Chapter 458.2: Spy

“One must keep their heads low when passing through a low doorway. We are at our wit’s end too. Now that the treasure has vanished into thin air, I’m concerned that Azure Justice members or the Silver Masks are in peril. I’m truly at a loss as to what I should do.”

Cao Yuqing pondered for a good moment. “I would say it’s a certainty that the treasure went missing because someone turned against you. I also don’t believe that a Silver Mask was the one to do it. Our people are trained to be tools, so they really wouldn’t do such a thing. Few can resist the siren call of riches—it’s likely Azure Justice used this mission as an excuse to take it all for themselves. That, or the treasure has been hidden to lure people out and finish them all off at once.” 

“I worry the same,” Qin Yining sighed. “Though the prince has no interest in overthrowing the emperor, His Majesty continues to doubt and think the worst of him. It’s only a matter of time before he strikes, so it won’t be safe for the treasure to be in his hands. If His Majesty would just spare a thought for the people, we wouldn’t have sprung into premature action to obtain it.” 

It was precisely because they didn't have enough manpower—what with Pang Xiao’s men having been placed under strict surveillance—that Qin Yining had turned to the Silver Masks and Azure Justice for lack of a better option. 

And yet, things had still gone awry. 

Cao Yuqing patted Qin Yining’s shoulders. “Don’t worry. I’ll continue investigating for a few days. The other Silver Masks and I have our secret codes we use to contact one another. After I’ve looked into the situation further, I’ll come back to discuss what I’ve discovered.”

Qin Yining’s eyes brightened at this. “No wonder my father sent you.”

Cao Yuqing couldn’t help smiling. “Your father is an astute strategist.”

A laugh burst from Qin Yining’s lips. Cao Yuqing blushed and chuckled softly along with her. 

By nature, Cao Yuqing had a gentle charisma about her. Her laughter shook her like flowers atop a tree. Though she was dressed as a man, her every move exuded an exquisite air of beauty amid a masculine charm. 

Even as Qin Yining took delight in her mirth, she couldn’t help a sigh. 

It was no wonder née Sun disliked Cao Yuqing as much as she did. The more time one spent with this woman meant the more endearing qualities they would uncover. The heart of a fighter, as strong as any man, beat beneath her beautiful physique. 

Cao Yuqing stayed for a brief moment more before taking her leave without a sound. 

When Pang Xiao returned, Qin Yining sat with him in the quiet back office as she whispered today’s happenings into his ear. His first reaction was baffled shock, then curiosity about the note from Azure Justice. 

Clever as she was, Qin Yining had it committed to memory after reading it thoroughly twice over. So when Pang Xiao asked, she recited its contents word for word. 

He caressed her shoulders, murmuring, “It seems this will be forced into the open after all.” 

Qin Yining grew uneasy at his words. “Does His Majesty already know?”

Pang Xiao considered this carefully. “We aren't at a complete disadvantage. At least we’ve noticed Azure Justice’s suspicious intentions.”

“You think Azure Justice is the more suspicious one as well?” Qin Yining pressed.

“That’s also just speculation on my part,” Pang Xiao responded. “But it’s certainly been difficult making heads or tails of their actions. I also have yet to understand why His Majesty is so certain the treasure is in Yang County. The roads leading here are too difficult to travel. Considering how heavy the treasure is, they can’t have arrived with an empty carriage. How was it transported and hidden without anyone noticing?”

The prince didn’t intend to imply anything by his words, but they inspired Qin Yining to think on another level.

“In other words, they probably made their plans a long time ago. They’d already tracked down the treasure’s hiding place. Perhaps they used the carrier pigeons we sent as a signal. That allowed them to hide the treasure while avoiding others.”  The more Qin Yining spoke, the more helpless she felt. 

Pang Xiao’s heart ached for her. He drew her into his arms, reassuring, “Don’t think too much about this. Let’s wait for word from Guard Captain Cao. She’s much more adept than I am at investigating undercover and will definitely find some clues.”

As expected, when Pang Xiao was out patrolling the soup kitchens the next day, Cao Yuqing once again entered through the window without a sound.

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etvolare's Thoughts

What do you guys think, just who's the traitor here?

Also, announcing the soft launch of my new novel, Necropolis Immortal! Tomb raiding and feng shui, it's time to delve into the world of the spooky unknown!