Connecting the Dots
“Third young miss, what’s wrong?” Seeing that Xiang Rong stopped moving, the servant was curious and asked: “His Highness is in Han Hall, which is just ahead. Didn’t third young miss have an urgent matter?”
Xiang Rong hesitated with her steps, and her expression became even worse. She hesitantly asked: “Han Hall? Is that where guests are received for banquets? The guest is… his Highness the fourth prince?”
The retainer nodded, “Third young miss has good ears. His Highness the fourth prince happened to receive an ancient sword and came to his Highness for an appraisal.”
Xiang Rong felt her own teeth began to tremble. She clearly remembered that the fourth prince was formerly engaged to the Bu family’s daughter. Although that daughter is no longer present, the relationship between the two families did not deteriorate. Instead, it had always maintained a certain degree of friendliness. Now that there were some abnormal changes in the capital, it was clear that they were related to Bu Cong. The fourth prince also happened to have come to the Yu Palace. What did this mean?
Her heart trembled. Could it be that it was a conspiracy?
“Third young miss?” The servant called to her, and his confusion became even more profound.
Xiang Rong was a little flustered, but she still forced herself to remain relatively calm. The wind was cold on this night, and she was wearing a thin outer garment made of cotton. She had a sudden epiphany and simply pointed at her own outer garment and said to the servant: “You’re stronger. Rip off a piece from the bottom of this garment.”
“Huh?” The servant was dazed and completely did not understand what sort of insanity had overcome this Feng family’s third young miss. But seeing that Xiang Rong was insistent, he did not ask too much and could only do as instructed.
A corner of Xiang Rong’s outer garment was torn off. Holding the piece of cloth in her hand, she hurriedly said: “Bring me to see his Highness.”
When the two entered Han Hall, Xuan Tian Ming was holding the prized sword and carefully examining it. The servant arrived at his side and whispered a few words into his ear. Following this, the two princes turned their gazes on Xiang Rong.
Xiang Rong had never been as fearless as Feng Yu Heng. She had a weak temperament and was lacking in courage. Often times, she would still escape at the last moment despite having made all sorts of mental preparations.
Today, however, was different. Her mind was filled with images of the heavily armored fake patrols that were patrolling the streets. Those lanterns that were different from their usual shapes. There was also her second sister suddenly leaving the manor and leaving while riding a horse. That made it clear that she had gone somewhere far. Why had this all happened at the same time?
She gritted her teeth and walked forward. She kneeled in front of the two princes and said: “This humble girl, Feng Xiang Rong, greets your Highness Prince Ping and your Highness Prince Yu.”
Xiang Rong’s arrival caused both princes to feel a little surprised, but the surprise was more noticeable on the fourth prince’s face compared to Xuan Tian Ming, who had a golden mask to cover his face. He looked over Xiang Rong and asked her with some curiosity: “Feng family’s third young miss? What have you come here for?”
This girl Xiang Rong was said to be lacking in courage; however, she did have a bit of a temper. Otherwise, she would not have worked with An shi to perform in plays put on by Feng Yu Heng in front of the Feng family. Now that something had happened in the capital, she knew that it was going against her second sister and the ninth prince. She was already filled with a bit of fear, but now that she heard the fourth prince ask this question with some bad intentions, her anger surged forth. She immediately replied with an impolite tone: “His Highness the ninth prince is this humble girl’s brother-in-law. For this humble girl to come to the Yu Palace, does Prince Ping find it to be odd?”
Once she said this, Xuan Tian Ming let out a “pft” and began laughing. “Not bad, this did not do any injustice to what your second sister has taught you.” He then looked at Xuan Tian Yi, “This is something related to this prince’s family. Does fourth brother have any desire to ask anything?”
Xuan Tian Yi waved his hand: “What sort of thing is ninth brother saying. Since it’s a family matter, this prince will not ask anything more.”
Xuan Tian Ming raised the corner of his lips into a sly smile but did not say anything further. Walking forward, he personally helped Xiang Rong up and asked her: “To have come to find this prince, is something the matter/”
From the corner of her eye, Xiang Rong glanced at the fourth prince, who was still sitting to the side. Calming her heart, she said: “The family is currently conducting a funeral. Second sister is the daughter of the first wife and is unable to leave; however, there is something that she had to send to your Highness, thus she sent this humble girl.” Saying this, she handed over the piece of cloth in her hand.
Xuan Tian Yi watched from behind and was unable to hold back, asking: “Third young miss came by for the purpose of sending a shabby piece of cloth?”
Xiang Rong nodded, “Yes, it’s just for the sake of sending a piece of cloth!” When she said the word cloth, she added extra emphasis. She then looked up to glance at Xuan Tian Ming. Seeing that there was a glint in his eyes, she calmed down slightly and said: “Second sister said that she really likes this sort of cloth. She wanted his Highness to help her buy some.”
Xuan Tian Yi snorted coldly, “Does the county princess’ manor lack servants? To use the prince of a county for this little matter, your county princess is truly bold.”
Xiang Rong felt that this fourth prince was extremely annoying and was unable to hold back another retort: “Second sister said that having the person that she liked buy it would make her like it even more.”
This back and forth caused Xuan Tian Ming to want to laugh. Who knew that his Heng Heng would be able to train his younger sister to become this sharp-tongued.
But this piece of cloth… he understood that Xiang Rong was reminding him of Bu Cong.*
Before old fourth arrived, he felt that it was strange. Although he said that he had come to admire an antique sword with him, when had old fourth ever been so close with him? It seems that it was for this reason.
He held the piece of cloth in his hand and nodded slightly to Xiang Rong. He then raised his voice and said: “Since third sister has come, sit for a while in the palace. It just so happens that this prince also prepared some gifts for the Feng family, so you can bring them back with you.”
Xiang Rong bowed and complied: “Yes.”
Xuan Tian Ming turned around and looked at the fourth prince: “Fourth brother, please sit for a while. This prince will go prepare a gift for the Feng manor.”
The fourth prince quickly stood up and took the initiative to bid farewell: “The day is late. This prince will not remain any longer.”
“Hah!” Xuan Tian Ming waved his hand and said in an unquestionable tone: “The Yu Palace still has a good wine. Fourth brother, you cannot leave like this! Servant,” He raised his voice: “Bring out the palace’s aged wine. Have his Highness Prince Ping taste it.”
Like this, he managed to keep Xuan Tian Yi, and the other side was in no rush. Sitting back down, he calmly waited for the servant to bring in the wine.
Xuan Tian Ming raised the corner of his lip and brought Xiang Rong toward the front yard. Only after leaving the vicinity of Han Hall did Xiang Rong anxiously ask: “Your Highness, something is off in the capital. It seems like the patrolling guards have been changed by someone…” She spoke very quickly and told Xuan Tian Ming about everything that she had seen. She had spoken in too much of a hurry and began gasping for air after she finished. But even while she was gasping for air, she said: “Second sister left the manor on a horse. I don’t know where she went.”
The purple lotus flower on Xuan Tian Ming’s forehead became tightly bunched together, and it became a darker color.
At this time, the sound of movement came from the entrance of the palace. He walked over in large strides, and Xiang Rong quickly followed behind him. Very quickly, someone was brought in by the guard at the gate. Xiang Rong recognized this person. It was the captain of the city gates, Wang Zhuo.
Wang Zhuo seemed to have been injured. When walking, his left leg seemed to be a bit awkward, but he still walked quickly. Rushing over to Xuan Tian Ming, he was about to kneel but was stopped by Xuan Tian Ming: “Don’t bother with the courtesies, speak quickly. What happened?”
“Your Highness.” Wang Zhuo took a few quick breaths then said: “At some unknown time, Bu Cong brought a different army into the capital. Tonight, he suddenly began moving all around the city and began switching out the patrolling guards in the capital. Even the guards at the gates…” As he said this, he did not care of Xuan Tian Ming stopping him and dropped to his knees: “This subordinate has neglected his duties. Even ten thousand deaths would not make up for this crime!”
“Different army?” Xuan Tian Ming furrowed his brow tightly. There were enough to replace all of the soldiers in the capital and still have enough to carry out their plans afterward. After occupying the capital, the next step was the imperial palace. When exactly had such a large group of soldiers entered the capital? During the flood? That’s not right, the gates of the capital were firmly closed at that time. It was impossible for that many people to get in at that time. Moreover, there was Xuan Tian Hua taking care of this. How could he have not noticed Bu Cong’s movements.
Thinking about it now, the only possibility was that they made steady progress and came in very gradually over the course of many years. Once these groups entered, they would mingle in everywhere. Soldiers were trained for thousand days to be used when the time was right.
An endless annoyance filled his heart; however, his lips curled into a sneer. This look was truly horrifying. Even if his face was hidden by the golden mask, a cold aura still leaked out.
Duan Mu Qing leaving the capital, Bu Cong causing chaos and old fourth coming to visit his palace to admire a sword. What did all of these actions mean? Haha, he shrugged and laughed. Those two actually chose to work together at this point. It seems that they have completed their preparations. Now, it was time to see whose preparations were more thorough.
“Very good.” He said, “Very good.” He then raised his hand, and four hidden guards immediately appeared from the night. Xuan Tian Ming pointed at one of them and said: “Go to the Xiang Palace and investigate.”
That person immediately disappeared.
He then pointed to another person and said: “Go take a look around the Bu family.”
This hidden guard also vanished.
He then ordered the other two: “Bring along another three people and leave through the Northern city gate to meet with county princess Ji An.”
The two immediately set out.
He did not fear anything. Over the years, he had led the soldiers to fight in battles and planned out strategies. Even if there was a hidden flaw in the capital, most of them were under control. Although Bu Cong had led a new force in, it was not a true threat. His only concern was Feng Yu Heng. He did not know why Feng Yu heng had left the manor, but she had clearly left the city. Duan Mu Qing had also left the city. If he had not guessed incorrectly, Feng Yu Heng was definitely chasing Duan Mu Qing, but why did she chase after him?
Wang Zhuo was still kneeling on the ground, and Xuan Tian Ming picked him up. Turning slightly, he said to Xiang Rong: “Stay in the palace and wait for this prince to return. Do not go anywhere and do not return to Han Hall.” He thought a little and ordered a servant: “Bring third young miss to the guest courtyard to rest.” After saying this, he did not remain and quickly left the palace with Wang Zhuo.
Xiang Rong knew that the capital was currently very dangerous. If she went out now, she would only cause trouble, thus she forced herself to calm down and remain in the Yu Palace; however, she still remembered something and urgently added: “His Highness the seventh prince was also not at his palace.”
Xuan Tian Ming nodded and did not say anything else. After leaving the palace on horseback with Wang Zhuo, he raised his hand. Countless hidden guards appeared and followed behind him. Looking at it, there were 40 to 50 people.
Wang Zhuo could not help but click his tongue but heard Xuan Tian Ming forcefully say: “Come with this prince. We are going to the imperial palace.”
*TN: The word cloth is pronounced the same way as Bu in Bu Cong.