Chapter 36: Nangong Piaoran
Wrapped in thin muslin, within a fragrant room, a stunningly beautiful man leaned languidly. His bare skin was exposed, showing his sexy collarbone and chest, deadly alluring.
He seemed to have just taken a bath, his hair still wet, draping over his shoulders. In his left hand, he held a wine glass. In the other was a piece of paper filled with words. His pretty face had an indescribable smile, his seductive eyes narrowing. He muttered, “When will the moon be clear and bright? With a cup of wine in my hand, I ask the clear sky…”
Suddenly, he sat up. The wine he had been planning on drinking was set aside on a table, while his almond eyes grew with fervor. His voice grew louder. “《Harmonious Water Song》! How brilliant! Who would have thought that little one would be so talented, I like him even more now!”
“Master!” a person in black who had been standing quietly in the room said. “Members of Mangci also seemed to have been interested in this 《Harmonious Water Song》.”
The almond eyed master Nangong Piaoran continued to concentrate his attention on the paper in his hand and said heedlessly, “He is not interested in the 《Harmonious Water Song》, but Ye Yin. Fortunately, I already knew he would send people, so I made my move earlier and obtained the original to be able to see his handwriting. This fellow’s handwriting is just as straightforward as he, with a faint trace of a scholar.”
“Master, why are you so interested in this Ye Yin’s handwriting?”
“It is said that one’s words reflects themselves. Much information can be gleaned from handwritings. This fellow’s strokes are crisp, meaning his wrist is strong. He is likely to be proficient in concealed weapons. His words contain an unyielding air, meaning he is very confident. One must face such a person carefully,” Nangong Piaoran explained. Unfortunately for him, he did not know that Ye Yin was ambidextrous and that Ye Yin had two distinctive handwritings. His right hand wrote elegantly like a woman, whereas Nangong Piaoran saw the forceful handwriting of Ye Yin’s left hand. Ye Yin had trained this hand since childhood to create this handwriting.
“Have the people we sent to follow him reported back yet?” Nangong Piaoran continued to remain focused on the 《Harmonious Water Song》 and did not raise his head.
“Yes. After young master Ye and the person surnamed Du left the city, they were heading towards the southwest.”
“Left the city?” Nangong Piaoran looked up at the person dressed in black. “Do you know how he left the city?”
“This… is not very clear. The people following him only saw that once he arrived at the city gates, the city gates opened automatically. They did not see him do anything.”
Nangong Piaoran started to smile. “Although it is said that Yue City’s city lord is a softie, and its garrison is somewhat lacking, no one can enter or leave the city as they please. It seems that he has people who have infiltrated the city’s ranks. A normal business man has no need to do so. It seems that him being the master of Fusheng is merely a pretense. He must have some other identity.”
“Master, perhaps he has the same plans as you?”
“Not necessarily. If he has the same intentions as we, then seeing how he is the master of Fusheng, he should be sent from Dongling, but according to our intel in Dongling, Dongling sent out Prince Dongfang Xi, and his people are currently in East Zhi, so this fellow is not sent by Dongling.” Nangong frowned and muttered, “Then is he from Beiqi? That seems wrong as well, Beiqi would not send men here. Then did Dongling send two groups? One to East Zhi and the other to West Zhi? It is said that the Dongling prime minister Ren Fengyao is incomparably farsighted, perhaps he was sent by Ren Fengyao? But why would he be involved with Rouge?”
“Perhaps he really fell for Rouge,” the person in black interjected.
“No, no. Although he appeared to be interested in Rouge last night….” Nangong Piaoran shook his head, a strange smile on his lips. “He does not gaze at Rouge like how a man looks at a woman. Although his gaze is filled with pity, it is not emotional, not attracyed at all nor with any desire to possess her. Men look at women fierily, not so calm and collected. He has another reason for attaining Rouge. We’ll talk about this later. What did he do after leaving the city?”
“Because Du Luo is highly skilled, the men we sent did not dare to get too close, so…”
“So they lost them?” Nangong Piaoran looked up coldly at the man in black.
The man in black lowered his gaze and said hastily, “No, Master, we did not lose them. Your horses have distinctive seals in their hoofs. It was by following the hoofprints that we were able to discern they were going southwest. They should be following a carriage, but…” The man in black paused, looking up at Nangong Piaoran. “But there is something I** think is strange.”
“What is it?”
“Based off of the hoofprints, they traveled hurriedly, but it seemed that they stopped for some time immediately after they left the city, and then recontinued later. Because we only followed their trail, we did not know why they stopped, but based off of vestiges, they did not do anything. It seemed like they were only resting, because they did not go anywhere during that time, and no one else appeared.”
“You are certain no one else appeared? They also did not go anywhere?”
“Yes. Their traces were very clear because it was raining last night. There was no way to fake anything. Also, they had no time to do so.”
Nangong Piaoran’s smile slowly disappeared. He set aside the poem on, then started to drum his fingers on the table, murmuring, “If he really wanted to save Rouge, he would not have stopped. Rest? Humph! How could he rest in such an urgent situation? Unless…”
“Unless it was not urgent to him!”
“No, it is not that. He set up this situation. Rouge being kidnapped is only a part of his plan!” Nangong Piaoran suddenly realized. “This explains why the city gates opened automatically. He already prepared it beforehand. No wonder there were so many people lying in wait before Intoxicated Dream; it was he who sent them. But why would he send men to kidnap Rouge?”
Nangong Piaoran started to frown. After a while, he suddenly exclaimed, “No, the people at Intoxicated Dream were not his men, they were there for Rouge. He already knew someone would try to kidnap Rouge. In order to let them successfully kidnap Rouge, he left with us to drink at Jufeng. Humph! I thought it was strange! Ye Yin is somewhat cold, but he was suddenly very cordial last night. I originally thought it was for him to probe me and Yanghan, but I did not think…”
“Master, what do you think this ploy is for?”
“You still don’t understand? He came for Qi Chengfeng and Chu Feiye. Those were Qi Chengfeng’s men last night, and he foolishly sent them to return to his old nest, not knowing someone would lie in wait for them. Perhaps he is already…” Nangong Piaoran chuckled coldly.
“Where exactly did this Ye Yin come from? Why is he trying to kill Qi Chengfeng? He isn’t Dongling’s….”
Nangong Piaoran shook his head. “He was not sent by Dongling. Perhaps he is the person pulling the strings behind the scenes that we are looking for, the origin of West Zhi’s turmoil. If I am correct, it is not Ye Yin’s men who ambush Qi Chengfeng, but Chu Feiye’s! Qi Chengfeng and Chu Feiye have feuded for a long time. Ye Yin wanted to use Rouge as an opportunity for them to fight and reap the benefits. So long as those two die, Jiangyou and Lequan will be without direction.”
“Master means to say Ye Yin wants Jiangyou and Lequan?”
Nangong Piaoran laughed coldly. “Jiangyou and Lequan? Not just that! This fellow is too ambitious! Perhaps he wants the entire West Zhi! Bao Wu, immediately send people to investigate Ye Yin. Also, send people to see the current state of Qi Chengfeng being ambushed. I must ascertain if my conjecture is correct.”
Bao Wu left as instructed. Nangong Piaoran picked up the poem again, then said profoundly, “Ye Yin, oh Ye Yin. I am even more interested in you now! `….May we all be blessed with longevity, though thousands of miles apart, we are still able to share the beauty of the moon together.’ How deep! Rouge is certainly pitiful!” Suddenly Nangong Piaoran’s expression changed. He raised his voice. “Someone, pass down the orders, have someone investigate Rouge, see who she has interacted with recently.”
The same phrase, “May we all be blessed with longevity, though thousands of miles apart, we are still able to share the beauty of the moon together,” could be interpreted very differently.
Yanghan frowned with a copy of the 《Harmonious Water Song》. “Where is the original?’
“We were late by a step. Xiaoyao took it first. This was written by Rouge.”
“Xiaoyao? So it was not just I who became interested in that fellow surnamed Ye. Have the men withdraw. Nangong Piaoran must have come to West Zhi with the same objective as I, so I’ll just let him search first. We will just need to watch Nangong Piaoran closely,” Yanhan instructed his subordinate, who wore grey.
He nodded, about to leave, but then hesitated. “Master, why is it that we always avoid Xiaoyao men? We would not lose in strength to Xiaoyao, but every time… Master, your subordinates feel a little…”
“A little dissatisfied? You want to fight with Xiaoyao head on?” Yanhan smiled faintly, and said calmly, “If Xiayao’s and our objective are the same, why not let them do the work for us? The reason why I instruct you all to avoid Xiaoyao is not because i fear them, but because I do not want to directly face Xiaoyao. Although right now I cannot confirm Nangong Piaoran’s true identity, he is very likely to be involved with Nanrong’s officials. Xiaoyao is backed by Nanrong’s government. Whether he is working on behalf of the government or on cooperating with them for mutual benefits, we still may have a use for him in the future. Nanrong’s navy is the strongest in the world.”
“Master, your subordinate understands!” The man in grey then said, “Master, last night you were completely capable of winning Rouge and killing off that insolent fellow’s bravado!”
“Win Rouge?” Yanhan seemed to be smiling, yet was not smiling. “What is the point in getting Rouge? Did you know how many people were lying in ambush outside of Intoxicated Dream? I’m not foolish enough to provoke their ire for a measly woman. And Rouge clearly showed she was a previous acquaintance of Ye Yin. There is no reason for me to interfere!”
“How does Master know that Rouge and Ye Yin knew each other before?”
Yanghan snorted. “Rouge is not from Intoxicated Dream, otherwise the Madam would not have constantly peaked at Rouge before making decisions. As for Rouge, she constantly looked towards Ye Yin for approval. Humph! The two’s atmosphere was extremely subtle. If you did not watch carefully, you would miss it. For them to go such lengths to pretend not to know each other, it must have been to lure people into a ploy!”
“Master, should I** send men to investigate?”
“No need. Nangong Piaoran will naturally investigate. You just need to watch Xiaoyao’s men closely. Alright, you may leave.”
The man in grey left. Yanghan closed his eyes with exhaustion (just like me every day). West Zhi circumstances were becoming more and more subtle. Although on the surface, it appeared calm, the water was getting muddled. The West Zhi emperor’s fate was sealed. Who would be the one to succeed him? And what role would Ye Yin play in the game of thrones?
It seems the person pulling the strings behind West Zhi was Ye Yin. At such a young age, he was already so calm and collected. He would not be easy to deal with and could be a large liability in the future, but he could not eliminate Ye Yin currently.
Alas, he would first let him be. Perhaps he would be useful. He only hoped Ye Yin would not be too ambitious. If he only wanted West Zhi, then he posed no harm, but if he dared to reunite Zhi nation, then he would have to be killed!
Yanhan’s eyes suddenly opened, filled with grim, piercing light. With a slight wave of his right hand, a spring loaded arrow hidden in his sleeve struck the poem and plucked it of the table. With a soft thud, the poem was nailed to the wall. Yanghan said coldly, “Ye Yin, I hope you are not too greedy, otherwise…”
It was Yanghan’s philosophy to eliminate anyone in his way, but he also admired Ye Yin’s talent. He chose to be lenient, but once he understood what a threat Ye Yin posed to him, Ye Yin was already fully fledged, flying in the air freely.