Wuxiaworld > Emperor of Blue Flower Mountain > 137 Volume 5: When in doubt, change it out!

137 Volume 5: When in doubt, change it out!

[Editor: Rain, Author]

"That fire wasn't natural."

Shuya was standing in front of Mei Hua and pacing, her face looking disturbed. Mei Hua was sitting in front of a military report from Fu Jing and a damage assessment from her son, De Tongran, concerning the fire that swept through southern Lanhua.

"Of course it wasn't natural, an army started it."

"No, that's not what I mean. Blue Flower Trees don't like fire, it hurts being burned, but we won't die from it either. Natural fires from lightning happen from time to time, they're good for the forests and we've survived those just fine. But this fire didn't just spread quickly and furiously, a few of us nearly died."

Mei Hua looked shocked.

"But how could—"

"You get what I'm saying now?" Shuya shook her head, lips pressed together. "No matter how fierce the flame, usually it can't do more than char the outside and cause us to lose most of our leaves. But this fire burned through the bark and got to the sensitive inner trunk. The young trees had it the worst, since their bark was the thinnest. I spent the entire time that fire was blazing just trying to keep them from turning into charcoal."

"Heavens… how are they doing? Are they alright?"

"They'll… survive. They're resting right now." Her lips curled up slightly, "Every now and then one wakes up and wails because they realize they look like a bald black stump."

Mei Hua covered her mouth to stop from inappropriately laughing, "How can they possibly be concerned about their appearance after a near-death experience?"

"They're young, other than their looks, what do they have going for them?"

"Aya, so harsh on the younger generation…"

"Anyway, I've never seen a fire like that. Not once in the entire time I've been self-aware."

Mei Hua stopped laughing and bit her lower lip.

"All the information I have says it was the army who started the fire. They're regular, mortal men, nothing unusual in that regard."

"Then your information is missing something critical."

Mei Hua rubbed her forehead. "I'll assign someone to look further into it… but what exactly would they be looking for?"

Shuya stopped pacing and stared at the ceiling thoughtfully.

"Who gave them the idea to set fire to the Lanhua forests?"

"Army commander."

"Who gave him the idea?"

Mei Hua frowned, looking down at the military report. "As far as I know, no one? It was his own idea?"

"What happened to that commander?"

"After he was caught, he committed suicide in his prison cell."

Shuya made an annoyed face. "Of course he did… How did he kill himself?"

"He had some kind of fast acting poison on him. From the coroner's report, the poison is pretty commonly used for suicides like this."

"Who was in charge of him? Lanhua or Greater Peak Country?"

"Both. He attacked both countries after all, so he had two groups holding him accountable."

Shuya narrowed her eyes. "And both our people and their people searched this guy thoroughly before imprisoning him, right?"

"Of course."

"Then where was he hiding the poison?"

Mei Hua closed her eyes and thought for a moment, "Well… he was being held in a Greater Peak Country prison so as far as security goes they'd be the ones responsible…"

Shuya sighed. "Someone from their side might have slipped him something?"

"Possibly, though the guards are insisting they didn't…"


They both looked at each other.

"It's strange."

"It is."

"But other than continuing to investigate, I really don't know what else to do."

Shuya finally sat down. Crossing her arms over her chest, she scowled.

"Something isn't right, Little Sis. Too many bad things are happening all at once."

"You think there's someone behind the Senlin's invasion?"

"Not just this invasion, that sickness too."

Mei Hua eyebrows almost reached her hairline, "Really? How on earth is that even possible?"

"Mmm… I don't know either... it's just… I can't quite pinpoint who or where or what… something definitely isn't right..."

"Big Sis… I need more than vague gut feelings to go on…"

"I know!" Shuya huffed and pursed her lips. "Just keep it in mind, alright? There's something fishy about all this. For my part, I'll listen more carefully for anything… odd."

Mei Hua nodded slowly and for a little while neither said anything.

"Speaking of something being off, what exactly happened over in Greater Peak Country? Why didn't they send some kind of warning about being invaded?"

"Oh, that…" Mei Hua's nose wrinkled, just thinking about their neighbor was enough to give her a headache. "Apparently there was a big coup in the capital city a few weeks back. The king and queen were murdered, as were several of their children and some high ranking nobles. I guess a prince survived, somehow, and rallied the loyal citizens to him. The city was on lockdown, people dying on the streets right and left... it was a disaster. Not just us, other countries didn't know what was going on either. They were in the middle of fighting the coup when Senlin Country invaded them."

"Huh, Senlin saw an opportunity for some free land and took it?"

"Sort of… I guess the rebels involved in the coup had ties with them..."

"Woah… did Senlin destabilize the leadership to distract them and then swoop in and take a big chunk out of Greater Peak Country?"

"Uh, yes. Though from the reports, the rebels who started the coup seemed genuinely invested..."

"Meh, puppets. Probably didn't even realize they were being used..." Shuya raised her eyebrows. "I had no idea any of those Western countries were still brazen enough to do anything like that. Usually they're too busy being terrified of the Tian Empire taking a nibble out of them to dare try it."

"Mmm… Senlin Country is claiming the army commander and his troops were rebels. They never approved of anything they did."

"Hah! Do they think we dropped off a branch yesterday?"

"Right? But they're insisting they didn't give this commander permission to attack, that he was doing it all on his own. They were just sending out their own troops to stop him when we swooped in and got to him first. Purportedly."

"Let me get this straight… they're claiming a giant rebel army was formed under their noses, marched all over southern Greater Peak Country and they never noticed, and only after we happened to stick a knife so far up the army's butt they turned into shish-kabob that they magically got word of the rebels and began sending someone to stop? And we, who almost got turned into charcoal because of said rebel, are we expected to believe this?" Shuya slapped the arms of the chair she was sitting in, "Don't they think we'll laugh at such a bad joke?"

"Brother Fu Jing said the same thing. Someone over there is lying, it's just a matter of how many and how far up it goes."

Shuya leaned forward and smiled evilly, "Should we take them over?"

"....speaking of bad jokes…"

"Sorry, sorry!" Shuya leaned back and chuckled. "I know it's enough trying to deal with what you have."

"I really don't want to conquer them… it'd be a huge hassle to have to take care of them. Countries are worse than babies, they always need attention lest they accidentally kill themselves in their ignorance… ugh." Mei Hua sighed. "You know, I was thinking recently, why do people go around conquering? Oh sure, I get if you're short on food and don't have a choice. But how often does that really happen? Mostly it's just one guy seeing another guy's stuff and deciding he wants it. All I'm saying is, ruling one country is hard. Ruling a whole bunch of them is even worse. Don't even talk about the wars, how do conquerors survive the stress of ruling afterward?"

"They delegate, obviously."

"Then what's the point of taking it all over? If what you want is what the other person has, and then upon getting it, you let someone ELSE watch over it for you…. At that point, aren't the people you delegate everything to the ones with the real power? Won't those people get tired of being under someone else's thumb? How do these conquerors know they won't end up with a knife sticking out of their back?"

Shuya blinked and then shrugged. "They don't, it's probably why so many rulers are paranoid..."

"Ugh. How about we all just stay home and mind our own businesses? Can't we do that instead? So much easier and no one dies."

"That's funny coming from the Queen of the Eight Subjugated States."

"Hey, I wasn't even awake when they got subjugated! I'm just the one who got stuck with cleanup duty!"

Shuya gave a hearty laugh.

"Speaking of politics," She suddenly got serious again, "Why DID Senlin Country take a swipe at us?"

"Well…." Mei Hua gave a ferocious scowl, "Apparently me ruling this country is evil."

Shuya blinked several times in rapid succession in disbelief. "I… come again?"

"It's true. I'm a walking, talking fleshy mass of bad luck. The plague in the east, that commander who suicided pinned the blame on me. Said I was bad luck to the nations I ruled over, mm hmm. Then he went on to say I murdered Jin and my own sons, usurping the throne."

"He really said that?!" Shuya gave an incredulous laugh. "What the… even if that were true, how's that an excuse to attack innocent citizens!?"

Mei Hua traced a finger on her desk and then tapped it with her index finger.

"He was helping cleanse the evil."

This time Shuya couldn't even laugh, she just sat there dumbfounded.
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"That's why he used fire, you see. To burn away the curse, to burn away my influence, make the land pure again. By there not being anyone alive, apparently. Once it was all burned away, they could have the "cleansed" land for themselves..."

"That's insane!" Shuya was so angry she stood up and stomped her foot. "That's completely and totally insane! How could anyone believe—!!"

"I know!" Mei Hua almost yelled to cut Shuya off and then grumbled angrily. "I know better than anyone else."

"And those Senlin soldiers… they really believed what their nutcase commander said?"

"From what Brother Fu Jing sent me, some did whole-heartedly believe him, but others just saw it as an opportunity to pillage and ****." Mei Hua's eyes narrowed, her voice bitter. "Who doesn't know that Lanhua is prosperous and the women beautiful?"

Shuya sat back down with a thump, shoulders drooping and hands covering her face. When she started to cry, Mei Hua stood up and went over to her, patting her back sympathetically.

"Little Sis… there were children and elderly burned alive in that fire…" Shuya choked out between sobs. "I could only watch… there was no way for me to…"

"I know."

"I couldn't— I couldn't save them—!"

Mei Hua wrapped her arms around Shuya, feeling her eyes grow wet with unshed tears. Nothing Mei Hua could say would comfort Shuya. The old tree knew perfectly well she wasn't at fault, but not being at fault didn't help alleviate her sense of frustration and helplessness. To watch people die around you and not be able to do anything…

After a while, Shuya's crying stopped. Wiping the tear stains, she spoke viciously, "And we're just going to let Senlin Country get away with all this?"

"Of course not!"

"Then what? You said you won't conquer them didn't you?"

Mei Hua walked back to her desk, hand gliding along the surface, and sat down. She gave Shuya a small smile, her eyes eerily bright.

"It seems to me that Lanhua isn't the country that needs cleansing." Seeing Shuya's questioning look, Mei Hua continued, "Well, since the Senlin royalty and nobility seems to be lacking anything in the way of brains, it wouldn't hurt if they were… mmm… replaced with smarter, wiser rulers, don't you think?"

Shuya's eyebrows rose and then grinned widely.

"I like it. Should we let the surrounding countries know why they had a big leadership change, do you think?"

"Hm… just by way of rumor. Since it's rumor, they won't be able to make any public statements against us. But they will think a second, third, and fourth time before taking any military action against us in the future."

"Marvelous!" Shuya clapped, "Let's show these dinky little western countries what the east already figured out: don't. mess. with. us."