Luo Wei didn’t spare attention for Fu Jing Zong’s matters anymore.The Fu family could call the shots. The shrewdest person in the Fu family was the third master; this Fu Jing Zong was not worth the headache. Sitting in the carriage drinking the medicinal soup Wei Lan handed to him, Luo Wei asked Wei Lan, “Lan, have you heard of Black Frost City?”
Wei Lan answered, “I’ve heard second young master speak of it.”
“What did my second brother say?”
Wei Lan recalled Luo Ze’s words and told Luo Wei, “Second young master said that Black Frost City is the strategic gateway between Northern Yan and our Greater Zhou. In the past it was a city of Greater Zhou, but it was snatched away by Northern Yan.”
“En, he’s right. It is like this.”
“Second young master also said that if he could recover Black Frost City in this lifetime, his life would be worth it.”
Luo Wei raised his eyebrows. “He wants to attack Black Frost City?”
“Second young master said Black Frost City’s moat is too deep, the city’s walls are too high, and the city’s gate is forged with refined steel. It’s easy to defend but difficult to attack. Our Greater Zhou still does not have the ability to conquer Black Frost City.”
“Spoken well.” Luo Wei was contemplating how to hide the fact that he had had contact with Sima Qingsha from Emperor Xing Wu, while also convincing Emperor Xing Wu that he could gain Sima Qingsha’s trust. He asked Wei Lan another question: “Lan is also interested in the battlefield?”
Wei Lan replied, “Second young master just told me to listen.”
At this moment, Qi Zi said from outside the carriage window, “Young master, just now your guest followed behind us.”
“No matter,” Luo Wei responded. This Sun Li seemed to be a cautious person who could only feel at peace if he saw Luo Wei enter the palace with his own eyes. “Just let him follow, and we’ll pretend we don’t know.”
“It’s really fine?” Wei Lan wasn’t at ease. This visitor seemed odd no matter how he looked at it.
“It’s fine,” Luo Wei affirmed. “He wants my help, how can he harm me?”
This answer reassured Wei Lan.
Sun Li followed Luo Wei’s carriage the entire way, watched him enter the palace from afar, and then retraced his steps to wait on a path Luo Wei had to take to return home. If his master hadn’t reached the end of his rope, he wouldn’t think to borrow troops from Greater Zhou. Northern Yan and Greater Zhou could be described as old enemies. If Greater Zhou turned around to bite at Northern Yan, the Sima clan would not be able to maintain its state power. But if Sima Zhuxie was allowed to capture Hefang City, though the country would still be under the Sima clan, how many of the Sima royal family could survive?
“Just take a gamble.” Sima Qingsha finished writing the letter requesting aid and then faced Sun Li, who had questioned whether he was asking a tiger to peel its skin for him. Sima Qingsha sighed, “It depends on how big Luo Yun Qi’s heart is.”
(T/N: “Asking a tiger to peel its skin for him” is a metaphor meaning it’s impossible to ask another person to let go of his benefits when you have a conflict of interest in your discussion).
To this day, Sun Li did not understand those words. What did it mean to consider how big Luo Wei’s heart was? Resigning himself to fate, Sun Li did not grasp Sima Qingsha’s meaning and felt that they had now become gamblers. They were “playing” a round, staking their country in a grand bet.
When Luo Wei entered the Hall of Eternal Light, he discovered that not only had his father Luo Zhi Qiu been rushed to the palace, the great generals in the capital had all arrived. A map a quarter of the size of the hall lay on the ground below the imperial writing desk in the Hall of Eternal Light. Luo Wei paid his respects to Emperor Xing Wu and secretly glanced at the map. It depicted Northern Yan’s mountains and rivers.
“Why did Wei Er come back? Hurry and rise, speak.” Emperor Xing Wu observed Luo Wei’s appearance as he walked into the hall. His pace could be considered steady and his face had a hint of red, allowing Emperor Xing Wu to let his worries be. It seemed Luo Wei’s illness took a turn for the better. In his heart, Emperor Xing Wu noted down Long Xuan’s meritorious deed in sending the Snow Mountain ginseng.
“Your servant went out to visit a friend today. After returning home I heard my mother say that father had been urgently called to the palace by Your Majesty, so your servant also entered the palace.”
“Are you worrying about your father being here with me?” Emperor Xing Wu asked.
Luo Wei hurriedly denied, “No, your humble servant only remembered that he hadn’t wished Your Majesty a happy New Year.”
“All right.” Emperor Xing Wu began to smile. “You’re worried about your daddy and don’t need to find another excuse. You can’t even tell a good fib!”
Luo Wei feigned alarm, preparing to kneel in apology.
“It’s the New Year. I will have mercy on you this time.” Emperor Xing Wu saw Luo Wei’s little ploy getting exposed and found it funny. His expression became more amiable.
Luo Wei pointed to the map of Northern Yan on the ground and said, “This humble servant didn’t know that Your Majesty was discussing state affairs, so this humble one will ask to be excused.”
“In general you should understand these things,” Emperor Xing Wu said. “Just stand over-” Just as Emperor Xing Wu thought to have Luo Wei stand next to Luo Zhi Qiu, he remembered that Luo Wei’s body could not take standing for long periods. He glanced at Zhao Fu.
Zhao Fu rushed to the side and carried a mahogany stool over for Luo Wei.
“Just sit where you usually do,” Emperor Xing Wu continued. He saw Luo Wei wanted to decline and spoke again: “Your health isn’t good. If you tire yourself, do you want me to ask about national affairs or about you? Be obedient and go sit.”
All the generals in the hall were standing with their hands down. This matter did not concern them, and they also could not envy the special favor Luo Wei had just received.
Who dared to disobey the emperor? Luo Wei had to sit down obediently. After sitting, he saw Crown Prince Long Yu opposite him, and the person standing next to Long Yu shocked Luo Wei so much he almost leapt from his stool. Why was Long Xuan here?
Long Yu smiled at Luo Wei and nodded.
Luo Wei’s surprise only lasted a moment. He sat and bent at the waist towards Long Yu, nodding with a smile too.
Emperor Xing Wu continued to discuss Northern Yan’s civil strife with his generals.
Luo Wei looked at Long Xuan, and Long Xuan also looked at him. The two people’s gazes met, coldness exchanged along with some evasiveness. Suddenly both of them realized why the other would be here.
Long Xuan glanced at the map on the floor, then looked again at Luo Wei. He actually smiled.
Luo Wei looked away from Long Xuan’s smile. Sima Qingsha could find him, so Sima Zhuxie could also find Long Xuan. He just received news, and Long Xuan already returned to the capital. It seemed that Sima Zhuxie’s people moved faster than Sun Li. Gaining any amount of henchmen did not compare to recovering Emperor Xing Wu’s trust, so Long Xuan abandoned everything in Yue Zhou to return to the capital. An opportunity for which this man exchanged the lives of his own woman and son was abandoned by him like this.
Long Yu looked at Long Xuan, then looked at Luo Wei. In Long Xuan’s perspective, both of them were listening intently to the generals. But it only appeared to be so. Only these two people knew whether they were acting or really listening.
The generals of Greater Zhou argued for a long time. They all talked about Black Frost City and wanted to fight this battle, but in the end couldn’t come up with a feasible way to fight or even discuss the fight. The world-famous Black Frost Cavalry had mostly departed from Black Frost City, but the city wall stood over twelve meters tall while the moat was twelve meters deep. Even if only the old and weak women and children were stationed on the top of the city, how could Greater Zhou break through the wall and moat of Black Frost City?
Emperor Xing Wu’s map of Northern Yan gave Luo Wei his first full view of Black Frost City. From Sun Li saying that Mo Huan Sang had sealed four gates, Luo Wei thought that this city was the same as others in this world which had gates on four sides. Unexpectedly, Luo Wei discovered that Black Frost City was suspended atop a cliff. Only the north and south gates were open to traffic. The east and west gates faced deep mountain valleys. Other than birds, other beasts could not be found. Commonly used siege tactics would be at a disadvantage. Running strong soldiers and sturdy horses to freely take such a city by storm was equivalent to visiting the Yellow Springs.
(T/N: Yellow Springs = Chinese underworld).