Chapter 510: Guyue Zhang’an
The capital city was held in Dark Serenity’s hands, roughly at his chest level. At the spot closest to the statue itself was a huge public square paved with limestone slabs, which could accommodate a million people. Ninety-nine stairs led from the square to an altar that had a total of nine hundred and ninety-nine enormous columns carved to resemble dragons.
Only a few hundred thousand people had been permitted to gather below the altar. Among them were swordsages, cultivators from the Administration and Justice Palaces, and county officials. Their robes and uniforms were all in perfect order, but their expressions were those of grief. All of them held black flowers.
The arrival of Xu Qing and Kong Xianglong attracted some attention. People looked over at them with sorrow, conflict, and reminiscence....
They went to the assembled swordsages, who parted to make a path leading to the front of the formation. Xu Qing stopped walking, but Kong Xianglong, his face expressionless, went to the very front, where he bowed his head and stood there unmoving. Xu Qing stayed behind with the Captain. The Captain clasped Xu Qing’s shoulder, and the two of them stood there solemnly.
Everything was quiet. Grief built up in the hundreds of thousands of cultivators, spreading to fill the city, the three palaces, and eventually, all of Sea-Sealing County.
The clouds in the dome of heaven seemed to reflect the grief from below, and rain began to fall. The pitter-patter echoed out across the limestone slabs. No one used their cultivation base to avoid the rainfall. They let it fall on them.
After enough time had passed for an incense stick to burn, a rumbling sound reached their ears. High in the clouds, lightning snaked back and forth. A group of people appeared. Approaching, they entered the square and walked up the stairs.
All of the hundreds of thousands of cultivators bowed their heads.
The group included the highest ranking deputy palace lords of the Swordsage Palace, Administration Palace, and Justice Palace. There were also three middle-aged men who, despite having changed outfits recently, pulsed with baleful auras. They were the commanders-in-chief that the imperial prince had appointed to head the three palaces. Also present was the lieutenant governor, who had a very grim look on his face.
Leading the group was a young man in a yellow robe. He had long black hair that flowed down his back, extremely fair skin, angular features, sword-like eyebrows, and eyes that sparkled as if with starlight. Not only was he unusually good-looking, he also exuded an indescribable sense of nobility. It seemed as if, with him present, heaven and earth would dim. There seemed nothing more natural than for him to walk in front, while others followed behind.
This, of course, was the person who had saved Sea-Sealing County in its moment of crisis. He had suppressed all the evil devils in the county, had brought light to overcast skies, and earned the admiration of countless species. He was the seventh imperial prince! 𝙡𝙞𝙗𝒓𝙚𝓪𝙙.𝒄𝓸𝓶
On this day of memorial in Sea-Sealing County, only he qualified to preside.
As people left and right bowed low, Seventh Prince climbed the stairs to the highest spot on the altar. There he stood, alone. Only he had the right to stand in that spot. From that position, he looked up at the enormous statue of Ancient Emperor Dark Serenity, and his eyes glittered with reverence. After a moment, he got to his knees and kowtowed.
“Oh imperial ancestor, I am Guyue Zhang’an, your 3,915th descendent. I wish you peace and purity!” 
When he kowtowed, the lieutenant governor, the commanders-in-chief, the deputy palace lords, and everyone else bowed from the waist. Further down, the hundreds of thousands of cultivators also bowed respectfully. There was no need for them to kowtow. After Seventh Prince got to his knees, it indicated that no one else qualified to do the same. After kowtowing nine times, Seventh Prince stood back up and looked at the crowd.
Because of the rain, it was difficult to see him clearly. But the statue of Ancient Emperor Dark Serenity behind him was clear for everyone to see, and it created a very somber atmosphere.
A moment passed, and then he spoke with grief in his voice.
“Great winds blow, great tides flow; the flood dragon, totem of torrents; the phoenix reborn in the fire’s glow.
“Today, I hereby submit a memorial to Ancient Emperor Dark Serenity, and a testimonial to Emperor Dark War. We humans, guardians of Sea-Sealing, bringers of peace and serendipity, have safeguarded the County for eight hundred twelve-months, and do yearn for more than ten continued sixty-year cycles of peace and security.
“Countless among our heroes have met their end, but three stand foremost among them.
“The palace lord of the Administration Palace was the epitome of scholarly wisdom and magnanimity. The palace lord of the Justice Palace was the personification of humility and courage. The palace lord of the Swordsage Palace was the paragon of loyalty and responsibility.
“The souls of the Sea-Sealing heroes provoke awe, thereby dimming the light of stars and moon. As the millennia pass in our lands, ancestors come and go. There are times of honor and times of disgrace. There are ups and there are downs. 𝑙𝒾𝒷𝘳𝑒𝑎𝒹.𝑐𝑜𝓂
“We grieve at the decline of heaven and earth. We mourn when stars fall in the blue sky. The fallen have gone, but the physical relics linger; when recalling their visages, tears of sorrow pour out. The anguish born therein pushes us beyond the point of self-control.”
Seventh Prince’s words up to this point were rife with sorrow, and his expression was downcast. He stopped speaking for a moment. Everyone in the crowd felt deeply sorrowful, and it was even possible to hear the sounds of weeping.
“However, the flame of humanity will never be extinguished! Not even gods can suppress the human heart! I hereby solemnly swear to petition our emperor to enshrine the souls of the fallen heroes, and erect a monument to them, before which incense will burn from generation to generation!
“We are a species whose ancient ancestors shone like the stars. And among our descendants will be generations of heroes. The universe is in constant motion, which embodies the spirit of eternal self-improvement. The cosmos is forgiving, which reinforces the virtue of magnanimity.
“Our respected ancestors, venerated by the masses, shall have temples erected in their names, as we join forces to establish lofty splendor. Let it be made clear to future generations that none of this will be forgotten. Not ever!”
As Seventh Prince’s mournful speech echoed out, the bells in all the numerous sects through the various prefectures of Sea-Sealing County tolled loudly.
The county grieved as one.
Down beneath the capital city, the tallest sword pavilion of all, which had belonged to Palace Lord Kong, crumbled into ashes which drifted out across the county.
Uncontrolled weeping could be heard within the crowd of hundreds of thousands of cultivators, and their tears mixed with the rain to fall to the ground.
Xu Qing was having trouble seeing clearly. It was hard to say whether it was because of the anguish in his heart or the blur caused by the rain. Either way, he felt like he could almost see Palace Lord Kong standing in front of him, tall and mighty. Majestic. After the death of the governor, he had become the leader of Sea-Sealing County.
As emotions swept through Xu Qing, he suddenly recalled something Arch-Immortal Plumdark had said.
“Xu Qing, maybe when you develop a bit of admiration for the organization and the people in it, you’ll eventually turn that admiration into respect. And when that happens, you’ll have figured things out.” 
Back then, Xu Qing had been a bit confused by that advice. After all, he hadn’t really thought of himself as truly being a swordsage. But now, as he stood there in the rain, his heart hurting, he suddenly felt deep respect.
Sadly, Palace Lord Kong wasn’t standing there in the rain. He existed only in Xu Qing’s memories. And now they were as far apart from each other as heaven was from earth. The only thing left behind was that command medallion. After Palace Lord Kong died and Seventh Prince took command of the Swordsage Palace, all of the authority in that medallion had been taken away. However, it still contained the right to use the county capital’s taboo treasure a single time.
After a long, mournful silence, Seventh Prince spoke again. This time, there was no grief in his voice. Instead, he spoke with unwavering determination, laced with killing intent, that caused thunder to rumble in the sky, and provoked a vicious growl from the four-clawed golden dragon.
“Let all of Sea-Sealing County be made aware that we have determined the identity of the culprit responsible for the death of the governor, the disastrous war, the fall of the three palace lords, and the blood of all our heroes!”
Xu Qing looked up.
“Yao Tianyan, a descendant of Heavenly Marquis Yao, has broken our hearts! Throughout the history of Sea-Sealing County, he has always shielded the nonhumans. And now, he has colluded with the Holytides to assassinate the governor, drag our county into the flames of war, betray humanity, and bring death to countless Sea-Sealing humans!
“Our investigation further confirmed that he was largely responsible for the collapse of the northern front. Due to the horrendous nature of his crimes, I hereby issue a county-wide arrest warrant for this traitorous Yao Tianyan. I will also submit a petition to the emperor to extend that warrant to all human territories!”
An immense swell of rage erupted from the hundreds of thousands of cultivators. And fury rose from the countless commoners in the county capital who heard the words. There had been plenty of people over the years who didn’t approve of Marquis Yao. People cursed him on just about a constant basis. Not only had he shielded nonhumans over and over again, he had even allowed members of his clan to marry nonhumans. It seemed like little more than working hand-in-glove with the enemy, which was why many people cursed the Yao Clan as being worse than dogs or pigs. They were traitors against humanity, devoid of conscience, people who bent the knee to outsiders. Such cursing had been common in the past eight hundred years.
The common view was that Marquis Yao thought that nonhumans were worth more, and that his reputation among nonhumans was more important. In other words, humans weren’t very important. Such thoughts had weighed on the minds of cultivators for eight hundred years.
When Xu Qing arrived at the county capital, he had heard countless instances in which people cursed Marquis Yao in private.
As far as Xu Qing could tell, it made perfect sense that Marquis Yao was the traitor! In fact, back when the governor died, there was a lot of talk about Marquis Yao being the biggest suspect.
Right now, the eyes of the cultivators from the three palaces were incomparably bloodshot. In the blink of an eye, their killing intent reached unheard-of levels. For the swordsages, the death of their palace lord was the source of unending pain in their hearts, and all of them now felt it was their most important mission to avenge his death.
“Kill Marquis Yao!”
“Get revenge for the palace lords!”
“Avenge the governor!”
“Get revenge for the countless sons of Sea-Sealing County who sacrificed their lives in the war!!”
“The Yao Clan should be exterminated!”
Down below, the imperial garrison surged with killing intent. The fury of the officers and the soldiers was so intense it shoved aside the rain!
Yao Yunhui was in the crowd, trembling, her eyes full of grief. People all around her glared at her, and backed away from her as if she were dirty. She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out.
Zhang Siyun was in a similar situation. Moments later, both of them were escorted away by imperial troops.
Atop the altar, Seventh Prince noticed the movement below. He clearly saw what was happening, and when he looked at Zhang Siyun, his eyes glittered briefly.
Meanwhile, in Yao Mansion, Marquis Yao’s younger sister Yao Feihe wept openly, her tears falling onto her garment, soaking it and turning it dark. 
“Brother... was it worth it?”
She closed her eyes as a crashing sound reached her ears. The forces sent by Seventh Prince had arrived to arrest everyone, including the elderly and the children. Yao Feihe didn’t fight back as she was taken captive. As the prisoners were led out of Yao Mansion, many of the commoners looked on with disdain, calling out curses and demanding blood be spilled.
Li Shitao was off in the distance. She had arrived too late to help, and could only stand there helplessly, her expression one of fury. 
The anger burning in the county capital at the moment was more than enough to drown out all other sounds.
1. Guyue Zhang’an. Guyue is a compound surname invented by the author. Gu means “ancient.” This is the same character from things like Revered Ancient and Ancient Emperor. Yue is a character with many meanings. It can mean “exceed, climb over, surpass.” But it’s also commonly associated with peoples and states in south China or South Asia in general. Zhang also has many meanings, including “chapter, structure, rules, seal, stamp, badge, medal, order.” An means “prison, jail” as well as “a mythological animal mentioned in ancient legends whose image was put on prison gates.” Madam Deathblade says the surname Guyue gives a feeling of ancientness, while the given name Zhang’an sounds vicious and even animalistic. ?
2. Arch-Immortal Plumdark said that to Xu Qing in chapter 414. ?
3. Yao Feihe was introduced in chapter 428. ?
4. Li Shitao was introduced in the same chapter as Yao Feihe was introduced in, 428. She appeared briefly in chapter 475. ?
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