Evil Spirits. Beacon Fired.
After entering the estate, Shen Yiren apologised to the owner first and foremost. For the most part, civilians didn’t like being affiliated with government officials, especially those in the military. Shen Yiren was cognizant of the fact, which was why she never considered asking civilians for shelter.
Liu Shan Men was established to work for the people. The highest standard they had to uphold was, “Protect the nation. Not the monarch.” In other words, if the nation was ever in peril, they were to sacrifice the monarch for the nation’s sake. Liu Shan Men’s reputation was always decent among the people. For the reason that, unlike the Qilin Guards who lodged at residential homes, they never disturbed the people’s peace unless absolutely necessary.
The owner of the estate was a wealthy owner in Huzhou and was acquainted with government officials. As such, it wasn’t the first time he opened his doors to government officials. Shen Yiren and Song Ou needed to hide their identities. Nevertheless, the deputy general’s presence was a great honour the owner could brag about. He couldn’t give the female general, who kept apologising to him, grief, either.
Shen Yiren demanded more out of herself than others demanded of her. She wasn’t comfortable with taking shelter there, so she had the soldiers chop firewood, fetch water, fix the roof and so forth to repay the owner.
The estate wasn’t a stately estate. Though it was located in a rather remote location, it was spacious enough for the escort of three hundred people to lodge at without disrupting the daily life of others.
Shen Yiren: “I’m going to wash, change and turn in. Don’t disturb me if there’s nothing important.”
Song Ou: “But the owner said he wanted to treat us, so…”
Shen Yiren shot Song Ou admonishing glare: “Treat us? Didn’t I make it clear we wouldn’t accept a single grain of food from him and would strictly stay for just the night? Treat us to what?”
“He said he wanted to provide the three of us with cordial hospitality. It’s hard to turn him down.”
The three individuals Song Ou referred to were Shen Yiren, himself and the deputy general. Shen Yiren didn’t state her rank, so people might’ve assumed she was ranked higher than the deputy general.
Shen Yiren stopped to think for a moment then explicated, “Tell the others not to use any of the owner’s resources. If they’re hungry, eat the rations we brought along. If they’re thirsty, drink the water they fetched themselves. This isn’t just about being a decent guest; this is also taking our safety into account. Don’t forget we’re still marching. That said, it would be inappropriate to turn down the owner’s offer. I have to go through documents, so you two go… And don’t drink.”
Song Ou was livid his fiancée wouldn’t let him run things for once or even attend a dinner with him, so off he went in a cranky mood.
Shen Yiren went to have her bath. Since the weather was stuffy and warm, her wet hair stuck to her forehead, and she was sweating profusely. Consequently, her clothes would cling to her body whenever she moved; it was uncomfortable to say the least. As the descendant of an exalted clan, she was used to being clean and living in comfort. Being able to maintain her demeanour as a leader and keep her priorities in line demonstrated she was a patient character.
Shen Yiren removed her dirty clothing. She folded them at the clothes rack before she went to wash herself. She kept her sword on her at all times, since they were at a civilian home they’d never been to before. She spent less than ten minutes in the bath before getting out and changing into clean clothes. Her new clothes were light blue. The arms were tapered. She slipped on light boots and pants that allowed ease of movement; everything she wore was to accommodate mobility. She tied up her long hair behind her.
Shen Yiren had a brief respite before asking for someone to send her the documents she needed to go through. She wrote a report of what happened over the last few days in an accordion. Then, she grabbed Liu Shan Men’s documents to read.
The past few years, Shen Yiren made the final call on all decisions at Liu Shan Men as its vice-captain. She gradually loosened her clutch on the reins more recently, only asking about important matters since Liu Shan Men was beginning to rise again.
With Shen Yiren away on business, Ming Feizhen was the only one in power at Liu Shan Men’s branch in the capital. The Emperor paid particular attention to him and his two colleagues. Meanwhile, she had no idea when the Emperor’s Entourage or the Qilin Guards would attack them again, keeping her on edge. While away on her mission, she secretly sent pigeons on delivery missions to stay in contact with Liu Shan Men because she wanted to keep a pulse on the situation there. Fortunately, nothing happened.
Shen Yiren leanred the Emperor assigned Ming Feizhen and his two colleagues to different offices and had them enrolled as students of various secretaries. That implied… he wanted to make an exception to promote them. She, therefore, worried about what sort of challenges awaited them. As she thought about how to support them, her eyebrows gradually came together without her realising. Usually, Ming Feizhen would come over with a pot of tea, giggling and shamelessly trying to sneak peeks at what she was working on at that hour.
“Boss, what are you working on when we’re off work? You must be hiding something you don’t want to share with me,” Ming Feizhen would say, pulling out a seat to sit down and behaving completely unlike her subordinate.
Imagining Ming Feizhen’s mischievous grin helped Shen Yiren relax. She grew used to discussing work in her study, so she instinctively muttered, “His Majesty… must have a big job for you if he’s promoting you. The Seven Champion Princes’ status is unshakable. However, since Jin Wangsun’s fiasco, their foundations have begun to shake. His Majesty must want to capitalise on the opportunity. Your task is likely to be related to the Seven Champion White Princes.”
Shen Yiren imagined Ming Feizhen lazily replying, “We’re not even qualified to carry the Seven Champion White Princes’ shoes! You must keep it together, Boss. You’re Liu Shan Men’s only hope!”
Ming Feizhen would sound as if he was panicking a little, but his attitude would calm her down.
“You three aren’t good enough yet for His Majesty to send you to your deaths. Liu Shan Men must be assigned a special role… What do you think it is?”
“Whatever Liu Shan Men is good at, I guess. In terms of might, the Qilin Guards’ combat prowess surpasses our own. In terms of intelligence gathering, The Emperor’s Entourage is miles ahead of us. If Liu Shan Men is good at anything it’s probably the ‘for the people’ motto.”
Yes, Ming Feizhen gave his answer with that irritable attitude. He mentioned Liu Shan Men’s motto as if he was selling stinky tofu. However, the motto lit up a bulb for Shen Yiren: “The Qilin Guards maintain peace in the martial world. The Emperor’s Entourage is responsible for internal politics, so they must remain in the shadows. We’re the only group that can boldly collect evidence openly to strip the Seven Champion White Princes of their power. His Majesty must be planning to try and find a breakthrough via this route. I’m guessing he wants us to find evidence to evict the Seven Champion White Princes.”
Shen Yiren then said, “I’m sure that’s it. Feizhen, bring me a brush.”
Shen Yiren stretched her hand out with the corner of her lip tugged up, but no brush every came. She glanced up to see the study was empty. It finally occurred to her she was so deep in her thoughts that she lost awareness of her surroundings. The mischievous Ming Feizhen wasn’t there. She smiled helplessly to herself and shook her head. It had only been months since they were acquainted. It had only been two weeks since she set out, yet she was already not used to having Ming Feizhen by her side when she was working.
Shen Yiren picked up her brush and prepared to write when, all of a sudden, she smelt a faint spicy scent. The scent closely resembled chilli to the point it could easily slip under the radar. Thanks to Yan Shisan’s training, however, Shen Yiren was able to distinguish scents better than the average person. If she could further improve her internal skills, she would be able to push the envelope on her smelling sense even further beyond.
The scent raised suspicion. The scent… wasn’t an aphrodisiac or poison. It was a signal. A certain group dwelling at the outskirts of Beijiang liked to use it as a contact signal.
Shen Yiren deliberated, “Beijiang’s Evil Spirits’ Evil Spirits signal?”
*Light Boots – They’re different to the also commonly worn boots that go up to the shin. Light boots is a term I made up for them since there isn’t one. Translated literally, they’re called “quick boots”. https://item.taobao.com/item.htm?spm=a21wu.10013406.0.0.7b1995004YqDjD&id=20625256779