Translator: Henyee Translations Editor: Henyee Translations
Feeling aggrieved, Old Man Mu spread his hands and complained to the Dragon King, “The good girl doesn’t believe in me at all now. She doesn’t tell me anything anymore. When we were back in the Land of Fragrance, I… Forget it, I can’t blame her. It’s all my fault. After all, I’m whole-heartedly loyal to the Dragon King, and it’s right that the good girl is guarded against me.”
Gu Shenwei wanted to find out what Shangguan Ru was hiding from him but Old Man Mu said that he didn’t know anything. It was hard to tell whether he was telling the truth or not. His old wrinkled face concealed too many things.
“The good girl would never do anything to harm the Dragon King. I can assure you of that.” Old Man Mu confidently patted his chest and added, “I guess she was trying to surprise the Dragon King. Just wait patiently; why do you have to get to the root of it now?”
Gu Shenwei had never liked surprises.
Red Bat and other female officers might know something but Gu Shenwei didn’t ask because he didn’t want them to have a conflict of loyalty.
This was also a chance for Old Man Mu to finally talk to the Dragon King alone, and he did not forget what he wanted to say. “Be careful of Han Wuxian, she is truly mad down to the bone. I heard that she was collecting all kinds of medicinal materials, and the Dragon King agreed to it?”
“Yes.” ( Box novel.c om )
“Tsk, tsk. ‘If you doubt a person, do not use him’. The Dragon King is really a king. But you must be well-prepared, aren’t you? A disciple of Waning Moon Hall with drugs is very different from one without drugs. When she thinks she’s able to properly protect herself, heh heh…”
“With you around, I have nothing to be afraid of.”
“The Dragon King may rest assured. I promise to keep an eye trained on that crazy old woman for you. And I’ll act without mercy when necessary.” Old Man Mu took the casual word of the Dragon King as a task and left happily.
Tomorrow would be the day when King Riyao’s army elected a new king. Gu Shenwei had lots of work at hand and spent an especially busy afternoon persuading the Second Consort to hand over control of the army. He did a lot of talking but wasn’t able to get a clear reply.
The quietness of the Royal Court was only temporary, and all parties were closely watching the movements of the Court Attendants Army. Once the situation grew clearer, the war would immediately resume. Tuosai was dead so the camps of the Dragon Army and the Second Consort had lost their safety barrier and would have to face the enemy directly.
This was a crucial battle but the Second Consort refused to give up command and control of her army. She had lent a thousand horsemen to the Dragon King and agreed to lend four thousand more but was firmly holding onto the remaining five thousand men.
Gu Shenwei and Fang Wenshi took turns explaining the importance of grouping their troops, but the Second Consort was not moved. Instead of flatly refusing the two, she used all kinds of means to show her unwillingness like acting coquettish, wearing a cold face, sighing, and finally even shedding a few tears. In short, she refused to fully give up her military command. “Tuosai and King Riying’s troops will soon be under the command of the Dragon King. There are almost 20,000 people in total, which should be the most powerful force in the Norland besides the Court Attendants Army. The Dragon King should not be too greedy or impatient. I am a woman and I need your protection after all. Nominally these five thousand men belong to me but as long as the Dragon King says a word, they will go to war anyway. Alas, please be considerate of a widow’s difficulties…”
Similar words rambled on and on. The two weren’t able to convince the Second Consort.
It was already evening when they walked out of the tent. Fang Wenshi sighed and said, “I thought that the Second Consort was reasonable and easy to talk with but I didn’t expect that she would also be so full of whimsical ideas. The Dragon King is her closest ally but you still can’t fully gain her trust. Women are really hard to deal with.”
“There’s always a way.” Gu Shenwei had to try his hardest to unite all the troops. The 20,000 horsemen were indeed considerable but they did not have an absolute advantage and their loyalty was also questionable. The Second Consort’s army could play a huge role. “Let Azheba and Liman have a try, especially Liman. He’s from the Naihang Tribe and perhaps he can win her trust.”
“That seems to be the only way.” Fang Wenshi helplessly shook his head as he glanced at the Dragon King. Then he turned to look at the busy soldiers and servants in the camp and said, “If that also fails… Does the Dragon King already have another way in mind?”
The counselor was more liberal with using coercive violence than before. Simple and effective methods were always addictive.
“It’s not the right time yet.” Gu Shenwei became conservative instead. He had said this many times and would probably repeat it many more times in the future.
Gu Shenwei then casually asked, “Has Instructor Shangguan come back yet?”
If it had been in the past, Fang Wenshi would have tried very hard to persuade the Dragon King to sever the thread of love between them by explaining the contradiction between struggling for hegemony and struggling for love. But now that he knew the Dragon King better, he took the initiative to say, “It is right for the Dragon King to find out the truth of the matter. Of course, Instructor Shangguan will not intentionally harm the Dragon King. I’m just afraid that something bad might happen to her again.”
Fang Wenshi didn’t want Shangguan Ru to be held hostage again, as that would disturb the Dragon King’s mind at this critical moment.
As soon as the Dragon King set out, Fang Wenshi found Azheba and Liman, hoping that they could persuade the Second Consort. The two of them also felt that it was necessary to unite the forces so they agreed to help out right away.
Fang Wenshi had a feeling that the two would not achieve anything more than the Dragon King and he had. The Second Consort actually understood the whole situation; she was just afraid that she would become irrelevant after handing over her entire army. To convince her, he had to find a way to dispel her worries.
And he also had to find a way to stop the Dragon King from completely focusing on the Unique King’s daughter.
Fang Wenshi was suddenly by a bold idea. The Dragon King might not like it but he would accept that when it came.
‘As a counselor, I am responsible for guiding the Dragon King back onto the path after a detour,’ thought Fang Wenshi, trying to exculpate himself from possible guilt.
As Fang Wenshi was thinking up plans, Gu Shenwei was galloping down the grasslands with Shangguan Fei and Long Fanyun.
Earlier in the day, Shangguan Ru had left the camp with fifty guards and a female officer and patrolled for a while before heading north. Three miles later, they had turned northeast. That was all the information that Fang Wenshi had.
There were scouts patrolling around them at a six-mile radius, so Gu Shenwei didn’t have to worry about safety, and could ride at full speed.
The fifty guards were soon found. They had stopped at the edge of the patrolling area and had been monitoring the surroundings since then. But Shangguan Ru was not there. She and Red Bat had continued northward, but that departature had taken place about five hours ago.
( Box novel.c om ) Just then, three scouts arrived and informed the Dragon King that the next dozens of miles north were all desolate land without any garrisons. Gu Shenwei asked for more information and one of the scouts finally remembered something and said, “There’s a camp about five miles away full of those who are old, weak, ill or disabled. His Highness King Riyao had sent his army there to collect laborers but only brought back a few men. From then on no one ever went there again.”
As for Shangguan Ru, the scouts had never seen her show up before, and today should have been the first time she had passed through here.
Gu Shenwei didn’t want to arouse any suspicion so he didn’t pry too deeply.
After setting off again, Shangguan Fei expressed how perplexed he was at his sister’s behavior. “What is she doing? Sending food to the sick and the old? Is she really going to be a Bodhisattva?”
“But why did Instructor Shangguan Ru bring Red Bat along with her?”
Long Fanyun rarely interjected, but when he did it was always profound. Shangguan Fei’s eyes lit up and he hastily replied, “Right, right. Red Bat has lost all her internal energy and is almost useless at the moment. Why would my sister bring a burden along with her?”
This wasn’t what Gu Shenwei was concerned about. He was wondering how he could make his behavior not seem too abrupt. If Shangguan Ru’s secret was really nothing serious as she had said, then his actions tonight would be very embarrassing.
“It’s so refreshing to ride a horse at night, isn’t it? Yun… Long Fanyun.”
Long Fanyun sped up a bit to catch up with the Dragon King so that he didn’t have to speak with Shangguan Fei.
It was actually easier to find a campsite in the dark. Gu Shenwei saw many bonfires a great distance away. Long Fanyun went out to check first and soon returned to say that it really was a refugee camp.
With their cloaks on, the three of them dismounted near the camp and approached on foot.
It was a haphazardly erected encampment with no fences, and hundreds of tents were thrown together at random. One could smell the obvious stink of the livestock before they even entered.
Shangguan Fei frowned. “Did my sister really come to a place like this? We might be wrong.”
Gu Shenwei’s first impression of the place was completely different from that of Shangguan Fei’s. This was a very good place to hide oneself. With a simple disguise, one could easily mingle in with the crowd and no one would bother to ask about someone’s origins or stop them if they ran away.
There were no young men to be seen in the camp. Most of them were old women or young children silently sitting at their tent door, waiting or praying. The three cloaked men barely attracted any attention.
There were seven or eight large bonfires around the camp where there was a relatively higher number of people gathered around. Almost all of them were old men with sores or cripples who did not seem to have the strength to walk.
Shangguan Fei hated this place but he was still able to quickly discover the problem. In a low voice, he said, “If I were King Riyao, I would have made a careful investigation when I sent men to catch laborers here. Why are there so many strange old men and women? After all, there are no highly-skilled doctors that can cure any disease.”
“Not necessarily,” said Gu Shenwei. But he also thought that some of the old people in the camp were pretending to act sickly, and probably not even as old as they appeared to be.
“Why would a skilled doctor hide in a place like this?” Shangguan Fei usually believed in the Dragon King’s judgment, but this time he felt his judgment was more accurate.
Long Fanyun found the first clue, pointing into the distance. “Look, it’s the instructor’s horse.”
The place Long Fanyun had pointed at was pitch black, and only he could quickly recognize the Flame Foal hidden there.
Gu Shenwei waved his hand. The three scattered and kept a distance of seven or eight paces apart and led their horses slowly to the Flame Foal. They were going to meet with Shangguan Ru. Vigilance was necessary but there was no need to sneak there.
There were two horses, one of which was precisely the Flame Foal. Its fur was conspicuously red even in the dark night.
Perhaps it had smelled Long Fanyun, but the Flame Foal gave a pleasant snort when they arrived.
Meanwhile, Shangguan Ru came out of a low tent and smiled at the Dragon King. She didn’t seem surprised at all. “You came so quickly. I just got Doctor’s Sun’s permission.”
“Doctor Sun? That highly skilled doctor from Northern Jade City?” Shangguan Fei was greatly surprised and turned to look at the Dragon King, admiring the other side from the bottom of his heart.
What he didn’t know was the Dragon King was even more surprised than him. Gu Shenwei had guessed that Shangguan Ru might bring Red Bat along with her to see a doctor but he had not expected that Doctor Sun of Jade City would be here.
Doctor Sun was a part of the Waning Moon Hall and one of their few male disciples. Gu Shenwei had once negotiated with Lotus in the doctor’s very own medical pavilion.
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