The Human Emperor Chapter 805
Chapter 805: Mobilization
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
The incident had begun last night. In Fumeng Lingcha's residence, the old woman responsible for making everyone's food realized that several kinds of food had not been ordered this time. The old woman had served Fumeng Lingcha for ten-some years and was familiar with the likes of all his subordinates.
The people at Fumeng Lingcha's side all had extremely strange tastes that were very difficult to satisfy. All of them had a liking for some extremely unusual dish that they wanted to eat at every meal. After so many years, only this old woman could cook food that could satisfy their taste buds.
Thus, even though she was already old and graying, Fumeng Lingcha still kept her around.
Fumeng Lingcha was very cautious, and he would never let others know of or interfere in matters he considered truly important. As a result, even though the old woman had served him for ten-some years, she remained unaware of any critical secrets. But no matter how careful Fumeng Lingcha was, he couldn't go without his three meals a day.
With just a glance at the order, the old woman could tell what foods there were extra of and which foods were missing, allowing her to see which of Fumeng Lingcha's subordinates were with him and which weren't.
But this matter could only serve as a clue, not solid evidence, so Zhang Que had spent the better part of the night confirming the facts. In the morning, when he was finally sure, he immediately reported the matter to Wang Chong.
"How many people are missing from Fumeng Lingcha's residence?" Wang Chong asked, his brow tightly creased.
"Five! At least five, because five kinds of food were missing. But this is only the minimum, because we can't guarantee that some people wouldn't leave during a meal. In short, this matter is very unusual. That the food for five people would suddenly go missing definitely isn't normal," Zhang Que sternly said.
After confirming the matter and sending a letter by bird, Zhang Que had begun his return journey, finally arriving at the City of Steel not too long ago. The Young Marquis never did anything without reason. One could see that from the complete consumption of his fortune on building strange steel walls before the war of the southwest had even begun, or even in his sudden excursion with his army to Longxi, taking it along a secret path to destroy the major training camp of Zhangzhung.
Anyone who spent long enough with the Young Marquis would gradually get used to his style of doing things.
Although Wang Chong had not made his intentions clear, even the slowest of people could see that a matter involving Protector-General Fumeng Lingcha was no laughing matter. The slightest lack of caution could trigger cataclysmic changes, perhaps even altering the entire structure of the empire.
And the marquis could use his influence to push this matter to the limit.
Knowing all this, Zhang Que had immediately begun to ride back as soon as he could to personally report to Wang Chong.
"Xu Keyi, how many people could you confirm? Were there any oversights?"
Wang Chong's grave eyes turned to Xu Keyi. Besides Zhang Que, Xu Keyi had also noticed that something strange was going on. Once Wang Chong was made aware, he had decided to summon Xu Keyi as well.
"Lord Marquis, according to your orders, we used Thousand Li Fragrance to track the trusted subordinates at Fumeng Lingcha's side. As soon as any of them get a certain distance from Qixi, we'll immediately know."
Xu Keyi was speaking of a special sort of perfume used by people in the underworld to track targets. The person who wanted to use the Thousand Li Fragrance would first implant a soft scent on their target, and then use a well-trained mastiff to smell the scent. At a certain distance, the fragrance would begin to fade, and the mastiff would begin to madly bark, a complete transformation from its usual quiet and gentle self.
Xu Keyi knew nothing about these methods, and it was Old Eagle that had suggested it. Wang Chong had then passed on this task to Yang Hongchang in the Western Regions. The Yang Clan had operated in the Western Regions for many years and knew people from all walks of life. It took only about a day for Yang Hongchang to send over the mastiffs and Thousand Li Fragrance that Wang Chong required.
"…I've already confirmed that at least seven mastiffs began to madly bark at once. At least seven people have taken their leave of Qixi," Xu Keyi said.
The atmosphere in the room was extremely solemn, and Wang Chong silently furrowed his brow in thought, everyone else not even daring to breathe too loudly. All of them could sense the tension in Wang Chong's body. It was clear as day that this matter was exceptionally serious.
Five, seven… Fumeng Lingcha, just what are you up to? Just what is your real goal? Or is it that you've already noticed something?
Wang Chong raised his head, and he unwittingly began to tap the middle and index fingers of his right hand against his palm as countless thoughts ran through his mind. If everything proceeded as expected, the infamous 'Xueyang Palace Incident' that would make all of society quake was about to take place. Fumeng Lingcha, Qixi Protector-General, would end being swept into the War of the Princes within the capital, a massive taboo for the Great Generals of the border.
In every dynasty, this had always been a taboo that would draw severe reproach and criticism from both the sovereign and the ministers of court. The number of Great Generals who had been stripped of their ranks by breaching this taboo was uncountable. However, even though this incident shook the world and made Fumeng Lingcha the target of a barrage of criticism, the lack of incriminating evidence allowed him to barely avoid disaster.
Coupled with all his past achievements, the Sage Emperor ultimately decided to strip him of his noble title but leave him as Protector-General, noting that he 'would retain his position until further discussion'.
If Wang Chong wanted to deal with Fumeng Lingcha, this was the last chance. But first, he had to find that trusted aide who Fumeng Lingcha had dispatched, find that 'expression of fealty' on him that Fumeng Lingcha was delivering to that prince. Only this way could he deal Fumeng Lingcha a serious blow. When the Xueyang Palace Incident was riling the palace, dragging in many border generals and angering the Sage Emperor, the lack of this 'expression of fealty' had ultimately spared Fumeng Lingcha from being charged with the fatal crime.
After that incident, Fumeng Lingcha became even more cautious, acting with more prudence than ever before. He left behind no clues and no weaknesses to exploit.
If this incident played out in exactly the same way as it did before, it would mean that all of Wang Chong's efforts would be for nothing. The battle at the triangular gap would be meaningless, and the entire Qixi Protectorate would remain in the grip of Fumeng Lingcha. Moreover, Wang Chong's plans for the Western Regions would be impeded at every turn, his preparations strangled in the cradle.
Crucially, Fumeng Lingcha and Anxi Protector-General Gao Xianzhi had never had a good relationship. As long as Fumeng Lingcha remained in his position, the Great Tang would once more suffer a bitter defeat at Talas and lose control over the Western Regions, thus heralding an era of internal discord.
Wang Chong could not allow this to happen.
Fumeng Lingcha is a Hu, and an extremely ambitious one at that. This was clear in the Regional Commanders incident, and it was also obvious when he stole the credit for the triangular gap. This is all for the sake of authority and merit. Fumeng Lingcha wants to ascend to a position even higher than Qixi Protector-General, so he colludes with a prince of the imperial clan. Wait a moment… When Zhangchou Jianqiong rose from Annan Protector-General to Minister of War, this must have provoked him. No, it's not just that. I wasn't there in the last life, so there was no battle of the triangular gap, but now that Fumeng Lingcha's taken credit for that battle, his ambition is even greater, which makes it even harder for him to restrain himself…
Wang Chong's mind was buzzing with thought. He was almost completely confident that Fumeng Lingcha was dispatching his trusted aide to the capital to deliver the expression of fealty.
He truly is a cunning one!
Wang Chong mentally sighed. Very few people knew about the relationship between Fumeng Lingcha and that prince, and at least right now, this was still a secret. And yet in this situation, where everything seemed safe and sound, Fumeng Lingcha had still sent five to seven of his trusted subordinates to act as decoys. Such caution truly made one stand at attention.
Even though Fumeng Lingcha had no idea that Wang Chong knew his secret, his natural sense of caution made him incredibly difficult to deal with.
Time was short, and Wang Chong quickly came back to his senses.
"Xu Keyi, bring some people with you and chase them down! In addition, send some people to run ahead to Sand Pass! The terrain around Sand Pass means that anyone who wants to travel from Qixi to the capital has to pass through it, but once they get through Sand Pass, they could travel down numerous roads and we'll lose track of them."
"Yes, Lord Marquis!"
Knowing that time was short, Xu Keyi hurriedly bowed.
Wang Chong turned to Zhang Que and ordered, "Zhang Que, dispatch your eagle team. Horses are slower than eagles, and we need to keep watch over them from the air."
"Yes! Lord Marquis!" Zhang Que's reply was crisp and energetic.
"In addition, remember to not attract their notice, no matter what! Fumeng Lingcha is extremely cautious and paranoid, and his subordinates are certain to have been influenced by this attitude to be the same. You can't make them suspicious, because if we miss this chance, there won't be a second time! Once Fumeng Lingcha starts getting wary, all our efforts will be wasted."
Wang Chong said all this with a dour expression.
Fumeng Lingcha had not been able to become Protector-General through pure luck, and Wang Chong did not dare to be careless. If this opportunity were lost, he would never be able to remove Fumeng Lingcha.
"Your subordinate understands!" Xu Keyi and Zhang Que declared as one.
The two had grim faces, both sensing the magnitude of the situation.
Wang Chong nodded.
"Remember, the person you're looking for has a black brand on his right wrist in the shape of the character for 'jade' (玉)… Okay, go!"
Wang Chong waved his hand, and soon after, horses rumbled out of the City of Steel. Zhang Que, Xu Keyi, and countless other people had left to carry out Wang Chong's orders.
"Lord Marquis, do you need me to go as well? With my speed, I can definitely catch up to them." A loud voice rang out at Wang Chong's ear.
Li Siye's mountain of a figure took several steps forward and stopped behind Wang Chong. Li Siye had once set off from the capital alone and had exterminated the several thousand Black Dragon Bandits. Dealing with Fumeng Lingcha's subordinates would be as easy as flipping over his palm.