Chapter 167: Dog Eat Dog
“Both the assassins and the poisoner were very cunning. I’m still investigating.”
After hearing that the inquiry was still on going, the emperor gave a bob of his head and said with a grave look on his face, “I myself have also ordered the Dali Temple (the Supreme Judicial Court in feudal China) and the Ministry of Penalties to hold a thorough investigation into the two palace guards’ attempted assassination targeted at Ling Zhang. If you have any clues, feel free to tell me. Rest assured, I promise I’ll bring those responsible for this to justice.”
Back then when news of these incidents reached the ears of the emperor, he had almost jumped from horror, since at that time Yuwen Tong was still in Tanyang and could have mistakenly believed that he was the mastermind and decided to stage an armed revolt! Had Yuwen Tong really done that, he definitely wouldn’t have managed to stop him! If it weren’t for the fact that he continued to read the letter and found out that the target of the two assassins was Ling Zhang, he would probably have ordered enforcement of martial law in areas along their way to the capital city.
However, even though Yuwen Tong had not been the target, the severity of this incident was still uncertain. It depended on how much Ling Zhang meant to Yuwen Tong. What had just happened at the city gate seemed to have suggested that Yuwen Tong cared about Ling Zhang very much. However, he had not taken Ling Zhang to meet his family immediately after entering the city. Instead, he had let Ling Zhang go to another place alone. These facts confused the emperor.
As a result, the emperor had taken this so seriously because, firstly, he wanted to state his stand, and secondly, he wanted to sound out Yuwen Tong’s attitude.
“I’m much obliged to you, Your Majesty. Currently, I have not yet confirmed the authenticity of the clues, so I’m afraid Your Majesty will have to give me some more time.”
‘Haven’t confirmed the authenticity of the clues? Exactly what did he find out?’ the emperor wondered in uncertainty.
The King Duan’s attitude towards this issue was much more relaxed. He interposed, “If there’s anything you need my help with, all you have to do is ask, Marshal.”
Yuwen Tong expressed his gratitude to the King Duan, making no further remarks.
“In that case, I think I’ll just wait for the results of your investigation, Aiqing (a term of endearment used by an emperor or an empress to address an official in feudal China),” observed the emperor. “It’s been a long and weary journey and you must be tired. I’ll let you be rid of my nagging voice and have the King Duan see you out of my palace.”
“I take my leave, Your Majesty.”
The emperor’s eyes followed Yuwen Tong and the King Duan until they walked out of the hall. With that, his face instantly darkened. Where Yuwen Tong was concerned, he always had mixed feelings, but distrust and fear definitely accounted for a dominant proportion. No matter how respectful Yuwen Tong seemed, he could never let his guard down and trust him without misgivings.
The reason why the Wan Kingdom had so willingly come to the Great Yue to sue for peace had been that it had suffered several defeats in a row these years, and that people of the Wan Kingdom were having trouble providing enough resources required to proceed with the war. Since the Wan Kingdom had already shown signs of decline, normally, the emperor of an neighboring country, if he was ambitious, would take advantage of the opportunity to invade the Wan Kingdom, expand his domain and even annexed the Wan Kingdom. However, what worried the emperor of the Great Yue was that Yuwen Tong might refuse to obey his orders after entering the Wan Kingdom. The Wan Kingdom covered a good deal of territory, and if by any chance Yuwen Tong grew a desire to become a king himself, betrayed him and launched an attack on the Great Yue, he would undoubtedly be powerless to fight back!
As a result, after the Great Yue overwhelmingly triumphed the Wan Kingdom during this battle, the emperor had, bursting with impatience, ordered Yuwen Tong to return to the capital city for fear that Yuwen Tong might get out of control, but unexpectedly, Yuwen Tong had changed his route halfway, gone to Tanyang and stayed there for half a month. What had angered him even more had been that Zhang Chong had attempted to stage an armed uprising. Had Yuwen Tong not gone to Tanyang, some day Zhang Chong might lead his rebellious forces to the capital city before he knew it.
Apart from everything else, the Concubine Shu and the Sixth Prince had been put under house arrest, and the fraction headed by them had also just been uprooted, so the emperor had been in a terrible fix lately as well.
“Tell Zhang Xi and Zhao Pingchuan to come in.”
Zhang Xi and Zhao Pingchuan had hurriedly come to the imperial palace after returning to the capital city and were waiting outside at this moment.
“Your loyal servant is honored to kneel before you, Your Majesty!”
The emperor’s cold eyes appraised the two of them back and forth. After quite a while, he queried, “Is it true that the two assassins are dead?”
“Your Majesty, one of them bit through a wax ball with poison inside and killed himself. The other one also committed suicide by biting off his own tongue. I examined their bodies and confirmed their deaths myself,” Zhao Pingchuan hastily answered.
“Did any of them confess anything?”
“The one who poisoned himself died an instant death on the spot. Yuwen Tong’s men didn’t have the chance to challenge him. The other one was interrogated but didn’t say anything, as if having some kind of grave misgivings about confessing. Maybe somebody had something on him.”
The emperor lapsed into silence. Uncertain about what the emperor’s intention was, both Zhao Pingchuan and Zhang Xi were afraid to raise their heads to look at the emperor’s face.
“Zhao Pingchuan, were you really unaware of it?”
Zhao Pingchuan was taken aback and hurriedly replied, “I swear on my life they did it without my knowledge, Your Majesty. Both of them had served in the Palace Guards for many years and had been nothing but loyal and honest. It had never crossed my mind that they would suddenly attempt to assassinate Ling Zhang. Had I had any prior knowledge of their plan, I would no doubt have had them executed before they could take action.”