Meng Fuyao turned her body to one side and let go of his hand. She said with a stern tone, "I am a good citizen who knows my place, and I am determined to follow your orders, Old Sir. If you want the cangue on me, it must happen. If you want me caged, I must be caged. I am uncompromising and firm when it comes to fulfilling orders."
"You... You... Ugh!" Assistant Magistrate Su's face turned ashen while it hung shocked for a long while. Then, he embarrassedly said, "It's my bad... I'll make it up..."
Meng Fuyao had been waiting for that sentence. She turned around smiling. "You really want to make it up to me, Old Sir?"
"I have lost my manners..." Assistant Magistrate Su wiped off his sweat. He was always a flexible, smooth and slick in establishing social relations kind of person. Otherwise, he wouldn't have been sent to manage this complex cohabitation-of-different-ethnic-groups situation as the assistant. It was only after his arrival that he had experienced Ah Shina's tough-as-nail temper. The heavy responsibility of mediating relationships between the people had to be greatly exercised. For every argument, he had to step in, and for every fight, he had to pacify, all in exchange for a comfortable life under Ah Shina's reign. Now that King De's army was 500 meters away and that Zong Yue was his exclusive guest, he would in no case offend a friend of Zong Yue.
"That's good." Meng Fuyao smiled more politely. "Since you're so sincere, Old Sir, how dare I refuse? If sincerity means offering an apology, then it doesn't matter whether you free me. Help that family settle down first, alright? When that's done, my mood will be good again. When my mood is good again, there's no need to use the cangue."
Assistant Magistrate Su stared at her resentfully and entered the hall to write a decree before passing it to the bailiff. He instructed him to arrange a place for the old man and his family and to take care of them until they leave.
Meng Fuyao stretched her body.
The tightly bundled rope ruptured entirely and fell to the ground, chunk by chunk.
Assistant Magistrate Su glared at that rope that had so easily snapped. His complexion turned grey as a hint of timidity flashed across his eyes. Nevertheless, he hurriedly smiled. "Let's go to the rear hall, please. Please."
However, Meng Fuyao stood still. "Sir Su, you don't have to be polite. It isn't the time to be polite." Her expression slowly calmed down, and an apprehensive look took over her face. "Sir, the danger is imminent. The people will suffer in this war. Do you really have no plans?"
While feeling distracted, Assistant Magistrate Su sized her up quickly, while guessing whether she was an envoy sent by the imperial court. He deliberately replied, "This... The Rong people are powerful, tough and valiant, and not ones to be provoked. Let's scheme slowly... scheme slowly..."
'Slowly, your head!' Meng Fuyao's anger was building up. She took a step forward and proclaimed, "Sir Su, 'slowly' is possible now, but will there be enough time to 'scheme slowly' when we reach a crucial juncture in future?"
"Young brother, is there a need to say such frightening words?" Assistant Magistrate Su laughed unsightly. "The Rong and Han families have been co-living harmoniously in Yaocheng for a few decades now. Why resort to weapons... "
"Bah!" Meng Fuyao spat inwardly but restrained the expression on her face. She spoke unhurriedly, "It's up to you to deceive yourself and everyone else, but you're in charge of managing Yaocheng. If the people of Yaocheng do meet with difficulties in the future, can you still bear the blame and consequences, Sir Su?"
Assistant Magistrate Su was unable to smile. He asked gravely, "What does this has got to do with me?"
Meng Fuyao looked attentively at him, shook her head and said, "Nothing."
Not waiting for Assistant Magistrate Su to sneer, she continued word by word. "A catastrophe is about to happen. Just based on simple human conscience, I am unable to watch the citizens fall to the enemy's hands. I am unable to see innocent people being humiliated, and their land being plundered. I cannot sit by and do nothing about these."
She let out a cold smile and cast a glance toward Assistant Magistrate Su. "Sir, as a leader of Yaocheng, you have been bearing the hardships with equanimity till this day, and I admire you for this."
"What are you going to do, then?" The facial muscles of Assistant Magistrate Su started to cramp, and after some time he exploded, "As an intellectual who lacks the strength to even truss a chicken, how am I to set myself against the mayor, who has his private soldiers? How can I singlehandedly protect 10,000 people?"
"To confront the enemy, outwit them with strategy." Meng Fuyao stared at him and said clearly, "There are actually quite a number of methods that you can employ."
"In order to protect the Han people, gather a force to be stationed within the city walls. The military force will subdue the Rong people."
"Absurd! I have no power to engage the White Pavilion Army, and even if they do come, the Rong people will immediately turn violent. When that time comes, only meaningless war ensues."
Meng Fuyao cast another glance at him. It was a glance that said, "So you aren't actually an idiot." As if nothing had happened, she continued, "Recruit strong Han men under the name of King De and train them up with the pretense that they're to be sent out of Yaocheng and into King De's army. Chinese young males are to be convened for military drills. This way, the Rong people will not obstruct you. Once that's done, a full-strength army division will be deployable whenever necessary."
Assistant Magistrate Su did not speak. The flickering look in his eyes indicated that he had grasped her idea. He muttered to himself irresolutely.
"Sir, you are this easily moved?" Meng Fuyao smiled while leaning close to him. "There's another effortless way to gain an advantage over the Rong people..." she trailed off.
Meng Fuyao lowered her head and whispered into his ears. Suddenly, the tip of Assistant Magistrate Su's brows shot up. His facial expression changed, and he exclaimed, "You are crazy!"
Meng Fuyao laughed grimly while looking at him without uttering a word.
"Ah Shina's village is heavily guarded. He is also a good fighter. Confining him is easier said than done!"
"That is my business," Meng Fuyao stated with much indifference. "You don't even have to show up. Just lend me a few bailiffs to create a more believable scene, and it can be done."
Assistant Magistrate Su was startled. His eyes turned misty as if analyzing the situation and suggestion quickly and weighing the pros and cons. After some time, he stamped his feet and said, "Great! I'll give them to you!"
"Sir, you're concerned about your people and are not afraid to take the risk. I respect you." There was a glint in Meng Fuyao's eye as she praised him smilingly.
Assistant Magistrate Su sighed unhurriedly before adding, "Young brother, you must've been unhappy with my earlier behavior. Actually, I would love to sacrifice whatever I can to help, but I've continuously been suppressed by a greater power, that's all." He turned around and waved to call for few bailiffs. "Follow these brothers to the mayor's mansion."
"Can't blame you, Sir Su. You're merely concealing your strength and waiting for the right time. Saving the people is a great responsibility, and no one else but you can carry it." Meng Fuyao laughed very happily, finishing up, "Many thanks to you, Sir, for upholding justice."
She bowed lightly before walking past him. Assistant Magistrate Su subconsciously returned the bow, but when he was about to bend down his waist, he felt a cold sensation hitting the middle section of his back.
It was as if his back had been split open and then stuffed with freezing snow.
With difficulty, he twisted his head and saw a delicate and pretty young man calmly withdrawing a black dagger, which was filled with fresh blood. He quickly collapsed to the ground. The youth then calmly blew on the dagger, allowing the blood to drip onto the ground.
'That blood... is mine...'
Before he could complete his thought, Assistant Magistrate Su felt a sudden ripping pain. It was a localized pain as if fireworks had been set off in his back. He instantly lost all awareness.
He gasped for breath and soon collapsed like a heavy rotten piece of wood.
The one who had attacked him was Meng Fuyao.
Meng Fuyao watched calmly as Assistant Magistrate Su fell indignantly into a pool of blood. She withdrew her dagger and shook her head, "Don't always treat others as fools. Do you really think I have zero intelligence like you?"
Assistant Magistrate Su had been persistently against defending the Han people, so why would he so readily agree to her bold plan?
Such classified information was involved, but he let the bailiff stand by and listen?
Why were his eyes blinking non-stop when he was calling for the bailiff? Cramps?
What Meng Fuyao hated the most was a scum who lacked a conscience, turned his back against his ancestors and the hands that fed him. If she had kept this old fox, who was familiar with the matters of the government and the city, he was certainly going to disclose information to others. It was obvious that he and Ah Shina were colluding. The court was bound to be attacked, sooner or later. It was better for Meng Fuyao to settle it earlier.
Zhong Yue looked over, his eye expression suggesting curiosity. Meng Fuyao understood that he meant to ask if she was sure about making a move on the mayor at this point. She nodded lightly in spite of the indistinct wisp of uncertainty swimming within her. While she had gotten rid of all the Rong people from earlier, she couldn't stop thinking about the sword, whose position had changed, and the figure that had squeezed into the crowd so suspiciously. She couldn't forget what she had seen and felt extremely uneasy. Hence, she decided to make the first move, to be in control of the situation.
It would've been ideal if Assistant Magistrate Su had been willing to step forth and help her, but since he wasn't, she had no choice.
Assistant Magistrate Su had turned into a corpse in a wink. The bailiffs were stupefied, and Meng Fuyao took her time to walk over and popped a pill into each of the Han bailiff's mouths. She then jabbed each of the Rong bailiffs on the back of their neck.
"The pill is a Longevity Supplement pill." At that, she folded her arms and laughed happily. "Actually it's nothing much. If there isn't any antidote, you will really live a long life and have an eternal soul."
"The pressure I've applied at your nape..." she glanced at those obviously unconvinced faces and the darting eyes of the Rong bailiffs. "...Matters even less. I know you aren't scared of death. You are more afraid of committing blasphemy. Therefore, I've targeted your acupuncture point. I'm sorry, but if you don't undo it with a special method within 24 hours, you will start to feel disoriented. Then, things, like chopping the mayor or setting the city on fire or even pissing on Garison, might happen."
Not looking at the identically deathly complexion of those bailiffs, Meng Fuyao smiled amicably and waved. "Now, I invite everyone to follow me to the mansion."
The night was sinking, and the stars were flickering.
A thread of black, iron-like clouds had shrouded an eccentric-looking manor within the city walls.
The style of the building was similar to that of buildings in Zhucheng. Amid the white-walled and green-roofed city layers was a Rong-styled stronghold. Other than its Han-inspired perimeter walls and entrance door, the interior of the building was made from the most primitive tree bark. The undecorated iron pillars of the corridor were the specialty of the southern border. Vaguely visible horn-shaped lanterns could be seen swaying from the corners of the eaves as a pale yellowish light radiated from afar, generating a hazy effect.