Chapter 17: The Young Marquis
“Imperial Physician!” Jiang Yanchi immediately picked up the person and, while supporting the curtain with one hand, walked into the inner chamber. He gently laid the person on the couch and checked his weak breath.
Little Xizi, hearing the urgency in his tone, rushed in.
As he entered, he saw a pool of black blood, shattered cups and plates, and his face turned pale.
Quickly and efficiently, he ordered someone to call the imperial physician and, at the same time, called a group of servants to clean up the dishes. He suspected that there might be something wrong with the food and drink.
The imperial physician determined that it was a highly toxic poison, and for the time being, couldn’t identify the source. He could only administer some commonly used emetic medicine to make the person vomit out whatever was in his stomach.
However, he hadn’t eaten much, and what he vomited was mostly bloody water. Seeing this, everyone felt their heads go numb.
The imperial physician administered acupuncture to stop the flow of Qi and blood and temporarily sealed the spread of the poison to the bone marrow. He watched as the person’s breath was about to fade away and, considering the iron complexion of the Crown Prince, had no choice but to administer some potentially useful antidotes.
Most likely, this person had a strong will to survive. He had randomly taken a bunch of medicines, and even after passing through the gates of death, he managed to regain some breath.
Chu Xie was diligently following the plot, and his hand had just been raised when Jiang Yanchi tightly grasped it.
“Your… Your Highness, don’t eat… it’s poisoned…”
“Ding, Poison the Crown Prince mission completed.”
“Ding, Save the Crown Prince mission completed.”
Hearing the two sounds in his mind, Chu Xie finally relaxed, feeling a wave of exhaustion washing over him.
“Don’t sleep… Ah Mu, don’t sleep… first, don’t sleep…”
His eyes suddenly turned red, and he anxiously rubbed the palm of his hand.
No, no, you can’t be so cold.
He remembered the ashen color of his mother’s body more than two years ago. It was almost identical to the person in front of him now.
“Don’t sleep… don’t… die…”
Chu Xie, drowsy and half-conscious, felt his hand being squeezed painfully but managed to open his eyes slightly.
“Your Highness, don’t cry.”
Hearing his voice, Jiang Yanchi nodded vigorously, “I won’t cry, just don’t sleep, okay?”
Look at him, looking like he’s mourning.
He activated the pain relief buff, but Chu Xie was too drowsy to comfort him. His eyes closed, and he fell asleep.
The imperial physician was terrified, his back soaked in sweat through his clothes. He finally wiped his forehead and put away his needles. “That was close, too close. This poison is deadly; this person almost didn’t make it… Well, he’s saved for now…”
Jiang Yanchi finally relaxed, sitting on the edge of the bed with his head in his hands. He laughed, but his eyes were moist.
Little Xizi brought a bowl of roasted mountain chicken to him.
“Your Highness, it’s been confirmed, the poison is in this food.”
Jiang Yanchi pressed his forehead and his face remained hidden in the shadows of his hand. His voice was hoarse and filled with exhaustion. “Keep investigating.”
Little Xizi looked around nervously, put down the wooden platter, and leaned in to whisper to Jiang Yanchi, lowering his voice, “We’ve investigated, and it seems that someone from the Chu family is involved.”
It was Chu Xie again.
Jiang Yanchi slowly released his hand, his eyes showing a hint of redness, and a glint of anger in his gaze.
“Your Highness, for now, we can only buy some time. We must find the antidote within a day…” The imperial physician said while examining the pulse. “Hurry, we must hurry!”
Jiang Yanchi looked at the person lying motionless on the bed, pondering something in his heart, and said, “Secretly bring someone into the Eastern Palace.”
“Bring who?” Little Xizi asked.
“The heir of the Marquis Zhenbei, Xu Changling.”
The person who entered the palace that night was Xu Changling, the legitimate eldest son of the Marquis Zhenbei, who had been living quietly in the capital for a long time and was married into the family of the Minister of Personnel.
Upon seeing this man, Jiang Yanchi noticed that he was indeed tall and upright, with a certain martial air about him.
However, he has been mixing in the capital for a long time, and it’s been three or four years since he returned to the Northern Region after marrying. He hasn’t achieved any military accomplishments during this time.
“The Imperial Guards?” Xu Changling heard the Crown Prince’s intentions and shook his head. “Commander Li was promoted by the late Emperor and has always been loyal and courageous. But the Deputy Commander, Zhao Guan, is a close relative of the Duke Yue. Half of the Imperial Guard’s authority is in the hands of someone surnamed Zhao. It would be difficult to mobilize them.”
“Is there any other way, Shizi?”
Jiang Yanchi asked again. “The Ministry of Punishment is filled with Chu Xie’s people, and it’s impossible to clear the case through the Ministry of Punishment…”
“Well, Your Highness is now safe. Why not let this matter pass lightly? Consider it a favor to that Chu person?” Xu Changling scratched his head and tentatively suggested.
“Pass lightly?” There was a trace of anger in Jiang Yanchi’s voice. “No, I want him to pay a hundredfold and a thousandfold for this. Not for myself, but for your younger brother…”
“Xu Chunmu?” Xu Changling was even more puzzled, lowered his head to think for a moment, and then asked, “Has my younger brother also been implicated? Wasn’t he in Changye County?”
Jiang Yanchi didn’t go into detail, only briefly mentioning Xu Chunmu’s sneaking into the capital to assist him. After listening, Xu Changling touched his nose with a half-believing expression and said, “I haven’t seen Chunmu in many years. When I first came to the capital, he was only ten years old. Afterward, he went to lead troops, and I saw him less and less. So, he’s still in the capital now?”
At present, that person was seriously ill. Jiang Yanchi didn’t want anyone to disturb his rest, so he said vaguely, “Yes, it’s not very convenient to meet right now.”
He frowned and continued to inquire, “You actually let him go to the battlefield?”
Xu Changling seemed unsurprised by the Crown Prince’s question and began to explain as if it were a matter of course.
“Well, Your Highness, despite his delicate appearance, he is quite knowledgeable in military strategy and tactics. He is familiar with the terrain of the Great Desert and is willing to endure hardships. When it comes to fighting, he’s clever and resourceful. If it weren’t for the fact that I’m a few years older than him, the Marquis’s position would not have fallen to me. However, he is still a b*stard…”
“He’s a b*stard?” Jiang Yanchi raised his eyebrows.
“Yes, he’s an illegitimate child brought in from outside,” Xu Changling explained. “But the old Marquis doted on him greatly and registered him under the name of the Marquis’s wife, treating him as if he were a legitimate son.”
Everything matched up.
He had indeed suffered a lot when he was young.
While the legitimate son could live comfortably in the capital, he had to stay in the harsh northern border, lead troops into battle, and endure it all with his frail physique…
“If Your Highness wishes, I can pressure Duke Yue’s mansion on behalf of the Xu family. However…” Xu Changling hinted somewhat obscurely, “for the Marquis’s mansion, it may not be advantageous.”
“Xu Chunmu has been residing in the capital for a long time, and he hasn’t had a suitable position. Why don’t you find a way to take over the position of Deputy Commander of the Imperial Guards?” Jiang Yanchi suggested.
Xu Changling narrowed his eyes slightly, clearly pleased with the idea.
The Xu family’s influence in the border regions should not be underestimated. However, when it came to the capital, their influence was limited.
That was why he had eagerly married a legitimate daughter of the Minister of Personnel nine years ago—to consolidate the Xu family’s influence within the imperial city.
If he could gain control of half of the Imperial Guards, it would be even better.
Jiang Yanchi could see his interest and added, “Also, I want to marry your second son, Xu Chunmu, as the Crown Prince’s consort.”
Xu Changling was once again bewildered.
Although male consorts for male rulers had existed throughout history, it seemed rather hasty for the Crown Prince to make such a move… However, upon further thought, Xu Chunmu’s appearance was indeed much more beautiful than the average noblewoman in the capital. Given his handsome looks, it was not unreasonable for the Crown Prince to have such desires.
It was quite a discerning choice.
Xu Chunmu was, after all, a b*stard. If he could become the Crown Prince’s consort, the Xu family’s power would only increase, making it a profitable deal.
His father and grandfather would surely be pleased.
Xu Changling immediately agreed and bowed respectfully, as if afraid that the Crown Prince might change his mind.
Now that the national seal was in his hands, Jiang Yanchi immediately drafted an urgent decree and sent it to the northern border via a fast horse. It was an urgent mission, and it should reach its destination within six or seven days.
With everything arranged, the Prince finally breathed a sigh of relief.
Northern Border. Changye County.
In the military camp, the soldiers saw a flickering light approaching from a distance, but there was no movement from the sentries. They all watched with curiosity as it drew nearer. It was only when it got closer that they realized it was a royal messenger.
In the far north of Changye County, urgent messages from the imperial city were a rare occurrence.
The soldiers rubbed their hands together in the cold, watching as the royal messenger, dressed in dark green silk and a large cloak, raised a scroll with a golden dragon pattern on dark paper above his head and handed it over to the command tent.
Xu Chunmu glanced at the decree and noticed the royal seal on the box.
His eyebrows furrowed.
“What decree is this?”
“Shizi, you’ll know when you open it. It’s an urgent decree from the capital. Please accept it quickly,” the messenger said with a cheerful expression.
In the current era of peace, there were hardly any urgent decrees that required an eight-hundred-mile journey from the capital.
Xu Chunmu took a sip of strong liquor, walked over to the messenger, and stood above him, lightly resting his hand on the hilt of his sword. He said, “Speak.”
“It’s… it’s…” Although he knew this was against protocol, the messenger, intimidated by the Xu family’s authority, raised his head to glance at the stern expression of the young marquis. He stammered, “It’s… a decree naming you as the Crown Prince’s consort.”
Upon hearing this, Xu Chunmu was stunned. His delicate brows furrowed even more.
What kind of bizarre wind was blowing in the capital now?
“Keep it as it is and send it back.”
Xu Chunmu’s expression turned cold, and he became even more sparing with his words.
The messenger was shocked and hastily knelt down. “I can’t… I can’t do that, Young Marquis. This…”
With a swift motion, Xu Chunmu drew his long sword, pointing it directly at the man’s nose.
“Send. It. Back.”
The messenger nodded fearfully and quickly left the tent. The sharp blade was sheathed again. The moonlight illuminated Xu Chunmu’s cold profile, making him appear even more aloof.
As the messenger was about to leave the tent, he heard a low voice behind him.
The messenger stopped in his tracks.
Turning around, he saw Young Marquis Xu calmly wiping his sword. His deep black eyes seemed like a still, dark pool. After a long silence, he finally said, “…Forget it.”
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