Chapter 658: Storm Clouds Approach

Zu An smiled and said, “Of course there’s a way to save you all. In reality, your lives don’t mean much in the grander scheme of things. The nobles in the imperial court only care about their struggle with King Qi’s faction, and don’t care much about your lives at all. That’s why there’s still a chance that you can be saved.”

He’d seen how Gu Yueyi had been ready to betray his own people, so he didn’t dare to say that there was no way to save them. If he did, there was no way this kid would cooperate. He might even sell him out instead.

He had no choice but to placate him with this argument. However, he felt guilty about leading Sun Luzhen and Solitary Fire on like this by giving them a false sense of happiness.

Gu Yueyi’s hopes for survival were rekindled, and he was immediately overjoyed. “Young master Zu really is our lucky star! We knew that you were someone extraordinary the moment we first set eyes on you back then in Brightmoon City! Hahaha, this is great!”

He was so excited that it was hard for him to speak clearly.

Zu An rolled his eyes. He definitely didn’t remember this guy being all that friendly with him back in Brightmoon City. In fact, this kid had been about to kill him.

“Thank you, young master Zu, for remaining loyal and helping us,” said Sun Luzhen. “I don’t know how to repay this kindness.”

Solitary Fire chimed in as well. “I offended you previously, on your way to the capital. Young master Zu, please disregard the offenses of a petty person like me. This one will be eternally grateful!”

The desire for survival was instinctive. For them, the best outcome was obviously one in which they did not need to die.

“You are all too polite. Forgive me for not being able to treat your injuries. These guards may become suspicious.” Zu An was apologetic. He felt awful that he couldn’t save them, but the reality was that he had no power over the matter at all.

They all laughed. “These small injuries mean nothing.” What men feared the most was a lack of hope. Now that they knew that there was a chance of being saved, their injuries were no big deal.

After discussing the details with them, Zu An left them and went to inform Guo Zhi.

Guo Zhi was shocked when he obtained their confession. He had merely allowed Zu An to give it a try. He never expected this fellow to actually pry open their mouths.

Even more incredible was that they actually confessed to their relationship with Cheng Xiong.

His expression became extremely complicated. “Lord Zu, is this really what they said?”

Zu An smiled. “Is that really important?”

Guo Zhi snapped out of his daze. Right, that isn’t important at all.

The crown prince’s faction was trying to find a way to deal with King Qi, and he had roughly discerned the emperor’s intentions as well. Cheng Xiong had to meet his demise. With this confession, one of his major difficulties would be resolved, which was great news.

This thought lifted his spirits immensely “Thank you, Lord Zu! I’m sure you’ll be recognized as a top-notch official once this matter is settled.”

“All this was the result of your investigations, Lord Guo. It has nothing to do with me,” said Zu An with a meaningful smile.

Guo Zhi was momentarily stunned, but he quickly realized what was going on. The other party doesn’t want to take the credit and  Instead, he wants to give me all the recognition?

When he thought about it, though, it seemed to make a whole lot of sense. Zu An was still relatively new to the imperial court, so offending King Qi’s faction so terribly was probably not a good thing.

However, he was in a completely different situation. Given his status, he could easily shoulder the recognition—and the responsibility—without having to worry about King Qi’s retaliation at all.

He was overjoyed by the sudden turn of events. “Brother Zu, you’ve presented me with such a great gift! If there is anything I can do to help you out, brother, don’t be afraid to ask!”

Of course, he still had to interrogate the prisoners himself once more to make sure, but his words were still sincere.

Zu An sneered inside. You were calling me ‘My Lord’ a moment ago, yet now we’re suddenly brothers.

He still went along, though, calling him brother as well. “You’re too kind, Brother Guo. I hope that, as a brother, you’ll be able to take care of me within the imperial court in the future.” 

Even though such fair-weather friends weren’t reliable in a true crisis, they were still useful in small matters, especially when their interests aligned. That was good enough for him.

The two of them chatted amiably on the way out. Piao Duandiao and Jiao Sigun were completely taken aback by the closeness of their relationship.

On the way back, Piao Duandiao couldn’t help but ask, “Lord Zu, were you acquainted with Lord Guo beforehand?”

Zu An shook his head. “Not at all.”

“Then why did he sound so enthusiastic while talking to you?” Jiao Sigun asked curiously.

Zu An laughed. “What can I say? I’m a naturally friendly guy. Didn’t you two feel a sense of familiarity when you first met me as well?”

“Of course, of course,” replied Piao Duandiao with an apologetic laugh. In such a situation, only an idiot would deny it.

Jiao Sigun grunted in agreement as well. He wasn’t putting on a front. In fact, he really did feel mysteriously close to this fellow. It truly seemed bizarre. There was no way they’d met before, so why did he feel so familiar?

If even the crown princess deemed him such an important person so quickly, it’s completely natural for us to feel close to him.

They returned to the eastern palace, and Zu An quickly reported the outcome to the crown princess. The crown princess was amazed, and quickly summoned her trusted aides to plan their subsequent moves.

While Zu An leisurely waited for the drama to begin, he returned to Yun Jianyue to inform her about the latest developments.

When she heard that Sun Luzhen and the others had been tortured almost to the point of losing their humanity, Yun Jianyue inhaled sharply. “I was the one who brought them harm.”

A sudden urge to storm the prison and free them came over her, but she quickly pushed it aside.

The emperor had already returned to the palace, and she hadn’t fully recovered yet. Charging into the imperial prison was completely meaningless.

“That disciple of yours was about to spill everything,” added Zu An.

He then told her about how he had just happened to walk in when Gu Yueyi was about to betray her.

“Even though I tricked him by saying that they can be saved, he won’t be fooled for long,” he said, “He’ll be a problem sooner or later.”

Yun Jianyue’s expression grew cold. “Then kill him, so that he can never speak.”

Zu An froze. This is your own disciple, for crying out loud! You’re going to kill him just like that?

He looked at the long-haired woman in front of him, and realized that this was the legendary Devil Sect Master, a cold-blooded killer.

The next morning, when the imperial court convened, the crown prince’s officials quickly brought up Cheng Gang’s case. Naturally, Cheng Xiong was involved as well. King Qi’s men insisted on defending Cheng Xiong, to the point where they were willing to abandon Cheng Gang.

Usually, both sides would argue meaninglessly for a while, before leaving the matter unresolved.

However, the crown prince’s faction suddenly brought out damning evidence—the confessions of the captured assassins. They revealed how the assassins had used the government brothel as a meeting place, as well as the lines of communication between their group and the father-son duo of the Cheng clan. All the details were laid out extremely clearly.

King Qi’s faction refuted one claim after another, but they grew more and more powerless as time went on.

All of them knew full well that the assassins had been caught first, well before the incident involving Cheng Gang. Unless the Right Guard General Guo Zhi had leaked this information to them, there was no way the assassins’ confessions would match up that well.

Everyone knew that Guo Zhi served directly under the emperor. If they cast doubt on him, weren’t they implying that His Majesty himself had framed Cheng Xiong?

Who would do something that foolish?

This was leaving aside the fact that the assassins were already dead men. Why would any of them listen to Guo Zhi?

This explained why King Qi’s faction finally backed down. Several big shots within the faction exchanged meaningful glances. Since Cheng Xiong couldn’t be saved, they had to settle for the next best thing, which was to sever his relationship with King Qi, so that he couldn’t drag him down any further.

It was clear that the emperor wasn’t planning to use this as a means to attack King Qi directly, and so the court quickly reached a decision.

Cheng Xiong and his son had colluded with the assassins in their attack on the empress and crown prince. The punishment was to have their clans executed, up to the ninth generation.

Fortunately, aside from the father and son, the Cheng clan wasn’t that large. 

As for those who were related to them, those who were to be executed were executed, and those that were to be sent to the border to fight were exiled.

As Zu An and Yun Jianyue chatted over a pot of tea, Yun Jianyue looked at him and said lightly, “What? You can’t bear to see this result?”

“I do feel a bit uncomfortable.” Zu An fell silent. As someone from a civilized world, killing off an entire clan so easily was still difficult for him to accept.

Yun Jianyue poured him a cup of tea. “That’s how the world is. It’s a dog-eat-dog world. If Cheng Xiong had succeeded in framing you earlier, you and your clan would be the ones to be eradicated.”

Zu An laughed bitterly. “In a way, though, he wasn’t really framing me. I was indeed ‘colluding’ with you guys.”

Yun Jianyue looked at him in surprise. “You have a strange way of thinking. Cheng Xiong didn’t come after you because he actually knew about your connection to us. It was only because he needed a scapegoat. Even if you were innocent, he would have still chosen you. In the end, both of you were just chess pieces in the battle between the emperor and King Qi. You’re the one in control of whether you live or die. You should figure out how to keep yourself alive on this chessboard, and not worry about the deaths of the other chess pieces.”

Zu An’s expression changed. “That’s something to think about. Thank you.”

Yun Jianyue smiled. “Heh. You only know how to show me respect in these moments.”

Zu An chuckled and was about to reply, when he suddenly heard Eunuch Wen’s voice.

“Lord Eleven, His Majesty has summoned you to the imperial study.”

Zu An and Yun Jianyue exchanged looks, then he ran out to the entrance.

Along the way, he asked, “Eunuch Wen, why did His Majesty suddenly summon me?”

Eunuch Wen’s expression remained unchanged. “This humble one does not know.”

Zu An was upset by the eunuch’s apparent coldness. This guy had taken a bribe really quickly the last time, yet he was ready to turn his back once things took a turn for the worse.

However, a thought suddenly struck him. Wasn’t the other party’s attitude a warning in itself?

Sure enough, Eunuch Wen, who was walking in front, moved his lips slightly. “His Majesty seems to be in quite a foul mood today. Be careful, Lord Eleven.”

Previous Chapter Next Chapter