198 Chapter 198 Meeting
Stepping inside the familiar courtyard, Lin Xulian noticed that unlike the last time she was there, the place is almost bare. Except for the necessary furniture such as tables and chairs, the place has no decorative ornaments of sorts. Even the few painting she previously saw hanging on the walls are no longer there. Inside the few rooms there is only a wooden bed with only a thin blanket haphazardly thrown on top. In two years that she was gone, the place looked dilapidated.
Following her subordinate, Lin Xulian, with Gu Kei following closely behind, alighted the stairs towards the third floor. She remembered that the third floor is a wide vacant hall. Feng Jun Yi mentioned that it was the area where his master usually meditate and held their trainings. She can understand why Gu Rin chose that room as their meeting hall.
While walking, Gu Kei who is already accustomed to Lin Xulian's minute changes in expressions, can sense that there is something bugging her ever since they arrive at the vicinity of the courtyard. "Is there something bothering you princess?"
Lin Xulian's eyebrows jumped hearing Gu Kei's question. She thought she hid her emotions perfectly, but surprisingly, Gu Kei was able to notice her real state of mind. "Nothing serious. It's just… I've been to this place before. Emperor Feng brought me here once. I was just wondering how this place became like this in just two years. In the past, this courtyard was warm and homey with elegant furnishing. But it is almost bare now." She answered solemnly. A hint of nostalgia can be heard from her words.
"Ah, I see." Gu Kei plainly responded. It's not that she didn't care but she really doesn't have any idea how to comfort her obviously distressed mistress. Although she is older that Lin Xulian, she never had an experience in romance. This is something that greatly differentiate the women from Qiangdu than the other countries' women. Because they live longer, they start considering marriage in their mid-twenties to early thirties. Gu Kei in particular doesn't even have someone she likes yet so she can't empathize with her mistress.
The moment they stepped on the third floor, Gu Rin, Mo Jin and the rest of their subordinates who came from Qiangdu knelt in one knee and greeted Lin Xulian as princess. While the members of the Lin Mercenary Clan only bowed a little and cupped their fist then greeted her as boss. Xing Guang on the other hand warmly welcomed her calling her Lian'er. It is quite a spectacle seeing them doing it simultaneously.
Lin Xulian was used to these greetings during her days as the empress so she casually dismissed them like she used to. Looking around the room, as expected, it was almost empty except for the painting of a woman's back sitting on a huge rock while gazing on a lake. She remembered that it was drawn by Feng Jun Yi's master and the woman was the late empress Lan whom he loved deeply. Seeing it, Lin Xulian showed a small genuine smile.
Noticing Lin Xulian in daze, everyone in the room couldn't help but follow her line of sight. Seeing the crude painting that obviously showed that the artist wasn't a professional and only has a passable skill at least, most of them, except Gu Rin, is filled with confusion as to why Lin Xulian looked moved. On the other hand, Gu Rin had a different thought and smirked lightly. 'So, he isn't as perfect as I thought.'
Shifting her gaze from the painting, Lin Xulian then faced Gu Rin. "I'm surprised you knew about this place.""Yes princess. I had the permission of the owner." Gu Rin answered as if stating a report. Monotonous as usual.
"Eh? From the owner? But Emperor Feng is still unconscious. Are you referring to his master?" Lin Xulian asked in surprise.
"I didn't know if he is related to emperor Feng but I'm certain he is the owner. Probably we are referring to the same person, princess." Gu Rin answered lightly. He doesn't find this information important after all.
'So Gu Rin knew about him. I'm curious about that person. Luckily I finally have a way to locate him. After this ordeal, I would like to meet him once.' Lin Xulian thought in a good mood.
"Report." Commencing the meeting, Mo Jin started.
One of the Mo clan spy stepped forward and started his report. "Target, Feng Jun Yun, fifth prince and the current interim emperor. No threatening movement so far aside from the continuous growth of his power in the court by marrying one after another. As of the last status, two of his concubines are already pregnant."
Then another spy stepped up. "Target, Xing Baihe, Imperial Noble Concubine married from Zhixiang country. She is currently emotionally unstable due to the fifth prince's continuous marriage. She was bedridden countless times due to this. Another target emerges during those times and that is the mistress of the Liu clan Liu Yeyin." At this point of the report, most of them subconsciously peeked at Gu Rin's reaction.
"She acted as Xing Baihe's doctor then disappears again after every treatment. Unfortunately, we couldn't trace her whereabouts during her disappearances. However, we can confirm that she never left the palace."
Then the third spy started. "Target, the Xia family of the Minister of Defence. Although it is an empty title now, Minister Xia is constantly sucking up to the fifth prince. However, as long as the real emperor is alive, his chance will never come. Emperor Xing Wenhe is also constantly seen within the manor as the princess consort of the late second prince's lover." Hearing the report, Xing Guang's expression darkened. He knew that his brother was not on his own palace, but he is greatly disappointed that he left his post just to play around. Leaving his people in the hands of his greedy ministers.
This time, Mo Jin personally gave the final reports. He took out a wooden box within his robes and personally handed it to Lin Xulian. She opened it and discovered three small bottles of clear liquid carefully and securely laid inside. She then wordlessly waited patiently for Mo Jin's report. "Princess, we found these bottles in the sixth prince's residence. In accordance to your instruction, we paid more attention in safeguarding the sixth prince, thus we were able to discover a member of Liu clan placing these bottles in his wardrobe both in his old and new courtyard right after the incident with the emperor. We took the initiative to retrieve them.
The next few days, investigations ensued. And since the sixth prince is a suspect, his residences were combed through. With these coincidence, it is safe to assume that these bottles contains the poison used to incapacitate the emperor and they intend to push the blame to him. However none of us or any of our connections could confirm this. Forgive or incapability, princess." Mo Jin finished his report with a regretful and apologetic tone. He also lowered his head solemnly.
"In addition to that, using the Gu poison I was able to confirm that the bottles indeed contains poison from its reaction to it. However, although our Gu clan has knowledge with various poisonous animals, insects and herbs, we are not proficient with complex poisons that are processed and derived from their combinations. Also the fact that it is a colourless and odourless added more problem for me." Gu Rin also chimed in.
Hearing the first report, Lin Xulian didn't react. After all she doesn't care about the fifth prince's matter. She already expected him to take advantage of Feng Jun Yi's disability. But she is not worried that he would succeed in conquering and fully owning the throne. As long as the real emperor is alive, taking the seat back is easy. As for Xing Baihe, she can only laugh. However, Lin Xulian is really amused to learn that she is fond of the fifth prince.
But when she heard that they tried to set Feng Jun Ying up, her face darkened and turned cold. No matter whether the brain behind it is either the fifth prince, Xing Baihe or Liu Yeyin, she would not let them go. After all it could cost Ying'er's life if they succeeded.