Barking Up the Wrong Tree – Finding His Own Trap Hilarious Yet Again
"You're an outspoken one, hahaha," said the prime minister. "But don't put a green hat on this old one. This old one only provided an opinion. Shen Yiren was the one who sorted out all of the details. His Majesty is very astute, you know? As of present, only Grand Princess has successfully requested such a major imperial edict before; Green Prince and Brilliant Consort have yet to replicate her success. Not even Her Majesty has been able to ask for one. I have to give Yiren credit where it's due."
I concurred. I couldn't help feeling the prime minister cooperated excessively well on the matter. According to my knowledge, he was the one who inspired Boss Shen to ask for the right to partake in the Imperial Martial Arts Tournament. Given that he was willing to help, all of the components could be reasonably explained.
Sounding as though he was well informed, the prime minister added, "It's not a big deal even if it's revealed. Since you're already aware where the sword is aimed, the ace is obvious; there's no point in this old one hiding it from you on the surface. His Majesty likes the talent Young Su and Young Tang have to offer. Their performances at the tournament captivated him. The imperial court has never lacked talent similar to them. You might be unaware, but, after Yiren and His Majesty reached the deal, His Majesty sent a surveillance team out to monitor the two for the purpose of finding out their potential."
"You mean the few new blokes who joined Liu Shan Men, correct?"
"Oh? You recognised Luo Huaian?" asked the prime minister, sending me an eye signal as a compliment. "I'm impressed. They're elites among His Majesty's entourage, yet you saw through them?"
'Obviously. I even taught them a lesson. Luo Huaian started acting as though he ran the place and gloated as if there was no tomorrow as soon as he joined. How is it possible to not catch on?'
"What did His Majesty find out after the extended surveillance?"
The prime minister smiled: "Quite a good deal. Young Su is young and not very adept at martial arts. Nevertheless, he attracts company almost magically and is amazingly approachable. You should already be cognizant of the fact men and women - regardless of age, including those in the imperial palace - have fallen head over heels for him in mere months."
"Are you referring to the secretive Su Xiao Support Association? They are a menacing syndicate. I see maids in the palace using secret codes to exchange paintings of him every time I am in the palace. The procedure looks as complicated as military secrets trades; it freaks me out."
"That's it. That's it. That specialty of Young Su can put Liu Shan Men and the imperial court's image in a positive light. What are the chances you would ever find someone with such a quality? As for Tang Ye, he's a martial arts genius. This old one has never met another with his gift for martial arts, improvement rate and potential, and this old one is confident in his judgement of Tang Ye. Within ten years, he will stand out among the Seventeen Hidden Dragons. If he is lucky, he might even reach the pinnacle. Accordingly, His Majesty values him the most among you three. He wants to groom him into one of the Ultimate Three. Both His Majesty and I agree and value their young age, which is the most important factor. Tang Ye is eighteen. Su Xiao is only fifteen. There is no better time than now to cultivate their talent. They are almost bound to rise through the ranks."
"And that is why they have been recommended to different departments?"
"Why are you asking what you already know? Yiren has a good judgement of character and possesses a knack for cultivating talent. Having said that, she may not have enough time on her hands. That's not mention the two are Liu Shan Men's hope. If it isn't already obvious why His Majesty wants to personally train them, it's because they will be grateful to him in the future."
"Was that what His Majesty said?"
"It was a guess."
The prime minister and I looked at each other. The atmosphere reeked of cunningness. The two of us laughed together. I then said, "Their weaknesses are also obvious. That explains why His Majesty immediately sent them to the Ministry of Personnel and Ministry of Justice."
"Young Su is pure, kind and has a strong sense of justice. That's a positive; however, his motivations are predominately emotions and sympathy. Down the road, that will be to his detriment and possibly become his fatal weakness. Secretary Li judges others based on the law and is totally impartial. He might be the only one Young Su can learn how cruel the adult world is from.
Tang Ye is fond of martial arts; I heard his fondness had to do with his family background, but let's brush that aside for the meantime. I heard he was a well-known figure in the North. He possesses an affinity for martial arts and learns it remarkably fast. Needless to say, he is very adept. He's most renowned for looking for people to fight for three days straight, challenging martial arts schools in Nanjing. He may look stoic, but he's impulsive. If he keeps that up, he'll be his own undoing in the imperial court. He needs to learn patience and to be meticulous from Secretary Zhang."
I had a nip of wine and kept my head down in silence. The prime minister looked over to me and smiled: "You were also placed under surveillance for some time, but nothing noteworthy was found. If you're not eating or sleeping, you're engaging in idle chatter. Oh, you also flirt with girls. I heard you frequent Heavenly Fragrance Garden, too, right? You're essentially an embodiment of flaws. That being said, none of your flaws are fatal. You do have your own merits. Strictly speaking, though, they aren't worth His Majesty's time and effort. At the end of the day, however, you're able to catch on to details others would miss. I must praise Yiren for noticing that knack of yours.
His Majesty and Yiren have both said you're a very peculiar individual. When with you, one has their guard up. They forget the difference in status without being aware and speak to you as if they are equal in status or friends… This old one has witnessed it for himself today. You really are a unique one, Young Ming."
I smiled: "If you sat that, they will behead me, Prime Minister. People will mistake I owe you lots of money."
"Hahaha, you are going to deny you are not unique after saying that? Even if others don't show this old one the degree of respect Yan Bei, they are still courteous. This old one isn't blessed with a striking appearance, but his prime minister status has many on their knees. Who could chat and laugh in such a casual manner with the leader of the imperial court's vassals? That, itself, is praiseworthy."
I laughed again and had a few drinks with the prime minister. We didn't touch on my identity thus far. In saying that, there was no doubt the prime minister had developed an interest in me. He might've planned to dig into my profile for all I knew. I wasn't worried, since he, like Tang Ye, was the type to ignore trivial affairs. If he hypothetically learnt my true identity someday, I doubt he'd mention it on his own accord.
After a few more drinks, I asked, "It is your turn now, Prime Minister. What is the case we are working on?"
"Oh, the case? His Majesty assigned it to us. It's a very important case. This is the case for your test."
I took the accordion and had a read. I asked, "Since you knew about this already, I assume you must have some insider information."
"Haha, clever one, aren't you? How did you know?"
I quickly poured the prime minister a cup: "You did not even spare the accordion a glance after leaving the palace, yet you told me the case was a big one. I do not think there is a need to explicate anything else."
"Not bad. Not bad," commented the prime minister, finishing the drink I poured. Smiling, he said, "It's not a minor issue. It has to do with a recent incident in the imperial palace. It's not a major case. In saying that, it has given His Majesty a headache. Solve it, and there'll be lots of gains for you."
I quickly poured the prime minister another cup: "Would you happen to have any tips?"
"I do, actually," answered the prime minister, having sips of his next drink. "His Majesty's entourage looked into it before, and they dug up some clues. They found a businessman by the name of Lu Shangfei to be very suspicious."
"Lu Shangfei…" I repeated the name, but didn't find any clues. I asked, "Do you happen to know him, Prime Minister?"
The prime minister clutched his cup. Tone serious, he said, "He is shrouded in mystery; this old one doesn't know much, either. All this old one knows is that he is a villager at Rock Riverside Bull Village in Zijin Town, Fengning County, Nanjing. He was born on the 9th, April, second year of Dacheng's reign. He was born at his second aunt's house in the east of the village. He started from nothing and began with a silk business. Over time, he opened several silk stores. A few years ago, he gained some fame for his wealth in Jiangnan. He opened branch after branch. The newest one is the one on Vermillion Street; he opened that one last year. There has been no news of him in the last half a year. Besides that… *sigh*… this old one doesn't know anything else about him."
"He's your illegitimate son, isn't he?!"
'How the hell do you know where his old home is, where he was born and where he obtained his capital?!! Also, you know everything, don't you?! Pick the perfect spots to cut off your information, will you? You know his entire life as if it's your own up until half a year ago. You don't know everything I happen to want to know. That's not called a coincidence; it's called bullshit!!'
"The person in charge of this case will soon be here to meet with you. They'll come dressed in white and carry a white fan. You must be cordial. This old one's wife must be worried sick after this old one has been out for so long, so he shall take his leave now. He shall pay for the bill."
I asked again, but the prime minister already walked over to the owner.
I decided to investigate it myself. The credit wouldn't be mine, otherwise. Plus, I just had a nice meal, so problems were no longer problems.
The prime minister stroked his beard: "Boss, put it on my tab."
Boss: "Not happening."
"…" The prime minister glanced over to give me a smile.
'Motherfucker, I fell for it!!'
The old prime minister bolted downstairs before I could even chase him.
'Wait! Wait! I didn't bring enough!'
Somebody suddenly said from behind, "Where did the man who sat with Mr. Li at Xuan Section's table twenty four gone off to?"
'Hmm? Oh, shit! A saviour! My bro probably has that cash!'
"Over here! Over here! Over here, buddy!"
I turned around. White clothing? Check. White fan? Check. She looked over to me. When I saw her face, I had a good guess what case His Majesty assigned me. She was entrancing, had a melon-shaped face, dazzling eyes, had hair done up as a male would and lips were sensually moist. Those soft and ample curves on her slender body were eye-catching. No man could resist stopping to admire her beauty. Name one female who could look so mesmerising dressed as a woman who's not General Manager Bai.
"You?" remarked Bai Lian, surprised. She glanced over to the boss. Scornful gaze on me, she said, "And… you're trying to dine and dash?"
'You old fart! What the hell was that about not getting revenge on me?! Did you tell General Manager Bai to come, and foot the bill, because you knew she hated me?!! Hey! Get your ass back here and rectify this situation, you weasel!!'