Chapter 12 Help
It was the scent that exposed the flaw.
Chu Xie immediately realized it and was about to sprinkle the tranquilizer from his hand, but he heard a soft knock on the small door behind the pear tree.
Jiang Yanchi temporarily released his grip and tied him to the tree. He opened the small door and found a person wearing a cloak behind it, who turned out to be Xue, the Ministry of Personnel.
Bringing the person inside, he saw Xue Shilang* kneeling before Jiang Yanchi and said desperately, “Your Highness, please save my son!”
* position title
The Crown Prince’s eyes were deep, and he scanned the surroundings before bringing the man closer. He asked, “What happened to Xue Shilang?”
“He was…. falsely accused by Chu Xie and imprisoned in the Zhao Prison tonight!” Secretary Xue, with tears in his old eyes, grabbed Jiang Yanchi’s hand, “Your Highness… Your Highness, you mustn’t let that eunuch continue to be arrogant… Great Wei is really on the verge of destruction in his hands!”
Jiang Yanchi pressed his lips, not revealing his stance.
After a while, he said, “Secretary, don’t worry, I’ll think of a solution.”
Minister Xue’s secret investigation into the Jinhuan Gambling House had alarmed him. This was a warning from Chu Xie, telling him not to mess with the idea of the gambling house. However, he couldn’t just abandon this lead after finally catching a glimpse of Chu Xie’s tail.
A voice came from under the pear tree. “I have a solution.”
Jiang Yanchi’s gaze swept over, and Chu Xie, who had his hands tied awkwardly, stood up and anxiously said by the pear tree, “I… I didn’t lie to you. I really am from the Xu family in the Northern Region. I can mimic your handwriting, and naturally, I can mimic our Marquis’s… Not only the handwriting, but I can also mimic the seal. If I obtain a letter from Marquis Zhenbei, I can ensure that the son of Minister’s life will be spared within these few days.”
Chu Xie smiled faintly. “Your Highness, you were right to be suspicious… In this deceitful place, you must not easily trust a stranger… But the situation is urgent right now, and without me, Your Highness can’t overcome the current obstacle. That’s why I had to take the risk to find you. Your Highness, come closer. I’ll explain everything to you.”
Jiang Yanchi walked closer as instructed.
A few petals fell from the pear tree like snowflakes, landing on the person’s mask, as if touched by unmelted ice and snow.
Chu Xie was afraid that Jiang Yanchi would come closer and end him with a single stroke.
“Your Highness, think it through. If I am truly a lackey of the Chu family, you mustn’t kill me so easily.”
Jiang Yanchi’s face showed neither pleasure nor anger, just a cold expression. “You value your life. Spare me the nonsense. If you can’t explain clearly, you’re dead.”
“I fear neither life nor death. I only hope to die meaningfully… In the future, if Your Highness is threatened, and I can die to protect the stability of the realm…I will have no regrets.”
Jiang Yanchi wasn’t swayed by these flattering words but instead repeated his question.
“Then tell me, why do you have the scent of cypress on you?”
Chu Xie had prepared his answer well in advance.
“Because I am… a spy from the Xu family planted in the Chu residence. I have a token from the Chu family in my possession. That’s why I have no martial skills, but I can infiltrate the Crown Prince’s residence. This is also how I can obtain your drafts, and I know what Chu Xie… is doing to you.”
This statement had no loopholes.
Jiang Yanchi’s expression eased slightly. “Go on.”
“Tonight, I can forge a letter from the Marquis of Zhenguo’s residence. You can have Minister Xue deliver it to the Chu residence overnight… Let Chu Xie know that Minister Xue has the protection of Marquis Zhenbei. This will ensure young Master Xue’s survival in Zhao Prison… After that, we can discuss the next steps.”
Jiang Yanchi pondered for a long time, as if assessing the feasibility of this plan.
“Your Highness doesn’t need to directly participate in this matter. Minister Xue’s visit here tonight will definitely not escape Chu Xie’s notice, but Your Highness can remain noncommittal and keep yourself safe. I will ensure the safety of Minister Xue’s son for Your Highness. Trust me this one time, there will be no loss.”
Jiang Yanchi looked at the person’s fair and fragile wrist, tightly bound, leaving a red mark. He reached out to lift the person, undoing the restraints while asking, “Are you sure you can convincingly mimic the handwriting and the seal? Chu Xie is not an easy opponent.”
Chu Xie nodded repeatedly and, now with his hands free, rubbed his wrist. He said, “Rest assured, if I didn’t have some skills, the Xu family wouldn’t dare to place me in Chu Xie’s residence… I stake my life on this. Chu Xie won’t be able to discern the authenticity of the letter.”
Chu Xie observed Jiang Yanchi’s expression and realized that he was indeed reluctant to give up the Jinhuan Gambling House case. In a moment, he made up his mind.
He still wanted to take a gamble.
This was an opportunity to severely damage Chu Xie, and it couldn’t be missed.
Led by the Crown Prince, they entered the room.
“I never expected that the Xu family, who have been warriors for generations, would raise a strategist like you.”
Chu Xie: “It’s me… who has brought shame to the Xu family.”
Jiang Yanchi remained silent for a moment, then walked a few steps to close the window. “That’s not what I meant. What I meant is that you’re very clever.”
“Just this bit of cleverness, but it might still be of some use.”
With the window closed, Chu Xie looked around the room. The doors and windows were tightly shut, and the room, which could only fit a bed and a desk, was dimly lit.
Feeling a bit suffocated, Chu Xie touched the wall, tugged at his collar, and said somewhat anxiously, “I can’t stay here for long… I need to leave now… Your Highness, wait for news from Zhao Prison.”
He hurriedly pushed the door open.
His slender figure swayed as his clothes fluttered in the wind for a moment. Through the open door, a glimpse of his fair complexion could be seen beneath the high collar of his robe.
The graceful line of his neck extended downward, connecting to a faint shadow of collarbones.
“If the son of the Xue family survives tonight, you will know that I did not lie.” The person’s voice was gentle and distant.
Jiang Yanchi watched him in a daze.
The figure disappeared from the doorway, leaving only a few fallen flower petals on the ground, swept away by the wind.
Suddenly, he moved forward, and outside the corridor, a pear tree was in full bloom. The wind carried the elegant fragrance of the flowers.
He walked up and grabbed the person’s hand, only to find that although the person had a slender figure, their wrist was as fragile as if it could break with a slight bend. They seemed frail and weak.
It wasn’t just that they lacked martial skills; they were truly fragile.
Chu Xie had always been shrewd and cunning, with ruthless methods.
If he were truly a spy from the Xu family placed in Chu Xie’s residence, once his cover was blown, the person before him would have no chance of escaping and would surely meet a tragic end.
“Perhaps… there might be another way,” Jiang Yanchi said.
Chu Xie didn’t understand why the young Crown Prince was hesitating again.
Could it be that he was still somewhat cowardly?
Thinking this way, Chu Xie encouraged him.
“Your Highness, if the son of the Xue family dies in Zhao Prison, Minister Xue will become powerless, exhausted from investigating the Jinhuan Gambling House case. More importantly, the courtiers will become even more afraid of Chu Xie… It’s an endless vicious cycle. Moreover, I can win Your Highness’s trust with this, and for me, it’s like killing two birds with one stone.”
Chu Xie’s voice remained calm, as if he wasn’t the one risking his life.
Jiang Yanchi suddenly tightened his grip. “I trust you. But we need to carefully consider this matter.”
“We don’t have much time, Your Highness.”
Chu Xie cleared his throat, and a deep sense of worry was evident on his brow.
“The Emperor doesn’t have much time left… perhaps just one or two years at most. Chu Xie is suppressing this information to prevent chaos. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity.”
Chu Xie tugged at his hand, but the person didn’t let go. He glanced down and noticed the injuries on their hand. It then dawned on him that he had brought ointment for their wounds.
With the open space around them and the enchanting moonlight, Chu Xie’s emotions gradually settled.
He led the young Crown Prince to sit on the steps of the corridor. From his sleeve, he retrieved the medicine, blew on the hand, took a small amount, and, under the moonlight, carefully applied it to the festering wounds, massaging it in gently.
After a while, he heard the young Crown Prince ask, “Has he been pressuring or persecuting you?”
Chu Xie, being cautious not to hurt the wounds, rubbed the medicine carefully. “I haven’t been persecuted by him.”
A pear blossom fell onto Chu Xie’s head and was brushed away by the young Crown Prince. Chu Xie placed his other hand on his own lap and took another small amount of ointment, carefully applying it. The fingers, though cool, were surprisingly gentle.
“I just don’t like him continuously doing bad things.”
A breeze passed through the corridor, and Chu Xie coughed softly twice, causing his whole body to tremble.
It seemed that the recent cold hadn’t completely healed.
“What’s wrong with you?” Jiang Yanchi immediately removed an outer garment and draped it over Chu Xie.
His gaze gradually deepened.
“It’s nothing, just caught a chill a few days ago. It’s not a big deal.” Chu Xie regulated his breathing and looked at the Crown Prince with determination. “Your Highness, you must listen carefully to what I’m about to say.”
“The people outside don’t know, but the Emperor’s illness… it might only have one or two years left… If you don’t take power within a year, when the Emperor passes away, Chu Xie will gain complete control over the realm… He is a calamity to the nation, and by then, the entire Wei Kingdom will suffer… So, Your Highness, no matter what the cost… within a year, I will help you weaken Chu Xie’s power and assist the Eastern Palace in regaining the throne.”
The frail, slender figure disappeared into the distance of the corridor, leaving Jiang Yanchi with his hand open. In his palm laid the ointment that Chu Xie had left for him.
He couldn’t help but purse his thin lips.
A sleepless night passed, and the next morning, without waiting for news from Zhao Prison, Jiang Yanchi donned a long robe and left the palace to rush to Chu Xie’s mansion.
As soon as he arrived at the gates of Chu mansion, he heard that the Xue family’s young master had been severely beaten in Zhao Prison, and in the early morning, a set of bloodied clothes had been thrown at the entrance of the Xue family’s residence.
At least one life had been spared.
If it weren’t for Chu Xie’s deterrence with a decree from the Marquis of Zhenbei, considering Chu Xie’s methods, he wouldn’t have let him live for a day once he was sent to Zhao Prison.
The gates of Chu mansion slowly opened, and a steward hurried over. He remained polite as he had been two years ago. “Your Highness, why are you here so early? The Lord has not yet risen. Do you have any matters to attend to?”
Jiang Yanchi’s mind was in turmoil, and he hadn’t even thought of an excuse.
“The wind is cold. Your Highness, please come inside first.”
Jiang Yanchi looked around at the servants, attendants, stewards, and others. Quietly, he made his way through, not letting any of the figures escape his peripheral vision.