Jing Rong completed his analysis.
Lang Po also finally understood, but he still had some reservations. “Then what if… Kong Qu doesn’t understand? Or if he thinks that Your Highness is purposely using the Crown Prince’s matter to borrow troops from him?”
He wasn’t wrong to have such concerns, but Jing Rong smiled confidently, “Kong Qu is an intelligent person! Since he is so intelligent, he naturally won’t do something stupid. This prince is now throwing in my entire hand to bet that he will lend the troops.” It’s a gamble!
Just then, Shi Ziran entered the doors, travel-worn and covered in dust. Although it clearly wasn’t raining at the moment, his clothes were damp with beads of rain; he must have travelled through the small trails in the forest instead of the main road in order to hurry back as fast as possible.
“Your Highness.” Shi Ziran bowed in greeting.
“How is it?”
“As Your Highness instructed, I went to Hanzhou to see Kong Shengyi and clearly conveyed Your Highness’s message. He neither agreed nor denied the request, but just said that he had to consider.”
Kong Shengyi is Empress Xuanshu’s cousin. After he resigned from his post and left the capital, he started breeding warhorses in Hanzhou. The Emperor merely turned a blind eye to this on behalf of the late Empress, letting him enjoy his retirement.
The message that Jing Rong had asked Shi Ziran to convey was exactly the same as that in the letter that he had sent to Kong Qu.
Jing Rong nodded. His aim had already been achieved. “If this prince has predicted correctly, Kong Qu and Kong Shengyi should already have contacted each other.”
However, Shi Ziran was worried. “Even though Your Highness mentioned the matter of the Crown Prince beseiging the palace, Empress Xuanshu and the Crown Prince are already dead. The Kong family has already declined, and they should be avoiding the capital as much as possible, so why would they help Your Highness confront Prince Yi, especially now that Prince Yi’s power is at its zenith.”
His worries were justified. Those with power in the Kong family, Empress Xuanshu and the Crown Prince, were both dead. They were already fortunate to be able to find a role outside the capital, and could always keep their troops to themselves and remain carefree.
But if they lent troops in order to investigate the truth about the Crown Prince’s siege of the palace…
If they were lucky, they would be able to provide help and finally discover the truth; if they were unlucky, the Kong family would surely be done for. Isn’t this risk a little too large?
Nonetheless, Jing Rong was filled with confidence. From the moment he thought of Kong Qu and Kong Shengyi, he had already clearly predicted the subsequent events. “The Kong family generals value loyalty and justice. If they believed this prince’s words, they would naturally not bide their time.”
The next day, at the hour of the rabbit (5 - 7am), just after daybreak, a major incident happened in the Marquis’s estate.
“Ah!” A scream tore through the air.
It didn’t come from the maids or servants of the estate, but from Marquis Kang. The sound originated from the courtyard where he kept his treasures.
Practically everyone in the estate had gone to take a look, they all crowded tightly around the courtyard, craning their necks to try to look inside. Ji Yunshu and Jing Rong had also received the news and went there immediately.
The minute they entered the courtyard, they saw Marquis Kang crying and sobbing, furiously wiping away his tears while hugging an odd-looking treasure.
“What’s going on?” Jing Rong asked one of the servants.
The servant quickly answered, “Your Highness, it’s…. Marquis Kang’s treasure was swapped out by someone.”
“Swapped?” Something as interesting as this could happen?
One had to understand that the love of Marquis Kang’s life was undoubtedly those treasures that he collected. For someone to switch them out with fakes, isn’t that as bad as wanting his life? Marquis Kang was both furious and grieved as he hugged the counterfeit and wept.
Jing Rong took a look around the room. He had previously seen all the treasures in here, and Marquis Kang had allowed him to touch them as well. To him, it didn’t look like there was any difference at all. He stepped forward to ask, “Marquis, just what happened?”
“I don’t know which wretched soul it was who actually switched out every single treasure in here with fakes!”
“Aren’t they all still here?”
“But these are all counterfeits.”
Counterfeits? Jing Rong casually picked one of them up and weighed it consideringly in his hand. It truly didn’t feel as comfortable as previously, when Marquis Kang had first shown him his treasures. He frowned, “How could this happen?”
Marquis Kang wiped his tears sadly as he spoke, “I don’t know either. I came here early this morning intending to give them a quick wipe, but when I came in, everything in here had turned into counterfeits. They had all been stolen away in the span of a single night, even leaving behind these counterfeits in their place. It’s clearly a targeted attack against my reputation.”
As he finished speaking, he flung the porcelain vessel he held down onto the floor. With a bright crash, it shattered into pieces, flinging shards into all directions. Nobody around them dared to make a move, terrified that they would bring disaster upon themselves.
Jing Rong asked, “Aren’t there always guards outside this courtyard? Both the main doors and the rooms are locked, with the keys kept by Marquis yourself. How could a petty thief have sneaked in?”
“That’s right. The keys are with me. When I came to take a look yesterday, these treasures were still perfectly alright. But just over the course of a single night, everything had been swapped out! How could they have been swapped without any detectable activity?” How infuriating!
Jing Rong looked at the door and inspected the windows as he asked, “Has Marquis questioned the ones guarding the courtyard?”
“I’ve asked them, and they didn’t hear anything. Besides, with so many things, if it were the work of some grand bandit moving things in and out, it would be impossible that the estate soldiers did not notice anything.”
Suddenly, Ji Yunshu spoke. “So… the real treasures still remain within the estate.”
Marquis Kang startled and looked at her with gleaming eyes. “Does Teacher Ji mean that the things haven’t been lost?”
“The things aren’t merely not lost, but they’re even in the estate, safe and sound.”
“Where are they?” He was anxious to find out.
However, Ji Yunshu replied moderately, “Marquis Kang doesn’t need to be anxious. Since this one said that the things aren’t lost, then they surely are safe. But as for where they are right now, we’ll have to ask the person who really has been acting in the shadows to find them for us. Who knows, we may now even be able to capture the ghost causing mischief in the estate as well.”
Eh? Marquis kang was shocked. The crowd was astonished as well. Was the ghost really responsible for stealing the treasures? Everyone felt both extremely guilty and curious at the same time.
Marquis Kang continues to ask, “Teacher Ji, please speak plainly. Just who is the culprit?”
She simply stated, “It’s someone that none of us would have imagined. Moreover, it’s not just one person. Marquis, please be assured. This one will surely help you to capture that ghost. It’s just that the ghost won’t appear in the day, and you’ll understand when night falls.”
Eh? Marquis Kang pondered her words as his heart became reassured that his treasures were not lost.
As Jing Rong listened to her words, he finished his inspection of the entire room and walked to her side. He asked in low tones, “Are you confident? The doors and windows of the room are not broken, and even the roof hasn’t been touched at all.”
She tilted her head slightly. “Does Your Highness suspect a ghost?”
“You know that this prince doesn’t believe in that kind of thing.”
“That’s right then. Your Highness, why don’t you wait quietly together with Marquis Kang. We’ll catch the ghost tonight.” She was full of confidence!