Chapter 1027: Increase the Fee
Gong Pan shook his head.
He sighed and said, “I only have my own dullness and lack of aptitude to blame; I was unable to find out anything.
I was also unable to get revenge for these brothers who wrongfully died.”
When he saw the man grit his teeth and clench his fists tightly, and how his entire body was shaking a bit as he spoke, Zu An thought to himself, If this person is acting, his acting skills are out of this world. He coughed lightly and reminded the other party, “Then, where are those guards’ belongings located”
Gong Pan thus woke up from his daze.
He took out six pouches from some drawers and said, “The items are stored inside.
They were all unfortunate souls who did not leave behind too many belongings.”
Zu An walked over and opened the six pouches one by one.
These were the belongings of the six deceased guards.
His attention naturally focused on Chen Zhou’s belongings.
He chatted leisurely with Gong Pan while secretly examining the belongings in Chen Zhou’s pack.
Inside were a scorched personal blade, a waist token, a fingernail file, a slightly shriveled canteen, a badly burned book, as well as a few books that were still intact.
“What is this” Zu An noticed that the other people’s belongings all had the same book.
He randomly picked one up and flipped through it.
“That is something all of us guards have.
Recorded in them are their daily patrols and missions.
After all, our jobs carry great risk, and we might just disappear from this world one day.
To some extent, these can be considered our last words,” Gong Pan explained.
Zu An felt relieved.
The Embroidered Envoy had similar things called Soul Reaping Books.
These books recorded their master’s identity, their most recent mission, the people they had encountered, and other such things.
That way, even if individual Embroidered Envoys perished, the others could still find various clues through those things.
His eyes landed on Chen Zhou’s remains.
He thought to himself that most of the booklet had probably been burned up in the warehouse, and the others were found and brought out by Gong Pan from his home.
He couldn't really examine Chen Zhou’s things in front of Gong Pan, so he said, “General Gong, I want to bring these things back in order to examine them carefully.”
“This…” Gong Pan looked a bit hesitant.
Zu An asked with a smile, “Does General Gong not trust me I represent the imperial court, and I don’t have any relationship with the various factions of Cloudcenter Commandery.”
Gong Pan immediately bowed and said, “Sir Zu speaks too formally.
Cooperating with your investigation is something I ought to do.
However, I need Sir Zu to sign a borrowing form.”
“That isn’t an issue.” Zu An knew that was a formality of the court, so he naturally wouldn’t refuse.
Zu An returned to his temporary residence after he signed the form, and Sang Hong came over to look through the belongings.
Zu An noticed that most of the items were just some ordinary goods.
Soon afterward, their attention landed on the booklets.
The book that had been burned looked as if it might crumble as soon as it was touched.
Even if one gently flipped through it, the few words that could still be read were pretty much meaningless.
Furthermore, they knew the scorched corpse might not even be the real Chen Zhou, so the booklet was probably fake too.
As such, they both began to look through the books that had been taken from Chen Zhou’s home.
Unfortunately, they only had some recordings of his patrols and stationed locations over the years; there wasn’t any useful information.
“Is the trail going to just end here” Sang Hong’s brow furrowed slightly; he was clearly a bit unwilling to just give up.
“This was something to be expected.
If there really were anything valuable, wouldn’t it already have been erased by Gong Pan or the true mastermind behind the scenes” Zu An replied in consolation.
“Ah Zu, you visited the Yu clan again today.
Do you think Yu Yanluo and that Gong Pan might be the true masterminds” Sang Hong asked.
“It’s hard to say.” Zu An thought back to the things that had happened earlier with Yu Yanluo and Gong Pan.
He became momentarily absent-minded.
He had originally gone to just sound things out, yet in the end, he had mysteriously started a business.
If she really was the true mastermind, wasn’t he being pulled onto her pirate ship
After some hesitation, Sang Hong couldn't help but warn him, “There is definitely more to that woman than meets the eye.
So many people have knelt down before her for her favor, and even his majesty in the past… Heh, you should not think of her like those young ladies you have met before.
Do not act on impulse just because she is pretty.”
Zu An’s face darkened.
He replied, “Respected uncle is worrying too much.
I haven’t gotten as far as to let beauty affect my judgment.”
At the same time, he was curious.
He couldn't be more familiar with the current emperor.
If that person liked a certain girl, how could he let the other party refuse him Furthermore, Yu Yanluo always acted gentle and timid; she didn’t look like a cultivator at all.
She had no power to resist at all.
Sang Hong wanted to say something else, but Gao Ying suddenly returned.
He immediately changed his tone and said, “You were in charge of examining Chen Zhou’s interpersonal relationships.
How goes the investigation”
Gao Ying replied, “Chen Zhou was a rather reclusive person.
He didn’t have many intimate friends.
But I learned from his colleagues that he seemed to have begun to smile a bit more.
He also seemed a bit younger and happier than before recently.”
“Happier” Zu An and Sang Hong looked at each other in dismay.
In their opinion, that should have been when Chen Zhou discovered the truth of Cloudcenter Duke’s disappearance.
Shouldn’t he have been alarmed and dejected
I found it quite strange as well, so I asked his colleagues about it.” Gao Ying also looked troubled.
“According to what they were saying, Chen Zhou’s only trouble seemed to be that he had some financial issues, so he actually asked to borrow money from them.”
“Lending some money here and there to colleagues should not be a problem, right” Sang Hong asked, puzzled.
Gao Ying replied, “The main problem is that these are the Duke Manor’s personal guards, so their salary and bonuses shouldn’t be lacking.
Others might lack money from indulging in drinking and pleasure, but Chen Zhou was always frugal in his spending.
In theory, such a thing shouldn’t have happened.”
The room became quiet again.
Zu An thought over the clues.
‘Smile more’, ‘younger’, ‘financial issues’...
Those key words seemed to be getting closer and closer to some actual truth, and yet he couldn't figure it out.
Suddenly, the door was pushed open.
Pei You walked over while mumbling something.
“Oh We have some progress from Jasper Lane’s side,” Zu An said in amusement.
“I don’t even want to talk about it.” Pei You’s expression immediately sank.
His hand reached up to his mouth and he released a sigh.
Then, he ran over to the fireplace for some warmth, saying, “Jasper Lane isn’t even open yet.”
He had gotten all excited when he heard he could go to the pleasure quarters on a public assignment.
That was why he had been so impatient to rush to Jasper Lane.
Unfortunately, places like Jasper Lane usually only operated at night.
After all, the girls needed to rest after working all night.
As a self-proclaimed connoisseur of the pleasure quarters, Pei You naturally understood that.
He had thought to himself that he’d just go later in the afternoon.
But who would’ve thought that even as he waited and waited, Jasper Lane had still never opened In the end, he finally couldn't take the cold and went out to ask around.
He had found out that it was still too early.
Cloudcenter Commandery was tens of thousands of li northwest of the capital, but Pei You had been waiting for the time the brothels in the capital opened up.
However, the sun rose a few hours later into the day than what he was used to, and it would similarly be a few extra hours before it became dark.
Hence, people’s daily schedules would be shifted a few hours later compared to the capital.
Jasper Lane’s hours naturally shifted a few hours as well.
But that meant Gao Ying had been sitting indoors and chatting with some tea, and Zu An had been cared for by Yu Yanluo with good food and wine, while he alone had sat outside in the northwestern cold for several hours.
Pei You had broken down when he realized all of that and sprinted back in shame.
When they heard the whole story, Zu An and Gao Ying burst out laughing.
Even Sang Hong couldn't hold back a smile.
Pei You was furious.
He was just about to say something when he saw the remains on the table.
He suddenly voiced his surprise.
“I knew it! Brother Zu really did go to Jasper Lane on his own without us!”
Zu An was completely confused.
He asked, “Did you go stupid from the cold When did I go to Jasper Lane”
“Are you still going to lie What is this then” Pei You pointed at an unremarkable fingernail file on the desk.
“This is a small present Jasper Lane gives their guests, something polished from jade fragments.
Even though it isn’t some precious treasure, it’s definitely not cheap.
Normally speaking, only the most respected guests have the qualifications to obtain something like this.”
Zu An and Sang Hong exchanged a look.
They thought back to Chen Zhou’s new lease in life, and how he had begun to lack money.
They immediately blurted out, “Jasper Lane!”
Pei You was stunned.
He said, “Yes, I was talking about Jasper Lane.”
Zu An and Sang Hong didn’t bother explaining things to him and began to discuss among themselves.
“Looks like Chen Zhou’s money was spent in Jasper Lane.”
“No wonder he was lacking money.
Even though the salary for a personal guard is high, it would never be enough in a money squandering establishment.”
“Sigh, I thought he was someone who cared about his family when I met his wife and son.
I didn’t expect that honest-seeming fella to be that kind of trash!”
Pei You was stunned.
Only when Gao Ying explained did he understand what was happening.
“Then what are we still waiting for Let’s go!” he exclaimed excitedly.
Sang Hong coughed and said, “I will have to trouble you all to investigate this matter.
It is inconvenient for someone of my status to go.”
He was a glorious Imperial Envoy subject.
If someone found out that he had gone all the way to Cloudcenter Commandery to visit the pleasure quarters, just the spit flying from the court’s complaints would be enough to drown him to death.
“Little You, we obviously have to leave this kind of thing to you.
You should head over to Jasper Lane as a spy first.
Brother Gao, investigate Chen Zhou’s colleagues a bit more and we’ll attack this issue from different angles.
Let’s try to see just which girl had an affair with Chen Zhou,” Zu An said while patting the other two individuals’ shoulders.
“Then what about you” Pei You asked out of curiosity.
“I’ll be here devising the plan, of course, and awaiting your good news,” Zu An said with a deadly earnest expression.
Pei You gave him a look of disdain.
However, when he thought about how it wasn’t long before Jasper Lane would open, he didn’t say anything else.
After all, going to the pleasure quarters at public expense was just too amazing of a job.
Gao Ying was more steadfast in nature, so he naturally didn’t have any objections.
When the two of them left, Sang Hong looked at Zu An and said out of concern, “You have been investigating the last two nights without any rest, so you should get some rest to preserve your strength.
I will watch over things here.”
Zu An said with a smile, “Since respected uncle cares so much about me, I’ll return and sleep first.”
While looking at his withdrawing figure, Sang Hong thought to himself, What will my daughter do if you end up ruining yourself from exhaustion
After many hours passed, news came back that Pei You had already found out who Chen Zhou had been close to.
Zu An and Gao Ying arrived at Jasper Lane.
Pei You was already waiting there, burning with anxiety.
He exclaimed, “Hurry up, hurry up! Why are you all so slow”
When he saw the lipstick marks that hadn’t even been completely wiped off Pei You’s face, Zu An couldn't help but say with a smile, “Looks like you’re having a great time here.”
“Hmph, what I’m doing is fully devoting myself to our nation,” Pei You stuck out his chest and said proudly.
“Tsk,” the other two replied.
“The one Chen Zhou was close to is coming out.” Pei You reminded them just then.
“Young master Pei, why aren’t you coming inside yet” A gorgeously dressed woman walked out.
When she saw Zu An and Gao Ying, her expression changed.
She continued, “There are this many people I can’t entertain all of you at the same time…”
Pei You quickly advised her, “We came from afar because we’ve heard of your reputation.
How can the lady let us leave in disappointment”
The woman hesitated for a bit.
Suddenly, she noticed Zu An’s outstanding appearance and presence.
A bashful expression immediately appeared on her face.
She said, “It’s not entirely impossible to let this young master come in as well, but we have to increase the fee!”