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After reading it, Gong Sang Mo says, "This is the result of the investigation that you have conducted these past few years?"
There are descriptions of five secret places on the report, two of them are undoubtedly places where secret soldiers are being trained. The remaining three are, like the Wolong Ridge, the lairs of bandits.
Hua Man Xi's eyes darken a little, "Yes. My fuwang forbade me from leaving the capital, so I always had to leave in secret. I couldn't be out for too long or else my fuwang would find out. This is the best I could do."
"Seeing his tactics both in the dark and out in the open, Rui Qinwang does not seem to be someone with a good head," Yun Qian Yu says.
Gong Sang Mo agrees, "Someone has been giving him instructions in the dark."
"The black-clothed man that you brought up to Murong Chen?" Yun Qian Yu remembers about what Gong Sang Mo says regarding a black-clothed man who frequently snuck into Rui Qinwang's study.
"Yes. His martial art prowess is a lot higher than San Qiu and Yi Ri. They never manage to track him down. Based from Murong Chen's reaction, he didn't know who that man was. Perhaps, even Rui Qinwang didn't," Gong Sang Mo solemnly says.
"We currently don't even know who our enemies are," Yun Qian Yu feels a little baffled.
Hua Man Xi lowers his head to cover the look in his eyes.
Gong Sang Mo turns to him, deep in thoughts.
"He must have his own intention by helping Rui Qinwang, but what is he going for? Perhaps Rui Qinwang helped him once, and now he wants to repay the favour," Yun Qian Yu softly says.
"Why must he enter Rui Qinwang's manor so secretively?" Gong Sang Mo retorts back.
"His identity does not allow him to!" Yun Qian Yu's eyes light up.
"What kind of identity could it be?"
"Someone of noble background!"
"That means that the person who has been secretly helping Rui Qinwang is one of Nan Lou Kingdom's noble," Gong Sang Mo firmly says.
Yun Qian Yu turns to Hua Man Xi thoughtfully, "Do you know anything, Man Xi?"
Hua Man Xi evasively says, "I am not capable enough to dig that out. Why don't you two investigates it; there are only a handful of noble families here in the kingdom."
Gong Sang Mo glances at Hua Man Xi, "Man Xi is right, Nan Lou Kingdom has no imperial prince at the moment. There are very few members of imperial clan as well. Other than Rui Qinwang's manor, there are the Xian Wang's manor, Duke Rong's manor and the faraway Ding Hai Wang's manor. Other than us, there are the Duke of Wu An and the Duke of An Le. It should not be too hard to figure out who that man is."
Yun Qian Yu nods, "There is still time. Yu Jian has ascended the throne, they must be really anxious right now. Rui Qinwang does not scare me, but I am really worried about the man behind him. If we do not get rid of him now, he will bring more trouble in the future."
Gong Sang Mo nods.
Yun Qian Yu asks again, "Have you noticed something off?"
Both Hua Man Xi and Gong Sang Mo stare at her.
"Grandfather found out that he has lost his son and that all of the women in his back palace were given infertility poison in one night. I found out that Murong Chen had been given infertility tonic as well, if that man really wants to help Rui Qinwang, why would he do that to Rui Qinwang's descendants? I'm afraid no one in Rui Qinwang's manor has been spared."
Gong Sang Mo turns to Hua Man Xi and discovers that his eyes are flashing.
"Besides, the last time I went to Duke Rong's manor, I discovered that imperial aunt was also given infertility tonic. She was given some times after she gave birth to Man Xi."
Hua Man Xi's pupils shrink as he clenches his fists.
"I have this feeling that the man in black isn't helping Rui Qinwang, but is instead ruining the entire imperial family," Yun Qian Yu sums up her conclusion.
"What about Yu Jian?" Hua Man Xi suddenly asks.
"He wasn't given infertility tonic, but he was given the same poison as the one they gave grandfather; maybe that's why they didn't bother to give him the tonic, because they thought he wouldn't live for long."
Hua Man Xi sighs in relief.
Yun Qian Yu eyes him, "Give me your wrist."
Hua Man Xi freezes for a moment before giving her his wrist.
She carefully checks his wrist, "You were not given any."
Hua Man Xi stares at his own wrist with flashing eyes.
"Investigate everything properly. Do not leave out even one clan," Hua Man Xi says in a deep tone.
Yun Qian Yu and Gong Sang Mo exchange a look, is Hua Man Xi implying that they need to check Duke Rong's manor as well?
"Alright, you two should take care of the rest. I am so tired, I need to sleep!" Hua Man Xi gets up, stretches his waist and then ostentatiously makes his way out.
Yun Qian Yu looks at the report on the table, "Don't you think Man Xi is being weird?"
"He is acting out of character," Gong Sang Mo agrees.
"He was acting weird back when I was in Duke Rong's manor as well. Princess Ming Zhu too! He purposely told me that the mo bamboo forest we were at was facing the imperial palace. What was he trying to say?" Yun Qian Yu turns to Gong Sang Mo.
"The secret passage!" the two of them exclaim at the same time.
Both of them are taken aback. Their angle was wrong from the very beginning. Murong Cang trusted Duke Rong. They never suspected Duke Rong's manor. Duke Rong's manor is so close to the imperial family, even Yu Jian's mother came from Duke Rong's clan.
Now, all the leads are pointing towards them.
"Seems like Hua Man Xi knows something," Gong Sang Mo ponders while rubbing his nose.
"Before I left Duke Rong's manor the other day, Princess Ming Zhu whispered something to me; 'I only care about Man Xi'. Now, I finally know what she meant. They know something but cannot openly tell us. They can only discreetly hint everything to us," Yun Qian Yu put the pieces together.
"There are only two people who can intimidate them," Gong Sang Mo says.
"The current Duke Rong and the old Duke Rong," Yun Qian Yu replies.
"Seems like we will have to dig up Duke Rong's manor."
"I don't think that the two Dukes' martial arts are high though. Didn't you say that the man in black is very proficient in martial arts?" Yun Qian Yu curiously says.
"Months ago, nobody knew that you are good at martial arts as well," Gong Sang Mo says.
Yun Qian Yu is taken aback a little, "To be able to hide it for so long, they sure have high endurance."
"To be able to trick the imperial family like this, they are indeed not simple." Gong Sang Mo becomes quiet. Duke Rong's clan and Xian Wang's clan fought alongside the Murong clan to conquer the land. The patriarchs of Duke Rong's clan and Xian Wang's clan refused the emperor's position back then, so the position was handed over to Murong Clan. The first emperor then bestowed the Hua clan and the Gong Clan the title 'wang' that can be inherited by the next generations.
They were pretty much brothers, why does the Duke Rong's manor hate the imperial family now? Not only do they want to take the land from Murong clan, they also stopped Murong clan from expanding their progeny.
Yun Qian Yu is thinking the same thing as he is. Seems like they have overlooked something.
She calls a Yun guard, "Investigate whatever enmity is lingering between Duke Rong's manor and the imperial family. Do not leave out even a single thing."
Gong Sang Mo also instructs San Qiu to dispatch people to keep an eye on Duke Rong's manor. They need to find out who that man in black is.
"We will return to the capital tomorrow," Yun Qian Yu is worried about Murong Cang and Yu Jian.
"Alright," Gong Sang Mo knows what Yun Qian Yu is thinking.
After Gong Sang Mo returns to his own chamber, he gives San Qiu another instruction, "Go back to the capital and keep an eye on Rui Qinwang's manor. If there is any movement, do as I told you to earlier."
San Qiu knows that things have gotten dangerous. Perhaps, there is already an uproar in the capital right now. He turns around and immediately goes on his way.
The next day, Yun Qian Yu, Gong Sang Mo and Hua Man Xi sets off right after they have breakfast.
Guo Shu Huai sends them right to the gate of Wolong City.
Yun Qian Yu gets down from her horse before beckoning Guo Shu Huai over, "Bengong knew it was you from the start."
"This official has guessed that," Guo Shu Huai answers truthfully.
"The reason we didn't apprehend you was because the Wolong bandits had to be eradicated either way. Other than that, we also wanted to keep Bei Tang Ming safe. You admitted fault the moment we returned and I was curious to know the reason behind your actions. We helped you cover it up because we could tell that you are a good leader for the people. You are also an upright man, which is pretty rare to be honest. That's why bengong spared you on behalf of the emperor."
"Thank you for your grace, Your Highness," Guo Shu Huai is honestly grateful towards Yun Qian Yu. He originally thought that the best outcome for him would be getting sacked from his position.
"No need to thank me. You simply need to share His Majesty's burden, in the future."
"This official will not waste His Majesty's and Your Highness' trust!" Guo Shu Huai solemnly swears.
"The Prefectural Magistrate of Jing Zhou is now in prison. The position must not be left vacant. The decree will come to you in a few days. I hope you will remain as you are in Jing Zhou, an official who cares about the common people."
Guo Shu Huai didn't think that he would not only be allowed to keep his life, but also be given a promotion. This is a huge grace.
"This official will do his best to care for the common people and to share the emperor's worry!"
Guo Shu Huai's trust for the court was originally wavering due to how his superior suppressed the news of the Wolong bandits. But now, he knows that the court isn't so. Under the rule of the new emperor and the guidance of Princess Hu Guo, there ought to be changes soon.
"Remember your promise. Bengong and His Majesty will be keeping an eye for you from the court. We hope we will hear great things."
"Yes, Your Highness!"
Yun Qian Yu no longer says anything and gently jumps onto her horse and rides away.
Guo Shu Huai stares at her retreating back. He suddenly remembers the poem that Yun Qian Yu wrote for Ya Xuan, "'A thick tresses of hair, a jade hairpin and a bashful jade-like face,
The thin eyebrows are laden with worries,
Plum blossom blooms, marking the transition of cold winter to spring,
Water leaks a thousand chi in the midst of lofty sentiments,
The land is vast and beautiful,
Cold sword pierce through the frontier's invaders,
The hand is grasping books of war and strategy,
Riding the horse towards the enemy's camp while wearing rouge,
The song of victory echoes and the maiden laughs,
Delicate peach blossoms are stored in her pouch,
Her headdress (jinguo) does not lose to a man's aspiration,
The dream of having an unformidable army."
Guo Shu Huai stands there for a long time, staring at the direction they took even after they have disappeared from view.
After a while, he turns around, his back upright like a rod. Even a woman has aspirations, much less he, a grown man.
Since she is giving him that much chance, he must show her that he can soar above the sky. He wants to prove to her that she chose the correct person. That she was right for trusting him.
Yun Qian Yu would never thought that a mere thought, a simple sentence, and a kind gesture from her would bring that much difference in the future. It will be the catalyst of many outstanding achievements in the future.
Yun Qian Yu, Hua Man Xi and Gong Sang Mo travels non-stop. They reach the capital three days later.
Hua Man Xi returns to Hu Wei Camp while Gong Sang Mo escorts Yun Qian Yu to the imperial palace.
The two of them goes to the imperial study where Murong Cang is accompanying Yu Jian. The pair even stays together at night, they have never been closer before.
Yu Jian is sitting behind the dragon desk, reading memorials, while Murong Cang is resting beside him. Feng Ran is keeping guard behind them, looking all solemn.
"Imperial sister, Brother Sang Mo!" Yu Jian happily stands up to greet them.
Murong Cang smiles at them in relief.
Yun Qian Yu describes everything in great detail to them. As for the Prefectural Magistrate of Jing Zhou, he has, as expected, committed suicide.
As for Guo Shu Huai, his action gets acknowledged by Murong Cang and Yu Jian. Yu Jian releases a decree to appoint him as the new Prefectural Magistrate of Jing Zhou.
When he hears that Yun Qian Yu is going to hand over the stash of gold for the development of weapons, Yu Jian is ecstatic, "Han Zhu was just talking about the lack of funds. You have given me a solution, imperial sister."
Yun Qian Yu smiles, "Do you want more or not?"
"You have more?" Yu Jian looks at her with large eyes.
"Yes, but you will need to pick it up yourself."
After that, Yun Qian Yu hands him the report that Hua Man Xi gave her.
Yu Jian gives it to his grandfather first before reading it himself.
"What is this, imperial sister?" Yu Jian curiously asks.
"The one that is circled is where the treasure is. The rest are the places that we need to obliterate," Yun Qian Yu says.
Gong Sang Mo begins explaining everything to them, explaining every details as fast as he can.
Yu Jian's eyes light up, "Imperial sister, are they really for me to handle?"
"Of course, you are the emperor. From now on, the land is under your care. You must take full advantage of this opportunity, do not let your Brother Man Xi's years long of effort go to waste."
"I will remember that! I will reward Brother Man Xi tomorrow."
"The reward can wait. You can reward him anytime you want, no need to rush."
In her heart, she knows that Hua Man Xi will be even sadder if he is rewarded. Besides, rewarding him will alert the others.
The things that they are not sure are not shared with Yu Jian and Murong Cang.
Yu Jian nods understandingly before promptly starting to count his men, trying to figure out how to dig these bandits' lairs.
Murong Cang says, "It will be hard to handle the places where they gather the secret troops. Those people are still Nan Lou Kingdom's people. Perhaps, they are just confused."