Chapter 385 - 'Xu'
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In the other room.
Jing Rong made his way to the main hall after leaving Ji Yunshu’s room.
His stance was clear: praise where praise is deserved, penalty where penalty is required; if punishment was needed, it could not be forgotten or passed over. Zhang Huanping was kneeling prostate in the middle of the hall, his hands stretched straight in front of his head, which was buried firmly in his knees. He was trembling and shaking, but did not dare to speak or move. Lang Po stood next to him.
Jing Rong sat in the main seat of the hall. His expression was stern, the veins on his forehead almost popping out. It seemed like Zhang Huanping was about to get punished, when Jing Rong turned his gaze to Lang Po angrily. “Since when have you begun ignoring this Prince’s direct orders?”
“Who gave you the order to bring the three thousand troops to attack the mountain?”
“This servant deserves to die. I was waiting for Your Highness’s order when Lord Zhang sent a messenger, saying that Your Highness had entered Gaoshan Village without escort, and asked this servant to bring troops to rescue Your Highness. This servant was worried about Your Highness’s safety and so didn’t consider too much. This servant is dumb and stupid - I didn’t know of the intricacies behind the plan. This servant is willing to take responsibility for my actions; please punish this servant, Your Highness.” Before serving Jing Rong, Lang Po spent a long time in the army. He was a tough military man; he had charged at the forefront against enemies, led troops tens of thousands strong,fought with guns and blades- he had naturally grown to be a man of his actions; he would never run away from what he deserved, whether good or bad.
Jing Rong reprimanded, “Considering the consequences, this Prince will definitely punish you.”
Lang Po hung his head in silence.
Jing Rong next turned to Zhang Huanping. He raised a hand and slapped the tea table next to him with a bang. The teacup that was sitting daintily on it rolled to the ground. He questioned, “Lord Zhang, what do you have to say?”
Zhang Huanping began to shake even more. He stammered, “It was all this official’s fault. Please have mercy, Your Highness, seeing that this official also only acted with consideration for Your Highness’s safety. Please spare this official, Your Highness. Now that Gaoshan Village has been wiped out, Your Highness can be relieved of your worry - this is something to be celebrated. This official has more than made up for his original crime. Please have mercy, Your Highness!”
“How dare you!” Jing Rong was truly and completely enraged. He stood up in a fit, approaching Zhang Huanping to give him a good kick. Zhang Huanping immediately returned to his kneeling, almost prone position, holding back the pain he felt from Jing Rong’s outburst.
“Zhang Huanping, you really are daring - you say your achievements can negate the trouble you’ve caused? Only a thousand remain of the three thousand troops from Jing Province andGaoshan Village has been reduced to a bloody ruin; you dare say you are not guilty? Your head wouldn’t even be sufficient repayment for this crime!”
“Men.” Several men entered at Jing Rong’s command. “The Shanhuai County Governor, Zhang Huanping, has committed a severe, unforgivable crime. Remove his official black hat and his official rights, then report him to Lord Liu of the Ministry of Personnel.”
“Understood!” His men came forth, propped up Zhang Huanping and plucked the official hat from his head, then dragged him out of the hall.
“Please have mercy, Your Highness, please! This official won’t dare to do such a thing again, never ever again in my life!” His voice faded into the distance.
Since Zhang Huanping had received his dues, it was now Lang Po’s turn. Jing Rong ordered, “You should be obeying this Prince’s orders, but you ended up listening to Zhang Huanping’s words - what nonsense. You are partly to blame for the situation today, so you’ll be punished by military law - you’ll receive forty paddles for your misdoings. Go and receive your punishment yourself.” He waved him away.
“Understood!” Lang Po did not try to negotiate or plead, and left willingly to collect what he deserved.
Jing Rong felt the beginning of a headache; now that this matter had exploded beyond his initial expectations, word would have surely travelled to the Capital! He went to look for Ji Yunshu after he had finished arranging Zhang Huanping’s report, only to hear that Ji Wanxin was preparing to leave. Full of questions, he found Ji Yunshu staring blankly into the distance in her room. “Why did your Second Sister decide to depart early?” He sat down facing her. “What did you talk about just now?”
“And she’s leaving once you’ve finished chitchatting? Wasn’t the bond between you two sisters very strong? With your weak constitution now, she should logically remain here to look after you.”
Ji Yunshu spoke quietly, “To have something this big happen just as we left the Capital, I think it would be much safer for Second Sister to return to Jinjiang alone.” She did not want to explicitly explain why; she still had a soft spot for her - there was no need for her to destroy Ji Wanxin’s ‘sickly beauty’ image. Ji Yunshu spoke again before Jing Rong could continue his questioning. “I think that news of this must have already travelled to the Capital by now. What are you planning to do now?”
“Are you asking about my plan to counter this matter, or my escape route?”
Jing Rong chuckled nonchalantly. “I can’t and don’t want to predict Imperial Father’s decision. Nevertheless, he wouldn’t execute me - this matter may have been much bigger than we expected, but Gaoshan Village was indeed brought down and we have exterminated a pest for the government. It was a stroke of fortune that we didn’t harm any of the surrounding villagers this time. Another point would be that the ones who attacked the mountain weren’t imperial soldiers, so if the court were to track down who’s responsible, they would have no grounds. The only unfortunate misstep would be that Marquis Kang willprobably come after me for this debt I owe; he lent me three thousand but I lost two - even if I promised him the Golden Woven Armour, he has lost far more than he would gain.”
Ji Yunshu nodded, sighing.
“How’s the wound on your back?” Jing Rong asked her out of concern.
“I’m fine now.”
“I’d better have a look. You always say you’re fine - wait till you’re hit by another paddle and begin to bleed again.”
Such deceptively sweet words!Jing Rong’s evil hands had already reached over. Ji Yunshu swerved and stood up to escape, her hands instinctively moving to her waist in case Jing Rong were to grab her again, only for her face to fall. She patted her waistband, anxiously asking, “Where’s my jade pendant?”
“What jade pendant?”
“That piece of blood jade that Wei Yi gifted me.”
Don’t tell me, did I lose it at Gaoshan Village?
That same moment, Gaoshan Village.
Nothing much remained of the village after that fire; the once impenetrable Gaoshan Village was no more than a feeble branch in the storm. With Mo Ruo present, Zhao Huai had fortunately managed to hold on to his life despite losing an arm.
Mo Ruo left a prescription and letter for Zhao Qing, reminding them, “The prescription and letter are for you to bring to Abbot Lingzhou at Lu An Temple. When he sees the letter, he’ll continue your acupuncture treatment, and you’ll recover.” Zhao Qing expressed his gratitude. Mo Ruo gave a slight bow, giving a few more orders before he left.
Zhao Huai stirred awake not long after Mo Ruo was gone. He was a tough man; he looked not too different from his usual self even after losing an arm and a significant amount of blood. Although awake, he said nothing, only staring ahead coldly.
Zhao Qing spoke first, “The Gaoshan Village is no more now. The past is the past, Jiu’er’s matter… has also passed. I will head to Lu An Temple and continue my treatment. I will give you Father’s Jade Extraction Bottle - you should restart the wine brewery.”
Zhao Huai remained quiet. Then, a servant boy entered. He must have just finished putting out the fires as his entire face was covered with soot. He held something in his hand, which he presented to the Zhao brothers, “First Master, Second Master, this was found amongst the ruins. It’s strange - this piece of jade wasn’t the least bit affected.”
Zhao Qing eyed it cautiously, “Bring it to me.”
That lackey boy handed it over. It was a vermillion-coloured piece of blood jade - he had never seen this pendant before!
Zhao Huai shot over a careless eye, but his eyes widened in an instant, his entire back straightening with surprise. He spoke with pale, white lips, “Is there a ‘Xu’ character engraved on the back of the jade?”
Zhao Qing flipped it over - there it was! A ‘Xu’ character!
Zhao Huai was stricken!
ChouFleur Rants Corner
Gasp! Another mystery? Where have we heard of this before...?
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