Li Qitian’s expression was as tight as the fists balled in his sleeves. No sound was heard for a very long while.
Clues to the treasure he’d searched high and low for had been in the hands of the grandfather of Yuchi Yan’s concubine all along!
That old thing had been hiding the treasure map all this time—his so-called sincerity in surrendering to Great Zhou was obviously completely hollow!
Li Qitian had been preoccupied with locating this sum of wealth in recent days. Though it hadn’t been made public knowledge, it was also no secret. Who would’ve thought that this old fellow would be able to keep it to himself for so long!
If it hadn’t been for Yuchi Yan and his family being grounded in the palace, that old thing would probably still be hanging onto it!
The Great Zhou emperor forced himself to keep calm and swallowed the knot of irritation with great effort.
“So the treasure map is now with the Lus?” rumbled Li Qitian.
Any discord between the Great Zhou emperor and his officials would delight Gu Shixiong. He wiped away his tears and answered in a shaking voice, “Y-yes. It was taken by a general who said he answers to the Lu second master.”
Li Qitian naturally knew of Lu Heng’s web of connections at court. The Lu patriarch had a seat on the council, the clan was a powerful behemoth, and Minister Cheng of the Bureau of Military Affairs was also part of the Lu faction.
Great Zhou lacked the most wonderful resource that was money. The Lus had offered quite a bit of it to help Li Qitian fight Northern Ji back in the day. Naturally, the emperor’s first thought upon hearing of the treasure was to offset his pressing shortfall of silver.
If the treasure landed in the hands of the Lus, he would never see it again.
“Li Guanwen!” Li Qitian’s voice brimmed with heretofore unheard enthusiasm.
Standing guard at the door, the shout sent the eunuch scrambling to answer the summons. “Your Majesty!”
“Have men go to the Division of the Three Thousand to bring Lu Heng back here. We have questions to ask of him.”
“Understood.” Li Guanwen flew out with a solemn expression after hearing his orders.
Kneeling on the ground with his head down, Gu Shixiong sniggered inwardly to himself.
Lu Heng was no fool. Would he ever give up the ‘treasure map’ after obtaining it?
Now that the old official thought about it, the Qin girl’s scheme was truly vicious. Not only did it protect the real treasure, it guided disaster elsewhere and set Li Qitian at odds with an aristocratic house. The surrendered Yan officials were absolutely clear of trouble.
Most importantly, the girl had pulled a fast one over him!
If he recalled correctly, Qin Huaiyuan had also been grounded in the palace these days. That meant that all of this had been planned and executed by herself.
The old man couldn’t help but cluck his tongue in amazement. She boasts of such methods at only sixteen years of age! What will she be like in the future?
It would be a boost to Yuchi Yan to have such an intelligent girl by his side. As it was, the former Great Yan emperor really had no aptitude for politics.
It was a pity that Qin Yining had already been bestowed onto the Faithful Prince of the First Rank.
Well, it was also good for Pang. Having a smart wife would enable him to square off against Li Qitian with peace of mind.
All of that passed through Gu Shixiong’s mind in the span of a second. It put him in a much better mood and greatly lessened his resentment of the Qin fourth miss setting him up.
Li Qitian however, was nowhere near as calm as the old official.
He looked downwards in deep thought, at times looking at the kneeling Gu Shixiong, at times at the front door.
After a long moment, he picked up the conversation again. “Old Master Gu, it is still preferable for you to summarize the contents of the map for Us.”
The old man had foreseen such a request would come. He shook his head. “In response to Your Majesty, this humble commoner has never looked at the treasure map. I don’t know the contents at all.”
An imperial brow shot up. “Oh?”
“Your Majesty, although this commoner is incompetent, I was still once the teacher of the emperor emeritus of Great Yan. I would naturally put both all of my efforts to anything he assigned to me. Not to mention, one must obey an imperial decree. This humble one had no right to look at the map, and neither was I interested in the treasure. Naturally, I wouldn’t sneak a peek at all.”
Li Qitian looked suspiciously at Gu Shixiong. The gaunt old man sported a head full of white hair and neared the end of his lifespan. He’d also brought his entire family to Great Zhou. If he dared deceive his liege, all of the Gus would pay the price.
The Great Zhou emperor was quite certain that the old man wouldn’t dare lie.
A treasure map had finally popped up, but Gu Shixiong didn’t know its contents, and it’d even been taken by a rival aristocratic family!
This really is…
Li Qitian took in a few deep breaths and continued waiting for good news from Li Guanwen.
However, the eunuch brought back bad news.
“Your Majesty, when our men reached the Division of the Three Thousand, the Lu second master had already left.” Keeping his head down, Li Guanwen didn’t dare look at Li Qitian. If this wasn’t handled properly, he’d lose his own life as well.
As expected, the emperor’s face sank. He remained silent for a very long while. “Where did he go?”
“Your Majesty, the Division of the Three Thousand says that he left in the middle of the night with several confidants.”
Li Qitian’s hand tightened imperceptibly.
It looked like the map was real. Otherwise, with Lu Heng’s dependable nature, why would he leave with no thought of anything else?
The emperor was both furious and regretful. Why hadn’t he brought back this old man earlier? Why had he wanted to watch a good show?
If it wasn’t for his self-indulgence, the old man wouldn’t have taken the map to the Lus in his time of need.
A small ray of hope had finally dawned after so long, but it’d gone right back out!
Glee flooded Gu Shixiong’s heart to see the long face on Li Qitian. It felt more comfortable than eating a bowl of chilled plum soup on the hottest day of summer!
However, his good mood didn’t last long. “Old Master Gu is an old official of Great Yan. Your qualifications are impeccable. And yet, you must rest well in your old age. If there’s not much business to be done, you should stay home and rest these days.”
This was grounding him!
Gu Shixiong flashed an indifferent smile. “Understood. Many thanks for Your Majesty’s care. This humble commoner hopes for a day in which I can stand by your side.”
Li Qitian smiled and instructed servants to help the old man away to rest. It looked like the Lus would bring their full power to bear, now that the treasure map was in their hands.
“Li Guanwen, summon Secretariat Lu. Also, release Yuchi Yan and the Qins. The Qins are to join the Pangs in matrimony. We shouldn’t delay their wedding preparations.”
Li Qitian’s tone was too troubled and negative, but the eunuch didn’t dare speak a word of comfort, despite thinking things inappropriate. He had to settle for a murmured “understood” and solemnly carry out his orders.
Secretariat Lu quickly entered the palace.
There were only so many Grand Secretaries on the council, and Li Qitian hated Secretariat Lu most of all. The Lu elders were all too exemplary and difficult to manipulate. Secretariat Lu in particular played a decisive role on the council. He could affect Li Qitian’s policies to begin with, but could also impact the momentum of court. The slightest excuse would give him an excuse to erupt in outrage.
The Lus were a far cry from the imperial family. They suffered no shortage of silver and didn’t need to scrimp and save their way through the days.
If they really wanted to take action, how to pay for it wouldn’t be a consideration at all.
Li Qitian shook his head. What an utter miscalculation! How could he have let things devolve to this step!Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Last call for the ROS 400 giveaway! I kinda went overboard on prizes and so, ALL ENTRIES SHALL RECEIVE ONE BUAHAHAHA!