Chapter 10 Into a trap
When Zhao Yuan returned to the residence, Shuang Li was already taken under guard.
Although Lin Wenzhong had carefully checked twice, Zhao Yuan still gave the third order to thoroughly inspect the residence. At the same time, no stone can be left unturned in the east and west courtyards, in the gardens, behind the rockery and on the island in the heart of the lake.
The palace of Su Wang was brightly lit, and Wang Chang Shi was called in front of him.
Zhao Yuan sat in the seat of honour in the reception pavilion with his eyelids lowered. There was neither joy nor anger on his face. He said lightly: “This lord has lost something important. Now most of the residence is under renovation, and there are many people mixed within everyday, unexpectedly, such a disgraceful thing happened.”
Zhao Xi shouted sternly at the right time: “You know your crime!”
Wang Chang Shi’s forehead immediately dripped with sweat. “If such a thing happened, it was all the negligence of this official. Your Royal Highness, please inform what is lost, and this official will do his best to track it down.”
“No need. This matter involves military intelligence. It’s enough for you to know that Lin Wenzhong has taken over your job, so that it is convenient for him to search inside and outside. Just do what he needs you to do and as for the rest, reflect on your faults.”
Zhao Yuan had been in charge of the troops for a long time and he didn’t deliberately raise his voice when he said it, but his tone was so cold that it made everyone tremble.
Wang Chang Shi kowtowed like a garlic pounder, waiting for Zhao Xi to pass an order to send him down. He was afraid to sway the hem of his clothes. Before he could make a gesture, Zhao Yuan had already left the reception pavilion.
After kneeling from beginning to end, the old Wang Chang Shi could only stand up slowly and crookedly. He felt dizzy but his mind was clear.
No matter if that important thing could be found or not, he, the Chang Shi of the palace, was finished.
If that thing was found, he might just lose his official hat; but if something went wrong with that thing, he couldn’t say whether he would walk out of the palace and not fall into the prison of the Ministry of Criminal Justice.
The deceased emperor was gone just a short while ago but his unsightly imperial spies were already mercilessly purged. Su Wang was really ambitious. On the day when the new emperor ascended the throne, he, the regent, dared to throw out this old man of the emperor. If it was not an open call to arms, then what was it?
Alas, the immortals fought on the left and right, and the little ones suffered.
Poor Wang Chang Shi guessed one thing correctly, but it was difficult to know the other. Zhao Yuan did hate him as a spy and took the opportunity to send him away, but it was not to fight against the little emperor. Because of Li Yi’s affairs, he had already thought that Zhao Shen’s agent was troublesome.
Zhao Yuan didn’t have much hope for the repeated search of the residence. He combed through Li Yi’s possible hiding places in his mind. The more he thought about it, the worse it became. Suddenly, he got up and left the study. Ordering for a horse to be prepared, he headed straight out of the residence.
Zhao Xi couldn’t keep up with Zhao Yuan’s steps, so he chased after him, saying, “Your Highness, there is a curfew at night.”
Zhao Yuan paused. First the rebel army, then the epidemic, with the Great Cheng dynasty being just established, for safety reasons, there was a curfew and he personally issued the curfew order.
Su Wang himself was naturally not limited by this ban, but what Zhao Xi wanted to remind him was that under such circumstances it was inconvenient for people to search and it was naturally even more inconvenient for people to hide. It was better to wait till daylight to make plans.
Although Zhao Xi kept persuading, he didn’t dare look at Su Wang’s face. The cooked duck just flew away, and taking into account how long the prince had been waiting for this duck to be served, he couldn’t even imagine what the prince was feeling now.
If this can be tolerated, what can’t be tolerated!
Sure enough, Zhao Yuan continued to walk the road out of the residence. Zhao Xi hurriedly turned his head to call someone to prepare the horse. Zhao Yuan turned again and reached a fork in the road. Zhao Xi was taken aback and hurriedly followed. After only a few steps he already knew that the prince was going to Li Yi’s house.
Zhao Xi couldn’t help sighing. His prince was so tolerant. He fought wars, broke into the city, then dealt with a plague. It took a lot of effort and nerves to find the emperor’s grandson; and now that something had happened, Su Wang still could keep calm.
It was obvious that he was born to be able to accomplish great things. He endured both dangers and hardships and the burden of humiliation in the past. He arrived in the capital when he was in his teens and only returned to Southern Yunnan after several years of dormancy. Later on, he fought in the north and in the south, and the emperor’s court and the king’s court were both unfriendly, so he was caught in the middle; but he managed to survive without losing a single battle.
Zhao Xi admired his prince with all his heart. How much perseverance, determination and strategy did this man need to have to come this far?
Don’t mention the regent, huh, that rebellious thought was not impermissible.
Zhao Yuan didn’t know that Zhao Xi behind him had gone through countless twists and turns in his mind during these few steps.
Summer insects chirped in the courtyard as he slowly entered the house, crossed the deserted hall and entered the studio. Zhao Xi followed with a glazed lamp in his hands. Zhao Yuan turned around. Zhao Xi anticipated it and hurriedly handed the lamp to Zhao Yuan.
The glazed lamp was lifted into the air, glowing like water on a piece of tightly stretched plain silk. In the centre of the painting, several cranes flew out of the dense shroud of auspicious clouds, their long necks outstretched and their wings spread as they rushed towards the boundless sky.
However, it was just a few strokes; the drawing was far from complete.
Su Wang returned the lamp to Zhao Xi, turned around and went out with his face cold.
Li Yi, are you in such a hurry to escape from this ‘cage’?
As soon as dawn broke, Zhao Yuan entered the palace after a sleepless night. The new emperor had just been enthroned; the court couldn’t do without him even for a day. Zhao Yuan called for Lin Wenzhong early and pointed out the several possibilities he had thought about yesterday and asked him to take someone to search.
The morning mist filled the hillside behind Tianbao Temple and the dew, evaporated by the early sun, covered the mountain in a haze.
Li Yi had climbed there before dawn and by now he was already sweating profusely. It took some more effort to find Ping An.
After many days, Ping An breathed out a sigh of relief when he finally saw Li Yi.
“Young master, I was nervous to death. I was frightened every day that I didn’t even know where you were. Neither the doctor in the clinic nor Captain Zhang agreed to tell me where you were taken, they just kept telling me to leave it alone. I had to follow your previous instructions, in case we’re separated, go and wait in the mountain behind Tianbao Temple, but it was what the young master said during the flood. I have been here every day since I left the clinic. Young master, I’ve finally been able to see you.”
Li Yi was also very pleased that the two of them managed to ‘meet’ smoothly, “Ping An, it’s fine if you are okay. Let’s leave here first. I think that after all these events in the capital, the population must be re-registered. When we get there, we will assume the identity of others, and then we will hide for a while and get out of the city.”
“Good, as young master says.” Ping An had a backing now and couldn’t help but feel overjoyed.
After the two walked a few more steps, he remembered and asked, “Young master, where have you been these days?”
Seeing that Li Yi looked well, was dressed and didn’t look like he was in pain, Ping An was not very worried but just asked naturally.
Li Yi was a little lost when he heard these words and, after thinking for a while, he said, “It’s hard to explain. I’ll explain when I have time.”
In order to be able to find Li Yi, Ping An originally stayed on a small hill and waited for him there. The place where the two met was quite steep. Walking and talking, they had almost returned to the open part of the mountain road.
Li Yi was about to turn to the main road down the mountain, when suddenly a lot of armed men appeared from behind the rocks in the dense forest on both sides. Li Yi was shocked and thought they had encountered mountain bandits.
Only when someone came up to take him and Ping An down did Li Yi notice that all these people were wearing white-soled black boots on their feet. Looking at their weapons and their standard clothing, it was obvious that they were from the government.
Ping An didn’t figure it out yet, so he yelled: “It’s a robbery! A robbery in broad daylight! Someone come! Save my young…”
Before he finished speaking, someone blocked his mouth.
Li Yi calmed down and asked tensely, “Who are you?”
The leader paced over to look at him. The man, with his dark skin and deep features, was clearly of a foreign descent and looked uninhibited and wild. However, when he opened his mouth, his speech was a standard official language. “His Royal Highness the Emperor’s Grandson will naturally know when he gets to the place.”
Li Yi and Ping An were both shocked when they heard these words; the other party actually knew their identities.
This was much more dangerous than falling into the hands of mountain bandits. Li Yi immediately used all his strength to break free. Unfortunately, his attempts were pathetic in the eyes of others. In the blink of an eye, he was tied up into a zongzi and could no longer move.
The man was even more prepared and stuffed a pill into Li Yi’s mouth.
Still struggling, Li Yi fell into a daze as he was shoved into a sedan chair. As he was carried, his vision went black and he knew nothing more.
When Li Yi woke up again, he was in a cell.
Ping An was not far from his side, with his forehead bleeding. It was obvious that he hadn’t been able to enjoy the same treatment as Li Yi, and instead of being fed a pill, he was directly knocked out and brought here.
Hearing the movement in the cell, someone rushed to take a look and then quickly walked away. After a while, the foreign-looking man, who Li Yi had seen last, walked in.
Li Yi was dizzy and the effect of the medicine had not completely faded. He reluctantly asked, “Is this the prison of the Ministry of Criminal Justice or the imperial prison? What crime is Your Excellency going to convict me of?”
“Wei is not qualified to convict His Royal Highness. When the time comes, it will be at the discretion of His Majesty. This is a secret prison; the present emperor has not yet officially established the imperial prison, and now this place holds all the felons and clansmen of the former dynasty.”
Li Yi understood a little bit. This was a place to concentrate and liquidate the remnants of the previous dynasty.
Although he was still groggy, his mind was clear. He grasped the words of this man surnamed Wei and asked, “The present emperor?”
It’s only been a few days since the new emperor ascended the throne. How old was he that he could think of this and arrange secret orders to arrest him?
“With all due respect, the present emperor has just ascended the throne, so Master Wei should be following the decree of the late emperor.”
When Wei Che heard this, his face showed interest. He slowly squatted down and looked at Li Yi for the first time across the threshold of the prison.
“Although Your Royal Highness is weak and has no power to bind a chicken, you are much smarter than I thought, and much calmer than your imperial relatives, civil and military dignitaries here. You are worthy of this Wei calling ‘Your Royal Highness’.”
Li Yi didn’t know whether it was an insult or a praise and said with a wry smile: “Yi has long been a commoner, and can’t be called this by Master Wei.
It’s just that those who were really smart and courageous were killed when Prince Qin usurped the throne and were slaughtered by the rebel troops when the Great Qing fell. If they were even more unfortunate, they died of the plague… All the capable ones have died out, and that’s what makes Master Wei think I’m the tall one in the pile of dwarfs.”
After hearing this, Wei Che stood up silently, smiled somewhat meaningfully and turned to leave.
Ping An had already woken up at this time, and when he saw that both of them were already in prison, his heart was as gray as death. Tears rolled from his eyes, soaking into his clothes together with the blood from his forehead.