Wei Lan left the Senior Official’s residence and walked eastward. Turning at an intersection, he then headed north. He had never been to Imperial Physician Wei’s home, but he knew its location. Just as Wei Lan was concentrating to hasten his journey, he heard a person shout from behind him, “Is that the Senior Official Residence’s Imperial Bodyguard Wei in front?”
Wei Lan turned his head. He knew this person–it was the head eunuch Fu Yun, who served by the Second Highness’s side.
“What a coincidence.” Fu Yun walked over to the front of Wei Lan, bringing with him some of Long Xuan’s imperial bodyguards.
“Is there a problem?” Wei Lan’s hand fell to the sword at his waist, his guard rising.
“Don’t misunderstand, Imperial Bodyguard Wei.” Fu Yun smiled insincerely. “Our Second Highness was just talking about how he wanted to meet Imperial Bodyguard Wei. Who would have thought that I would bump into him in the middle of the street?”
“Mister is a servant within the palace. Would you so coincidentally have a chance encounter with me on the street?” Wei Lan questioned.
Long Xuan wanted to see Wei Lan, knowing that Luo Wei would not let Wei Lan meet him alone. Therefore he used the stupidest yet most effective method, and had Fu Yun bring his people outside the Senior Official’s residence to guard a tree stump lying in wait for the rabbit. Wei Lan would have to exit at some point, and he couldn’t possibly accompany Luo Wei each time. If they persisted in waiting there would be an opportunity.
Fu Yun, the chief eunuch of the Hall of Literary Transcendence, could only obey his master and bring imperial bodyguards to stand by the gates of the Senior Official’s residence. Afraid that they would be seen by the Senior Official’s people, they could only hide in the corner of a side street. The side street was shaded; Fu Yun and the imperial bodyguards with him were frozen stiff by the cold. But they could be considered lucky, as Wei Lan really did leave the official’s residence alone today. Fu Yun saw Wei Lan exit the gates, waited a while, and then hurriedly followed.
“His Second Highness doesn’t have any other intentions. It’s for the third young master. He has something to tell you,” Fu Yun elaborated.
“That this humble slave doesn’t know. Just make a trip, all right? We’re in broad daylight, and I’m in front of so many people.” Fu Yun pointed at the crowds coming and going around him. “Are you still afraid that if you go, you can’t come back?”
Wei Lan asked, “You can bring me into the palace?”
“You can’t enter, but His Second Highness can exit ah. I’ve already sent people to report to His Highness, just come with me.”
“No need,” Wei Lan declined. “I still have things to do. The Second Highness wants to see me, so mister can leave the name of the place. After I finish my tasks, I will go to see the Second Highness.”
“Imperial Bodyguard Wei cannot let our Second Highness just wait there. If you are disrespectful to the prince, even the third young master will find it difficult to save you.”
Wei Lan did not react to Fu Yun’s threat. He only stood there, his hand never leaving the hilt of the sword at his waist.
Fu Yun took a few steps back, and the guards surrounding Wei Lan also looked nervous, each tightening his grip on his own sword. Fu Yun quickly divulged the name of the location, saying, “Drunken Red Robes, this is the capital’s most famous restaurant. You wouldn’t be unaware of it?”
Wei Lan’s figure wavered; he was already several hundred meters away.
Fu Yun watched Wei Lan leave and beat at his own chest, cursing left and right, “All of you are useless, getting scared just from seeing that little bodyguard’s cold face?”
The imperial bodyguards thought to themselves, Head Steward, you were more scared than us yet you’re still going to scold people?
“That guy used to be a killer,” Fu Yun continued to talk nonsense left and right, “I don’t know how many human lives he owes!”
“Then the third young master still keeps him by his side?” A guard asked.
“What kind of good person is the third young master?” Fu Yun muttered lowly.
“No wonder he has so much killing intent around him,” the guards began to discuss.
“All of you shut up,” Fu Yun turned and scolded again, “aren’t you ashamed?”
When Long Xuan arrived at Drunken Red Robes, Wei Lan hadn’t shown up yet. However, Long Xiang stuck to him the whole way there.
“I want to go to Yun Guan,” Long Xiang only said this one sentence to Long Xuan.
“What would you do there?” Long Xuan waved his hand to have the proprietor leave, so that the private room only held him and Long Xiang.
“I’ll go into the army. I can do it too. Isn’t the purpose of my martial arts practice for me to go to the battlefield and kill our enemies?”
“Don’t talk nonsense about matters Father Emperor hasn’t decided yet.”
“Now everyone in the palace knows that we’re going to do battle with Northern Yan,” Long Xiang began to shout at Long Xuan, “big brother, don’t deceive me like I’m a kid!”
Long Xuan had poured half the tea in the teapot. Upon hearing Long Xiang’s shout, Long Xuan threw the pot into the tray.
Long Xiang shut his mouth, cautiously eyeing his big brother.
“What place is this?” Long Xuan looked at Long Xiang with strident fury. “You aren’t a small child, but do you act like an adult? You’ll shout for me in a restaurant about matters not yet settled by the court? Why don’t you go to the street and shout, so that everyone in the world can know about it?!”
Long Xiang lowered his head and murmured, “This is a private room, isn’t there only big brother and me here?”
Long Xuan tapped a finger on the tabletop and did not speak.
Within a moment, an imperial bodyguard pushed the door open and reported, “Your Highness, the rooms to the left and right do not have guests.” Finishing his statement, the bodyguard did not wait for Long Xuan’s signal and retreated on his own.
Long Xiang only then realized his error, his gaze beseeching Long Xuan’s forgiveness. “I forgot that the walls have ears. Brother, forgive me this time, I won’t forget again.”
Long Xuan’s ruthlessness towards Long Xiang did not last. He scolded out the anger in his heart, and then said to Long Xiang, “I’ll tell you the truth. This time you can’t go, so don’t think about it.”
“Why?” Long Xiang was not convinced, and insisted on further clarity.
“Whether you can be brought along, it’s not up to me.” Long Xuan was not planning to explain the twists and turns involved to Long Xiang. He himself could go this time because he was needed to deal with Sima Zhuxie. Otherwise, leaving aside others for now, one Luo Wei was enough to think of a way to completely obstruct him. Both brothers both entering the army? This was simply impossible.
“Then who has the final say?” Long Xiang asked a silly question.
“Go and ask the Emperor Father,” Long Xuan answered. “As long as the emperor nods his head, no one will block your way.”
Long Xiang exhaled once and stood up, saying, “Then big brother, you won’t stop me?”
“I won’t stop you,” Long Xuan confirmed.
Long Xiang exited Drunken Red Robes. He straddled his horse and headed for the palace to find Emperor Xing Wu.
Long Xuan leaned against the window, looking at this little brother of his showing little care for pedestrians as he rushed for the palace. Long Xuan sighed. When would Long Xiang become more sensible? Galloping on the road like this–if an imperial envoy saw it, he would certainly send a memorial to the emperor. Did they still have an uncle to protect them from disaster?
After Long Xuan finished drinking a cup of tea, Fu Yun brought Wei Lan in.
“Your Highness.” Wei Lan began to pay respects.
“It’s fine.” Long Xuan beckoned Wei Lan to come closer, saying, “This isn’t the palace, no need to be too polite. You wouldn’t sincerely pay respects to me anyway, so it’s fine that I don’t ask for this salute. Sit down.”
Wei Lan really did sit down. “Your Highness wants to speak with this lowly one about the third young master?”
“Don’t call yourself ‘this lowly one,’ too.” Long Xuan poured a cup of tea for Wei Lan. “How could a person who Luo Wei places in his heart be lowly?”
“Why is Your Second Highness looking for me?” Wei Lan changed his way of speaking quite quickly.
“War will soon begin. I want to know how you’ll keep your young master safe.”