The appearance and departure of He Mingchi was a great shock to Li Huiyuan. When he heard the news, his face paled even more and a fearful expression appeared in his eyes.
"How did you return so quickly?" He asked in a trembling voice.
Li Yu sat down slowly, dispassionate.
She would not have responded in the same manner should she have heard the news a few days ago. With the return of the Tang Army of Helan City, the news of tampering with the edict would have been made known. She had made many preparations for this. However, with the West-Hill Divine Palace's call for the world to punish the Tang Empire, those plans had lost their effectiveness.
The eunuch said softly, "Eunuch Chen of the Ministry of Rites in the south of Wuzhou. He should have received the news in advance and should be rushing there right this moment. He should be able to stop it."
After a long silence, Li Yu asked tiredly, "How many people are there in the Northern Army?"
The eunuch reported back softly, "It was reported that there are 500 elite riders."
The number of people traveling with Xu Chi was neither big nor small, making it impossible for Li Yu to judge the general's intentions. She suddenly thought of a possibility and asked, "...Who else is there?"
The eunuch hesitated slightly before answering, "I heard that Mr. Thirteen of the Academy is also in the battalion."
Li Yu's eyebrows knitted slightly when she heard the name while the panic in Li Huiyuan's eyes grew. He had said earlier that the Academy was useless after the Headmaster's death. But as a Tang and also as a Prince, how would he not know what the Academy meant to the Tang Empire? How would he not fear?
"Royal sister, we have to do something."
He looked at Li Yu and said anxiously, "Ning Que has already made his stand clear. The Academy would definitely support that woman. Other than doing what He Mingchi says, we have no other way out."
Who could stand against the Academy? It seemed that only Haotian Taoism could do it.
Li Yu shook her head slowly and answered, "I do not wish to hear you say something like that."
Li Huiyuan swallowed, insistent on convincing her. He said anxiously, "Surrendering does not mean that the Tang Empire would fall. Haotian Taoism needs someone to rule the secular world for them and to gather resources. It is not beneficial to them if they were to destroy the Tang Empire. Compared to the barbarians of the Golden Palace, aren't we more suited for it?"
The more he spoke, the more he felt justified. He stood up excitedly and waved his arms, saying, "Those who oppose us have been killed by He Mingchi. At the meeting tomorrow, you just have to push the blame to the Southern Gate Temple and get the ministers loyal to you to support us in forming an agreement with the West-Hill Divine Palace. The matter will be resolved then."
"How can we reach an agreement? Should we give them our land and money? Or dissolve the South School of Haotian Taoism and close down the Academy? Or should the both of us kowtow on the Peach Mountain and pray for Haotian's forgiveness?"
Li Yu smiled at him and said, "You said that the Tang Empire was more suited than the barbarians of the Golden Palace... More suited for what? Are we more suited to be the dogs of Haotian Taoism?"
She felt jaded and numb. Her right hand trembled slightly. However, it did not slap Li Huiyuan's face as before because she now found that it was meaningless.
"All these years, I pitied you because of what happened to mother. That was why I spoiled, loved and pitied you. But I never thought that it would make you the person you are now."
Li Yu stood up and prepared to leave the palace.
Li Huiyuan who had been holding onto her hands fell off the couch.
He looked at Li Yu's back and yelled fearfully, "Royal sister, are you going to kill me?"
Li Yu smiled sadly, "You are my brother. I promised my mother that I would take good care of you, so how could I kill you? I now understand what He Mingchi meant...Your Majesty, no matter how shameless you are, I'll protect you for as long as you're alive and will not let that woman harm you. The Tang Empire, which is in danger will descend into chaos because of my selfishness. Would the West-Hill Divine Palace be unhappy to see all this?"
There was chaos in the world and the Tang Empire was in danger because of the deaths of the Headmaster and the Emperor. There was not a single person who thought that the empire would be as strong as before. However, the performance of the empire in the war was even more disappointing than expected, especially to the Academy in the south of Chang'an.
The Academy was the foundation of the Tang Empire and its guardian. Even though the Headmaster had passed away, there were still many powerhouses and bigwigs who were skilled in strategy at the Academy. What perplexed, disappointed and angered many people was that the Academy had not made any moves since the war started.
The Academy's doors remained closed since the edict of the West-Hill Divine Palace calling on the world to destroy the Tang Empire spread throughout the lands. To be more precise, the gates of the Academy had never reopened since the moment the Headmaster passed away.
The Academy did not have any main gates, it only had a side gate.
The side gate of the Academy led to the mountain behind the Academy. That was the true front gate.
The newly admitted students of the front yard were disbanded on the spot. They took letters from the Academy professors and left with their luggage for Chang'an, entering the services of the imperial court.
As for the instructors, they received a letter from the mountain behind the Academy which calmly stated that those who were willing to stay in the college should stay and those who wanted to leave should do so.
Cao Zhifeng, associate professor of Etiquette was a Yan. He chose to leave. However, the two Mathematics instructors from the South Jin Kingdom insisted on staying. According to statistics, about 70% of foreign instructors chose to stay in the end.
In their words, they were from the South Jin Kingdom, Yuelun Kingdom, Kingdom of Song, the West-Hill. 'Although we are not Tangs, we belong to the Academy'.
After that, the Academy did not make any other moves and the mountain behind the Academy did not issue any more letters. It was unknown where some instructors went, while the other instructors studied behind the closed doors of the front yard.
Even if the world was going to be destroyed tomorrow, what should be done should still be done.
One day in late autumn, the chaos in Chang'an gradually calmed to an extent. The Yulin Royal Guards rode on their war horses and watched the streets vigilantly. The Chang'an Local Government runner was busy running around. The Fish-dragon Gang searched for people in the alleyways and brothels.
The gatekeeper was ordered to close the city gates to anyone other than the grain delivery team from nearby states. It was forbidden for soldiers or civilians to enter or leave, and so, Chang'an became an isolated city and nobody cared for what happened outside.
The Academy was in the south of Chang'an and was naturally located outside the city.
After Chang'an became a closed off city, the Academy grew isolated as well.
A giant chariot appeared in the meadow outside the Academy.
Many layers of satin on the heavy curtains had been torn apart and there were many gaps on the railing carved of gold and jade. There were many old and dark bloodstains on the chariot, but it still looked majestic.
There used to be sixty-four powerful West-Hill Divine Guards by the chariot, but there were only a dozen left. The others had all died in the battle at Xiao Mountain that rainy night.
Behind the heavy curtains, was a tall figure.
The tall figure's left hand was broken, but he still shone brilliantly.
He shone so brightly he could even suppress the splendor of the Academy.
TheWest-Hill Divine Palace Hierarch Lord had arrived at the Academy.
He had killed the Tang Defender-general of the State, Xu Shi, at Xiao Mountain that rainy night. He had sacrificed dozens of West-Hill Divine Guards to accomplish the deed and also paid for it with his left hand.
But he was still as strong as before, and might even be stronger than before.
Xu Shi had died in his hands for this very reason.
More than ten West-Hill Divine Guards carried the giant chariot to the top of the meadow.
Because their numbers had been reduced, the movements of the West-Hill Divine Guard seemed laborious and slow.
However, the more slowly they moved, the greater the pressure at the stone square of the Academy.
The autumn wind seemed to moan as it was squeezed by the pressure.
There was no entrance to the Academy, so the chariot did not enter.
There was a stone square at the Academy. It was broken into numerous sections.
Hearing the loud noise, the instructors of the front yard put down their pens and paper and hurried out of the room.
Then, they saw the giant chariot.
Although they were instructors of the front yard, they were all knowledgeable scholars who have read many books. Someone immediately recognized the tall figure in the giant chariot!
There was a loud commotion at the front of the Academy.
All the instructors looked terrified.
The West-Hill Divine Palace Hierarch Lord had come to the south of Chang'an, to the Academy!
Had the Tang Empire fallen?
The Hierarch Lord looked through the heavy gauze curtains. His gaze, which was like thunder, passed over the faces of the instructors slowly, his face expressionless. He asked, "Where's Huang He?"
No one answered him because Professor Huang He had disappeared without a trace many days ago.
The Hierarch Lord's voice rang out on the platform in front of the Academy once more.
"Where's Mu Chu?"
No one replied.
The Hierarch Lord called out the names of other professors.
But those people were not in the Academy.
The Hierarch Lord saw that there weren't any Tang Army troops present. He said, "The Academy has shielded the Tang Empire from troubles for millennia. However, it has now been forgotten by Chang'an. How pitiable."
The massive chariot was lifted up once more and was carried toward the back of the Academy.
The ordinary Academy instructors were not important enough to Haotian Taoism.
The Hierarch Lord knew very well where the real Academy was.
The massive chariot passed through a narrow alley, crushing the sides of the alley.
It traveled by a pond, the fish in the aquatic plants hid away in fear.
When he passed by the old library, the Hierarch Lord looked up at a certain window on the second floor.
Then, the giant chariot continued forth. It entered the mists that covered the back of the mountain all year round.
All of a sudden, the aura and breath of the world rolled violently.
Without the Headmaster to control the cloud big tactical array, it was forcefully broken through by the massive chariot.
There did not seem to be a path.
And when the mist parted, a cliff platform could be seen.
A warm breeze unlike that of the autumn wind blew against the chariot curtains, causing it to flutter.
The Hierarch looked at the scene before him, lamenting his loss for words.
He had planned for a lifetime, and the thing he wanted to do most, was to destroy the Academy.
He had finally come to the back of the Academy's mountain today.
There was a pine in front of the cliff. There weren't any children under it, but two people playing chess.
The Hierarch looked through the gauze curtains at the chessboard. He said, "I did not expect Mr. Song Qian to really be cultivating in the back of the Academy's mountain."
Fifth Brother placed down a black chesspiece before standing up. He bowed at the massive chariot that had come through the mist and said, "Greetings, Hierarch Lord, from Song Qian and his Younger Brother."
Eighth Brother objected irritatedly, "It's not like I don't have a name, why are you greeting on behalf of me?"
Fifth Brother said, "The Hierarch Lord knows me but not you. This proves that my chess skills are better than yours."
Eighth Brother flared in annoyance when he heard that. He threw the white chesspiece in his hand heavily onto the chessboard. There was a clear clatter and the black and white chess pieces on the board rolled on the board uneasily.
The scenery at the back of the Academy's mountain changed.
The waterfall in the distance seemed to become still, while the mirror lake on the cliff side rippled. The pine trees in the mountain seemed to have become countless soldiers, while the grass and the flowering trees seemed to have become indifferent audiences.
The back of the Academy's mountain seemed to have become a chessboard, and the atmosphere thickened with death.
The Hierarch Lord looked at the two under the pine tree and said, "Two sirs, you were using the chessboard to understand Heaven's will. You have evidently already surpassed the Lanke Temple, but it is a pity you do not understand what an intention to kill is."
His voice was gentle. However, when his voice passed through the curtains, it became several cracks of thunder.
Thunder roared in the back of the Academy's mountain. The silver waterfall quivered, and the mirror lake rippled slightly. High winds swept through the mountain and the pine swayed and grass and trees bent sideways. The Go game showed signs of collapse.
More than ten West-Hill Divine Guards carried the giant chariot up the back of the mountain.
Suddenly, a piercing howl echoed through the peaks.
There was the sound of water splashing behind the iron-making room. The waterwheel rolled. A big white goose stood on the waterwheel, slowly rising out of the eaves of the room. It lifted its neck at the skies and sang loudly and clearly.
Further away on the meadow, an old yellow bull looked up at the pine forest.
With the appearance of the old yellow bull, the white goose and the little white wolf, more chesspieces seemed to have fallen on the black-and-white chessboard on the back of the Academy's mountain. It suddenly stabilized and the intent to kill thickened.
Those chess pieces were not black and white, but had distinctive features.
Pawn, the brave pawn.
Knight, standing proud.
Rook, for the ten thousand calvalries.
The pine continued to wave, and the aura of heaven and earth at the back of the Academy's mountain turned into countless signs of death that headed wildly for the giant chariot and the dozens of West-Hill Divine Guards beside it. They suddenly paled and vomited blood.
Behind the heavy gauze curtains, a tall figure leaned slightly forward, turning grave.
"Abandon the appearance of the chess game and merging the meaning of the two things. Gentlemen, these are indeed good moves indeed."
"It is a pity that there are missing players in this game."
"You are missing a horse, a marshal and a general."
"The world is now against the Tang Empire, would the West-Hill Divine Palace really believe that the Academy would not interfere? I have even guessed where Mr. First and the others have gone. But they will never return again."
"All of my plans were to empty out Chang'an and have the disciples of the Academy run for their lives. Only then, will I be able to come to the back of the mountain with my guards and take what I want."
"I have come to the Academy today to take the God-stunning Array's eye pestle!"
"With the pestle, Chang'an is mine. I will destroy the Tang Empire!"
The Hierarch yelled, and then laughed in satisfaction.
His laughter echoed around the quiet mountain behind the Academy.
"The Academy is empty now! There are no marshals or generals, only you two idiots who are obsessed with chess and those animals. How can you stop me!"
The Hierarch Lord looked at the two under the pine tree and yelled sharply, "Even if you can trap me in this game of chess, how long can you trap me for? Beasts will be beasts! You can't go against Heaven and become a human being. And how can man go against God?"
"The Academy will perish, and the Tang Empire will fall together with it! For thousands of years, what countless sages of Haotian Taoism had failed to do will become a reality in my hands!"
"I will become the best deity in the kingdom of Haotian!"
Fifth Brother and Eighth Brother paled.
The howling of the wolf in the mountains grew weaker. The white goose standing on the waterwheel no longer sang to the sky as blood dripped from its beak. The weariness in the old yellow bull's eyes grew.
Behind the curtains, the Hierarch's figure seemed to be larger and he radiated light for a thousand miles.