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This was the longest and most extensive rain recorded in the history of mankind. It lasted from midsummer all the way until late autumn and was beyond everyone's imagination. Rain fell from above incessantly, falling on the mountains, rivers and lakes. After being washed and soaked by rain, cliffs began to collapse, state highways were destroyed, riverbanks collapsed and floods became rampant.
Such a serious natural disaster was enough to make the whole world feel despondent. Fortunately, the West-Hill Divine Palace and the royal families of various countries quickly launched disaster relief measures. Mankind once again showed off their vitality and endurance in the face of a serious natural disaster. Instead of being defeated, they showed calm acceptance and fought hard.
Heavy rain also fell on the Wilderness. The lands were muddy and soft, so much that it was extremely difficult to walk. Herdsmen were unable to let their herd graze and could only hide in their tents. Even the Horse Gang had all retreated into the forests by the Shubi Lake, sighing at the incessant rain.
After the end of the war on the Wilderness, the Tang Army withdrew in two groups. The Northeast Border Military reached Tuyang City in the south before the rain started. The Northern Military Camp cavalry following the imperial procession stopped in Helan City for a period of time, and then, was forced to stay due to the heavy rain that would not end.
Although the empire did not hesitate to invest in human and material resources for centuries, Helan city was still far away and deep in the Wilderness. As such, construction was limited. Tens of thousands soldiers of the Northern Military Camp cavalry filled their camps and residences in the cities, and still, a large portion of them was forced to stay in the city tower.
The tower rose high into the cliff wall, and when night fell, the cold wind would pa.s.s through it. The temperature during the transition from summer to autumn should have been well-suited for camping, but the long rain caused autumn to arrive early in the Wilderness. The temperatures fell suddenly, and Helan's general, Han Qing, worried as he tried to keep the Northern Military Camp cavalry warm.
What was most worrying, continued to be their food supply.
Helan city had plenty of grain in its reserves, but there were tens of thousands from the Tang Army and countless war horses. The sudden increase in pressure could have been borne over a short period of time. But if the rain continued and grains could not be transported from the south, and they could not leave, then Helan City would face the danger of a food shortage.
The various problems and troubles came together to form various dangers. However, the commander of the Northern Military Camp cavalry and General Han Qing did not dare to consult the Emperor, as they should, and did not dare to alert the Empress nor Master Huang Yang.
Because the Emperor was ill. He was gravely ill.
The Tang Emperor, Li Zhongyi, was a man who valued loyalty and relationships. However, this did not mean that he was corrupt. He was the most powerful general in the world when he was the prince of Tang. Though he had kept a low profile in the twenty years after ascending the dragon throne, there was no one who would dare to underestimate him.
To the Emperors and leaders of the South Jin Kingdom, the Yuelun Kingdom, the Kingdoms of Yan, Qi, Song and Chen, the Tang Emperor was definitely the one they hoped would die the most. There were many who secretly prayed for an incurable disease to befall him or spouted hopes that he would die of a serious illness.
In fact, not many people knew that Li Zhongyi had contracted an illness many years ago. The illness was serious and had hounded him, penetrating his organs and bones and could not be cured.
The Headmaster had treated the Emperor. Perhaps the illness was too troublesome, or perhaps the Headmaster had seen the fate that awaited the Emperor past the illness; he had only written a prescription and did not make use of his powers to treat him.
The illness dragged on until the 18th autumn of the Tianqi era. With the arrival of the Giant Golden Dragon in the human realm, the incessant rain, and a flying arrow, the illness flared.
The Emperor leaned against the couch, his face deathly pale. He held a handkerchief spotted with blood in his hands.
The Queen's head was hung low and she did not speak. She rubbed his chest gently, trying to make him more comfortable.
"Many have died in Chang'an these years and many who had accompanied my father, or even my grandfather, have left before me. Even the abbey dean has left us."
"And now, I can't hold on anymore."
The Emperor held her hand and said, "The Heavens want to end the Tang Empire. We have sinned by not fighting... Even so, I do not fear because I firmly believe that the Tang Empire will have the last victory."
Hot tears streamed from the Empress's eyes. The Emperor was holding her hands tightly, so her tears splashed onto the two hands that held on tightly.
"I am the most powerful man on earth, and I married the woman I love most. In the end, I will die on this journey where war is waged against the countries around us. I truly have no regrets in my life, so don't be sad,"
Said the Emperor.
The Empress looked up and said with a tear-stained face, "But I have many regrets. I have not yet seen how you'd look like in your old age. You have not seen little Six grow up. I regret listening to the sect orders to come to Chang'an and seduce, lie, and hurt you so that you'd end up in this situation."
The Emperor smiled wanly, "You seduced me, lied to me, and hurt me, but you still fell in love with me."
The Empress finally smiled through her tears when she heard that. She asked, "Have you ever blamed me?"
"I'd be lying if I said that I have never blamed you. After all, who wouldn't want to live longer?"
The Emperor reached out to wipe the tears from her cheeks. He said, "But when I think about it, the war between us ended with my victory. These injuries are a testament to my glory."
The Empress hugged him softly and muttered, "I had lost from the moment I saw you."
The Emperor laughed in satisfaction. He had fought many battles, large and small, but this was the only one he remembered best and its ending the one he deemed most important.
"If I were not the Emperor, I would have been a student of the Academy. Now that I think of it, that life would have been more interesting. But I'll still treat the Headmaster as my teacher."
The Emperor smiled tiredly and looked at her. He said, "Now that teacher is working in the Heavens, we still have work to do in the mortal realm. Do you know what to do after I leave?"
The Empress said, "Rest a.s.sured, Your Majesty. I know what to do."
The Emperor replied, "I had little Six study under Mr. First so that he'd learn compa.s.sion and love. If those two don't mess things up, then... let them live."
The Empress no longer shed tears and said calmly, "I will do this well."
"Then I can rest a.s.sured."
The Emperor said before slowly closing his eyes.
Master Huang Yang entered the room.
The Empress looked at the Emperor who looked as if he were sleeping soundly. After a long time, she took the prayer beads on her wrists off and wrapped them around his wrist, then placed a light kiss on his forehead.
Master Huang Yang placed his hands together.
Moments later, a chant started in the room.
It was from the Reincarnation Scriptures.
It was also raining in Chang'an.
The rain was heavy and interspersed with claps of thunder. Lightning struck, lighting up the quiet, empty palace pure white. Flames fluttered, even though they were covered.
If there were no covers, perhaps those candle lights might have already been extinguished.
Li Yu sat behind a desk, looking at the beautiful candlestand that was like a coral beside the pillar. She seemed distracted.
Her black hair was damp, as was her palace skirt. She must have gone out in the rain earlier.
Her face was slightly pale, but it wasn't because she was afraid of the lightning and thunderstorm. She did not fear because she felt that what she had done was right, and even in the dark room in the palace, she did not feel guilty.
Watching the rain outside the palace, two tracks of tears fell from the corners of her eyes, sliding along her pale face and landing on the memorial to the throne which was on the desk, wetting a line of words on the memorial.
Li Yu came back to her senses and ordered a eunuch to bring rough paper to clean the traces of water from the memorial to the throne. Then, she wiped the tears off her face and focused intently on the memorial.
The memorial to the throne was very important. It detailed the flood situation in various counties.
She took up a brush and began to read the memorial to the throne.
Guarding the embankments, storing water, disaster relief, epidemic prevention, mobilizing military forces, and keeping an eye on those riders from the Eastern Wilderness.
The Tang Empire was very large and there were many things to do. She was long used to it and handled them in good order. As she continued to examine the memorials and approved them, her expression grew calmer and calmer and seemed extremely determined.
Late at night, after a busy day of dealing with government affairs, Li Yu put on a large coat and left without bringing any eunuchs or palace maids with her. She left the palace under the heavy protection of the Yulin Royal Guards and her bodyguards.
She was not headed somewhere far, but just to the Southern Gate Temple across the palace square.
The Southern Gate Temple was enveloped in rain and seemed especially quiet.
Li Yu entered the Taoist temple. Deep inside the temple, on the dark wooden floors was a mattress. On the mattress, was a lighted lamp that illuminated the gaunt haggard face of the Tang Nation Master, Li Qingshan.
She walked up to Li Qingshan and slowly knelt. She said with a slightly trembling voice, "My father, has departed."
Li Qingshan slowly closed his eyes and then opened them again. There was no shock in his eyes, but only sorrow.
In the past century and for the second time in months, Helan City used up two talisman arrays consecutively to send messages over thousands of miles.
The first time was because of the black horse carriage.
The second time was to send news of the Emperor's pa.s.sing back to Chang'an.
Only a few people in Chang'an knew of this news. Li Yu, with the help of the Southern Gate Temple, had managed to keep this a secret. When she saw Li Qingshan, the Nation Master's expression, she knew that he had already found out. Since she had only managed to keep this a secret with the help of the temple, she could not hide it from the temple's abbey dean.
Li Qingshan looked at the kneeling princess and asked weakly, "What are you going to do?"
Li Yu said, "I want to look at the edict."
The edict that announced the succession of the Tang royal throne was not in the palace, but in the Southern Gate Temple!
Li Qingshan said, "According to the laws of the Tang Empire, the edict should be announced before all officials."
Li Yu lowered her head and looked at her soaked skirts. She said, "The officials still do not know."
Li Qingshan said, "They'll eventually find out."
Li Yu said, "I do not intend to hide the fact of my father's pa.s.sing for a long time. I will inform the various sectors later."
Li Qingshan asked, "Then why did Your Highness come here earlier than expected?"
After a long silence, Li Yu said, "Because... I'm worried."
Li Qingshan fell into a long silence.
Li Yu's head hung even lower. Drops of water dripped from her black hair.
Her figure fell along with the droplet, and her forehead met the dark black floors.