The Zhou soldiers withdrew in a hurry, not even taking their tents with them. When night fell, Northern Yan soldiers discovered that the Zhou barracks hadn’t lit their lanterns and felt something was amiss. Sima Qingsha sent people to investigate, and they discovered that the barracks were empty. Only then did they confirm that the Zhou soldiers had already marched back to Black Frost City.
After Eastern Shang’s army heard news of the Zhou army’s departure, they also decamped and headed for Chun Du Pass.
Sima Qingsha feared that Yang Yuansu still had the intention of attacking Hefang City. He hurriedly ordered the deputy commander of the army to bring most of the army with him back to Hefang City.
“Your Highness still wants to stay in Tian Shui’s fountainhead?” a tactician by Sima Qingsha’s side asked.
“I still want to take a look at Black Frost City,” Sima Qingsha replied.
“Your Highness, why bother?”
“I’m the one who lost Black Frost City, so I should be the one to seize it back.”
The tactician went silent. In his opinion, this time Northern Yan’s strength had taken a great hit. The Black Frost Cavalry had been exterminated, which was equivalent to breaking one’s own arm. To think of retaking Black Frost City from the Zhou government–the tactician glanced at Sima Qingsha, who had just turned twenty–even if this young prince spent his whole life trying, he was afraid that the day of Black Frost City’s return would still be so far away it seemed forever.
“Zhuxie and Mo Huan Sang’s whereabouts are still unknown,” Sima Qingsha continued. “I still want to try again, and see if the Zhou soldiers have news of these two.”
“Would the Zhou soldiers disclose that?” The tactician believed that if they looked for the Zhou army again, they would be inviting humiliation on themselves. He reminded, “Your Highness, Luo Wei is already dead. His older brother Luo Qi must regard us as the enemies who murdered his little brother.”
“If those two aren’t dead, I can’t be at ease.” Upon hearing the five words “Luo Wei is already dead,” Sima Qingsha could not suppress the swelling of sourness in his heart. “For my Northern Yan’s rivers and mountains, I must try.” Sima Qingsha let loose a long sigh. It was all for these rivers and mountains. What else could he say?
Luo Wei didn’t know that Sima Qingsha was still thinking of him. He rode a carriage all the way back to Black Frost City. His tense nerves relaxed after he returned to his older brother’s barracks. At this time, Luo Wei finally felt his exhaustion. Once he fell on his bed, he could not get up.
Wei Lan also only sat in the carriage and accompanied Luo Wei for the entire trip. The road the soldiers marched on was uneven and they’d often encounter bumps. Wei Lan saw that the carriage shook badly, and would hold Luo Wei in his arms so that Luo Wei could lie more comfortably.
Long Xuan was with Luo Qi the entire time. He would speak about military affairs, or sometimes even make casual conversation. He just no longer talked about Luo Wei.
The army returned to Black Frost City in one, starry night. When they entered the city, no one made a racket. The sleeping citizens of the city did not even know that the Zhou army had returned.
The first thing Luo Qi did after entering the city was to order his people to tear up the notices to reassure the public that had been pasted on the streets and alleyways.
Long Xuan looked at the notices Luo Qi had ordered to be written and shook his head. “This paper is really filled with lies.”
Luo Qi could not tell whether Long Xuan was ridiculing him or not. He replied, “I was just trying to maintain temporary peace and security in this city.”
“Doing so is right,” Long Xuan replied. “I’ve brought back some human heads of the Mo clan’s, we can just hang them from the city gate. From then on, this Black Frost City will be a city belonging to my Greater Zhou. There are citizens of this city who won’t acknowledge allegiance. Brother Shi Yi can give them three days to leave the city and return to Yan.”
“Let them go?”
“These people won’t obey in their hearts. If we left them they’d only be wicked citizens,” Long Xuan reasoned. “We can’t kill off all of them. So we can only let them go.”
“Then if everyone in this city leaves, won’t this be an empty city?” Long Xuan worriedly asked.
Long Xuan laughed. These two sons of the Luo family who commanded soldiers really could only lead soldiers into war. They could not enter the imperial court.
“Big brother is worried about this?” Luo Wei queried as he entered. He’d slept the whole way, and his complexion had improved.
“This city’s citizens have been citizens of Northern Yan for many generations,” Luo Qi reminded. “How could they be happy to surrender and pay allegiance to my Greater Zhou?”
“It’s difficult to leave one’s homeland.” Luo Wei carelessly paid his respects to Long Xuan, then continued speaking to Luo Qi, “Big brother, how many unswervingly common people do you think there are in this world? They only want to live not worrying about food or clothes, enjoying peace and security. To them, who their master is isn’t important at all.”
Luo Qi looked at Long Xuan and spoke: “If that’s the case, why did we have to massacre the entire Mo clan?”
“What do you think?” Long Xuan asked Luo Wei.
“The Black Frost Cavalry was previously established by the Mo clan. If we don’t get rid of the Mo clan, the people here will never forget that army,” Luo Wei reasoned. “If we don’t get rid of the Mo clan, next year when another Black Frost Cavalry appears, what should we do then?”
“The common people in the city also need to know the consequences if they don’t surrender their allegiance,” Long Xuan added. “The people here are customarily tough as nails. If we don’t scare their courage away, when we hold this Black Frost City in our hands it’ll burn us.”
Luo Qi worked hard to understand Long Xuan and Luo Wei’s explanations. Hearing these two people speak of ruling this world, Luo Qi felt that the battlefield was still simpler.
“Big brother doesn’t need to think too much.” Luo Wei saw Luo Qi’s appearance and knew that Luo Qi usually wouldn’t think about such matters. He smiled, “It’s good if this city empties. In the future, our Greater Zhou’s sinners can all be banished here. In a few years, would big brother still be afraid that there’d be no one to live in Black Frost City?”
At this moment, Long Xuan spoke up: “I saw Tian Shui’s long dike today. When we change the course of the river, the barren lands outside Black Frost City will become fertile land. At that time, the Greater Zhou people in hinterlands without their own land will fight to come here to find a way to make a living.”
“That’s easy for Your Highness to say,” Luo Wei replied. “It will take several years to change the river’s course. And where will the people who will change the river’s course come from? Has Your Highness already thought it through?”
“I’ve thought about it somewhat, want to hear?” Long Xuan looked at Luo Wei as he talked.
Luo Wei nodded unconsciously. He had also thought about how to change the barren land outside Black Frost City into vast green. It was just that the more he thought about it, the more he felt that this matter would consume too much manpower and material resources. It was impossible for Emperor Xing Wu to accomplish this in his generation. Luo Wei was curious–did Long Xuan have a way to accomplish this endeavor?
“We have criminal slaves we can use,” Long Xuan stated.
Luo Wei replied, “Criminal slaves alone are not enough.”
“We can also use hired hands.”
“Hired hands?” Luo Wei thought then continued, “This place is too difficult. Your Highness can spend the money, but the common people might not come.”
“What about their identities?”
“What identities?” Luo Qi asked.
Long Xuan explained, “There are so many people in this world who are slaves. If they can come to Tian Shui’s fountainhead, I will exempt them from being slaves. Don’t you both think these wages are plenty enough?”
Luo Qi shook his head repeatedly. “That’s impossible. Slaves are slaves. I’m afraid it’s not so easy for Your Highness to strike the record of their slavery. Besides, how could their masters let the servants under their names go?”
“The masters naturally will receive properties as compensation,” Long Xuan answered. “I also did not expect for Tian Shui’s path to be diverted by only relying on these servants.”
“For more to come we’d have to recruit forced labor,” Luo Wei interjected. “Your Highness, you’re not afraid that if you muster such large forces, the lands would fall into chaos?”
“This is a matter for the people of these lands. Who can escape it?” Long Xuan replied. “For the sake of future generations, shouldn’t the people alive today contribute? What’s the meaning of ‘the lands falling into chaos’? Should the people have no way to make a living, that would be cause for worrying about the lands falling into chaos.”
“Your Highness wants to ask for an imperial decree to do this?” At this moment, the gaze Luo Wei used to look at Long Xuan finally held a smidgeon of warmth. For this country, this person would indeed stake his whole life.
“That’s right,” Long Xuan also had a smiling expression. He asked Luo Wei, “Yun Qi, would you be willing to help me?”
“Doing so is right,” Long Xuan replied.
I was so tempted to write “Long Xuan validated.” Lmao, Long Xuan validating Luo Qi’s feels after their gossip sesh. Tumblr bros