Xishan, Fengming Valley.
Wei Zhao, accompanied by the Eighteen Horsemen of the Jun family, went back and forth several times and finally found Ji Xin and the others hiding at the bottom of the valley. What pleasantly surprised Wei Zhao was that Huo Qingyang was also there.
Ji Xin’s injury did not seem serious; he was hit by an arrow in his right shoulder and had been bandaged by a military doctor. His face looked a little pale, but compared with the severity described in the letter, it seemed a bit unlike that.
Huo Qingyang’s eyes lit up when he saw Wei Zhao. Although he didn’t run to the front because of his duties, he still gave Wei Zhao a bright smile.
Wei Zhao did not think that at such a critical time Ji Xin would write a letter to scare Jun Qing for fun, so he said, “Wang Changning, the letter is not detailed. Can you tell me what happened all over again?”
Before Ji Xin could speak, Huo Qingyang said first: “Your Imperial Highness Wang Qin, let me talk about it. I have been following His Highness Wang Changning, no one knows the whole thing better than me.”
Wei Zhao nodded and motioned to Huo Qingyang to go on. He only needed the truth, and it didn’t matter who told it. Huo Qingyang got his permission, so he briefly explained the matter from beginning to end.
It turned out that although yesterday was the Lantern Festival, the soldiers of the Western Camp did not have time to celebrate, but were engaged in an internal skirmish. The two sides facing each other were led by Wang Changning and Hou Dingyuan.
Even though Ji Xin’s title was higher than Lu Ming’s, his position in the army was inferior; while Lu Ming was already a commander-in-chief, Ji Xin was still a minor military officer. Of course, this difference was due to their age and seniority, not because Ji Xin was really far inferior to Lu Ming.
During the exercise, in order to save time, Ji Xin took a shortcut with several of his soldiers. The so-called shortcut was actually to climb over the cliff directly with the help of ropes. It looked a bit dangerous, but the people who climbed the mountain were all experts, so it was fine.
But when Ji Xin was halfway up, a sharp arrow suddenly flew towards him.
The angle and timing of that arrow were calculated very cleverly, so that Ji Xin had no possibility of avoiding it and could only accept it, otherwise he would fall off the cliff to his death.
Huo Qingyang followed Ji Xin up the cliff and saw the process of his injury clearly. His intuition told him that if one person dealt with another person in such a meticulous way, then his methods would never be as simple as you could see.
When they got up the mountain, Huo Qingyang didn’t say a word, immediately peeled off Ji Xin’s clothes, helped him pull out the arrow, and then sucked out the poisonous blood.
Yes, the arrow was poisoned. The military doctor who was called later confirmed Huo Qingyang’s judgement and praised his quick decision. The poison was called “Silent Death”. Although it was not a powerful poison that would make you choke on blood on the spot, it was also extremely vicious.
After being poisoned with “Silent Death”, if the poison couldn’t be detoxified within twelve shichen, the poisoned person would have all his muscles and veins broken, all his internal organs would be cracked and he would turn into a waste person from then on. If the poisoned person used his qi to heal himself, or was angry or agitated, it would stimulate the blood flow and cause “Silent Death” to attack early.
Ji Xin was climbing the mountain when he was hit by the arrow, and it was impossible to continue climbing without using his qi at all. Fortunately, Huo Qingyang helped him clear the poison in time. Although it was only partially and not completely, as long as Ji Xin no longer used his qi, remained calm and was relieved of the poison within twelve shichen, there would be no consequences.
After listening to Huo Qingyang’s words, Wei Zhao was both glad and scared. He was fortunate to have Huo Qingyang here. If no one stopped him, with his character Ji Xin might have rushed out to find the culprit to settle the score immediately. Not to mention whether he could find the real culprit or not, he would certainly have played right into his opponent’s hands.
Time was running out, and Wei Zhao did not plan to pursue the culprit for the time being. The top priority was to help Ji Xin detoxify. It was said to be twelve shichen but who knows if the poison happened to attack in advance; they couldn’t be careless.
The only one of Ji Xin’s personal soldiers Wei Zhao knew was Huo Qingyang, and he was the one Wei Zhao trusted the most, so he called him and gave him the seal of Wang Qin’s residence, telling him to go to the city first and invite Teacher Duanmu to the residence to wait for them.
Huo Qingyang put away the seal, raised his head and asked, “Your Highness, what about you?” Ji Xin was unable to use his martial arts and could not escape on his own, so he had to be escorted. Huo Qingyang did not know how far Wei Zhao had recovered his martial arts and was a little worried.
Wei Zhao patted him on the shoulder: “You go first, and we will be there later.” Since the other party was using underhanded tactics, it was obvious that the opponent had no intention of shedding the pretence of cordiality, at least not for the time being. Besides, he had the Eighteen Black Armoured Horsemen by his side, so forcing his way out would not be a problem.
Huo Qingyang hesitated but felt that he shouldn’t doubt Wei Zhao, so he took the seal, mounted his horse and left.
Ji Xin ordered other soldiers to continue to participate in the exercises and when someone asked about his and Huo Qingyang’s whereabouts, keep it secret. Anyway, their exercises would not end until several days later; otherwise, he would have to explain to Xiao Feng the crime of being absent without leave.
The soldiers were ordered to disperse. Wei Zhao got on his horse, then stretched out his hand and pulled Ji Xin onto the horse to sit behind him.
The process of returning to the city was easier than Wei Zhao expected. The opponent did not appear at all. The Eighteen Black Armoured Horsemen followed him on a trip and went back without breaking a sweat.
The trouble came later, when Wei Zhao returned to his residence with Ji Xin and only saw Huo Qingyang, but not Duanmu Hui.
Without waiting for Wei Zhao to ask questions, Huo Qingyang said eagerly: “Your Highness, Teacher Duanmu is not at home. The servant said that he went out in an emergency at night. I don’t know when he will be able to return. I asked his servants, and they all said they didn’t know which family Teacher Duanmu went to.”
Huo Qingyang wandered around Duanmu Hui’s house for a while and felt that it wasn’t the way to go. He estimated the time and found that Wei Zhao and Ji Xin should also come back, so he went back to the residence to report.
Duanmu Hui went out in an emergency!
No one knew where he was!
Wei Zhao’s first reaction was that this was not a coincidence, but arranged by the other party. Duanmu Hui was different from Shangguan Xiang. As long as it was a difficult case, he would pick up any patient. If someone took advantage of this, it would not be difficult to delay him for a day or two.
While Wei Zhao was thinking about countermeasures, he ordered Huo Qingyang: “Qingyang, you’d better keep watch in Hehua Li. If Teacher Duanmu comes home, invite him to the residence immediately.” In case it was really a coincidence, the Duanmu family’s house needed to be watched by someone.
Huo Qingyang took the order and went away. Ji Xin suddenly said, “If you want to know whether it is a coincidence, I have an idea.”
“What idea?” “Silent Death” was not a poison that ordinary doctors could cure. If Duanmu Hui couldn’t be found, Ji Xin’s situation was very dangerous.
Ji Xin snapped his fingers, raised his eyebrows and said: “Your Highness can send someone to Guogong Yue’s residence and ask Master Shangguan to come. If he comes, it’s naturally a coincidence. If he can’t come… Under the vast sky, there are only two doctors who are sure to solve ‘Silent Death’, right?”
Wei Zhao paused, shook his head and said, “There is also Cousin Sun Ye, Teacher Duanmu himself said that the student surpassed the master(1).”
Ji Xin glanced at Wei Zhao and said helplessly: “Right, Youngest Uncle(2), I was negligent and forgot about Wang Lu’s Lord Consort. But he is far away in Qingzhou, even if he had wings, he wouldn’t be able to fly over here before sunset.” Ji Xin’s poison would attack at sunset.
Wei Zhao didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry, so he immediately sent someone to Guogong Yue’s residence to hand over a letter. It didn’t take long for a reply. Princess Baling was seriously ill and Master Shangguan went to treat her. If Wang Qin could wait, he would come tomorrow.
At this point, Wei Zhao and Ji Xin could already be sure that Huo Qingyang was unlikely to wait for Teacher Duanmu to come home before sunset.
As the one who had been poisoned, Ji Xin seemed much calmer than Wei Zhao’s. He pondered for a moment and then serenely stated his opinion, “I originally thought that the person who attacked me had a personal grudge against me, either because of enmity or because of love affairs, but now I think it’s not that simple.”
“Of course it’s not that simple. You are Wang Changning, the hereditary Wang Changning.” Wei Zhao gave Ji Xin a blank look as he said that, and then added, “Enmity?! Love affairs?! Who can have enmity with you and what love affairs do you have? Tell me!”
Ji Xin looked at Wei Zhao and said solemnly: “I have been in the Western Camp for less than three years, and I will be promoted to commander-in-chief soon. How can there be no enemies? And Jun Qing is so good, people who like him must want to kill me!”
“Does someone like Qing’er?” Wei Zhao said in surprise; he had never heard anyone say anything about this before.
Ji Xin nodded again and again, and said hurriedly: “Of course, Xiao Feng is one of them. Jun Qing took leave last year, and he was unhappy for a long time and lost his temper when he saw me. He didn’t know that Jun Qing never knew about his feelings at all…”
“Xiao Feng? The son of Princess Baling, General Xiao Feng of the Western Camp?” As soon as he said this, Wei Zhao suddenly felt that he had discovered some unknown truth.
Ji Xin was stunned, looked straight at Wei Zhao, and hesitated: “Youngest Uncle, you’re right, he has a reason for enmity and love affairs are involved, there are both.”
The successive generations of the Ji family basically held the position of the main general of the Western Camp, the only exception being the fifth Wang Changning, Ji Xiang, who had never led troops for health reasons; the general of the Western Camp at that time was Jiang Lan, the fifth Wang Yong’an, also in name only.
Besides Jiang Lan, all generals of the Western Camp not surnamed Ji were just stopgap measures, and Xiao Feng was no exception. His ability to lead troops was average, and he had never been on the battlefield, but since Jun Lin, Ji Yu, Lu Ziqian and Li Kang, who could fight, had all died early, and Ji Xin was not yet of age, Wei Su took his nephew out and put him in the position of the general of the Western Camp for a while. In the end, Xiao Feng was a relative; his level might not be enough, but his loyalty was not lacking, and when Ji Xin grew up and had military achievements, Wei Su would promote him.
From the emperor’s standpoint, he was making the best use of his men by doing so, but from Xiao Feng’s point of view, the minor officer under him was the one destined to replace him, and the secret love he couldn’t ask for was snatched away by this minor officer, so it would be strange for him not to be upset.
“But we have no evidence.” Wei Zhao quickly calmed down and analysed: “Xin’er, we can’t wait any longer, we must think of another strategy.”
Ji Xin remained calm, so calm that he seemed almost indifferent: “Do you know the fourth person who can solve ‘Silent Death’?” Of course he understood that revenge was not urgent, the cure for the poison was the top priority, otherwise what was the point of taking revenge?
Wei Zhao hesitated again and again, and finally said: “Does half a person count?”
“Half?!” Ji Xin was baffled; Wei Zhao’s words were really puzzling.
Wei Zhao took a deep breath and explained: “Xin’er, you know, Qing’er and I studied medicine with Cousin Sun Ye. Although we were not proficient in learning and had few recipes for curing diseases and saving people, we did learn all kinds of messy things that harm people, and by the way, the solutions to them. Qing’er is more serious than me. If the two of us discuss it, maybe there is a way to delay…” Wei Zhao said this with very little confidence. He hoped that Jun Qing would be more reliable than him.
“You guys?!” Sure enough, Ji Xin hesitated, and said after a long time: “Youngest Uncle, can you try it by yourself first? Jun Qing is about to give birth, I don’t want him to strain his mind…”
Wei Zhao calculated the time, nodded and said, “I will go through the medical books and notes left by my cousin first. If there is no result before noon, we will go back to Hou Zhaoyang’s residence.”
Ji Xin nodded silently, indicating that he understood. He had no confidence in Wei Zhao’s half-assed medical skills; even if Jun Qing was more serious than him, it was estimated that he was not much better. Jun Qing liked too many things, was interested in astronomy and arithmetic, as well as in magical and mysterious things of the world, but was not proficient in anything.
“Silent Death” was not fatal, but it could completely ruin a person. If Jun Qing couldn’t save him and had to watch his poison attack, he would collapse.
If Jun Qing was not pregnant, Ji Xin would definitely be willing to let him and Wei Zhao try. If they failed, they would have done their best anyway. But now Jun Qing was about to give birth. Teacher Duanmu made it very clear that the foetus was too well developed; even if it was born early, it was also very dangerous.
How could he let Jun Qing be frightened and end up counting his poisoning as his responsibility?
Ji Xin was full of hope that Wei Zhao would not find out anything. If “Silent Death” could be easily cured, wouldn’t it be a joke that the person who poisoned him had to put so much effort into it?
Unexpectedly, Wei Zhao was in the study for a little more than a shichen and really found it. He said that Sun Ye once mentioned to them the way to purge “Silent Death”, but he didn’t remember it all. However, there should be complete notes in Jun Qing’s place. Ji Xin was saved.
The surprise came so suddenly that Ji Xin couldn’t believe it. However, Wei Zhao’s notes, even though there were only half of them, wrote very clearly that there was a way to remove “Silent Death”.
Seeing that Ji Xin was still hesitating, Wei Zhao persuaded: “Xin’er, I understand your worries, but you have to think about Qing’er. He might save you, but you don’t give him a chance. If you get poisoned like this, do you think he will feel better?”
Ji Xin frowned and thought for a long time, and then said, “Youngest Uncle, let’s go back.” Even if Jun Qing didn’t have a solution in his hand, he would accept it.
As soon as Wei Zhao ordered someone to prepare the carriage, he saw Huo Qingyang stumbling in and hurriedly asked, “Teacher Duanmu is back?” Compared to their notes, Duanmu Hui was surely more reliable.
Huo Qingyang shook his head and gasped: “I followed Your Highness’s instructions and guarded outside Teacher Duanmu’s house. Teacher Duanmu did not come home. However, people from Hou Zhaoyang’s residence have been there and said that Teacher Duanmu was invited to visit. I asked them why, they didn’t know me, so they refused to say.”
Jun Qing sent someone to invite Duanmu Hui?! Wei Zhao and Ji Xin glanced at each other and at the same time thought of a possibility, their faces changing drastically.
“Qingyang, you continue to go back and guard, and when you see Teacher Duanmu, take him to Hou Zhaoyang’s residence,” Wei Zhao instructed Huo Qingyang. Yujing was too big. Even if Wei Su ordered the city-wide search, it would be impossible to find people who were deliberately hidden within a day. They could only wait.
Huo Qingyang cupped his fist, turned and left. Wei Zhao said to Ji Xin: “Xin’er, Qing’er will be fine, don’t think about anything, understand?”
Ji Xin forced himself to suppress the panic in his heart and told himself again and again not to think too much. Jun Qing and the child would be safe and sound, he couldn’t be anxious, he couldn’t…
When Wei Zhao and Ji Xin returned to Hou Zhaoyang’s residence, Wei Chongrong was asking Uncle Fu: except for Teacher Duanmu, did they have any other doctors? Jun Qing’s pain was getting worse and worse. Most likely he was in labour, and it was not going to work without someone to deliver the baby.
Uncle Fu thought for a while, and quickly asked someone to invite Dr. Liu. Before Teacher Duanmu returned to Yujing, Jun Qing was taken care of by Dr. Liu. If it weren’t for him, the child in Jun Qing’s belly might not have been saved.
Jun Qing had gone into premature labour and Teacher Duanmu was not there. Wei Chongrong was in a state of anxiety. Could it be that Jun Hua’s leg still wouldn’t be saved?
At this moment, Wei Zhao’s voice sounded: “Rong’er, what are you doing around?”
Wei Chongrong raised his head, and the panic in his heart was instantly swept away, as if he had acquired a backbone.
- The idiom literally is “the colour blue is made out of indigo but is more vivid than indigo”
- Wei Zhao’s mother is Ji Xin’s grandfather’s sister