Chapter 59 Abysmal: Kidnapped Again!
Two days before the Autumnal Hunt, Situ sent an attendant with a set of carefully prepared saddling equipment to Feng Luodi when Covert Guard Two appeared.
“General, this is big news! The 7th Prince has amassed a troop of sishi into his residence today morning, and they are now heading out of the residence with Zero tailing behind them.”
Situ’s knew something was up when he saw Two’s anxious expression. His voice was steady. “Where did they head off to?”
“The Guan Mountains.” Two’s voice quivered. This is horrible! The entire royal family and almost all the officials of the court are in the mountains, with only a small number of personal household defenders and less than a thousand of the Imperial Army! With such a large amount of sishi…
“If he’s only sending in his sishi, his target isn’t going to be the Emperor.” Situ realised the gravity of the situation. “And the person only less important than the Emperor is…”
“The Heir.” Two answered.
At the same time, Covert Guard Duo1 entered the room and immediately sounded off.
“General, this is big news! Once Zhao Wu had returned to the emporium, he sent his aides home, closing down the shop. He sat in the yard with all his possessions, sighing to himself. I overheard him saying to himself that the 7th Prince is going to plan something huge – something that will make or break them all. I think there’s something terrible brewing for this year’s Autumnal Hunt!”
He looked up to see Situ and Two looking at him as if he had just said something dumb. He rubbed his head. “Isn’t this big news?”
“Yes it is, but it is essentially the same as my report.” Two sighed. “It’s a pity that they are so careful with their actions. That’s the extent of what we’re able to find so far.”
“Duo, go back and keep your eyes on Zhao Wu.” Situ quickly commanded.
“Yes, General.” Duo vanished again.
“General, may I ask what this is for?” Two was perplexed.
“Don’t fret. Someone will deliver more concrete news to us.” Situ calmed down and pointed at a chair for Two to sit in.”
They had barely sat comfortably in the chair when the head steward escorted Jiang Moyin into the room. “Situ! I have something important to discuss with you.” Jiang Moyin blurted out urgently the moment he entered the room. He glanced around, saw Two in the corner and quickly turned back to Situ. “I see you’ve already been informed?”
“I wasn’t sure at first. But seeing your urgency, I can confirm my suspicions.” Situ poured a cup of tea for Jiang Moyin.
Jiang Moyin took a few deep breaths. “Something is up with Emerald of Dream Mirrors and the owner.”
“Didn’t you already know about that? I thought you had set someone on them already.”
“You’re right, I had my suspicions for a while now. However, they have been extremely careful with their actions, and I just found out that they are responsible for gathering information on the officials and nobles of the kingdom.”
“Of course. I bet it’s pretty easy to obtain information in a busy place such as a zither parlour.”
Jiang Moyin sighed, and looked at Situ who was visibly unmoved. “Situ, I know that you have a practice of maintaining a neutral position in court. But I really do wish that you can join forces with the Heir this time round.”
He added on. “We intercepted a letter to Dream Mirrors today. You might not know about this yet, but the 7th Prince and his men are planning to assassinate the Heir during the Hunt. The letter was for Dream Mirrors to prepare the information on the underhanded dealings of the officials on the Heir’s side, to be used to blackmail the officials into submission after his death.”
“The Emperor himself would be there at the Autumnal Hunt. It is nigh impossible for them to assassinate the Heir in front of the Emperor.” Situ knew of the abilities of the 7th Prince’s men, but he placed his trust in the decisions of the Emperor.
“But they seem extremely confident that they will succeed this time!” Jiang Moyin looked extremely worried. “The Heir does not wish to expose the fact that he too has amassed followers and men under his wing. I know that the defence perimeters of the Autumnal Hunt is managed jointly by the Chief of the Imperial Army and you; if you will let a portion of the Imperial Army mobilise with our men, the 7th Prince and his men will not succeed.”
“The Emperor has been on the throne for a long time, Moyin. Even if he doesn’t point certain things out, it doesn’t mean that he’s completely ignorant.” Situ sighed.
“Are you saying that the Emperor already knows about the Heir’s underhanded dealings?” Jiang Moyin widened his eyes.
Situ dodged the question, and instead looked at Jiang Moyin. “Moyin, is the Heir today the same man that you had started following those years ago?”
Jiang Moyin hesitated, and Situ continued. “Let’s not talk about them. The safety of the Emperor and all the other officials during the Hunt is my duty, and so is the Heir’s. As for the deployment of the Army, that will be managed by the Chief.”
Jiang Moyin sighed. “I thought that you’d wanted to get rid of the 7th Prince as well.”
Situ did not deny the allegation. “But I have no intention of teaming up with the Heir to do that.”
Jiang Moyin knew that he was not going to get any further with Situ. “I shall take my leave then.”
“Please do.” Situ did not move from his seat.
It was a while before Two spoke up, looking at the emotionless Situ. “General, it might be much easier to get rid of the 7th Prince if we join forces with the Heir as well. Moreover, the Grand Tutor and you are on such good terms…” His voice trailed off. All of the Covert Guard stuck with Situ out of their own free will, choosing to follow Situ’s charisma and personality. Courageous, ruthless, and moral – these qualities that even his foes have used to describe Situ are what makes the Covert Guard determined to be his followers. It wasn’t that Situ refused to help Jiang Moyin, but that he was afraid that Jiang Moyin is already too obsessed with his interactions with the Heir.”
Another of the Covert Guard entered the room. “General, I have uncovered the true identities of the owner of Dream Mirrors and Emerald.”
Two shook his hand. “We already know about that.”
“Oh?” The Guard was surprised. “Nobody else was there when I found out about it – I am sure about that.” He leaned closer to Situ and whispered a few words.
“I see.” Situ nodded. “Now, their trump card might be their undoing instead.”
“My sentiments exactly, and that’s why I quickly came back to report.” The Guard smiled, and looked at Situ. “I will be going to gather more evidence on them.”
“Yes, thank you for your hard work.” Situ nodded.
Standing by the side, Two noticed that Situ’s eyes darkened as he sat deep in thought. Situ’s fingers played with the thumb ring on his left hand unconsciously, and the Guard knew that things were going to be rough for the next few days.
As soon as Jiang Moyin stepped into the antechamber at his residence, a man seated in the honour seat at the table smiled at him.
“Thank you for your hard work, Grand Tutor.”
“My apologies, your Highness. But I’m afraid I bring disappointing news.” Jiang Moyin sat down, and took a cup of tea from the head steward.
The man was the Heir Apparent. Contrary to what was believed, he looked ordinary, much unlike how a man of high importance would have carried himself. Perhaps it was in his nature that made him a considerate man in lieu with Jiang Moyin’s views, a man that had placed the people of the kingdom first and foremost.
“No worries. It was my request that had placed you in a difficult position, Grand Tutor.” The Heir smiled. “The Duke has a history of not aligning himself with any prince, being only loyal to Father and to the people. It would naturally go against his ideals for him to help me this time.”
“Your Highness, do you still intend to get rid of the 7th Prince through assassination?”
“It is a one in a million chance. What’s more, my Seventh Brother was the one who had betrayed me first.” The smile did not leave his face. “Why? Do you think the plan is inappropriate?’
“I have no such intention, your Highness.” Jiang Moyin bowed. “I will go over the plan again before I confer with you.”
“That’s good.” The Heir nodded, satisfied. “It is my honour to have you on my side, Grand Tutor.”
“It is my pleasure, your Highness.”
When Situ emerged from his study again, it was almost evening. He looked around, unable to find the attendant he had sent to the Feng household to deliver the saddle, and was about to send another attendant again when he saw Covert Guard Quattor2 returning to the household urgently with a man on his back.
“What happened to him?” Situ immediately recognised the man as the attendant that he had sent out a couple of hours earlier. However, the man was gravely injured from what looked like a stab wound, and the head steward quickly fetched the physician.
“It is my fault, General.” Quattor knelt on one knee. “He was on your orders to deliver the saddle to the Feng household, but Miss Feng happened to be at Autumnal Ombre, and they returned to the household together. I was on orders to protect Miss Feng, and had quickly taken care of a few men dressed in black who were tailing Miss Feng on her way back home. However, by the time I dealt with them, Miss Feng was nowhere to be found and the attendant was lying on the road in a pool of blood. Please punish me for my mistake, General.”
Covert Guard Quattor was concise, and self-reproachful about the incident.
Situ’s face darkened scarily when he heard that Feng Luodi was nowhere to be found. “Did you interrogate the assailants?”
“I have, but they do not know anything. They were merely hired with silver to follow Miss Feng from behind. I was careless.” Quattor did not stand up from his position. “We can only wait for him to wake up now.”
“Where is the physician! Why isn’t he here yet?” Situ’s voice cracked like a whip throughout the courtyard, fierce and ruthless.
“The physician is here now!” The head steward came hurrying into the courtyard with a physician in tow.
“Put him onto the bed. I can help him regain his senses very quickly.” The physician unclasped the medicinal box he’d carried with him and withdrew a long silver needle3 . He quickly pricked a few acupuncture points on the attendant’s face, and the man woke up in a daze.
“General! It was my fault!” The attendant immediately grabbed Situ’s arm. “Miss Feng was taken by the men!”
“Where did they go? How did they look like?” Situ’s voice was laced with urgency.
“They headed West, but they were all masked. I’m sorry, General!” The attendant struggled to get out of bed, but was quickly restrained by the physician.
Situ ‘s arm slashed through the air, and pointed towards the west. “Withdraw everyone from their assignments and search west. I want every one of you on the job now!”
- The Chinese uses a few numbering systems passed through the ages. In the novel, the authors uses a mishmash between an Arabic numbering system, and two indigenous numbering systems. ↩
- I replaced another one of numbers with pronunciations from the Latin pronunciation. ↩
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acupuncture#History ↩