The assistant commissioner was angered by the suggestion. “Our imperial hospital prides itself in loyally carrying out our duty. How could we lose any medicines?”
Cheng Xiong resisted the urge to roll his eyes. These tactful phrases mean nothing. Who knows how much your people have lined your pockets with?
This was common practice among many official departments, and everyone turned a blind eye to it. Either way, he wasn’t here to expose them. He cleared his throat. “You’ve misunderstood me, Lord Ma. The palace was attacked tonight, and many guards were injured. Without a doubt, many assassins were injured as well. Those who did not manage to escape the palace may come here, looking for medicine to treat their wounds. I am investigating the matter from this angle. If you assist me, and if any assassins are discovered who are still in the palace, you would be completely blameless.
“The assassins today were truly vicious, and our palace guards, despite their numbers, were unable to stop them. No blame will fall on you if any medicine is found to have been stolen from the imperial hospital,” he added.
The assistant commissioner sighed. “So that’s what the general meant. Rest assured, General Cheng. Our hospital will fully cooperate with your investigation.”
With that, he instructed several assistants to check their inventory. Cheng Xiong did not volunteer his own men, because every government office has their own secrets. He wasn’t here to investigate the imperial hospital, and he wasn’t about to offend the officials here for no good reason.
It didn’t take long for one of the assistants to return. “There are no medicines missing,” he reported.
Cheng Xiong was taken aback. “You checked everything that quickly?”
Even he was beginning to feel suspicious. The check had been done way too quickly. Was there really a huge deficit inside? He felt an urge to inspect it himself, especially with the pressing mission of capturing the assassins weighing down on him. He was the Left Guard General, after all, and a lot was riding on him, now that something so major had happened within the imperial palace. If he didn’t find out any useful information soon, his future seemed bleak.
The assistant commissioner was quick to explain. “The young master of the Shi clan was wounded today, followed by a large number of injured guards. My staff has been in and out of the storeroom constantly. I would have immediately noticed if something had gone missing.”
Cheng Xiong was relieved. After pondering a moment, he asked, “Who dropped by for medicine during this period? Do you have the records?”
Since the assassins had managed to enter the palace so easily, they must have had inside help. These spies might have helped the assassins acquire the medicine.
“Of course there are records. These are the rules.” The assistant commissioner gestured with his hand, and a thick book appeared. “This is all the medicine that the imperial hospital has issued over these past few days.”
Cheng Xiong flipped through it anxiously, but did not find anything amiss, even after a lengthy examination.
Suddenly, his eyes landed on a record. “Huh? The crown princess requested a Five Aggregate Root?”
“Indeed. The crown princess left with it just before you arrived, General,” replied the assistant commissioner.
Cheng Xiong grunted in acknowledgement. It wasn’t a big deal to him. Anyone could be a suspect, but he dared not suspect the crown princess!
Just then, the assistant commissioner suddenly said, “Something strange happened earlier. Golden-token envoy, Lord Eleven, also asked for the same type of medicine before the crown princess arrived.”
“Lord Eleven?” Cheng Xiong frowned, remembering the person he had seen in the imperial study. “What does this medicine do?”
The assistant commissioner said, “It is extremely effective at nurturing the soul, and can also be used to treat internal injuries. It is a miraculous herb that is hard to come by.”
Cheng Xiong’s expression hardened. He remembered meeting that fellow in the imperial study. Back then, his gait had been steady and his breathing, calm. He didn’t seem wounded at all. What did he need this medicine for?
Something else came to mind as well. Just as he had been about to catch the fleeing female assassin, a mysterious person rushed out to save her. Even though everything had been wreathed in flames, he had been able to glimpse a corner of that person’s clothing.
He hadn’t given it much thought before, but now that he connected the dots, the clothing did resemble the uniform of the Embroidered Envoy!
Suddenly restless, he got up and walked out, calling for his subordinates. “We’re leaving.”
Upon seeing them leave so energetically, the corners of the assistant commissioner’s lips curved upwards. However, when he noticed that other physicians were coming, his expression immediately grew serious again, and he recovered his usual composure.
Meanwhile, after Zu An had bid the crown princess farewell, he returned to his residence. When he opened the door, he discovered that there was no one inside. He immediately panicked. “Big sis?”
Even after searching all day, he found no one. Only her lingering fragrance remained.
For some reason, he felt slightly dejected. He sat down and said gloomily, “She didn’t even leave a message before disappearing. She has no conscience at all!”
“Who are you saying has no conscience?” came a teasing voice from above him.
Zu An looked up in pleasant surprise. A beautiful woman was relaxing on a beam above, her long hair cascading downwards, seemingly comfortable and carefree.
He had to admit that this woman had truly been blessed by the heavens. Every little movement she made was stunning.
“Why are you up there?” Zu An said gloomily. “Why didn’t you reply when I called out to you?”
“The last time you left, just for a short while, you brought Zhuxie Chixin back with you. Who knows who you’ll be bringing back this time? Obviously, I should be hiding.” Yun Jianyue leaped down from the beam, light as a feather. “As for why I didn’t reply, I merely wanted to see your reaction.”
“Then was my reaction satisfactory, Miss Sect Master?” Zu An said with an angry huff.
Yun Jianyue smiled. “My mood improved greatly when I saw your eyes almost brimming with tears.”
Zu An pressed his lips together for a moment.
“Isn’t your ego a little too large? If a puppy or kitten I raised went missing, I would go looking for them too, let alone a person.”
This time, Yun Jianyue’s smile froze. “You’re pretty good with your mouth,” she conceded after a moment.
“Oh? How did you know?” replied Zu An, his eyes widening.
Yun Jianyue subconsciously took a step back. For some reason, his words made her feel rather strange.
“Did you get the medicine?” she asked, changing topics.
“Yup. Five Aggregate Root. However, I don’t want to give it to you anymore.” Zu An took out the jade case and dangled it in front of her, then returned it into his robes.
Yun Jianyue gave him an impatient look. “Has anyone ever told you that you really need a good spanking?”
Zu An snorted. “If you want the Five Aggregate Root, then beg me for it.”
A dangerous glint came to Yun Jianyue’s eyes. Before she could say a word, though, Zu An’s expression flickered.
“What is it?” asked Yun Jianyue, sensing something amiss.
“There’s a large group of troops heading our way,” replied Zu An. “Their leader is… huh? The Left Guard General, Cheng Xiong!”
He’d grown more cautious since the close shave with Zhuxie Chixin last time around. Now, he maintained constant control over the little creatures around him using the jade badge. This way, he would be forewarned of any danger that showed up ahead of time.
“Are you sure they’re coming for us?” Yun Jianyue said. Guards were patrolling the whole palace looking for the assassins, after all, and it was normal for guards to be passing by this area.
Zu An nodded. “They’ve already surrounded the courtyard.”
“Did they discover me? They shouldn’t have been able to.” Yun Jianyue was slightly confused.
“They’re probably here for me,” said Zu An. “Someone must have grown suspicious after I picked up the medicine from the hospital.”
A knock came from outside. “Inspection! Please open the door!”
Zu An cast his mind around for a solution. Pretending to be weakened, he said, “I’m treating my injuries right now. What’s going on?”
“Assassins stormed the palace and alarmed the empress and crown prince,” the guard replied. “For the security of everyone in the palace, we are inspecting every location in the palace. No place is to be left unchecked.”
“What the hell!” retorted Zu An. “Are you blind? This is a golden-token envoy’s residence. Why would an assassin be hiding here? Get lost!”
Yun Jianyue nodded. This fellow wasn’t stupid. He knew how to employ his special status.
The guard’s voice was replaced by Cheng Xiong’s. “Lord Eleven, please excuse our rudeness. His Majesty has ordered this general to locate any surviving assassins. As such, every residence must be inspected. We are not targeting you. Even Chief Commander Zhuxie Chixin has agreed to have his residence searched. I’m afraid I must ask for your cooperation.”
Zu An fell silent. Now that Cheng Xiong had brought this up, what else could he say to stop them? Once they came in, Yun Jianyue would be exposed!Previous Chapter Next Chapter