Ch 62 Crown Prince is dead, then Linlang will forever be mine.”
Xie Chaoling didn’t sleep well all night at the inn. The bed was uncomfortable, and he tossed and turned in his sleep, feeling anxious and bothered by that little b*stard who caused so much trouble. When it was barely dawn, he got up and had hot water brought to him. He covered his face with a hot towel, and his mind gradually cleared. The commander of the imperial guards, Commander He, had sent someone over to ask him to have breakfast and continue on the journey.
“I know,” said Xie Chaoling, a little impatient. However, he was always well-mannered in front of others, even if he was unhappy.
They set off again at the end of the morning.
Xie Chaoling sat in the carriage with his eyes closed to rest. After passing the inn, they would be on a mountain road for the rest of the day. The journey was still long.
At noon, they stopped by the side of the road to rest and have lunch in the mountains. Xie Chaoling got out of the carriage. The eunuch he brought with him had already made a fire, boiled water, and cooked food. Commander He and his soldiers were eating dry rations while drinking water from a kettle.
Xie Chaoling walked over, and Commander He stood up, looking vigilant. “Your Highness, do you have any orders?” he asked.
Xie Chaoling smiled. “The Emperor’s edict ordered you to escort me to Jizhou. But it’s not like you’re supposed to watch me like I’m a prisoner. Commander He, why don’t you relax a bit?”
The other party lowered his head and didn’t say a word.
Xie Chaoling looked ahead, and his eyes flickered slightly. The mountains and forests in this area were layered upon layer, stretching as far as the eye could see. It was almost eerie in the quiet midday heat of summer.
After a few thoughts, he suddenly said, “It seems like we’re quite close to the Dongshan Ying’s stationed area.”
Upon hearing this, the commander’s expression became even more wary. This place was indeed within the Dongshan’s jurisdiction, and the camp was not far from there. However, he didn’t know why the Crown Prince suddenly mentioned it.
Xie Chaoling continued indifferently, “I’m just reminding Commander He to be vigilant, not against me, but against those who may have devious thoughts.”
“Thank you for the reminder, Your Highness. I will increase the number of patrols nearby. Please finish your lunch quickly so we can leave here as soon as possible.”
Xie Chaoling didn’t say anything more and went back to his carriage to have lunch.
“The sun is scorching today, and rushing like this might make you feel unwell, Your Highness,” whispered the eunuch who was serving him.
Looking at the light and shadow coming through the slightly open carriage window, Xie Chaoling let out a sigh. It was better to meet his father in Jizhou as soon as possible. He couldn’t escape it anyway.
Ignoring the faint unease in his heart, Xie Chaoling picked up his chopsticks and started eating.
After the hottest part of the noon sun had passed, Xie Chaoling ordered the group to set off again. Just as they were about to leave, there was suddenly a commotion among the people ahead. Before those behind could figure out what was happening, there was a loud bang, and a huge boulder fell from the sky, blocking their way. The group was immediately filled with cries of alarm.
General He rode forward on his horse and asked coldly, “What’s going on?”
As he spoke, a cloud of dust rose up from the mountain road ahead, and suddenly a troop of soldiers and horses appeared, numbering at least two to three hundred people, all dressed in the uniforms of the Dongshan Ying.
General He furrowed his brows and shouted sharply, “We are on a mission from the Emperor to go to Jizhou. Who is blocking our way? Move aside at once!”
The man on the tall horse opposite drew his sword indifferently, pointing it straight at them.
General He’s face changed suddenly.
With a command, the soldiers and horses behind the man rushed forward.
The Imperial Army was caught off guard and soon their formation was in disarray. The two sides clashed, and blood was soon shed.
The guards and attendants of Xie Chaoling protected his carriage and reported softly from outside, “Your Highness, there’s fighting ahead.”
Xie Chaoling pushed open the half-window and looked ahead. The battle was fierce, and the Dongshan Ying had more than twice the number of soldiers than General He’s troops, and they were well prepared. General He’s side had no chance of winning.
A bad feeling became reality, but… Dongshan Ying?
In an instant, Xie Chaoling thought of something. An attendant outside the carriage exclaimed in a low voice, “There are also people behind us!”
Another group of soldiers from Dongshan Ying suddenly appeared behind their formation, sandwiching them from both sides. The Imperial Guards quickly became powerless to resist and more and more people fell. Those people gradually approached the carriage of Xie Chaoling, and he knew that they were targeting him. There was no way to escape, so he simply instructed his men to give up resistance and sat in the carriage without moving.
He drew the short knife from his sleeve and slowly rubbed it in his palm before closing his eyes.
The sound of the fight outside became closer and closer. An attendant on the carriage was kicked down, and someone outside said through the door, “Crown Prince, sorry for the offense.” The carriage was quickly turned around and rushed towards the woods on the side of the mountain road.
What about General He? He was surrounded and pursued by several men, and he was already in a bloodthirsty rage. However, he could only watch as the Crown Prince’s carriage was taken away in front of him.
The carriage drove into the forest and went on for who knew how long. The bumpy mountain road almost shook Xie Chaoling apart. Finally, when it stopped, his stomach churned and he vomited all the food he had eaten earlier.
The carriage door was pulled open from the outside, and Xie Chaoyuan was standing below, looking at him.
He offered a handkerchief, but Xie Chaoling did not take it. He looked back at Xie Chaoyuan with a completely cold gaze.
“Your Highness, this carriage is dirty. Get off,” Xie Chaoyuan said as if he did not notice the anger in Xie Chaoling’s eyes. “Please get off.”
Xie Chaoling clenched his fist tightly and stared at him.
Xie Chaoyuan extended his hand.
After a brief standoff, Xie Chaoling finally got off the carriage, without taking Xie Chaoyuan’s hand.
Behind Xie Chaoyuan were about twenty people, all dressed as soldiers of the Dongshan Ying. They should be deep in the mountains by now, with a stream nearby where a few horses were drinking.
Xie Chaoling sneered, “Your Highness King Ke, you are truly bold to dare to have your guards and attendants disguised as soldiers from the Dongshan Ying to abduct me.”
When he first entered King Ke’s mansion, he had seen those guards training in the backyard. At that time, he had no memories, but he could tell that King Ke was not an ordinary prince. Now he realized that he had underestimated him. Not only was he not ordinary, but he was also arrogant.
“What do you plan to do? Lock me up in your mansion or send me away like last time?”
Xie Chaoling’s voice was devoid of any warmth. Xie Chaoyuan heard it but did not answer. Instead, he handed him a pot of water, saying, “You just threw up. Drink some water to moisten your throat.”
Xie Chaoling did not take it. Xie Chaoyuan sighed and opened the lid to drink some water himself, saying, “There is no drugs, poison, or Gu in the water.”
“Do you think I would believe you?” Xie Chaoling sneered.
Since he refused to drink the water, Xie Chaoyuan could do nothing but give up. “There is a stream over there. If you want to drink water, go there.”
Xie Chaoling ignored him and walked towards the creek, but did not drink any water. He carefully observed his surroundings.
This place was surrounded by mountains and forests, and except for this stream, there were no signs of human activity. Xie Chaoyuan had specifically brought him here.
Xie Chaoyuan followed him and said, “You promised me that if I did something to make you angry, you wouldn’t ignore me. Are you going back on your word, Crown Prince?”
Xie Chaoling turned around suddenly, with anger surging within him. “What do you want?” he asked.
“I stole the letter,” Xie Chaoyuan said. “You must have already guessed it. That night in the Eastern Palace, I copied a letter identical to the one you wrote while you were sleeping. I sealed it and sent it to Xu Shan. He must have destroyed it after reading it. The letter presented to the Emperor was indeed your authentic letter.”
Xie Chaoling laughed in anger. What should he say? Admire Xie Chaoyuan’s courage and strategy? He had calculated against him when his guard was down. Even if he said that Xie Chaoyuan was a beast, it would be a compliment.
“Are you showing off to me?” Xie Chaoling sneered. “I let my guard down and fell for your trick. Are you proud of yourself? You, like everyone else, wish for my downfall and have spared no effort to scheme against me. You say you want me, but in fact, you covet my position. What is the difference between your ambition and that of others?”
Xie Chaoling continued, “You had people pretend to be soldiers from the Dongshan Ying and abducted me. Whose plan was that? Xu Shan or Zhao Shi? Xu Shan is already on my side, he wouldn’t abduct me. Zhao Shi wouldn’t be so foolish as to use soldiers from the Dongshan Ying to kidnap me. The more you did this, the more my father would suspect them. In the end, I can’t return, and my father would only vent his anger on them. It wouldn’t implicate you. Is this your plan?”
Xie Chaoyuan did not deny it. At first, he wanted Song Shi to do it so that he could easily frame Xie Chaoqi for the incident. However, Song Shi was too afraid of death and wanted to sell himself for riches, so he had to find another scapegoat. Pretending to be a soldier from Dongshan Ying was too risky, but he had no choice.
In a few months, Xie Chaoling would marry his Crown Princess, and he could not stand the thought of just watching. So, he decided to take a risk.
“Why didn’t you act on me when I was on my way to your estate? Were you afraid of being suspected? Did you go through all the trouble of accusing me just to have an opportunity to act? If today’s plan fails and I get taken to Jizhou, I might be deposed because of that letter. Is that also part of your plan? You have planned everything so carefully, what are you going to do now that you’ve succeeded? Last time, you made me disappear, but Father kept me as Crown Prince. What about this time? Do you want me to ‘die’ to get rid of me forever?”
Xie Chaoling questioned him one by one, his disappointment and anger evident in his eyes. Xie Chaoyuan looked at him and asked after a while, “Is that why you’re so angry?”
“Yes, I found someone with a similar build and age as you, who looks a bit like you,” Xie Chaoyuan slowly explained. “I had him disguise himself as you. Later, he will die on the carriage that you rode in.”
“If the Crown Prince dies, then Linlang will be mine forever.”
Xie Chaoling trembled with fear as he listened. “You are a complete and utter lunatic.”
Xie Chaoyuan didn’t argue. His voice became softer: “The Crown Prince has the ambition to serve the country and its people, but I have nothing. Whether you believe it or not, all I want is you. If there is a place in this world that truly belongs to me, would you be willing to accompany me there? I am not greedy for power and status.”
“But you don’t want to. You have to marry a wife, become the Crown Prince, become the Emperor. You carry too much on your shoulders, what am I to you?” Xie Chaoling replied.
“Has the Crown Prince ever put me first for even a moment?” Xie Chaoyuan’s eyes were filled with a grief that Xie Chaoling had never seen before, and he looked at him steadily.
From the beginning, it was you who forced me into this situation with coercion and deception. What right do you have to say these things? Xie Chaoling wanted to speak but choked on his words and couldn’t say anything.
Xie Chaoyuan took a step forward and reached out his hand. “Brother, come with me.”
Xie Chaoling looked dazed, as if he had lost his soul.
With a soft sigh, Xie Chaoyuan embraced him.
Xie Chaoling’s eyelashes flickered but he still didn’t move his hands.
“Come with me,” Xie Chaoyuan said again.
“Where can I go with you?” Xie Chaoling finally regained his voice, his reason returning. “You are lying to me. You just want to keep me locked up. You have nowhere to go.”
With a muffled groan, Xie Chaoyuan lowered his hand.
He had retreated dozens of steps away from the woods when he hugged Xie Chaoling, so he didn’t see the knife suddenly thrust into his left shoulder.
Xie Chaoyuan lowered his head and saw the short knife he had given to Xie Chaoling sticking out of his shoulder, blood dripping from the wound.
Xie Chaoling gritted his teeth and pulled the knife out before taking two steps back, his eyes flashing. “You forced me to do this.”
Xie Chaoyuan still lowered his head, holding his injured shoulder, his hand covered in blood, his emotions obscure.
Xie Chaoling quickly backed away towards the horses by the creek. He grabbed one and mounted it before Xie Chaoyuan could react. He turned his head to look at Xie Chaoyuan, then flicked the reins and rode away as fast as he could.
The soldiers on the other side heard the noise and turned around in surprise. They saw Xie Chaoyuan kneeling on the ground, holding his bleeding shoulder. Some rushed over, while others even raised their crossbows.
They were about to shoot when Xie Chaoyuan sternly shouted, “Stop!”
Xie Chaoling disappeared from his sight soon after.
Fifteen minutes later, the pursuers returned and knelt down to apologize. “Your Highness, the crown prince’s horse left the mountain and reached the official road. We dare not follow any further…”
Xie Chaoyuan closed his eyes tightly.
He had failed.