A clash of powerful armies over a bloodstained battlefield… The twelve envoys practically shut their eyes at the same time. Some of them clenched their fists tightly, while others shook their legs impatiently. The most peculiar part about this piece was how it kept growing and growing into the climax of the song, and then everything suddenly became soft and slow… almost as though the only sights and sounds remaining on the battlefield were discarded iron armaments scattered everywhere across the blood stained earth.
Clashing iron and bloodshed were synonymous with war, while battlefields saw endless tussles between life and death, and a permanent departure of those who were defeated. It was merciless, and completely devoid of human emotion.
Yet the soft vigor in the music was reminiscent of the start of the song, almost as though they had come full circle. Out of the death and destruction came new life, like a blossoming spider lily in the desolate battleground.
Chang Yuchun’s throat tightened up. The emotions buried in the depths of his heart were roiling together with the music, like an active volcano that was ready to erupt at the moment’s notice. He was reminded of the grand battle which led to the defeat of the Yuan capital, where countless unsung heroes fought bravely, spilling copious amounts of blood, both theirs and their enemy’s. Despite the towering walls that protected the capital, everyone on his side fought with vigor, because they knew that this was the final battle that would topple the Mongol Yuan empire.
He shut his eyes, and his eyelids twitched a little. How many years has it been since I was last reminded of these things? The gripping tunes of the piece had dragged out these memories from the deepest recesses of his heart, and they were now so fresh on the forefront of his mind that he could even see the faces of every general that charged valiantly into battle back then.
He could recall the vast formation of catapults and trebuchets arrayed against the capital, hurling massive stones that crashed into the walls and fell to the ground like the heavy drum beats in the music. Countless troops rushed up the tattered walls, clashing courageously against its garrison. The capital was prosperous, because it represented the wealth of the Cathayan bloodline that had been wrested from them by the Yuan empire. Arrows rained down like a swarm of locusts, while soldiers flooded every corner of the battlefield, stepping and fighting over the corpses of those who went before them.
Some soldiers were young, while others were old. They fought under the banner of famous generals on both sides, charging again and again in an endless barrage of waves against the capital.
And when the most magnificent section of the music started to play, Chang Yuchun’s eyes snapped open, almost as though he saw… the gates of the capital finally being breached. Countless allied banners led the charge into the inner sanctum of Yan capital with valiant battle cries as the tides of war finally leaned in their favour. Victory was nigh!
Just like how iron could be soft under the right conditions, so, too, was his heart gradually mellowing to the music.
Back then… wasn’t I called a national hero of the people?
And now… if I stood on Liu Yu’s side, wouldn’t that be tantamount to betraying the Cathayan underworld?
His throat felt parched and sore. And he was by no means the only one experiencing these emotions. Just then, the music roared into its climax, like a cataclysmic eruption that blew straight past the sea of clouds, with molten lava trickling slowly down the broken rivers, washing away their roiling emotions in an instant. Their blood boiled as they basked in the music with bated breaths.
Then, as the music escalated to its breaking point, it suddenly exploded with a deafening silence. And just like that, the music ended abruptly, and the conductor turned around and bowed deeply.
Clap, clap, clap… After a long time, the applause of a single man echoed through the entire auditorium.
It was Liu Yu.
Following that, the rest of the feudal officials also slowly joined in with a series of gentle applause. On the other hand, the Yin spirits that were attending to each of them applauded desperately with scrunched up expressions on their faces. If ghosts could cry, they would most certainly be bawling in tears right now.
“Haa--...” Liu Yu shut his eyes and massaged his temples. His heart… was surprisingly pumped up as a result of this single majestic tune. More than anything, he felt conflicted and confused, because this was something that he had never experienced before!
The piece that was just played was one of the classic, epic battle songs. The immersive experience of a live orchestral performance was something completely different to the listening of music on one’s computer at home. The grandeur and sobriety of such live performances immediately transported him to a scenic place where he was surrounded on all sides by rolling mountain ranges, stirring his heart with the sensation that the world was his oyster. The boiling blood and the creeping goosebumps on his skin only subsided slightly when the piece finally ended.
He was no longer fixated on postulating about what QIn Ye was trying to do. Instead, what replaced his initial fixation was now an intent curiosity of what the next piece to be played was going to be like. He wanted to relive the kind of feeling he got from the music earlier… especially since he was briefly reminded of the legendary, magnificent sight of his own banner flying high over most of Cathay’s lands.
He also saw the image of himself charging valiantly into battle, despite being heavily outnumbered by the enemy forces.
Qin Ye stood on the second floor stage, while Wang Chenghao stood right next to him. Qin Ye tapped his fingers gently against the guard rails. He was certain that the adrenal glands of all the feudal officials below were already soaring, because he, too, felt exactly the same thing. He was filled with a sense of rash impulsiveness, as though he wanted to do something.
Had he been alone at home right now, such a feeling would quickly subside in no time. Unfortunately… that clearly wasn’t the case!
What he was doing now was akin to stacking firewood.
His plan was clear - once everything was set up, he would finally give these feudal officials the opportunity to satiate that impulsiveness of theirs and do ‘something’. He would ignite the firewood and send it blazing in a great conflagration.
For instance… he would allow them the opportunity to lose their sanity over the New Tigerform Battle Armor. After all, something like that… might just spell the difference of a billion Yin spirit stones in price!
“‘Victory’ is just the beginning. I won’t give them a chance to catch their breaths at all. The next song, ‘Star Sky’, will stir their emotions to greater heights, layer by layer, until… they are finally ready for the debut of the New Tigerform Battle Armor.” He licked his lips and looked down on the feudal officials like a demonic presence, “Psychology is the most important thing when it comes to such advanced marketing. Otherwise… do you think luxury goods would even sell in the first place?”
Three minutes later, another conductor stood up and bowed deeply to the audience.
This time, a sparse applause rang out below before the performance began. That said, it was only sparse because of the number of people in the auditorium. Nevertheless, each and every member of the audience was clapping right now.
They were expectant. Even though they had time and again reminded themselves that something was up with the sequence of events tonight, and even turned their mind to the fact that Qin Ye may well be looking to unsheathe his sword over the course of the night… this was undoubtedly still a blade that they had never seen before.
After all, the swords as they traditionally knew it were all cold, gleaming edges, forged in fire and designed to draw blood.
When had they ever seen a blade as soft as this?
And where was the edge?
There was none.
And where was the pointed tip?
There was also none.
Since that was the case, why not indulge themselves for once and wander through the vast oceans of music for the night?
The conductor raised his hands, and then swung it down with a powerful motion.
Dang dang dang dang… dang dang dang dang dang! Dang dang dang dang… dang dang dang dang dang!
Unlike ‘Victory’, ‘Star Sky’ exploded with an intense rush of music right from the beginning, almost as though it picked up from where ‘Victory’ left off.
Bass, piano, cello, violin, horn, electric guitars, and other string instruments burst into chorus at the same time, and the lingering feeling of clashing iron and bloodshed swamped right back in an instant like a tsunami.
Boom boom boom! Every note played seemed to tug at the nerves of the twelve envoys. If the earlier piece was merely an appetizer, then the present piece could truly be called the apex of the night! The feudal officials gasped and watched with bated breath, indulging in electrifying ecstasy of music as it sent a current of pleasure washing right through their hearts.
The choir exploded into song, adding an ethereal flavour to the piece. The quick tempo of the piece caused Chaghan to experience flashbacks. He recalled how the Mongol empire covered a vast distance of ten thousand miles like a ferocious tiger, with his Iron Stupa forces stampeding through the grasslands, sweeping the Eastern Continent and Europa in its glory days. The Song Dynasty was overthrown, and a new era was established.
Everything appeared surreal, so much so that he could no longer distinguish reality from the vivid memories that were being drawn out. He could even hear the sound of the endless waves of stomping hooves rushing in like a torrential tide. It was almost as though he had been brought right back to the glory days at the peak of his military campaign.
Wave after wave of goosebumps crept all over his skin, paralleling the imagery he was seeing at the forefront of his mind. His heart thumped wildly. Star Sky. In that very moment, he felt as though he were standing at the top of the mountain, gazing at the endless constellations in the sky. Everything was grand and magnificent.
The imagery of clanging irons was nothing compared to the valiant rush of ten thousand horses in formation, just like the time when he led his Iron Stupa into the Central Plains of Cathay. But, just then, the piece flourished into a lyrical refrain that carried deep undertones of stifling sorrow. It was almost as though the piece were foreshadowing the ephemeral glories of the Mongol Empire. It was almost as though the facade of their prosperity were being torn away, revealing the deep, blinding wounds that lay within.
Dang dang dang dang… dang dang dang dang dang! The riff that they were now all too familiar with resounded through the auditorium, but it represented an extension of the stifling sorrow from the lyrical refrain. The mind-numbing tones buzzed in the minds of the feudal officials, rousing the deepest emotions tied to the tragedies of war. It was heavy and sad, yet it all the more amplified the crowning achievements of their lives.
As they continued to immerse themselves in the marvelous tunes, a new flute-like instrument took over the descant parts of the orchestral piece, each note perfectly articulated. It was played in such harmony to the piece that it seemed to flow naturally, barely noticeable to the untrained ears. However, Chaghan heard each note of it with pristine clarity. The wistful cries of the flute represented the cries of the woman waiting for him back in the golden tent. It was the last smile which he had ever seen in life. His thoughts drew far and distant, almost as though he were drifting through the endless galaxies of stars in the skies.
Legend had it that every star in the sky represented a valiant warrior that died in battle and ascended to the heavens. Was he… one of them?
The splendid waves of the piece washed over them repeatedly, signifying the grand crescendo into the climax of the song. It stirred their emotions so much that they simply wanted to cry out with great bravado. The lyrical tunes caused their blood to boil with strength and vigor. It even pricked directly at their hearts, agitating it with a ticklish yet painful sensation as the glorious climax of the song charged over like a vast array of chariots!
Dang… Dang! When the last note fell, the conductor bowed gracefully. Chaghan lifted his hands slowly, exhaled heavily, and with his eyes still shut, he began to applaud loudly with all his might.
It was almost as though he were venting every bit of that stifling feeling in his heart.
How glorious had his campaign in life been… and to think that he would be relegated to be the mere Lord of the Bamboo Region!
He wanted to do something about it. He needed to do something about it! He needed change!
When he opened his eyes once more, they were bloodshot, and his chest heaved and fell heavily as he fervently suppressed the surging emotions that were bursting from his heart. The entire auditorium was filled with resounding applause.
But the third piece didn’t even give them a chance for a breather.
The style of the third piece was once again completely different from the earlier two pieces. If one were to say that the previous pieces were like clashing iron and rushing horses, then this piece could only be said to represent the howling winds and the rushing waves.
Whoosh… whoosh! The howling winds at the start of the song was simple, but effective. Nonetheless, the trombone section soon blared to make their presence known, followed closely by an Aegyptian chant and the heavy strokes of the piano. Ban Chao instantly lifted his head and turned to look at the main stage with an intent gaze.
None of the twelve envoys were weaklings.
Each and every single one of them were famous generals in their own rights, all of whom had multitudes of glorious conquests under their belts that earned them a heroic record in the annals of history.
Ban Dingyuan was known for administrating the Western Regions. This was exactly what earned him his place as one of the twelve envoys.
Unfortunately, his fiefdom was located in the south.
The Western Region… is a place that is close to my heart. Who could’ve thought that I would one day hear their music in death, and in Hell to boot?
Surprisingly, the piano timbre reminded him of the striking cultural differences that swept him off his feet when he was first sent to the Western Region in the past.
The piece wasn’t as forceful as the previous two songs. But, like the two songs before, it sent waves of goosebumps creeping across the skins of the audience. He saw the thirty-six valiant warriors who had ridden with him to the Western Regions in the past. One by one, these thirty-six people slaughtered their way through the Western Regions, taking down various strongholds for the glory of the Cathayan empire.
They rode camels through the desert and watched heron eagles soaring across the vast oases and wolves tracking down their prey on the shadows of the grasslands. Everything was a new brand new sight and sound to behold. These images surfaced, one by one, at the forefront of his mind once more. He sighed gently, and then slowly shut his eyes.
It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be reminded of these things.
Rather, it was simply that the music had caused a raging inferno to consume his entire heart.
He, too, felt the innate urge to do something right now. Raise a sword and sing at the top of my voice? Perhaps… but… that wouldn’t seem to satisfy this thirst of mine.
He had already lived for centuries in death. The price of such growth and maturity was hypocrisy. After all, few people would feel comfortable revealing their true self as they grew older. Everyone cared about fame, reputation, status and success.
When the final note fell on the chorus of the song, the pianist on stage shut his eyes, enjoying the lingering reverberations of the last chord that was played. He was equally moved by the live performance of this magnificent piece… at least until the roaring applause below roused him from his stupor.
“Not bad.” A hoarse voice rang out, followed closely by a green light that shot right onto the stage. The pianist took a look at it, only to realize that there was a sparkling piece of emerald glistening on the stage, without a single trace of impurity on it.
“This is Lord Ban’s reward to you.” The attendant Yin spirit beside Ban Chao stood up and spoke with a high-pitched voice.
Good music touches the soul.
This was by no means a laughing matter.
They could no longer recall the reason for which they were here. More importantly, they had already shelved at the back of their minds the fact that… they were still in the lands of the new Hell. In fact, they had already long forgotten the mental notes to be prepared and guarded against any tricks that Qin Ye was to pull. Three consecutive feverish songs had stirred their souls so much that they were suddenly filled with intense patriotism. It tugged hard at their heartstrings and caused them to recall the glory days of their lives which they had long forgotten now.
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