Dragon Phoenix Inn. Master of Mind Games.
“It sounds like everything is Ming Feizhen’s fault. He is the one who suggested the five-round tournament on the thirteenth of this month for an invitation?” Emperor Yuansheng asked from in front of his desk, legs crossed.
Also in the same room with the windows shut in broad daylight, Long Zaitian replied, “Yes. Ming Feizhen is abusing his rights as a strateg-”
Emperor Yuansheng flashed a hand that was only visible thanks to the candles: “You’ve repeated that no less than ten times already. I get the point.”
Concierge Long was busy day in and day out, hour after hour since Ming Feizhen left. Hence, Long Zaitian reported Ming Feizhen behind Tang Ye and Su Xiao’s backs for everything he could when Ming Feizhen was out. Never had Long Zaitian been so earnest about checking up on His Majesty. Just because it wasn’t windy today and the sun was out, it didn’t stop Long Zaitian reporting Ming Feizhen, either. His Majesty didn’t comment previous days, so Long Zaitian was on cloud nine when the former stopped him, believing His Majesty was finally going to mete out punishment to Ming Feizhen.
“It’s not Ming Feizhen’s problem. Don’t bring it up with me again.”
“Wh-wh-what do you mean it is not his problem? Your Majesty, you are the wise descendent of the heavens. You must not listen to the lies of someone condemnable.”
Emperor Yuansheng silently studied the report on his table for a brief moment then inquired, “Dugu, what’s your opinion?”
Dugu bowed: “Although it was rash, it does resolve the problem for the meantime.”
“Exactly.” Emperor Yuansheng placed the report down then turned back to Long Zaitian: “While the suggestion appears rash, it isn’t. According to your recounts, I understand what happened. Tang Ye was outclassed. We were new in town, so we didn’t know the status quo. How can we expect to get around Yi Wangyou without a bluff – not to mention he has Luo Sword Manor backing him? Nobody can challenge Luo Sword Manor’s authority in Huzhou. You ever hear of an Emperor bowing to someone beneath him? Even if all of our men fought him together, we’d suffer heavy losses. How many others in the town have eyes on us? Can we afford to lose a chunk of our combatants?”
“But, but he only delayed the problem; he did not provide a solution. Your Majesty, your subject can understand him dissuading Yi Wangyou from continuing, but time is ticking, yet we still do not even have five contestants. Our loss will be inevitable if we do not come up with something.”
Dugu impugned, “You are speaking to soon, Vice-Captain Long. If we identify ourselves, the dispute will resolve itself when imperial troops arrive.”
Emperor Yuansheng listened to the debate for a while then interjected, “That is reason I believe Ming Feizhen did the right thing. You two earnestly think of how to make things conducive for me, yet none of you understand what I am thinking.”
Long Zaitian and Dugu looked at each other while Emperor Yuansheng pinched his forehead, eyes on the reports.
“The new report states that Luo Sword Manor has a problem on their hands.”
Emperor Yuansheng’s agents still monitored Luo Sword Manor even when he was in a coma. Although Tie Hanyi, Dugu and Ye Luo were also members of his entourage, they were not permitted to view reports from fellow agents without permission.
“Luo Yan publicly turned on Luo Siming at Repository Island; the smithing department now controls the island. The outside world has yet to find out. I speculate Luo Siming is still in Canhu Town and is unaware his uncle has taken over.
“I sleep for just a few days, and even one of the White Princes has made such a radical move. Are the eras about to change hands? The Seven Champion White Princes have behaved for ages; however, trouble in paradise is becoming the norm recently. If Luo Siming wants to take back the island by force, he needs to march the military in Huzhou against the blacksmiths supplying my kingdom with arms. They must think national safety is a game.”
Emperor Yuansheng then scribbled some text onto a report and tossed it to Tie Hanyi: “We will monitor what Luo Clan does for now. If they disrupt our military, deploy Qilin Guards to squash their fighting. Luo Clan owes us an order in February. Nanjiang’s movements have drawn my attention, so we cannot afford to receive our equipment late. If anyone from the smithing department objects, send Yi Ya to Huzhou, and they will get into place on their own accord.”
If Emperor’s Entourage were the eyes and ears of the imperial court, then Qilin Guards were their blades.
“Just because His Majesty doesn’t want to move on them, doesn’t mean he lacks the power to do so. It’s just that the Seven Champion White Princes are conniving,” was a claim made solely as an intimidation tactic for it was hard to tell if Qilin Guards could be depended on.
Emperor Yuansheng passed on missions to Tie Hanyi and Ye Luo then resumed going through reports until noon, when he looked up and asked, “What’s the problem? Do you not understand?”
Long Zaitian, who refused to move since morning, genuflected: “Your subject was merely wondering what you mean when you say, ‘Your thoughts’, using the formal form for ‘your’.”
“… Green Prince His Highness is involved with the anarchy in Huzhou?!”
Emperor Yuansheng inhaled slowly and exhaled heavily. “As much as I’d like to hope not, I have received a report informing me that he has left his territory for a long time.”
“That is not causation to suggest His Highness is involved, though. Knowing his carefree character, he could be jaunting. That is not harmful.”
Emperor Yuansheng exhaled through his nose.
Nobody here would know Yi Wangyou better than I did. I offered enormous monetary benefits and pulled the friendship card with many big names in the pugilistic world to hire him for Lyu’er. If Yi Wangyou is here, I don’t need to think to find out where Lyu’er is. I’m still amazed Mount Daluo was able to raise a disciple terrible at fighting, yet is sharp enough to potentially cut himself. He really resembles his shifu from the tone he speaks with to his enigmatic nature; it’s like watching a walking treasure trove slowly reveal its gems.
It’s been thirty years in the blink of an eye, yet I feel as though I’m still speaking to the deity grinning at me while I assiduously read in the imperial guardian. I didn’t get to speak much to him, yet I can’t forget how enigmatic he was, the affable smile he wore and the posture of a man who would bear the burden of carrying the world on his shoulders despite looking a little asinine. Ming Feizhen also looks as collected as he did, unwavering and unfettered no matter what is thrown their way. I wonder what brought these sentiments on…
Emperor Yuansheng shook his thoughts out of his mind.
Emperor Yuansheng didn’t want to disclose what he perceived of Green Prince’s presence in Jiangnan meant. To speak more accurately, they, even his own entourage, had the rights to discuss the imperial family’s affairs, which included “The Six Dragons Shall Seal the Nation” prophecy.
Emperor Yuansheng elucidated, “The magnitude of this matter leaves me with no choice but to consider the worst. Since Lyu’er has been Luo Ming’s adopted son for so many years, I’m worried as to whether or not Lyu’er has anything to do with Luo Sword Manor’s circumstances. I need all of you to keep a lid on it and not tell the local government office. Do not contact our military even if they march here. These instructions are intended to not alarm the enemy.”
Ye Luo voiced, “Ah, I thought you did not want Abels to know our whereab-”
“Abels? A monarch of a nation would fear a wandering bandit? Evil Spirits would think twice before acting in the imperial court’s presence, let alone in Luo Clan’s presence. Unless I terminate my ancestor’s promise to not march military forces into the Seven Champion White Princes’ territories, it won’t make any difference whether I contact them or not. If Lyu’er is here… the two of us can catch up for the first time in a while.”
Everyone listening in could comprehend the “catch up” wasn’t necessarily any better than a torture session. In the best case scenario, it would be dozens of canes.
Emperor Yuansheng added, “As for the tournament, there is still hope. Didn’t you say you’d ask for Wutong Jin Yuxuan’s help in the worst case scenario?”
Long Zaitian answered, “Unfortunately, Ming Feizhen, who is in charge of imploring them to help, is missing in action out of the blue.”
“He’s not missing in action out of the blue; he’s searching for Yiren, which is equally important. We should be doing what we can to help him. As Ye Luo and Hanyi will be busy, I’ll leave it in your hands to request their aid, Vice-Captain Long.”
“W-wait, why do I have to deal with a mess he started?”
“Didn’t you say they’re on good terms with Constable Ming? I’ll pen a letter requesting their aid, informing them Constable Ming requested their intervention. If that doesn’t work, then we can look into alternatives.” Emperor Yuansheng then wrote a letter as he said he would and left.
“Why me?” Long Zaitian grumbled by himself in the room. “Wait. Someone get me Gui Laimeng!”