In an antique living room with elegant decorations and no luxuries, Wang Duo, the Prime-Minister, was having tea with someone. The Tea Master boiling tea nearby was not a graceful lady, but an old servant.
The middle-aged man sitting opposite Wang Duo was in his early forties and had a decent manner. He had the martial spirit of a general and the elegant style of a Confucian. This was Gao Pian, a famous General of the Right Guards in the empire. He and Li Xian both were the most respectful Generals in the empire.
"In this way, did Li Guanshu shoot himself in the foot?" Gao Pian took a sip of tea and chuckled.
Wang Duo looked particularly happy. "It was more than shooting himself in the foot. It was like digging a grave for himself."
Gao Pian's gaze was deep. "But at first, he didn't intend to dig the grave for himself."
Wang Duo put down the tea bowl and sighed. "Duke Xing had an unsolvable feud with Prince An and he wouldn't let go of any chance."
Gao Pian turned around the edge of the tea bowl and then put it down suddenly. He looked at Wang Duo. "How did Prince An survive that day? Who killed Li Guanshu?"
"At that time, Nangong Diyi was fighting a group of masters, Niushou Mountain was in chaos, and the youths of the Imperial Clan were taking refuge in all directions, so no one knew how Prince An survived... Afterward, according to Prince An's words, he did not encounter Li Guanshu." Wang Duo said slowly.
Gao Pian sneered. "Li Guanshu went to Sanqingguan personally. If he did not find Prince An, he was a good-for-nothing."
Wang Duo said, "Duke Xing was certainly not a good-for-nothing."
Gao Pian said again, "Li Guanshu was in Level 6 of Qi-refining so that many people were able to kill him, but not all of them dare to kill him."
Wang Duo said suddenly, "After returning from Niushou Mountain, Prince An has one more person around."
Gao Pian asked, "What kind of person?"
Wang Duo looked weird. "A person who can't be seen through."
Gao Pian frowned. "Is this person able to kill Li Guanshu?"
Wang Duo thought for a moment and shook his head. "I have never seen this person before."
Gao Pian was silent.
The tea in the bowl was cold. The Tea Master replaced two cups of fresh tea for them. Wang Duo took a sip and continued, "There is one weirder thing. Grand Prince Gong's Heir Apparent was injured seriously and his attendant was dead."
"Oh, why?" Gao Pian raised his eyebrows and felt interested.
Wang Duo said with a bitter smile, "Not a word comes out of Grand Prince Gong's Manor."
"So the matter is asked not to be spoken out." Gao Pian picked up the fresh tea and handed it to his mouth. He paused and then put it down. He asked Wang Duo, "There is something fishy about the matter. What did Duchess of Li say about it?"
Wang Duo shook his head. "Nothing."
Gao Pian put his hands on his knees and leaned forward slightly. "Then what did Prince An say about it? After Prince An returned, did you ever go to see him?"
"Yes, I did." Wang Duo said doubtfully and his voice was a bit dumb. "Prince An said he did not know."
Gao Pian kept silent again.
Wang Duo drank his tea, put it down, picked it up, and drank it again. He repeated three times and his cup of tea was finished in a second.
"What had happened in Niushou Mountain was too weird. Needless to say that the situation was definitely complicated. That matter that Nangong Diyi had fought a group of masters had been asked not to be spoken out. But people in the Imperial Astronomical Observatory were complex, so there were a few words coming out... Even without any words, the big fight seemed to be very weird. Who were the people on the other side? Why did they block Nangong Diyi in Sanqingguan?" Wang Duo talked a lot. The things that had happened in Niushou Mountain were like flowers in the fog. Everyone who had returned from Niushou Mountain seemed to become weird and mysterious. He had too many questions in his mind.
Gao Pian said slowly, "Now I can only be sure of one thing."
"What is it?" Wang Duo asked immediately.
Gao Pian said in a low voice, "Prince An... can't be underestimated."
Wang Duo stunned for a while and then he nodded and agreed.
The fact that Li Ye had seen through Li Guanshu's conspiracy in Luoping Village and that he had survived in Niushou Mountain was enough to prove it. Undoubtedly, Li Guanshu's death had added a lot of mystery to Li Ye. After all, he was Li Ye's enemy. Whether the matter had something to do with Li Ye or not, it was very intriguing.
Wang Duo said, "Before the examination, I did not expect that Prince An could achieve such a result. I originally thought that if he could make some performance and did not fall too far behind the other youths of the Imperial Clan, it would be enough. After all, Prince An had been unable to cultivate for twenty years. He was average in intelligence and had nothing worthy of praise. In the past few years, he had done nothing fascinating... Unexpectedly, once Prince An got Celestial Master Yuan's inheritance, he changed completely. His cultivation and intelligence have improved a lot and his personal Luck is not the same as before... Fortunately, Prince An is on our side."
If such a person became an enemy, it would be a big problem.
Gao Pian chuckled. "On our side? Does Prince An agree with you?"
Wang Duo slightly frowned. "What do you mean, General?"
Gao Pian's voice became cold. "When the old Prince An was dead and Prince An was in trouble, did you ever help him? If you did not give him any assistance, why would he be on our side? The previous help that you have given to him can only make you an acquaintance."
Wang Duo did not say a word.
Gao Pian said again, "We have already missed the chance of providing timely help and it's irreparable. Although the icing on the cake is not as good as the timely help, it has a great difference between doing it and not doing it. Besides, this is our last chance to give a big gift."
Wang Duo understood Gao Pian's meaning. "There's no doubt that Prince An will rank first in the official examination. About his specific official position..."
At this moment, Wang Duo stopped talking and did not say it clearly.
Wang Duo wanted to find a good job for Li Ye, but obviously, his and Li Ye's opponents would not agree, which required a gamble. Wang Duo was calm and steady. He had decided to give Li Ye an official position with real power at any cost, but he would not say anything until it was done.
Gao Pian smiled suddenly. "The matter of Niushou Mountain is inexplicable for us, but some people will feel more distressed than us."
Upon hearing this, Wang Duo smiled again.
After a while, Gao Pian said seriously, "Without any delay, we should plan Prince An's official arrangements in advance."
Wang Duo nodded. "I'm going to gather all the people to make preparations."
Meanwhile, in the Prime Minister's Manor.
"For so many years, how did I not realize that Li Guanshu was so useless and could only make things worse?!" Wei Baoheng seldom got angry, but now he was raging. He paced back and forth in the room. The snuff bottle, which he liked to play with the most in daily life, was crushed into pieces in his hands.
"Duck Wei, please calm down. It's not worth getting angry about him." A man standing in front of Wei Baoheng was less than forty years old, with an oily face and a big fat belly. Although he was not good looking, he was the second most important man in the court after Wei Baoheng. His name was Lu Yan, a Prime-Minister and an assistant minister of the Military Department.
A Prime-Minister was a joint manager of affairs in the Secretariat-Chancellery and his position was the same as the Prime Minister's. With his title, he had the power to advice on national affairs in the imperial court. This was the reason why there were several Prime Ministers in the middle and late Tang Empire. No matter how many Prime Ministers there were, there was only one Prime Minister in power. Wei Baoheng, who was now the Prime Minister in power, had the right to command all officials to deal with daily political affairs.
"All people in the imperial court know that Li Guanshu was my right-hand man. Currently, he had committed a crime of slandering others for rebellion so that I'm implicated. Because of the matter, I was reproached by His Majesty these two days and those officials, like Han Wenyue and Liu Xingshen, made oblique accusations against me with sarcasm. This is really unbearable!"
Although he had been angry for a few days, he could not calm down. He was concerned about Li Guanshu's life because he used to be his right-hand man. His power had been weakened as Li Guanshu died. But compared to the stigma that Li Guanshu had brought to him by slandering Sanqingguan for rebellion, obviously, Wei Baoheng more cared about the latter. After all, he was the Prime Minister in power and had a lot of power. It was very important to have a good reputation for a powerful minister.
After a long time, Wei Baoheng finally put himself in a good mood and sat down on the host's seat. "Do you find out how Li Guanshu died?"
"No, I don't. All the people who went with Li Guanshu died. The disciples of Sanqingguan and the cultivators of the Imperial Astronomical Observatory did not see what had happened... I have found out that the place where Li Guanshu died should be in front of a waterfall. There were sword marks on the cliff wall of the waterfall and the surrounding trees were also damaged by Sword Qi. Obviously, that person was a real master and he was very accomplished at sword skills."
Lu Yan continued, "The strangest thing is that there were more than a dozen disciples of Sanqingguan dying in front of the waterfall, including Xu Qingfeng, the Great Taoist of Sanqingguan... Extrapolating from the available evidence, there can be only one result."
Wei Baoheng frowned. "Xu Qingfeng killed Li Guanshu?"
"To be exact, they perished together," Lu Yan said thoughtfully, "in Niushou Mountain, besides the masters fighting with Nangong Diyi, only Xu Qingfeng had such power and sword skills. What's more, the sword formation of Sanqingguan was also famous..."
"Did Xu Qingfeng have the power of Level 6 Qi-refining?" Wei Baoheng frowned. "Li Guanshu went with Wei Tianhe whose cultivation was in Level 5 of Qi-refining. I heard that he was a Jianghu killer and his fighting skill was quite outstanding."
Lu Yan thought for a moment. "The cultivation that Xu Qingfeng had reported to the Imperial Astronomical Observatory was in Level 5 of Qi-refining, but he might hide his strength. The masters, who fought with Nangong Diyi in Niushou Mountain, indeed had the power to kill Li Guanshu as they were able to fight with Nangong Diyi face to face. But according to Nangong Diyi's words, these people were killed by him or fled one after another. They had no chance to kill Li Guanshu."
Wei Baoheng asked patiently, "It was unusual for those masters appearing in Niushou Mountain. They could only be the Taoist disciples of Zhongnan Mountain as they came too fast. The question was why they would come to Niushou Mountain and start a fight with Nangong Diyi at the risk of revealing their identities."