TIGR Chapter 56

The Imperial Guard’s Revenge

Chapter 56 Undercurrent

The place for questioning was chosen by Lu Heng. After he came out of the Emperor’s Palace, he immediately sent someone to look for Wang Yanqing. However, he was unlucky enough to meet Fu Tingzhou and Prefect Cheng, so Lu Heng changed his mind on the way. He quietly sent a message to Wang Yanqing to have her arrive before them and hide behind the screen.

It was dusk now, the light was dim, and the house was depressed and unoccupied for a long time, it was not difficult to hide a person. However, after all, there were two court officials sitting outside, including their old enemy, Fu Tingzhou. Wang Yanqing was afraid of disturbing the two, so she kept her breathing and movements light. There were too many limitations, and it did not leave her much room to observe their expressions.

Wang Yanqing shook her head slightly: “I was too far away and I couldn’t see clearly. However, their responses did not seem to be specially trained.”

Lu Heng felt the same way. During the interrogation, he had been paying attention to the hands of the mother and daughter-in-law. Their joints were thick, their palms were rough, and their fingers were cracked. Practicing martial arts would also grow callouses, but the positions from holding a knife and agricultural tools were different, and the callouses that grew were also completely different. From their appearance alone, there was no trace of a disguise.

For the time being, Lu Heng believed that they were really here to speak their grievances. Lu Heng glanced at the sky outside and said: “People come and go here, and someone may come back at any time. Let’s go, we can talk when we get back.”

Wang Yanqing nodded, she didn’t miss that Lu Heng said “someone may come back at any time” meaning that the person he was referring to was either Fu Tingzhou or Prefect Cheng. Prefect Cheng was only of the fourth rank, and even if he saw that Lu Heng was hiding an outsider in the house, he would not dare to spread any word. In that case, Lu Heng could only be worried about Fu Tingzhou.

Strange, why did Second Brother keep Fu Tingzhou from seeing her? Although it was shameful to say, Fu Tingzhou was still infatuated with her. Even if he bumped into Wang Yanqing, he wouldn’t go and complain to those of higher ranks. What was Second Brother worried about?

Since she met Fu Tingzhou, there were more and more things that couldn’t be explained. Wang Yanqing didn’t make a sound, and quietly followed Lu Heng back to the makeshift courtyard where they were staying. Everything on the southern patrol was simple, and even Wang Yanqing was quietly stuffed into the team. She couldn’t bring too many maids and only brought Ling Xi out.

When Ling Xi saw Wang Yanqing and Lu Heng coming back, she didn’t ask anything. After bringing hot tea for them, she skillfully closed the door and left. Wang Yanqing was used to this kind of treatment and didn’t think it was wrong, but she didn’t have time to drink tea. She approached and asked: “Second Brother, what’s going on?”

She had been in the carriage for a day and could finally set foot on the ground. However, before she could get her luggage, someone suddenly came and said that the commander was looking for her. Wang Yanqing didn’t understand what was going on and was placed behind a faded, dusty screen. Then, Lu Heng, Fu Tingzhou, and an official she didn’t know walked in.

Lu Heng leaned back on a chair and said casually: “As you heard, someone ran outside the palace to shout their grievances. The emperor heard it and ordered me to solve the case within three days.”

“Within three days?” Wang Yanqing was shocked when she heard this, “How can the emperor be so demanding?”

Lu Heng tapped the armrest with his slender fingers, and said slowly: “It was I who requested the order.”

Wang Yanqing was speechless for a moment. She looked at Lu Heng, unable to understand what he was doing.

Lu Heng did not intend to explain any further and said: “The matter is already like this, let’s settle the case first. What do you say about the save me message written on the cloth, is it real or fake?”

The blood on the cloth was not fake, but that did not say that it must be the blood of the Liu family’s son. What if the Liu family’s mother-in-law and daughter-in-law deliberately exaggerated to attract attention? Wang Yanqing thought for a while, then shook her head honestly: “There is too little information for me to judge. I did feel that there were many things that Aunt Liu did not say.”

“Yes.” Lu Heng did not deny this, “I felt it too. They seemed frightened, hesitant to speak, and their words were vague.”

“It is normal for them to be afraid.” Wang Yanqing said, “You held a joint hearing in a three-room hall. What’s more, their local prefects were among them. It is normal for them to be apprehensive.”

Lu Heng couldn’t do anything about it. He was good at making people fear him, but the Imperial Guards did not teach a lesson on how to be approachable. Lu Heng said: “If you question them, are you sure you will be able to see the truth?”

Wang Yanqing considered it for a moment and finally nodded slowly: “I should be able to. However, I want to see them alone, preferably without officers or guards.”

If they were in the hands of the Imperial Guards, this would be a very easy arrangement, but they were taken away by Fu Tingzhou. Lu Heng cursed his bad luck in his heart, but his face was still light: “No problem, I’ll arrange it.”

The summer days were long, as the heat shrouded the earth, and even the air seemed to be filled with a layer of blue mist. Officers and soldiers were traveling far distances during the day and they had to patrol here at night, they were miserable. But they did not dare to neglect matters ordered by the Marquis of Zhenyuan. A group of people patrolled around the base of the wall. Suddenly, someone with sharp eyes saw several young and strong men walking over.

The Imperial Guard’s suit could be recognized from 800 meters away, the soldiers immediately became vigilant, stood in front of the road, and asked loudly: “Who is there?”

The Imperial Guard in the lead quickly showed his waist badge and said: “Master Lu was afraid that the witnesses might do something, so he ordered us to check on them.”

The patrol officers and soldiers were from the five cities’ Military Division, and they didn’t stammer at the Imperial Guard’s suit: “The Marquis of Zhenyuan has made an order, and no one is allowed to enter without his permission.”

The Imperial Guard was impatient, and couldn’t help raising his voice: “I’m just taking a look at the witnesses, do you have any other reason to be evasive?”

In the heavy summer night heat, the two teams began quarreling as soon as they disagreed. The soldiers guarding the gate kept looking forward, anxious and afraid to leave their posts without permission. Two women in palace attire came over, and the soldiers paid attention to the front, but did not forget to stop the person: “Who are you?”

The palace maids paid their greetings in an upright manner, and they took the initiative to open the lids of the wooden boxes in their hands: “We are delivering the meals.”

The soldiers swept over the two women, who were dressed in ordinary palace maid uniforms with pocket cards on their waists. These two people looked at each other, but they were foreign officials, and it was normal for them not to know palace maids. The soldiers noticed that the edges of their pocket cards had been smoothed out, their clothes were a little old, and the corners of their skirts were still stained with dirt as if they had walked for a long time.

Overall, these were two very ordinary palace maids, the only unusual thing was that their appearance was so outstanding. Especially the one in the back, she kept her head down, but her exposed forehead was snow-white, and her figure was also slender. Would this kind of woman just be a food delivery person in the palace?

The soldiers looked suspicious. He checked the food box, but there was nothing in the box except for two simple dishes and two bowls of rice. The palace maid took the initiative to take out a silver stick and test each dish for poison in front of the soldiers. She held her hand motionlessly, and after a long time, the silver stick did not change color. The eyes of the soldiers fell on the two of them, and the palace maid was instantly nervous, and her voice was stiff: “Master, we are the maids of the Shangshi Bureau, and we were ordered to deliver the meals…”

If you are enjoying the novel, please support this translation and get direct access to new releases by reading it at the translator’s original website: https://justforfuntrans.com

In summer, clothes were light and thin, and unable to hide a sword. The soldiers looked over them a few times and couldn’t see anything wrong. He thought that maybe he was thinking too much, maybe the sustenance in the palace supported them. With that in mind, he put his sword away and let them in.

The palace maids restored the food boxes to their original state, performed a very standard palace courtesy, and walked to the door in small steps. The other woman followed behind her companion, her brows lowered, looking like she was guarding herself. After the door was closed, Ling Xi breathed a sigh of relief. She handed the food box to Wang Yanqing and said: “Miss, I will watch from here, you go and come back quickly.”

Wang Yanqing nodded. She knew that time was tight, so she didn’t waste her time, and walked quickly to the room. The door was suddenly pushed open, and the people inside were startled and turned around quickly.

Standing at the door, Wang Yanqing said: “I am a maid of the Shangsi Bureau, and I have been ordered to deliver meals to the two of you.”

Hearing that it was the person delivering their meals, the Liu family’s mother and daughter-in-law first relaxed, and then rubbed their hands a little embarrassedly: “It turns out to be a noble person from the palace… We can just eat whatever, how can we let you deliver it.”

Wang Yanqing pursed her lips and smiled: “I’m just a palace maid, you don’t need to call me noble. Do you two want to eat now?”

The Liu family’s mother and daughter-in-law had been hungry for a day, and they were already famished since earlier, so they nodded hurriedly when they heard this. Daughter-in-law Liu took the initiative to take the food box from Wang Yanqing’s hand. Mother Liu was a little embarrassed and said: “I never expected to see people from the palace in this lifetime, you are really beautiful like a New Year’s picture. No, the New Year’s pictures are not as beautiful as you are… oh, be careful!”

Daughter-in-law Liu came forward to pick up the food box. The two of them didn’t know who was holding onto it but when Wang Yanqing let go, Daughter-in-law Liu didn’t catch it. Daughter-in-law Liu subconsciously reached for it, but she couldn’t grab it. The food box fell to the ground with a bang, and the soup inside spilled on the ground.

Daughter-in-law Liu’s face immediately turned red to her neck, and she quickly knelt down to pick up the food: “I’m sorry, it’s all my fault, I didn’t hold it…”

“It’s no bother.” Wang Yanqing took the initiative to squat down with her skirt in hand, to clean up the mess on the ground, “It’s me that is not doing things well. These meals fell on the ground and cannot be eaten anymore. I will have someone give you another one in a while.”

Mother Liu looked at the white rice on the ground and said with distress: “It’s no use getting another one, it has just touched a bit of soil, we can eat it after brushing it off.”

“How can that be?” Wang Yanqing said, “The ground is so dirty, how can I let it enter your mouths? You two wait a moment, the food will be delivered in a while.”

Mother Liu hesitated to speak, and finally closed her mouth. In fact, she really thought it was still edible. If such good white rice got a little soiled and was to be thrown away, it would be a waste of things. But people in the palace were particular about it, and Mother Liu didn’t dare to say anything, so she could only agree.

Daughter-in-law Liu knocked over the rice and felt very guilty. She kept kneeling on the ground to put away the broken pieces of porcelain and wipe the vegetable soup. Wang Yanqing put the residue into the food box and closed the lid silently.

In fact, it was not the daughter-in-law Liu’s fault for knocking over the food box, it was Wang Yanqing who let go on purpose, causing her to fail to pick it up.

Surprise was triggered in an instant and was the hardest of all expressions to hide. Because accidents often represented danger, everyone would reveal their most instinctive selves at that moment. When the food box suddenly fell, the Liu family’s daughter-in-law was stunned for a while before reaching to fetch it. Hearing the sound of the broken porcelain bowl, fear and guilt flashed across her face, and she quickly knelt down to clean up the scraps. Her movements were very quick, like someone who was used to doing housework, not like someone who practiced martial arts.

Aunt Liu’s expression of distress about the food did not seem to be fake. When she was talking to Wang Yanqing, her eyes kept staring at the rice grains on the ground. When she heard Wang Yanqing was about to throw the food away, she pulled down her eyebrows, folded her eyelids, and pursed her lips. She wanted to speak but held back.

If they were an assassin or a spy, their first reaction to seeing something falling should have been to be on alert, and there would be no guilt. Seeing that the food was spilled, Daughter-in-law Liu immediately knelt down to clean up the mess, exposing her entire back to Wang Yanqing. When Wang Yanqing suddenly approached her, her muscles did not tighten.

If you are enjoying the novel, please support this translation and get direct access to new releases by reading it at the translator’s original website: https://justforfuntrans.com

From all these kinds of performances, this was indeed a pair of rural mother and daughter-in-law. Now that their identity was determined, it was easy to talk about the next thing.

The Liu family’s mother and daughter-in-law did not understand the rules in the palace, so under the pretense of waiting for the meal, Wang Yanqing stayed for a while. Wang Yanqing said: “I’m really sorry, I’ve made you wait a little longer.”

Aunt Liu saw that this fairy-like woman did not despise them for being vulgar, and she spoke gently and softly to them, so she had the nerve to promise: “What’s the matter? We usually go to the fields and we have to eat at Xushi. Sometimes the fields are not finished, and it is common to eat at Haishi. Now we don’t have to do anything, if we have to bother you to bring it, we should apologize.”

|| Xushi (戌时) 7-9 pm. Haishi (亥时) 9-11 pm.

Wang Yanqing smiled and said: “That’s good you two don’t blame me. The dishes are expected to come in a while, so sit down and we can chat.”

Wang Yanqing said this, but in fact, she knew in her heart that the food would not come. She sneaked in and she definitely could not leave a trace, this meal was destined not to be eaten. After Wang Yanqing left, the real palace maid and eunuch would come to deliver the meal.

Village family households were not so particular, so Liu’s mother and daughter-in-law took their seats when they saw Wang Yanqing greet them kindly. Wang Yanqing pretended to be curious about the countryside and took the initiative to ask them about farming.

Originally, Wang Yanqing was a noble person in the palace, and she was distant and feared in the hearts of the Liu family’s mother and daughter-in-law. Now that she was asking questions, her status suddenly dropped. Aunt Liu didn’t expect that people in the palace were not as good as her, her heart swelled, and she immediately started chatting.

Wang Yanqing stared at Aunt Liu earnestly, smiling and nodding from time to time. In a few words, she figured out Aunt Liu’s family situation, hometown, and age. Daughter-in-law Liu looked at her mother-in-law chatting, a little embarrassed, and quietly pulled Aunt Liu’s sleeve: “Mother, this girl may have never touched the soil, how can people be patient when you speak about this?”

“It’s okay.” Wang Yanqing laughed, “I actually grew up in the village. When I was a child, my grandmother went to the farm, and I waited on the edge of the fields. How could I have not seen the land?”

In fact, Wang Yanqing didn’t remember these things, she just listened to what Lu Heng told her. Wang Yanqing was not without regrets in her heart. Her family was destroyed. She lost her parents and grandmother at the age of seven, and she couldn’t even remember her grandmother’s face now. If her grandmother was still alive, she would have looked like the old woman in front of her with the same weathered and unyielding appearance.

Wang Yanqing sighed secretly, she gained the trust of the Liu family’s mother and daughter-in-law, and slowly began to touch the case: “Auntie, I heard that you are here to speak your grievances, what happened?”

When Aunt Liu heard this, her flying eyebrows drooped down, and she sighed deeply: “Yes, we don’t know whether my old man and son are alive or dead now.”

Wang Yanqing asked: “Why?”

“In the fourth month, they were called by the imperial court to build the palace, and in the sixth month, strong men from the neighboring villages started coming back one after another, but they didn’t hear from them. I’ve been waiting and waiting, it’s already the seventh month, and there’s still no news. I went to the county government office to ask, and the people at the county government office didn’t say anything at first, and just threw us away. Later, I asked the people in the village to go together, but the official didn’t come out, so we sat outside the door and waited. Seeing that the county magistrate could not drive us away, he said that the men in Hegu Village encountered a flood on the way to the labor force and were washed away by the flood.”

When Aunt Liu said these words, her eyes were dull, and the folds at the corners of her mouth fell heavily, a kind of numb calm. Wang Yanqing thought for a while and asked: “They were washed away by the flood on their way there. The imperial court was recruiting in the fourth month, why did the county government only tell you in the seventh month?”

This is something I just don’t understand, I don’t think they were washed away by the water. Aunt Liu said: “Later, Li Zheng was going door-to-door, saying that the county paid funeral expenses, and each family sent one person to the county hall to pick it up. After receiving the money, nobody mentioned it again. I didn’t believe my son just died like this and I didn’t go to get it.”

Wang Yanqing asked: “Did everyone else in the village take it?”

“Of course.” Aunt Liu sighed deeply, “The days are going to move forward, and there is nobody left, so what am I still holding on to? They all said I was stunned, but I could see my son suffering every night as soon as I closed my eyes. I worked so hard to bring him up, and I just married him to my daughter-in-law, how could he be sent away in such a confusing way? Even if there was a flash flood, there should always be bodies.”

The Liu family’s daughter-in-law was silent, sitting beside her mother-in-law with her head down. The light outside the house dimmed layer by layer, and they sat at the empty wooden table, like statues in the temple, silent and blotchy. Wang Yanqing thought for a moment and asked: “Did every village have to recruit laborers?”


“Apart from the Hegu Village, did anyone else encounter this kind of thing?”

“I never heard it.” Aunt Liu said solemnly, “Their people came back early, and our village was silent, which is why I found it strange. I went to the county government to complain about my grievance, but the county magistrate called me a lunatic, and later refused to let me in. Our family’s osprey flew back, and I finally had evidence, but I couldn’t enter the county office. I used to listen to the village people’s opera performances. Saying that when some people were wronged, and the county magistrate did not care, they went to Beijing to complain successfully. I didn’t know where the capital was, so I tried to find the prefect. But I was unfamiliar with Weihui. I stayed outside for three days, and I couldn’t even get in the prefect’s door.”

Daughter-in-law Liu heard this and added: “Mother really suffered a lot to avenge my father and husband. When she went to the county government to file a complaint, the county magistrate almost executed her. After I tried my very best to persuade him, the county magistrate was generous and let mother out. After that, we didn’t dare to go to the county government office, so we came to Weihui. But the prefect was busy attending to the carriages, and they wouldn’t even let us approach the gate of the government office. We stayed in the Weihui Mansion for three days. Seeing that the entanglement was over, my mother was not willing to go back like this, so she risked her life and came to the palace to try her luck.”

I can’t tell if it’s good luck or bad luck, but the emperor really heard it. Wang Yanqing sighed in her heart for the pair of hard-working mother and daughter-in-law. She suddenly realized that something was wrong, raised her head suddenly, and her eyes suddenly lit up: “You said that you first went to the county government to complain about your grievance, and then you saw the osprey. Without evidence, why did you think it was not accidental?”

Wang Yanqing’s eyes were different from the gentle and kind maid just now but Aunt Liu was immersed in her own thoughts and did not feel anything was abnormal. Aunt Liu licked her lips, struggled for a moment, and said in a low voice: “Actually, it’s not just the flood this time, before the recruitment, other people also left, and they disappeared for no reason. Moreover, some time ago, in the night, there was a rumbling sound in the mountains. Others said it was an earthquake, but our old man said no. If there was a real earthquake, the fish in the river would definitely run away. I didn’t take it to heart at the time. Who would have known that it didn’t take long for people from the county government to come to recruit strong men, and no one from our village would come back? The more I think about it, the more wrong it is. How can this be considered a natural disaster, someone must be doing something wrong!”

If you are enjoying the novel, please support this translation and get direct access to new releases by reading it at the translator’s original website: https://justforfuntrans.com

The information revealed by Aunt Liu was very useful. Wang Yanqing was about to ask again when there was a knock on the door behind her. Ling Xi’s voice sounded from outside the door, slightly tense: “The time has come, we should go.”

Only then did the Liu family’s mother and daughter-in-law know that there was a palace maid outside. They stood up at a loss and apologized again and again. Knowing that things had changed, Wang Yanqing stopped the Liu family’s mother and daughter-in-law and said: “It’s all my fault, I forgot about the time when I started speaking. We have palace rules, so we have to go back quickly. The two of you can stay, you don’t need to walk us out.”

When Aunt Liu heard this, she didn’t dare to stop her, and Wang Yanqing came out with the food box. When Ling Xi saw her, she lowered her voice and said: “Miss, don’t talk for a while, and walk along the dark side.”

Wang Yanqing nodded in understanding. Ling Xi and Wang Yanqing went out. The soldiers guarding outside saw them come out, frowned, and asked: “Why did you go in for so long?”

Ling Xi lowered her brows and said: “Auntie held on tightly, we had to wait for them to finish eating to get the food box back.”

The soldiers did not understand the rules in the palace, and could not hear anything wrong for the time being, so they let them go. Wang Yanqing lowered her head and walked away quickly. There was a corner in front of her, and there was a sound of neat and powerful footsteps coming from behind. Ling Xi’s heart tightened, and she quickly moved behind Wang Yanqing to block Wang Yanqing’s figure.

The two turned around the corner more scared than hurt, and Ling Xi was not sure whether they were exposed or not, so she could only urge Wang Yanqing to leave quickly. Wang Yanqing didn’t say anything, but spoke one sentence: “Don’t forget to bring them meals later.”

Lingxi nodded: “The commander will arrange it.”

Fu Tingzhou always thought that Lu Heng would not live so peacefully, and sure enough, when the sky was about to fall, he heard a message that a few Imperial Guards were provoking trouble at the door. Fu Tingzhou came to check in person. When he approached, he vaguely saw two women turning the corner of the wall.

Even if the woman’s figure was only revealed for a moment, Fu Tingzhou still recognized that it was Qing Qing.

Fu Tingzhou didn’t say anything. After he appeared, the troublesome Imperial Guards quickly dispersed. Fu Tingzhou pushed open the door and came in. When Aunt Liu saw that it was him, she hurriedly dragged her daughter-in-law to her knees.

“I pay my respect to the Marquis.”

They knelt on the ground with improper etiquette. However, Fu Tingzhou’s attention was not on the pair of mother and daughter-in-law at all. He stood with his hands behind his back, capturing a scent that had not yet dissipated.

He was all too familiar with this fragrance, and Fu Tingzhou didn’t even feel surprised because he had a hunch. Fu Tingzhou asked the mother and daughter-in-law on the ground: “Who was here just now?”

Aunt Liu trembled and said: “One… No, two palace maids who delivered the meals.”

“What did she look like?”

This question stopped Aunt Liu, she frowned and said: “She was quite tall, white and thin, and her appearance was very distinctive.”

Fu Tingzhou nodded lightly and asked: “What did she discuss with you?”

“She just asked about matters of the day…” Aunt Liu became nervous, “Isn’t she just a palace maid?”

If Lu Heng was the only one in this matter, Fu Tingzhou would definitely not be merciful. But Qing Qing was also involved, and he didn’t want to expose Qing Qing, so he calmly said: “Yes, a palace maid. It’s okay, I’m just here to check.”

Aunt Liu let out a sigh and her face relaxed. Fu Tingzhou glanced at them one last time, then turned around and went out. After closing the door, he instructed the guarding officers and soldiers: “Watch well, don’t let anyone approach.”

The soldiers could only agree. After he finished speaking, the Marquis of Zhenyuan didn’t move, and the soldiers became nervous. Could it be that he found something wrong just now?

While the soldiers were sweating from fear, Fu Tingzhou said: “Next time the two palace maids come to deliver meals…”

He stopped halfway through, and finally shook his head: “She won’t come again. Well, do your best work.”

The Marquis of Zhenyuan left a baffling remark and then inexplicably stopped talking. The soldiers were puzzled and agreed in surprise.

Fu Tingzhou walked towards his residence in the dark of night. The weather in the seventh month was like a steamer, and the ground was filled with dust and heat. Fu Tingzhou was walking into the palace where the guards were obviously in chaos, and a vague idea came to him.

He might know a way to save Qing Qing.

|| Translator’s Note: Thank you all for being patient. We have just started moving and it is getting crazy!

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