“Grandmaster Gu, you must find it strange why we’re back out of the blue. Or you already know that but just want our confirmation, ha-ha-ha…”
Back in Flying Cloud manor, to the same smell, to the same hall, Shangguan Feiyun, Baili Jingwei and Danqing Shen had him surrounded with creepy smiles.
As a hidden big player himself, Zhuo Fan knew how to get into his role, playing dumb with a straight face and bright smile, “Prime Minister, what are you saying? I don’t get your words, ha-ha-ha…”
“Don’t get it, don’t you? Ha-ha, Grandmaster Gu, you don’t have to pretend any longer. We know everything there is to know about you.”
Baili Jingwei’s eyes shone, “Grandmaster Gu, since you just can’t seem to understand, I’m sure the names Shangguan Yulin, Shangguan Feixiong and Shangguan Qingyan should ring some bells.”
Shuddering, Zhuo Fan tensed, his face paling.
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Baili Jingwei stared right at him, his grin wide, “Grandmaster Gu, you’re an alchemical gem and gaining success through the Sword Star Empire’s court is easier than breathing. So why must you stand up for those kinds of people?”
Zhuo Fan lowered his head, like a condemned man waiting for his verdict.
Baili Jingwei patted his shoulder from behind, noticing the problem eating away at him, “The act of being Shangguan clan’s spy, in playing a role of destroying the foundation of my empire, would never make me waste so many words with any such criminal.”
Baili Jingwei’s grip tightened and Zhuo Fan winced with clenched teeth while adding a perfectly timed frantic image of himself.
Baili Jingwei smirked, immensely pleased at his reaction.
“Grandmaster Gu isn’t just any criminal, but a one of a kind genius. It weighs heavy on my heart having you pay with your life along with those thieves.”
Baili Jingwei looked heartbroken, his tone softening, “The loss I feel isn’t just mine, but the empire’s as well for losing such an outstanding alchemist. The pain I feel is only amplified if Grandmaster Gu won’t be able to reveal his talent to the world…”
Baili Jingwei spoke lower and more saddened, the heartbroken state he was in would bring anyone to tears.
If anyone else heard him right now, they’d be so moved they’d become sworn brothers.
A shame this failed on Zhuo Fan, who didn’t fall short in the subterfuge department.
As a fellow specialist himself, Zhuo Fan had to give him props for playing it right. Using psychology to threaten and coax, making it sound logical and sensible.
[There’s no way Shangguan Yulin had any chance against such an assault, turning his back to his own family on the spot.]
[Baili Jingwei isn’t called the wisest in the empire for nothing.]
Though Zhuo Fan was no pushover either. Furthermore, he was never truly invested in his alchemist role, making this touching display feel flat.
Though it was one thing to not feel it and another thing altogether to not show it. It was easy to tell in which situation he was in and he had to play his part.
How nice of Baili Jingwei to set the stage for him.
Zhuo Fan teared up on cue, his face overwhelmed, “Prime Minister, a wise man’s words are invaluable. Prime Minister is my best friend. If only I had met sir sooner. I wouldn’t… wouldn’t have…”
Zhuo Fan was taken by abject regret, of the mistake he made joining the thieves and botching his future.
Baili Jingwei and Shangguan Feiyun shared a smile, with the first saying, “I’ve considered Grandmaster Gu a friend the moment I saw you. Grandmaster Gu has just strayed, holding no deep repercussions and offering the chance to come back on the straight and narrow. I promise you this, Grandmaster Mu, give your all to the empire and I’ll even be more than happy to give my position to you!”
“Prime Minister, y-you’re just too good to me.” Zhuo Fan was so touched he was choking, tears filling his eyes.
Baili Jingwei waved his hand, “Then, can Grandmaster Gu tell me of their movements?”
“Of course. Prime Minister has given me a new lease on life and the least I could do is return the favor. Unlike them…”
Zhuo Fan shook his head, his eyes shining with loss and hatred.
Baili Jingwei was puzzled, but soon came to understand once he heard his story. “Humph, fools who only throw away talent, that’s what they are. And they talk about being pragmatic with grandmaster’s fate? Furthermore, they’re even using your own son as a shield. How vile, how repulsive!”
“Right? I didn’t know they were like that, treating me like family. Until Shangguan Qingyan told me everything two days ago. She’s such a nice girl. “
Zhuo Fan sighed.
Baili Jingwei sparkled, “Grandmaster Gu, we’ll get every last one of them for sure and give you justice. You just go take some rest in your room and await the good news tomorrow.”
“But my son…”
“He won’t be harmed.”
Zhuo Fan sighed, letting two guards escort him away. Shangguan Feiyun spoke out of earshot, “Prime Minister, did Grandmaster Gu really switch sides?”
“He wasn’t close to them to begin with. Thanks to my smooth and enlightened words, he has surrendered to us.”
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Baili Jingwei spoke, “Most of what he told us fits with the report Shangguan Yulin gave us through the jade slip. The only discrepancy is the missing chat between him and Shangguan Qingyan, but that’s normal. He has no business butting into a private chat. Shangguan Feixiong’s pragmatic plan had to have been discussed with his high elders late in the night, making Shangguan Yulin unaware of it.”
“Now that I believe.”
Shangguan Feiyun nodded, “Shangguan Feixiong loves to play the nice guy, but that ends when his clan’s future’s at stake, all niceties are thrown away. Humph, nothing but a rotten hypocrite.”
“Don’t say that.”
Baili Jingwei smiled, “It comes with the territory. Even Shangguan clan’s Clan Head would sometimes place his clan first. I can sure understand it. Ha-ha-ha, Sword King Feiyun, I find you rather biased about your brother. “
Shangguan Feiyun huffed in anger.
Baili Jingwei smiled, his mouth quivering with a confident grin in Zhuo Fan’s direction, “We finally got the alchemist grandmaster to switch sides. I’ve yet to lose my touch, ha-ha-ha…”
“Prime Minister Baili!”
Danqing Shen, who had been keeping silent while the two mighty actors played their role, finally spoke up, “Since we trust Grandmaster Gu now, then the eyes that are on him…”
Baili Jingwei cut him off with a flick of his hand, “One is reality and another is necessity. He has just switched to us, but even if we do believe him, the monitoring can’t stop. It’s only for a day anyway. I’d rather not have my plan fall to ruin from a simple slip up. “
Shangguan Feiyun and Danqing Shen shared a nod.
[Baili Jingwei is meticulous and cautious…]
Despite the house arrest he was under, and the couple of Soul Harmony experts watching him outside his door, Zhuo Fan was sporting a weird smile.
[The plan’s moving along nicely.]
The next night, Shangguan Feixiong assembled his experts in the garden and looked at the bright moon, ordering, “Begin!”
The men saluted and faded into the night sky, closing in on their prey, the Flying Cloud manor.
Shangguan Yulin looked at Shangguan Qingyan, smiling, “Yan’er, they’re off. When the manor turns to chaos, the security for the city entrances will slack. We’ll use this chance to get out, go to the meeting place with uncle.”
“I’ll take young Sanzi.”
Shangguan Qingyan nodded and left to find Gu Santong.
Shangguan Yulin’s face fell in annoyance.
[Is he your kid? Why do you even care so much?]
Shangguan Qingyan suddenly cried out and rushed over, “Oh no, something bad happened…”
“Yan’er, what is it?” Shangguan Yulin asked.
Shangguan Qingyan panted in panic, “Y-young Sanzi is gone…”
“Tch, the brat is nothing but trouble. Where could he have run off to? Forget about him. Time waits for no one.” Shangguan Yulin snaked.
Shangguan Qingyan glared, “How can you talk like that? He’s but a child who’s now lonely and sad without his father. We can’t just leave him. Did you forget how much his father helped us?”
[To hell with his help. Come dawn, it won’t matter, he-he-he…]
Rolling his eyes, Shangguan Yulin smirked inside. Once the curtain fell on tonight, Baili Jingwei promised him the Shangguan clan’s top experts would be done and Gu Yifan would become a traitor hunted by the eastern lands leaving him with no choice but to take asylum with the Prime Minister. And the juniors escaping from here would be led by him, to restore the Shangguan clan.
Then, as a central area spy, he’d work with the Sword Star Empire to unify eastern lands. Shangguan Feiyun would become the leader and he would become Shangguan Feiyun’s right hand, ruling over everyone else, ha-ha-ha…
Shangguan Yulin’s fantasy was cut short by a cry, “Young Sanzi must think his dad is at the manor so he must be going there. I never told him his dad left and his dad didn’t say goodbye fearing he couldn’t let go. I have to go to the manor and find him.”
“Yan’er, uncle is attacking the manor, you can’t go there! It’s too dangerous!” Shangguan Yulin grabbed her shoulder.
Shrugging his hand away, Shangguan Qingyan ran off, “That’s why I must go. Young Sanzi is just a child!”
Shangguan Qingyan was gone.
Shangguan Yulin gnashed his teeth and followed.
Their exchange was, however, under the watch of a red and cute figure behind a tree, looking on with guilt.
“Dad and I want to step on your bodies for our job, but you still went back to save me. Dad, I’m sure you won’t step in even if auntie is about to die. Then…”
Gu Santong faded into the night…
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