Both are Foxes Chapter 20
Chapter 20: Circumstances (1)
After a coup d’état a little more than ten years ago, Zhi nation split into East Zhi and West Zhi, tumultuous ever since. The royal lineage had nearly been wiped out. Only a princess had survived by luck. Hua Jianli was currently bringing Zi Yinye to meet a descendent of that princess, Wen Yuanbo.
The ancients tended to have a stupid loyalty, believing the imperial lineage were ordained by heaven. It seems that the very free Hua Jianli was no exception. To Hua Jianli, Wen Yuanbo was the only one who deserved the throne and was Zhi nation's future. Even Zi Yinye had to admit Wen Yuanbo was indeed exceptional.
Wen Yuanbo was very astute, cordial and a leader. Within a few years, he had more than half of East Zhi under his control, but he did not reveal this on the surface; there were still many problems to settle. He had many men such as Hua Jianli below him and a large army hidden. The Lianyun mountains not far from Fengye city was his headquarters.
The vastness of the mountains was the best protection they could have. No one knew that the bandit-ridden Lianyun mountains had large numbers of excellent troops stationed.
After many twists and turns, Zi Yinye finally arrived at the main encampment. She hadn't brought Chun Ri because there were some people it was best for her to meet alone. If she was successfully, her plan would unfold on its own.
Wen Yuanbo should have heard of her beforehand. Before she had even neared the main camp, Wen Yuanbo welcomed her from the distance. It seems she was held to a certain degree of respect. Since he understood to treat her with respect, she would also treat him seriously!
Smiling faintly, Zi Yinye gave a slight bow. "Ye Yin** greets his majesty."
He had a manly face, his features sharp, as if carved from stone. His hair blew lightly, his gaze stern. Every move of his carried a royal air.
Although he was surrounded by soldiers, he did not wear armor, only a simple black robe embroidered in gold on the cuffs and collar, identifying his distinct status.
He was graceful, yet also firm and unyielding, a person with high potential!
Wen Yuanbo politely invited the youth in white into the large tent. Hua Jianli had bragged about this youth's accomplishments to him no less than a hundred times. It could be said that Hua Jianli practically worshipped the youth as a god. However, he was less convinced, merely curious towards the youth.
The youth was almost too beautiful, sprouting a tendril of doubt. Beauty was not an indicator of skill. Furthermore, he* still… Fortunately, the youth did not reveal a feminine air, otherwise he would not let him stay at the heart of the military encampment. He appreciated beauty, but would not make mistakes because of it.
*From this point on until (slight spoiler) waaaay later, Zi Yinye/Ye Yin is referred to as a male. There's a strange part in the middle somewhere where she was referred to as a she, but I think it was a typo
However, this "Ye Yin" youth seemed different. Perhaps the youth would give him a nice surprise!
Hua Jianli was not one to lie, so Wen Yuanbo held some expectation for the youth. This was why he had not simply dismissed the youth based off of his beautiful appearance.
Every move of the youth was calm and collected. From when the youth stepped into the barracks to when he seated himself inside the large tent, he never detected any unease. The heavy atmosphere of the encampment had not affected the youth at all. This gradually dispelled Wen Yuanbo's trace of doubt and his curiosity towards the youth only grew.
Taking a sip of tea, Ye Yin was smiling, yet not smiling. "Has your majesty discovered anything?"
Wen Yuanbo paused, not understanding what Ye Yin meant. He peered towards Hua Jianli, but found Hua Jianli was similarly baffled. "Young master Ye, you…"
Ye Yin calmly leaned back lazy. "Ever since I** entered the camp grounds, you have observed me. It has been quite a while. Has your majesty concluded anything?"
Wen Yuanbo was about the speak, but Ye Yin did not give him the chance to reply, eyes flashing coldly.
"Your majesty should be clear what my** identity is. I** do not wish to dwell on it, but I** must remind your majesty one thing: I** have come as Ye Yin, so please forget my true identity. Otherwise, we cannot work together. Zi Yinye does not exist any more. I have already discussed this matter with brother Jianli, and I hope your majesty will also keep this in mind."
Ye Yin's tone was somewhat cold, his message clear. Henceforth, she would be the young man Ye Yin, not the young lady Zi Yinye, and it would remain forever so!
Wen Yuanbo's eyes glinted. After a period of silence, he spoke.
The tent fell silent. Gradually, an awkward atmosphere descended. Hua Jianli coughed a few times uncomfortably.
"Little Qi, let me explain our current circumstance."
Ye Yin did not even look up, saying indifferently, "Alright, speak!"
Hua Jianli cleared his throat, then began.
"East Zhi currently has five cities with eight counties. Four cities with five counties are already under our control. In other words, East Zhi is nearly in the palm of our hands. We just need to combine our forces at the right opportunity and East Zhi is ours. His highness will then be able to ascend the throne!"
Ye Yin took another sip, saying carelessly, "What about West Zhi? Don't tell me we need only East Zhi. Our aim is unifying Zhi nation."
"We have some parts of West Zhi under our control, but less than in East Zhi. The current emperor's influence is much stronger there, so it is harder for our power to extend. However, seizing West Zhi is just a matter of time."
Hearing the confidence in his voice, Ye Yin smiled faintly. "Then what are you waiting for? Combine your forces!"
Hua Jianli slowed, mumbling, "Eh… that…."
A ghost of a smile appeared on Ye Yin's lips. "What? Are you not in control? Many years of preparation, of blood, sweat, and tears, but a thin line between victory and defeat. This is not a game. Losing once perhaps is the end of everything, so you cannot afford to lose!"
Wen Yuanbo's eyes slitted, but he could not say a word. Ye Yin continued. "The emperor of East Zhi is merely a puppet regent. He does not have any skills, but so long as he sits on the throne, he will have supporters. This is why we are only in control of four cities and five counties. The remaining city and three counties are loyal to the East emperor. How many of the four cities and five counties under your control are truly loyal to you?"
"What do you mean?"
"Humans are emotional creatures. Some are foolishly loyal, only loyal to the incapable East emperor, but others are ambitious and greedy. East Zhi's current situation is warlords vying for supremacy. Other than the small number of loyal subjects, the rest all treat their city or county as their independent domain, content with their amount of power, acting as local rulers. They have power over their territory, but more importantly, they have armies to protect that territory. Why would they hand their power and armies over to someone else? Are you sure they will not rebel?"
Wen Yuanbo's expression hardened, which Hua Jianli's smile had disappeared.
"I* am fully aware, but I* am not afraid. East Zhi is mine; that is an inalterable fact."
*Royal referral to self
"East Zhi will definitely be yours, your majesty."
Wen Yuanbo's expression changed sharply, but Ye Yin did not care. He continued to smile lightly.
"With your highness's capability, having East Zhi thoroughly in your grasp is not difficult. In a short amount of time, everything will be settled, but what about West Zhi? The West emperor shall surely notice this consolidation of power and be wary. The West emperor is far more powerful than the East emperor, which is why it has been difficult for your highness's influence to penetrate. In other words, the subjects are far more loyal to the West emperor. Plans are much more difficult to carry out. Each city of West Zhi must be taken one by one, painstakingly and slowly. With your highness's strength, you would not fear battling those city lords, and adding West Zhi to your domain is only a matter of time, but…"
"But what?" Hua Jianli was utterly confused. Did Ye Yin approve of unmasking their power now or disapprove?
"If you understand that it is simply a matter of time, why have you not taken action?" Ye Yin's eyes slitted as he looked towards Hua Jianli.
Hua Jianli paused at the sudden question, his mouth open, as if he were about to speak, yet was unable to say anything. Ye Yin seemed to understand this reaction, a pretty smile blossoming on his lips, yet he did not say a word. He calmly raised his cup of tea to his lips and drank. Glimpsing Wen Yuanbo's impatient expression, he set down the teacup and smiled craftily at the two.
"Because you are apprehensive."