Chapter 446. A Letter from Yuwen Tong & Ling Zhang’s Entry into Jiangzhou
“General, under no circumstances will I let Childe Ling go to Jiangzhou, not over my dead body,” Yao Yi hastily demurred before the General Zhongwu (AKA the General of Loyalty and Valor) could make the suggestion.
Ling Zhang, “…”
The General Zhongwu, “…”
Yao Yi looked at him, determination written all over his face.
The General Zhongwu gave a little cough and said, “You’re overthinking it, Captain Yao. I’m not the kind of person who has no sense of perspective.”
‘Is that so?’ Yao Yi didn’t believe him at all. ‘Just now this guy was clearly about to suggest Childe Ling go to Jiangzhou. If Childe Ling goes there and His Majesty finds out, I’d definitely wind up being flayed alive!’
“Have a good rest, Childe Ling. I’ll go and make sure things go well in this encampment. I’ve sent some men to Taowang Village to handle the clean-up already, so there’s no need for you to concern yourself with it,” said the General Zhongwu, rising to his feet.
Ling Zhang thanked him and had Yao Yi walk him out. After they both left, Ling Zhang started contemplating. He couldn’t go to Jiangzhou and thus was unable to get up-to-date messages from Haizhou. There was no telling when the secret intelligence reports would arrive. He hoped he wouldn’t have to wait too long.
The gold ingots that the Wan Kingdom had wanted smuggled into Jiangzhou were hidden among common goods. The General Zhongwu sent some men to open those goods strewn all over the ground in the wood, carefully extract the gold ingots and put them together in one place. It took almost a whole day to have all the ingots gathered.
There were a lot of them. Ling Zhang went out to take a look and then told the General Zhongwu to keep the gold under constant watch and wait for further notice from the capital city to decide what to do with it. He’d sent a letter to the capital city, but he had no idea when he’d receive Yuwen Tong’s reply.
While he was thinking about this, a letter from the capital city was delivered to him. It’d never occurred to him that the reply would come so soon.
“Childe Ling, here’s a letter for you from His Majesty.”
It was Yao Yi who brought the letter to his room. Ling Zhang, who was still recovering from his arm injury, had Yao Yi open the letter for him. He thought that the contents of it were no different from those of any of the previous ones, but unexpectedly, there was some surprising information contained in it.
The Luohai Kingdom had secretly sent some soldiers into Haizhou by sea and colluded with some pirates, intending to have all the soldiers pose as pirates and attack the Haizhou garrison. Some members of the Millennium Pavilion had accidentally found out about this matter on their way to the island to scout out the lay of the land. They’d sent a message to the man assigned to Haizhou by Yuwen Tong, who then had relayed it to the capital city. According to their observations, there’d been a lot of soldiers. The Luohai Kingdom had sent large numbers of troop reinforcements to Jiangzhou. Although Yuwen Tong had taken precautions some time before, they couldn’t take any risks when it came to the safety of Haizhou, so eventually Yuwen Tong had decided to go there to handle it personally.
Yuwen Tong had departed for Haizhou when this letter had been sent. He’d embarked on a ship in Taizhou which was bound for Haizhou. Judging from how long it’d taken for this letter to arrive, he must’ve entered Haizhou already, but he was probably still in the northern part of Haizhou, and it’d take him some more time to get to the southern part. In the letter, he told Ling Zhang to go to Haizhou to rendezvous with him after settling the matter of Shan Congyi.
Delighted, Ling Zhang reread the letter. “How’s everything going in the capital city? Whom did he put in charge before leaving?”
“Currently, General Jiang Ke and General Jiang Xi as well as the two prime ministers, Chu Liangyan and Old Master Ji, are in charge in the capital city. His Majesty’s great-uncle and Yuwen Feng are supervising the handling of state affairs. The Shadow Battalion are doing their best to covertly keeping all important targets under surveillance.”
The three sides were acting as checks and balances on each other and superintending each other’s work. At the same time, members of the Shadow Battalion were keeping watch on the overall situation.
Yuwen Tong had traveled south covertly. The six above-mentioned people were the only ones in the capital city who were aware of Yuwen Tong’s departure. In other words, Yuwen Tong couldn’t be absent for too long.
Ling Zhang immediately stood up. “We need to hurry and go to Haizhou by way of Jiangzhou. My decision is final.”
Yao Yi hesitated for a while before it occurred to him that even Yuwen Tong himself was now in Haizhou, that with them protecting Ling Zhang, no harm would come to him, so he raised no objections.
“By the way, Childe Ling, there’s another letter delivered here with this secret letter from His Majesty. It’s for you from your father,” said Yao Yi, producing another letter and handing it to Ling Zhang.
Ling Zhang opened and read it, a gleam of pleasant surprise in his eyes.
Ling Zhang decided to travel to Haizhou via Jiangzhou.
“Childe Ling, I know a secluded place where you can enter Jiangzhou secretly without risking being spotted by the many soldiers guarding the checkpoint. I’ll have two squads of picked men escort you into Jiangzhou. After you gain entry into Jiangzhou, one squad will keep on the move in Jincang County and Jinhai County, delivering messages for us.”
Ling Zhang gave it some thought and then said, “I have Captain Yao and twenty-four bodyguards, and they’re more than enough to keep me safe. It would make us more vulnerable to the attention of others if there are too many of us, so instruct your men to stay in Jiangzhou after they follow me into Jiangzhou.”
The General Zhongwu did some thinking and then agreed. After that, he led Ling Zhang to a map and informed him of the secret route. “Go in from this spot, detour around two hills and you’ll find yourself in a village of Jincang County that is close to Jinhai County. Most of Wang Xiangxin’s men are stationed at the four checkpoints, so the security in these places are probably not tight, but you should still stay alert. And, about how to get into Haizhou, I’m afraid you’ll have to figure out a way by yourself. There’s no shortcut that could lead you into Haizhou from Jiangzhou, not to my knowledge.”
Ling Zhang inclined his head. “I understand. I’ve already come up with an idea of how to enter Haizhou. Be so kind as to stay here and keep the situation under control, General.”
The tips in that letter from his father had come as a godsend for him.
“Please take good care of yourself during the journey, Childe Ling. Always be extra careful and put your safety first. On no account should you take any risks,” cautioned the General Zhongwu.
After taking his leave of the general, Ling Zhang, along with his bodyguards and the two teams of seasoned men who’d disguised themselves, departed.
The secret route that they were talking was very close to Yanzhou. It was actually a defile known to very few. It went through lofty mountains and high ranges, and normally only hunters would set foot on it. When the General Zhongwu’s men had been fighting the rebel forces, some rebels had escaped by taking this route, which was why the general knew about its existence. At that time all members of the rebel army in Cangzhou had been local residents. They’d been from all walks of life, and there’d been a lot of hunters among them.
This defile was rough, and Ling Zhang’s arm was injured. Both placing strain on the wound and perspiring heavily were detrimental to the healing process. Qiu Bing changed his dressing several times during the journey. Every time he’d seen Ling Zhang’s wound, he’d knitted his brows.
“You shouldn’t have departed so soon, Childe Ling. Your wound is healing very slow,” sighed Qiu Bing, holding Ling Zhang’s arm, looking at the wound.
The others also appeared grave. The wound on Ling Zhang’s arm had been caused by a piece of pointed stone sent flying by the explosion. Given how awful it looked, it might become a troublesome issue if it didn’t heal in a couple of days.
“Young Master, it’s best if you have a few days’ rest in Jincang County after we get there,” suggested Jiang Yu. “I don’t think His Majesty would want you to travel with such haste had he known about this. If your injury worsens, we’d have trouble justifying ourselves in front of His Majesty.”
Ling Zhang also knew that this was not a good time to play the hero, considering his arm injury. “I see. We’ll rest for a couple of days after we get there.”
“What about you? How are you feeling?” Ling Zhang inquired of Jiang Yu.
These people either had kung fu skills or worked out regularly, so their constitutions were all pretty strong. Jiang Yu was a relatively weak one.
“Thank you for your concern, Young Master. I’m fine,” said Jiang Yu calmly. Though his kung fu skills were not superb and he didn’t exercise on a daily basis, he had some fighting skills and practiced swordplay from time to time, so he was physically fitter than the next person.
Ling Zhang nodded. “Well, then let’s resume our journey. Tonight we sleep in the open. We should arrive by dusk tomorrow.”
“We’ll be traveling until the dusk of tomorrow?” muttered Qiu Bing on the side, meticulously cleaning and dressing Ling Zhang’s wound. “Had I not had the divine vulnerary given by Mr. Mu on me, you would soon have to kiss your arm goodbye.”
Ling Zhang was resigned. He was the one who was suffering the pain, and he wanted his wound to heal more than anybody else did.
“Okay. Stop nagging. Let’s get going.”
Qiu Bing inwardly gave a snort and then followed closely in Ling Zhang’s wake, keeping a close eye on him. Thanks to Qiu Bing’s intensive care and Mr. Mu’s effective medicine, Ling Zhang’s army injury didn’t worsen. It was healing, though at a rather slow pace.
They slept out in a dense wood on a hill that night, and the next day, at sundown, they finally walked out of the mountainous area covered with thick vegetation. At the foot of the hill was a village.
“Please stay here and have some rest, Childe Ling. I’ll go and check out the lay of the land,” said Yao Yi.
Ling Zhang inclined his head and the rest of the group stopped to rest. Yao Yi, along with a couple of men, went downhill to carry out a reconnaissance of the area.
At the same time. In Haizhou.
A merchant ship that had been camouflaged was traveling south from northern Haizhou along the seashore. Yuwen Tong disguised as a businessman, along with his subordinates, were on this ship. The ship was going at a moderate speed, allowing him enough time to observe the activities on the sea and the general situation on the coast.
“Have there been any particular events in this area lately?” Yuwen Tong asked the owner of the merchant ship.
The shipowner was a native of Haizhou. Some of his family members worked for the government, so he knew that Yuwen Tong’s rank was very high, that Yuwen Tong had come to Haizhou to perform an important mission. His elders had cautioned him that he must honestly answer every question Yuwen Tong asked him.
“It’s been pretty uneventful recently. Winter is coming, so fishing activities are becoming fewer. Those that are still traveling on the sea as usual are mainly merchant ships,” answered the shipowner. After thinking back carefully for a few moments, he added, “But… Although I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I heard some others mention that two days ago, in that area…”
The shipowner pointed in the direction of the open sea and continued, “Some people chanced upon a fleet of merchant ships which were going south. Judging from their style, they seemed to be from the Luohai Kingdom. The strange part was that those merchant ships were sailing straight south. Those people seemed to have no inclination to get ashore whatsoever, as though they were heading for a particular destination. On top of that, they would very likely encounter pirates if they traveled along that shipping route. Some locals came across them and kindly cautioned them about it, but those people took no heed. They didn’t even acknowledge the locals.”
With a faintly cold look in his eyes, Yuwen Tong asked, “Anything else? Did anybody mention the approximate number of those merchant ships?”
“Emm… No. But unless I’m very much mistaken, there were more than twenty of them,” said the shipowner. “Given the scale of their fleet, they would surely be stopped by the navy when they reach the south. You may go to the jurisdiction of the navy and ask them. They probably know the details.”
Those people of the Luohai Kingdom would by no means let the navy spot them. It was very likely they had gone into hiding already, along with those pirates.
Yuwen Tong gave it some thought and said, “Is there anything else you could tell me apart from this? The trade situation, local people’s livelihood – tell me everything you know.”
The shipowner was startled. This man was also interested in these things? Was he really an imperial commissioner from the capital city or something? Did he have orders from the emperor to come here to observe the people’s living conditions?