Chapter 13 Evidence
Until he reached the guest hall in front of Chu Xie’s sleeping quarters, he still hadn’t seen a familiar figure.
The person had no martial skills, so they couldn’t be a guard. Could it be that they were just a lowly servant or slave lurking in an unseen courtyard?
What bothered Jiang Yanchi even more was that he couldn’t recall the person’s appearance clearly from the previous night.
Their height, features, and gaze…. were all fuzzy in his memory.
The only things he could vaguely remember were the slender and fair neck and the deep indentation of their collarbone.
Just as he was contemplating this, the steward said, “Lord Chu has awakened, and hearing that Your Highness has come, he has ordered the morning meal to be prepared.”
“Why did Lord Chu wake up so late this morning?”
“He received an urgent letter late last night, which disturbed his rest. That’s why he woke up later today.”
Speaking of this, Chu Xie, holding a warming stove, walked over from the opposite bedroom, giving off an unfriendly aura.
Chu Xie first drank a cup of hot tea that a servant had brought and warmed his stomach. Then, he turned to glance at the young Crown Prince beside him.
“Why did you come to find me so early in the morning?” Chu Xie asked.
Jiang Yanchi didn’t dare to say much and simply bowed to him, saying, “Chu Zhangyin, I must attend the morning court today.”
Chu Xie coldly smiled. “No need to rush.” He slowly finished his breakfast before getting into a sedan chair and taking Jiang Yanchi towards the palace.
During the journey, he asked, “Have you had any interactions with the Minister of Personnel?”
Hearing this question, Jiang Yanchi’s heart skipped a beat. He quickly replied, “Minister Xue is an upright person who has presented many insightful suggestions in the court.”
Chu Xie remained silent, wearing a cold expression, and added, “Reduce your interactions.”
In the following days, various officials involved in the Jinhuan Gambling House incident were on edge, watching as tensions escalated.
On the surface, the situation seemed clear.
It was nothing more than the money bag under Chu Xie’s control being punctured – the Jinhuan Gambling House in the imperial city had been swiftly sealed.
Everyone knew that the major shareholder of this gambling house was Chu Xie, and no one had ever dared to cause trouble there. It was considered giving Chu Xie face, allowing him to make some small profits and be happy. As a result, many low-ranking officials intentionally sent gifts to the gambling house, bribing their connections below, and buying minor official positions.
People in the Eastern Capital had grown accustomed to being deaf and blind to such matters.
But no one had expected that the Minister of Personnel would suddenly grow a backbone and dare to provoke this hornet’s nest.
The Minister of Personnel was a man with the surname Xue, and several of his sons held prominent positions, either as officials or military officers. However, it was worth mentioning that his second daughter had married the eldest grandson of the Marquis of Zhenbei, the family that controlled nearly half of Wei’s military might.
She was the daughter-in-law of the Xu family, a significant military clan.
As a result, Minister Xue’s actions might also be a warning from the Xu family to Chu Xie.
However, Chu Xie was naturally arrogant and ruthless, and his actions were unscrupulous. How could he be so easily deterred by a warning? The gambling house was not just a legitimate business; it was also involved in smuggling private salt, which was where the real profits came from.
A significant portion of Chu Xie’s vast wealth came from this business. Year after year, he had to maintain various connections. By blocking this source of income, it wasn’t just a spark; it was like lighting a fuse that could lead to a full-scale explosion. Chu Xie’s wealth was accumulated through various channels, and much of it depended on this route.
Chu Xie’s temperament was arrogant, and his methods ruthless. He was not someone who would be easily subdued. Blocking this source of income wasn’t just igniting a firecracker; it was more like lighting the fuse of a massive bomb.
It was strange not to bite the opponent until they bled.
As it turned out, the gambling house was inspected the previous day.
The following day, Xue Nanjin, the eldest son of Minister Xue, was thrown into prison for dereliction of duty. They didn’t hold back and dragged him to Zhao Prison, where he was subjected to a severe beating and various forms of torture. To top it off, his blood-stained clothes were thrown at the doorstep of the Xue residence. This enraged old Master Xue, who had to lie in bed and urgently summoned two or three imperial physicians to attend to him.
As a result, the courtiers in the palace were silent for the past few days.
Chu Xie continued to act aloof as always, maintaining his dignity.
A few days later, the ban on the Jinhuan Gambling House was lifted, and no one dared to question the regulations any further.
Interestingly, Old Master Xue woke up a couple of days later. Upon hearing that his son, Xue Shilang, was unharmed in prison, he once again challenged the gambling house by having it sealed for a second time.
This time, it completely infuriated Chu Xie.
That night, a guilty plea from the Xue family’s son in the form of a written confession was delivered from Zhao Prison.
He was sentenced to be beheaded, and the execution was set for seven days later.
Fear and unease permeated the entire city.
Many people knelt at the gates of the Cold Palace, begging the Crown Prince to uphold justice.
Jiang Yanchi’s face turned pale as he listened to the people outside who couldn’t stand up. However, he was now nothing more than a little bug in Chu Xie’s hands. Even if he knew that loyal officials were being wronged, he couldn’t dare to take any rash actions to save them.
On the fifth day, in the middle of the night, when Chu Xie secretly sneaked into the Cold Palace, he felt that Jiang Yanchi was burdened with heavy thoughts.
Following the original text, Chu Xie handed him a small box of fireworks.
With a gentle pull, a firework shot up into the sky, bursting into a beautiful display of colors.
In the original text, Xue Chunmu had given a whistle as a signal.
However, Xue Chunmu was skilled in martial arts and had keen hearing. Chu Xie, on the other hand, was different. With his broken body, he couldn’t even hear a whistle, let alone recognize it.
Moreover, giving fireworks also had its own implications.
To ensure that the fireworks were seen, they had to be set off at night.
This way, one person could cause trouble during the day, and the other could take action at night, avoiding any conflicts between the two.
Chu Xie was incredibly clever.
Jiang Yanchi held the firework in his hand and looked at Chu Xie deeply. “Do you truly believe that I can bring down Chu Xie?”
Of course, you’re the protagonist.
Why is the young Crown Prince starting to doubt himself?
Jiang Yanchi waited for an answer for a long time but received none, and his heart sank inch by inch.
He turned around and heard a sound of strings being plucked.
Chu Xie was sitting in front of a desk, cradling his old zither. The moonlight spilled over him, making his sleeves look like blossoming pear blossoms.
“Host,” the system’s voice appeared at an inappropriate time, “The character setting is incorrect; Xue Chunmu wouldn’t play the zither!”
“Quit nagging,” Chu Xie said, plucking the strings. “Do you expect me to brandish a sword and hold a rousing rally in front of the protagonist? My arm can barely lift a sword. What if I accidentally throw it and kill the protagonist?”
Chu Xie replied, “If you can do it, go ahead; if not, get offline!”
The system reluctantly went offline.
When he was bound to the protagonist, Chu Xie received some character skill rewards, and he played the zither remarkably well.
In the quiet of the night, the Cold Palace was filled with the sound of silk and bamboo, a melodious tune that touched the heartstrings.
Jiang Yanchi watched the delicate hands strumming the zither, as fine as jade, with perfectly proportioned finger bones.
It was quite beautiful.
Playing the ancient melody, “Xiao Ya Kong Gu,” a long-lost musical piece in Great Wei, Chu Xie showcased his elegant talents, which were unexpected from a family that had served on the border for generations, guarding it for a hundred years.
Unbeknownst to him, his heart began to quiet down as well.
“I didn’t expect you to be good at this,” Jiang Yanchi said, approaching the desk after the piece ended. He bent his knees halfway and mimicked Chu Xie by plucking the strings twice. “It sounds really nice.”
“Melodious music pleases the ear and soothes the soul. Your Highness, let me teach you.”
He took the Crown Prince’s hand and guided his fingers to rest on the correct strings, covering his hand with his own. As he pressed down, he explained, “Start with this string, then this one… and then this one. You move your right hand to pluck the strings, and I’ll coordinate with my left hand. Give it a try?”
Jiang Yanchi knew how to play the zither, but right now, he felt clumsy and distracted, causing his fingers to fumble.
Chu Xie couldn’t help but laugh at his awkwardness, but there was no mockery in his expression. He gently pressed down on his hand again and said, “It’s okay, take it slowly.”
Then he looked up, gazing into Jiang Yanchi’s eyes with immense patience.
“Learning the zither, and other things, it’s the same. Take your time. I believe in you, Your Highness, you can do it.”
Although his hand had stopped moving, a different chord was struck within Jiang Yanchi.
In the moonlight, that person’s slender and fair neck was so close that he could smell the faint fragrance of medicinal herbs on him.
“Young Master Xue.”
Chu Xie was stunned for several seconds before realizing that the young Crown Prince was addressing him. After responding with a soft “Hmm,” he heard an extremely faint “Thank you.”
“No need to thank me,” Chu Xie replied softly.
“Actually, in these past two years, I… Everyone thinks that I’ve been fortunate to be chosen by Chu Xie and have risen like a phoenix on a branch. They think I’ve had such great luck. But, but…”
My mother died.
She was killed by Chu Xie using a bottle of He Ding Hong.
These heavy words eventually choked in his throat and couldn’t be spoken.
This was the price of wearing the crown of the Eastern Palace.
Chu Xie wondered if the recent incident involving the Jinhuan Gambling House had troubled him too much, leading to this dilemma.
He gently advised, “Your Highness, don’t dwell on this too much. You don’t need to rush to take sides, and there may still be some opportunities in this matter.”
Jiang Yanchi only realized that Chu Xie was talking about buying official positions in the gambling house.
“What other opportunities could there be now?”
Speaking of this matter, Jiang Yanchi sighed deeply. “Now that the matter is settled, in three days, the second son of the Xue family will be beheaded. Once he dies, the entire court will be greatly disappointed in me… You…”
You will be disappointed too.
He didn’t say the second half of the sentence.
Chu Xie had some plans in mind and reached out to gently ruffle the Crown Prince’s hair in a somewhat presumptuous manner. “When I say there’s an opportunity, there definitely is.”
After saying this, Chu Xie left the Cold Palace.
He didn’t come again for the next two days.
It wasn’t until the third night, on the eve of Xue’s second son’s execution, that Jiang Yanchi had a faint premonition that the person would definitely come tonight.
But tonight, there were still many courtiers kneeling outside, and inside, there were probably still many of Chu Xie’s spies.
If possible, Jiang Yanchi actually hoped that he wouldn’t come tonight, that he wouldn’t get involved in this matter any further.
The case of the Jinhuan Gambling House was already closed.
Don’t make a fool of yourself and get caught by Chu Xie.
He was physically weak, spoke softly, and was generally incapable of imagining how cruel the punishments in this world could be. If he revealed a flaw, he wouldn’t be able to withstand Chu Xie’s repeated torture.
But he still came.
Wearing the soft leather mask, he quietly slipped in through the back door in the dead of night, filling in the gaps in the wall that had collapsed. After confirming that no one was following him, he walked a few steps and was pulled by the Crown Prince into the shadow of the pear tree.
“It’s a critical time right now. You actually dared to come,” Jiang Yanchi covered his mouth and whispered, urging him not to make any noise. He lowered his voice and spoke close to his ear, his warm breath brushing against his earlobe, causing it to turn crimson. “Many eyes are on the Cold Palace right now. You should leave first.”
Chu Xie pointed to his mouth, which was being covered.
After hesitating for a moment, Jiang Yanchi let go.
He then saw Chu Xie fumblingly take out several account books and letters of correspondence from his sleeve, handing them to him.
“What is this?”
Before the words had even finished, Jiang Yanchi saw Chu Xie’s seal and signature on the letters, as well as the astounding numbers on the account pages, and his expression changed dramatically.
Chu Xie was pressed against a tree, his back rubbing against the rough tree trunk, causing a searing and painful sensation that felt like it might shatter his fragile bones.
Those hands remained tightly gripping his shoulders, and the fingernails were digging into his arms. “Where did you steal these things? Are you trying to get yourself killed?”
These were letters and records related to Chu Xie’s private salt smuggling.
If it weren’t for Chu Xie’s trusted subordinates, he would never have been able to obtain these documents.
Was this person a fool?
To weaken Chu Xie’s influence, to hold the imperial power in his hands, did he really not care about his own life?
“Don’t go back to Chu Xie,” Jiang Yanchi said urgently. “I’ll prepare a carriage and some silver for you. Leave tonight. I’ll arrange for someone to escort you north. The situation with the Jinhuan Gambling House has caused a storm in the city. If these documents and letters are lost, Chu Xie will quickly find out that the one who betrayed him is you. Don’t delay any longer. Leave tonight!”
In Jiang Yanchi’s voice, there was impatience and melancholy. In his mind, he kept thinking about the news that Xue’s second son, who had offended Chu Xie, had been beaten almost to death in the prison overnight.
Holding those letters in his hand was like holding a burning coal.
He wished that the person had never stolen anything.