Chapter 313: Intentions of the Other Sides
After attentively hearing the man out, Zhao Zheng lapsed into a thoughtful silence.
The Right Prime Minister, however, felt that this matter was so odd. It had been immediately after he left the Ling Mansion that those bizarre changes happened, so he couldn’t help but wonder about the reason. Confucius never talked about anything paranormal. (from the Analects) Surely it hadn’t been some kind of psychic phenomenon that his men saw in broad daylight?
“Hurry. Get the carriage ready. I want to go and see it myself.” The Right Prime Minister rose to his feet and started making towards the door.
He must not let anything happen to Ling Zhang. Otherwise there would be unimaginably dire consequences.
At this moment, Zhao Zheng jerked out of his rumination, stood up and said, “Relax. I once heard that there are some peculiar concealment formations which could keep objects and people from being seen. These sudden changes that happened to the Ling Mansion sound somewhat similar to a situation I once heard of. I’ll go there with you to take a look. In all likelihood, the Ling Mansion should’ve been hidden by a formation.”
“A formation?” The Right Prime Minister was dubious. “There are actually formations in this world that could make that happen?”
The two of them hastened to the outside of the Ling Mansion only to see that the front gates of it was indeed gone, replaced by a wall.
“Thi–This is…” The Right Prime Minister was shocked. Had he not seen it with his own eyes, he really wouldn’t have been able to believe that this was actually happening!
“Your Lordships, may I ask if it’s because of something urgent that you came here in haste?”
All of a sudden, the air in front of them rippled like the surface of the water and with that a man walked out of the void as if by magic. The Right Prime Minister cocked an eye at it and recognized him. It was the very guard who had been on duty at the front gates and led him into the Ling Mansion this morning.
For a long moment, the Right Prime Minister was unable to speak. Zhao Zheng also appeared quite astounded. “You…”
Zhao Shen looked over his shoulder at the Ling Mansion. In the knowledge that the two of them were startled, he raised his hand to scratch his head and then said, “There’s no need for you to panic, Your Lordships. It’s just a concealment formation.”
Formation? It was really a formation. Such divine formations actually did exist in this world? The Right Prime Minister’s perception of the world was thrown into a spin.
“We–We hurried over because we received a message and were worried that some accident had happened in the Ling Mansion,” said Zhao Zheng after managing to calm down.
Zhao Shen responded, “Don’t concern yourselves, Your Lordships. This is a formation deployed by Childe Ling’s grandfather who is a wonder. It conceals the front gates of this compound. On top of that, the outer walls you see are not necessarily real. People who dare approach without permission would not only get lost in the formation but also might be hurt by the defensive mechanism in it.”
“I see.” Zhao Zheng exhaled deeply. Having mostly regained his composure, he observed, “It seems that Childe Ling is under the protection of a formation master and nothing could harm him.”
Zhao Shen gave a smile. The reason why he had simply explained it to these two courtiers just now was because Ling Zhang, in order to spare them the worry and fear, had instructed him. As regards the details, he had no inclination to disclose any. “Would you like to go inside, Your Lordships?”
“We don’t want to impose. Tomorrow we’ll meet Childe Ling in the Right Prime Minister’s house,” said Zhao Zheng.
The Right Prime Minister also came to himself and agreed with Zhao Zheng.
“Then let me have some men escort you back home, Your Lordships,” suggested Zhao Shen.
“That won’t be necessary. We have our own guards. Please just go back and tell Childe Ling that we’re returning home,” said the Right Prime Minister.
“Okay, then. Have a safe trip home, Your Lordships,” said Zhao Shen.
After the Right Prime Minister and Zhao Zheng left, Zhao Shen went back inside and reported it to Ling Zhang.
“So they returned home. I see. You guys keep guarding the front gates.”
“Yes, Childe Ling.”
Many eyes had been watching when the Right Prime Minister and Zhao Zheng had been talking with Zhao Shen in the gateway. Unfortunately for them, what with the long distance in between, they could only see them but couldn’t hear a word of the conversation.
Because of this, when these people returned to report it to their masters, their descriptions were rather sketchy.
Fang Quan’s face darkened after he heard the report of his scout. Then he sent some others to the Ling Mansion, who staked out the place for a whole day. Even so, it still took a lot of doing for him to get a vague idea that that was a kind of concealment formation.
“No wonder Yuwen Tong dared leave Ling Zhang in the capital city alone. It turns out he’s made preparations some time ago.”
“I wonder what kind of formation it is exactly. It’s so eccentric.”
“We must find out. Otherwise I’d never be rid of the worry that it’ll bring us trouble.”
“How about we send someone to approach the Ling Mansion and see what happens?”
Fang Quan gave it some thought and then replied through gritted teeth, “We may do that, but currently our first priority is not to unravel the mystery about the Ling Mansion but to help my grandson ascend the throne!”
Meanwhile, Ling Zhang arrived at the residence of the collateral branch of the Yuwen family, accompanied by some bodyguards.
The residence was heavily guarded. On Ling Zhang’s arrival, Yuwen Chi personally walked outside to welcome him and brought him inside.
After consulting with Yuwen You and the others for two hours, Ling Zhang exited the study only to be startled by Yuwen Jin who was standing motionlessly right outside. “What are you standing here for?” Ling Zhang asked.
Yuwen Jin took two steps forward, grabbed Ling Zhang’s arm and drew him away from the study.
“What do you think you are doing, Yuwen Jin?!” bellowed Yuwen Chi from behind them.
Drawing Ling Zhang towards somewhere else, Yuwen Jin replied aloud, “I just want to have a word with Brother Zhang, Uncle! I’ll bring him back in a short while!”
“You brat!” Yuwen Chi bawled.
Ling Zhang gave him a wave, suggesting that it was okay. It was only then that Yuwen Chi subdued his urge to catch up with Yuwen Jin and beat him black and blue.
Looking at Yuwen Jin’s angry face, Ling Zhang was speechless for a moment, the corners of his mouth twitching. “What happened to you? You look so grumpy.”
It was when Yuwen Jin had drawn him to a quiet spot that he released Ling Zhang’s wrist, halted, spun around and said, “I’m the one who should be asking this question. You haven’t visited me once since your return from Tanyang, and now so much has happened…”
At the sight of the look on Yuwen Jin’s face which was indicating that he was somewhat at a loss what to do, Ling Zhang had a shrewd idea what was going on and asked, “Then what do you have in mind?”
Yuwen Jin flicked him a glance. “What could I possibly have in mind? No matter what you and my cousin are going to do, I’ll be there for you. Therefore, if there’s anything you need me to help with, you’ve got to tell me, so that I could do something for you. My grandfather, uncle and father keep telling me to stay out of it, as though getting them into trouble is the only thing I’m capable of.”
Ling Zhang smiled, “They’re just trying to protect you.”
“But I’m not a kid any more. I’ve had my rite of passage already,” retorted Yuwen Jin.
Yuwen Jin’s rite of passage had been held during Ling Zhang’s and Yuwen Tong’s stay in the Millennium Pavilion. What with the spate of subsequent events, Ling Zhang hadn’t found the time to send Yuwen Jin his best wishes or a gift.
“Sorry to have missed your rite of passage,” said Ling Zhang.
“Humph.” Yuwen Jin lightly gave a snort and said, “Then send me a gift to make up for it. Ji Feng has left the capital city, and I haven’t seen hide nor hair of your for quite a long time, and the others are nowhere to be seen as well. Presently most people in the city are staying indoors all day with their doors closed, and there are not many students going to the Imperial College to attend classes, so we figure we might as well just stay at home.”
“You’ll get your present, I promise.” Ling Zhang thought for a while and then inquired, “How are the others doing?”
“Well, you probably don’t need me to tell you about Zhao Jiusi’s or Zhao Turui’s take on it. Because of Minister Zhao, the two of them are naturally on our side. Xie Qing has also some time ago stated his stand clearly owing to his father. Xun Huo is the only one left whose attitude is unknown… It’s been a long while since the last time I heard news of him. I don’t know if any of the others has.”
Xun Huo? He remembered that Xun Huo’s father was Xun Yi, a councillor of the Ministry of Penalties, who seemed to be keeping a very low profile and pretty well invisible all along.
A slight frown creased Ling Zhang’s forehead. “You should figure out a way to get in touch with the others and ask them about it. We’re all friends. Given the uncertainties of the current situation in this city, we need to check that everybody’s okay.”
Yuwen Jin nodded. “I will. Incidentally, how’s everything going with Brother Tao?”
Ling Zhang replied with a soft sigh, “I wrote him a letter two days ago but still haven’t received a reply yet. I think…. maybe he’s got a bit of a situation.”
Yuwen Jin knitted his brows and said, “What kind of situation could it possibly be? Is it because he’s switched sides that he’s not replying to your letter, by any chance?”
Ling Zhang’s lips were pressed together. After a moment, he responded, “I don’t know. I’ll try contacting him again. Whatever the circumstances, I hope to get a reply from him.”
Even if for some reason they went their separate ways, Tao Yi would still owe it to him to give him a reply, considering their friendship.
Yuwen Jin looked in the direction of the outside. “The caravan carrying supplies will depart for the borderlands tomorrow afternoon, right?”
Ling Zhang answered in a deep voice, “Yeah.”
Then he lapsed into silence, gazing north-west.
Yuwen Jin knew what he was worried about. “Relax. I always have a lot of faith in my cousin. This time around I also have no doubt he’ll defeat the Wan Kingdom and the Luohai Kingdom and return with a great victory.”
Ling Zhang said, “I know. I have faith in him as well.”
“How… How are things going there? Have you had any news of them?” Yuwen Jin suddenly asked in an implicative tone.
Ling Zhang understood. Yuwen Jin was referring to Yuwen Zhi’s branch of the Yuwen family who were living in the residence of the Assistant Minister of Rites.
“Yuwen Feng has been occupied with the emperor’s funeral all along. Yuwen Zhi has been absent from court meetings on the pretext of illness. He even missed all the sacrificial rites for the emperor except one. Yuwen Qi hasn’t shown his face lately and seems to be behaving himself at the moment, but there’s no telling whether he’ll stay this way until your cousin comes back.”
Yuwen Jin curled his lip. “I don’t think they have enough sense to keep their noses clean.”
In the residential compound of the Assistant Minister of Rites.
Yuwen Zhi hesitated for a long time before making up his mind, but how to do it was a problem. Apart from everything else, one of his sons probably wouldn’t get on board.
It was now very obvious that Yuwen Feng’s opinion had tilted in favor of Yuwen Tong. Yuwen Zhi was not very pleased with this, but ever since Yuwen Tong had thwarted his plan, Yuwen Feng had been the sole pillar of this family, so he couldn’t try to stop his son even if he wanted to. On top of that, currently Yuwen Feng had eyes everywhere in this residence, which made it rather difficult for him to contact the Fang family and contribute to their cause without Yuwen Feng noticing. He had to figure out a way.
After pondering for quite a while, Yuwen Zhi wrote a letter and instructed his personal butler to find an opportunity to deliver it to the Fang Mansion.
The butler gingerly put away Yuwen Zhi’s letter and prepared to leave the compound. Zhao Fugui walked into his father halfway. Seeing the cautious expression on his father’s face, he asked, “What’s going on, Father?”
The butler gave him a dirty look. “Keep you nose out of this and mind your own business!”
“Father, I’m your son. We always work with one heart and one mind. Surely you don’t think there’s anything you need to keep secret from me?” demurred Zhao Fugui unhappily.
The butler’s brows were furrowed. “Enough with the nonsense. I have instructions from Master to deliver a letter, and the First Young Master must not know about it. I need you to keep an eye out for the others in this residence and cover for me in passing.”