The group trailed far behind their quarry, often sending scouts ahead to make sure they were still on the right path. If they discovered Yuchi Yan pausing in the distance, so too did his three hundred pursuers, so as to avoid bumping into him.
Pang Xiao released a dozen pigeons over five days of halting progress.
You Meng inquired about the first couple, but was quickly scared off by a cold glare and “secret reports that His Majesty ordered”. Used to the sight in the end, the vice general didn’t bother with further questions.
“Report!” A scout made his way back from the front and scurried up to You Meng's horse with a slightly agitated expression. He murmured, “General, the target’s entered a hole in the ground.”
“Oh??” You Meng’s eyes widened with excitement as he leapt off his horse. “Did you see it clearly? You haven’t lost them, have you? Are you sure it’s not a tunnel for their escape?”
“In response to the general, we followed them from far behind and didn’t attract their attention. We've left some people on guard around the perimeter. They’re searching to see if there are other exits.”
“Good, very good!” You Meng laughed heartily and returned to a low voice. “You did very well. Remember to keep your lips sealed.”
“Understood!” The scout wiped the agitation off his face and bellowed a response.
The vice general whirled and sped to Pang Xiao’s carriage. “Your Highness, great news!”
“What kind of news is it to get you all worked up like this?” The prince alighted.
“We seem to have found the treasure!” Delight brimmed from You Meng’s voice as he whispered his response.
“The scouts just came back with a report that they personally saw the commandery prince and others enter a hole in the ground. They left men on guard nearby and sent others to see if there are any other exits.”
A gleeful Pang Xiao clapped loudly. “This really does resolve His Majesty’s pressing worries! Wonderful! None of our efforts these days were wasted. Come, let’s continue our quiet chase.”
You Meng quietly noted that the prince’s first reaction was happiness over sorting out one of the emperor’s troubles.
Back in the carriage, Pang Xiao wrote another report and released a messenger pigeon. The vice general grinned when he saw the bird fly off and gave orders for the pursuit to continue.
Within the softly rocking carriage, Pang Xiao hugged Qin Yining as he leaned against a large cushion.
“My dear, do you think we’re really doing the right thing?” he whispered.
“There’s nothing bad about it,” dimpled the girl. “In the hands of a crooked person, the treasure will most likely become a murder weapon. We might as well give it all to the people. That would be a worthy use of treasure stained by the blood and tears of countless Great Yan citizens.”
“You’re right. But this way, don’t you worry that something might happen to Yuchi Yan?” He scanned her face closely when he asked this, wanting to glean any hint of a clue.
Given Qin Yining’s sharp mind, she was highly amused by the jealous notes in Pang Xiao’s question. What, did her man still care about the fact that she’d almost become Yuchi Yan’s empress?
“The commandery prince isn’t a thoroughly evil person, but two things separate us now. One, we’re on opposing sides. Two, he has no one but himself to blame now that he’s thrown his family away. It’s understandable that he wants to rebuild the nation and lay his hands on the trash emperor's wealth. But he used a most immoral way to do so.”
Bleakness assailed her when she thought of the once upright and honest man with a strong scholarly air, study of the classics and philosophy the only thing on his mind.
Time and reality were sharp instruments that changed people.
She didn’t even know when he’d turned into this inflexible mule who cared nothing for family.
Pang Xiao hugged his wife tighter and kissed her several times on the cheek. “Everything my dear says is right.”
These words both angered and amused Qin Yining.
“I’m only speaking the truth, why do you sound so reluctant to accept it?”
“My wife is right in everything.” The prince’s hands roamed naughtily again.
Qin Yining sighed softly. It felt like a door to a new world had opened for Pang Xiao ever since their wedding. His insatiable hunger knew no bounds, and he loved clinging onto her. Sometimes, she felt he was the perfect personification of the black dog Pepper.
“Your Highness, reports from the front say that they’ve found the exit to the hole and have set a guard on it.” You Meng called from outside the carriage.
Setting aside his extraneous thoughts, Pang Xiao refocused. “Very good, let’s go take a look ourselves as well.”
Qin Yining lifted the window curtain to take a look around at the village and fields. She then tilted her head to gaze upon a very familiar-looking mountain. “Is this… Mount Mao’er?”
“Indeed it is. Good memory.”
They were very close to the old capital and Qin Yining used to frequently walk outside. Of course she would remember this patch of wilderness with no owner.
What surprised her wasn’t the sight of a Yan Dynasty mountain range, but that this mountain was precisely the one she’d scribbled on the bogus treasure map. Lu Heng had come in search of it after obtaining her artwork and might’ve even been buried for his troubles.
This is really too much of a coincidence!
She’d struck upon the correct mountain with some random strokes!
It would be very interesting if Lu Heng really did find the treasure with her map…
Lanterns in hand, Yuchi Yan and Gu Shixiong proceeded slowly over the uneven terrain.
Eagerness shot through Gu Shixiong’s wizened voice, which echoed loudly in the cave.
“Don’t worry, I haven’t set any traps or mechanisms here. We’re quite safe.”
“I feel at ease with your comfort.” Yuchi Yan patted his chest and scrounged up more energy to continue walking.
He’d grown up in the lap of luxury; his eunuch caretakers entreating him to take better care of himself if he so much as forwent a single grain of rice or walked an hour more.
It was the old master’s escape plan he was following, and they’d finally made it to the much coveted treasure after a long and arduous journey. If the elder wasn’t calling for a break, how could he possibly ask to sit down and rest?
The cave slowly widened, depositing them in a spacious area before long.
Lantern candles flickered in the wind from an unknown source, the red-orange of their flames alternately dimming and brightening. Though the light was extremely dim, both could see just how plentiful were the massive chests of gold, silver, and jewelry.
Flabbergasted, Yuchi Yan raised high his lantern and threaded his way through rows of open chests. He picked up a handful of pearl strings to glimpse neat rows of silver ingots beneath.
He scanned the area to count at least twenty chests, and some of them held jewels that were worth cities.
“Just how much did my royal father wring from the people?!” Yuchi Yan dropped dejectedly next to a chest, a lifeless look in his eyes. “No wonder they all said he was a trash emperor. Just look at the kind of lives they were living! He was holding onto such a large sum of wealth and refused to spend it on them. Great Yan didn’t perish for no reason, it really didn’t…”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
...did Lu Heng find the treasure?
Have I any FGO fans out there? Running a Jalter + Salter + Mashu sticker giveaway~