While the emperor, Prince Jing and Royal Guards Commander Meng Zhi went for a spring hunting excursion, back in the capital, a demoted Prince Yu received a letter from his biological mother, the late Princess Linglong of the doomed Hua Kingdom.
The letter was handed to Lady Qin by Linglong’s sister Princess Quanji, who created the spy network Red Sleeve Seduction and was the lover of life of Xia Jiang, the former chief of the Royal Discipline Committee.
Having read the letter, Prince Yu’s blood boiled and he decided to rebel against his father, both to avenge his biological mother and to realise his ambition for the throne.
He went to see his adopted mother, the empress who had the authority to oversee the affairs in the capital when the emperor was away and plead with her to inform the public that Prince Jing had kidnapped the emperor and a military campaign was needed to save the kingdom.
The commanding headquarters of an ancient Chinese garrison post
With the empress’s decree, Prince Yu secured control of the capital defence force and nearby garrison troops which was 50,000 strong.
However, according to Chinese military tradition, the emperor’s tally must be examined by all commanders before a major military operation could be activated.
But when one of the eight commands insisted to check the authenticity of the tally, he fell on the ground and lay in the pool of his own blood. The ambitious and treacherous commander-in-chief slew him.
“Prince Yu is here. Anyone else wants to examine the tally?” the commander-in-chief shouted.
The silence reigned.
Having learned Prince Yu’s military plan, Sijie, Lady Qin’s fellow separatist, stole the key, freed Mei Changsu’s veggie delivery guy and urged him to report the coup to his master.
She did so not only because she was in love with the guy, but also due to her resentment towards Lady Qin and Prince Yu who used their relationship to extract information.
But the prison escape attempt was discovered by guards. For helping the guy to break out of the compound, Sijie bravely guarded the door until her last breath.
But the veggie delivery guy didn’t get a chance to see Mei Changsu. For helping Mei Changsu’s bodyguard to break out of the city, he courageously guarded the city gate until his last breath.
The couple’s sacrifice allowed Mei Changsu’s bodyguard to successfully deliver the news to the hunting excursion ground.
An ancient Chinese military map
An urgent meeting was taken place at Prince Jing’s tent between Mei Changsu, the prince, Royal Guards Commander Meng Zhi and General Lie.
When explaining how to move the entire group to a palace on Nine Peace Hill and summon relief troops from the nearest garrison post, Mei Changsu off-handedly drew out a sword hanging at Prince Jing’s waist.
His action took both Guard Commander and Prince Jing aback. They all recalled it was Lin Shu’s old habit: he often drew out Prince Jing’s sword to sketch military action diagrams on soil ground.
“Gosh, his true identity is going to be exposed,” the Commander thought to himself.
It did. It took a long while for Prince Jing to move his sight from Mei Changsu’s face to the map.
Ancient Chinese military commanding tally
The emperor approved their plan and handed the tally, a symbol of military authority, to Prince Jing for him to command nearby garrison troops stationed at Ji City.
By handing out the tally, the monarch’s fate was entirely in the hands of the prince.
Ancient Chinese cavalry troops with banners
Prince Yu’s 50,000 troops now marched towards the emperor’s hunting excursion ground at the foot of Nine Peace Hill, with 5,000 mounted vanguards leading the way.
Ancient Chinese positional warfare between horses & spears and shields & crossbows
Mei Changsu decided to initiate a count attack on the vanguard force before it arrived.
Along mountain tracks, the vanguards were ambushed, many buried under tree logs and stones rolling down by royal guards.
However, there were still thousands of survival-mounted troops arriving in the open plain near Nine Peace Hill.
Royal guards in the battle: the front line held shields and the second line shot arrows at the horses or cavalrymen.
The Royal Guards were ready for a positional battle.
Since the vanguard troops travelled days from the capital to Nine Peace Hill and lost a large number to the ambush attack along the way, the cavalrymen were physically and mentally exhausted.
They were forced to roll back.
Prince Yu’s troops
Prince Yu lost several thousand of his vanguard troops in the skirmish, but his rebel army was still more than forty thousand strong. He confidently led his main force to bear upon the emperor’s camping ground.
Ancient Chinese campsite at night with lights from the fire in woks
When night fell, Prince Yu’s force launched a sneak raid. However, what greeted them was not the royal entourage but bombs.
Mei Changsu had already instructed Royal Guard Commander Meng Zhi to move the entire group to the top of Nine Peace Hill.
Prince Yu lost one-fifth of his troops in the blasts.
However, Prince Yu still had more than 30,000 troops, while the Royal Guards defending Nine Peace Hills had only 3,000 men.
The emperor’s mountain palace on the top of Nine Peace Hill guarded by 3,000 troops
Prince Yu ordered to mount the hills …
On Nine Peace Hill, the defence preparation was in full swing
Royal Guard Commander Meng Zhi, Mei Changsu and his two bodyguards stood in front of the ranks in battle array.
Giant crossbows to shoot stones and flamed arrows into the walled city
Prince Yu’s mechanical engineer force ascended Nine Peace Hill and marched towards the walled palace.
The rebel troops began to climb the city wall…
From the top of the wall, royal guards threw stones, fireballs and fire arrows at the ascending troops.
Of 3,000 royal guards, over 2,000 died in the battle. Eventually, all arrows and stones were gone.
The gate was crashed, and rebel soldiers swarmed in, engaging in close-quarters combat with the remaining guards.
Just at this critical moment, Prince Nihuang led her 1,000 royal tomb protection troops to storm the hill. In her blitz assault from the rear of the rebellion force, she killed the rebellion commander.
The princess informed Prince Yu’s officers and soldiers that they were not going to save the emperor but rebel against the monarch.
Many officers and soldiers laid down their weapons.
When Prince Jing’s relief troops emerged, the military coup was completely crushed.
Peace returned to Nine Peace Hill.
However, when the royal entourage was about to return the capital, a hairy beast, that the authority had tried to capture without success for over a year, was incarcerated.
The fearful creature was known to have behaved like a vampire and survived on sucking fresh blood.
Yet when Mei Changsu noticed the beast’s angry growl, he stumbled towards the cage and stretched his hand to hold the beast’s wrist.
The wild creature’s eyes turned red and its mouth opened wide with white teeth fully exposed.
The shocked guards tried to pull back Mei Changsu, yet the man ordered them to release the beast from the cage and send it to his room.
“It will suck your blood, Sir!” The guards refused to obey the order.
“So what? If he has drunk my blood he wouldn’t be in such a pain. Can’t you tell how hard he tries not to attack me?!”
After feeding the beast with his own blood, Mei Changsu let his guards give it a good bath. Once all the mud was washed away, everyone was surprised to see it was not an animal but a man with long white hair all over his body and face.
From the name on the bracelet worn by the man, Mei Changsu confirmed the “vampire” was no other but General Nie Feng from the Red Flame Army.
However, Nie Feng didn’t know who Mei Changsu was.
“I’m Little Shu,” holding Nie Feng’s hands, Mei Changsu was tearful. “We had 17 generals, and you are the only general survived.”
Nie Feng eventually recognised his young commander-in-chief from his eyes, and the two men cuddled each other tightly for a good cry first time since that fateful night 13 years ago.
Nie Feng survived the flame but contracted the Fire Frozen Toxin after being bitten by the snow insects on the Plum Hill. As a result, he had to sustain his life by drinking fresh blood, with white hair grown all over his body, and his tongue became so rigid that he was no longer able to speak.
It wasn’t easy for Prince Jing’s mother to treat the Plum Hill survivor while trying to conceal Mei Changsu’s true identity from her son. The Prince grew increasingly suspicious of his consultant and kept mucking about observing.
One couldn’t blame Prince Jing for having developed some conspiracy theories, because his mother and Mei Changsu always had so many things to talk about as if they knew each other for at least thirty years.
Prince Jing’s mother realised she needed a talk with her son. So she invited Prince Jing to have a walk with her in a bamboo courtyard and explained to him that Mei Changsu was actually the son of a man who saved her when she was a young girl.
“I must be crazy, Mother. I suspected Mei Changsu was actually Little Shu,” Prince Jing felt dejected. “How could it be possible for Little Shu to be alive still! He’s dead, Mother, I know it, he’s dead.”
“He can still live in your memory.”
“But I don’t want him to live in my memory, Mother. I want him to live in this world!” The prince was so tormented.
Mei Changsu understood there was only one man who could help General Nie Feng. In his studio in the Nine Peace Hill palace, Mei Changsu wrote a letter to his friend, the young CEO of the Langya Terrace Daoist sect, a private-owned information and ranking centre of the time, urging him to go to the capital without delay.
Classic Chinese patio with timber decking as pathways between the rooms
Mei Changsu’s urgent letter for help was sent via express mail by a trained pigeon, and his two bodyguards tried to make sure the communication superhighway was effectively managed.
A traditional Chinese way of greeting the emperor returning to his throne in the capital
The emperor and his royal entourage eventually returned to the capital, greeted at the city gate by government officials and military generals.