TIGR Chapter 10
The Imperial Guard’s Revenge
Chapter 10 A Truth or Lie
The sixth day of the twelfth month in the Baoding Mansion.
Not far from the gate of the Baoding Mansion, a subordinate bowed respectfully to Lu Heng: “Commander, ahead of us is the Baoding Mansion.”
Lu Heng nodded, took the reins, and with a voice void of emotion, he said: “Starting now, do not call me Commander. You are the commanding officer of this party. Your parents have arranged a marriage for you in your hometown. Now you must return to get married. Go forward and take out your bridegroom character. Leave me alone.”
After hearing this, the subordinate’s palms began sweating. His name was Chen Yuxuan. Two days ago, Commander Lu suddenly called on him and said that he would be given a task. When the commander appeared personally, Chen Yuxuan realized that this was a big case and became solemn. He did not expect that the Commander arranged a somewhat strange task for him.
The commander asked him to pretend to go back to his hometown to get married, while he assumed the position of his entourage, wandering in the team. During the whole journey, Chen Yuxuan could not sit still. How could he dare to be the master of Commander Lu. But the commander insisted, and Chen Yuxuan did not dare to disobey, so he could only muster up his courage and present the Imperial Guard’s decree to the guard at the gate of Baoding Mansion.
Chen Yuxuan returning to his hometown to get married was a lie, but the Imperial Guard identity was a truth. When the guards saw the decree, their faces immediately changed. They did not dare to inspect the luggage carried by Chen Yuxuan’s entourage and let them pass without a word.
Lu Heng hid in the procession and comfortably entered the city. He reined in his horse and slowly strolled beside the carriage. Through the curtain, he asked: “Qing Qing, how are you doing?”
Wang Yanqing sat inside the carriage and opened a slight crack in the curtain: “I’m fine. Second Brother, have we arrived at the Baoding Mansion?”
“Yes, we have already entered the city.” Lu Heng continued, “The journey must have been tiring, is the injury on your head okay?”
Wang Yanqing shook her head. Had they sped from the capital to Baoding, they would have been able to arrive that night, but Wang Yanqing had a brain injury and couldn’t be jostled, so the carriage walked very slowly and only arrived at the Baoding Mansion in the afternoon. Wang Yanqing dragged down Lu Heng’s schedule and she felt very guilty, how could she dare cry out in pain: “My injury has not bothered me. Second Brother you don’t have to worry about me, it is important to investigate your case quickly.”
“It’s no bother.” In a drawn-out manner, Lu Heng spoke, “It’s just one day, it won’t make a difference this time. But you only have this chance. If you are left behind because of an illness, the gain won’t be worth the loss.”
Wang Yanqing pursed her lips. The more Lu Heng spoke like this, the more guilty she felt. Lu Heng took advantage of the lack of people around them and explained to Wang Yanqing: “Soon we will be arriving at Liang Wei’s Mansion. They should not recognize me, but just in case, don’t call me by my name or official position in front of people, just call me Elder Brother. Now, we are attendants of Chen Yuxuan’s Imperial Guard Thousand Households family following our master in his return for marriage. During the journey, passing through the Baoding Mansion, we learned of Liang Wei’s death and came to offer condolences. When you enter the Liang Mansion in a while, you don’t have to say anything, just observe the expressions of the people. If there is something amiss, keep it in mind and let me know when we are alone.”
Wang Yanqing nodded and agreed: “Okay.”
Chen Yuxuan’s Imperial Guard uniform was very conspicuous and no one dared provoke them on their journey. The group quickly arrived at the Liang Mansion. When Liang Wei’s family heard that the Imperial Guards had come from the capital, they were both startled and joyous, and quickly came out to greet them.
After they entered the Baoding Mansion, Lu Heng retreated to the back of the procession and did not say a word to Chen Yuxuan. The commander stood behind Chen Yuxuan and he felt enormous pressure, so he put on a bold face and stepped forward to perform the social niceties, not daring to show any slight difference. Lu Heng mixed with the crowd with a naturally relaxed expression. He didn’t move forward but went to the carriage first to help Wang Yanqing come down.
Wang Yanqing pushed open the carriage door and to her surprise, found Lu Heng standing outside rather unexpectedly. She swept the scene in front of her and quietly whispered: “Second Brother, I can do this myself.”
Many pampered ladies didn’t open the first door and they definitely didn’t step outside of the second door, they must be helped on and off the carriage, but Wang Yanqing had been practicing martial arts since she was a child, and this level of exercise was nothing to her. Furthermore, ordinary maids usually helped her. Lu Heng was the commander of the Imperial Guards, how could he be allowed to do such a lowly job?
Lu Heng shook his head. Although his voice was not loud, it was resolute: “Your injury has still not recovered, you cannot be careless.”
Further delay would draw the attention of others, so without any better option, Wang Yanqing held Lu Heng’s hand and slowly descended from the carriage. Lu Heng’s hands were warm and powerful, and she didn’t shake at all, even with one arm supporting her. Wang Yanqing was set on the ground smoothly without feeling one jolt. After she was standing, she found that Lu Heng did not have any intention to let her go, so she quietly reminded him: “Second Brother.”
This time, Lu Heng released her hand. Wang Yanqing breathed a quiet sigh of relief and silently looked around through the cover of the crowd.
Chen Yuxuan and the Liang family were exchanging pleasantries in the front and three old men were standing at the forefront who seemed like the Liang family elders. Behind the clan elders was a married woman who wore mourning clothes. Although there was no decoration, it was obvious that she was well-dressed. Next to her was a fifteen to sixteen-year-old boy. His height was already that of an adult male but his body had not fully developed so, the clothes that he wore were slightly loose on his frame.
Wang Yanqing easily guessed that the woman was Madam Liang Shi, the successor of the deceased Imperial Guards Thousand Households Liang Wei, and that young man was probably Liang Wei’s youngest son and Madam Liang Shi’s biological child. Wang Yanqing swept a glance at the crowd in front of her, and lowered her voice to ask Lu Heng: “Second Brother, didn’t you say that Liang Wei had two sons, why is the eldest not here?”
Although Chen Yuxuan was not very well known, he still came to the Thousand Households from the capital. Madam Liang Shi, as all female family members did, welcomed him at the door. If the eldest young master of the Liang family was at home, how could he not show up? Lu Heng shook his head imperceptibly and said: “Wait until we enter and then check again.”
Wang Yanqing’s current identity was an ordinary attendant in a Thousand Households Mansion. She could not wear clothes that were too gorgeous so she only wore a white collar jacket, a light pink mask rather than armor, and a sky blue horse-faced skirt underneath. A “maid” could not possibly wear fur coats but Lu Heng was afraid that Wang Yanqing would be too cold. So although clothing appeared dull and plain, upon a closer look, the cloth lining was done superbly. Even more than filling the middle layer with fine cotton, the outside was stitched with a layer of rabbit fur. Wang Yanqing’s neck was slender so even with the white stand-up collar, her neck was still exposed, lining her slender chin and white cheeks, making her more beautiful and soft.
A woman as stunning as her standing at the entrance was more dazzling than the Imperial Guards brought by Chen Yuxuan. Chen Yuxuan supposed that the greetings were almost complete, and took his “attendants” inside the mansion. After Chen Yuxuan went straight to the main hall to offer his condolences, Lu Heng and Wang Yanqing, who as attendants did not need to offer sacrifices, were free to move where they pleased.
Madam Liang Shi and the Liang family elders all surrounded Chen Yuxuan and nobody paid any attention to them. The people in the Liang Mansion were aware that they arrived with an important visitor from the capital and dared not stop them so Lu Heng and Wang Yanqing walked where they wished. This was far more convenient for investigation than revealing their identities.
Liang Wei’s family was an inheritance-based Thousand Households at the fifth rank. Their official rank was not considered very high, but if they did not leave the Baoding Mansion, it was sufficient enough to live a generous lifestyle. The Liang family had three compounds within the residence. The first one comprised of the main hall, the living room, and the place where Liang Wei’s two sons lived. At this moment, it had been converted into a mourning hall. Although Liang Wei’s coffin had been buried, the white flags, lamps, and candles had not been removed. The second compound was where Liang Wei and his wife, Madam Wen Shi lived, separated from the outside by a hanging flower door. The third compound was the embroidered house of the Liang’s eldest Miss. The embroidered building was in the northeast corner, with a small garden to the west.
These days as Liang Wei’s funeral was being held, many outsiders came through the doors. Inside the Liang Mansion, people came and went which left everywhere looking messy. Actually, this also made it convenient for Lu Heng and Wang Yanqing. Lu Heng seemed to be walking aimlessly, but when he arrived at an empty place, he asked: “How is it? What did you see?”
Wang Yanqing had merely gotten one glimpse of the Liang family at the Mansion entrance, but more often than not, the first impression was the most important. The effort of meeting in person was already sufficient enough to explain a lot. Wang Yanqing was afraid that someone would eavesdrop, so she leaned closer to Lu Heng and whispered: “When Madam Liang Shi saw the Imperial Guards at the door, her eyes widened, her eyebrows pressed down, and her lips slightly opened. When she heard that Chen Yuxuan had come to the door to pay his condolences, she breathed a sigh of relief and her lips finally closed, but her eyes were still vigilant. Even if a visit from the Imperial Guards was indeed not a good thing, she was too scared.”
After Lu Heng heard the last sentence, he smiled. She was the only one who would dare say to his face that it was not a good thing for the Imperial Guards to come to your door. Lu Heng asked: “Do you have doubts about Madam Liang Shi?”
Wang Yanqing sighed: “Second Brother, is your judgment always this arbitrary? I just judged that she was very scared when she heard that the Imperial Guards had come to the door. As for what she did, she still needs to be investigated. Besides, it was not just her, Liang Wei’s second son…”
Wang Yanqing paused slightly, not knowing how she should address this person. Lu Heng thought to himself that in the ten years since he had entered the Imperial Guards, this was the first time that someone had called his judgment arbitrary. He didn’t think and blurted out: “Liang Bin.”
Wang Yanqing raised her eyes and shot a glance at Lu Heng and continued: “Liang Bin’s expression was not quite right either. According to the nature of his age, when he sees people coming from the capital, he should be more surprised and curious than afraid, but he shrank his shoulders, lowered his head, and did not make eye contact with anyone. In just a short time, he touched his nose three times.”
Lu Heng let out a noise of agreement and asked: “What does it mean to touch your nose?”
“He is trying to hide something.” Wang Yanqing sighed and said, “But don’t test it on me, everyone behaves differently. Touching your nose does not mean you are lying, and not touching your nose does not mean you are not lying. You must look at it in combination with the scene and specific actions.”
Lu Heng smiled and asked: “Anything else?”
Wang Yanqing thought for a bit and shook her head: “Nothing right now. The expressions on the faces of the elders of the clan were a bit deliberate, but the rumors of adultery broke out from the inner house as soon as Liang of the Thousand Households died, so it made sense for them to hide it. We will have to wait for more information by questioning them face-to-face for this specific situation.”
Lu Heng nodded and agreed: “Okay. I still find it very strange that Liang Bin touched his nose. Let’s go and find what they are hiding.”
Lu Heng and Wang Yanqing were standing deep in the winding corridor to talk, and just then, there was a small maid walking opposite them holding something. Lu Heng stopped the person and walked over slowly to speak: “Thousand Households Chen has some things to discuss and needs to find the head of the Liang family. Where is Liang Rong?”
Ling Rong was Liang Wei’s oldest son. Earlier, Lu Heng had already investigated the personal details of this family. The small maid saw a tall and handsome man coming over to ask her questions. Although his clothes were ordinary, his body was as oppressive as a mountain. The little maid instinctively felt scared, hugged the things in her arms tightly, and said nervously: “This servant does not know.”
Wang Yanqing followed closely behind. Lu Heng had become used to walking as an Imperial Guard. Even though he had taken off his flying fish garment, his terrifying and commanding presence would not disappear. Wang Yanqing lightly caressed Lu Heng’s arm, took over the conversation, and said: “You don’t need to be scared, we are not bad people. We followed Chen of the Thousand Households to the Liang Mansion so he can offer condolences. The Thousand Households were very sad that Master Liang died an untimely death and there were some heartfelt words that we wanted to deliver to Master Liang’s son, Liang Rong. But we cannot find him, where is Liang Rong?”
Seeing Wang Yanqing, the small maid relaxed a little but her shoulders were still tight: “This maid really does not know. A few days ago, the eldest young master disappeared.”
When Lu Heng and Wang Yanqing heard this, they were shocked. Wang Yanqing and Lu Heng glanced at each other and tentatively asked: “Disappeared?”
“Yes. The young master went out to visit a friend last month and never returned. The madam sent someone to ask relatives, friends, and old friends, but no one has seen the eldest young master.”
Lu Heng remained calm and asked: “Since he has disappeared, why didn’t they report this to the officials?”
Even if Lu Heng did not deliberately pressure her, what he said sounded like an interrogation. The small maid became even more frightened, and her voice became as quiet as a mosquito: “Madam said that the eldest young master was just out enjoying himself, maybe he would come back after some time, so there was no need to report this to the officials.”
Wang Yanqing inwardly raised her eyebrows. The daughter of the family committed adultery and Madam Liang Shi did not waste any time reporting it to the officials, but something as big as the disappearance of her eldest son, she felt that this did not need to be reported to the officials. It seems that Madam Liang Shi was hiding many things.
Wang Yanqing did not comment on this and she softened her voice to ask: “It is indeed very worrying that Liang Rong has disappeared. We do not know where Liang Rong resides. Let’s take a look, and maybe we can help.”
Outsiders wanted to see the young master’s room, the small maid should have refused, but after looking at Lu Heng’s indiscernible eyes, she didn’t dare to say “no.” She pointed towards a direction with a trembling finger: “The eldest young master’s room is over there, it is the one behind the locked door.”
Wang Yanqing looked in the direction of the front courtyard with the locked door. It seems that this place was becoming more and more suspicious. Wang Yanqing gave a comforting smile to the small maid and asked: “When did you all find out that Liang Rong had disappeared?”
“Three days ago, the madam saw that the eldest young master did not come home for half a month, and sent someone out to ask, only to find out that the eldest young master did not go to a friend’s house. Their relatives have not seen him either.”
“When was the last time you saw him?”
The small maid thought for a moment and said: “It was the seventeenth day. The eldest young master left particularly early, and the people who were waiting saw him and gave their greetings, but the eldest young master ignored them. The madam also complained unhappily.”
Lu Heng narrowed his eyes slightly and suddenly asked: “You remember the days of last month this clearly?”
After one word from Lu Heng, the small maid became scared again. Her teeth trembled consciously, and she hurriedly said: “It’s not that the maid is tricking you, rather that the madam went back to her parent’s house that day, so the maid remembered that day.”
Wang Yanqing’s thoughts shifted darker and she carefully asked: “The seventeenth day of the eleventh month is not a holiday. What was Madam Liang doing back at her parent’s house? Could it be that something happened to Madam Liang’s family?”
The small maid shook her head: “The servant does not know. The madam did not let anyone follow her, she only took the second young master. They left in the morning and came back that evening.”
Lu Heng asked: “What do you mean she only took Liang Bin?”
The small maid thought that this question was strange, knotted her fingers, and awkwardly said: “She just took the second young master with her. The madam thought that the old servant who drove the carriage smelled, so she didn’t let him follow, and instead let the second young master drive the carriage.”
The Liang residence was considered a middle-class family, no better than the upper-class family that called on servants and maids. They also did not have to run around for a living like ordinary people. They had cooks and servants in their family, but if there was an idle job dedicated to driving carriages, it would not be cost-effective for the Liang family. Therefore, when the women of the Liang family went out, the servants who drove the carriage were also the coachmen. If they couldn’t trust the male servants, they would take their own family men.
However, Wang Yanqing felt that Madam Wen Shi’s actions were too much, her husband had just died. What was she doing going home to her parents’ house for no reason?
Lu Heng asked what he wanted to know, but it appeared that the small maid did not have anything else to say, so he motioned for her to leave. It was as if the small maid was pardoned, she quickly ran away holding her things. After she had walked away, Lu Heng asked: “Was she telling the truth?”
Wang Yanqing said: “I did not see any trace of lying.”
“Then it’s true.” Lu Heng raised his sleeves and took a slight step to block the cold air from the vents. He sighed inexplicably and said, “Liang Wei passed away, the eldest son of the Liang family disappeared, and the eldest daughter committed adultery. The Liang family has been unlucky during this period.”
Wang Yanqing’s mouth twitched and she said: “Second Brother since you know all this, why bother to test me?
“I do not.” Lu Heng held Wang Yanqing’s hand and like a ripple, his eyes locked on hers. He said seriously, “Thanks to you, there were quite a few secrets that came out. They should nearly be done speaking, let’s go, we can go back to the front and have a look.”
Lu Heng and Wang Yanqing returned to the front yard. Without disturbing anyone, they quietly made their way to the main hall. When Chen Yuxuan saw that the commander had returned, he let out a long sigh of relief. He had returned. If the Commander did not appear, Chen Yuxuan would not have been able to hold the act any longer.
He and Liang Wei only had two sides to the relationship. To put it carefully, there really was no friendship. No matter how many polite words he could say, there would inevitably come a time when he was finished. The Liang family didn’t care about the people who came in and out behind them, they were just a few attendants. If there was anything to set their attention on, it was on the young and promising Thousand Households Chen from the capital in front of them.
The clan elders considered Chen Yuxuan’s warm face and in a roundabout way, they asked: “Thousand Households Chen, you didn’t forget to send Liang Wei off when you returned to your hometown, which has touched us. Thousand Households Chen, in this travel to Baoding, is there any other matter you have?”
After the elder finished speaking, Madam Wen Shi’s eyes were drawn. She stood motionless staring at Chen Yuxuan. Chen Yuxuan and Liang Wei had only met on a mission a few years ago, so they weren’t close friends. Chen Yuxuan passed by Baoding and came in to give Liang Wei a stick of incense. This was enough to show his loyalty, but he stayed at Liang’s house speaking to Liang’s family for a long time. In such an action, several elders of the Liang family and Madam Liang Shi felt that Chen Yuxuan had other intentions.
Chen Yuxuan came from the capital… Was there any news to be delivered from the capital? They wanted to know. Liang Wei’s Thousand Households position still had not been fixed and there was no definite succession. They were still waiting for the official approval from the big people in the capital.
Chen Yuxuan secretly glanced behind him and said: “There is nothing else. On the way, I learned that elder brother Liang Wei had passed away. I feel that the things in this world are always changing. So, I came to pay my homage to him.”
Chen Yuxuan played dumb from the beginning and refused to say anything. The elders were anxious and tried asking: “We humbly say we do not know what is happening in the capital. How is Master Lu these days?”
Chen Yuxuan quickly shot a glance towards the corner of the main hall, smiled with difficulty, and said: “Master Lu is doing fine.”
The elder said “oh” and continued to ask: “What about Master Chen?”
“Master Chen is also healthy and well.”
The clan elder wanted to get close to the capital, so he pretended to be concerned and asked: “I heard that Master Lu has been promoted again this year. Master Lu is only twenty-two years old and has already entered and left South Fusi. He really is a young talent with an unlimited future. It seems that Master Lu is not married yet. Master Lu’s official fortune is so prosperous that I don’t know which Miss he will want to marry?”
Chen Yuxuan couldn’t keep the smile on his face anymore. He was discussing the personal affairs of the chief in front of the chief. As if he didn’t have enough heads to lose. Chen Yuxuan coughed quickly and said firmly: “This is a personal matter of the commander. As subordinates, we should share the worries of the commander and not overstep our boundaries.”
When the Liang family elders heard this, they quickly stopped the discussion and forced a smile. Lu Heng stood at the door listening to these idlers talking about why he had not taken a wife. After hearing enough, he said casually: “Thousand Households Chen, we have been here for so long, but it seems that we have yet to meet Thousand Households Liang’s eldest son, Liang Rong. Where is Liang Rong?”
When Chen Yuxuan finally heard the commander speak, he inwardly breathed a sigh of relief and quickly extended: “Yes, where is the young master of this mansion, why haven’t I met him?”
Madam Wen Shi became a little nervous and scrambled in front of the clan elder and said: “Liang Rong just wants to have fun and he ran away a few days ago. Today, I invited the three clan elders and was just about to discuss the matter.”
When the clan leader heard this, he also fiddled with his beard and nodded: “That’s right. We were invited today to visit the mansion and discuss some matters with the madam. We were just in time to meet you coming to send your condolences. It can only be fate.”
Wang Yanqing was listening for quite some time and now quietly spoke: “Running away from home is not a trivial matter. Someone of Liang Rong’s age suddenly leaving, was there any major problem?”
Abruptly, the sound of a young woman’s voice was heard in the main hall and everyone in the Liang family looked at each other, and then carefully looked towards Chen Yuxuan: “Master Chen, this is…”
“This is my…” Chen Yuxuan opened his mouth to speak, but he did not know how to introduce her. This was the woman that the commander brought along. During the whole journey, they all saw the commander care for her like she was the apple of his eye. Chen Yuxuan did not dare call her a maid. But if he introduced her as his cousin, he would practically be taking advantage of the commander and Chen Yuxuan didn’t have the guts…
Chen Yuxuan hesitated, not knowing what to say for a while. However, the Liang family misunderstood his pause and automatically read the silence with an understanding expression. All of the sudden, Chen Yuxuan broke out in a cold sweat. What do they know? This group of people couldn’t possibly harm him!
Chen Yuxuan tentatively looked towards the door. The commander had his back turned towards the bright light falling in from the door. He could not see his expression clearly against the light but could feel that his eyes fell on Chen Yuxuan with an inexplicable meaning.
|| Author’s Note:
Lu Heng: I’ll give you one more chance to say it again.