Li Li sent people in the name of the Emperor, so even if Wu Shanshi didn’t want to see them, he had to reluctantly welcome them.
The visitor’s name was Luo Yue, with the courtesy name Zhongchang. He was a clever and eloquent strategist under Li Li’s command, showing signs of astuteness. Li Li sent him to Wu Shanshi with two main purposes: first, to try to win him over, and second, if that failed, to sow discord and create chaos in the Northern Three Provinces.
After the incident where Yuan Li caught him for his careless words and rebutted him, Luo Yue was very cautious this time and spoke flawlessly, using the Emperor’s name and half of the kingdom’s ruling power as an exchange. He subtly invited Wu Shanshi to lead his troops to Luoyang to protect the Emperor’s safety.
Upon hearing “half of the kingdom,” even though Wu Shanshi despised people like Luo Yue, he couldn’t help but be taken aback and genuinely tempted.
That was half of the kingdom…
Seeing his reaction, Wei Ji knew that he was intrigued and immediately coughed softly to bring Wu Shanshi back to reality from his daydreams.
Wu Shanshi was not a hopeless fool. Once he regained his senses, he understood that even if half of the kingdom was tempting, he had to refuse despite the pain.
Li Li’s reputation was already rotten to the core. The whole world was against him, so how could Wu Shanshi stand by Li Li’s side at this critical moment?
Despite his reluctance, Wu Shanshi firmly refused, “Absurd. I have no achievements or the ability to save the Emperor. How can I be rewarded with such a title by the Emperor? Let’s not discuss this matter again, please leave.”
Luo Yue smiled faintly and didn’t insist, “Your reputation is well-known, and you are a person of great ability. Besides you, who else can the Emperor trust like this? But if the Lord is unwilling, I dare not insist. I just arrived in Jizhou and ask the Lord to let me stay for a few days to enjoy the beauty of Jizhou.”
Wu Shanshi waved his hand dismissively, “Feel free to explore.”
After these people left, Wei Ji nodded slightly, “Well done, Lord. Even though they are using the name of the Emperor, we should firmly refuse, detach ourselves from Li Li, and avoid awkward situations. However, we can’t let them stay in Jizhou for too long. Mitai, find an opportunity to drive them out of Jizhou.”
Mitai stood up and complied.
Wei Ji added, “You all may disperse now. I need to talk to the Lord about something.”
The subordinates saluted and left one by one. Zhou Gongdan was among them, leaving Wu Mansion respectfully. However, once he returned to his residence, the smile on his face immediately disappeared.
Today was a gloomy day, and the end of spring was still cold and damp with bone-chilling winds. Zhou Gongdan wore many layers, but he couldn’t shake off the biting cold.
Even in his own residence, he still felt exhausted and uneasy.
Zhou Gongdan had been by Wu Shanshi’s side for three years. In this time, he had gained Wu Shanshi’s trust and had seen through his true nature, as well as that of his group of advisers.
Wu Shanshi had an illustrious reputation, and when Zhou Gongdan first joined him, he might have been deceived, thinking Wu Shanshi was a capable ruler with great selflessness. But the longer they were together, the more flaws Wu Shanshi exposed. Especially with Yuan Li’s presence and the support of Chu Hechao, Wu Shanshi seemed even more mediocre.
Although Wu Shanshi was generous and gave him this magnificent residence, Zhou Gongdan still missed his days in Youzhou.
He let out a soft sigh and closed his eyes, calming his tense emotions.
The person he needed to be cautious about was not Wu Shanshi, but the group of advisers around him, including Wei Ji, Mitai, and Wang Yun, all from Runan like him.
These three were the ones truly making it difficult for Wu Shanshi to handle.
Zhou Gongdan’s face gradually darkened.
He needed to find a way to get rid of these three…
Outside, the birds kept chirping, and the spring leaves fell in twos and threes, swirling in the air.
The cold wind blew, and a single leaf gently landed on Zhou Gongdan.
Zhou Gongdan opened his eyes and silently gazed at the falling leaf. Suddenly, an idea struck him, and he went to find Wang Yun.
At this moment, Wang Yun was at home drowning his sorrows with alcohol.
He was straightforward and often spoke faster than his brain, which frequently angered Wu Shanshi and made him unpopular with the lord.
Being disliked by the lord was undoubtedly a disastrous situation for an adviser. Over the years, Wang Yun had become increasingly distressed about it, and after the face-off with the lord today, he was once again worried about the future.
When Zhou Gongdan came to find him, he was a bit surprised. However, when he saw Zhou Gongdan, the latter didn’t say anything but instead bowed and apologized to him.
Wang Yun was both surprised and gratified by the gesture and waved his hand, saying, “It was the lord who sent you to relay the message. It’s not your fault, and there’s no need for you to apologize to me.”
He then showed a trace of melancholy. It wasn’t that Zhou Gongdan lacked manners, but the lord disliked him and didn’t want to listen to him.
Zhou Gongdan carefully observed Wang Yun’s expression and brought over some wine for them to drink.
He spoke in a pleasant manner, not trying to please or flaunt himself. Wang Yun unknowingly started talking more. Perhaps due to drinking too much, he confided his troubles to Zhou Gongdan, “If this continues, I might be sent back to Runan…”
Zhou Gongdan listened quietly and sighed, “Sir, your wisdom is extraordinary. If you return to Runan, the lord will lose his right-hand man.”
Wang Yun was even more disheartened, “You know the significance, but he… sigh.”
Zhou Gongdan raised his hand and gently filled a cup of wine, swirling it around the cup before raising it and handing it to Wang Yun. Wang Yun drained it in one gulp and then sighed heavily.
“I also don’t want to see you in such a predicament,” Zhou Gongdan sighed lightly and suddenly brightened, as if an idea had struck him. “I have an idea! The lord is currently pondering how to take the lead in killing Li Li. If you, sir, can come up with a foolproof plan, the lord will surely reevaluate you.”
Wang Yun was momentarily surprised, then a hint of a bitter smile appeared. “But I really can’t think of any good ideas. Yuan Le Jun and Chu Ciye have already proposed to attack Li Li first, and they must be well-prepared. No matter how I see it, their chances of success are greater.”
After contemplating for a moment, Zhou Gongdan slowly said, “I have a plan…”
Wang Yun quickly asked, “What’s the plan?”
Zhou Gongdan hesitated for a moment, then shook his head. “Let’s not say it. My plan is somewhat unscrupulous.”
Wang Yun became curious and kept asking, until Zhou Gongdan reluctantly said, “Li Li wants to win over the lord, and that’s also an opportunity. If the lord pretends to collude with Li Li, leads troops to Luoyang, and takes the opportunity to strike when Li Li’s guard is down, he will surely achieve significant results before Yuan Le Jun and Chu Ciye can act.”
Wang Yun’s eyes lit up, “This plan may be somewhat unconventional, but it’s a shortcut. However…”
“But this approach is unrighteous,” Zhou Gongdan shook his head, “Even if the lord does kill Li Li in the end, it might harm his reputation.”
Wang Yun didn’t think so. Although pretending to cooperate with Li Li might lead to misunderstandings among the people, once the lord kills Li Li, all the previous criticism would be washed away. As long as they handle it well, people won’t think the lord is unrighteous; they will consider it an act of enduring humiliation for the sake of the world’s people.
Such deeds are highly praised by the people, and the lord’s reputation would undoubtedly soar to an incomparable height.
At that time, who would dare to criticize Wu Shanshi? They would only get scolded.
Wang Yun was tempted, “It’s not impossible to do…”
But to execute this plan, they had to ensure that Wu Shanshi could really kill Li Li.
Seeing him lost in thought, Zhou Gongdan remained silent. After finishing the drink, he took his leave.
That night, Wang Yun couldn’t sleep.
Zhou Gongdan’s words kept echoing in his mind, and the more he thought about it, the more he believed the plan could work. It would allow the lord to have a chance to kill Li Li firsthand and gain his recognition… Wang Yun was torn, feeling like he had hit a dead end.
Meanwhile, news from Jizhou also reached Yuan Li’s ears.
The intelligence agents from the Liangliao Institution had been trained for three years, and the orphans who had grown up and demonstrated qualified abilities were dispatched, quietly and stealthily, to spread out a wide network from Youzhou to the outside.
This piece of information was sent back along this extensive network.
After learning of the news, Yuan Li felt delighted.
He said to Chu Hechao, “Li Li sent people to Jizhou to recruit Wu Shanshi, but he was refused.”
Chu Hechao, who had just finished training and came back, poured a basin of cold water to wash his face, and his clothes, soaked in sweat, were tossed aside. He sneered, “Even if Wu Shanshi lacks a brain, he wouldn’t agree to it at this moment.”
“But Li Li’s people haven’t given up yet,” Yuan Li said, “They are wandering around in Yexian County, drinking and enjoying themselves, but who knows what scheme Li Li is playing.”
“Whatever he wants to do, it won’t harm us. Li Li is already in dire straits,” Chu Hechao stood up, his face wet with water, and the Guanyin jade pendant around his neck swayed. He came to Yuan Li and took the note from him, reading it, “Luo Yue… This person’s eloquence is quite impressive.”
Yuan Li was curious, “What makes him so remarkable?”
Chu Hechao tore the note into pieces and threw it into the basin, where the clear water soaked it, slowly turning it into a mess.
He said lightly, “He can make the living sound dead and the dead sound alive.”
Yuan Li noticed his tone, “You don’t like him?”
Chu Hechao sneered, “It’s not about liking or disliking. Once he falls into my hands, I will surely deal with him.”
…That means he doesn’t like him.
Yuan Li’s brow twitched, and his curiosity was piqued, “What did he do to provoke you?”
Chu Hechao glanced at him, shook his head, and didn’t want to say.
The young man became even more curious, his eyes full of expectation, “Brother?”
Chu Hechao felt pleased when addressed as “brother,” he chuckled, “I’m tired.”
Yuan Li quickly brought a chair and pressed Chu Hechao to sit down. He sat down beside him, his eyes full of curiosity as he looked at Chu Hechao.
Chu Hechao leaned back, his gaze sweeping around the room until it finally settled on the teapot on the table.
He raised his chin, conveying his meaning without words.
Yuan Li then poured him a glass of water, “Brother, have some water.”
Chu Hechao couldn’t suppress his smile. He took the water and finished it in one gulp. Although he wanted to tease Yuan Li some more, he wisely chose to give up when he saw the warning look from Yuan Li.
“When Chu Mingfeng was raising funds for me, this person repeatedly obstructed him,” Chu Hechao squinted, looking displeased, “His mouth is so persuasive that even the former emperor would be swayed by him. However, I didn’t expect him to be Li Li’s person.”
Yuan Li fell silent for a while, seeing that Chu Hechao had stopped talking, he asked, “Is that all?”
Chu Hechao raised an eyebrow, “What else do you want to hear?”
Chu Hechao seemed reluctant to say anything about the matter before, making Yuan Li think that there was some great secret behind it.
As a result, he helped move the chair and poured water, only for it to turn out like this. Yuan Li rubbed his forehead and suddenly looked at Chu Hechao with a half-smile, “Chu Hechao, are you deliberately teasing me?”
Chu Hechao pretended to be surprised, furrowing his brow, “No.”
Yuan Li let out a light sigh, smiling as he looked at him.
Chu Hechao’s gaze was imposing, and the corners of his eyes gently narrowed.
Chu Hechao’s Adam’s apple moved, and he said with deep meaning, “I know someone whose eloquence is even more formidable than Luo Yue’s.”
Yuan Li snorted coldly, “Who?”
Chu Hechao said, “You also know this person.”
Yuan Li’s expression changed slightly as he considered everyone he knew.
Just as he was thinking deeply, Chu Hechao couldn’t hold back his laughter. “Still haven’t figured it out?”
Yuan Li was taken aback.
Chu Hechao teasingly said, “It’s you.”
Yuan Li: “…”
The veins on his forehead jumped and jumped again.