The pine nuts were tiny and light, though tasty enough when chewed into pieces, and went with a cup of wine.
Liang Xinchen lifted the cup of wine to his mouth and emptied it in satisfaction. "You can even use the disciple of the Water-Moon Nunnery!" he said while glancing at Shi Fengchen once.
Seeing the seemingly smiling expression on the old man's face, Shi Fengchen laughed. "I don't have such power. That's done by them over there."
Liang Xinchen furrowed his eyebrows, feeling disgusted. He didn't want to hear that name, even though Shi Fengchen used "them over there" to indicate the name.
It seemed that Shi Fengchen didn't notice Liang Xinchen's negative reaction. "As long as the customers have an idea, the one over there can make it happen," Shi Fengchen continued with a smile.
"What is your idea then?" asked Liang Xinchen as he put down the wine cup and looked at Shi Fengchen.
Shi Fengchen said seriously, "I just want to lessen His Highness' worry."
It was quite noisy in the small inn. The drunkards were arguing about where to place the chess pieces, drowning out his voice.
Liang Xinchen of course didn't believe his words; Shi Fengchen didn't even believe his own words. Yet they were both aware that, as courtiers, they had no choice but to say certain things.
He stared into Shi Fengchen's eyes and asked, "Are you sure it will be done?"
Shi Fengchen smiled as he said, "Zhao Layue's death will be blamed on Royal Concubine Hu. It would be her death sentence no matter how much she is favored by the Emperor."
Liang Xinchen put down the wine cup in his hand, saying, "Are you sure? The Royal Concubine isn't an ordinary woman."
"Even if she were Empress, she would still be punished because the Emperor has to satisfy the Green Mountain Sect."
Shi Fengchen thought this advisor was as stupid as the Crown Prince, so he lowered his voice, but with a more serious tone.
"The Emperor has left the imperial palace and gone to Li Mountain today. His personal guards, Old Niu and Old Jing, are not with him, but he brought Royal Concubine Hu along."
Liang Xinchen was stunned to hear this. Li Mountain was located outside Zhaoge City, and yet the Emperor didn't bring any personal guard. What would he do over there? Why did he have to take Royal Concubine Hu with him?
The arguments kept going in the small inn, and the sour wine had lost its flavor. His skinny and thin face showed a hint of lethal intent as Liang Xinchen said, "Then we have to try our best."
Grand Teacher Liang looked like his cousin Liang Xinchen, but was taller and thinner. He didn't look like an official, looking instead like an immortal master.
He looked at a young man by the railing and waited patiently. Though he was that young man's teacher, how their status was viewed never reflected this.
"I still think it's too risky."
The young man threw some fish food into the pond below, attracting countless fish that swam over. The water was disturbed as a result.
Grand Teacher Liang was fully aware that this plan wasn't safe enough. "But that information has been confirmed. The duanli pill... hasn't been taken in days," he said in a hoarse voice.
The young man turned around. He was that young man in embroidered cloth whom Jing Jiu and Zhao Layue had met in the old plum garden a few days ago.
Compared to that day, the indifference in his eyes grew even more distant and colder.
He was the only son of the Emperor, Prince Jing Xin.
Many chancellors, commoners, and Cultivation sects believed that he would be the future emperor, so they called him Crown Prince in private and even in public.
Jing Xin believed so as well, until he had heard the recent news; he then realized that his position as crown prince wasn't so secure.
That was because the emperor, his father...was about to have another child.
Jing Xin said coldly while looking at Grand Teacher Liang, "My father could still have more sons even if Royal Concubine Hu were dead."
"But the Emperor wants to have another son perhaps because of Royal Concubine Hu," said Grand Teacher Liang.
Jing Xin fell silent. In fact, he was fully aware that his question was meaningless, since a son born by any royal concubine would be a threat to him.
Such a fact manifested his father's attitude.
Grand Teacher Liang's attitude was crystal clear as well. Any risk was worthwhile as far as the position of emperor was concerned.
"What about me? How could I be so cut off from this matter? I want it assured that Old Jiu, Old Jing and the Green Mountain Sect won't be able to find out."
"It's quite simple, actually, because this matter has nothing to do with Your Highness in the first place."
"Do you trust that Shi Fengchen guy?"
"Yes, because I know where his hatred came from."
"Hatred is a terrifying power. It can help him keep all the secrets even if he faces the Green Mountain Sect," Grand Teacher Liang said sentimentally.
There were many small inns in Zhaoge City.
Shi Fengchen left that small inn and entered another small inn after spending an hour amongst the web-like valleys.
The drunken customers in the inn were still debating the Plum Meeting, more specifically, the chess game.
Shi Fengchen furrowed his eyebrows unhappily. He walked to the far end of the inn and nodded to greet the inn owner, afterwards following the owner into a storage room.
"Are you going to carry out the task we talked about last time?"
Shi Fengchen asked this as he looked at that fat inn owner with a peaceful but awkward emotion.
As the vice inspector of the Pure Heaven Bureau in the imperial court, what he had to do was arrest this caretaker of the Old Ones when they met rather than talk to him.
The inn owner looked at him wearing a grin, saying nothing.
Shi Fengchen wasn't so patient. "As I can find you once, I can also keep you in Zhaoge City forever," he said in a deep and serious voice.
"We are businessmen and have to contact people, so it's not a surprise that the Pure Heaven Bureau could find me. Similarly, everybody knows what is the nature of that medical house by the White-Horse Lake."
The fat inn owner said with a full smile, "And we have already proven our ability and integrity. The issue right now is how much you're willing to pay."
Since ancient times, it cost money to hire someone to carry out assassination. The Old Ones were in such a business, so they were not exceptional in this regard.
Shi Fengchen felt relieved slightly, asking, "I didn't anticipate you using the disciples of the Water-Moon Nunnery for your purpose, but how can you expect Zhao Layue to agree to come to the meeting alone?"
The fat inn owner shook his head vehemently. "I can't tell you. Let's get back to this business deal. How much can you actually pay us?"
Shi Fengchen said, "I basically put my life in your hand when I'm doing business with you. As for how much you will benefit, it will depend on how you will use me."
The fat inn owner smiled even more heartily, but spoke with a mocking tone, "How can a marginalized official of the Pure Heaven Bureau be compared to a peak master of the Green Mountain? Unless you are a powerful state Duke or the vice commander in the Northern Army."
Shi Fengchen didn't get angry. "What if I'm doing it for Crown Prince?" he pressed with a seemingly smile.
The fat inn owner didn't show a surprised expression. It looked like they had already figured it out.
"It's interesting, very interesting, but aren't you afraid that he might kill you if your master found out you had sold him out?!"
"The Crown Prince trusts me. I believe I can keep the secret to myself even if I face death threats and methods of soul-searching. However, if it's possible, I still prefer avoiding the anger of the Green Mountain."
Staring into the fat inn owner's eyes that narrowed to two lines, Shi Fengchen asked, "Can I trust you people?"
The fat inn owner suddenly thought that this official was quite interesting. "Of course, the reputation of the Old Ones is very precious, but you aren't worth being sold out," he said with a smile.
If the Old Ones wouldn't sell him out, and Shi Fengchen had no chance to sell Crown Prince out, then Crown Prince would have no reason to kill him.
It seemed that the key point of their conversation was this fact, but they both knew this wasn't the case.
The fat inn owner made it clear that Shi Fengchen wasn't worth being sold out for, but Crown Prince was worth it.
After this event, the Old Ones would benefit a great deal from Crown Prince, which is why they were willing to take the deal.
The only bargain for this deal was Crown Prince.
After Shi Fengchen left the small inn, he came back to his family house located in the southern part of the city. Standing in the isolated and simple courtyard, Shi Fengchen remained reticent for a long time.
He was a rectitude official and did everything in a straightforward manner. Those small Cultivation sects were reluctant to contact him anymore after their pleading efforts had been refused by Shi Fengchen several times.
This kind of family didn't have maids and servants, let alone singers and dancers.
And no family members.
He had been accustomed to this isolated and simple life, both when he was in Henanzhou or in Zhaoge City.
Somehow, Shi Fengchen suddenly felt sad as he thought Zhao Layue would die in three days.
They would all die.
Dying was a good thing.
It meant being free of worry.
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