With regards to the possibility that Situ’s military power might be reclaimed and his post removed, the First Prince had the most extreme reaction. It was probably due to his instinct. In the past, his Imperial Father had only mentioned this matter occasionally but today, he felt that his Imperial Father had made up his mind.
The Emperor was no longer the same person who used to listen to Situ and Gan Qingjia’s advice to handle matters in a placid manner. Everyone was forcing him and everyone was hoodwinking him. There were many things he had to fight for himself. Otherwise, he would be left with nothing.
“Imperial Father, Duke of Anping went on expeditions and protected the Xuan Kingdom since he was eighteen. The Situ Family have also produced generations of generals and they have worked their hearts out to support their respective monarch. How could Imperial Father remove his noble title and his power simply because of a few folk songs?”
Once the First Prince said this, the officials in the court were taken aback. This was the first time the First Prince had retorted His Majesty since returning to Chang’an and he was even doing so for Situ Muye, who had achieved so much that he was deemed as a threat to His Majesty.
Many of them also thought: It seems that the rumours are not unfounded. Situ has already paid allegiance to the First Prince. In that case, now that His Majesty is wantonly removing Situ’s military power, is he covertly denying the First Prince inheritance to the throne?
The Emperor cast a bewildered look at the First Prince when he heard his rebuttal. He was used to this son of his being respectful and saw him as someone who stuck up for him in all respects. As such, he had subconsciously treated him as an official who had sworn fealty to him rather than treating him as his son.
The Emperor remained silent for a moment and then faintly said, “Ran’er, don’t forget that you are still supervising the nation. I have taught you before to prioritise the overall situation.”
The First Prince stiffened at his words; he was rendered speechless.
Was that a threat? Or was he hinting something at him?
While the First Prince was in a daze, the Eighth Prince stepped forward and elaborated more on the rumours while adding all kinds of details to the stories. This instantly caused the Emperor’s expression to darken a few shades.
Other than the Eleventh Prince’s faction who was watching from the sidelines, the majority of the officials began to impeach Situ and, this time, many of them weren’t instructed by the Emperor.
Thus, they naturally didn’t say things the Emperor wanted to hear and went a little overboard. Besides, some of the topics they’d brought up weren’t touched upon by the Emperor yet. This scene agitated the Emperor and he shot a disagreeable glance at the Eighth Prince.
Situ was supposed to be the most anxious of them all but his expression remained stoic as he glanced at the Eighth Prince. He probably didn’t know that the Emperor had absolutely no intention of passing the throne to him. In the Emperor’s heart, the candidates for the throne had always been the First Prince, Second Prince and Eleventh Prince.
Originally, if there were no unexpected incidents, the Second Prince would’ve ascended the throne. Unfortunately, he continued to walk the wrong path until he reached a stage where the situation was no longer redeemable. After the deposed Heir died, the Emperor’s sight had always been on the First Prince and the Eleventh Prince. The next few months would be a crucial moment in deciding the next Heir.
The Eighth Prince was totally unaware of the fact that his words had totally backfired, destroying the evidence and pretext the Emperor had initially wanted to use to take down Situ in one fell swoop.
Immediately afterwards, the Minister of the Left, Minister of the Right, Imperial Censor, Imperial Treasurer, Chamberlain, Minister of the Imperial Clan and other important officials stepped forward to defend Situ. Since the Emperor’s stratagem was ultimately a little lacking, he had no choice but to let Situ off this time.
When the court assembly was dismissed, the Eighth Prince was still trying to figure out where he’d slipped up.
The First Prince and Gan Qingjia expressed their concern over the alarming situation at the morning court assembly today as per usual. At this moment, however, Situ wasn’t as relaxed as he was earlier in court.
His prediction was correct. The Emperor would strike in the next few days. Today was originally the best opportunity, but the Eighth Prince had dug out matters of the past such that the Emperor had no choice but to let him off. But, he would definitely strike again. But, the question is, when and where would he set about it?
Then, after that incident occurred, Situ regretted for the first time and questioned himself: Why didn’t he have the intention of betraying the Emperor? To think that he actually tolerated the Emperor nearly putting the people dearest to him in harm’s way, forcing him to choose another path.
Once they returned to the Duke of Anping’s Residence, Situ immediately summoned all his covert guards to the study.
Other than Covert Guard Duo, all the rest were present at the study. They stared at each other in bewilderment, unsure why their general had gathered all of them in such a serious manner.
Situ was facing everyone with his back, so they couldn’t discern his mood based on his voice alone.
“At your service, General.”
Covert Guard Two knelt on the ground with one knee and said. His instincts told him that something was about to happen.
“Gather everyone in the Covert Guard Battalion, and split them into groups to protect all the generals’ families. No mishaps are allowed.”
Two was startled but solemnly replied in the affirmative.
Situ called out to Six who had rushed back from the deserts of the North.
“At your service, General.”
Six knelt down expressionlessly.
“Swiftly return to the deserts of the North. Inform Shifei and the others that no matter what unforeseen events happens in Chang’an next month, they’re not allowed to return to Chang’an and are to guard the deserts of the North. This order is absolute.”
There were slight changes in Six’s expression as he questioned, “General?”
Situ turned his head around with a cold, blood-thirty glint reflected in his eyes.
“As you command, General.”
Covert Guard Six kowtowed and rapidly left.
Soon after, Covert Guard Two also set off on his mission.
Situ shot a glance at the rest of the covert guards and profoundly asked, “It’s quite late already, Duo’s carrier pigeon hasn’t arrived yet?”
Upon hearing this, Covert Guard Quattor and Zero exchanged puzzled glances.
“Strange. Duo has always been very punctual. Why is the carrier pigeon late in coming today? Why don’t I go to the Feng Residence to take a look?”
Situ was just about to nod when he smelled a strong tang of blood outside the door. Right after that, a person fell into the study with a ‘thud’.
Quattor and Zero hastily went forward to support that person and cried out anxiously, “Duo!”
The person collapsed on the ground with a blood-streaked face and wounds all over his body was Duo, who had been dispatched to Feng Luodi’s side.
Situ also went forward to support Duo.
“Ge-General,” Duo’s breathing was extremely rapid and he spoke intermittently, “It t-turns out that…the Blood Shadow Squadron didn’t consist of only those ten people…there were five more. Miss Feng…”
Duo’s injuries were ultimately too serious and he had completely relied on the last bit of his energy to return to the Duke of Anping’s Residence. He hadn’t finished speaking when he’d fallen head first.
“Get a doctor.”
Situ placed Duo down and let Quattor and Zero take care of him while he dashed out of his residence. Uneasiness and fear plagued his heart. Luodi. The Emperor had touched Luodi!
Xuan Kingdom’s Imperial Clan usually nurtured their own secret force, and they were termed as shadow guards. In particular, those who had conspiracies behind the scenes would also nurture death soldiers.
Every imperial prince had their own shadow guards, who were willing to sacrifice themselves for their respective masters. Rather than money and power, loyalty was the main reason why they were willing to yield their lives.
Amongst them, the Emperor’s shadow guards were the most powerful. They would normally be responsible for secret missions and other tasks like assassinations. The Blood Shadow Squadron were a rank above the shadow guards. One Blood Shadow alone was enough to resist fifty shadow guards and it was extremely hard to nurture them.
When Emperor Cheng was competing for the throne, he had suffered a setback due to the Blood Shadow Squadron, so as soon as he ascended the throne, he only left behind ten of the late Emperor’s Blood Shadows, who vouched their absolute loyalty to him, and bestowed death to all the others.
When Covert Guard Two had received a reminder from Shangguan Yan back then and discovered that the Blood Shadow Squadron was tailing Feng Luodi, Situ directly deployed an enormous force to dispose of those ten Blood Shadows. After that, he no longer took it to heart.
Did this mean that His Majesty had actually nurtured his own group of Blood Shadows that were even more powerful?
They weren’t keeping an eye on him, but had their eyes set on his only weakness and the person dearest to him, Feng Luodi.
At Autumnal Ombre, Feng Luodi was quite idle, so she prepared another batch of Summer Light with a variety of flavours.
Ever since Fei came up with the idea to deliver the goods to the customer’s doorstep, there were less people who came in person to buy wine at Autumnal Ombre.
At this moment, Fei was using the abacus at one side while Scarlet propped up her chin with her hands, staring at her Miss’ graceful and nimble movements.
Feng Luodi’s tempo at turning and moving the cups quickened by the minute. In every cup, the different colours of fruits fused together and neutralised to form a fairly pretty colour.
“Jianqiu hasn’t arrived yet?”
Taking advantage of the intervals in between her movements, Feng Luodi asked the idle Scarlet.
Her words brought Scarlet to her senses. She also felt that it was strange and peered outside the door as she responded, “Something must’ve happened. It’s already an hour later than the time we’d agreed on. Miss Qi has always been very punctual.”
Feng Luodi’s movements paused for a moment. She pondered before saying, “Jianqiu is pregnant and she just recovered from the illness not too long ago. Chang’an also hasn’t been very peaceful recently, so it’s better for her to go out less. Scarlet, go to her residence and pass on my message. If Jianqiu is still at home, then tell her that she doesn’t need to come anymore.”
“Alright.” Scarlet cheerfully replied and stood up.
Fei was staring at her with a smile tugged at his lips as he saw her lift her skirt to walk forward.
Scarlet was about to go out when she saw a person donning a page’s attire at Autumnal Ombre’s entrance.
“I am from Miss’ residence. Miss is feeling unwell, so she won’t make it today. She specifically asked me to send a gift over.”
Scarlet felt that this page’s tone sounded a bit strange but she didn’t think too much into it and directly asked, “Ah, you’re from Miss Qi’s residence? Quickly come in.”
The page obediently followed in, but his path was soon blocked by Fei.
Fei had already grown up and he looked very manly as he stared at that page condescendingly.
“You’re from Miss Qi’s residence? Why haven’t I seen you before?”
The page carried a large bundle in his hand and replied deferentially, “I’m new at the Gan Residence, so it’s not surprising that you haven’t seen me before.”
“What’s the matter?”
When the few of them were having a dispute, Feng Luodi had heard the commotion and also walked out. Upon seeing that page and that bundle, she was stunned for a moment.
“Miss, this person claimed that he’s from the Gan Residence and that he’s here to send a present under Miss Qi’s orders. However, based on Miss Qi’s personality, she wouldn’t send a newcomer come to Autumnal Ombre.”
Fei explained methodically and Scarlet couldn’t help but nod along as she stared at that page with a vigilant and cautious look in her eyes.
When Feng Luodi heard this, she knitted her eyebrows and carefully examined the bundle in his hands. A bad feeling suddenly washed over her and she directly walked towards the page and stopped in front of him. When she opened the bundle and saw what was inside, she was taken aback.
That large bundle contained the zither ‘Resonance’.
Based on what she had found out from the Shadow Agents, this zither was also stored in the Imperial Palace’s warehouse. However, it wasn’t as reputable as Green Vines, hence Situ wasn’t aware of its existence and only discovered Green Vines in the Imperial Palace’s warehouse back then.
If not for the Shadow Agents whose information network was pervasive in the world, Feng Luodi would not have known either.
Feng Luodi was shocked, but she quickly regained her senses and noticed that something was fishy. She had fallen into a trap.
At the same time, a large group of imperial guards besieged Autumnal Ombre. Their captain was the newly appointed Imperial Army Commander Du. He marched forward on horseback and glanced at Feng Luodi disdainfully from the corner of his eye.
“Audacious woman! You actually dared to break into the Imperial Palace’s warehouse to steal a treasure; you’ve truly committed a heinous crime! Quickly take her down and send her to the court prison!”
Immediately afterwards, several imperial guards seized Fei and Scarlet, who’d wanted to go forward to protect Feng Luodi. Then a few sturdy-looking imperial guards walked towards Feng Luodi with a malevolent and vile look on their faces and took Feng Luodi to the court prison.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translation Check: Yuna
Comment from Yuna:
Please enjoy ^^