The two men guarded the moon viewing platform until nearly the hour of zi. Yi Chongren yawned a few times, feeling tired. Upon seeing this, Liu Yu said, “Lord Qianhu should go rest. I will guard here.”
Yi Chongren glanced at him, obviously distrustful.
Liu Yu endured his anger and said, “My martial arts naturally cannot compare to Lord Qianhu, but I can still guard these criminals. Not to mention the Hu An guards and Imperial guards are here. Even if someone wanted to save Prince Yue, they would have to see if the arrows in their hands would be capable. Also, this isn’t the first time I’ve guarded here.” This was his chance to gain merits, so he must grasp it!
Watching Liu Yu become more and more anxious, Yi Chongren stood. “Then I’ll leave it to Lord Liu.”
“Of course, of course.”
Yi Chongren left with Yaba. Huo Feng slightly lifted his head, watching Yi Chongren walk down from the moon viewing platform. Once he mounted his horse, Yi Chongren glanced at him for a second before riding away. Huo Feng once again lowered his head, appearing weak.
Once Yi Chongren left, Liu Yu immediately straightened his back. First, he ordered someone to feed Huo Feng a bit of rice soup, lest he starve to death. Afterwards, Liu Yu sat on Yi Chongren’s seat, and breathed in some refreshing essential oils while staring at Huo Feng who was tied up below him. Thieves often acted at night, so he had to be very alert.
It appeared to be the end of the hour of zi. No matter how energetic Liu Yu was, he couldn’t resist his body’s natural tiredness this time of night. He nearly fell asleep multiple times, so he stood up to walk down the moon viewing platform. It was harder to become sleepy when standing. Walking around the three prisoners a few times and giving them a few kicks, Liu Yu imagined a day when he would gloriously become the top eunuch.
At this time, one of Liu Yu’s subordinate eunuchs rode a horse over, appearing anxious. Once he arrived before Liu Yu, he immediately jumped off the horse and whispered in his ear, “Lord Zongyi, our men have found the trail of Prince Yue’s eldest son, but we don’t have enough manpower. What if we ask Lord Qianhu’s side to act first?”
“What?!” Liu Yu pulled the man to the side and asked excitedly, “You’ve found Prince Yue’s eldest son?”
The man nodded and replied anxiously, “This servant listened to your orders. We haven’t disclosed the information to anyone else and rushed over to tell you. However, we don’t have enough manpower. There seem to be many people protecting Prince Yue’s son. They appear to be fleeing to Yidong. We must capture him before he leaves the city.”
This was a golden opportunity! If he could capture Prince Yue’s son before Yi Chongren, that would definitely be a great merit. Liu Yu’s mind never spun so fast. Glancing at the soldiers surrounding him, he whispered, “Quickly continue observing the movements of Prince Yue’s son. I will immediately order people to follow.”
“But we don’t have enough men. If you send someone now, you could disturb Lord Qianhu. You might even disturb Lord Dugong.”
“You really are stupid!” Liu Yu couldn’t resist slapping the other party, “If I say there are men, then there are men. Quickly go!”
“……Yes!” The eunuch gritted his teeth, quickly mounting his horse to leave.
Liu Yu looked around him and ordered the guards, “Lord Dugong has a special assignment for us. You! Choose half of the troops to go with me.”
“This……” The guard hesitated. After all, there were important criminals here.
Liu Yu was anxious. If he could receive news of the prince’s son’s whereabouts, then so could Yi Chongren. There were thousands of men under Yi Chongren’s command! Liu Yu directly took out his own waist token. “Still not obeying orders! If you delay Lord Dugong’s plans, I’ll have your head!”
Thinking of Lord Dugong’s methods, the guard shuddered. Liu Yu was Lord Dugong’s most trusted aid, so he couldn’t be wrong. The guard immediately ordered half the soldiers at the scene to follow Liu Yu. Liu Yu anxiously led the troops outside the capital. Glory and wealth were right before his eyes, waiting for him to grab them!
Huang Han and Xu Baicai silently watched Liu Yu lead the men away, worry and doubt in their hearts. Worrying that Ruan Xingtian had come and doubting that Ruan Xingtian would be so fast. Why would Zhang Zhong, that castrated dog, let half of the troops leave? What was happening?
Huo Feng naturally also noticed. But he kept his head down, remaining motionless. The round moon hung in the sky and Huo Feng opened his cracked lips, “What time is it now?”
Xu Baicai looked around, and said with uncertainty: “It’s almost the hour of chou, right?”
Huang Han replied: “I think I just heard the signal for three ke passing.”
The third ke of the hour of zi (11:45 pm)? Huo Feng pursed his lips tightly. He felt like his shoulder had just been patted thrice again. Looking up at the moon in the sky, the events of five years ago suddenly came to mind.
Da da da da……
The sound of horses galloping drew near, and Huo Feng immediately returned to his senses. Huang Han and Xu Baicai looked towards the moon viewing platform. Hearing the sound of horseshoes, there seemed to be many men and horses approaching. There must be around a thousand people. The two men coldly smiled. Had they gotten worried again and ordered the men back?
“The commander of the imperial guards has ordered these additional troops to take the prisoners into custody.”
Seeing the token of the imperial guards in the other party’s hand and thinking of how Liu Yu had taken away half the troops, the prison guards ordered the release. The leader of the group led some men down the moon viewing platform, and another group ran in a practiced manner to the city wall’s entrance to stand together with the Hu An guards.
The guard yawned a few times and nestled into his seat to continue to doze. After the leader’s men entered the moon viewing platform, he immediately ordered the accompanying soldiers to disperse. Looking at that person, Huang Han and Xu Baicai would have shouted if they were not so weak from starvation. Xingtian?!
Winking at the two, asking them not to make a sound, the leader’s men walked before Huo Feng. Huo Feng raised his head, surprise flashing in his eyes. Slightly nodding towards the other party, Huo Feng’s body suddenly exerted a burst of force, and the ropes tied around him split into several pieces. At the same time, Ruan Xingtian let out a long whistle and the “Imperial guards” standing with the Hu An guards suddenly pulled out their weapons. Hands raised and swords fell.
A terrible scream broke the silence of the night. Ruan Xingtian pulled out a dagger to cut the ropes on Huang Han and Xu Baicai and said quickly, “Go!” Someone led three horses over and the three men quickly mounted them. Nearby, the guard yelled, “Quickly report to Lord Qianhu! We made a miscalculation!”
A flaming arrow shot in from outside and stabbed into the guard’s chest.
Huo Feng stuffed the thing he had been holding into his clothes and ordered, “Go quickly!” He swung down his horse whip.
The fake “imperial guards” killed their way out on horseback. A masked man stood on a tree a distance away from the moon viewing platform, holding a bow and arrow aimed at the Hu An guards’ minions.
Against the moonlight, his face was not clear, only revealing a black mask. Huo Feng clasped his hands in thanks to the man and hurriedly sped up his horse with a whip. Ruan Xingtian picked up a package from behind the horse’s ass and threw it over.
“Your highness, wear this!”
Then, he threw another package to Huang Han and Xu Baicai.
Huo Feng opened the package with one hand and found a full set of Imperial guard uniforms. His legs squeezed the horse’s abdomen and he quickly changed into the clothes. Huang Han shouted at the side, “Is there any food? I’m starving to death!”
“It’s in the package!”
Huang Han casually put on the uniform and saw two pancakes at the bottom of the package. He picked it up and wolfed down the food. Xu Baicai did the same. They were both extremely hungry.
“Your highness, are you alright?” Ruan Xingtian asked worriedly.
Huo Feng didn’t eat and looked ahead with both eyes, saying, “There is no one as alright as me. Where is He Jia?”
“He is guarding ‘at home’, in case anyone wants to use this opportunity to make trouble.”
Then, Ruan Xingtian guiltily said, “This subordinate has not found your son, and did not manage to save the youngest young master.”
“They are safe.”
Huo Feng’s words surprised the three men. However, he did not explain, only asking, “How many men did you bring?”
Ruan Xingtian answered, “Of two thousand men, I brought in half in fear of attracting too much attention and alerting the enemy. Now, the other half of our brothers are outside the capital waiting for your highness.”
“How should we rush out of the city?” Huang Han asked a bit worriedly.
A deep expression flashed through Ruan Xingtian’s eyes and he said, “We need only be concerned with rushing out of the city. The city gates will open automatically.”
Huang Han was stunned, but Ruan Xingtian didn’t seem to be joking. He closed his mouth, not asking further. At worst, they would just be captured again.
The group sped unimpeded all the way to the capital gates. The Huo family soldiers disguised as imperial guards surrounded Huo Feng, Huang Han, and Xu Baicai in the center. The torches by the city gates lit up the sky as Ruan Xingtian made a gesture—rush! Huo Heng, Huang Han, and Xu Baicai lowered their heads and covered their faces.
Atop his horse, Huo Feng kept himself low, carefully observing the movements around the city gates. Huang Han and Xu Baicai held their breaths, hearts racing. The city gates were getting closer and closer, and Ruan Xingtian was the first to rush out of the city while holding his waist token high.
When the guards saw them, not only did they not stop them, they also quickly moved the barriers in front of the gate to let them out. Ruan Xingtian rushed his army out from the city gates. Once all the men were out, Huo Feng, Huang Han, and Xu Baicai all looked back. Huang Han and Xu Baicai were puzzled. They were out, just like that?!
Ruan Xingtian didn’t order them to slow down, instead continuing to lead them onwards to join the other thousand troops. Not long after they left the capital, the city gate guards came under the control of the Hu An guards. Yi Chongren brought a few thousand Hu An guards’ soldiers out of the city to chase after them in two directions.
At Zhang Zhong’s residence, a man knelt on the ground in fear. Zhang Zhong sat on his chair with a dark expression and said with gritted teeth, “You’re saying Liu Yu led half of the guards out of the moon viewing platform to secretly leave the capital?”
“Yes! Lord Yi was originally planning to stay at the moon viewing platform to guard, but Lord Liu insisted that Lord Yi should go to rest, so Lord Yi left. Who knew that before long, Lord Liu would transfer half of the guards out of the moon viewing platform, saying he was following your orders to investigate an important matter. The guards at the moon viewing platform didn’t dare disobey, so they just let Lord Liu lead them away. As a result, not long after Lord Liu left, a group of imperial guards arrived, saying the lord commander ordered them to go to the moon viewing platform. He held the waist token of the imperial guards and they were all wearing the uniforms of the imperial guards, so the guards believed them. Who knew, once the group entered the moon viewing platform, they started killing guards on the spot. They took away Prince Yue and his two subordinates and left the capital.”
“Why didn’t the city guards question them!”
“When Lord Liu left the city, he said it was under Lord Dugong’s orders, so the city guards thought that the group of fake imperial guards was also working for Lord Dugong and didn’t stop them for questioning.”
“Liu Yu, that stupid dog! Capture his entire family for me!”
“Lord Yi personally went to give chase. Before leaving the capital, Lord Yi sent people to arrest them.”
“Catch Liu Yu alive for me! Capture Liu Yu alive! I must kill him personally! Which direction did Prince Yue flee to?!”
“For now, we don’t know. We must wait for news from Lord Yi.”
Zhang Zhong unceasingly heaved. Who knew that the plans that had nearly come to fruition would be ruined by their own people. Once they let Prince Yue flee back to Yidong, a disaster would be upon them! Prince Yue held seventy percent of Southern Chu’s troops in his hands!
“Immediately summon Lord Sun. You must not alert his majesty! Pass my order, the Hu An guards must capture Prince Yue!”
The man immediately rose to leave. Zhang Zhong paced around the room with a layer of cold sweat building on his forehead. Yi Chongren already led men to give chase, so now his biggest hope was that Yi Chongren could succeed in chasing and containing Prince Yue until the Hu An guards and imperial guards could arrive. In addition, he could also mobilize the capital troops in the name of his majesty. Thinking of this, Zhang Zhong immediately ordered a subordinate to complete this task. They must not allow Prince Yue to escape to Yidong.
Here in his mansion, Zhang Zhong thought of all the ways they could capture Huo Feng. Over there, Yi Chongren, who had led men to chase Huo Feng, encountered an ambush. Ruan Xingtian set up a trap on their path. Although Yi Chongren came away unscathed, many of his subordinates were injured. He immediately ordered them to chase after Huo Feng from a different route. Yi Chongren ordered Yaba to scout the path ahead, and Yaba wrapped himself in a large black cloak, riding a horse into the distance. Yi Chongren settled down his injured subordinates and re-adjusted their team to chase after Huo Feng.
The sky gradually brightened. After passing through another city, Huo Feng ordered his nearly two thousand soldiers to split into four groups to reach Jade City Pass from different directions, taking the river and mountain roads. He Jia would personally bring men to Jade City Pass to meet them. Ruan Xingtian, Huang Han, Xu Baicai, and Huo Feng each brought a man and a horse. They changed out of their imperial guard uniforms and into ordinary state soldier uniforms to disguise themselves as official soldiers tasked with capturing criminals. After the four groups took a rest, they returned to the road. Huang Han and Xu Baicai didn’t have time to ask Ruan Xingtian how he was able to arrive in such a timely manner, let alone why his highness was so sure that his two children were safe.
Huo Feng led his men down the mountain road. Watching Ruan Xingtian, Huang Han, and Xu Baicai lead the rest of the men in three other directions, Huo Feng took a jade pendant out of his lapel. A dragon was carved on the jade pendant. This was the pendant that his son Huo Yunkai always had on him. One that he had personally put on him. Placing the jade pendant back into his clothes, Huo Feng mounted his horse.
Riding a horse into the mountain forest, Huo Feng thought of that demon, that cold and mocking face, and those eyes that seemed to see through everything. The coldness of that person’s palms seemed to remain on his lips. Yi Chongren, are you a friend or a foe? For the first time, Huo Feng became deeply conflicted over a man he should have hated down to his bones.
子时: In the 12 hour day system of ancient China, this was from 11pm to 1 am.
丑事: 1 am to 3am
三刻： 3 ke，1 ke is 15 minutes, so 3 ke is 45 minutes
子时三刻 = 11:45