Gu Fang Bu Zi Shang Vol03 Ch69
Bathed in brilliant morning light, Fei Zhaoxing lead the triumphant troops on their march on a flat road. In the distance, they could see the gates to the capital of Gui Le.
The remnants of the Gui Le army had been fully wiped out. In the two boxes close to his reach, they respectively held the heads of Le Di and Le Zhen.
The father and son were once his masters. He followed, risked his life, and sweated for them until they finally tried to do him in like stewing the hounds after all the hares were killed or the setting aside the bow when all the birds were shot.
Unsatisfied! He was unsatisfied!
This dissatisfaction caused him to choose betrayal without further thoughts, and the very same betrayal gave him achievements.
Wuu…wuu… The ancient horn blew out another long, deep sound, welcoming their arrival.
The gates were opened. Fei Zhaoxing surged into the Gui Le capital with his soldiers, amongst the calls of the horn.
Gui Le no longer existed. He Su died, the Royal House destroyed.
On the sides of the pathway were peasants kneeling down in greeting. These people of a fallen country were obviously forced out of their homes to hurry over by the soldiers. They trembled as they knelt, their gazes perhaps both angry and afraid. They tried to hide, trying not to not let their piercing expressions rest on the soldiers.
These gazes couldn’t be called good, but they did nothing to weaken Fei Zhaoxing’s excitement and pride.
He didn’t need to care. These peasants were humbly kneeling. They knew He Su was an incompetent coward. They didn’t know as royalty, one must be decisive, heartless and vicious.
And who was better than He Xia, the romantic Marquess of Jing-An with great swordsmanship and looks?
The bystanders understood.
Fei Zhaoxing knew better than He Xia. Yaotian was a difficult checkpoint for He Xia.
When Yaotian took her last breath in the Yun Chang Royal Residence, nothing could bound He Xia, nonstop.
This made Fei Zhaoxing very happy. Life was a gamble to him. It was necessary to have insight to win. Fei Zhaoxing was wrong to follow Le Zhen, but this time he finally managed to beat on the right treasure.
He picked He Xia and obtained a golden opportunity.
After trotting past the kneeling peasants of the fallen country, the more he went inside, the more he realised how deserted the streets were. Occasionally he would see unsettled expressions, but under the cold glint of the Yun Chang soldiers in the sunlight, all of their expressions seemed to become statue-like indifference.
One of He Xia’s trusted guards was waiting on the road. He was high-spirited as he spoke to Fei Zhaoxing who was about to head for the Royal Residence, “The Marquess of Jing-An isn’t at the Royal Residence. General Fei, please go to the Jing-An Ducal Residence.”
Fei Zhaoxing nodded, gathered his reins, and turned. The Jing-An Ducal Residence was He Xia’s previous home so waiting there was very normal too.
He dismounted at the Jing-An Ducal Residence. The scene he saw was devastating. He was stunned for a moment before following the guard and stepping across the tall threshold.
The Residence had green moss everywhere and overgrown grass.
Across the carved columns charred by fire in the distance, He Xia was standing alone in this patch of barren solitude.
This lonely figure was about to have every river and mountain for eternities, and his name would be forever remembered.
Fei Zhaoxing didn’t dare drop his guard. He walked over and stood there, respectfully saying, “Report to Marquess of Jing-An, I have already brought Le Di and Le Zhen’s heads.”
He Xia knew he arrived a while ago. He turned and assessed him with a glance, smiling, “Good job. You’ve done well and I have already prepared your reward. Come, read it.”
A bodyguard came forward, opened up a scroll, and began to read aloud. The rewards were, as expected, abundant. Fei Zhaoxing used to follow Le Zhen hence he visited the Gui Le Royal Residence quite often even from his early years. The rewards included several prized treasures that even the King of Gui Le couldn’t bear to give away.
He Xia picked the main seat. His expression was faint. It seemed as if he was smiling, but the laughter in his eyes wasn’t very strong, so it was difficult to determine. Fei Zhaoxing waited until the guard finished reading and bowed to thank for his rewards. “I have only fought a shameless battle thanks to Marquess of Jing-An’s blessings. I don’t dare accept so many rewards.” He then carefully asked, “Marquess of Jing-An has not yet seen Le Di and Le Zhen’s head, perhaps…”
“No need.” He Xia shook his head, “Why won’t I trust you?”
Two glamourous maids brought forth hot tea, serving He Xia and Fei Zhaoxing. Fei Zhaoxing thanked He Xia and took the cup with both hands. The cup shone brilliantly. It was easy to tell it was a rare treasure. In this deserted Ducal Residence, it looked very out of place.
He Xia seemed to see what he was thinking. He took a sip of the hot tea, “I once instructed this place to be decorated in coloured silk, filled with fine furniture, but it did nothing to bring back a tiniest glimmer of life. I also ordered someone to repair the ruined walls, but once they started, I ordered them to stop. Do you know why?”
Fei Zhaoxing placed the tea down and sat up straighter before cautiously reply, “The Jing-An Ducal Residence of the past will always be the Jing-An Ducal Residence of the past. No matter how much it is rebuilt, the past can never come back.”
He Xia’s thin lips moved slightly as if wanting to twitch into a smile, but it soon faded. “That’s right. What is lost will always be lost. Why is it that when people make their choices, they can never remember this? I really regret it.”
Between his words, there was actually an extremely faint expression of pain.
Fei Zhaoxing hadn’t thought He Xia would suddenly speak these words that dug at the heart. He was flattered by his trust but didn’t dare answer.
In his heart, He Xia was a man with a rare type of dignity. This kind of person was emotional but hid them well in the depths of their mind as they were afraid of others knowing them.
Fei Zhaoxing lowered his head and raised his cup once more. He took a small sip as if trying to soothe his throat.
“I murdered He Su’s entire family.” He Xia suddenly asked, “Do you know the outside gossip yet?”
Fei Zhaoxing nodded, “I’ve heard about it as well as those other gossips too.”
“What do you think?”
“The members of the Royal House from a fallen country are no more than ants. The Marquess of Jing-An has conquered the world, so what is killing a few ants in comparison?”
“I don’t need to deceive you.” He Xia looked at him in the eye before faintly smiling, “The outside rumours aren’t quite wrong. He Su and the Queen didn’t actually try to assassinate me after surrendering. I killed their family of three without reason.” Fei Zhaoxing was stunned, not knowing how to reply. He Xia changed the subject, “General Shang Lu is dead now, so who shall be in charge of the Yongchang Regiment?”
Fei Zhaoxing replied, “When the army lost their advisor, the situation was dire so the decision was made quickly. Currently, I am in charge of them.”
He Xia didn’t particularly mind, “Dongzhuo is old enough. It’s time to give him an experience to practice. The Yun Chang capital’s situation has stabled now, so I am going to get him to go out on the battlefield to learn some skills. Leave the Yongchang Regiment to him and pass the message onto him when you leave.”
Fei Zhangxing answered.
No one understood why but He Xia seemed to be more in thought than usual. He sighed, standing up from his chair to say, “Come, accompany me on a walk.”
Fei Zhaoxing followed him, strolling around the Jing-An Ducal Residence.
The courtyard was completely abandoned, and the pond was full of duckweed. Occasionally there would be a few bubbles, causing a tiny current on the surface. They weren’t from colourful carps but rather little gray-black wild fish that somehow mysteriously gotten into the pond.
The insects in the grass cried loudly.
They trampled over the tall grass, one after the other. He Xia walked for a long time before suddenly speaking, “I didn’t expect that even Gui Le would fall so quickly.” His voice held a lot of emotion.
Fei Zhaoxing speculated about him. He conquered the world, yet he was more upset than before.
He quietly looked at his back view, very straight and tight like a taut string.
Perhaps it was because there would never be anything that could compete against He Xia. His army’s presence in this reunion with He Xia made Fei Zhaoxing feel that it was stranger than usual by ten times. His sense of supreme majesty had already started to flow out despite not ascending to the throne yet.
“The final army of Gui Le is now destroyed, so the four countries have already been conquered as one. I plan to issue a formal edict and in the name of the Marquess of Jing-An, establish a new country with the name Jing-An.”
Fei Zhaoxing hesitated before tentatively advising, “Establishing the new country is very important, but the matters regarding Chu Beijie haven’t been sorted. Shouldn’t we…”
“No need to worry. Even if Chu Beijie has ten times his own ability, there is no way he can resist my army of several hundreds of thousands. What is there to fear about a barren general?” He Xia sneered, “When I ascend to the throne, my status is established. He will never be Dong Lin’s Duke of Zhen-Bei but my Jing-An country’s usurper. It’ll be justified to kill him. Even though he isn’t easy to get rid of, I’ll have lots of time then so I’ll deal with him slowly.”
According to He Xia’s thoughts, the four countries had already settled. There would never be any other opponent worth spending effort on and so he was a bit hesitant in killing Chu Beijie immediately. He rather slowly toy him to death, like a cat scratching a mouse.
One couldn’t say He Xia was arrogant. After all, in the four countries, all of the armies that opposed He Xia were destroyed. What could Chu Beijie do by himself in challenging the Yun Chang army?
If he dared to openly recruit rebels, the Yun Chang army would immediately arrive, fighting with ten times more. It would be impossible for Chu Beijie to escape death then.
Fei Zhaoxing’s heart felt rather unsettled, but after hearing He Xia’s relaxed tone, he realised he couldn’t convince him. He just remained silent, nodding.
He Xia suddenly stopped. “There’s one thing I need you to do.”
“I want you to collect every country’s treasures, pearls and precious stones. Find a group of craftsmen that studies jewels.”
Fei Zhaoxing understood, asking, “To create the King’s crown, correct?”
He Xia shook his head, raising two fingers. “Two. One is the King’s crown, the other is the Queen’s. Both must be exquisite to perfection, not a hint of error.”
Fei Zhaoxing answered and left after receiving a few more instructions from He Xia.
After returning to the residence and making provisional arrangements, Fei Zhaoxing began to think. He kept thinking something was wrong and called for a confidant who was left guarding Gui Le. “Did the Marquess of Jing An meet a woman after returning to Gui Le?”
That confidant pondered carefully, shaking his head, “Didn’t hear anything about him getting close to a woman. After arriving in Gui Le, he immediately went to deal with various matters near the Jing-An Ducal Residence. It’s not strange though. It’s inevitable, wanting to pay tribute to dead relatives when seeing former homes.”
Fei Zhaoxing felt there was a lump in his throat, but he couldn’t think of what to say. He just felt like he was missing something. While he was thinking, another subordinate came to report the items He Xia rewarded him had arrived at his door.
Fei Zhaoxing personally went to pick them up. When he opened one of the boxes, he realised all of them were extremely rare. It seemed He Xia rewarded generously and would by no means be a stingy king in the future.
Fei Zhaoxing was secretly pleased and rewarded the deliverers a handsome sum. He Xia’s bodyguard Toumu had also come, grinning while congratulating Fei Zhaoxing. “I have been ordered to come here for another reason too. It’s about General Dongzhuo being in charge of the Yongchang Regiment; please, General Fei, use the military stamp and pass on the rights clearly.”
Fei Zhaoxing knew about this already. He cheerfully took the document over and stamped it to exchange rights to the Yongchang Regiment. He then sent away the soldiers who’d gotten quite a bit of reward.
Because of his secret delight, although it was just the end of a long journey, Fei Zhaoxing couldn’t sleep early. He summoned a few of his subordinate generals to drink with him to celebrate.
“Come on, cheers! This cup is dedicated to our general who is slowly rising through the ranks with immeasurable potential for the future. It’s also dedicated to our Prince Consort so that he may ascend to the throne soon!”
One of the lieutenants hurriedly urged, “Don’t mention the title, the Prince Consort. The orders from above say that from now on, we must address him as the Marquess of Jing-An. General Zhang, you’d better be careful not to break the rules.”
“Heh, I am a man who fights on the battlefield. No way am I gonna care about rules. Cheers!” That lieutenant was still about to persuade him when General Zhang suddenly waved his hands, impatiently shouting, “I know, I know. The Marquess of Jing-An won’t be called that for much longer either, but the Emperor. I heard those civil service workers are claiming to be officials too.”
The generals were all strictly forbidden from alcohol on the battlefield. From their long abstinence, they greedily and happily drank several pots. Fei Zhaoxing stumbled in his haze and was somehow supported back to his bed.
His sleep was dreamy when there was a suddenjolt of cold for some reason, causing him to sober.
Suddenly opening his eyes, Fei Zhaoxing stiffly sat up from his bed. His heart hammered non-stop, feeling uneasy as if trying to jump out.
There had to be something wrong.
He had a strange sort of trust in his own intuition.
He felt a sudden unrest in his heart when Le Zhen prepared to murder him last time. He bolted out of the city at night to escape. His heart was now trembling. He couldn’t help but be careful. He repeated the conversation he had with He Xia over and over again, thinking about it again and again but couldn’t find anything strange.
He had done everything He Xia wanted him to do. He had not only ruined the Dong Lin army but killed Le Di and Le Zhen as well as deal with Shang Lu. How could he do any better than this?
If it was about how he was usually a little too greedy about gold and jewelry, He Xia should’ve had an idea about it earlier and wouldn’t do harm to him for such an insignificant reason.
What on earth went wrong?
Could it be another stewing for the hounds once all the hares were killed, or the setting aside the bow when all the birds are shot-like action? Fei Zhaoxing stiffened but then shook his head.
No, no, He Xia wasn’t Le Di, wasn’t Le Zhen. He was the Marquess of Jing-An, ingenious and tolerant.
After the war finished, the new country would be established. It wouldn’t be strange if he wasn’t as courteous as before. But as long as he was willing to share a little bit of his great wealth, Fei Zhaoxing was all right.
He tried to think but couldn’t think of anything before finally dozing off.
But from thereon, he really did become a bit more careful and a lot more cautious.
Moving rapidly, Chu Beijie and his men headed for Qierou. At first he was a bit afraid the road would be exhausting, and Pingting wouldn’t be able to take it.
But Pingting was also someone who often accompanied on the army’s expeditions both near and far, so Chu Beijie’s worry was quickly dissolved, whole-heartedly dedicating himself to hurrying along.
The ten thousand elite soldiers disbanded at the borders to sneak into Yun Chang territory and quietly met in the outer suburbs of Qierou.
These people were all veterans refined by massive battles. Each, handpicked by Moran and instructed over and over again, were as slippery as ghosts, not making the slightest error.
Not a single alarm sounded by the time a thousand people snuck into Qierou. The Yun Chang army had no idea an entire enemy regiment had gotten so close. The people of Qierou city knew nothing of this impending disaster.
And Fanlu didn’t know he had become the target of the Duke of Zhen-Bei either.
This Govenor of Qierou was currently pained over something completely irrelevant to Chu Beijie.
“They just want to force me to die! Fine, come on! Being in the army for so long, there’s absolutely nothing I can’t overcome!” The documents that just arrived was crushed to balls by Fanlu and mercilessly thrown onto the ground. The Governor’s voice could be heard throughout the residence as he yelled, “How do I know where those two Sirs went? So many people witnessed them leaving Qierou, not to mention they often left flexibly. Maybe they crossed the borders long ago too. What’s the point of sending me documents asking me to find them when they’re already gone? To hell with this!”
The messenger in charge had long been scared away, only leaving Clerk Dujing. He frowned as he watched Fanlu, who appeared to have been stabbed on her behind, as he angrily paced up and down the room.
The Governor’s fury was really quite something today.
“Sir, please calm down. Although this document is unreasonable, it still the higher-up’s wishes so we can’t just ignore it. This…”
“I know we can’t just ignore it.” Fanlu continued to rage for a few moments, venting out until his anger calmed. His body then seemed to relax. He shockingly began to laugh. His toe touched the rolling balls of documents when he suddenly added power, kicking it right into the corner.
He swaggered to a seat in his chair before nonchalantly propping his legs onto the table. “Hm, then we’ll track them down. Clerk, for the Qierou city bulletin board, put up paintings of the two p…no, the two Sirs. Make sure to draw realistically and write…” He chewed on an end of a brush in his mouth, ambiguously instructing, “Two officials have been lost hence the Governor is looking for them. If alive, bring persons; if dead, bring corpses to me. The discoverer will be rewarded one hundred silver coins if alive and two hundred silver coins if dead. Just do that.”
From his tone, Dujing could tell Sir Pu Guang and Sir Pu Sheng annoyed him greatly, but he wasn’t too sure whether he was joking or not. He was almost in tears as he said, “Sir, I’m afraid one hundred silver coins is a bit too little if they are alive. Hm, as for dead, it’s better not to add too much.”
“Ok, ok, it’s up to you.” Fanlu waved his hand and sneezed, “Today’s formal work has been done. Go post on the bulletin board soon; I have to get some rest.”
After turning at the backyard, he grabbed onto Zuiju’s wrist, heading straight out of the door.
Zuiju let herself be pulled. She was rather dumbfounded, “What’s wrong now? You ought to look at the fleeing-like expression of yours.”
“It’s a good day. Accompany me on a relaxation trip.”
At these words, Zuiju stopped moving. She tried to pull her wrist away, “Let go, my little plants still haven’t been watered. Why would I let them wither just because Sir wants to have some relaxation time?”
Fanlu refused to release her wrist, not loosening in the slightest. He turned back to look at her, “A document has arrived today. Big news, Sir Pu Guang and Pu Sheng have both disappeared and the higher-ups want me to track them down. Hey, are you going to accompany me?”
Zuiju was taken aback, and she looked around.
No one knew better than these two about the deaths of Pu Guang and Pu Sheng.
After He Xia obtained power, Yun Chang pulled out a bunch of heavy punishments, causing panic everywhere. Zuiju reckoned she need to find a place and carefully discuss the matter with Fanlu. While she hesitated for a few moments as she processed the thought of Fanlu not calling her out for that, he pulled her away, leaving the residence gates carefree.
Although Qierou was a small city, the streets were still quite lively. Fanlu left wearing civilian clothes while Zuiju never particularly liked wearing refined clothes, so the two didn’t catch any attention as they took the road.
“Want some Tanhulu?”
“One bowl of soybean curd then?”
Fanlu stopped often from his walk. When he saw something he liked, he’d rummage for some money, buy it and give it to Zuiju. Zuiju would vigorously shake her head, indicating she didn’t want it. Fanlu would then give it to some random child on the streets. In the end, Zuiju couldn’t help but accept a small doll from him.
Even after walking for the entire afternoon, Fanlu didn’t say a single useful thing. He obviously didn’t plan to mention Pu Guang and Pu Sheng.
Holding onto the doll, Zuiju couldn’t help saying, “Hey, speak.”
“Speak about what?”
“What should we do? Leave the city?”
Fanlu turned around and studied her. He mused, “You really thought we were escaping?”
From his expression, Zuiju could tell he wasn’t lying, but then again, his words could never be trusted. She lowered her voice, persisting, “Then why’d you take me out? Didn’t those documents tell you to track them down? If the truth gets out, you can’t be saved from the fate of execution even if you had a hundred heads.”
“I told you earlier. You’re accompanying me on a relaxation trip. You really have a guilty conscience, forcibly linking everything to escaping.” Fanlu pulled a face before beckoning the city gates with his chin. “I started tracking them down ages ago. Can’t you see that announcement?”
When it came to important matters, Zuiju took them a hundred times more seriously. Hearing how he’d put up an announcement, she immediately wanted to check. She grabbed his hand and dragged him to the city gates without another word.
Fanlu was the one who usually grabbed her hand, so this was the first time Zuiju grabbed onto Fanlu first.
She didn’t do it on purpose. The touch of her soft hand made Fanlu’s heart thump rapidly for several moments. He eyed Zuiju curiously, but Zuiju was wholeheartedly worrying so she didn’t notice his glances.
Dujing wasn’t one to stall his duties. The announcement was indeed posted onto the city gates. The people drawn on it looked quite vicious. Because Pu Guang and Pu Sheng were notorious, all of the peasants were rather calm after seeing the announcement, seeing potential gossip. Zuiju was mixed into the crowd as she read the announcement and relieved to find that it was just a normal tracking. She lowered her voice, “Did you write this?”
Fanlu harrumphed, cursing, “Damn, that bastard Dujing changed ma words. That clerk ain’t good.”
Zuiju was taken aback, “What did he change?”
“Originally I wrote ‘two pigs were lost’, but why’d it change to ‘two lost officials’ now?”
Zuiju chuckled, holding back her laughter as she glared at him, “What governor are you, always being unserious and trying to amuse others?”
Fanlu never admitted defeat when it came to playing with words, but he just grunted a bit, not retorting back. He simply said, “Now that you’ve seen the announcement, let’s go.”
The two people held hands as they turned back. Fanlu suddenly lowered his voice, “Are you afraid of seeing dead people?”
Zuiju frowned, “You’re going to kill again?”
She just casually asked this but didn’t expect that Fanlu would answer, “Yes.”
Zuiju’s heart fell and her grip tightened on Fanlu’s hand.
Fanlu’s voice was even lower than before as if the tiniest whisper. “A hardly noticeable person has been following us for a while now. Don’t be afraid, I’ll lead him to a dark alley and then, as if on the mountains to hunt, silently finish him off with a few shots like a rabbit.”
After a few turns, the bustling sounds of activity gradually decreased. The alleys became smaller and smaller as the two walked into it. The gap became incredibly small that not even the sun was fully capable of shining through.
The deeper inside, the darker it seemed.
Fanlu always had a wild personality in the army. Thanks to being a governor who read scrolls and scrolls of letters or documents, he dying for someone to be his target to have some fun. As a spy, he was exceptionally sensitive. He knew there was only one person following him so he chose a dead end without too much worry. When he saw the wall, he turned around, one hand holding Zuiju’s hand and the other taking out the light crossbow from behind his waist. After silently placing his bow on the string, he asked Zuiju, “Would you rather I shoot his neck or his heart?”
Zuiju watched the cold gleam of the arrow head. She shivered, “Don’t ask me.” She clutched onto Fanlu’s hand even tighter.
This made Fanlu even happier. His mouth lifted to a cold smile, “My friend who has been following us, do come out. Let us chat a bit.”
A figure moved in the corner not long after. A person slowly stepped out from there. He smiled, “I’m really delighted to see you. Why didn’t you send us a letter to tell us, didn’t you know how worried we were?” He spoke directly to Zuiju.
Zuiju’s eyes widened. She lost her voice, “Moran!”
Moran nodde, before his gaze finally flickered to Fanlu. His articulation was clear, “Governor, you’re lucky. If I hadn’t seen Zuiju beside you, I’m afraid you would’ve been decapitated already.”
Fanlu began to chuckle and turned to Zuiju. “I prefer the neck. Once the arrow hits, it’d immediately make him shut up.” He was about to lower his crossbow when he suddenly stiffened.
A sharp, icy cold sword had silently reached out and placed itself on his neck as if impartial to the situation.
A deep man’s voice began to laugh, “I prefer the neck too.”
Fanlu was a bit conceited about his sharp senses, but he’d never been crept up from behind so quietly. He was shocked.
He specialised in probing the enemy in dept. Hearing the calm dignity in the voice of the man behind, Fanlu immediately knew this man was no ordinary expert. He good-graciously lowered his crossbow, forcing a laugh, “In the very end, I was the unfortunate rabbit after all.”
Zuiju looked behind and was even more suprised. Her hands went to her mouth as she cried, “My god, it’s the Duke…”
Chu Beijie was standing behind Fanlu and acknowledged Zuiju with a glance. “You really made Pingting upset for a long time.”
“Miss Bai?” Zuiju’s felt like her heart had been stimulated too many times and hurriedly clutched onto her chest. It felt like waves of fireworks began to filter out, so pretty that it made her want to cry. She took several deep breaths, before stuttering, “Miss Bai…she’s still alive? That’s great…that’s great…the child? That child…”
“You can have a nice chat later. Look, my neck still has this thing on it,” Fanlu cut off her words.
Zuiju was far too moved. She wiped away her tears with one hand while staring at him, “How can you boss me around at this time? Do you know who’s behind you? Be careful or he’ll budge that sword into your neck.”
From their conversation, Fanlu already guessed he was the Duke of Zhen-Bei.
Forget about other opponents. If it’s the Duke of Zhen-Bei who’d placed the sword on his neck, then he wouldn’t be able to escape even if he was ten times stronger. He was more flexible than most and decided the skies would collect his life when it was due. He stopped fearing, having a rather giddy expression instead. “You won’t miss me?”
Zuiju was greatly embarrassed by his smile in front of Chu Beijie and Moran. She blushed, “You, you…you’re always bullying me. I want the Duke to kill you for revenge!”
Fanlu was about to talk when his neck suddenly felt cold. The blade shifted slightly into his skin, causing a prickling pain.
“Kyaa!” Zuiju saw some blood trickling out from Fanlu’s neck and was almost scared out of her wits. She gasped, “Duke, Duke, I’m just kidding, please don’t…”
Moran had already guessed more or less about their relationship when he saw them. He threw Chu Beijie a questioning glance. Chu Beijie quietly nodded when Moran calmly said, “Flirting, fighting, and chatting can come later. Governor, we came here today because we’d like to discuss something with you.”
Fanlu’s mind worked fast. He Xia was currently at the height of his power. Why else would the Duke of Zhen-Bei suddenly appear in the tiny city of Qierou for? He replied, “The reason you’re interested in me, despite having a lowly rank of a governor, is only because of the military resource supplies that pass by here. Because of Senior Official Gui, He Xia doesn’t treat me as a human. Even little cats and dogs try to toy with me. I’ve had enough. In short, I don’t mind surrendering the town to Duke of Zhen-Bei at all, but I have a condition.”
Chu Beijie saw him reveal his intentions in one go, and his heart was slightly surprised. Why was such rare talent in the army assigned to the tiny town of Qierou? Chu Beijie watched him speak for a bit until he suddenly made a condition, but he already had the gist of it anyway. He loosened the sword slightly so it was no longer pressed against the skin. He beckoned at Moran.
Moran asked, “What condition?”
Fanlu thought for a bit and suddenly changed his mind. “Hm, wrong, my Qierou is a city in the end. It’s not worthwhile to exchange for a single condition so I want two.”
This was the first time Moran met such a cloven person so he was stunned.
Zuiju knew what he was like. She raised her head to look at the blood drops on his neck, secretly hating how he still dared to provoke Chu Beijie at such a time. She hurried said, “Can’t you speak a bit less?” For some reason she didn’t know her hands kept on shaking. Thinking that the Duke may let her off for Miss Bai, she gave Chu Beijie a pleading look, “Duke, his personality is just like that. Don’t blame him.”
Seeing her like that, Fanlu’s heart felt sweeter than honey. He didn’t care whether his life was at stake or not; he just roared in laughter.
Zuiju was both worried and angry. She pinched his hand, hard.
Chu Beijie indifferently observed the two people. He thought for a while before murmuring, “Say your two conditions.”
Fanlu already knew Chu Beijie would accept it. He laughed, “First, I want Zuiju.”
Zuiju softly gasped, her blush spreading past her ears. She didn’t quite know whether to stand or to hide. She mumbled a curse, “How could you ask the Duke for me when I’m not a thing?”
Fanlu said, “I’m making my conditions to the Duke of Zhen-Bei. It’s none of your business, is it?” That made Zuiju almost faint in anger.
Chu Beijie nodded. “I can promise this condition to you.”
Fanlu then asked, “She isn’t a thing. How could you promise that she’ll be with me?”
“That’s easy.” Chu Beijie slowly said, “I’ll ask her whether she agrees with my sword pointed at your fingers. For every disagreement she makes, I will cut off a finger. I assure you that she will agree before all ten are cut off.”
Fanlu couldn’t help be a bit shocked. He muttered, “Quite the brutal method.”
The three men were quiet for a few moments before bursting into laughter. Chu Beijie took this gap to retrieve the sword from Fanlu’s neck.
Zuiju was completely red from their laughter. She clenched her teeth, “Men aren’t good; you’re all in the same team.” She then turned to Fanlu, ranting, “Even if all of your fingers and toes have been cut off, I won’t bother paying attention. It’s not like I’m a maid sold to the Duke, so none of you can do anything about me!”
Chu Beijie faintly replied, “Then just try it.”
Zuiju was alarmed by this. She knew Chu Beijie’s actions were always the same as his words. It wasn’t like those fingers belonged to Chu Beijie so even if he did chop them off, what did he have to lose? Judging from Moran’s earlier words, it seemed like they were planning to kill the Governor of Qierou at first.
Zuiju heard of nobles joking about killing people and was terribly afraid that she’d really cause harm to Fanlu. She didn’t dare act stubborn, so she closed her mouth tightly, not saying any more.
“What’s the second condition?” Moran asked.
Fanlu laughed, “I haven’t thought of it yet. Is it fine to mention it in the future?”
Chu Beijie noted that this man was very flexible and alert as well as incredibly dedicated to Zuiju, making him very likeable. The corners of his mouth revealed a faint smile, “Fine.”
Fanlu asked, “How many people did the Duke of Zhen-Bei bring inside?”
“Only we two came inside.”
Fanlu was secretly surprised. Chu Beijie was really courageous. If his identity was to get out, a whole city worth of soldiers would immediately be summoned. There was no chance of survival if surrounded.
Chu Beijie breezily mentioned, “Two is enough.”
Originally they only come in to check the situation. They hadn’t expected that right after slipping past the city guards, they’d see the Governor in civilian clothing. They were even more surprised to find the person accompanying him was the Zuiju who Pingting had been distraught about. There was no way Chu Beijie would let go of such a great chance.
The three people were in the army for a long time. They wasted no time, immediately making preparations for alliance. They planned to meet in the Governor Residence street in the evening.
As Chu Beijie was about to leave with Moran, Fanlu asked, “Aren’t you afraid of me taking the city back?”
Moran glanced at Zuiju, replying, “With Zuiju as a hostage, there’s no way you dare take it back.”
Fanlu’s expression suddenly changed. He sternly replied, “Don’t you dare think about taking her away.” He thought for a bit and a threatening smile floated onto his face, “The moment I lose sight of her is the moment I’ll declare you to the higher ups. If not, then you can kill me now.”
Seeing how nervous he was, Chu Beijie thought it rather amusing. He lowered his voice, “We won’t take her away. You can have Zuiju as a hostage while we’ll have her Teacher as a hostage. Both sides can be at ease.” Hearing someone else outside of the alley, he gave an alerting expression at Moran.
Time was running out. The two nodded at Fanlu and hurriedly disappeared without saying another word.
Fanlu stood on the spot, watching them go away.
The Duke of Zhen-Bei really deserved his reputation. At the very least, his assassination technique while remaining hidden was already something very few could match.
Apart from those stoic guards of monarchs, perhaps no one could not live in fear after dealing with Chu Beijie.
Fanlu’s arm was suddenly heavily shaken a few times. He turned around.
Zuiju was excited, her eyes large and round. “Did you hear that? It’s Teacher! Teacher has come too, ah…I didn’t hear that wrong right? I didn’t hear that wrong, right?” She took several deep breaths, her heart thudding in her chest. She sighed, “Oh god, all the good news has come today. Coming out for a relaxation trip was right. Miss Bai didn’t die, the Duke has come, Teacher has come too…” She rubbed her eyes and began to cry.
Fanlu was originally impatient, but once seeing her cry, he could only try to cheer her up. “Why are you crying again when you should laugh when you’re happy? It’s getting dark, let’s go back.”
Zuiju continued to sob lightly, shaking her head, “My heart’s too much of a mess, and my feet feel soft. Don’t worry about me.”
Fanlu began to chuckle, “I sold Qierou City for you; my heart’s even messier. But from now on, you’re mine. I’ll just be a bit unlucky and carry you back to the residence.”
At his mention, Zuiju couldn’t help give him another glance. She softly asked, “You allied yourself with a former enemy for me. Don’t you feel rather bad about it?”
Fanlu harrumphed, “The Royal House of Yun Chang has completely died and He Xia is planning to make a new country. No one can say I’m betraying my country. At most, I’m only betraying He Xia. What’s there to feel bad about?”
Chu Beijie received good news on his very first visit to Qierou, and he was delighted. When he returned to the temporary campsite beyond the Qierou suburbs, he instructed to Moran, “Don’t tell anyone about what happened today yet. I want to give Pingting a surprise.”
Moran said, “Genius Doctor Huo will be greatly surprised too.”
The two finished discussing and entered the tent together. Everyone inside was waiting for their news. Pingting was worrying about Chu Beijie’s return after entering the city, but she instantly relaxed after seeing his figure. She stood up to welcome them back, “What’s the situation in Qierou? We’ve just discussed here, forming many different strategies, but each has a little flaw in them. It’s rather difficult not letting others notice this little city.” She picked up the recently written scroll on the table and handed it to Chu Beijie.
Chu Beijie skimmed it before putting it down. A smile floated onto his face, “I thought of a better plan.”
He was the main advisor. His confidence meant he thought of a good plan. The crowd was delighted, collectively asking, “What plan does Duke have?”
“We shall formally enter the city and go meet the Governor according to the rules. Everyone will sit down and calmly talk out the conditions, convincing him to oppose He Xia.”
The crowd were waiting eagerly. Hearing Chu Beijie’s breezy words, they couldn’t help feel discouraged. They bitterly smiled, “Duke is joking with us.”
But Pingting deeply understood Chu Beijie would never joke about military affairs. She thought for a few moments, asking Chu Beijie, “Did Duke see the Governor of Qierou during the infiltration today? Was the general promoted by He Xia or raised by Gui Changqing?”
This question was to the point. Moran stood aside, loudly praising her.
If Fanlu hadn’t been on Gui Changqing’s faction and suffered immensely under He Xia’s faction, then even if he had Zuiju by his side, he may not have sold Qierou immediately after seeing Chu Beijie.
Chu Beijie saw Pingting’s black eyes were fixed on him. He couldn’t help hold onto her little hand, quietly replying, “Pingting guessed correctly. I really want to give up my position as main advisor. Apart from that, there’s another reason. Please guess, Pingting.”
The crowd saw how close the two were. They didn’t dare make a sound, just holding back their smiles as they watched.
Pingting lowered her voice, “If I had to guess more, then Duke probably attacked, letting the Governor know strong he is.”
Moran applauded, “As expected of Miss Bai to guess even that. Duke’s ability to assassinate is something that even the greatest generals of the four countries are terrified of.”
Chu Beijie continued to smile, “Guess a little bit deeper.”
Pingting frowned for a long time. She shook her head, “Can’t guess any deeper; it’s not like I’m a god.”
“I’ll give you a hint. I’m going to go in with genius Doctor Huo tonight.”
Pingting mumbled “Oh” before asking, “The Governor of Qierou has someone he really cares about who is sick?”
If he had really been oppressed by the He Xia faction and threatened by Chu Beijie’s action, not to mention an important family or friend being sick, agreeing to him wasn’t entirely impossible.
Chu Beijie said, “Who doesn’t have someone they really care about? The matter about Qierou has been sorted anyhow. The gods did a huge favour for us this time. Come with me tonight and you’ll understand.”
When night was about to fall, Chu Beijie really did lead Pingting to get Huo Yunan. They chose a few elite subordinates and snuck into the city before the gates closed.
While Pingting wasn’t paying attention, Moran quietly asked Chu Beijie, “I thought again and again, but I still think it’s a bit too much of a risk. What should we do if that person takes it back, selling Duke? If it’s just us two, then we’ll still be able to force our way out, but I’m worried about Miss Bai or genius Doctor Huo.”
Chu Beijie calmly replied, “You still haven’t met your beloved woman. When you meet her, you’ll know why he won’t ever take it back. What, do you not believe in my judgement?” Being a main advisor meant being a good judgement of character. Chu Beijie rarely made errors at this and Moran calmed at his words.
The group stopped outside the Governor Residence. They declared themselves as old friends from far away and had come to see Fanlu. The cabinet officer had long been notified by Fanlu who said he had a few old friends coming along. He was supposed to attend to them properly and immediately run inside to pass on their arrival.
Not long later, Fanlu personally came out. He made a submissive gesture when seeing Chu Beijie, “Long time no see, is Brother doing well?” He warmly beckoned Chu Beijie inside.
None of the elite soldiers accompanying Chu Beijie knew what they were up to. They thought boldly showing up on an enemy Governor Residence was certain death but obeyed because Chu Beijie’s command was absolute. Seeing how the Governor was acting, half of their worries were put to rest, but they didn’t dare drop their guards. Their hands tightened around their sword hilts, not leaving an inch away from Chu Beijie’s body.
Only Pingting knew Chu Beijie wasn’t rash. She knew he was certain about these actions and so followed him without complaint.
Fanlu lead the crowd into an inner room. He dismissed unrelated people before letting go of Chu Beijie’s hand. Moran introduced everyone from one side. He pointed at Pingting, “This is Miss Bai.”
Pingting had never seen Fanlu, so she only thought of him as a stranger as she politely inclined her head. She had no idea this man had a deep connection to the tangled matter of her own fake death.
Fanlu knew if it hadn’t been for this woman, he might not have been able to meet Zuiju. Thinking of Zuiju, he gave Pingting a rather odd smile.
Moran then pointed at Huo Yunan, “This is genius Doctor Huo.”
Once these words came out, Fanlu’s expression became serious. He actually fell to his knees onto the ground with a thump.
Huo Yunan was shocked. He knew this person was very important to the Duke of Zhen-Bei and hurriedly tried to help him up. “No, no, I don’t deserve this. Allow me to see the important person who has gotten sick. I’m not a talented old man, but my medical skills are decent.”
Fanlu stubbornly remained kneeling. “No one’s sick. I just have a request to make to you. My name is Fanlu. I look handsome, have great health, shoot brilliantly with a crossbow, treat people whole-heartedly, super smart, learn faster than everyone…”
His speaking pace quickened as he spoke a bunch of random things. Apart from Chu Beijie and Moran, no one else could get their heads around it. After Fanlu spluttered out every possible feature he didn’t have, he asked Huo Yunan, “See, are you satisfied with someone like me?”
Huo Yunan felt rather faint headed by his words. He thought Fanlu was kneeling because he wanted to learn medicine. He only had one disciple, Zuiju, for this lifetime and didn’t want to take on another, but knowing how important this governor was to the Duke of Zhen-Bei’s big plan, he didn’t dare offend him. He vaguely replied, “How could I not be satisfied with such talent?”
Hearing these words, Fanlu surprisingly replied, “Then I shall kowtow three times, loud enough to hear.”
“No! No, I don’t deserve…”
But Huo Yunan’s words had yet to fall when Fanlu bowed three times with three thuds. He then stood, his face devoid of its earlier seriousness. He grinned, “Can’t deny it now, having received my bows. I’ll call you Father-in-Law from now on.”
At these words, not only Huo Yunan but even Pingting was shocked.
The crowd exchanged looks while Fanlu seemed to have won a battle or something. He lively jumped up from the ground, rushing down the stairs, loudly yelling, “Fiancee! Fanlu’s fiancée! Come greet your Teacher also known as my Father-in-Law.”
He had tricked Zuiju into a small room and promised her over and over again that he’d notify her the moment Chu Beijie appeared. But Fanlu hadn’t notified Zuiju after Chu Beijie’s arrival but butchered up Huo Yunan before everything.
Zuiju had been in the room, restlessly waiting for her Teacher and Miss Bai. Suddenly hearing Fanlu’s call from upstairs, she bolted upstairs like crazy. Once she’d stepped into the room, she was faced with familiar faces and choked out, “Miss Bai…” She then turned again, and although she prepared herself earlier, she was completely startled seeing her Teacher right in front of her, much thinner than before.
The room was so quiet that even the dropping of a pin could be heard.
Zuiju blankly stood for a long time before her shoulders suddenly shook. She burst into tears, “Teacher! Teacher!”
Huo Yunan stared.
He could no longer hear anything from the moment Zuiju appeared. He felt like he’d stepped onto a group of clouds, his delight so great that all of the things in his mind had just been blown away.
Zuiju, it was that little girl Zuiju…
That physique, that sharp chin, those dark eyes, that expressions…were all of that child Zuiju.
His wise eyes aged by long years gradually became denser. His lips shook yet unable to utter a single word.
A strong energy surged forwards, wrapping around him tightly. The sounds of crying entered his ear, a sound so familiar that it even made such an old man like him want to cry too.
“Teacher…teacher, I finally get to see you.”
Huo Yunan lowered his head. His vision was fuzzy. Through the haze, he saw his beloved disciple already buried in his arms, sobbing. His thoughts were a mess as he mumbled, “Child, child…” He didn’t need to ask anything. He just stroked her back like in the past.
Pingting’s chest felt like it was hurting, and it was a long time before she could finally breathe. She stayed rooted to the spot, her eyes brightly flashing. Someone tugged at her sleeve, and she slowly turned her head. Chu Beijie smiled at her, “Cry in my arms.”
Pingting buried herself and couldn’t help sob.
The crowd finally understood. They joyfully watched the two girls sobbing away like rain. Even genius Doctor Huo’s eyes were red.
Moran stood aside and smiled.
After quietly standing for a while, Fanlu saw Zuiju was still crying without end. He came forwards to tease her, “Don’t cry. Your Teacher has agreed to accept me as his Son-in-Law. I have already loudly kowtowed three times. Hey, you should do three too.”
Zuiju wiped the tears off her face, staring at him, “Who wanted you to kowtow?” She had been crying real hard just a few moments ago, so her eyes were red and swollen. Her voice was a bit hoarse too. She then asked Fanlu, “Why would you call my Teacher your Father-in-Law?”
Fanlu had no objection, freely saying, “Fine, I’ll call him Teacher too.”
Huo Yunan’s heart felt like it was flying after seeing his disciple. He had never been so delighted and painstakingly stopped his tears. Seeing their argument, he looked at Zuiju a bit closer and instantly understood when he saw a faint blush. The delight in his heart became even greater and his nose felt a bit sour again. He quickly covered it up by laughing, “Father-in-Law or Teacher is up to you, and you don’t have to kowtow. You just have to look after my disciple.”
Zuiju was hugely embarrassed, “Teacher!”
It would’ve been dismissed if she hadn’t yelped, but as she did, everyone laughed. Pingting also wiped away her tears while in Chu Beijie’s embrace. She raised her head, wanting to speak. Chu Beijie blamed himself for trying to hide the fact about Zuiju and hurriedly added, “The important matters are urgent; let’s discuss them first.”
Everyone knew the situation was dire. They became serious, “Then without futhur ado, let’s stop this idle chat.”
Fanlu brought a table forward. He rolled out a scroll on it, his face no longer smiling. “This is the map of Qierou and its neighbouring territory. The five lines in vermilion are the routes of the military’s food supply and will all intersect here at Qierou.”
He drew this map himself, and it was many times more refined than normal maps. Chu Beijie gave him a look of appreciation, secretly approving of him.
Zuiju didn’t understand soldiers or war, so after her big cry at her Teacher’s, she thought of Pingting again. She spoke to Huo Yunan, “Teacher, let’s go to the room next door and let Zuiju massage for you like in the past?” She looked at Pingting smiled at her with a tearstained face. Immense joy hid in her eyes. As Zuiju walked over, saying, “Miss Bai, we’re going to the room next door.”
Pingting really wanted to know everything about her right there and then. She pulled her hand, going with her and Huo Yunan into the room next door.
The three people sat down. Zuiju personally served tea, each having their own cups. She then slowly massaged her Teacher’s back while recounting in detail what happened after leaving behind Pingting.
Because she was afraid Huo Yunan and Pingting would get angry at Fanlu hence she skipped some of the bad things Fanlu had done.
Huo Yunan listened and chuckled, “You say that he’s bad, but he hasn’t really done anything bad.”
Pingting asked, “Do you like him?”
Zuiju’s cheeks were slightly red. She frowned, “Who likes him?”
Both Huo Yunan and Pingting thought, she really does like him.
The three people chatted for a long time while the men on the other side were also in full swing.
Chu Beijie outlined their original plan to Fanlu, who immediately laughed, “Duke has found the right person for this. I’ve messed around in the army for many years, so I know the army very well. I know which generals of Yun Chang could easily come round as well as the ones who are the firmest.”
Chu Beijie was delighted, quickly making his decision. “That’s good. Please immediately write a form so we may execute the plan properly.”
Pingting was on the other side. After saying goodbye to Zuiju on the day she thought of the supposed death by wolves. She remembered the uncomfortable painful feeling as well as the numerous tears she’d shed. She sighed a few times before mentioning her lively and cute Changxiao. Her tears gradually stopped before she went into the room with Chu Beijie and the others.
When entering, Pingting asked, “Has discussion gone well?”
Chu Beijie turned around and laughed. “It was godsend. Ah, the matter about the military supplies has changed slightly. This time Advisor Bai will surely need to help.” He bowed at Pingting.
Pingting knew he was joking and passively let it past. She asked Chu Beijie, “I won’t fall for Duke’s trap. I bet if I accept this bow, then there’s definitely something difficult I have to do. What part has been changed about the military supplies plan?”
She rolled her eyes. Everyone around her was acting mysteriously, their faces enthusiastic. Chu Beijie had definitely thought of some amazing idea.
Chu Beijie smiled at her. He paused for effect before saying, “We’re not putting poison, just a drug.”
Pingting listened, her eyes furrowed as she pondered. Her delicate eyebrows suddenly loosened. She softly sighed, “What an amazing plan. Rest assured Duke, Pingting will definitely prepare the drug you need.”
The other people were used to seeing Pingting’s crafty plans, so they just smiled. Fanlu couldn’t help study Pingting for a bit, secretly surprised.
After the assembly, Fanlu acknowledged the crowd as old friends to the cabinet officer. After saying goodbye to Chu Beijie and the others, he headed for Zuiju’s room like usual.
Just as he got to the room, Zuiju suddenly ran out, standing pressed against the door. “What are you here for? I’m going to talk with my Teacher tonight.”
Fanlu looked at her, rather mockingly. “What about tomorrow night?”
“You aren’t allowed to come tomorrow either.”
Fanlu shrugged, turning to leave.
“Hey.” Zuiju was afraid he was angry and hurriedly called him to stop. She asked, “What do you think, now that you’ve seen them?”
Fanlu thought for a bit and suddenly deeply sighed. “I finally understand why He Xia and Senior Official Gui pulled their guts out to use every method possible to keep them apart.”
Who else in the world could compare to them when the two were together?
In hindsight, it seemed that it really was reasonable why He Xia tried to snatch Bai Pingting away from Dong Lin…