The Case Within the Poisoned Gold Case (Part 2)
That was my plan.
But I never expected a passing constable to find out about the secret, and even take the records and gold with him.
On my way to visit Yiren at Liu Shan Men, I head Cheng'er angrily stormed Liu Shan Men's office. My alarms were going off without question. I can understand the book being taken, but how on Earth did the box of gold get taken too?! Weren't victims supposed to die from poisoning as soon as they touch it?
I only found out he fell victim to the box of gold after seeing him poisoned and hearing from Yiren that he was the one who solved the case. I felt somewhat guilty towards him, because if he were to die serving loyally in the line of duty, it would be an unjust death.
Getting back on track, my entourage told me the venom was extremely toxic and just coming into contact it would be enough to kill someone many times over, and yet he survived. Perhaps it's because he didn't absorb much of the venom and was treated well.
Since he didn't see me speak, he decided to be even more lax lying on the bed. He looked like he wasn't afraid of anything or anybody and said: "Come on, spill it, what did you want to say to me?"
H-he's getting more and more overboard! Is that any way to speak to an emperor?!
I must… I must…
Could it be that he realised that he was poisoned because of me? Heh~ how dare this rascal try to rile me up.
"You're quite amazing, young man."
"Don't compliment me. I get a headache as soon as you do."
Am I lice or something?!
"Alright, let's cut to the chase. Do you already know what I want to say?"
"Long live your majesty, may you live for eternity. One who is just does not speak with hidden meanings and imply things. You've made yourself very clear, so of course I know"
"You're a smart fella. There's no need to say everything explicitly when speaking with smart people. It's good that you understand."
Ming Feizhen stared at me for a while. He then sighed and said: 'Your majesty, you're busy with thousands of things every day and still have to fulfill the roles of a father. It must be tough on you. This injury of mine is nothing. A bee sting or two is nothing. I'll be fine in very soon."
Ming Feizhen spoke to me as though I were his friend. Who does he take me for?! But what he said hit certainly home for me.
"People say that I own all the lands and rivers, but they don't realise how much effort it takes to take care of it all. My sons are all a handful. I need to handle national affairs as well as my family. If I didn't, then just my harem alone would grief me to death."
"Your majesty, you may have sent four of your sons to different places, but their mothers are still in the palace assisting them. Six princes and five concubines… It'd be one heck of a headache if a fight broke out between them."
"Oh? You know my family affairs very well. How insolent, Ming Feizhen! How dare you make baseless complements about the imperial family!!"
I deliberately glared at him with my eyes open wide to scare this rascal that didn't know better. However, he laughed and said: "Everybody out there discusses the rumours about your family. I could go for a walk around the block and hear five different people with five different occupations discuss them. Just because you don't want people to speak about something, doesn't mean they're going to keep their mouths shut. If you don't believe me, I can take you to the Eight Deities Tavern in the Western City. As long as you're willing to treat me to braised pork shoulder with soy sauce, I guarantee you'll hear things you wouldn't normally hear."
The young man before me is only a few years younger than my eldest son at max. Putting aside the monarch and peasant hierarchy, he's still younger than me. He, however, isn't showing any signs of fear. He's behaving and talking as if we were friends who are on even footing.
I have to say, I haven't been treated like this in a long time. Nobody has ever treated me as an equal since Yiren's father passed away.
I leisurely laughed and said: "I'd be more than glad to treat you to braised pork shoulder with soy sauce if it's as you say. Hahahaha."
Ming Feizhen then suddenly showed a bitter smile and said: "But your majesty, my…"
"Just keep it to yourself. It's just between the two of us."
"Thank you, your majesty!"
I wanted him to keep the poison matter secret and yet he's thanking me? What is he on about now?
"That's enough, don't spout nonsense. I know I caused you to get poisoned, but luckily you're fine. I'll deal with the matter with those from the Orange Prince's residence, so let's say we're equal."
"What? Poison? Say what?" Ming Feizhen squinted his eyes like a retarded kid and continued: "Poison… Are you saying you were the one who gave the order to spread venom on the gold?"
…Is he a retard?
I stared at him and asked: "Yes! Didn't you already know?"
Ming Feizhen widened his mouth and then closed it. And then widened it and closed it again. He then answered stiflingly as if he was choking on food: "I get it now…"
Ming Feizhen suddenly looked relieved. He then seemed to recall something and sat up straight. His attitude towards me then seemed like a boat that got back on-route and he straightened up.
"Y-your majesty, I was spouting nonsense before… It was all because the venom affected my thinking. Please bestow your benevolence upon me and pardon me."
What's his deal? He changes like the weather.
I laughed mockingly and said: "You look very alert to me."
He went and acted all respectful, sincere and little: "Your majesty, I'm a lowly peasant who's never seen your greatness, so isn't it normal for peasants like me to be taken in by it."
Normally? I've only ever come across like… Two peasants like you in the forty plus years I've been alive. And they were all from Liu Shan Men. The other one was Yan Shisan, who I sent off to scrub toilets.
I laughed and curiously asked: "I'll pardon you in that case. We'll call this even if you take me to that Eight Deities Tavern you spoke of, what do you think?"
Ming Feizhen acted as though I wanted his life and seriously answered: "Your majesty, I'd rather you decapitate me instead!"
"Enough, enough. I've left the palace for too long so they're probably worried about me by now. Ming Feizhen, I remember what you said. It's my fault that the people spread rumours. As my servants, Liu Shan Men should help me out, understood?"
I paused for a moment and then said: "You're a talented man, I can tell. Yiren… Is the daughter of my old friend. I treat her as though she were my own daughter. Since you're someone she chose, make sure to help her out. I expect many great things from you."
"Understood. I wish you a safe return, your majesty."
Ming Feizhen pretended to struggle out of bed.
I waved my hand and said: "Forget it, stop pretending. If I were to punish you for your rudeness, do you think you'd ever have enough heads for me to chop?"
The rascal laughed and said: "Hehehe, that just goes to show your infinite benevolence."
Yiren told me she recruited three people recently. I don't know much about the one called Tang Ye. I've met Su Xiao who's a kind, honest and upright child. As for Ming Feizhen… He's exactly how Yiren describes him: A messy walking embodiment of trouble.
He's an absolute mess… Looking at him remind me of Yan Shisan.
As I walked out of Liu Shan Men, Nan gonggong greeted me: "Your majesty, Let us return to the palace."
"Yeah, let's go."
The sound of horse hoofs could be hard as the golden sun started setting behind the tiled roofs of Liu Shan Men. I suddenly remembered something.
"Ming Feizhen… That name sounds so familiar. Have I heard it somewhere before?"
I turned around to look. I tirelessly searched my brain for Ming Feizhen's face. But because of his swollen face, I couldn't recall anything.
Perhaps I remembered wrong.