The death of General Pei had immediately changed the political situation in the world.
The cavalrymen of Qin State had breached a few layers of defense of the Chu army and passed through Baihe County, which was not far from the capital of Chu State.
There was an important factor for the Qin army to march forward so easily, in addition to the prowess of the Qin army and the weakness of the Chu army; that is, the vanguard army of Qin State was the former army of King Jing. They knew of Chu State very well, and they had an immense hatred for the Chu imperial court.
Under the muted attack of Zhao State, the West Camp didn't last long. Now that the previous powerful army that had experienced hundreds of battles lost their main commander, the speed of their downfall was much faster than everybody had expected, including He Zhan and the generals of Zhao State. As the remaining Chu army fled, the white banners for the funeral of the General Pei were still hanging in the camp.
From either Baihe County to the capital or from the West Camp to the capital of Chu State, laying in between were tens of thousands of acres of plain and fertile fields; there was no pass or any other effective defense place for the Chu army to resist the invading armies. It looked like the demise of Chu State was inevitable.
The reports from the frontline had been sent back to the capital one after the other. The nervous and despair atmosphere filled the air of the capital.
The residents of the capital read the bulletins on the streets, their expressions numb and bewildered. The officials of the imperial court and various ministries looked hither and there, not knowing where to look. The scholars in the institutes had lost their former arrogance, and looked at the distance perplexedly while holding their books in their hands, not knowing what to think.
Yet, the brothels were very busy. They were crowded every night, with lights glittering brightly by the river and lake.
As their state was on the brink of being conquered, they could do nothing but to feel heartrending and despair. Yet, another thing they could do was to indulge themselves in the entertainments and alcohol until they were drunk enough to get into a wonderful dream. This seemed to be an acceptable behavior for many inhabitants of Chu State.
The green bird flew over the night sky of the capital, looked down at the peculiar scenes and humans, and then landed at the deepest part of the Royal Palace.
There was no light in the palace hall, and it was very dark and gloomy. One could see clearly the lights outside the palace that were projected onto the night sky.
The green bird trotted to the end of the broad bed and said while staring into Jing Jiu's eyes, "You don't have much time left."
Jing Jiu uttered "hmm", but didn't say anything.
The inhabitants of Chu State could live a prosperous life without Qin State, Zhao State and Qi State harassing them. But they were surrounded by the powerful enemies; sooner or later something like this would happen.
If the Grand Scholar Zhang were still alive, this day would probably have come a little later.
However, he was dead, and General Pei was dead as well.
Nobody could control life and death, especially not Jing Jiu.
Even in the real world outside the Green Sky Mirror, what he could do was to do his best to control his own life and death, but he couldn't do that much about others' lives and deaths.
For instance, the Jing family in Zhaoge City and the Liu couple in the small village would die someday.
The green bird didn't change into the little girl, as she looked at Jing Jiu's eyes quietly.
She would leave here soon, to show the magnificent scene of the Qin army marching south for the Cultivation practitioners in the outside world.
Jing Jiu fell silent for a moment, and then flicked his finger lightly, to light the oil lamp on the corridor post.
A moment later, the footsteps were heard outside the palace hall; presently, that young eunuch came in and knelt down on the ground, waiting for the command.
Jing Jiu said, "Tell those outside the palace that I'll participate in tomorrow's court meeting."
It was before dawn, and the sky was totally dark. The residual lights could still be spotted somewhere, displaying pleasure and despair at the same time.
The sound of wheels rolling on the green stone slabs could be heard on the road. Many sedans and carriages came from the south of the city, gathering on the straight road leading to the Royal Palace.
Some sedans stopped on the road. The officials inside the sedans pulled up the curtains; they either talked to each other or eyed each other quietly as they attempted to guess what the other person was thinking, and most importantly, what the Emperor was thinking.
Under the circumstances, many officials and the residents and scholars had already formed an idea: it was to surrender.
Under the attack by both Qin State and Zhao State, Chu State had no chance of defending itself; besides, they had lost their last and most important defense: the
West Camp. Emperor Bai was extremely cruel, and the Eunuch He was cold and weird. If Chu State resisted longer, these two would be enraged; the consequence would be the blood flowing like a river, or even worse, the massacre of the residents of the capital.
The vanguard army of Qin State was led by King Jing, most of which were former Chu residents. It would be better to surrender to them than to those of the different state. King Jing and his subordinates perhaps wouldn't do anything extremely brutal. And the Qin army would even help resist the light cavalry of Zhao State from the West Camp if they wanted to unite the world.
No matter how one looked at it, surrendering would be the best and only choice for Chu State, and the earlier, the better.
This idea lingered in the minds of the officials, and it was impossible to drive it away.
However, they didn't tell their colleagues or friends about this idea; their loved ones didn't even know what they were thinking. It was because whoever raised the idea of surrendering would be the infamous traitor in the history of Chu State; nobody would wish to leave this world with such a reputation. It would be better to die in a container of alcohol in a brothel.
Another thorny issue was what would happen to the Emperor.
Though it was the best choice for Chu State to negotiate the surrender with King Jing, King Jing would definitely want to kill the Emperor to avenge the death of his son.
Having various thoughts themselves, and guessing what was on the Emperor's mind, the officials walked into the Royal Palace silently, looking like a bunch of suffocating fish as they lined up on both sides in the grand hall.
One man, wearing the brightly yellow royal robe, sat on the throne on the highest spot in the hall. His black hair was tied up roughly behind his head, exposing his handsome face.
These officials hadn't seen him for a long time. Thinking of the bloody turmoil in the palace five years ago, some of them had a pale face out of fear, and some generated some hope, showing two small patches of blush on their pale faces. Grand Scholar Zhou was one of the officials who had a slight flicker of hope, and he hadn't gone back home in fifty days because he had to deal with the state and military affairs all day long.
Jing Jiu glanced over the faces of all the officials.
He saw the fear on the faces of those officials of the Military Ministry, who were afraid that they would be called upon to fight; he saw the excitement on the faces of the officials of the Censorate, who thought that the Emperor might command the army personally; he also saw the dread on the faces of those ambitious officials, who were afraid that the bloody turmoil might occur again; and what he saw the most was the numbness on the faces of those officials who had accepted their fate due to despair.
The grand hall was completely and utterly without sound, until Jing Jiu opened his mouth and said, "Write the decree then. This emperor has granted it."
The chancellors were surprised as they eyed each other, speechless. They didn't quite understand what the Emperor meant; what decree was he going to write? And what did he grant?
"We can negotiate and accept any terms; but we are not going to talk to Cangzhou. Ask Xianyang to send somebody here."
Having said this, Jing Jiu got up from the throne and left the grand hall.
It was deathly quiet in the grand hall. It wasn't until the figure in the brightly yellow robe disappeared into the deep part of the hall that the officials realized what had just happened and what they had heard.
Did the Emperor…say…to surrender?!
The officials were stunned speechless. They felt countless complicated emotions, eying each other, not knowing what to say.
Grand Scholar Zhou sighed once. His eyes were full of pain and regret.
He thought that he had disappointed the Grand Scholar Zhang and the populace of Chu State. And he felt even guiltier for putting the Emperor in such a predicament.
He was fully aware why the Emperor wanted to hold such a court meeting and why he said what he did to the chancellors.
It was inevitable that Chu State would be defeated, which meant that to surrender was the best choice; but no chancellor would dare make the decision.
Everybody knew that in the historical stories, the chancellors and populace could choose to surrender during war between two states, but the emperors couldn't do so…The reason the Emperor made the decision of surrendering himself was to rid the chancellors of the imperial court of the historical responsibility in order to settle the chaotic situation sooner.
Though this decision was clever enough, no emperor would enjoy doing it.
Since Grand Scholar Zhou could think of this, many smart officials in the imperial court could think of it as well. After a long moment of silence, the weeping suddenly burst out in the grand hall.
Even those officials who were not weeping had two red eyes full of regret and pain, yet it was unclear if their expressions were real or pretentious.
The Chief of Taichang Temple suddenly turned to these weeping officials and yelled sternly, "Are you crying for the funeral? The Emperor is still alive!"
The mother of the eldest son of Grand Scholar Zhang had passed away four years ago. He was an old man now with the silvery hair over his head; but his bearing was much more formidable than before, resembling his late father to some extent.
Being reproached by him, the weeping stopped eventually in the grand hall. The chancellors came to their senses and looked at Grand Scholar Zhou in tandem.
The lips of the Grand Scholar Zhou trembled twice, and he finally forced the words out, "Negotiate with Qin State, and the entirety of the royal army shall march in the direction of the West Camp."
Then, he stared at these officials tersely, as he said icily, "Nobody is allowed to say anything to anyone outside of this hall. Don't even try to tell me the nonsense like 'it's hard to conceal it'. Conceal it as much as you can. Do you hear me?!"
A commission of Qin State entered the capital of Chu State covertly.
As requested by Chu State, King Jing didn't come; but there were many former officials of Cangzhou in the commission. Some officials of the imperial court had tried in various ways to contact the former Cangzhou officials, in the names of former classmates or from the same hometown, to save their own skin, or even in the hope that they might get a better position in the new imperial court later.
The former Cangzhou officials were also the former officials of Chu State; but they were all selected and promoted by Tong Yan. They displayed a seeming smile when socializing with the officials of the imperial court, but they would display coldness and hatred only when they gazed somewhere outside the Royal Palace.
Regardless of how secretive the commission was, it couldn't conceal things from everybody. The news of the commission gradually spread out in the capital, causing a slight turbulence. Grand Scholar Zhou, who was famous for being kind and benevolent, had three chancellors killed, courage matching the Grand Scholar Zhang. As a result, the turbulence was brought back under control.
The so-called negotiation was actually negotiating the terms of surrender. The officials of Chu State didn't have many bargaining chips, and the commission of Qin State requested more and more harsh terms; it was hard to settle all the terms in a short time. But one thing was understood by both sides and had no need for negotiation, which was that the Chu Emperor had to give up the throne.
There are no two suns in the sky; and no two rulers in a state.
Now that Emperor Bai wanted to be the ruler of the world, he wouldn't allow Jing Jiu to sit on the throne.
The best outcome for Jing Jiu would be an empty title of King, staying in a manor house surrounded by the guards. As the populace of Chu State gradually forgot about him, he would be poisoned or starved to death slowly, or he would be "accidently" drowned in the water, like what had happened to his father.
It was then that a royal decree was suddenly sent out by the deep part of the palace; the Emperor wanted to talk to the commission of Qin State in person.
As soon as the royal decree was announced, many officials and those former Cangzhou officials in the Qin commission felt indignant, wondering what terms this conquered emperor would like to request at the moment; a bigger manor or more luxurious clothes? Or a servant girl of sixteen years old as the concubine, or the high quality wines filling a room?
One early morning, a few officials of the Qin commission entered the Royal Palace and arrived in the grand hall.
Jing Jiu waved his hand to motion for all the eunuchs and the palace servant girls to leave.
Remembering the rumors, the expressions changed slightly on the faces of the officials of Qin State; but they soon thought that it wouldn't help much even if he killed them all here.
It was then that an ordinary looking official of Qin State suddenly said to others, "All of you leave the two of us alone."
Though the officials of Qin State showed uneasy expressions, they didn't dare oppose the order. They obeyed and retreated to the outside of the hall.
Jing Jiu looked at the official of Qin State and said, "I didn't expect you to come here."
The official of Qin State lifted her head and dismantled the appearance-changing magic, revealing a sweet smile on her beautiful and amicable face.
"If I didn't come this time, I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to see you again."
A voice suddenly blurted out behind the corridor post.
It wasn't lazy this time; instead it sounded quite agitated.
Zhuo Rusui walked out from behind the post and said to Jing Jiu irately, "Since it is she who has come, we'd better collect the personal belongings and leave here as quickly as possible."
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