Chapter 11 Loyalty
Wei Che left the secret prison and went straight to Sizheng Hall where the emperor was dealing with the state affairs.
Li Yi was right; Wei Che hadn’t entered the capital yet when he already received a secret order from the emperor, and out of the long list of nearly two hundred people that the emperor gave to him, the first fifty were top priority.
Since the city was breached, except for those whose death was confirmed, the top fifty names had all fallen into Wei Che’s net without a failure by the time Li Yi was captured. Finally Wei Che’s eagle claw mission was over.
He had never thought that the previous emperor would put such an important matter into his hands.
It was natural for a martial artist who had come of age to be able to join Luan Yiwei (imperial guard of honor), but after all, Wei Che was young and had few qualifications. He started as a four-rank commander only. It was important to know that Luan Yiwei was the emperor’s ceremonial guard in the open, but secretly they were the emperor’s eyes, ears and private soldiers.
It was already a blessing to be selected, so how could this little one want more?
It was the previous emperor who secretly summoned him and forced him to take up the position of a second-rank military officer.
Wei Che was originally scared and uncertain. Only when the emperor died did he remember that when he was summoned that day, the emperor stayed behind a screen and everything was delivered by an attendant. He finally understood what it meant.
All arrangements were made for the present emperor.
Luan Yiwei was the emperor’s close protection, and Luan Yiwei was the sword the emperor held in his hand. The most important thing was not to make this sword too heavy for the emperor to lift. Let alone disobey the orders, they had to never hurt the emperor himself.
The original Luan Yiwei was a handy sword for the late emperor, but later it might become too old, too cunning and too disrespectful. If it was too heavy to wield, it was better to put it on the shelf. If there was anyone who refused to listen to orders or even wanted to rebel, the sword would be thrown into the furnace and destroyed.
What the late emperor wanted was a new blade like Wei Che, polished and handed to the present emperor to have a perfect command of.
This secret order was trusted to Wei Che. It was a great credit given to him by the emperor, and it was also a test. After he handed in a sheet filled with satisfactory answers, he would be able to take command over these hundreds of people and be completely loyal to the present emperor.
Outside Sizheng Hall, Wei Che was still figuring out the profound meaning of the emperor’s over and over again. The imperial decree had already been heard on the jade steps, and he was called to enter.
Wei Che specially chose to arrive at Sizheng Hall at this time. The regent had just left and it was not yet the time for the emperor to greet the Empress Dowager.
“Zitong, why are you here? I have been busy for the past few days and my hands are getting a little itchy!”
Among the imperial martial artists, although Wei Che was young, he had been teaching sparring for many years. Zhao Heng treated him a lot closer than his ordinary subjects.
Wei Che greeted the emperor and looked at Zhao Heng dressed in his bright yellow clothes. After more than a month, although his voice and expression had not changed, the last trace of childishness had faded from his speech. He’d grown up into a young man.
For a while, he felt some indescribable emotions surging to his heart but he quickly suppressed them. In a rare moment of solemnity, he said, “This subject has an important matter to report, which was the last order of the deceased emperor.”
Zhao Heng was taken aback for a moment but when he saw Wei Che glance around, he quickly said, “Sun An, stay.”
Except for the Bingbi eunuch (eunuch in charge of writing for the emperor) Sun An, everyone else withdrew from the hall. Only then did Wei Che tell how the late emperor summoned him, covertly promoted him to an officer and gave him a secret order and a list. Now as he had obtained all the top fifty people on the list, he followed the late emperor’s order to return to the present emperor to debrief.
After Zhao Heng listened and thought for a moment, he got up from his imperial seat and walked straight down to Wei Che.
“Wei Che, do you know the painstaking efforts of my father?”
The young emperor’s slightly sentimental voice echoed in the hall, as if he was not only asking Wei Che but also asking himself.
Wei Che straightened his clothes, put away the last bit of unseriousness and saluted solemnly: “This subject vows to live up to the trust of the late emperor.”
Zhao Heng looked at him, his eyes flashed, and he nodded.
Although the monarch and his subject were silent, there was already wordless communication between them.
Wei Che continued the previous topic and said: “This subject will continue to pursue the remaining people on the list. It is up to Your Majesty’s will to decide what to do with the key criminals who have been captured.”
Zhao Heng frowned, “Father didn’t give you instructions?”
“The late emperor ordered this subject to listen to Your Majesty’s will.”
Zhao Heng thought for a while, and even Sun An was sent out before he said, “Why did Zitong report this to me alone, avoiding the regent and the empress dowager?”
“This subject is Your Majesty’s Luan Yiwei officer, and Luan Yiwei only listens to one person’s orders. I only care to let Your Majesty know everything, and it is up to Your Majesty to decide whether others should know it or not.”
Zhao Heng nodded, “I see.”
He had received his first gift from his father after he ascended the throne. The sword in his hand was the one that matched his heart. He wanted to say a few words to Wei Che but he didn’t know where to start for a while.
The young emperor paced twice and finally gave up.
Never mind, there was no rush to say many things at once.
Zhao Heng turned his head and called someone in.
“You have lived up to your promise to my father to capture the remnants of the previous dynasty, and you have done a great job. Give Master Wei a reward of ‘Chaoma’ (1) and a crown with precious banknotes.”
After Wei Che left, the young emperor fell into contemplation again. After a while, Zhao Heng said loudly: “Go and call the regent back to me. Don’t bother the empress dowager. Just tell her that I have some government affairs to discuss with my uncle and I will go over to greet her later.”
The first news that Zhao Yuan heard after returning to his residence on the horseback was that Lin Wenzhong had not found anyone.
“This subordinate searched all the possible places that my lord mentioned, all the houses where they had stayed, the vicinity of the clinic and Tianbao Temple where the two had taken refuge.
When I arrived at Tianbao Temple, I got some hints. I found out that Ping An, the young master’s attendant, stayed there for a few days in a row. When I searched again, I learned that two young men had been taken away by officials in the mountain behind the temple. When I asked, their appearance fit the description of the young master and Ping An.
Because someone from the government stepped in, I did not dare to delve deeper to avoid being caught. But I secretly sent people to the yamen and the criminal department to investigate. They don’t know anything about it. It is very strange.”
Zhao Yuan had an unknown premonition in his heart.
The steward came to report that a little eunuch arrived from the palace with an urgent order. Zhao Heng wanted to see him.
- The permission to ride a horse in the Forbidden City (Author’s note)