered: "Bring forward the family members of enemy troops!"

The whirring call of bamboo whistles were heard, the sound was bleak, the army split apart. There was endlessly clanking of iron shackles, rows after rows of male, female, old and young were all pulled to the front. In an instant their cries shook the heavens. The soldiers from the stockade were personal soldiers of the Liao emperor. YeLu HongJi treated them extremely well and even permitted their families to live in the capital. Firstly this would make the troops appreciative and they would be willing to fight till death in times of trouble. Secondly it also served to keep tabs on them. They would not dare to revolt during an expedition. He did not expect this arrangement would backfire against him when he went out on the hunting trip. The family members of the soldiers numbered over two hundred-thousand people, but only thirty thousand people were brought forward. A lot of these people were wrongly arrested but it was impossible to differentiate them at this moment, some of them were dragging their children and the situation was extremely messy and chaotic.

A general under the command of the Prince of Chu rode out and shouted loudly: "All soldiers in the stockade please listen. All your family members have been arrested. Those who surrender will get to reunited with them. You will also be promoted three grades, and also receive extra rewards. If you do not surrender, the new emperor has issued a decree: all the people you see here will be killed.” Khitan people have always been cruel and sadistic. If they say "all will be killed", it was definitely not an empty threat and all these people will really be killed. Some of the soldiers in the stockade recognized their loved ones, "Dad, mom, child, husband, wife!" Both sides kept calling out to each other.

Drums rolled in the rebel army. Two thousand executioners stepped out, their sabers sparkling. The drums stopped, two thousand sabers were raised, targeting the necks of family members. The general said: "Surrender now to the new emperor, you will be heavily rewarded, otherwise all your family members will die 
together!" He waved his left hand and the drums rolled again.

The soldiers in the stockade knew that if he waved his left hand again, the drums would stop, and the two thousand sabers would chop down immediately. These soldiers have always been loyal to YeLu HongJi. They were not enticed by the promise of riches or promotion, but seeing their family members waiting to be butchered, how can they not panic?

The drums rumbled without stopping, the hearts of the soldiers were beating anxiously. Suddenly, someone shouted within the stockade: "Mom, mom, you cannot kill my mom!" Abandoning his spear, he ran towards an old lady.

An arrow flew out from the stockade and pierced the back of this solder. The soldier did not die immediately, and he carried on crawling towards his mother. There were endless call of "Father, mother, child", and hundreds of soldiers ran out from the stockade. The trusted generals of YeLu HongJi took out their swords and chopped randomly, but how can they stop the soldiers from running? After these hundred soldiers ran out, they were followed by another thousand. After these thousands, chaos broke out, out of his original 150,000 troops, around 60 to 70 thousand ran over.

YeLu HongJi gave a long sigh, he knew the situation could not be salvaged. Taking the opportunity as the soldiers hugged and reunited with their families, there was massive chaos as the rebel army separated to make space for the family members. He quickly ordered: “Retreat towards the vast mountains in the north-west.” The main army general secretly passed down the order. With the remaining 80,000 men, the rear troops became the front troops, they galloped quickly to the north-west.

The Prince of Chu tried to order his cavalries to pursue but they were hindered by the civilians flooding the entire battlefield. The horses could not gallop past them quickly. By the time they pushed away the crowd, YeLu HongJi had already led his men and escaped far away. The 80,000 troops arrived at the foot of the vast mountain. It was dusk, and the soldiers were hungry and tired. They built a stockade on the top of the slope, occupying the high ground so as to better guard against attacks. Once the stockade was secured, the rice was not yet cooked and the Prince of Chu had arrived with his troops and they immediately charged up the slope. Soldiers in the stockade rained arrows and managed to repel the rebel forces. The Prince of Chu saw the situation was unfavourable and he withdrew the troops immediately and set up camp at the foot of the mountain.

During the evening, YeLu HongJi stood at the side of the cliff, gazing towards the south. He saw the campfires in the rebel camp were akin to sparkling stars. In the distance there were three fire dragons arriving, but it was actually the rear forces of the rebel army that came to join up with the main army. HongJi was dejected. As he was about to enter his tent the Lord of the Northern Chancellery came to report: “Fifteen thousand troops under subordinate’s command rushed down the mountain and surrendered to the rebel. Subordinate did not manage his troops well, I deserve to die!" 

YeLu HongJi waved his hand, shook his head and said: "You cannot be blamed, go back and rest!”

He turned around and saw Xiao Feng preoccupied with a distant place, he said: "Tomorrow morning, the rebels will be victorious, I will definitely become their prisoner. I am the Emperor, I cannot be humiliated by these rebels. I will commit suicide to repay my country. Brother, you should take advantage of the darkness and escape. You have strong martial arts, the rebels will not be able to stop you." As he said this, his expression became sorrowful, he continued: "I intended to make you rich and influential, but as it turns out I can’t even save myself and I even dragged you into this mess."

Xiao Feng said: "Brother, a real man should be adaptable to circumstances. Today this battle is unfavourable. I can guarantee your escape. You should go back reassemble you army and fight again.”

HongJi shook his head and said: "I can’t even save my mother and wife, how can I be considered a real man? In the eyes of the Khitan, the victor is the hero, the loser is the rebel. I suffered a crushing defeat, how can I fight again? Forget me, escape by yourself!"

Xiao Feng knew he spoke the truth and sighed: "That being the case, I will accompany brother and fight the rebels till death. We are sworn brothers. You may be the Emperor, or even a lowly commoner, but Xiao Feng will only treat you as my brother. When elder brother is in trouble, I should face it with you and we live or die together. Where is the logic in running away by myself?”

YeLu HongJi was teeming with tears. He held both his hands and said: "Good brother, I thank you."

Xiao Feng went back to his tent. He saw AhZi lying curled in the corner of the tent. Her big pair of eyes was open, she did not sleep. AhZi said: "Brother-in-law, do you blame me?" 

Xiao Feng was puzzled: "Blame you for what?" 

AhZi replied: "It’s all my fault. If I did not insist on coming to this grass plain, you would not get trapped in this situation. Brother-in-law, we will really die here correct? "

The torch’s light outside the tent reflected off her face, a shade of red floated up her pale complexion. She looked even more petite and delicate. Xiao Feng felt his pity rising and he said softly: "Why would I blame you? If I did not injure you, we would never have come to this place." 

AhZi smiled and said: "If I did not attack you with the poison needle, you would not have injured me."

Xiao Feng extended his hands and stroked her hair. After being injured for such a long time, AhZi lost more than half of her hair. Her hair was sparse and yellowing. Xiao Feng gave a sigh: "You are so young, yet you have to suffer along with me."
AhZi said: "Brother-in-law, originally I did not understand why my sister loves you so much, but now I know."

Xiao Feng thought: "Your sister treated me with boundless devotion, what would a little girl like you understand. In fact, I don’t even know why Azhu fell in love with the crude me. How do you even know?" As he thought of this matter, he shook his head in sorrow.

AhZi turned her head to the side and 
said: "Brother-in-law, have you guessed it? Why did I attack you with the poison needle that day? I did not want to kill you, I only wanted to immobilize you so that I can take care of you." 

Xiao Feng was curious: "What is so good about that?” 

AhZi smiled and said: "If you are immobilized then you cannot leave me. Otherwise, since you despise me, you might abandon me anytime and not pay any attention to me anymore."

Although her words could be considered to be childish, but it was also not casual nonsense. He could not help but be secretly scared, wondering: "Since we are all going to die tomorrow, might as well say a few words to comfort her." He said: “You are really childish, if you really want to follow me, just tell me, I will not refuse."

AhZi eyes brightened, she said happily: "Brother-in-law, once I recovered, I still want to follow you. I will never return to my master’s Xingxiu Sea again. Don’t you dare abandon me."

Xiao Feng knew the trouble she stirred up in Xingxiu Sect was no small matter. Naturally she wouldn’t dare to go back, he smiled and said: "You are the great senior martial sister of Xingxiu Sect, if you don’t go back they will be like a group without a leader, then what will they do?" 

AhZi giggled: "Just let them be confused. I don’t care."

Xiao Feng pulled a felt blanket and covered her to just below the neck. After he tucked her in, he spread another felt and slept in a separate corner of the tent. The flame outside the tent was flickering. He heard faint crying and knew it came from soldiers who missed their family. Everyone knew they would not survive tomorrows encounter, but they were loyal to the emperor and refused to betray him.

Xiao Feng woke up early in the morning. He asked the room attendant to prepare the horses and to take care of AhZi. Knowing his end is near, he ate one pound of mutton and drank three pounds of wine. He walked to the hillside. It was still dark at this time. Not long after the sun rose from the east, the bugle called from from within the stockade. Clanking sounds were heard as the men donned their armour and took up their weapons. Troops set off from the stockade and guarded the various strategic points. Xiao Feng looked into the distance from his high ground- east, south, south-east, the rebel troops came gushing from all three sides. White mist blanketed the distance. He couldn’t even see the end of the rebel’s troop formation.

Suddenly the sun rays emerged from the horizon, ten thousand golden rays penetrated the white fog. The mist slowly dispersed, revealing the troops hidden by the mist. Suddenly the drums rolled and two yellow flag troops came galloping out, followed closely by the Royal Emperor Uncle and the Prince of Chu. They pointed at the mountain with their horsewhips and started discussing their strategy.

YeLu HongJi led his guards and stood by the hillside. Seeing such a scenario, he was furious. He took a bow and arrow from one of his guard, drew the bow, and shot towards the Prince of Chu. Watching from the mountain top, it may seem they are not separated far apart, but in fact the distance was several times the range of the arrow. The arrow did not even reach halfway before running out of power and dropping down.

The Prince of Chu laughed and shouted: "HongJi, you usurped my father’s throne and spent a lot of time as the fake emperor. It’s time to abdicate the throne. Surrender quickly, my father will spare your life, and he will also pretend to be benevolent and confer you as the Royal Emperor Nephew. How does that sound? Ha ha ha!" These few words were obviously meant to insult HongJi for pretending to be benevolent by making YeLu ZhongYuan the Royal Emperor Uncle.

HongJi was furious: "Shameless traitor, still flaunting and trying to win dispute."

The Lord of the Northern Chancellery shouted: "Subordinate is willing to die for your disgrace! Your majesty has always shown great kindness to me, and today is the day I repay you. I will lead three 
thousand troops, we will shout in unison and rush down from the hill.” The three thousand troops were all warriors from the Khitan capital. They were ready to fight to the death. One of them was equivalent to ten men. They shouted and rushed ahead, immediately the enemy is forced to retreat a few li. The Prince of Chu waved his command flag, tens of thousands of cavalry surrounded the troops, their spears and sabers ready. Their war cry shook the heaven and earth, flesh and blood flew in all direction. The three thousand troops were gradually killed off, eventually, all of them were killed. The Chancellor of Northern Chancellery killed several more people before committing suicide. HongJi, generals, ministers and Xiao Feng could see all the action from the mountain top, but they were powerless to save him. All of them shed long tears for the display of loyalty by the Chancellor of Northern Chancellery. 

The Prince of Chu rode near the hillside and laughed: "HongJi, are you going to surrender or not? What can you do with that little amount of troops you have? Your troops are all brave warriors of the Liao Empire, why do you want them to accompany you till death? Be a real man, be decisive, surrender or fight. If you know your days are numbered, just commit suicide to thank the heavens. Don’t sacrifice your soldiers for nothing."

YeLu HongJi gave a long sigh and held his tears, he said: "This beautiful Empire, I will give it to your father. You are right, we are first cousin, linked by flesh and blood. We should not sacrifice the lives of our Khitan warriors." As he said this, he raised his saber and directed it towards his neck. 

Xiao Feng stretch his arm and seize the saber, he said: "Brother, if you are an honorable hero, you should die fighting in the battlefield, how can you die by committing suicide?"

HongJi sighed: "Brothers, these soldiers followed me for such a long time, I will die for sure, but I cannot bear to see them lose their life for me."

The Prince of Chu shouted: "HongJi, you still delay in committing suicide?" He pointed his horsewhip directly at HongJi’s face, his expression arrogant to the extreme.

As Xiao Feng saw him move closer and closer, he had an idea, he whispered: "Brother, distract him and entertain him with words, I will quietly move closer and shoot him with an arrow."

Knowing his amazing skills, HongJi was overjoyed: "This is extremely good, if you can kill him with an arrow, I will die contented." Immediately he raised his voice and shouted: "Prince of Chu, I did not mistreat you and your father, your father wants to be the emperor, but he should not kill and injure so many officers and innocent citizens and weaken the Liao Empire."

Xiao Feng took a hard bow, a few jagged toothed arrows, pulled a horse and slowly guided it to the hill side. He bent down and hid under the horse’s belly, his feet hooked onto the horseback. Giving a kick with his toes, the horse rushed off. The rebel army saw a rider-less horse. They knew this horse broke from its reins and escaped, such a matter was very common and no one paid extra attention to it. But after a while the rebel army noticed someone hiding under the belly of the horse and they immediately shouted out.

Xiao Feng use his toes to kick the horse, and it galloped straight towards the Prince of Chu. Seeing that he was around two hundred footsteps away from him, he drew his bow from under the horse’s belly and shot an arrow towards him. The personal guard of the Prince of Chu raised his shield and warded off the arrow. Xiao Feng mounted the horse and galloped quickly. He fired arrows in rapid succession. The first arrow toppled the guard and the second arrow went straight towards the Prince of Chu’s chest.

The Prince of Chu deftly waved his whip and struck the arrow. This art of using the whip to strike an arrow was the Prince’s most proficient skill, but the person who shot this arrow had extremely strong muscular strength. In addition the arrow was infused with internal energy, although the whip hit the arrow’s shaft, it only diverted the arrow slightly, with a “Bu” sound, the arrow plunged into his left shoulder. The Prince of Chu gave an "Ah Yo!" call and he leaned on the saddle in pain.

Xiao Feng’s arrow arrived again, this time the distance was even closer, the arrow entered his left side and penetrated out from his chest. The Prince of Chu immediately fell off the horseback.

Xiao Feng achieved success with one attempt, and he thought: "Why don’t I take this opportunity and shoot that Royal Emperor Uncle dead!

When the Prince of Chu was shot and fell off his horse, the rebel army shouted out loudly. A few hundred arrows were shot towards Xiao Feng’s horse, in an instant the horse was hit by two hundred arrow. It became a porcupine horse.

Xiao Feng rolled on the ground and slid below a horse ridden by an officer. He executed his ‘Cotton Softness Skill’, immediately, from under the horse’s belly he slid to the underside of another horse. He rolled on the ground and slid to the underside of yet another horse. The rebel troops were unable to fire their arrows, and they tried to pierce him using spears. But Xiao Feng slid to the east and rolled west on the ground. He displayed his skills from the underside of horses. The troops were thrown into confusion, thousand of horses pushed and trampled each other. How can they even pierce him with spears?

The ‘Cotton Softness Skill’ displayed by Xiao Feng was a common ground fighting skill in the Central Plain. Be it ground-fighting fist, ground-fighting knife, or ground-fighting sword, all these skills require rolling and tumbling maneuvers on the ground, waiting for the perfect opportunity to attack an opponent’s underside. Currently he was using it on the battlefield, he moved deftly and avoided the trampling of over a thousand horse’s hooves. He took this time to determine the location of the Royal Emperor Uncle. He rolled straight at him and sent three arrows whizzing towards him.

The bodyguards of the Royal Emperor Uncle had previously seen the Prince of Chu being shot by the arrow and they made preparations against it. Three dozen men raised their shields, packed densely, layer upon layer, they blocked in front of the Royal Emperor Uncle. Three clanking sounds were heard and the arrows were knocked down by the shields. Xiao Feng carried ten arrows with him and he had already fired seven of them, he was left with three. Seeing the three dozen shields mutually covering each other, it was extremely difficult to shoot down the guards with just three arrows, and there was no need to even mention shooting the Royal Emperor Uncle. Currently he had penetrated deep within enemy’s rank, behind him thousands of soldiers pursued with their spears, in front of him were thousands upon thousands of soldiers and horses. He had already fallen into a hopeless situation. Last time when he fought the martial artists of Central Plain alone, the opposing side only had around a hundred martial artists and it was already perilous to the extreme. Luckily someone saved him and he was able to escape, but currently he was trapped and surrounded by over ten thousand men. How could he escape?

The situation was desperate and he could only risk his life and go all out. He gave an earth rumbling howl and leaped into the air. With a “Hu” sound, he leapt over the three dozen shields, and landed in front of the Royal Emperor Uncle’s horse. The Royal Emperor Uncle got a huge shock. He raised his whip and struck it towards Xiao Feng’s face. Xiao Feng leaned his body and leapt again. He landed on the Royal Emperor Uncle’s horse’s saddle. His left hand seized the back of the Royal Emperor Uncle and lifted him high up in the air, he shouted: "You want to live or die? Ask everyone to put down their weaponry!" The Royal Emperor Uncle was scared stiff, the words did not register with him.

The hustle and bustle among rebel troops was deafening. Thousands of soldier drew and raised their bows, pointing them at Xiao Feng, but with the Royal Emperor Uncle in his hand, nobody dared to act rashly.

Xiao Feng gathered energy into his dantian and shouted: "The Royal Emperor Uncle’s orders, all soldiers lay down your weapon and listen to his edict. The Emperor is gracious, he will pardon all soldiers, no one will be held accountable." His few words overshadowed the disturbance made by over ten thousand troops. More than half of the ten thousand soldiers in front and behind the mountain heard him clearly.

Xiao Feng had experience in such matters as he was betrayed by members of the Beggars Clan. He understood the thoughts of rebels. Once adversity was over, the most important thing is to exempt all crimes. He only needed to guarantee that he would forget past grievances and not pursue the matter, then the rebel’s will to fight back will then disappear. At this moment the rebel army had overwhelming numbers. YeLu HongJi only had around seventy to eighty thousand troops. It was a miserable minority against an overwhelming majority, definitely not a match against the rebel army. The situation was critical and he did not have time to consult HongJi, and thus he said those few words to make the rebels stop worrying.

Once the words were transmitted across the battlefield, the clamour of the rebels quieted down immediately. They looked at each other, everyone was apprehensive and undecided.

Xiao Feng knew the situation was dangerous. If one person from the rebel army voiced out his refusal, countless men would blindly follow and the situation would change radically. The situation really did not allow for a moment of delay. He quickly shouted: "The Emperor’s decree: Regardless of your rank in the rebel army, all of you are innocent. The Emperor is merciful, he will not pursue this matter. All soldiers will be restored to your former post, quickly put down your weapons now!”

Silence ensued. Suddenly there were a few “Clank” “Clank” sounds, and several men threw down their spears. This sound was infectious. Immediately, the “Clank” “Clank” sound grew louder as over half of soldiers threw down their weapons. The remaining soldiers that held onto their weapons were still hesitating. 

Xiao Feng lifted the Royal Emperor Uncle high up in the air with his left arm and his horse moved slowly up the mountain. None of the rebels dared to block him. Wherever his horse went, the crowd would part and allow a path through.

Xiao Feng rode his horse and arrived halfway up the hill. Two troops from the stockade came to greet him. Drum beats and music could be heard from the mountain peak.

Xiao Feng said: " Royal Emperor Uncle, order your subordinates to surrender and throw down their weapons. We will then spare your life."

The Royal Emperor Uncle quivered: "You will really spare my life?"

Xiao Feng looked down the hill. He saw countless rebels still holding onto their bows and spears. The troop’s morale was uncertain, the danger had not yet past. He considered: "Our top priority is to reassure the troops. The Royal Emperor Uncle’s life and death was of no concern. We only need to send guards to watch over him strictly, he won’t be able to commit any evil in the future." He replied:" This is the only opportunity for you to redeem yourself. His majesty knows this incident is caused by your son, he can pardon your life. "

The Royal Emperor Uncle originally did not have any intention to seize the throne. It was all because of his son, the Prince of Chu’s wild ambition that led to the current misfortune. Since he was already captured he could only hope that his life would be spared. He replied: "Ok, I will do as you say!"

Xiao Feng let him sit comfortably on the saddle. He said loudly: “All troops please listen, the Royal Emperor Uncle has something to say."

The Royal Emperor Uncle said loudly: "The Prince of Chu brought about this disaster, now his dead. The Emperor is gracious, he will forgive everyone’s sin. All of you quickly drop your weapons and ask the Emperor for forgiveness."

Since the Royal Emperor Uncle said it, the rebels were left without a leader. Although some troops are still fiercely stubborn, they did not dare disobey his orders. There were “Clanking” sounds and all the rebels cast down their weapons.

Xiao Feng brought the Royal Emperor Uncle up the mountain. YeLu HongJi was overjoyed, it was as if his dreaming. He quickly rushed beside Xiao Feng, holding both his hands he said: "Brother, brother, elder brother’s country, I will share it with you together." He was in a very agitated state, tears flowed freely. 

The Royal Emperor Uncle knelt on the ground and said: "The dissident ask your majesty for forgiveness and seeks your majesty’s pity."

YeLu HongJi was in an extremely good mood, he said to Xiao Feng: "Brother, what is your opinion?" 

Xiao Feng replied: "The rebels have overwhelming numbers, the priority now is to stabilize the troop’s morale. I beseech your majesty to pardon your uncle so that everyone can set their mind at rest."

YeLu HongJi smiled and said: "Good, good, I will do as you say, I will do as you say." 

He turned towards the Lord of Northern Chancellery and said: “Pass down the Imperial Edict. Xiao Feng is conferred as the Prince of Chu, his official rank is the Lord of Southern Chancellery. He will lead the rebel army and return back to the capital."

Xiao Feng had a huge shock. He killed the Prince of Chu, captured the Royal Emperor Uncle, all to save his brother’s life. He did not covet after prestige or official rank. YeLu HongJi conferred such a high rank on him and he was momentarily at a loss. He did not know what to say. The Lord of Northern Chancellery cupped his hand and said to Xiao Feng: "Congratulations, Congratulations! The noble title of Prince of Chu has never been conferred on non-royals, Lord Xiao quickly thank the emperor." 

Xiao Feng said to HongJi: "Brother, today’s matter is all due to your great fortune. The enemy soldiers lost their spirit and we were able to calm the rebels down, I only contributed a little. It’s not something praiseworthy. Moreover, I do not know how to be an official and I don’t want to be one, I beseech brother to withdraw your order." 

YeLu HongJi gave a laugh, stretched out his right hand to hug his shoulder and said: "The title of Prince of Chu and the official rank of Lord of Southern Chancellery, this is the highest position in my Liao Empire. If brother still think it’s insufficient and still refuses to submit to me, then I can only give up the throne and pass it to you."

Xiao Feng was shocked, he thought: "In his joyous state, brother can get carried away and not know what he is saying. Everything is still a mess. We have to settle things quickly and not hesitate, to prevent any disaster from happening." He knelt down and said: "Subordinate Xiao Feng receives your order, I thank your majesty for bestowing kindness on me.” 

YeLu HongJi smiled and propped him up with both hands. Xiao Feng said: "Subordinate doesn’t dare to defy your orders. I can only accept this title and rank. But I am an uneducated peasant, unfamiliar with court regulations. I beg your majesty forgiveness if I make any mistake.”

YeLu HongJi stretched his hands and slapped his shoulder several times, smiling: "It doesn’t matter at all!" He turned around and said to the general of the left army YeLu MoGe: "I am making you the Chancellor of Southern Chancellery, you will assist Lord Xiao and handle all Chancellerys’ affair." 

YeLu MoGe was overjoyed, he knelt down to thank the emperor and then paid homage to Xiao Feng: "Paying my respect to Lord Xiao!" 

HongJi said: "MoGe, you will receive Lord Xiao’s orders and lead the rebels back to the capital. We will go and pay our respect to the Empress Dowager."

Music played out on the mountain peak. YeLu HongJi and the group walked down the mountain path. The rebel lead general had promptly released the Empress Dowager and Empress and made arrangement for them to rest in camp. YeLu HongJi entered the tent and reunited with his mother and wife. They had a narrow escape, it was as if they have been given a second life. Naturally everyone praised Xiao Feng for his deeds.

YeLu MoGe led Xiao Feng to meet all his subordinates of the Southern Chancellery. Moments earlier, Xiao Feng was alone against ten thousands of troops. Such courage was unheard of and everyone witnessed it with their own eyes. The troops and officials of the Southern Chancellery were former subordinates of the Prince of Chu, but firstly, after the awe-inspiring display of invincible might by Xiao Feng, everyone was secretly afraid and nobody dared disobey. They also respected his heroic spirit. Secondly, the Prince of Chu usually had a bad temper and never showed kindness to anyone and nobody was loyal to him. Thirdly, all of them took part in the rebellion and they felt terrified in their hearts. When Xiao Feng arrived, all the rebels were filled with deep respect and they listened to his orders.

Xiao Feng said: “The Emperor has pardoned everyone’s crimes for staging this rebellion. From now on, everyone should make a clean break with the past. You should never have the slightest bit of disloyalty again.”

A white bearded general said: “Reporting to my Lord. The Royal Emperor Uncle and his son detained my family members and coerced me to revolt. If I refused, they would decapitate my family members immediately. I had no other choice, I beseech my Lord to clarify this matter with the emperor.”

Xiao Feng nodded and said: “Since this is the case, I shall not pursue past matters anymore.” He turned around and said to YeLu MoGe: “The troops will rest here, once they have eaten their fill, pack up and return to the capital.”

Immediately, based on their rank, the subordinates of the Southern Chancellery came one by one to pay their respects to the new Lord. Although Xiao Feng had never been an official, but he has long been the Beggars Clan’s leader, he had his own way of commanding and leading the crowd. In fact, there was not much difference in leading Beggars Clan members or Khitan warriors. The only difference was that the Liao army had their own set of rules and norms. Xiao Feng was careful to remember it and he also had the assistance of YeLu MoGe, and thus everything went perfectly.

Not long after Xiao Feng led the army and set off, the Empress Dowager and Empress sent their messengers bearing gowns, belts, gold and silver to be gifted to the army. Xiao Feng expressed his gratitude, and the attendant protecting AhZi also arrived. She was wearing a silk gown and riding a gallant horse, both gifted by the Empress Dowager. Xiao Feng saw her small body was wrapped in that large gown, half her face was obscured by the gown’s collar, and he could not help but find it funny.

AhZi did not personally witness Xiao Feng kill the Prince of Chu with an arrow or capture the Royal Emperor Uncle alive. She only heard it from the attendants. When recounting past events, people tend to spice up the story and make it more dramatic, and thus Xiao Feng’s achievements became even more miraculous by three notches. As AhZi saw him, she complained: "Brother-in-law, 
you achieved such great feats, why didn’t you tell me? Otherwise I would have stood by the hillside and looked at how you kill them all, won’t I be happier? You even made me worried for half a day.” 

Xiao Feng said: "I was lucky to claim such credits. How would I know in advance? You start saying childish words once we meet." 

AhZi said:" Brother-in-law, come over here."

Xiao Feng approached her, he saw her pale face glowing with excitement, complemented by the beautiful gown she was wearing. She looked like a baby doll. She looked boney yet cute, and he couldn’t help but laugh.

AhZi gave an angry look and complained: "I am telling you a serious matter, but you kept laughing, what is so funny?" 

Xiao Feng laughed and said: "Seeing you wear that over-size gown, you look like a baby doll, very interesting." 

AhZi fumed: "You always treat me like a child and now you make fun of me." 

Xiao Feng laughed and said:"No, no! AhZi, I thought both of us would die for sure. Who knew we actually made it through? Naturally I am very happy. Whatever Lord of Southern Chancellery, or the title of Prince of Chu, I don’t give a damn. It will be fine as long as we can survive and live."

AhZi said: “Brother-in-law, you are also afraid of dying?" 

Xiao Feng nodded and said: "In the face of danger, naturally I am afraid of death. There were tens of thousands of troops, you dare to rush out alone? This is called confront a person with the danger of death and he will fight to live. If I didn’t rush out, I would die for certain. It cannot be said that I am brave, but it was the will to fight of a cornered beast. If you surround a bear or tiger and refuse to let it escape, then it will naturally fight for its life and claw or maul you.” 

AhZi smiled and said: "You compared yourself with wild beasts."

Both of them rode side by side on their horses. They looked at their surroundings. Flags were fluttering on the grassy plain, long lines of troops marching forward, all these stretched across the horizon and they couldn’t even see the end. Bodyguards protected them in all four directions.

AhZi was very happy and said: "That day, you helped me become the head disciple of the Xingxiu Sect. From the hundreds of second and third generation members, apart from master, I can be considered to be the most senior. I was extremely pleased with myself. But it is really nothing compared to the thousands of troops you now command. Brother-in-law, the Beggars Clan does not want you as their leader, heng. Who gives a damn about that small clan? Why don’t you lead your men and exterminate all of them?"

Xiao Feng shook his head and said: "Childish words! I am a Khitan, the Beggars Clan is correct in refusing to let me continue to be their leader. Members of the Beggars Clan are all my former subordinates and friends, how can I exterminate them?”

AhZi replied: "They kicked you out of the clan, and they mistreated you. Naturally you should kill them all. Brother-in-law, do they treat you as their friend?”

Xiao Feng found it difficult to reply, he only shook his head. He thought of Juxian Manor where he broke off all ties with his old friends. His heroic spirit disappeared.

AhZi again questioned: "If they know that you have become the Lord of Southern Chancellery of the Liao Empire, and they suddenly become remorseful and ask you to become their clan leader again, will you agree?" 

Xiao Feng gave a slight smile and said: "The heroes of Great Song treat all Khitans as wicked villains who commit all sorts of extreme atrocities. The higher my official position, the more they will hate me." 

AhZi said: "Pei! What gives a damn? They hate you, we can also hate them.”

Xiao Feng looked south into the distance. He saw the mountains overlapping at the horizon, he mused: "I will reach Central Plains once I cross those mountains." Although he was a Khitan, he grew up in Central Plains. In his heart he loved the Great Song more than the Liao Empire. If the Beggars Clan let him become a member without any official duty, an empty-pouch disciple, he would feel more at ease then becoming the Lord of Southern Chancellery.

AhZI said: "Brother-in-law, the Emperor is really smart. He made you the Lord of Southern Chancellery. In the future when the Liao Empire fights war, you will lead the troops and be victorious in every battle. You only need to burst into the enemy ranks and kill the enemy marshal. The troops will then throw down their weapons and surrender. Won’t the battle be won?"

Xiao Feng laughed: "The subordinates of the Royal Emperor Uncle are soldiers of the Liao Empire. They have always followed the orders of the Emperor. Thus when the Price of Chu died, and the Royal Emperor Uncle got captured, everyone surrendered. It will be different if two countries are at war. If you kill the marshal, there will still be a deputy marshal. Kill the main general, and there will still be other generals. The battle will be fought till the last men. My single effort will be powerless in such a situation."

AhZi nodded and said: "En, so that’s how it is. Brother-in-law, you said you were not considered brave when you rushed into the enemy ranks, killed the Prince of Chu and captured the Royal Emperor Uncle. Then in your entire life, what is the most courageous thing you ever did? Can you tell me?"

Xiao Feng never like to narrate his proudest and bravest achievements. When he was still in the Beggars Clan, he killed all kinds of traitors and evil people. No matter how fierce the fight, once he returned back to the Clan he would brush it aside and simply say: "The certain person has been killed." As for all the thrilling details and harsh encounters, regardless of how others probed him, he would never say a single word more. As he listened to AhZi’s question, he thought of how he had fought over hundreds of battles in his life, how he did not back down in the face of the enemy and all the numerous brave deeds. He really could not bear to say it out and thus he replied: "I was forced to battle with enemies. I really had no other choice, it cannot be said that I am brave.”

AhZi said: "But I know. The most courageous thing you did was the ferocious battle at Juxian manor."

Xiao Feng was dazed and asked: "How do you know?"

AhZi said: “That day at the Lakeside mirror, once you left, Father, mother, and the subordinates of my father, we all talked about you. All of us admired your martial arts to no end. Later you went to the hero’s feast at Junxian Manor and single-handedly fought all the heroes, all just to seek treatment for a single lady. This lady is naturally my sister. They didn’t know that Azhu is the daughter of father and mother. They said you were ruthless and cruel in killing your foster parents and master, but you treated the lady with unexpected faithfulness. You were ungrateful, cruel and a pervert, an unreasonable bastard." As she said this she starting laughing.

Xiao Feng murmured: "Hei, ‘Ungrateful! Cruel and a pervert!' The heroes of Central Plain gave this kind of comments to Xiao Feng?"

AhZi consoled him: "You don’t have to be upset. My mother praised you greatly. She said that as long as a man is faithful, his is a good man, it doesn’t matter what he does. She said my father is also ungrateful, cruel and a pervert. He lusted after many lovers, and his daughters are cruel and ruthless. He cannot be compared to you. You should stand aside and clap in approval." Xiao Feng smiled and shook his head.

The army travelled for a few days and they reached the capital. Common citizens and officials living in the capital had already been given advance notice. All of them came out to welcome him. Xiao Feng’s command flag was displayed everywhere. The people burned incense and bowed down to praise him endlessly. With his single action he calmed the disaster and saved countless lives of the Liao Empire. Over half the citizens in the capital had members from their family serving in the army, naturally they felt grateful towards him. Xiao Feng pressed his bridle and rode on. The citizens cried out: "We thank Lord Xiao for saving our lives! Heaven will protect the Lord of Southern Chancellery so that he may have a long and healthy life, and enjoy great riches and fortune!"

Xiao Feng listened to the voices paying tribute to him. The citizens were all on the verge of tears. Their gratitude and appreciation was indeed sincere and heartfelt. He considered: "A person who holds high a ranking position, every move he makes will affect the lives of thousands of people. When I shot the arrow and killed the Prince of Chu, I only did it at a fleeting moment of bravery. I saved my brother, I saved myself, but I didn’t know it also benefited countless citizens. Sigh, I tried to do good in the Central Plain, but I only received resentment and slander. I became the number one evil in the martial art world, such thing is really hard to explain.”

He thought again: "This is the country of my parents. When they were still alive, my father and mother must have walked on this road before. Sigh, I don’t know what my parent looked like. I can’t even imagine how they rode side by side on a horse."

The Liao Empire was the world’s largest nation, it was far more powerful and prosperous than Great Song. But the Khitan lived a nomadic life, they kept on migrating. The houses and shops in the capital were crude and primitive. They really cannot be compared with those of the Central Plains.

The caretaker of the Southern Chancellery welcomed Xiao Feng into his official residence. It was a grand mansion, the furnishings were unusually grand and splendid. Xiao Feng lived a life of poverty, how would he even get a chance to live in such mansion? As he walked one time around the mansion, he felt uncomfortable. He ordered his subordinates to erect two tents in the army barracks. He and AhZi each occupied one tent, their everyday life was simple, just like former times.

On the third day, YeLu HongJi, the Empress Dowager, Empress, concubines, princess and the captured family members of the army, all returned to the capital. The Royal Emperor Uncle was too ashamed of his deeds and committed suicide along the way. HongJi also kept his promise, he did not pursue the crimes of the rebels. He only executed twenty chief culprits under the Prince of Chu who instigated the rebellion. A grand feast was held in the Palace for three days to reward the troops who remained loyal and fought at the stockade. Xiao Feng became the number one hero at the feast. YeLu HongJi, the Empress Dowager, Empress, concubines and princess all bestowed gifts, in addition to the gifts by government officials and army officers, the gifts piled as high as a mountain.

Once the reward was complete, Xiao Feng returned to the Southern Chancellery to supervise affairs. Dozens of tribal chiefs of the Liao Empire all came to pay their respects- the Crow tribe, Morality tribe, North tribe, South tribe, Shiwei tribe, Ancient Plum tribe, Five Nation tribe, WuLa tribe, etc. Followed by army officers under the command of the Empress, Great Tranquil Palace, Eternal Happiness Palace, Accumulation Palace, Prosperous Palace and various officers from other Palaces. The Liao Empire is made up of 59 countries, the TuYuHun, Turkey, Tangut, ShaTuo, Persia, DaShi, Urghur, Tibet, GaoChang, Korea, YuQu, Dunhuang, etc. All these countries have their envoys in the capital. Once they learned that Xiao Feng carried the most weight, and had the highest authority over the armed forces, they all came bearing rare gifts to curry favor with him. Xiao Feng had to meet guests and subordinates every day. All he saw was endless treasures, and all he ever heard was fabricated flattery and praises.

He was kept occupied for over a month and YeLu HongJi summoned him into the main Palace and said: “Brother, your official post is the Lord of Southern Chancellery, you have to be based in Nanjing and wait for opportunity to conquer the Central Plains. As your brother I do not wish to part with you, but in order to establish an outstanding Empire that last for thousands of generations, it’s best if you lead your troops and head down south as soon as possible!"

Xiao Feng heard the Emperor ordered him to lead an expedition to conquer the south and he was startled. He said: "Your Majesty, this southern expedition is an important matter, it’s an extremely serious affair. Xiao Feng is only one man, the troops are not ready for this task."

YeLu HongJi laughed: “Our Empire recently met a misfortune, we need time to recuperate our troops. The Great Song is currently governed by their Empress Dowager. They rely heavily on Sima Guang to manage state affairs. There is no weakness to take advantage of. We 
cannot conquer the south at this moment. Brother, once you are at Nanjing, you have to constantly keep the matter of annexing the Song in your mind. We will only move in when there is internal dispute. If you notice any turn of events, lead all your troops and conquer the south. If there is nothing wrong with their internal affairs and we forcefully invade, we will waste much effort and reap less benefit.”

Xiao Feng replied: "Yes, this should be the way." 

HongJi said: "But how do we know if the Song is being governed properly, or if the citizens are really willing to submit?" 

Xiao Feng said: "Your Majesty please enlighten me." 

HongJi laughed and said: "This has always been the norm, use gold and silver to bribe spies. The southern people are greedy. There are many despicable and shameless people. Order your Chancellor to spare no expense in giving treasure, bribe as many people as you can."

Xiao Feng accepted the orders and left the Palace. His heart was troubled. He had always been associated with heroes and brave men. The martial world is dark and dangerous. He had seen plenty of schemes that involved setting ambushes and planting poison. These schemes were straightforward and direct in killing people, but he had never tried to use gold and silver in bribing people. Besides, although he is a citizen of the Liao Empire, but he grew up in Southern Song. The Emperor gave him the mission to conquer the Song, but he was extremely reluctant to carry it out. He deliberated: "Brother made me the Lord of Southern Chancellery, it’s his way of showing how he valued our brotherhood. If I resign from my post now, I will fail to live up to his great kindness and damage our brotherly ties. I should go to Nanjing first and wait for a year or so, I will then ask for resignation. If by then he does not approve, I will simply slip away and escape. There, nothing he can do to hold me back." Immediately he led his subordinates and brought along AhZi and they went to Nanjing.

The Nanjing of Liao Empire is also known as Beijing (China) in modern times. At that time it was known as Yanjing, also known as Youdou, the capital of You Province. After Shi JingTang declared himself Emperor, he gained the full support of the Liao Empire. Shi JingTang then ceded sixteen prefectures to Liao as repayment. The sixteen prefectures were You, Ji, Zhuo, Shun, Tan, Ying, Mo, Xin, Gui, Ru, Wu, Wei, Yun, Ying, HouZhou. The Song Dynasty fought for three generations but they never managed to recover the land. The sixteen prefectures occupied strategic positions. The Liao Empire stationed large numbers of troops there. Every time they attacked Southern Song, they could push in deep and the Song did not have any strategic points for defence. Song and Liao had fought for over 100 years. The Song only won once. It was not because of soldiers or equipment, but due to the strategic position occupied by the Liao which allowed them to gain huge advantages and control the battlefield.

Xiao Feng and his party arrived within the city. The streets of Nanjing City were wide, markets and restaurants bustled with activity. It was far superior to the capital. The passersby were all people from Southern Song, and all he heard was conversations in languages of the Central Plains. It was as if he returned back to the Central Plains. Both Xiao Feng and AhZi liked it very much. The next day they dressed simply and blended with the crowd, they toured and explored the markets and streets.

The city of Yanjing (Nanjing) spanned 36 li, there were a total of eight gates. To the east is Safe Eastern Gate and Winter Jasmine Gate; South is Rising Sun Gate and Red Phoenix Gate; West is Illustrious West Gate and Tranquil Gate; North is Connecting Heaven Gate and Encircle Vibration Gate. The reason why the north gates are known as Connecting Heaven, 
and Encircle Vibration, was to signify unshakable allegiance to Liao and to obey the decree of the Emperor. The residence of the Lord of Southern Chancellery is southwest of the city. Xiao Feng and AhZi explored the city for half a day, but there were endless city squares, shrines, temples, government office, and they could not possibly finish exploring them all in such a short time.

Xiao Feng’s official post was the Lord of Southern Chancellery. The sixteen prefectures naturally came under his jurisdiction, even the DaTong prefecture in the west region and DaDing prefecture in the central region were all under his command. The prestige and power he held was heavy. It was not feasible for him to continue living in a small tent, and thus he was forced to live in his official residence. After supervising the work for a few days, he felt fatigued and light-headed. He was feeling extremely bitter. He saw his Chancellor YeLu MoGe was intelligent and capable, skilled in managing government affairs, and thus he delegated all the work to YeLu MoGe.

Regardless, there were numerous perks that came with his high official post. There was an unlimited supply of precious tonics and medicines in the Lord’s residence. AhZi could simply eat medicine for all three meals and her injuries recovered day by day. In early winter, she could finally walk by herself. She toured Yanjing City many times, assisted by an attendant, she also explored ten li outside the city.

On this day the weather was clear, AhZi wore a mink coat and came to Xiao Feng’s residence and said: "Brother-in-law, I am bored staying in the city, accompany me to go hunting."

After staying for such a long time in the Chancellery Xiao Feng was also bored. After listening to her proposal he was excited. Immediately he ordered his subordinates to prepare the horses for the hunting trip. He disliked hunting with a large-scale party, and thus he only took a few attendants to take care of AhZi. He feared the citizens might a make a big fuss when they see him and he changed into sheepskin robes worn by common soldiers. He carried a bow and a bag of arrows. He rode a horse, along with AhZi they exit the Tranquil Gate and galloped west.

The hunting party travelled ten li away from the city, and they only hunted a few small rabbits. Xiao Feng said: "Let's try heading towards south." He turned his horse and rode towards the south. Again they travelled for over twenty li, suddenly they saw a river deer running across. AhZi took out her bow and arrow and pulled the bowstring, but it turned out that her arm did not contain any strength, she couldn’t draw the bow at all. Xiao Feng’s left hand reach out behind her and gripped the bow, his right hand grasped her hand and they pulled the bowstring. Once they released the string, there was a “Sou” sound and an arrow flew out; the deer was hit and collapsed immediately. Everyone cheered.

Xiao Feng released his grip and smiled at AhZi, but he saw tears brimming in her eyes. Curious he asked: "What happened? You don’t like me to help you shoot the wild animal?“ 

Tears flowed down AhZi’s cheek and she said: "I... I became a disabled person, such a light bow... I can’t even draw it.” 

Xiao Feng consoled her: "Don’t be so impatient, your strength will return slowly. If in the future it still does not return, I will teach you an internal energy cultivation method, it will definitely increase your strength.” 

AhZi smiled through her tears and said: "You must keep your promise, you will definitely teach me internal energy cultivation.” 

Xiao Feng replied: "Yes, Yes, I will definitely teach you."

As he was speaking, suddenly the sound of horse’s hoofs came from the south, a large troop came galloping on the snow covered ground. Xiao Feng gazed towards the direction where the sound came from. The troops were all Liao soldiers, yet they were striking their banners. The troops were clamouring and singing, apparently they were celebrating, many captives were tied to the back of their horses. It seems they had just returned from a victorious battle. Xiao Feng pondered: "We are not waging war with anyone, what battle did they return from?" Seeing the troops head east and returning to the city, he said to his subordinate: "You go ask that group of people, what are they doing here?"

His subordinate replied: “Affirmative!" He rode towards the troop and said: “Brothers have you returned from raiding the common people?”

He reached the troop and they exchange a few words. The troop heard that the Lord of Southern Chancellery was here. They cheered loudly, dismounted from their horses and guided them. They quickly walk towards Xiao Feng, bowed down and saluted. They chorused in unison: “Long live your Highness!”

Xiao Feng raised his hand and returned the greeting, he said: "Dispense wth the formality!" He saw there were about 800 soldiers. Their horses carried silk clothes and various artefacts. The horses were also pulling 700 to 800 captives, mostly young women, some juvenile men, all wearing Song attire, all of them weeping and wailing.

The Captain of the troop said: "Today it’s our HeiLaDu troops turn to raid the common people, owing to your Highness good fortune, we had a good raid." He turn his back and said: "Everyone bring out the best looking young girl, the best treasures and offer it, we invite his Highness to pick and use.” 

The troops replied: “Affirmative!" They dragged twenty young ladies towards Xiao Feng and piled various ornaments on a felt sheet. The troops gazed at Xiao Feng, their eyes filled with respect and hope. It would be their greatest honour if the Lord of Southern Chancellery accepts the women and ornaments.

On the day Xiao Feng was at Yanmen Gate, he saw soldiers of Great Song capturing Khitan’s citizens, and now it was the soldiers of Liao capturing citizens of Great Song. The captives expressions were miserable, no different from prisoners. The Liao Empire does not supply rations to troops, nor do they pay salary to troops. All the needs of the troops have to be robbed from enemy. They send troops daily to Great Song, Western Xia, Jurchen, Korea, and various neighbouring countries to rob the citizens. The act is termed ‘Beating The Grass Valley’, in fact, it’s no different from common robberies. To retaliate, troops from Great Song raided the citizens of Liao and they termed it ‘Beating The Standing Valley’. Thus citizens living near the borders suffered extra hardships. They lived in fear daily, not knowing if they would get to see the next morning. Xiao Feng always felt this method was cruel and immoral. He did not intend to serve for long as an official, he was only humouring YeLu HongJi for a while before resigning and living in seclusion. Thus he did not interfere or make a strong stand in the country’s affairs. As he witnessed the miserable plight of the captives, he could not help but feel sad and ask: "This raid... where did you carry out this raid?”

The Captain said respectfully: "Reporting to your Highness, we raided outside the ZhuoZhou region, near the borders of Great Song. After the arrival of your Highness, subordinates dare not raid the regions near here for provisions.”

Xiao Feng thought: "Listening to his words, it seems they used to raid the Song citizens here." He advanced his horse and spoke in Chinese: "Where are you from?" 

A maiden knelt down and cried: "I am from the Zhang village, I beg your Highness for mercy, release me and let me reunite with my parents.” Xiao Feng raised his head and look at the rest of the people. Hundreds of captives all knelt down, only one juvenile man stood upright and refused to kneel.

The youth was around 16 years old, his face elongated, with a tapered chin. His expression was wavering and uncertain, Xiao Feng asked: "Boy, where do you live?" 

The youth replied: "I have an important secret, I have to tell you face to face." 

Xiao Feng said: "Fine, come over and tell me.” 

The hand of the youth was bound by thick ropes, he said: "Please move away from your subordinates, this matter cannot be heard by others.” 

Xiao Feng curiosity was piqued and he wondered: "Such a young boy, what kind of important secret he holds? Yes, he came from the south, he may have information pertaining to the military movements in Great Song.” The boy was a citizen of Song, by revealing secrets to Khitan, he will be a shameless traitor. Xiao Feng scorned such people but since the boy said he holds important secrets, there was no harm in listening, he rode forward 10 zhang and beckoned: “Come over here!”

The boy followed, raising his hands he said: "Please cut the ropes binding my hands, I wish to present an item I kept in my bosom." Xiao Feng unsheathed his saber and chopped straight ahead. The force in this chop was sufficient to split the boy in half, but the saber’s positioning was extremely accurate, it only cut the ropes binding the boy’s hands. The youth had a huge shock, he retreated two steps, and gazed blankly at Xiao Feng. 

Xiao Feng smiled, sheathe his saber, and ask: "What is the item?"

The youth stick his hands into his bosom, felt the item and said: "You will know once you see it." And he walked towards Xiao Feng. Xiao Feng stretch out his hand to receive it.

Suddenly, the youth threw the item fiercely at Xiao Feng’s face. Xiao Feng waved his whip and struck down the item, white powder came flying out, the item was just a small cloth bag. The bag fell on the ground and white powder spilled out of the bag, it was quicklime. This shameless item is used by despicable thieves in the martial world, if the powder landed on a person’s face, the quicklime will irritate the eyes and the person will eventually be blinded forever.

Xiao Feng groaned and pondered: "This boy is bold, it seems his not a traitor." He nodded his head and said: "What is your name? Why do you seek to harm me?” The boy closed his lips firmly and did not answer. Xiao Feng said in an amiable manner: "Just tell me the truth, I will spare you life.” 

The youth said: "I failed in taking revenge for my parents, what is left to say." 

Xiao Feng said: "Who is your parents? Did I really kill them?”

The youth took two steps forward, his expression full of grief and anger, pointing to Xiao Feng he shouted loudly: "Qiao Feng! You killed my father, mother and my uncle, I... I can’t wait to eat your meat, skin you and remove your tendon, dismember you into pieces!"

Xiao Feng listen to the boy used his old name, "Qiao Feng”, and that he killed his parents and uncle, it must be former enemies from the Central Plains. He asked: “Who is your uncle? Who is your father?”

The boy replied: "Since I don’t want to live anymore, I will let you know. The men from the You family of Juxian village are not afraid of death."

Xiao Feng made an “Oh!” sound and said: "So you are the nephew of the You brothers, your father is You Ju second master You, right?” He paused for a while and continued: "That day I was surrounded by numerous heroes in the manor, I was forced to fight, it is not something within my control. Your father and uncle died by committing suicide." As he said this he shook his head and continued: "Sigh, they lost their shield and this forced them to commit suicide. What is your name?"

The boy straightened his body, and said loudly: "I am called You TanZhi, I don’t need you to kill me. I will follow my uncle and father good example!" His right hand reached into his trouser and took out a short-knife, he plunged it at his chest. Xiao Feng waved his whip, wrapped it around the knife and seized it. 

You TanZhi was furious and shouted: "I am not even allowed to commit suicide? You damnable Liao dog, aren’t you too vicious!"

At this moment, AhZi had reached Xiao Feng’s side and she shouted: "You little punk, you dare to insult people? You want to die? Hehe, it won’t be so easy!” Upon seeing such a delicate beautiful lady, You TanZhi was stunned and rendered speechless. AhZi said: "The punk called Zhi, later you will know what it feels like to be blind." She turned and said to Xiao Feng: "Brother-in-law, this kid is so vicious, he tried to harm you with quicklime, we will use this quicklime to blind both his eyes before deciding how to deal with him."

Xiao Feng shook his head, he said to the Captain of the troops: "The Song captives you captured during the raid, can you give them all to me?" 

The Captain was overjoyed and said: "You Highness honored me with your presence, I would like to thank your Highness for bestowing kindness." 

Xiao Feng said: "All those who hand over the captives, go back to my residence and claim your reward.” 

The troops said happily: "We sincerely dedicate it to your Highness, we do not require reward." 

Xiao Feng said: "Leave the captives here and return back to the city, remember to claim your rewards." 

The troops bowed and gave their thanks, the Captain said: "There are many wild beasts out here, is your Highness using these Song pigs as live targets? The previous Prince of Chu liked to do this. Unfortunately, we mostly caught aunties and old ladies, they can’t run fast. Next time we will catch able-bodied Song pigs for your Highness.” He bowed and left with his troops.

“Using these Song pigs as live targets”, these words drilled into his ears. Xiao Feng could not help but feel startled. He could visualize the cruel actions of the previous Prince of Chu: A few hundred Song people howling and running around like wild beasts, the Khitan nobles laughing, drawing their bows, shooting and killing the people one by one. Some Song people fled into the distance, the Khitan would chase with their horses, akin 
to shooting deer or fox. They would kill every single person. This kind of cruel stuff, the Khitan narrated it as if it was no big deal, it must be a common practice. He looked at the captives, their face yellowed and they shivered under the cold wind. Some of these captives understood Khitan’s language, they had heard of “Shooting live human targets” before; they were scared out of their wits.

Xiao Feng gave a long sigh, looking south at the layers upon layers of clouds hovering at the mountains, he pondered: "If my parentage were not revealed, today, I would still treat myself as citizen of Great Song. We speak the same language, eat the same food, how am I different from them? Everyone is human, but why do we insist on differentiating Khitan people, Great Song, Jurchen, Korean? You come to my borders to raid, I go to your borders to murder and commit arson? You curse me as Liao dogs? I curse you as Song pigs?” His thoughts keep gushing forth like tidal waves.

Seeing the troops that captured the captives had all left without a trace, he said to the captives: "I’ll release you today, run quickly!” The captives thought Xiao Feng was making them run before shooting arrows and killing them, they hesitated and did not move. Xiao Feng said again: "After returning home, move far away from the borders so as not to get captured during the next raid. I saved you this time, but I may not be able to save you the next time.”

Now the captives believed his words, the applause was thunderous. They knelt down and kowtowed: "The kindness of your Highness is as high as a mountain, we will go back home and pray for your everlasting health and fortune." They knew that once they got captured during the raid, unless they were wealthy people who can bribe with gold and silk, they would surely die without a trace. Song and Liao have been warring for successive years, the wealthy families had long escaped to the mainland. All these captives are poor people, where would they find gold and silk to redeem their life? They knew their fate was far worse than oxen and horses, but this Lord from the Liao Empire actually released them back home. They were really overjoyed at this unexpected news.

Xiao Feng saw their happy expressions, they helped and supported each other to travel back south. He pondered: "My Khitan people captured and dragged them here, now I release them back, they have to suffer many hardships along the way, how did I show them any kindness?"

The captives gradually walked far away, but You TanZhi was still standing upright, Xiao Feng said: "Why aren’t you leaving? You are returning to Central Plains, do you have enough money?" He stretched his hand into his bosom, wanting to give him some gold or silver, but he did not carry any money, but as he felt around he retrieved a small oilcloth bag. Xiao Feng’s heart soured, contained in this oilcloth bag is a Sanskrit version of ‘Tendon-Changing Sutra’, it was stolen by Azhu from Shaolin Temple, and she insisted that he keep it. Now she was dead but the Sutra was still around? How was this not sad? He promptly put the oilcloth bag back into his bosom and said: “I don’t have any valuables with me now, if you need money, you can follow me back to the city.”

You TanZhi said loudly: “The one surnamed Qiao, kill me if you want, cut this act. Why disgrace me further with these schemes? Even if I die of poverty, how can I even take a single cent from you?”

Xiao Feng thought his words were correct. He did cause his father’s death. There’s a saying that one cannot live under the same sky as one’s enemy. This hatred could not be eliminated, it was pointless to argue further. He replied: “I won’t kill you! If you want revenge, you are welcome to try anytime.”

AhZi said: "Brother-in-law, you can’t release him! This kid won’t use proper skills when duelling you, he will only use contemptible dirty tricks. You need to destroy the source of trouble so as to avoid future disaster."

Xiao Feng shook his head: "Difficulties are everywhere in the martial world, every step is perilous, but I survived them all. This young man won’t be able to harm me. That day I angered his uncle and father into committing suicide, although it is unintentional, but I will always owe this blood debt. Why harm the nephew of the You brothers?“ As he said this, his enthusiasm dulled and he said: "Lets just go back, there’s nothing much to hunt today."

AhZi pouted and thought: "I just had a great idea to torment this boy, it’s really interesting! But you insist on releasing him. Once I return to the city, what is left to play?" But she dared not defy Xiao Feng’s words. She turned her horse and followed Xiao Feng back. After travelling for a few zhang, she turned her head back and said: “Boy, go back and practise you martial arts for 100 years before you seek revenge from my brother-in-law!” She gave a girlish smile, cracked her whip and galloped off quickly.

- End of Chapter 27-

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