Jilin arranged this gathering. On the surface, everything was still peaceful, and no one wanted anything unpleasant to happen in the process, not to mention that it was a princess who was going to be married to Wang Zhao.
After hearing the news, Emperor Qingyuan got serious and immediately mobilised two teams of soldiers with torches to go to the woods to look for people.
But Fu Zhiyu knew that these two teams of soldiers plus Jing’s team were mainly for the sake of Lin Miaotang. Mingdao was only incidental. Although he was a person by Fu Zhiyu’s side, and he also emphasised the importance of Mingdao in front of the emperor, no one would really listen. After all, Mingdao now had no official status worthy of their special attention.
He had to find Mingdao himself.
Fu Zhiyu returned to the camp, quickly changed into a lighter set of clothes, took a torch, thought for a while, and went in one direction.
He still remembered that Mingdao said before leaving that he was going to hunt a fox. He had been to this hunting ground several times in his previous life, and he knew where there were more foxes, so he was likely to go in that direction.
Before Fu Zhiyu had gone far, he heard someone calling his name from behind. As soon as he heard it, he knew it was Xie Ke, so he didn’t look back and kept walking forward.
“Zhiyu,” Xie Ke seemed to have arrived in a hurry, “Don’t worry, I’ve also asked the Shadows to look for him. In addition to the Shadows, there are…”
After hearing these words, Fu Zhiyu suddenly turned his head and stared at Xie Ke for a while.
Xie Ke stopped talking at once. He could see that Fu Zhiyu’s eyes were not friendly. The look of defensiveness and scrutiny made his heart sink.
“Will you help me find him?” Fu Zhiyu said; his heart was anxious and his tone was slightly sarcastic, “Xie Ke, did you do it on purpose?”
Xie Ke felt as if his heart was gripped by a hand, and he was choking and uncomfortable. He looked directly into Fu Zhiyu’s eyes, and his voice trembled uncontrollably: “Zhiyu, do you think I did it?”
For the first time, he felt powerless, as if no matter what he did, Zhiyu felt that he was pretending and lying to him. He was going round and round in circles, no longer able to get close to Zhiyu’s heart.
“I really didn’t,” Xie Ke tried to explain. “I know that Yuan Mingdao is someone you care about. I wouldn’t hurt him, Zhiyu, nor would I hurt Lin Miaotang. She is such a young girl, I am jealous, yes, but you said not to touch her, and I wouldn’t touch her, I wouldn’t… make you unhappy again. Zhiyu, I’m trying to change. I know what you hate, and I won’t do it again. Just trust me once, okay?”
Fu Zhiyu didn’t answer. He avoided Xie Ke’s eyes, turned around and went on his way. Xie Ke quickly followed and put a cloak on him.
“The weather is cold and the wind is strong at night,” he said carefully. “Looking for someone is one thing, you shouldn’t get sick either.”
Fu Zhiyu ignored him. He was carefully identifying the paths in the mountains and trying to determine the direction. The last time he came here was also in his previous life. He didn’t remember many places very clearly. Xie Ke helped guide the way, while catching the moment to start talking again: “Zhiyu, you know about the Shadow. I gave you the ring back then. I wanted to give you all this organisation. Having them can come in handy at a time like this. But you returned the ring and refused to accept it… Zhiyu, I swear I will do a real handover this time. They will only listen to you in the future, and I will never interfere again, okay?”
“No,” Fu Zhiyu said, “Shut up.”
Xie Ke wasn’t afraid of anything but he was afraid of him, so he shut up on the spot and followed him quietly.
The sound of beasts howling from a distance in the woods made Fu Zhiyu even more worried about Mingdao’s safety.
Xie Ke really wanted to help him at this time, and he really didn’t do anything to harm Yuan Mingdao and Lin Miaotang. Yuan Mingdao often stayed with Fu Zhiyu and because of Zhiyu’s special disorder function, Xie Ke hadn’t used any surveillance type props on him during this time. And none of his remaining props were for finding people, so Xie Ke really didn’t know where Mingdao was.
They could only rely on human resources to find him.
Fu Zhiyu spent the whole night like this; his eyes were red but he was still searching. Xie Ke felt sorry for him, but he also knew that he couldn’t stop him. Zhiyu wouldn’t stop until he found Yuan Mingdao, so he could only do his best to help him.
When it was dawn, the shadow guards sent a message, saying that the emperor’s team had been searching all night and had not found anyone. Now they were questioning who saw the princess last, but the hunting ground was too chaotic, and not many people noticed her. There was no result in asking around.
The woods were too big, and if they continued to search aimlessly, who could know when they would find her or Mingdao. Fu Zhiyu wondered if Mingdao had encountered something and was hiding in one place, or was he walking around?
He was inclined towards the former. If Mingdao was able to walk, last night was cloudless and he could see the stars. It wasn’t difficult to rely on them to judge the direction and he could find his way back.
If it had been some kind of accident, like getting lost, that was fine; Fu Zhiyu was worried that someone was behind it, deliberately harming people.
He began to walk a more remote path, paying attention to the steep mountain cliffs, until by a small stream he picked up the waist token he had given to Mingdao. There was blood on the token. Fu Zhiyu looked down and soon saw spots of blood on some stones in front of him. His heart tightened, and he followed the blood trail ahead until he reached the edge of the cliff and there was no way further.
The stream turned into a swift waterfall here. Fu Zhiyu looked down. It wasn’t too high. He was thinking of a way to go down.
“Let me carry you down,” Xie Ke said. “Zhiyu, strength is not enough here, you need skills. You haven’t practised martial arts much. It’s a bit difficult to go down by yourself. You don’t want to get hurt before you find Mingdao, right?”
Fu Zhiyu looked at him in silence, and Xie Ke once again received his familiar expression of distrust.
“Zhiyu…” He didn’t know how to explain, “I just want to help you, really.”
A night had passed since Mingdao’s disappearance, and Fu Zhiyu’s heart was already troubled; he thought about it, and there was really no need to delay Mingdao’s safety for the sake of his own momentary mood.
Xie Ke moved quickly, and after carefully picking Fu Zhiyu up on his back, he drew a dagger from his waist. The cliffside was slick with water vapour and many rocks were mossy; it didn’t matter if he fell, but he was carrying Zhiyu on his back, so it was impossible to be careless.
The dagger was sharp, and when it was inserted into the stone, it was at least a point of contact. Xie Ke went down carefully and quickly, and in a short while he wasn’t far from the ground, but the weight of two people was too heavy, and when the stone under his foot loosened, Xie Ke knew he was about to fall.
He reacted in an instant, turning around, and fell to the ground first. Fortunately, Fu Zhiyu fell on him and was fine.
Below were dead branches and fallen leaves, and the place where he fell was no more than a few metres from the ground. Nothing happened to Xie Ke, except that his elbow was wrenched when it hit the ground.
“It’s just dislocated,” he looked at it and then smiled at Fu Zhiyu, “It’s okay.”
The dislocation was not serious, it was really okay, just find a doctor to put it back later. This pain was nothing compared to the one before.
Fu Zhiyu hesitated for a moment and said, “Ask the shadow guard to take you back.”
“I’m really fine,” Xie Ke said quickly, “I have to find Yuan Mingdao before leaving anyway. I don’t feel comfortable if you are here alone.”
Fu Zhiyu was about to say something next, but heard a faint voice: “…Master, is that you?”
It was Mingdao!
Startled, he ran in the direction of the sound, and found Yuan Mingdao in a cave.
Xie Ke, who was quickly left behind, smiled bitterly, pressed his arm and followed.
“The princess is here too,” Yuan Mingdao said. After he saw Fu Zhiyu, he obviously relaxed a lot. “They wanted to kill me. The princess happened to recognise me and saw that I was injured. She came to help me, and we were in trouble together.”
Fu Zhiyu examined him carefully and breathed a sigh of relief. Yuan Mingdao’s injuries were not too serious; there were wounds on his arms and back but they didn’t hurt the vital points. The wounds had been simply bandaged by the strips of cloth torn off his clothes.
The princess had some minor injuries, but she had probably fallen into the water during the escape. It was easy to catch a cold in such weather. She was burning and in a dazed sleep in the corner of the cave.
“I hid here, not daring to go out again at night. There were too many of them and I was afraid I’d run into them again if I went out.” Yuan Mingdao said, his eyes fixed on Fu Zhiyu, “I knew Master would find me.”
“Let’s go back to heal your injuries first,” Fu Zhiyu said. He put Yuan Mingdao on his back, but he hesitated about the princess.
If Lin Miaotang was brought back directly like this, the two of them wouldn’t be able to explain it.
Fu Zhiyu didn’t care about gossip, but he cared about Lin Miaotang. Since he didn’t want to marry her, he couldn’t ruin the princess’s reputation at this time.
Xie Ke knew what he was thinking at a glance, and he didn’t want Fu Zhiyu to really have anything to do with this girl, so he was going to help him plan.
“I’ll ask my people to send the princess back and say that the people from my side found her,” Xie Ke volunteered. “I don’t know why Mingdao was hunted down, but it’s too unreasonable for you to take both of them back directly like this.”
The fact that several teams from Jilin and Jing were looking for them and didn’t find them, but instead Fu Zhiyu, an idle prince with no brains and no martial arts training, found them single-handedly, was impossible not to make people suspicious.
“So be it,” Fu Zhiyu made a quick decision, “She is still suffering from a fever, so ask the imperial doctor to take care of her.”
Yuan Mingdao breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the princess being sent away, and then tugged at the corner of Fu Zhiyu’s clothes and whispered, “Master, I can’t go back.”
“Why?” Fu Zhiyu frowned, “You are injured, you have to go back and get bandaged.”
Yuan Mingdao shook his head and said, “Master, you should have brought medicine with you, right? Just give it to me. I’m not seriously injured and don’t need a doctor.”
Fu Zhiyu knew that Yuan Mingdao had something to say to him, and Xie Ke understood it too. He consciously took a few steps back, staying far away, and said, “I won’t listen, you guys talk.”
Fu Zhiyu took a few more steps with Mingdao on his back, sat him gently on a big stone, and asked in a low voice, “Who did this?”
“The Xue family, to be precise, the Xue and Lin family and the Western Regions,” Yuan Mingdao said. “I went the wrong way when I was hunting a fox and heard something I shouldn’t have heard.”