In Hall of Taihe, a group of courtiers were gathered, their heads down and posture humble.
Yuanchen Emperor has just vented his anger.
The former provincial governor of Qingzhou, Guo Jian Ping, was removed from the office and being interrogated.
The regional commander Song Yu was suspended from his duties and handed to the Ministry of Justice for investigation.
The rest has been taken into custody, still waiting for the trial.
He then ordered Ministry of Personnel to appoint new provincial governor candidates in three days.
Yuancheng emperor was always swift and decisive, this time was no exception.
After courtiers retreated, Yuancheng emperor cast a casual glance at princes.
He saw his eldest son, Zhong Zheng Chun, get on seemingly well with the crown prince, both showing love and respect for each other as two good brothers.
The sixth prince Zhong Zheng Lin was coldly nodding to courtiers’ compliments, a slight impatience could be seen on his face.
On the other side, fifth prince Zhong Zheng Ming had a warm smile, showing quite a refinement when interacting with courtiers.
Yuenchen emperor had then observed his sons.
Afterward, he went to imperial study with chief eunuch Chang De following him, his expression unreadable.
The changes in the imperial court, indeed caught everyone unprepared.
It was boiling in the private.
All the eyes were fixed on the vacant yet lucrative post of provincial governor, contemplating on how to place on that position their own people.
Zhong Zheng Lin, on contrary, appeared to be unaffected as usual, his demeanor aloof.
He clearly didn’t want to be dragged into this matter.
Those who didn’t know would think that Qingzhou case had nothing to do with him.
However, the truth was that long before the crown prince, his sixth highness already had plans with Qingzhou.
But he left no evidence behind and had pushed the boat with the current.
His arrangements had been properly set up in advance.
The princes were bound to go up against each other, both in public and in private.
Their supporters will frequently relocate.
In this contest, Zhong Zheng Lin’s people were going to be pushed up by them personally.
The post of provincial governor was not far from his reach.
This matter was confidential.
Even such a trusted aide as Wei Zhen didn’t know.
It can be seen that Zhong Zheng Lin’s hidden forces should not be underestimated.
Although the crown prince was Zhong Zheng Lin’s senior, it was a pity that he rejoiced in grandiose deeds, was impatient and interested only in immediate benefits.
He was created as an heir apparent in early age, thus he always acted bossy and arrogant toward his brothers and considered himself to be superior.
He took many things for granted and committed countless of misconducts by using Yuancheng emperor’s favor.
Regarding Zhongzheng Lin, crown prince’s sixth brother, on one side he was trying to win him over, but on the other side, he was keeping a guard against him.
Inwardly, he felt contempt for his sixth brother since he considered him as someone dull and cold-blooded.
However, this didn’t mean that he didn’t see him as a threat.
Princes that have grown up inside the imperial palace will never be simple.
Therefore, he had to keep a guard against everyone.
Not taking into account his sixth brother Zhong Zheng Lin’s usual attitude, even if it was a pretense, so what He was still weak in his roots.
Before establishing his prince’s residence, he stood a little chance to win the fight.
The biggest thorn at the moment was the first prince, Zhong Zheng Chun! Noble consort Li’s natal family was a long-established and prominent clan.
Zhong Zheng Chun’s maternal grandfather was duke of Anguo and maternal uncle occupied the position of imperial guards’ commander.
His backup was indeed strong.
By making the use of Qingzhou governor’s case, they gave Zhong Zheng Chun a slap.
This slap could be counted only as an interest.
There was more awaiting him!
In Qingzhou, Mu Xi Yao also didn’t idle around.
Although she was just a womenfolk and had limited ways of gathering information, yet, there were many instances when she could hear a word or two from sir Mu’s and lady Yu’s conversation before the evening meal.
Today she heard sir Mu informing lady Yu that in coming few days he won’t be to attend dinner at home as the fifth prince will shortly arrive to Jinzhou, running some errands.
Since Qingzhou is nearby, he will stop there for two days.
When the two words ‘fifth prince’ came out, one person’s name suddenly jumped into Mu Xi Yao’s mind: Di Wu Yi Zhao!!
Di Wu Yi Zhao was a person of great talent! Thoughtful and farseeing, his wisdom was almost on par with that of a devil.
Only the best of the best strategists could compete with him! He was taught by his era’s most acclaimed scholar, Mu Yuan Zhen.
Di Wu Yi Zhao had ambitions, yet he wasn’t interested in taking imperial examinations.
Furthermore, he possessed a quite strong persona as he patiently waited for a wise master.
Besides being renowned for his intelligence, Di Wu Yi Zhao was also a well-known doting husband.
Even though his wife had a hard time bearing a child, as she had fallen victim to intrigues during her maiden times, and had born him only one daughter, he didn’t mind at all.
He even went as far as to disobey his mother’s order, vowing never to take concubines.
To avoid his wife being blamed by his mother he along with his wife and their daughter lived all year round outside.
He had only one wife and one daughter in his lifetime.
In the previous life, Di Wu Yi Zhao’s wife and daughter had an unpleasant encounter with a rake on the outskirts of Qingzhou’s Fahua temple.
By chance, Zhong Zheng Ming has passed by and helped them.
On the evening of that very day, Di Wu Yi Zhao sent him a visiting card, to personally express his thanks.
The two had a chat that went on till very late at night.
Henceforth, they became acquainted with each other.
Later, as Zhong Zheng Ming returned to the capital, he wrote him repeatedly letters expressing the admiration for his talent and the wish to appoint him as his advisor.
Di Wu Yi Zhao deemed Zhong Zheng Ming to be honest, humble and benevolent.
Zhong Zheng Ming treated men of talent with respect and also had his own view on politics.
Although he had the qualities to become a sage-ruler, he had only the potential to be a wise sovereign.
Moreover, Di Wu Yi Zhao was grateful to him for aiding his wife and daughter, thus he had voluntarily enlisted in his services.
With his assistance, Zhong Zheng Ming reaped many benefits during the subsequent succession disputes as Di Wu Yi Zhao secretly used eight prince’s hand to inflict serious damage on crown prince’s faction in one swoop and then framed it to the first prince, accusing him of conspiring machinations.
This made Yuancheng emperor infuriated.
He stripped the first prince’s title of prince of An and put him under the house arrest for the rest of his life.
As seen, Di Wu Yi Zhao had a great contribution in such a big development.
Unexpectedly, there was a vile person in the fifth prince’s residence who was upset that Di Wu Yi Zhao was overly honored.
Afraid that he will snatch his benefits, he plotted to have people provoke fifth prince’s shu daughter into estranging Di Wu Yi Zhao’s wife and daughter at a banquet hosted in the estate.
The shu daughter, along with the invited noblewomen from the capital, denigrated and mocked the two.
They also indicated that Di Wu Yi Zhao’s wife was a person of no virtues as she monopolized her husband.
As much as they tried, the pair of mother-daughter weren’t able to avoid the coming quarrel.
With the secret provocation of people with ulterior motives, the fifth prince’s shu daughter accidentally pushed Di Wu Yi Zhao’s little daughter into the lotus pond.
The latter afterward fell seriously ill.
Di Wu Yi Zhao was a very protective person.
His beloved wife and little daughter were off limits! How could someone as smart as him not see through the intrigue Yet, as he was unwilling to let both his wife and daughter suffer any grievances because of this, he devised a plan to leave unscathed for good together with his family and never come back.
Mu Xi Yao suspected that sixth prince Zhong Zheng Lin had a hand in it.
Since she has recalled about this incident, she ought not to miss this opportunity.
When she carefully calculated the time, it was exactly this month.
Di Wu Yi Zhao and his family were coming to Qingzhou to visit a friend.
On the sixteenth, his wife and daughter will go to Fahua temple located on the outskirt of the city to offer an incense and pray.
As Mu Xi Yao entered Yishui pavilion, she instructed Hui Lan to summon one person.
A half joss stick time later, a tall young man walked inside with a quick pace.
He stopped before Mu Xi Yao to give her a respectful bow.
This person owned a pair of clear eyes and a strong muscular build.
His footsteps were steady and vigorous, he had obviously practiced the martial art.
This person was Mu Jin Zhen’s personal bodyguard Zhao Yun’s younger brother, Zhao Qing.
Usually, when Mu Xi Yao made her outings, Zhao Qing accompanied her as her bodyguard.
Mu Jin Zhen henceforth simply assigned him to Mu Xi Yao, making him partly Yishui pavilion’s person.
Ever since she got Zhao Qing, she would take him along every time she set out, as well as send him to buy things or handle some matters for her whenever she needed.
After a year of observation, she found Zhao Qing to be loyal, capable and possessing an agile mind.
The rare thing was that he not only knew martial arts but also could read.
He has shown himself to be a person of worth.
This time she has sought him due to an important matter.
“This time, I called you due to a matter I need you to take care of for me.” It was unusual to see Mu Xi Yao sitting properly with an expression that was serious and quite solemn.
Moreover, she made all the serving maidservants retreat.
This was Zhao Qing’s first time seeing second young miss behaving in such a cautious way.
He immediately went on high alert, attentively waiting for her instructions.
Mu Xi Yao said, “This matter is very important.
You mustn’t tell it to sir, even if he asked.
Beside me, only one other person can know.
Are you able to accomplish it”
What did that ‘one other person’ mean Did it mean that except for Mu Xi Yao, Zhao Qing was the only person to know
After a moment of hesitation, Zhao Qing dared to look at Mu Xi Yao.
Subsequently, he lowered his head to give a bow, “Zhao Qing will do everything in his power to fulfill the given task.” Zhao Qing gave it a serious consideration before replying.
Ever since sir Mu had appointed him to second miss, almost two years have passed.
Zhao Qing was a bright man so he naturally detected some clues.
Usually, when the second miss stayed in her Yishui pavilion, she acted differently than how she was before her elders.
The fact that she was able to, at such a young age, manage her courtyard without one drop leaking out showed that she wasn’t as innocent and naive as she appeared.
Zhao Qing sometimes felt that he was unable to see through this second miss who was just about to turn thirteen.
It was as if what he saw was just a pretense.
When second miss was assigning the tasks in her yard, it apparently wasn’t because she was interested in doing so.
It was more like there was some connection between the two, people just couldn’t see it.
Even though Zhao Qing had such odd thoughts, he had never mentioned them to others, he only put his heart on completing the errands his master gave him.
This was exactly the reason why Mu Xi Yao has hand-picked only him.
“On the sixteenth day of this month, I will go to Fahua temple……” Mu Xi Yao gave Zhao Qing details about the preparations that will be needed to arrange on that very day.
The more he heard, the wider his eyes got.
Yet, he asked no questions.
He silently memorized what was instructed to him then bowed and retreated.
On the sixteenth the sky was clear.
The early winter sun was warm, lifting people’s mood.
Mu Xi Yao, with her crew of bodyguards and maidservants, bid farewell to lady Yu.
Afterward, she climbed into the carriage and the group set out to Fahua Temple.
Today, Mu Xi Yao deliberately dressed up.
She masked her usual lazy sensuality and instead adopted an appearance of an official’ daughter and a young lady from a noble household.
The garments she wore were all of the best quality in Qingzhou.
Even the pink embroidered brocade cloak she was wearing and the fragrance used on top of it came from Tiaoxiang house’s newly launched brand ‘Ting Zhi’.
The maidservants inside the rear carriage were all neatly dressed.
All of them looked gracious and vivid yet not flamboyant.
The bodyguards were also carefully selected.
They were tall and sturdy, wearing unifiedly dark cyan colored apparels, which made them look full of vigor.
Zhao Qing among them was especially outstanding.
After arriving at the foot of a mountain where Fahua temple was located, Mu Xi Yao exited from the carriage.
She adjusted her expression so she looked like she was truly coming here to make a wish and praying for the Budha’s protection over her family so that everything would go smoothly for them and they would enjoy a good health.
As the only insider, Zhao Qing was following behind the womenfolk.
He peeked a glance at his miss who had a particularly sincere, pure and dignified expression.
He acted normally like the rest, yet inwardly he had a difficult time keeping on the bluff.
At the entrance to the temple, Mu Xi Yao made guards wait for her outside while bringing along with her the maidservants.
Once inside, she only naturally performed praying rituals, shook fortune sticks and then she sent Hui Lan to give alms.
Henceforth, she has gone through all the formalities.
She stayed for the afternoon meal in the temple, consuming the Buddhistic food.
She rested for a while and then reckoning it was time, she took her people and left.
At the door, Zhao Qing saw his second miss coming out.
He instructed others to follow him.
Afterward, the group of people slowly descended from the mountain.
Zhao Qing was curious why did second miss take such great pain to make these arrangements.
Moreover, she had set up two hoodlums on the road.
Who did she want to hinder Although he acted under her commands, he didn’t know the reasons behind.
While he was pondering a sudden commotion could be heard in distance.
A glint has flashed through Mu Xi Yao’s eyes.
She wasn’t in a hurry to rush over there.
She still behaved in the firm, well-bred young lady like manner who wasn’t aware of the situation ahead.
She turned around and instructed Zhao Qing to take along some people and go to check.
 Push the boat with the current means to take advantage of the situation for one’s own benefit
 Visiting card is a name card ancient people used when visiting others
 A half joss stick time – since one joss stick time (depending on the author) may generally last either 5 minutes or 30 minutes, a half joss stick time may be 2.5 – 15 minutes
4] Not letting one drop leak out is an idiom meaning without missing a single circumstance, flawless, no errors