Let Me Pursue You – Chapter 73
Early the next morning, the news that Diannan Prince was assassinated in the north of Jiannan Province shook the capital. It was said that the assassins were fierce, and there were hundreds of them. While Diannan Prince was facing the enemy, in order to protect the princess who were being sneakily attacked, he was heavily injured and his life was in danger. But fortunately, he was supported by his entourage all the way, and he was able to escape the enemy.
This was a plan agreed upon by Yuan Ci Xian, Zheng Zhuo and Xu Shan in advance. When she got the news, she was naturally calm, but she also knew in her heart that to make the play realistic, her father would inevitably suffer superficial wound, so the so-called “heavily injured” was not just facade.
She immediately pretended to be panicked and rushed to the palace, begging the emperor for help. She performed a play in Zichen Palace with tears in her eyes, so that Emperor Huining, who was still bewildered, had to quickly issue an order to put the whole Jiannan Province under martial law and strengthened the patrols. At the same time, officials and soldiers from surrounding prefectures and counties were sent to escort Yuan Yi Zhi and his wife to the south.
At this point, Ping Prince’s strategy was self-defeating, and Zheng Zhuo barely managed to win a round after injuring Lu Shi Qing and Cai He one after another.
When Yuan Ci Xian performed passionately in Zichen Palace, Lu Shi Qing accompanied the emperor on the side. Emperor Huining comforted her a few words, but seeing that it was of no use, he simply handed her over to him and told the young couple to go by themselves.
Ping Prince had already set off for Huainan early in the morning, and Lu Shi Qing’s crisis could be considered to be temporarily resolved. He originally thought that maybe he could confess his identity to Yuan Ci Xian as soon as possible, but unexpectedly she still was playing the act after she came out of the palace, looking very worried for Yuan Yi Zhi, and even he couldn’t tell the truth.
With his heart blocked, he didn’t couldn’t say anything, pretended not to know, and carefully analyzed the possible identities of those assassins with her. Yuan Ci Xian also nodded like a pounding garlic, expressing agreement with his opinion from time to time.
The two put on their acting skills all the way back to Shengye Lane, Yuan Ci Xian said goodbye to him at the gate of Yuan Mansion, and then hurried back to the study in her courtyard. Jian Zhi was waiting for her there.
There was basically nothing to worry about on her father’s side, but there was something weighing her mind since yesterday, and she urgently needed an answer.
Near Hanliang Palace yesterday, Ping Prince mentioned Minister Cai to her. She had no relationship with Cai He, so she was subconsciously taken aback at the time, but she quickly sensed Ping Prince’s intention to pry. Dealing with this kind of old and cunning politician, even when shaking his beard there might be deep meaning behind it, not to mention when one particular person came from his mouth.
This morning when Prince Ping left the capital, a lot of spies in Chang’an had also withdrew. Seeing that the situation was safe, she sent Jian Zhi out to inquire about it. Now it seemed there was a result.
Seeing her return, Jian Zhi hurriedly stepped forward and said, “Young lady, there are a lot of information about this Minister Cai, but there are a few that you should be interested in.” She listed the important points, “This person is thirty-one years old, came from ordinary background, his parents died early, originally served in the local government, and only entered the capital as an official four years ago.”
Yuan Ci Xian listened to this, and really froze.
This introductory statement was a bit familiar, except for the fact that he was an official, the rest could be roughly consistent with Xu Shan.
She continued to ask: “Have you found anything else?”
Picking Zhi nodded: “This maid has been squatting near Cai Mansion all morning. During this time, this maid saw Minister Cai go out once, and noticed that the palm of his right hand was bandaged. He seems to have suffered a deep injury.”
Yuan Ci Xian slowly blinked three times, in an instant a scene flashed through her mind.
On the top of the cliff during the Flower Festival, when Xu Shan was secretly attacked, he had a chance to block the blade with his hand, but after he reached out his right hand, he stopped abruptly halfway, and that’s why he suffered the injury.
She did find it strange at the time, but seeing that he was seriously injured and unconscious later, naturally it was impossible to bother him with such meaningless questions, and only thought he was miscalculated. Hearing what Jian Zhi said now, she became suspicious again.
She suddenly had an incredible idea: Xu Shan might be more than Xu Shan.
It’s not that he couldn’t stop this knife, but that he shouldn’t. Because in addition to the commoner advisor, he had another identity. Once he was stabbed in the palm of his hand, leaving a wound in such an obvious place, his identity would be exposed. And this was also the reason why the assassin sent by Ping Prince desperately stabbed the knife even though he knew he couldn’t kill him—he wanted to pull him out of the shadows.
But Xu Shan was definitely not this Cai He. She saw with her own eyes that the dagger was stuck in his chest instead of his palm. So with his right hand injured, Minister Cai, who matched Xu Shan’s age, background, and timing of entering the capital, could only be his substitute, a fake bait thrown by Zheng Zhuo to Ping Prince.
So, thinking about it the other way around, since Ping Prince believed that Cai He was Xu Shan, it showed that he had originally placed the object of his suspicion inside the court. In other words, Xu Shan was most likely an official in the court.
Thinking of this, Yuan Ci Xian couldn’t help but widen her eyes, as if she was a little dizzy from shock, held on the edge of the table to support herself.
Her head spun quickly, constantly thinking about the encounters with Xu Shan in the past six months, and finally stopped her thoughts on the night when he came to Yuan Mansion for a banquet and she pretended to be drunk and lifted his mask.
A large part of the reason why she dispelled her suspicion and wariness against him was because she saw the mottled face behind his mask that night. But now looking back and re-examine, she found that there was actually a loophole in this matter—that was, she gave him time to hide his true face.
She underestimated Xu Shan’s ability to grasp and calculate people’s hearts. In fact, maybe, at the beginning when she invited him to show a game of chess, he had already guessed her thoughts, and when he went to the banquet later, he naturally expected that she would make a move, so he prepared such a terrifying face in advance.
The wound on his face was fake. He lied to her.
Seeing her frowning and her eyes flickering, Jain Zhi asked hesitantly: “Young lady?”
She returned to her sense, and suddenly asked: “Did any official take sick leave or personal leave at the court meeting yesterday?”
“This maid doesn’t know. Do you want me to investigate?”
Yuan Ci Xian nodded solemnly, and said: “If not, draw up a list of officials above fifth rank in the court and give it to me.”
Yesterday’s court meeting was not a big court, and according to the rules, only officials above fifth rank were able to participate. She expected that Xu Shan was among them.
After Jian Zhi checked, she found that an old official from the Ministry of Officials did not go to the court yesterday due to illness, but Yuan Ci Xian immediately ruled out the possibility after seeing his age, and then screened the list.
Officials above fifth rank were not small officials, except for the youngest Lu Shi Qing, most of them were above thirty. As for the occasional few who were twenty-seven or twenty-eight, they were not much different in stature. Therefore, she only deleted some who were too old, and then dismissed military official and a few natives of Chang’an, and finally listed about twenty key suspects.
However, there was no progress after that.
None of these high-ranking officials were easy to fool. In her capacity, it was impossible to visit their home, nor she could go to Xuanzheng Hall to watch the court, so she couldn’t get close to any of them. She let Jian Zhi took risk squatting in front of the mansion of several officials, but did not find anyone injured. She tried to indirectly inquire through Lu Shi Qing, but saw that he didn’t look very happy, as if thinking that she was not satisfied on climbing him, this “high branch”, and she wanted to climb another branch.
She had no choice but to wait until the first day of the Third month, when her brother went to court, and asked him to help pay attention. But at this time, half a month had passed since Xu Shan’s assassination, and it was really difficult to take the opportunity to discover something. Yuan Yu picked out a few people on the list to get close, calling them brothers and beating their chests one by one, but naturally he didn’t notice any difference in their expression.
By the fifteenth of Third month, the wound would most likely been healed, and the chances were even slimmer. Yuan Yu returned without success again, but brought back another piece of news that had nothing to do with Xu Shan, which diverted Yuan Ci Xian’s attention: According to rumors, Nanzhao’s Crown Prince Xi Ju was going to visit the capital in the Fourth month.
After the war in the First month, Nanzhao retreated outside the border in peace and did not harass Great Zhou again. For some reason, the Crown Prince of Nanzhao changed his strategy of being hostile to Great Zhou in recent years, and turned to show his favor to the court. He seemed to have the intention of bowing his head to the Emperor of Great Zhou. Recently, he even proposed to resume the mutual trade between the two countries that had been cut off for many years.
Emperor Huining originally a person who was vain and love face, and he always valued the so-called “posture of a great power”. If Nanzhao was sincerely willing to surrender, first, all the different tribes in the south might follow suit, and Great Zhou, which had been weak for many years, would have an unprecedented opportunity to revitalize itself; Second, if Diannan Prince was no longer useful, he would be able to justifiably weaken Diannan’s power and eliminate major hidden troubles that had besiege him for many years.
So when Xi Ju showed his favor to the imperial court, even though there were many opposing voices in the court, thinking that something abnormal must be caused by a demon, Emperor Huining still accepted his attitude and claimed that he was willing to talk to him face to face.
At the beginning of Fourth month, Xi Ju went north with the name of an envoy from Nanzhao, and arrived outside the capital at the end of Fourth month, where he was welcomed into Chang’an by Emperor Huining with ceremony of a great country. On that day, the Daming Palace set up a reception banquet, and all the officials attended. From noon to night, there was extravagant singing and dancing with wine, meat, silk and bamboo orchestras, qin and flute, which never stopped for a moment.
At the banquet, Xi Ju presented the treasures he had brought with him during the trip, mostly jade and pearls, as well as gold artifacts from the Pyu Kingdom, which borders Nanzhao to the southwest. After Emperor Huining accepted it, he naturally waved his hand and gave him a more expensive gift in return to show the great country’s generous treatment to its subjects.
When the banquet was finally over, many officials who opposed the friendship with Nanzhao shook their heads one by one, and stepped out of the palace door helplessly.
Lu Shi Qing was not a person who showed joy and anger, but at the banquet, he and Xi Ju, who was seated second only to Emperor Huining, exchanged friendly bureaucratic banter a few times. Before leaving, he still smilingly praised the jade ring he wore on his little finger, which he must thought belonged to Yuan Ci Xian.
Xi Ju who hadn’t seen him for more than three months, as if it had been more than two hundred autumns, he cordially asked in not-so-fluent Han language when Lu Shi Qing was going to get married, claiming that he hoped to have a cup of wine during this trip.
After the banquet was over, Lu Shi Qing left the palace indifferently, but inside sneered at his thick face. When he returned to the mansion, he was ready to rest after taking a bath, but then heard Cao An hastily reported a news, saying that the spy found that Xi Ju had left Daming Palace. He seemed to be drunk and lost his way, and now was one mile away from Shengye Lane.
Lu Shi Qing immediately lost his indifferent.
Could drunk still get lost like this, lost so accurately and perfectly dodge the Jinwu guards who were patrolling the night, and lost towards Shengye Lane where the Yuan family was located? Why didn’t he come to his Yongxing Lane as a guest?
Lu Shi Qing rolled back and forth on the bed twice, then got up resolutely, and said, “Tell His Majesty that Crown Prince Xi Ju’s whereabout is suspicious, and I’m going to keep an eye on him for the old man myself.”