Such a Grand Gambit
The aide of Guan Zhou’s prefectural office handed a scroll over to Xuan Tian Ming. When Xuan Tian Ming received the scroll, he said: “Lord Zhao said that once this scroll has been handed over, he does not ask for anything aside from pardoning his family. All prefectures in the three northern provinces have been controlled by Duan Mu An Guo. Over the years, they helped Duan Mu An Guo quite a bit, and lord Zhao is wanting to bear the responsibility for his actions. Would your HIghness please spare lord Zhao’s family.”
Xuan Tian Ming opened up the scroll, and Feng Yu Heng leaned over to take a look. She just saw that it was a list of every official from Da Shun that had entered Guan Zhou over the past ten years. Prefect Zhao had also analyzed how close of a relationship each of them had with Duan Mu An Guo. Aside from these, there was also a list of people that had gone to celebrate Duan Mu An Guo’s birthday. It was very detailed, and some of them even listed what sort of gifts were brought and what sort of benefits they gained from Duan Mu An Guo.
Of course, there were things that he was not certain of. If there were any assumptions, they were marked down. Anyone that read this scroll would not be confused.
For such a thing to exist, even Feng Yu Heng could not help but inhale sharply. The Duan Mu family had plenty of Da Shun’s blood flowing through its veins after 100 years. On this list of officials, at least 30 percent were officials from the capital. There were even some names belonging to people that were close with Xuan Tian Ming and Xuan Tian Hua.
Xuan Tian Ming took a deep breath and held the scroll a little tighter. It was clear that this thing was extremely important to him. For that Zhao Tian Qi to have been able to leave such a record behind, it would be more than sufficient to spare his entire family’s life.
Xuan Tian Ming placed the scroll in his waist pocket then took a step forward, helping the aide up, “Old sir, this prince is not a life-taking king of hell, as long as they are my Da Shun’s citizens. Prefect of Guan Zhou, Zhao Tian Qi has been coerced by Duan Mu An Guo for many years; however, he was still able to think of Da Shun’s courts. To be able to risk his life to leave such important evidence behind, it’s clear that he has been faithful to his country. Don’t worry. In regards to lord Zhao, who had been coerced by Duan Mu An Guo and is currently stuck in Song Zhou, this prince will definitely do my best to save him. After saving him, he will become the leader of the North. His entire family, including you, will all be subjects that my Xuan family will never forget.”
Looking at Xuan Tian Ming and hearing what he said, the aide’s eyes immediately became wet. He wanted to kneel before Xuan Tian Ming once more; however, his arm was held firmly. No matter what, he could not kneel. The old man wiped away his tears and said with a trembling voice: “This old one has been with lord Zhao for over a decade and willingly stayed to wait for the army to arrive. Lord Zhao was correct. In this world, only your Highnesses the seventh prince and ninth prince along with imperial daughter Ji An are trustworthy. I beg your Highness to save lord Zhao. He never wanted to help Duan Mu An Guo, but there was nothing that he could do. He was named as prefect by the court and was placed in Duan Mu An Guo’s sphere of influence. He had no choice but to go. But ever since he went to Song Zhou, he never returned. Your Highness, lord Zhao is a good official! You must save him!” Overcome with emotion, the old man in his 50s began to cry.
The prefectural office became Xuan Tian Ming’s temporary base of operations. For the sake of ensuring that the city did not become chaotic, the army dispersed and set up camp inside the city. The aide’s family name was Kong and his name was Sheng, and he remained at Xuan Tian Ming’s side, telling him about some matters about to the North.
He said: “Imperial daughter burned down the leader’s palace. Now, Song Zhou’s Winter Palace is Duan Mu An Guo’s base. Duan Mu An Guo is a person that is filled with lust, and he has countless sons and daughters. Although he does not acknowledge many of them publically, with many people saying that the third prince’s birth mother was his only daughter, that is not the truth! In the Winter Palace, there are more people than can be counted to help give birth to sons and daughters. He has even married out countless daughters and granddaughters. Lord Zhao has investigated precisely where they ended up but never found out.”
Feng Yu Heng sat at Xuan Tian Ming’s side, the two sitting shoulder to shoulder on a long bench. Listening carefully to Kong Sheng, her brow began to furrow tightly.
In truth, she thought about it long ago. Duan Mu An Guo had many women, and he would naturally have many sons, daughter and grandchildren, but she had been in the North for such a long time and even participated in the 100 family banquet, but she truly did not see a single one of the Duan Mu family’s grandchildren. Although there were some that she could not recognize, the number of people that could sit near Duan Mu Cong could not be counted on one hand.
It was understandable. It was understandable why she could not see any of the family’s grandchildren. It turned out that they had all been sent out or were secretly being raised in the Winter Palace. Those that were being raised there were worrying, but what was terrifying was just where had Duan Mu An Guo sent his bloodline. All of their locations were points of concern, and intuition told her that Duan Mu An Guo’s gambit was already unfathomably large. In fact, even if Duan Mu An Guo’s life came to an end, this gambit still would not end.
Xuan Tian Ming had a similar thought as her, as he asked Kong Sheng in a solemn voice: “Since the kind sir has recognized me as a master, please reveal all that you know without reservation.”
Kong Sheng nodded, continuing: “In regards to precisely how many children and grandchildren Duan Mu An Guo has, nobody truly knows. This old one once analyzed it with lord Zhao. We both figured that perhaps even Duan Mu Cong does not know how many younger brothers, younger sisters, nephew and nieces he has. But over the years, the one that Duan Mu An Guo had favored a bit more was that grandson that died in the capital, Duan Mu Qing. But even that was just a bit of favor. In truth, the one that Duan Mu An Guo loves the most is a child named Duan Mu Li, who was sent to Qian Zhou as a hostage 15 years ago.”
“15 years ago?” Feng Yu Heng was stunned. Could it be that Duan Mu An Guo began plotting all of this 15 years ago?
Without waiting for her to ask, Kong Sheng continued: “That’s right, 15 years ago, lord Zhao had just been appointed to Guan Zhou. This old one also accompanied lord Zhao to the North that year. One-third of Qian Zhou’s dragon vein is located in the three northern provinces. That’s why the two sides worked together in order to keep this a secret. As for that avalanche that occurred eight years ago, that was the result of Duan Mu An Guo trying to dig up Qian Zhou’s dragon vein on his own.”
Xuan Tian Ming nodded, “This was something that this prince had heard of. Apparently, the dragon vein is located between Jiang Zhou and Song Zhou.”
“That is something this old one is not clear on.” Kong Sheng spoke the truth, “But that area is indeed surrounded by soldiers, and soldiers from Da Shun are never sent over to help. Duan Mu An Guo has his own soldiers. They are all people from the North, and they all have Qian Zhou’s blood flowing through them. The purpose of this is to use their origin to control them in a fight against Da Shun’s soldiers.”
Feng Yu Heng coldly said: “This isn’t the end goal. As we see it, this person is just a catalyst. His goal is for Qian Zhou and Da Shun to fight a bitter war. During this, he would take advantage of the situation to swallow Qian Zhou whole.”
As they were discussing this, Bai Ze walked in from the outside. Arriving before the two, he cupped his hands: “Master, how should Duan Mu Cong’s corpse be dealt with?”
Xuan Tian Ming waved his hand, saying to Kong Sheng: “Sir, go ahead and rest first. When this prince is done with taking care of the army’s matters, we will speak some more.”
After Kong Sheng left, Feng Yu Heng rushed to say: “I want to go and take a look. He has something that belongs to me. I need to get it back.”
Xuan Tian Ming thought a bit then said: “Didn’t we tie up two generals from the northern army? Bring them along too.”
Bai Ze acknowledged the order then left. When he returned, there were four soldiers that brought two captives forward. Behind them was Duan Mu Cong being carried along on a stretcher.
Feng Yu Heng stood up and walked over. While walking, she pulled out a medical mask and put it on. She then pulled out a scalpel and tweezers. Arriving before the body, she cut directly at Duan Mu Cong’s forehead without saying a single word.
Everyone watched her pull something out from inside before they recalled the mysterious scene of Duan Mu Cong’s death. Now, it seemed that he had died from that mysterious thing, right? But what exactly was that thing? How did imperial daughter get it into Duan Mu Cong’s forehead?
However, these questions would never be answered. Even Bai Ze was completely in the dark. Fortunately, Xuan Tian Ming’s soldiers viewed Feng Yu Heng as some sort of deity. No matter what Feng Yu Heng did, they would take it as perfectly natural. No matter what abnormal item their imperial daughter brought out, they would all be things that it was natural for her to have.
Feng Yu Heng was very satisfied with this outcome. Smoothly pulling out the bullet, she placed it and the tools back inside her space. Turning around to look at the living generals, she recognized one of them. It was the bearded man that had flaunted his power at the inn in Song Zhou.
She smiled and asked: “What, you also came with Duan Mu Cong? Did you feel that being at his side would give you a brighter outlook with Duan Mu An Guo? Did you think that you would be promoted after you returned? But did you ever think that you might not be able to go back?”
The bearded man trembled. He had recognized this girl a long time ago, but it was also because of this that he felt even more afraid. The ninth prince did not blink when killing people, and rumors said that his wife was even more vicious.
But Xuan Tian Ming caused him to feel a little surprised because he heard him say: “In a moment, eat your fill. This prince will have someone send you back to Song Zhou!”
The bearded man was stunned and was about to wonder if he had misheard. However, once he heard what followed, his scalp began to tingle, as Xuan Tian Ming had said to him: “While you’re at it, bring Duan Mu Cong’s corpse back to his father. Just tell him that this prince’s wife was a little unreasonable. Having come to the North for the first time, this also coincided with the leader’s birthday, but she did not have any sort of gift. A small fireworks display is too shabby. You know women, they’re always so stingy. I hope that the great leader will not take offense. Now that this prince has arrived, this gift must be added. I wonder if the life of his eldest son is enough or not. Go and help this prince inquire. If he says that it’s not enough, this prince will kill a few more for him.”
After the bearded man and the other person heard these words, they could no longer remain standing. Their legs gave out, as they dropped to the ground. The bearded man repeatedly begged: “Your Highness, I beg you to spare us. We were also forced! This subordinate does not dare say such things. I definitely do not dare say them!”
Xuan Tian Ming did not say anything, directly kicking him in the chest. The force behind this kick was not small, causing the bearded man to fly into a weapon rack on the side of the yard. At the same time that this kick went out, Feng Yu Heng did not remain idle. She also raised her foot and kicked at the other person, sending him in the same direction. The two collapsed into a pile, with the bearded man below coughing up a mouthful of blood.
Xuan Tian Ming completely ignored the two, only turned to the damn girl at his side: “Dear wife, does your foot hurt?”