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Thread: The Mandate #1

  1. #41
    Senior Member Guo Xiang's Avatar
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    As Prince Ying watched Du Zhi Er being dragged away, he knew he had made the right choice in not vocalizing his doubts. If he had, he would be in a more dangerous position than Du Zhi Er – he definitely would not get away with a mere 50 beatings.

    Yet all the more this is worrying. The King of Pan clearly has let it got to his head.

    // Strong state? He has forgotten that even the allied forces of Donghai, Pan and Xiang were unable to truly defeat Xiwu. This King… cannot be trusted. //

    Bowing to the King again, Prince Ying continued, “Since things have come to this state, Ying would like to formally request Your Majesty to lend troops.”

    The King looked at Prince Ying in surprise. “What? But you just said...”

    “The problem now is that Donghai is in a state where it cannot be mobilized easily. And since that is the enemy’s intention, why not play along?”

    “I don’t get what you are trying to say…” The King frowned.

    “Your Majesty, if you could lend me some of Pan’s great troops, I could crush my brothers and take over Donghai.”

    Without waiting for the King’s reply, Prince Ying quickly continued, “Previously Your Majesty has always rejected my requests. I understand that Your Majesty could have also been worried about Pan’s reputation. What if others see this as Pan taking advantage of Donghai, or being purely nosy? But since there is an excuse now, why not use it?”

    The King stared at Prince Ying, surprised.

    “I am confident with Your Majesty’s assistance, pulling Donghai back to its feet will be of relative ease. Seeing how none of my brothers have managed to ascend the throne after these years, it is apparent that they do not have the support they needed. It is to my, and to Pan’s advantage if we seize the chance now.”

    Bowing to the King once more, Prince Ying added, “And once I ascended the throne, I will definitely not forget Pan’s favour. In return, Pan will gain another strongest possible ally aside from Xiwu. This, I promise.”

    The King leaned back on his throne and relaxed. He said nothing, but the smile on his face was telling.

    ****

    Zhou He kept to one side, his head low, as the Pan officials filed out of the audience hall. He wondered how things went, especially after how he saw an official being dragged away.

    Prince Ying was the last one to exit the audience hall and once he stepped out, Zhou He hurried to his lord.

    “Your Highness, how did it go?” He asked.

    Prince Ying smiles at Zhou He. “No worries, Boyan. Everything went well. I think I might have convinced His Majesty to lend us troops as well.”

    Zhou He blinked in surprise. “Your Highness, is that for real?”

    “Officially, the King has not said anything, but the likelihood is high.” Prince Ying replied.

    “I see. It would be great if that’s true.”

    As the two men walked, they heard a few shouts. “What’s going on?”

    They turned to the direction from where the sounds were coming from, and saw a youth tugging roughly at a woman.

    “You are just a horse merchant! You do whatever I want, okay?! Now strip!” The youth ordered angrily.

    “Huh, that’s Crown Prince Kang.” Zhou He turned his nose up the moment he recognised the youth. “Bullying the servants as usual. And at this time he should be studying yet he’s here…”

    “Your Highness?” Zhou He looked around, for Prince Ying had suddenly disappeared from his side. It was then he saw Prince Ying hurrying toward Prince Kang.

    // Oh no! // Zhou He frowned. His lord’s sense of righteousness is getting in the way again. But it was too late to stop him.

    ****

    Prince Kang was angry. He had taken a liking to this horse merchant when he came across her, but the stubborn Xiwu officials wouldn’t let him take her. What he did to those idiots? He called the guards to stop them as he dragged the girl away.

    “Strip now!” He ordered.

    But he couldn’t wait, and his hands shot out, pulling off the poor merchant’s belt. His hands next grabbed at her robes, attempting to tear it off her, but before he could do so, a hand clutched his wrist, effectively stopping him.

    “What the hell!” Prince Kang fumed, turning to see who had dared stop him. He sneered when he recognised who it was.

    “So it’s you, Prince Ying of Donghai. I thought your head would be chopped off by now. Let go of me right now, or you’d be dead.” Prince Kang threatened.

    “I’m not too sure about that, Your Highness.” Prince Ying said stiffly. Rude, ignorant, incompetent, brutal and with frequent but unreasonable bouts of anger, it was no wonder the King wasn’t fond of his eldest son and the court officials kept him at a wide berth.

    “Attempting to humiliate a woman like this in public when you should be studying classics at this time… the name of His Majesty and Pan would be soiled.” Prince Ying said quietly as he dragged Prince Kang away and threw him to one side.

    “Ah!” Prince Kang cried when his buttocks landed hard on the ground. “How… how dare you!”

    “Your Highness.” Zhou He came over.

    “Boyan, please help His Highness to get some attention.”

    “Yes, of course.” Zhou He nodded. “What… what are you going to do?! Don’t touch me!” Prince Kang yelped as Zhou He dragged him away. To class, that is.

    Prince Ying bent and picked up the belt that had fallen to the ground.

    “Here.” Prince Ying handed the belt over to the woman. It was then he met eye-to-eye with the woman.

    Her face was delicate and beautiful, with a sweet and innocent expression. While Prince Ying had seen his share of beautiful women in both Donghai and Pan, but in his eyes, this woman was the most beautiful of all.

    Realising he was staring, Prince Ying quickly tore his eyes away from her.

    “Uhh… are you okay?” He asked gently. The woman nodded.

    Prince Ying swallowed thickly as he softly asked his next question, “… What is your name?”

    The woman looked up and into his earnest eyes.

    “My name is Guo Xingling.”
    Last edited by Guo Xiang; 08-09-11 at 11:41 AM.
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  2. #42
    Senior Member Ren Ying Ying's Avatar
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    In Luoyang Town continued from post 39

    The crowd dissipated after watching the two “Donghai” agents beheaded. It was always a gruesome sight. In fact, some had to cover their eyes just as the beheading happened. A few even had to run away to vomit afterwards. Yet, it never stopped them from coming to watch the event every time.

    Word of the assassinations has spread far and wide in the city of Luoyang now. There was no one who did not discuss the subject. Like the other teahouses and inns over Luoyang, the Zhao Long Inn was also filled with chattering townsmen.

    “What’s the point of putting up a wanted poster there is no picture? I was planning to make some money, today!” One man exclaimed.

    “Ha Ha! You? Catch an assassin could escape the Imperial Guards? You can’t even catch a chicken!” His companion joked.

    “I hope somebody catches him soon,” another man chimes in. “They are not allowing anyone in or out of Luoyang until then. I have a shipment of goods ready to westward. Any delay is bad for my business!”

    “Well, at least His Majesty is safe. Otherwise, things would be really chaotic.”

    “Too bad the assassin couldn’t finish his job...” Xue Qian mumbled as he overheard the conversation from the next door over. He had been in Luoyang for several days, but still has not come up with a plan for steal Princess Yue Fei’er away. He could not even find an opportunity to see her!

    “You should watch your mouth. You could get beheaded like the two in the morning if they catch you saying things like that,” Huo Yuan warned from the seat across.

    Xue Qian scoffed but said nothing more. He was sober enough not to be actively looking for trouble.

    “Everybody stand up!” A group of a dozen constables suddenly stood charged into the Zhao Long Inn.

    “Sir, is something wrong?” The owner quickly rushed to the side of the head constable.

    The constable replied while scanning the customers at the inn, “In order to catch the assassins, we have been ordered to search every household, inn, restaurant, and even old abandoned temples. Everyone will be suspected until proven innocent. According to reports, the assassin has been injured in the shoulders and hit by an arrow in the back. We will be checking everyone for injuries.”

    “What? You want us to take off our clothes?” A few horrified women gasped in terror.

    “Women will be taken to a room and checked by the maids,” the head constable replied as the women in the inn were taken away. “As for the men, you can undress here. If you do not cooperate, we will assume you are in cohorts with the assasins.”

    The constables began to walk around to the talbes to inspect each of the customers. One group entered through the back door to check on the chefs and other restaurant workers. Another group climbed up the stairs and began knocking on the rooms, one by one.

    Knock. Knock.

    “Who is it?” A man’s voice replied back.

    “Open up!” the head constable demanded impatiently.
    Last edited by Ren Ying Ying; 08-14-11 at 03:51 AM.

  3. #43
    Senior Member IcyFox's Avatar
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    Continued from Post #41

    Naturally, it was Yue Jiayan, still dressed in the horse merchant outfit.

    "Thanks for saving me. If not for you, my chastity... would... would..." a teardrop rolled down her rosy cheek like a pearl. Prince Ying's heart fluttered and he quickly used his handkerchief to wipe it away.

    Prince Ying thought, "Sigh, she's so pure and so delicate, how can that scumbag prince try to violate her like this?? Humph!"

    He said, "Please don't be upset. What are you doing in the palace anyway? Pardon me, but from the way you dress, it doesn't seem like you're one of the King's concubines, or for that matter, a palace maid."

    Yue Jiayan said, "Oh, my father is a leading horse merchant in Pan, and he instructed young maiden (xiao nu zi) here to seek instructions about the Xiwu horse trade from the Court."

    Prince Ying asked, "Oh? What kind of horses do you trade?"

    Yue Jiayan replied, "Mostly high quality breeds for royalty and nobility. We also trade war horses, but that is monopolised by the state."

    Prince Ying said, "Yes, of course. Now, could you show me some of your horses?"

    Yue Jiayan smiled demurely, "Sure. We have a stable at the east end of the capital."

    They took a carriage to the stable which actually belonged to Xiwu but operated under Pan nobleman's name. At first, Xiwu sent a few agents to start a small horse trading outfit to find out more about the Pan Palace horses, but over time it surprisingly grew into a major dealer throughout Pan, and the profits were naturally used to fund more clandestine activities in Pan.

    When they reached, the valet greeted Yue Jiayan, "Young Mistress, you are back. Allow me to show this gentleman around."

    Yue Jiayan said, "It's alright, I can show them around myself."

    The valet followed behind, feeling very awkward that a young lady of her status, though he didn't exactly know how high her postion was, would show potential customers around the dirty and smelly stable.

    Prince Ying and Yue Jiayan didn't seem to mind one bit though. Prince Ying was so impressed with how muscular and healthy the horses were that he wasn't concerned when he stepped into the horse shit.

    Yue Jiayan then offered to let them take out a couple of horses for a test ride. Prince Ying jumped at the offer and they went to the outskirts of the city to gallop through the meadows since the city was locked down after the recent spate of assasinations. After 2 hours, they rode back, but the horses looked as fresh as when they started.

    Prince Ying got off and stroke the horse, saying excitedly, "Good horse! We need more of this to help me reclaim our Great Donghai."

    But then he thought, "I'm a penniless man now, and I'm living off the generosity of the King of Pan, how can I find the means to acquire such fine horses?"

    Prince Ying sighed, "Oh well, looks like I just have to beg this favour from His Royal Highness tomorrow during the emergency Court session."
    Last edited by IcyFox; 08-10-11 at 04:03 AM.

  4. #44
    Senior Member IcyFox's Avatar
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    Back at the Palace

    The following day, the Pan King summoned all the officials to the Court again.

    The King demanded, "So, where is the assasin? I hope he has been arrested already?"

    The Guard Captain said, "Your Royal Highness, we have locked down the whole city like an impregnable fortress. There's no way he can escape from us."

    The King impatiently said, "I don't want to know all that. HAVE YOU CAUGHT HIM!"

    The Guard Captain wiped his sweat off his forehead before stammering, "Erm, no..."

    The King slammed the table, "Useless fool! Men, take him out and whack him 50 times! And find someone else to be the guard captain!"

    The guards saluted and dragged the unfortunate officer away.

    The King then said, "OK now comes the vexing problem. Who should I choose to replace the Premier and the 3 generals? And do we wage a punitive war on Donghai or not?"

    The ministers murmured among themselves but none came up with a good suggestion.

    The King grew impatient, "Well?"

    The ministers finally decided to announce their nomination together, "We think Chancellor of the Treasury Zhou Su should be the new Premier since he has good ties with the Xiwu courtiers."

    The King said, "Alright, Zhou Su then. What about the 3 generals?"

    The officials looked at each other before saying, "Your Royal Highness, we have a bold suggestion. Your Highness could recall the generals from the Xiwu borders at Tianshui Pass and Chang'an Pass as agreed with Xiwu, then get them to take over Xuchang Pass and Weinan pass, merging their troops with the troops already there. That way we can use 1 arrow to shoot 2 condors. As for our Imperial Guard here, we reccomend Pang Fei to this duty."

    The King considered for a moment, then said, "Yes, that's a good plan. Summon the Xiwu Envoy Zhang, ask him if Xiwu is willing to deploy their border troops to fight Xiang directly instead of withdrawing. That way we can relieve some pressure off our nothern front."

    The court attendents acknowledged and were about to summon Zhang Duo Qian when the King held up his hand, "Wait! I've got a better plan. Ask them if they are willing to deploy their troops to march out of Hanzhong and attack Donghai's western front instead. Then we shall attack southwards directly from our Pan capital Luoyang, forming a pincer attack and destroying the enemy one smelly Donghai Prince at a time, then sharing their bounty."

    The officials all said, "Your Royal Highness is wise!"

    Zhang Duo Qian was duly summoned and informed of the plan. He then agreed to act immediately and convey the King's plans to the Xiwu Court. He then bade farewell to the King and said, "I believe our Great Xiwu would not let this opportunity slip. May our alliance prosper together!"

    The Pan King said, "Alright, let's put this plan into action. Announce the Edict!"

    Following that, Prince Ying was summoned to the Court.

    The King said, "You're finally getting what you've been wishing for. General Lu Xunzhao has been ordered to return from Chang'an Pass and march out to Donghai from here. When he arrives in Luoyang, you will join him in the punitive expedition and reclaim your rightful place as Overlord of Donghai. Satisfied?"

    Prince Ying received this news with mixed feelings. He was delighted that his chance to restore Donghai had finally arrived, but he was disappointed that Pan was still treating this as a punitive war against Donghai. Still, he decided to make do with it and think of something else later.

    He said, "Your Royal Highness, no words can express my gratitude. Once I have reclaimed the Throne of Donghai, I shall repay you richly in gold, silk and pearls. However, I have one more minor request."

    The King asked, "What?"

    Prince Ying replied, "I wish to acquire some 500 horses from the leading horse merchant of Pan, Guo Xingling. So I would like to borrow some cash from your Great Pan for this purchase, and I shall repay with a handsome interest later."

    The King looked perplexed, "Guo Xingling? Don't you mean Guo Jingrong?"

    Prince Ying said, "Oh, Guo Xingling must be his daughter. I visited their stables with her yesterday."

    The King then said, "I see. I don't think I've met his precious daughter before. Nevermind, I don't have time for this idle chatter. Your request is granted."
    Last edited by IcyFox; 08-20-11 at 09:43 AM.

  5. #45
    Senior Member Guo Xiang's Avatar
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    Donghai

    Yushen stole glances at Jueqing, who was seated under the rushing waterfall with his eyes closed in meditation, as she cleaned and maintained the precious Zixia Sword.

    It was a month ago when they left Shuzhong to challenge the well-known pugilists in other states. With Jiancheng’s strength and old connections to the Xiwu court, Jiancheng had long ruled over the martial realm in Shuzhong. But with their hegemony in Shuzhong, Jiancheng had been cut off from the Central Plains for decades.

    Therefore, this trip of challenges was not to only re-explore the Central Plains’ martial arts, but it is also meant to test the mettle of Lord Jueqing. He might have been all-powerful in Shuzhong, but who knows what his strength could measure to in the Central Plains?

    Since then they had defeated seven well-known pugilists, but each challenge was a disappointment. Those well-known pugilists merely had inflated reputation, and not one of them could even measure up to Yushen, who was considered second-rate in Jiancheng.

    She glanced at Jueqing again.

    // Hopefully this isn’t all the Central Plains has got to offer. There are many more sects and schools around. I can only hope they are better than those fools we have already defeated. //

    “Yushen.”

    The voice shook her out of her thoughts. She turned to look at her master. His eyes were still closed in deep concentration.

    “Who’s next on the list?”

    “According to our original intelligence and the information gathered during this period, the biggest schools around this area are Longshan Sect, Iron Sword Clan and the Lan Manor.”

    “The Lan Manor? The Lan Family Swordsmanship has some fame… The previous lord told me that in this region, the Lan Manor commands much respect, and that their swordsmanship has quite a widespread reputation. Isn’t the current master of the manor Lan Tianying?”

    “Yes, Master. This Lan Tianying is quite the character. In his youth he made a name for himself by wiping out the numerous bandits lair in the Jiangdong region, and just a decade ago he defeated the notorious Maniac Twins, who had murdered dozens of highly-skilled pugilists. That’s why he is very respectable in the martial realm.” Yushen said.

    “Oh? Looks like it will be interesting once we defeat Lan Manor.” A smile crept onto Jueqing’s face.

    Jueqing stood up and Yushen hurried over to her lord who stepped out of the waterfall. She quietly helped to dress him as he stood still.

    This time, perhaps, her lord would not be disappointed.
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  6. #46
    Senior Member Guo Xiang's Avatar
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    So the time has come.

    Zhou He closed his book and let out a sigh that is a mix of relief and worry.

    Finally Prince Ying will have the necessary military support to return to Donghai to reclaim what rightfully belonged to him, or at least rid Donghai of its unruly princes.

    At the same time he worries about the consequences and how the war could turn out to be.

    But the biggest worry would be, in fact, Pan. If Prince Ying won the war and becomes the King of Donghai, what would Pan demand in return for a show of gratitude? If Prince Ying loses the war… it would be the end of him; he would have nowhere left to go.

    // No. His Highness will not lose the war. Not with me by his side. // Zhou He thought. // His Highness needs all the help he can get. //

    A name instantly popped up in his mind.

    // Yes of course. The Lan Manor has great influence across the Jiangdong region. Not only will it be an asset for information, but also for supplies and local support for Prince Ying. I must write to Senior right away. //

    Zhou He quickly prepared the paper, brushes and ink before sitting down to write the letter.

    Upon finishing the letter, he went to the palace courier and paid the courier handsomely with a jade pendant that had belonged to his father. As Zhou He watched the courier leave, he felt as though a dark cloud has been lifted off his chest. The more local resources and support Prince Ying has, the less leverage Pan would have over him in the future.
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  7. #47
    Senior Member IcyFox's Avatar
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    Soon General Lu Xunzhao returned to the Pan capital of Luoyang. Prince Ying met him at the Imperial Guard barracks to review the troops.

    General Lu said, "Prince Ying, His Royal Highness the King has assigned me 30,000 men and ordered me to attack the Kuang Pass in northern Donghai. Following that we are to link up with General Wen who will be attacking the Ban Pass.

    "Army Inspector Fei Tong will be in charge of the supplies. On no account is the main body to advance faster than the supplies, especially since there are so many rivers in the area. Once we have secured Younan, we shall contact the Xiwu army and make plans for capturing the Donghai capital from there."

    Prince Ying nodded, "Sounds good. I wish to lead the van."

    General Lu looked at Prince Ying incredulously, "You? Have you gone to battle before? Do you even know any martial arts? How can I take responsibility if you fail?"

    Prince Ying said, "I know the Donghai geography well, of course there's no problem. Besides..." He drew his sword and pointed it at Donghai, "My brothers will not tolerate my existence. I must vanquish them and reclaim what is rightfully mine. If I fail then I will be too shameless to return, and I rather die than face the dishonour!"

    General Lu said, "Alright, that sounds more like a man. Get your things ready, you shall have 5,000 elite troops and set off in 3 days."

    Prince Ying said, "Thank you, General." He cupped his hands and left.

    He then went to the Guo stables and met with Yue Jiayan. "Guo gu-niang, I need 500 of your best horses in 3 days' time for my van calvary. The King has agreed to bear this expense, so money is not a problem."

    Yue Jiayan pretended to be reluctant, "But everybody wants our horses. How am I going to find 500 quality steeds to meet your demand of 3 days? We only have 300 horses in Luoyang right now, and only 200 of those are of battle quality."

    Prince Ying got stressed, "Alright, I'll pay you double! Here, let me pay the deposit now. At the most I will compensate your other customers."

    Yue Jiayan shook her head, "No, it's not about the money. I really don't have the number that you ask. Alright, how about this - You take the 200 horses first, then I shall personally deliver the remainder to you where your army is."

    This time it was Prince Ying's turn to look incredulous, "But... wait... what?? I'm going to fight in battle, not compose poetry. Are you going to deliver the horses to the frontline?"

    Yue Jiayan smiled, "Sure. After all, you saved me from the Crown Prince the other day. Let me repay you with this favour."

    Prince Ying considered the situation for a moment and thought that this was after all the best way. He sighed, "Alright, we'll do that. Please do not deliver the horses late; it's a matter of life or death!"

    Yue Jiayan said, "Of course. You can count on me."

    With that Prince Ying took his leave, uncertain of what lies ahead.

  8. #48
    Senior Member IcyFox's Avatar
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    Continued from Post #42

    Wang Ailang realised that it was the police. He hesitated for a moment, considering his options as he summoned his internal strength. The constable banged the door even harder, his impatience wearing thin. The police were about to break down the door when...

    BAAAM!!

    Wang Ailang smashed the door, shattering it and sending splinters and shards flying outwards. The constables outside were hit and were thrown onto the floor, some cut badly by the pieces. Wang Ailang wasted no time in utilizing his Qinggong (lightness skill) and leapt downstairs with great agility that stunned the crowd below.

    The police on the ground floor momentarily paused before acting in unison to apprehend this dangerous wanted man. Brandishing their sabres high, they rushed towards Wang Ailang yelling, but he threw out his palms rapidly, sending 2 constables out of the way easily.

    The lieutenant leading the group of constables heard the commotion and yelled for more constables in the vicinity as he dismounted his horse and charged into the inn with his sword.

    Wang Ailang knew the lieutenant was not his match, but with more and more police pouring in, it was not favourable for him. Making a dash for the window, he tried to draw their attention away from himself.

    He pointed at Huo Yuan and Xue Qian, shouting, "They're with me! Go after them too!"

    The duo were stunned as the police seemed to believe him and a number of them turned on the duo instead. Xue Qian cursed his rotten luck while Huo Yuan wondered what he did in his past life to deserve this.

    The constables slashed at the duo and Huo Yuan hastily disarmed a constable, then caught the sabre and parried off the wild slashes of the other constables while Xue Qian flipped the tables, stools and wine jugs at them, trying to fend them away.

    In the ensuing chaos, Tang Xiang Feng was knocked onto the ground and a wine jug smashed on the floor beside him, cutting his arm.

    Meanwhile, Wang Ailang tumbled out of the window, avoiding the arrows fired from the archers outside the inn. He jumped towards them and palmed their leader off the horse and made a dash for it...
    Last edited by IcyFox; 08-17-11 at 11:58 AM.

  9. #49
    Senior Member Allen D's Avatar
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    Wang Ai Lang knew that Huo Yuan would probably be quite upset with the predicament that he had been put in, but Ai Lang needed to survive. If any apologizing needed to be done, Ai Lang could certainly do it later. Ai Lang needed to survive for the greater good, the King of pan was still alive.
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  10. #50
    Senior Member Guo Xiang's Avatar
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    "We are innocent!" Huo Yuan shouted, but the constables don’t seem to hear him as they continued to come at Xue Qian and he.

    “Argh… that scoundrel!” Huo Yuan gritted his teeth in anger, kicking another constable away.

    How dare Wang Ailang accuse them… for whatever charge. It was an extremely irresponsible thing to do, and no better than a murder attempt. Even though Huo Yuan was currently on leave, he’s still under the employ of the Xiang court, and his military position still holds. If caught, his identity will definitely be exposed and he will be executed as a spy!

    Considering how this man used to be his father’s favoured subordinate, Huo Yuan only felt more betrayed and enraged.

    “Get out of my way!” He roared, kicking the table towards the constables blocking his way. The constables ducked the flying table, and Huo Yuan immediately dashed out of the building.

    The constables shouted in frustration as they watched Huo Yuan ran away. A number of constables immediately gave chase, while the rest surrounded Xue Qian.

    "Give up now, or do not blame us for using force on you!" A constable spat.

    ******

    Wang Ailang was fast, but he was injured and Huo Yuan’s running speed wasn’t too shabby either. In no time he caught sight of Wang Ailang trying to get onto a horse.

    “You! Stop!” Huo Yuan shouted as he sprinted towards Wang Ailang. As he closed in to Wang Ailang, he pulled his spear and stabbed forward aiming for the leg.
    Last edited by Guo Xiang; 08-17-11 at 12:09 PM.
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  11. #51
    Senior Member Allen D's Avatar
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    Huo Yuan's spear slashed Ai Lang's leg and he fell to one knee, grunting in frustration. Pushing himself up, and struggling to keep balanced, he finally spoke to Huo Yuan.

    "I understand how you must feel.....I was only doing what I had to do. I need to survive."

    "You spineless coward. To save your own life you'd kill innocent people," said Huo Yuan as he pointed his spear towards Ai Lang in an offensive position.

    "I'm sorry if i put you in a predicament, but I don't have time to explain now. The soldiers will soon be here. I will explain myself later," said Ai Lang as he turned to flee.

    "Not so fast!!!" yelled Huo Yuan as he charged Ai Lang.

    Ai Lang pulled out his sword and swiftly parried Huo Yuan's spear. He parried thrust after thrust. Although he was highly skilled, due to his injuries, he could not hold back for too long. Ai Lang would have to go on the offensive. He did not want to hurt Huo Yuan, but it seemed that Huo would not let Ai Lang explain himself in this situation. Perhaps what he did back at the inn was uncalled for.

    Ai Lang parried another thrust of Huo's spear and quickly sealed a pressure point on Huo's chest, causing him to be paralyzed.
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  12. #52
    Senior Member Ren Ying Ying's Avatar
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    Most of the customers and waiters desperately scattered to the corners of the restaurant to avoid being entangled in the mess.

    Xue Qian grabbed a chair by the leg and swung it outwardly to block away the saber trusting towards him. The saber smashed against the chair and split it in half. Xue Qian quickly grabbed at another chair and shouted, “You idiots! Can’t you see he’s just using us as a distraction?”

    One policeman replied something, but Xue Qian couldn’t quite make out his words due to the shouting and screaming of the frightened civilians and fighting police. But whatever his reply was, it sure didn’t point to any signs of stopping the fight. While he would have no problem handling one or two of these policemen with his bare hands, there was no way he could fend off a group of them even if he had a weapon. He suddenly regretted not working harder on his martial arts and lightness skill. Too late now. All he could do was dodge and defend until a chance to escape presented itself.

    Suddenly, Xue Qian heard Huo Yuan roar, “Get out of my way!” and soon a significant amount of policemen left the inn to chase after him.

    //An opportunity!// Xue Qian quickly dashed for the back door, hoping that the police will choose to pursue Wang Ai Lang in the opposite direction instead. But out of nowhere, two police slashed towards his face, one from each side. With less than a second to react, he instinctively bent backwards just in time for the two sabers to sweep across his face and miss the tip of his nose.

    //That was a close one.// Cold sweat poured down Xue Qian back as he straightened up. But there was no time to relax. The two policemen that had missed his head earlier turned their sabers around and hacked at his lower back. At the same time, he saw another police aiming for his chest, not allowing him to dodge foward. He had no choice but to flip backwards over the two sabers slashing at his back. But, just as he landed his backward summersault, he felt his feet step on something soft. Without the support of the hard wooden floor, his ankle turned inward and lost his balance.

    BAAM! Xue Qian crashed to the floor.

    “OUCH!” He heard a voice cry out near him. He had stepped on a person!

    Before Xue Qian was able to gather himself, the two sabers immediately locked at his neck, forcing him to stay still. He stared towards his feet to see who he had stepped on.

    //ARG! The smelly little waiter has become the bane of me!//
    Last edited by Ren Ying Ying; 08-18-11 at 01:15 PM.

  13. #53
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    Huo Yuan was furious that Wang Ailang had sealed his pressure point; the man was determined to throw him to the wolves!

    "Spineless coward! Setting me up to be your scapegoat!" Huo Yuan shouted in anger as he watched Wang Ailang got up onto the horse and rode away to safety.

    Unable to move, the constables soon surrounded him, shoved him roughly to the ground and stomped their foot on his back to prevent him from struggling and breaking free. But it did not take them long to realise Huo Yuan was immobilised and they quickly lose their fear and wariness.

    Confiscating his spear, they had him pulled up to a kneeling position and bounded his hands behind the back.

    "We got one!" A constable said triumphantly. "Treacherous assassin! We will be washing your neck clean for the execution blade!"

    // Assassin?! // It did not take too long for Huo Yuan to figure out which crime Wang Ailang had made him a scapegoat of. // Explain yourself later? To who? You are determined to pin this on me right from the start! //
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  14. #54
    Senior Member patricia n's Avatar
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    In another room in Zhao Long Inn, the soldiers abruptly left to search other inn guests after finding no fresh wound on Wu Haocun. Suddenly, sounds of clashing and banging at one end of the inn caught Wu Haocun’s attention. Even more disruption soon followed, yet this time, it erupted from the restaurant.

    One of the soldiers from across yelled, “The assassin ran to the restaurant. Let’s go get him!”

    Haocun ignored the situation until he realized that Feng might also be in danger. Earlier, when he observed Feng’s reaction upon glancing at the faces on the scroll, he suspected that Feng might be his only connection to the people on the scrolls. Initially, Feng was reluctant to share any information; however, after much probing, Feng revealed that he knew the whereabouts of Sima Cuifen, one of the people Haocun sought. Unfortunately, according to Feng, Sima Cuifen currently resided in the countryside, far away from Luoyang. Feng was vague about the location and insisted that the area was very difficult to journey to unless one was familiar with the place. He also reasoned that because he was poor with descriptions, he would not be able to properly provide the directions to the area. In the end, because Feng was also leaving work for a period, he offered his assistance in helping Haocun get to Cuifen’s hometown himself. Once the decision was established, they discovered that they could not leave Luoyang because of the attempted assassination.

    In the restaurant, Feng slowly stood up and rubbed his buttock as he cursed silently under his breath, “That good for nothing son of a turtle! It’s a good thing it wasn’t my hands or feet, or else…” He shivered as he pondered the horrific consequences should Xue Qian stepped on his hands or feet.

    Haocun ran to the restaurant and seeing that Feng was still alive, Haocun was relieved. One of the soldiers looked at Feng and asked, “You! Have you been searched?”

    Feng immediately crossed his arms and took a step back, “What? What do you need to search me for?” Pointing his fingers at Xue Qian, “Didn’t you already find the assassin anyhow?”

    Xue Qian stared at Feng and yelled, “You stupid waiter. Just wait until I’m free!”

    Just when the soldier was about to respond, a group of soldiers rushed in and pushed a tied up Huo Yuan to the ground. When Feng saw him, he somewhat pitied Huo Yuan. Although he offended Feng on that one occasion, Feng had to admit that he saved Feng from Xue Qian’s wrath on many occasions.

    The chief of the soldiers ordered, “No need to search that waiter. We already have the culprits!”

    Feng remembered Haocun’s amazing display of martial arts on the day that he parried against Huo Yuan. He moved closer to Haocun and requested, “Hero, in exchange for me helping you find Sima Cuifen, will you please help these two? They have been drinking and dining here entire week, so I know that they are not the assassins.”

    Haocun looked closely at Huo Yuan and recalled that he had a very favorable first impression of him.

    Now that all the soldiers were gathered in the room, Xue Qian demanded, “Do you know who I am?”

    “You’re a suspect who tried to assassinate the king!” the chief quickly replied.

    “Nonsense! I am a Xiwu nobility, Count Xue Qian. If you dare offend me, I will make sure the new consort hears of this and punish you fools!”

    “Hahaha! You can say whatever you want. What evidence do you have that you’re a Xiwu nobility? Just your actions alone are suspicious!” The chief turned to look at his men, “Tie him up and take them to see the king!”

    Haocun ushered Feng out of the restaurant and whispered, “Now is not the time to act. We need to find a better opportunity to save them.”
    Last edited by patricia n; 08-19-11 at 04:28 AM.
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  15. #55
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    Although no one was allowed entry to or exit from Luoyang, there was actually an exception for the select few. Because Prince Ying and his trusted bodyguard were preparing for war, they had to leave the city to practice horseback riding and fighting in the battlefield out in a neighboring pasture. Once both of their bodies were searched and found to be clear of wounds, the king granted them a special pass to exit and enter the city.

    Since his escape to Luoyang, Prince Ying had little reason to leave the palace as most of his days were spent trying to gain the king’s favor and seeking his help. Today was one of the few days that he would leave the palace and the city!

    Even though he disagreed with the plan to involve Donghai in a war against Pan, he truly had no other option. This heavy burden had been weighing on his shoulders, but the thought of leaving the palace and the city excited him. After showing their passes, the city guards allowed Prince Ying and Lord Zhou to exit the city. Quickly into their journey, Lord Zhou sensed that they were being followed.

    He lowered his voice, “Your highness. Please be careful. Someone is following us, but this person’s lightness skill must be poor since I detected him so quickly and easily.”

    Prince Ying continued to walk but wondered to himself, “My stay here has not been a secret. Have my royal brothers finally sent assassins to kill me in Pan?”

    They continued to walk and after a while, they heard a thud from behind. Both turned around and saw a woman in her early twenty’s picked herself up from the ground. When they saw her beautiful face, Prince Ying immediately ran to her and stared at her carefully. He was too shock to believe it.

    She too also gazed at his face lovingly and reached out a hand to his cheek, “Is it, is it really you?”

    He looked at her. It had been so many years since he last saw her. She dressed more matronly in poor people’s garb now, but she still maintained a noble beauty and carried herself elegantly. He grabbed her hand and finally spoke, “Royal sister Cuifen!”

    “Good, good! I am so happy to see that you’re safe.”

    Lord Zhou approached her and kneeled, “Servant Zhou He greets your highness Princess Cuifen.”

    “Please rise,” commanded Sima Cuifen.

    The three moved to a tree and settled under the shade. Prince Ying immediately asked her, “When did you get to Pan?”

    She revealed everything to him. “After you escaped, all of the concubines and royal brothers eventually plotted against me and royal mother (queen-mother). Royal mother had always been open regarding your rights to the throne. Why wouldn’t she? Royal father (king-father) mentioned many times that he desired to pass the throne to you. Even though we do not share mothers, royal mother always thought highly of you and cared for you. She saw that of all the princes, you were the most kind-hearted, bright, and wise. Because royal mother was the queen, they feared that we had too much influence within the kingdom. We were warned that the many royal brothers had hired the most elite assassins to finish us. Royal mother and I knew we were outnumbered and had to leave behind everything. In the process of escaping, our most trustworthy noblemen lost their lives in order to protect us.” At this point, her voice cracked as she continued in tears, “Royal mother could…could not endure the harsh lifestyle outside of the palace, much less that of a vagabond. She ultimately passed…passed…passed away. The noblemen suspected that you escaped to Pan so I decided to come to Pan to look for you. Along the way, I suffered malaria and almost passed away until my husband found me and saved me. I convinced him to move close to Luoyang. I soon heard that you lived in the palace. Every once in a while, I come to the city to visit my sister in law and also in hopes of running into you. Since I don’t have any association with the noblemen of Pan, it had been very hard for me to get in touch with you. Who would have guessed that today we finally meet?”

    Seeing her smiling brightly at him, Prince Ying cursed himself for not leaving the palace more frequently.

    “Royal brother, there’s something of utmost important that I must share with you,” she wanted to continue but glanced at Lord Zhou and hesitated.

    Prince Ying understood that his sister did not trust Lord Zhou, “You can share in front of him. He’s the only person I trust during my entire stay at Pan.”

    Cuifen nodded, “Royal-mother shared with me that long before Royal-Father passed away, he wrote an imperial edict passing on the throne to you. He gave it to her to keep because he couldn’t trust his other wives, especially ones with sons. He knew the other royal brothers would try to usurp the throne in the future. Royal-Mother gave it to the nuns at Pu Ti (enlightenment) Temple. She chose a location somewhat far from Jianye so that it would be difficult for anyone to find.”

    Prince Ying sighed, “The Queen is smart indeed. She enjoyed visiting a different temple every year to pray for the kingdom. No one would suspect that she had an ulterior motive when visiting Pu Ti Temple.”

    “Royal Brother, what are your plans now?”

    He did not wish to sadden his sister with the news of the oncoming war, but he also understood that he needed to be honest with her, especially given the many sacrifices she endured for him. He shared with her about the upcoming war against Donghai.

    She was obviously unhappy with the plan, “Royal brother, I’m sure our people are already suffering from the internal conflict between our royal brothers. Must you inflict more pain on them with this war?”

    Zhou He finally spoke up, “Excuse me your highness, if I may. Prince Ying had been very patient and suffered much humiliation before he got the consent to borrow troops and the funding to support him and his cause. This war was not his idea nor does he desire it. However, we are left with no choice and this may be our only hope for now. Of course, if his highness can find a way to avoid war, he would opt for that.”

    Understanding Prince Ying’s situation, Cuifen asked, “What about the imperial edict? Will you be able to obtain it?”

    Prince Ying answered, “Eventually, but I need to concentrate on this war or else too many will suffer in Donghai and all my effort will be for naught. And I cannot do this without Boyan’s help or else I would have asked him to fetch the imperial edict for me.”

    Cuifen looked down at her clasped hands, “And I am only a weak woman, married to a poor man, and have an unlucky sister in law.”

    “Royal sister, do not worry about this. We have many opportunities to plan this out in the future.”

    She nodded. She couldn’t ask for too much at once. She was just happy that her brother was alive and healthy. As for the matter of the imperial edict, she believed that heavens have eyes and will not desert them. Before she departed, she asked of them, “Please, I only request that we keep our meeting a secret. I do not wish to worry my husband and my sister in law. They know nothing about my past.”

    Prince Ying grabbed his money pouch and handed it to her, “I usually don’t carry much on me, but please take this for now to help your family.”

    She thanked him and left.
    Last edited by patricia n; 08-21-11 at 01:44 PM.
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  16. #56
    Senior Member Ren Ying Ying's Avatar
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    Luoyang Town/Zhao Long Inn continued from post #54

    The owner of Zhao Long Inn cursed at the broken tables, chairs, wine jars, plates, and bowls lying on the floor. The last time Huo Yuan and Xue Qian destroyed his restaurant, he was compensated. But with these two taken away, they won’t be able to pay for the damages anymore and he certainly can’t ask the police for money. “Those two must be the devil’s children…along with that other customer! What have I done to receive such bad luck?!”

    ************************************************** ********

    Outside the inn, Wu Haocun watched the police drag Huo Yuan and Xue Qian away. Once he was sure that there were no police near their vicinity, he turned to Feng and stated, “We can’t just forcefully take them away from the police now. If they escape now, it will be interpreted that they are running away because they are guilty. The best thing to do in order to save them is to free them of guilt by finding the real culprit.”

    “Ah! The man who had ran out of the Inn earlier!” Feng responded.

    “Yes. Do you know anything about him?”

  17. #57
    Senior Member Ren Ying Ying's Avatar
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    Palace/Imperial Garden

    “Any interesting news?” Lady Yi asked as she strolled through the Imperial Garden with Lanxi and Lanyi following closely behind. The King had beckoned her to meet him at the White Willow Pavilion.

    “My Lady, you must have heard about the assassination attempt on His Majesty and the other court officials by now,” Lanxi replied.

    “Yes, who hasn’t heard about that?” Lady Yi snapped back. “I wasn’t asking about that type of news.”

    //Oh. She wants to know about THAT news//

    “It seems that His Majesty is still quite fond of Lady Yue and visits her every day. There doesn’t seem to be any significant changes in their relationship. Although, it does seem that Lady Yue has changed the maid that usually serves her, which is a bit strange because it seemed as if she had a very close relationship with that maid.”

    “I see,” Lady Yi nodded. “It is not unusual for concubines to lose favor quickly in this Palace. It is even faster for a maid to lose favor.” //Is there really no flaws or hidden secrets about the Xiwu Princess?//

    Soon, the White Willow Pavilion came into sight. The pavilion stood in the middle of a pond. A long open corridor connected it to the land. A dozen imperial guards stood along corridor leading to the pavilion. Another dozen stood on the shore of the pond, at the entrance of the corridor. With the recent attacks, the King had increased the number of guards surrounding him. Inside the pavilion, the King sat at a white jade table, with a few maids standing behind him. A woman sat to his right side. She picked up a dumping with her chopsticks and fed it to the King, who happily chewed away.

    Lady Yi immediately recognized the woman. //That Xiwu vixen! Why is she here when His Majesty has called to see me?//

    Yet, Lady Yi’s face remained as calm as the pond water surrounding them. She gracefully walked up to the entrance of the corridor. The guards quickly bowed and led her down the corridor to announce her arrival to the King.

    “Ah! You are finally here,” the King stated merrily, now showing any trace of the anger that he had displayed during the morning. He patted the empty space to his left. “Come. Sit down, my dear.”

    Lady Yi bowed and pulled the muscles on her face into a smile. “Yes, Your Majesty.”

    ************************************************** **************************

    As there were already too many guards standing in the corridor and too many maids inside the pavilion, Lady Yi had allowed Lanxi and Lanyi to wait on the shore. The two retreated to a shady spot under a willow tree as they waited for Lady Yi.

    “Looks like His Majesty has brought Lady Yue along. Lady Yi is going to throw a fit when we go back,” Lanyi whispered to Lanxi.

    “She throws a fit every other day for one reason or another anyways. All she does is throw her anger at the dishes.” Lanxi rolled her eyes. “Too bad though. I would love to see what would happen if she had actually gotten into a fight Lady Yue. Who do you think would win?”

    Lanyi chuckled at the thought of the two concubines fighting. She added, “Instead of the annual warrior tournaments His Majesty holds every year, they should have annual concubine tournaments.”

    “I have my money on Lady Yi, of course!” Lanxi giggled.

    A voice suddenly interrupted from behind Lanxi and Lanyi. “What are you two gremlins laughing about? Making fun of my elder sister again, eh?”

    Lanyi quickly turned around. “Yo…young master…” she stuttered as her face flushed bright red. “I mean…I mean…Lieutenant General Yi…we…”

    The young man named Yi Quan chuckled, “Lieutenant General Yi? Since when did you guys become so polite with me?”

    “We always been polite. When did you get back?” Lanyi asked, having regained some of her calmness after the initial shock.

    “This morning. Did you guys miss me these three years?” Yi Quan asked playfully.

    Lanxi rolled her eyes, “We missed you so much we lost all our appetite and couldn’t sleep. There. Happy? What are you doing here anyways?”

    “His Majesty called me forth here.”

    “His Majesty?” Lanxi pointed over to the White Willow Pavilion where Lady Yi and Yue Fei’er were taking turns feeding the King, who laughed about merrily. “Have you become one of his concubines?”

    Lanyi giggled again, “I think he would make a pretty good one. Lady Yi and Lady Yue are going to have some competition here.”

    “Lady Yue?” Yi Quan looked at them quizzically. “Ah! She must be the new concubine. The Xiwu Princess. Looks like His Majesty is quite fond of her. Elder sister’s mood must be really bad these days.”

    Lanyi sighed in an exasperated tone. “Oh, tell me about it. Lanxi, you should tell him about that time when…Lanxi? Lanxi!” Lanyi nudged Lanxi, who appeared to be staring at something else in a distance.

    “Huh?” Lanxi broke out of her gaze. “What were you saying?”

    Yi Quan looked in the direction in which Lanxi was gazing at and saw two men walking towards the entrance of the corridor leading to the Pavillion. “Who are they?”

    “That’s Prince Ying of Donghai in front and his Chief Attendant and Guard Lord Zhou behind him.” Lanyi replied. “I wonder what they’re doing here.”

    “Who knows what they are up to?” Lanxi answered, with a slight hint of annoyance. Ever since the King had given the edict to give Prince Ying troops and wage war against Donghai, Zhou He had been extremely busy and she has not seen him at all.

    “Well, I shall get going and report to His Majesty. I’ll come by and get you two back for badmouthing me later.”

    ************************************************** ************

    “Your Majesty, Prince Ying and Lieutenant General Yi Quan has arrived.”

    “Good. They are finally here. Bring them in,” the King of Pan stated as he finished chewing a chestnut.

    Soon, Yi Quan and Prince Ying walked in. Zhou He had been stopped by the guards outside the corridor. Due to the recent assassinations, the security level had intensified and the guards did not allow any person whom the King did not specifically mention to enter the King’s presence. “Your Majesty, Lady Yi, Lady Yue,” they greeted.

    “Ah, the two of you are here. Come, enjoy some desserts,” the King waved his hand to motion them to sit.

    “Prince Ying,” the King began, “how has your training been going?”

    “Thanks to Your Majesty’s grace, the training has been going well.”

    “Good,” King smiled. “However, one can never be too satisfied and should always seek better results.” He pointed at Yi Quan and continued, “This young man here is technically my brother in law and perhaps the best horse rider and cavalry trainer in all of Pan. I will let him help you from now on. He can help you with the training of your new cavalry unit.”

    Yi Quan replied, “Yi Quan is not deserving of such praise from your Majesty.”

    “Your Majesty is too kind. I have already benefited from Your Majesty’s kindness with the purchase of 300 fine horses. I should not trouble Your Majesty by occupying your best cavalry trainer, too.”

    “It’s not a problem at all. Your troops are like my troops. The better fit they are, the faster we’ll attain victory in the war.”

    Prince Ying knew there was no use declining any further and bowed. “Thank you for your generosity, Your Majesty.” However, Prince Ying knew it was more than just a simple gift of generosity. The King of Pan did not trust him. On the surface, he has sent a person to help with the training. But in reality, it is to send someone to keep an eye on Prince Ying’s every move.

    The King turned to Yi Quan, “Quan'er, it seems that you have grown much in the past three years,” the King stated. “How has things been in the Northwest?”

    “Thanks to your Majesty’s grace, everything is very peaceful along the borders,” Yi Quan replied.

    “Good,” the King nodded again. He was about to continue but paused as he saw guard run up to the pavilion, looking as if he had urgent news.

    “What is it?” The King asked.

    “Your Majesty, we have caught the assassins!” the guard reported.

    “Excellent!” the King exclaimed. “Bring him here right away!”

    “Yes, Your Majesty.” The guard ran back down the corridor to transfer the order.
    Last edited by Ren Ying Ying; 08-21-11 at 03:23 AM.

  18. #58
    Senior Member patricia n's Avatar
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    Continued from post #56

    Feng tried to recall the suspect who bolted out the window, “I…I can’t remember much about him. I’ve seen him around in the restaurant and observed him talking to Huo Yuan once or twice. It’s hard to believe that they collaborated with each other given the hostility that Huo Yuan displayed against him.” His eyes widened as he quickly exclaimed, “Ah! I remember…I believe his name is Wang Ai Lang. Other than that, I really do not know anything else about him.”

    Wu Haocun wondered, “Can you ask your coworkers to find out more about him? Perhaps this Wang Ai Lang is framing those two men to buy himself time to escape.”

    Upon interrogating his coworkers, Feng was disappointed because very little was known about Wang Ai Lang.

    Feng shared what little information was obtained with Haocun. When it occurred to Feng that the search for Sima Cuifen would be delayed because the city was still in lockdown, he was secretly glad.

    Pacing back and forth, Haocun thought, “The sooner this case gets solved, the quicker we’ll be able to leave Luoyang to search for Sima Cuifen and Yang Shaoyao (Peony).” He turned to Feng and stated, “It appears that the only person who knows anything about Wang Ai Lang is Huo Yuan. I will sneak into the palace prison tonight to speak with him.”
    Last edited by patricia n; 08-21-11 at 02:12 PM.
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  19. #59
    Senior Member Ren Ying Ying's Avatar
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    Palace continued from post 57

    After being arrested at the Zhao Long Inn, the police had tied Huo Yuan and Xue Qian’s feet together and their hands behind their back. Xue Qian continued to shout about the stupidity of the police for catching the wrong people. Finally, the Lieutenant was fed up with Xue Qian’s shouting and stuffed a piece of cloth in his mouth.

    Huo Yuan stayed quiet. At this point, he knew better than to waste his energy by shouting. By the time they reached the palace, Huo Yuan’s sealed acupoint had cleared, but the police had tied too many layers of ropes around him for him to break free.

    The imperial guards dragged the two men down the corridor leading to the White Willow Pavilion. The Lieutenant that was in charge of the arrest followed behind, wearing a bright smile because he believed that he would receive a promotion for catching the two assassin associates. Once they reached the pavilions, Huo Yuan and Xue Qian were forced into a kneeling position with their face bowed to the ground.

    “Your Majesty,” the Lieutenant bowed, “I have caught two of the assassin’s comrades!”

    “Assassin’s comrades???” The King slammed his fist on the table. “What do you comrades? I want the ASSASSIN!”

    The smile on the Lieutenant’s face immediately wiped away and quickly fell to his knees. “Your…Your Majesty, we were unable to catch the assassin…but…but before he escaped, he pointed to these two as his comrades! Perhaps we can find more information about who is behind all the assassinations from these two?”

    “Humph! Excuses for your ineptitude,” the King threw his wine cup at the Lieutenant.

    The porcelain cup smashed into his face, immediately forming cuts across his eyes and cheeks. The alcohol splattered on his face further stung his wounds.

    Once the King calmed his anger down, he continued, “Alright fine. Who are these two?”

    The guards lifted Huo Yuan and Xue Qian’s face from the floor. Huo Yuan remained composed, though there was a certain coldness gleaming from his eyes. Xue Qian on the other hand was bright red in the face from trying to muffle words through the cloth stuffed in his mouth. “Mmmfff mfff mmfff!”

    Suddenly, the King heard a gasp from his right. He turned around to see a surprised expression on Yue Fei’er. “What is it, my dear?” he asked with a much softer tone.

    “That…” she pointed to Xue Qian, “that’s Chancellor Xue’s son.”

    “Chancellor Xue of Xiwu?” the King widened his eyes, unsure of what to make out of the situation. The King turned to face Xue Qian, “Speak for yourself. Who are you?”

    The guards removed the cloth from Xue Qian, who had suddenly turned quiet. He appeared to be staring at something, yet his gaze seems to be shifting between the people sitting on the table and the ground. Finally, he spoke, “I am Xue Qian, Count Ruixi of Xiwu.”

    “And you?” the King turned to Huo Yuan.

    “He’s my servant.” Xue Qian butted in before Huo Yuan can speak. “My bodyguard. It’s a long journey from Hanzhong to Luoyang. I didn’t want to get attacked by any bandits.”

    Huo Yuan wasn’t exactly keen about being called Xue Qian’s servant, but he kept his mouth shut for the moment. After all, he was much safer assuming the identity of a Xiwu bodyguard than a Xiang Lieutenant.

    “What are you doing here in Luoyang?”

    Xue Qian quickly looked up at the people sitting at the table and peered down again. He took in a deep breath to alleviate the pain in his chest, “With the recent alliance between Pan and Xiwu, I thought it would be a good opportunity to visit Luoyang.”

    “Why does the Lieutenant tell me that you are associated with the assassins?”

    “I have no association with any assasinations,” Xue Qian replied. “The fugitive pointed at us as he was trying to run away and the police stupidly believed him. If we were really comrades of the assassin, do you think he would point to us? Doesn’t it make more sense that he just randomly pointed to us so he can distract the police?”

    The King glared at the Lieutenant, who quickly explained, “But they were resisting the arrest! This one (he pointed at Huo Yuan) knocked down many of my men! In addition, it is better to capture them just in case what the assassin spoke was true.”

    “Of course we resisted!” Xue Qian defended back. “Would you want to be arrested for no reason at all?”

    “If you are innocent, you should not be afraid to be taken in to court!”

    “Silence!” the King frowned. What should he do about these two?

    Lady Yi suddenly leaned in and whispered to the King, “Chancellor Xue is known to have a substantial amount of influence in the Xiwu court. It may not be beneficial to the Pan-Xiwu alliance if we were to jail or execute his son. Plus, it does seem that young master Xue may be telling the truth. Perhaps we should treat him as a guest and invite him to stay in the Palace. This way, we can keep an eye on his every move. If he is associated with the assassins, certainly he will seek to communicate with them sooner or later. If he isn’t associated with the assassins, then we have not made the grave mistake of wrongly accusing Chancellor Xue’s son. What do you think, Your Majesty?”

    The King nodded. Perhaps it was the best solution for the situation at moment. He looked over at the Imperial Guards and spoke, “The Lieutenant has carelessly tried to substitute two scapegoats for your ineptitude for catching the real assassin. Take him down, strip him of his office, and give him fifty whippings.”

    “But…but…Your Majesty! Your Majesty, your servant, I…” The Lieutenant pleaded in desperation as the guards dragged him away.

    The King waved at Xue Qian and Huo Yuan and ordered, “Release them.” The Imperial guards quickly untied the ropes binding their hands and feet.

    “Count Xue, I apologize for my servant’s ineptitude. Why don’t you stay in the Palace for a few days until the assassins are caught so we can avoid future misunderstandings. Come, take a seat and enjoy some desserts.”

    Xue Qian and Huo Yuan looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders at the surprising turn of events. Xue Qian complied with the Kings orders and sat at the table. Huo Yuan stood behind, pretending to be a bodyguard.

    The King then turned to another guard and ordered, “Inform Envoy Zhang Duo Qian of Count Xue’s arrival so he can show him around the Palace.”

    Lady Yi suddenly added in,” Your Majesty, why bother informing Envoy Zhang? He must be busy writing reports to the King for Xiwu for the plans of the upcoming war with Donghai. Lady Yue is also from Xiwu and she knows the Palace much better than Envoy Zhang. Why don’t be let her be the tour guide for the afternoon?”

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    Yue Fei'er blinked at Lady Yi.

    Uhh I'm not really familiar with the palace as well, she wanted to say, but the King was already clapping his hands in agreement.

    "Great idea, my lady!" He nodded his head. Turning to Yue Fei-er, he smiled brightly. "Now my darling, I'm sure you can do a great job of showing Count Xue around the palace."

    He stroked her shoulder lovingly. "Right?"

    Seeing the King was so full of expectations, Yue Fei-er could not and dare not say 'no'.

    "Anything you say, Your Majesty." She replied with a sweet smile.

    "Good!" The King beamed happily as he stroked her chin. Lady Yi felt furious as she watched on.

    // It's MY idea! Now instead of showering attention on me he's giving it to this little vixen?! //

    "Haha, why don't you show him around now? Anyway I have matters to discuss with Prince Ying and young general Yi..."

    "Oh... but I want to keep Your Majesty company longer!" Yue Fei-er said coquettishly.

    The King laughed. "Why should you be concerned about that? You know there's plenty of chances..." He winked at her flirtatiously and she blushed.

    Lady Yi balled her fists below the table. Oh, if only she could give that little vixen a slap across the face! No, make that two slaps!
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