Chapter 1023: Mysterious Case
“Ahem…” Sang Hong coughed lightly and said, “Do not make a fool of yourselves out here.
Follow me to my room; there are some matters to discuss.” He led them to his room afterward.
He also had the guards remain a bit further out so they couldn’t hear what they were going to talk about.
“Ah Zu, did you gain any new information” Sang Hong asked as he sat down in the seat of honor.
He gestured for them to pour their own tea and to be at ease.
“I’ve already found out the identity of the one who wanted to deliver a message to the capital” Zu An began.
He was about to continue, but Sang Hong stopped him.
Sang Hong looked at Gao Ying and Pei You, saying, “We are acting under the emperor’s will in this mission, so I believe everyone here understands what that signifies.
I know that your clans’ relationships are twisted and complicated, and there are even many relatives of yours here in Cloudcenter Commandery…”
Pei You’s expression changed a bit.
Sang Hong was clearly talking about his relationship with Pei Shao.
Sang Hong continued, “But I still need to ask all of you to discern between what is more important.
Cloudcenter Commandery’s situation is far more dangerous than you might be imagining.
If you take even a single wrong step, we just might all perish here.
That is why nothing we discuss here can be spoken of to others.”
Pei You suddenly got up and said, “If Sir Sang does not trust me, I just need to not listen.”
He was just about to leave when Gao Ying quickly grabbed him.
He advised Pei You to stay while apologizing to Sang Hong.
“Sir Sang, please feel at ease.
We are not people who cannot distinguish between what is important.
Forget about the fact that those who are here in Cloudcenter Commandery are just distant relatives, even if they were our close relatives, with how matters stand, there is no way we would leak out any information.”
After listening to Gao Ying’s persuasion, Pei You cupped his hands and said, “Sir Sang knows that even though Cloudcenter Commandery’s City Lord shares a surname with me, Pei Shao belongs to Waterfront Duke’s faction, while I belong to Greatdeer Duke’s faction.
Everyone in the court knows that our two sides are not in agreement.
Even though we are not enemies who cannot coexist together, we are like water and fire.
How can I sacrifice my own interests and inform Pei Shao’s people”
Sang Hong nodded inwardly.
The Waterfront Duke Pei Zheng was the Chief Attendant, and he was a core figure under King Qi’s faction.
Greatdeer Duke Pei Ming was the Director of the Imperial Secretariat.
Even though he didn’t get along with the crown princess’ father Bi Qi, his son Pei Yi, or Pei You’s father, was extremely close to the Bi clan.
Otherwise, Pei You wouldn’t have been chosen as one of the crown prince’s escorts during the crown prince’s exam in the secret dungeon.
Sang Hong thus said with a smile, “Please understand that I have no choice but to be a bit more careful; I did not say that to target any of you personally.
I hope that worthy nephews do not take this to heart.”
Gao Ying and Pei You backed down when they heard that as well.
They cupped their hands and said, “You did as you should.”
Sang Hong thus looked at Zu An, continuing, “Ah Zu, please share what you learned with us.”
Zu An nodded.
“I found out that the messenger should be Cloucenter Duke’s personal guard Chen Zhou…” Then, he gave them a rough recount of his discoveries.
Of course, he left out Pei Mianman’s presence.
Sang Hong’s eyes lit up.
He replied, “Very good.
Now that we have found out his identity, we have an opening to start our investigations.
Things will become much easier to take care of now.”
“Did you discover anything from your side” Zu An asked out of curiosity.
“We have!” Gao Ying said seriously, “We found a secret passage in the place where Cloudcenter Duke went into seclusion.”
Zu An raised his brow, asking, “Didn’t the investigation of the disappearance of the Cloudcenter Duke state that it was an enclosed space”
“There’s a chance that they were trying to hide something, or it might be that they didn’t find anything.” Gao Ying explained.
“That secret passage’s mechanism was hidden well.
If it weren’t because I spent some time studying mechanisms in the past, I might not have found it.” A bit of pride appeared on his face when he said that.
“Then is it possible that someone snuck in through that secret passage and assassinated the Cloudcenter Duke” Zu An asked.
He suddenly remembered that he used to secretly meet with Bi Linglong through a secret passage, causing his face to heat up.
“That’s impossible.” Gao Ying shook his head.
“This secret passage can only be activated from inside the private room; no one can go in from outside.”
Zu An thought to himself, Bi Linglong’s secret passage is also like that. He asked, “Where does the other end of the secret passage lead to”
“To Jasper Lane, several li out,” Gao Ying replied.
“Jasper Lane” Zu An frowned.
Why did that name sound a bit indecent
Pei You explained with a big smile, “I already looked into that place before! Jasper Lane is Cloudcenter Commandery’s largest and liveliest brothel.
Every single girl there has a large chest, thin waist, long legs…”
“Ahem, let us talk about proper matters.
Do not talk about any insignificant matters,” Sang Hong reminded him.
Zu An held back his smile as he asked, “Why is Cloudcenter Duke’s escape path a brothel Don’t tell me he has some girls he’s close to there”
He then remembered that Duan Zhengchun, an ancient figure from his previous world, seemed to have ordered his subordinates to dig a tunnel to Gan Baobao and other ladies’ chambers because that would make it easier for him to sneak out for a lovers’ rendezvous at night. Is Cloudcenter Duke also that kind of person
“That’s not too likely.” Gao Ying shook his head.
“Madam Yu is the world’s number one beauty, and not even all of the girls in Jasper Lane combined together can compare to her.
With a beauty like her at home, how could he possibly feel anything for girls from the pleasure quarters”
“That might not necessarily be the case.
Even if you eat the most precious abalone every day, you might still want to eat something else once in a while.” Zu An thought about how Yu Yanluo usually lived apart from Cloudcenter Duke.
It was hard to say whether he had even had a taste of that most precious abalone.
Everyone else had strange expressions on their faces.
After all, Zu An’s wife was a devastatingly beautiful woman! Don’t tell me this is Zu An’s own personal experience
Gao Ying then said, “We’ve investigated it on our own.
That exit wasn’t in a courtesan’s courtyard, but rather in an abandoned courtyard.
Even Jasper Lane’s people rarely went there.
That’s why Cloudcenter Duke was probably just using a place like Jasper Lane with a lot of regular traffic to hide his own traces.
If he encountered anything, it would make it easier for him to get away, and it wasn’t that he has any particular relationship with a courtesan queen from Jasper Lane.”
“Your analysis is correct.” Sang Hong had a look of praise in his eyes.
He continued, “But be that as it may, we should still send a few people to Jasper House to investigate that place further.
Tread carefully to not alert them.”
“Understood!” Pei You’s eyes lit up, seizing the chance to be the first to agree.
How could he pass up that kind of responsibility to someone else He could visit the pleasure quarters at public expense Just the thought alone left him in bliss!
Sang Hong had a strange expression on his face.
He thought, It’s still Ah Zu who’s more reliable. Even though he has a lot of beauties at his side, he at least relied on his own charm to court them and didn’t go through a filthy place like the pleasure quarters.
“Ahem ahem, I was able to gain some progress on my end as well.” Sang Hong continued, “In this time, I have questioned many servants from the Duke Manor, as well as the people from Cloudcenter Commandery’s court.
There are two noteworthy pieces of information.
“The first is that everyone calls the manor’s head secretary Uncle Ming.
It is rumored that Cloudcenter Duke trusts him greatly, and that almost all of the matters in the Duke Manor are managed by him and Captain Gong Pan.
Compared to Gong Pan, his status is even higher.
“But after something happened to Cloudcenter Duke, he did not head to Yu Yanluo’s side like Gong Pan and instead continued to remain in the Duke Manor to take care of various affairs.
Since Jian Taiding has taken over responsibilities as the Substitute Commander-In-Chief, the Duke Manor is practically completely under Jian Taiding’s control.”
Zu An frowned.
“Looks like this Uncle Ming has already been following Jian Taiding for a long time.
Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been able to start working under him so smoothly.”
Sang Hong voiced his agreement.
“Regardless of whether he colluded with Jian Taiding beforehand or used the situation to switch allegiances and rely on Jian Taiding, both of those conclusions require further investigation.
We are representing the imperial court, so we cannot condemn anyone based on just random suspicions.”
“Sir Sang is right,” the group responded.
Their expressions became serious.
Sang Hong continued, “The second thing I learned from my visit to Cloudcenter Civil Affairs Manor was that there are rumors going around that Jian Taiding has special feelings toward his sister-in-law.”
Pei You chuckled, saying, “With the world’s number one beauty as your sister-in-law, it would be weirder if he didn’t have any strange thoughts.” He was still feeling great regret that he hadn't been able to see that legendary beauty the last time they visited Yu Manor.
Zu An was paying more attention to another matter.
He asked, “Could it be that this is something sir magistrate told you”
Sang Hong sneered, replying, “That old fox would never say something like that so overtly.
It was something I heard from the leisurely chats of the other officials, but they clearly reflect Zuo Su’s own thoughts.”
The group then summarized all of the other details they had collected so far.
In the end, Sang Hong distributed the assignments and said, “Gao Ying, you will investigate Chen Zhou’s interpersonal relationships before he passed away and see if there are any suspicious points.
Pei You, investigate Jasper Lane, but make sure that you do not expose your identity.
Ah Zu, head to the Yu clan and search through Chen Zhou’s belongings.
You are the only one who can go there right now.”
“Understood!” They all accepted their orders.
Zu An yawned as he left.
Sang Hong reminded him in a meaningful and heartfelt manner, “Even though you are still young and vigorous, you need to pay attention to your body.”
Zu An broke out in cold sweat as he replied, “I was investigating a case late into the night yesterday and haven’t had a chance to rest yet.” To some extent, the other party was already his father-in-law.
He obviously couldn't tell him what he was really doing.
“Hah.” Sang Hong obviously wouldn’t believe Zu An.
However, he didn’t say anything else either.
In order to prove that his mind was still sharp, Zu An didn’t go back to his room to rest and instead decided to immediately carry out his task.
After Zu An left the room, he first went to Xiao Jianren’s room, asking, “Sir Xiao, have you completed the tasks I entrusted with you last time”
Xiao Jianren cupped his hands, saying, “Sir Zu gave me such detailed instructions.
If we couldn't complete something like this, we wouldn’t be deserving of our title as the Embroidered Envoy.” He handed over a case afterward, saying, “There’s an air-isolating formation in place.
Sir Zu needs to be careful when using it.”
Zu An received it and gave it a look.
In the end, he sighed in relief, saying, “You’ve done well.”
Xiao Jianren said in praise, “It’s Sir Zu who is formidable, able to think of something so ingenious.
However, what do you plan to use this thing for”
“It’ll naturally have a great use soon.” Zu An chuckled.
He put the case away and headed out toward Yu Manor.