Another scene of cold and silent rain.
The visitor in the wind and rain knocked on the door.
Yubei County Prince picked up the distinguished guest who came to the capital city during the eleventh hour. The carriage rolled over the soft mud, bringing with it the smell of earth. It drove into the backyard, and four wheel marks were imprinted on the stone slabs, later washed away by the heavy rain.
A large umbrella was held over the carriage.
The guest lowered the curtain from inside the carriage and poked his head out.
Long black hair, a white jade crown perched high, two scarlet ribbons tied at the back, accentuating the fair skin. A raven-blue cape draped around him, adding an air of composure.
Yubei County Prince’s territory was the closest to the capital city, though small, it was strategically important.
He was the youngest brother of the current emperor, who had never achieved any military merit. He had always enjoyed a peaceful life in his fief.
He had a son and a daughter and had grown accustomed to a peaceful life. He rarely saw visitors from the capital city.
Although he was a county prince, he had no real power in his hands. When he heard of the recent changes in the capital, he didn’t dare to be careless with the person in front of him.
He didn’t know why this bigshot had come today.
Seeing that person raise his eyes, his gaze was clear. Yubei County Prince bowed and invited the guest inside, having someone take his cloak to dry and served the finest wine and tea.
“Your Lordship is courteous.”
That person holding tea was very refined in his demeanor.
The young county prince was lively and had grown up in Puyang County, so he was a bit overwhelmed. Just as he returned home drenched in rain and saw such a refined guest sitting in the hall, he dropped the paper kite in his hand, “Daddy, who is this?”
Chu Xie, who rarely smiled, couldn’t help but show a hint of a smile. “County Lord, I’m surnamed Chu.”
The young county lord wanted to say more but was pulled away by the Shizi. Chu Xie raised his eyes and glanced at the Shizi, concealing his emotions.
Jiang Yanchi’s words echoed in his mind again.
“Once Lingcheng County Prince leaves the city, he will most likely head west. However, if he takes the northwest official road, he will pass through Hanping County on the northern border, and I can’t predict how the Xu family there will react. As long as I set up an ambush to make it look like it’s a force from the north Xu family, he will change his route to the southwest.”
“My little uncle, Yubei County Prince, guards the southwest route of Puyang County. If you take your time to travel from the capital city, you should reach there within three days, so there’s no need to rush during the night.”
“My little uncle is a bit timid and has never been keen on political struggles. After Jiang Jingan changes his route, he will start doubting the attitude of the Xu family in the north. They will not dare to keep Jiang Jingan.”
“But they wouldn’t dare; you would. On the night Jiang Jingan stays, you will forge a letter in the handwriting of Xu Chunmu and show it to the County Prince’s Shizi, making them believe that the Xu family of the North has already turned against them…”
—Why does it have to be a letter in Xu Chunmu’s handwriting?
“That Shizi of the County Prince was raised by Lord Xu Yi and has known Xu Chunmu since childhood. If you use Xu Yi’s handwriting, he won’t be able to tell the difference.”
—But even if they become suspicious and can’t openly support Jiang Jingan, how would that timid County Prince’s Shizi dare to kill someone?
“Who says they have to kill someone with their own hands? When a bird is frightened and injured, as long as you make a slight movement with the bow, it will flutter its wings and fall to beg for mercy. All you have to do is leave no evidence behind, so they can’t shake off this heinous crime and have no choice but to come to the capital and seek shelter.”
—I understand now.
A cup of tea finished.
Chu Xie saw that the Shizi’s eyes were sharp and asked, “Shizi, are you acquainted with the young Marquis Xu?”
He didn’t expect him to mention Young Marquis Xu.
“We lived together and studied together a few years ago.”
“Then you must be close friends.” Chu Xie picked up a piece of cake, sniffing it, and said, “I also had a friend I studied with, someone I’ve known for over ten years. But it’s a pity, he turned against me when I was down.”
He was talking about Zhao Xuan.
The Shizi had heard of him; when Chu Xie first entered the palace, he had been Zhao Xuan’s study companion.
“It is Lord Chu meeting someone not virtuous. As for Young Marquis Xu, he’s not that kind of person.”
After sitting for two hours, Chu Xie calculated that Jiang Jingan should have arrived. If he didn’t arrive soon, it would be dark.
Sure enough, he heard someone outside reporting.
Chu Xie quietly eavesdropped outside the study, and the Shizi wanted to keep Jiang Jingan, thinking it was not inappropriate. However, his father, Yubei County Prince, shook his head, indicating that the situation was delicate. If Jiang Jingan didn’t take the northern route but turned to the southwest, he was taking a detour to avoid the Xu family.
The Xu family’s attitude in the northern border was worth considering.
“We can’t keep him. Provide him with an official post for resting, but don’t bring him into the house.” Two bigwigs knocking on his door in one day was not a good sign.
Jiang Yanchi indeed understood the temperaments of the Jiang family well.
He had calculated every step meticulously.
“Since we’re all seeking shelter here, why does the County Prince only keep myself and not Lingcheng County Prince?” Chu Xie, seeing they were about to send hm away, intercepted him with a curious question.
The young shizi inquired cautiously, “Lord Chu, do you think he should be kept as well?”
“The rain is so heavy, and it’s almost dark. Sending someone on a long night journey is not ideal.”
“Lord Chu, aren’t you and that County Prince… not on the best of terms?”
“In that case, don’t tell him I’m here. He’s just passing through; he’ll stay for a night and leave early tomorrow.” Chu Xie appeared magnanimous.
Surprisingly, the young shizi was charmed by this gentle demeanor, bowed slightly, and remarked, “Lord Chu, your temperament seems different from the rumors in the capital city. It goes to show that rumors can’t be entirely trusted.”
Chu Xie smiled, “What are the rumors like?”
“The rumors…” The Shizi found it difficult to express, so he hedged, “Generally, they’re not very pleasant. But today, it seems like Lord Chu is a kind and generous person.”
A melodious voice chimed in, and County Lord Jiang Sixue handed a raven-blue cloak to Chu Xie, “Your clothes have been dried, sir. Lord Chu is very handsome. Are people in the capital city all this good-looking?”
The young girl was around fourteen or fifteen, similar in age to a peach.
She was quite short.
When Chu Xie saw her, for some reason, he thought of Little Yin.
His voice softened, “Thank you.”
“Brother Chu, you’re welcome.”
The endearing address from the young county lord left him somewhat stunned.
Seeing his puzzled expression, the Shizi immediately led the young girl away, saying, “Ah Xue, don’t be impudent. This is Lord Chu, the Zhangyin from the capital city. You can’t address him casually.”
“But this big brother is so good-looking…”
“No matter.” Chu Xie adjusted the crumpled collar of the young county lord and smiled tenderly, his eyes filled with gentleness. “If you want to call me that, go ahead.”
Chu Xie handed the letter in his arms to Yubei County Prince. Everything had unfolded as Jiang Yanchi had predicted.
Yubei County Prince’s suspicion of the Xu family in the northern border had intensified. He felt that Jiang Jingan was like a hot potato, and he wished he would leave the next day.
Chu Xie had a good night’s sleep, but Yubei County Prince and the Shizi had a restless night with their thoughts all over the place.
If everything went smoothly this time.
Could it mean that he would be able to return to the modern world after escaping the fate of Xu Chunmu’s death?
The next day, Jiang Jingan requested his uncle to send a unit of troops to escort him to Yumen Pass. Yubei County Prince didn’t dare to agree. He only mentioned that Puyang County was also short of troops lately and had sent some to the capital city not long ago.
Jiang Jingan speculated that his uncle was timid but realized that he might be relatively safe in Puyang County. He was about to speak up to delay his departure for a few more days when he saw freshly groomed horses outside. They were said to be sent by Chu Zhangyin.
Suddenly, he panicked.
Chu Xie was here too.
Without saying much, he immediately bid farewell to his uncle and continued heading west.
Chu Xie had an early start but couldn’t find Jiang Jingan. He had a rough idea that Jiang Jingan most likely won’t survive the night.
However, he wondered whether killing Jiang Jingan was like killing Chen Lianzhou, requiring a hands-on approach. With these thoughts in mind, Chu Xie followed Jiang Jingan. After reaching the ambush location near the cliff, he had the broken bridge block Jiang Jingan to avoid leaving evidence. He didn’t dare to engage in close combat.
He took a bow and nocked an arrow.
They were quite close. All he needed was to take aim.
However, he lacked the physical strength to pull the bowstring, even though it was the lightest of bows. He struggled with all his might, but the string wouldn’t budge.
He contemplated whether he should just go up and make a melee attack.
As he hesitated, a familiar scent of sandalwood wafted over him. A figure drew close, grasping his left hand and covering his right hand, assisting him in drawing the bowstring to full tension.
It was Jiang Yanchi.
Why had he come to this place? It was a critical moment. How could he appear in Puyang County?
Chu Xie immediately realized that something was amiss.
“Why are you here? You should have returned to the capital…”
“Don’t get distracted.” Jiang Yanchi acted as if he hadn’t heard and just adjusted Chu Xie’s posture. He aligned his legs, one forward and one back, and corrected his shoulder and arm positions as if giving him instructions.
If Jiang Jingan died, he would unlock the plot. What would happen to Jiang Yanchi then?
If this incident was exposed, would he lose his position as the Crown Prince due to killing a royal family member?
But this wouldn’t be exposed, would it?
Yubei County Prince was so timid that he would surely choose to cover it up.
But what if…
The bowstring seemed to stretch further.
“Take your aim.”
“Jiang Yanchi, if Yanbei Country Prince doesn’t suppress this matter but directly reports it to the state authorities…”
Firmly, from above his head, a voice said, “Don’t worry, he won’t.”
Chu Xie clenched his teeth and resolutely pushed Jiang Yanchi’s elbow, making him step back half a pace.
“I came to kill Jiang Jingan. If something unexpected happens, you can place the blame on me. Return to the capital as we agreed. I will stay in Puyang County…”
Before he could finish his sentence…
An arrow shot out.
“Wait! Wait!” Chu Xie belatedly reached for the arrow. Right now, he wasn’t concerned about Jiang Yanchi; he was worried about whether the arrow counted as his or Jiang Yanchi’s since Jiang Yanchi had held the bow and pulled it with him.
It was too late, and it pierced through Jiang Jingan’s chest with remarkable precision.
In Chu Xie’s mind, he could hear the system processing the task: “Ding, ‘The Death of Jiang Jingan’ plot is completed.”
“What about the plot completion rate?” Chu Xie asked the system nervously.
“The plot completion has some deviation; we are currently calculating the plot completion rate for this task.”
F*ck; that arrow should count as mine, shouldn’t it? Don’t tell me it doesn’t count.
Fury surged in his heart, and he angrily turned around, but he didn’t have time to conceal his frustration. He heard Jiang Yanchi say, “This arrow was shot by me.”
Chu Xie was stunned.
“Chu Xie, you didn’t commit the murder.”
Most of his anger was instantly suppressed in this moment.
As the sun set, dark clouds gathered, signaling a rainy night. The mountain path became slippery. To avoid revealing their presence, they had only taken one horse with them. The Crown Prince asked Chu Xie to sit on the horse, chose an easier path down, and several servants followed them from a distance. Both of them remained silent during their journey.
“Tonight, don’t return to the County Prince’s residence. The news will spread quickly, and you won’t be able to handle the situation tonight. Go tomorrow morning.”
Jiang Yanchi was still considering how to arrange things properly for himself.
Chu Xie firmly refused, “No, if they can’t find anyone tonight, they will…”
“If they suspect it’s you, they’ll suppress the news. When have you ever been so cautious? Didn’t we agree? Don’t worry.”
Chu Xie wanted to say more but hesitated.
This time, their risky military operation had implicated Jiang Yanchi. If the plot proceeded as intended, he would have to find a way to block the death of Xu Chunmu and might have to leave this world soon. Acting irresponsibly and burning bridges might not be morally right.
At the very least, he had to ensure that Jiang Yanchi could cover up this matter, and he couldn’t let him lose the throne due to these unforeseen events.
As the day grew dark, a foggy mountain rain started pouring down. Jiang Yanchi mounted a horse and let Chu Xie sit behind him. He removed the cape and covered both of them.
“Why did you hesitate just now?”
With the cape enveloping them, Jiang Yanchi’s voice was close.
“Chu Zhangyin never spares his own life and never cares about others; however, you had a moment of hesitation.”
He laughed softly, “Could it be that you’re worried about me?”
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