Chapter Nine Escape
At nightfall, there were no servants in the house. Li Yi didn’t like anyone staying in the house with him. Through the screen window, he could dimly see someone guarding the porch.
He laid on the bed with his head resting on one arm, slowly pondering a plan to escape. Li Yi reckoned that there would be only one chance and he didn’t want to miss it.
In the afternoon of the next day, the imperial doctor who visited Li Yi once every three days arrived. When he left, Shuang Li went to decoct the medicine as usual. She did it herself, not daring to trust such an important task to anyone.
The smell of the decoction was too strong. In order not to make the people in the house inhale those fumes, the servants had a habit to put a medicine stove in the backyard leeside from the house. This also meant that even though the person who decocted the medicine was still in the courtyard, it was still a considerable distance away from the house, making it more difficult to hear the movements inside.
Shuang Li was a reliable and attentive maid. At this moment, she was safely decocting medicine in the backyard because Li Yi was taking a nap as usual and everything was quiet.
Everyday, at this time, was Li Yi’s naptime. The ancient people got up too early, and the rich and powerful had to take a short lunch break for the sake of their health. With the emperor taking the lead, to the officials and wealthy families following suit, from the market to the courthouse, this period was the most peaceful hour anywhere.
Li Yi was recuperating and he needed a longer break. He usually had to follow the doctor’s instructions and sleep for two hours.
Shuang Li prepared the medicine unhurriedly. It would be a long time before the liquid in the pot would boil down to half; at that point she would go and call for Li Yi to get up.
Li Yi spread on the couch, pretending to be asleep. Outside the house under the porch, two little maids sat with their heads drooping. The summer afternoon was so sleepy that even robins didn’t bother to chirp.
Zhi Mo looked at Mi Hua who fell asleep leaning on the railing and sitting crooked. She couldn’t help but stand up. She wanted to wake Mi Hua gently but thinking about it, she first went to raise the bamboo curtain and take a glance into the inner room.
Dense cold air was rising from the ice basin in the corner of the room and various summer fruits floating in the water smelled intoxicating. On the couch, the young master laid on his back, obviously sleeping peacefully.
Zhi Mo thought there was nothing wrong and remembered that Mi Hua was on guard last night, sitting by the door in the middle of the night. She looked at the faint blue shadows under Mi Hua’s eyes and didn’t wake her up in the end.
Zhi Mo walked back to the other side of the corridor and sat down to continue embroidering her pouch.
Only then did Li Yi get up quietly, took his outer shirt and flashed into the studio where the window was opened slightly.
Li Yi carefully propped the window to the maximum. He first threw out his shirt, then climbed out of the window to the east side of the yard. The southeast wind had been blowing for the past few days, and Li Yi expected Shuang Li to decoct medicine in the northwest corner of the backyard. She couldn’t see him at all.
Quickly putting on his shirt, Li Yi wandered up to a sycamore tree at the eastern wall and its thick branches quickly hid his entire figure.
Today’s dark green outer shirt was specially selected by Li Yi in order to hide in the tree and not be easily noticed.
More than half an hour later Li Yi watched from the tree as Shuang Lli carried the medicine into the inner room. After a short while, there was a sound of porcelain breaking inside the room.
Shuang Li ran out of the house in a panic, shouting to the two girls under the porch: “The young master is not in the house!”
“Why is the young master not here?!”
“He was obviously sleeping well.”
The two little maids hurriedly followed Shuang Li back to the house. Soon Li Yi saw Shuang Li stick out her head from the window of the studio, “Oh no, the young master must have run away!”
Li Yi heard her anxious voice raised up an octave.
“Quick! I will tell Master Zhan Shi and you go to the nearby courtyards to look there first. No outsiders should know about it.”
The three ran out of the house and rushed out the door.
Li Yi quickly got down from the tree and quietly followed them out of the courtyard. He clearly saw the direction they were going and picked a path in the opposite direction.
No matter what Zhao Shen’s purpose was, he really had to thank him for choosing Jin Gong’s residence. There was no other residence Li Yi would be more familiar with.
Li Yi walked through the rockery in the garden and came out to the east of the Gong’s residence. Sure enough, the tinkling and banging of house renovations was incessant there.
He quickly passed through the arched gate of the east road and there was no one who would try to stop him along the way. This was exactly as Li Yi had expected. The eastern part of the residence was now a construction site and was a mess. Although countless people went in and out every day, no one could think that someone would borrow the courage of a leopard and dare to run amok in the residence of the Regent.
Li Yi tried his best to calm down as he walked through the construction site. Behind him on his left was the main house that was being expanded and renovated. The fine black tiles were being replaced with glazed tiles piece by piece in compliance with the regulations of Su Wang. The orange color of the tiles gleamed in the sun, dazzling as gold.
Li Yi walked almost all the way to the renovated study room. It was a building on the left side of the residence. After the study room, crossing the front yard, one could see the main entrance.
Li Yi hated that he could not sprout wings and fly away from this place but had to pretend that nothing unusual happened. He lower his head slightly and walked at a normal pace as inconspicuous as possible.
“This gentleman, please stop.”
Li Yi’s heart thumped, and sure enough, what he was most worried about happened. He bit the bullet and looked at the two people walking towards him. The middle-aged man heading to him was wearing an official uniform and the one who spoke was following him.
“Master Chang Shi.”
Li Yi raised his hands in a salute. In the Regent’s residence, no one else but Chang Shi could wear a fifth-rank official’s uniform and have the right to check up on him.
As soon as Shuang Li found Zhan Shi, he would take people to block out all the ways, and Li Yi would be caught a minute later. Feeling that the top of his head was about to smoke, Li Yi had to keep his expression calm trying not to give himself away.
If Zhan Shi was Su Wang’s right-hand man and private secretary, then Chang Shi was the real steward of Su Wang’s residence in charge of the residence’s rules and rituals.
By definition, this person was usually appointed by the emperor with the clear purpose to keep an eye on the regent and his affairs.
Li Yi was extremely lucky at this moment that he was the emperor’s grandson familiar with these royal regulations.
He had a strong intuition that Su Wang hadn’t told Chang Shi about holding him captive. He even had proof that his intuition was not wrong.
After Shuang Li discovered that he was missing, it was Zhan Shi, not Chang Shi she wanted to report to. Obviously, Chang Shi was the direct boss of the servants in the residence and was in charge of all the residence affairs.
With some confidence in his heart, Li Yi became calmer as he spoke, “What did Your Excellency call me for?”
Chang Shi looked at Li Yi and felt sure that he had never seen this scholar before, “This official has never seen this young master in the residence before.”
Spies naturally had to be good at remembering faces. Li Yi was so nervous that he had to make a long story short to cover up his unnaturalness. Fortunately, he had anticipated the unexpected situation of being questioned and was able to hold his own.
“This student is an artist, an apprentice of Master Dong. Master asked me to run an errand for him to explore and correct a few areas of the drawing.”
Dong Liang was an artist from the Ministry of Industry who specialised in creating drawings for the royal family. Li Yi had heard an earful about his painting while still living in the courtyard. At this moment, he hastily called himself his apprentice. In ancient times, someone who was not a scholar proficient in poetry and calligraphy couldn’t imitate the air of a well-educated person. Chang Shi nodded and led his entourage away.
Li Yi let out a long sigh and quickened his pace towards the door. Once outside the side door used by the servants, he walked as fast and as close to a trot as he could all the way past the main gate of the residence and then ran for a whole street without taking a breath.
Just as Li Yi turned around the corner, the side door of the residence suddenly closed with a creaking sound. In broad daylight, the gates of the residence were shut, and a pair of white jade lions newly placed in front of the gate seemed to open their huge eyes suddenly, making the few pedestrians in the alleyway shrink away in fright.
It was the day when the new emperor was ascending the throne. The sky was high and clear, and the dawn was glowing with red and golden light. Zhao Yuan stood beside the little emperor, and the priests and ritual supervisors were chanting instructions one by one.
Dacheng Hall was full of courtiers. Eighty-one giant dragons were set up on gilded nanmu pillars, and as they looked at the hall beneath them, the huge mercury beads of their eyes illuminated those who gathered for the ceremony.
Zhao Yuan’s eyes were downcast, and the civil and military officials below him were so respectful that they dared not breathe. Zhao Heng’s toes could barely reach the footrest of the dragon chair and he was still struggling to maintain etiquette when he suddenly felt something and looked sideways at Zhao Yuan who was standing next to him.
Zhao Yuan’s eyes were clear at this moment, looking far beyond the palace, as if his gaze was passing through the palace gates that opened one after another and fell somewhere in the sky.
He also felt the emperor’s stare and quickly turned his face to Zhao Heng. As their eyes crossed, Zhao Yuan gave the Son of Heaven a gaze that seemed to be comforting, and under that steady and determined look, Zhao Heng felt as if the maintenance of etiquette had become less of a chore.
It was close to sunset when the series of ceremonies for enthronement came to an end. After the ceremony, Zhao Yuan left. He saw Lin Wenzhong brought by the attendant to the side corridor. He was waiting with his head tilted up. It seemed that he had been in the palace for a long time.
Zhao Yuan’s heart sank. At a time like this, if he couldn’t wait for him to go back to the residence first to look for him; it seemed something must have happened.
He walked towards Lin Wenzhong quickly. Although the expression on his face was as usual, there was a terrifying aura all over his body. The attendant obediently disappeared without waiting for Su Wang to speak, leaving the two men alone.
Lin Wenzhong puffed, bit the bullet and said, “The young master is gone.”