Chapter 251: The Expert of the Bureau of Military Personnel and Bureau of Punishments Back Then!
"Did you find out where he went?" Wang Chong asked Ma Yinlong as he lifted his gaze.
"I didn't follow him. Due to the lush flora and fauna in the mountain forest, there's a good chance that I might be noticed by him. Thus, I backed off at this point. However, there is no doubt that the gathering point of the Goguryeon elite warriors is outside the city, " Ma Yinlong replied, knowing that Wang Chong was referring to the assassin.
"Outside the city?" Wang Chong's eyebrows twitched. He turned to look at the slightly protruding tip of the mountain above the city wall as he fell into deep contemplation.
After combing through the capital time and time again, the largest gathering point of the Goguryeons turned out to be outside the city. Even though it felt weird, it was understandable.
First, they had the secret tunnel so it wasn't too difficult for them to enter the city in large groups. Second, it was also much more convenient for them to escape should their trail be uncovered.
"What do you intend to do next?"
Wang Chong glanced at Ma Yinlong. The current Ma Yinlong carried a spirited disposition far different from the abject middle-aged man who was beaten up outside the Royal Jade Pavilion. His eyes seemed to be burning with intense fighting spirit.
Given Ma Yinlong's capabilities, he could have easily captured the assassin and interrogated him for the location of their base. However, he didn't do so. Instead, he let the assassin go.
Wang Chong believed that the other man must have his reasons for doing so.
As the person who boasted the most thorough understanding of King Sosurim, Wang Chong felt that Ma Yinlong deserved to be trusted.
"The Goguryeon warriors are all death troops, it is impossible to obtain any useful information out of them. Capturing them abruptly would only alarm them instead." Knowing what Wang Chong was thinking, Ma Yinlong explained his actions.
"After so many years, they finally appear once more. It's about time to settle it once and for all." Ma Yinlong sighed deeply as complicated emotions surfaced in his eyes.
Ma Yinlong had asked for a three-day break. He didn't mention where he was heading to, and Wang Chong didn't ask either. Everyone had a story behind them, and Ma Yinlong was no exception either. There was no need to dig up the details.
But three days later, Wang Chong saw the results of Ma Yinlong's efforts in the Royal Jade Pavilion.
Standing before Wang Chong were three disheveled middle-aged men. The first man was a bird merchant, and an exceptionally large eagle was perched on his shoulder. The second man was a single-armed drunkard. His left sleeve drifted along with the wind, and even from afar, Wang Chong could smell the scent of alcohol from him.
As for the last man, he looked like a mercenary who would do anything for money.
The trio looked a little extraordinary for those in their trade, as though there was something deeper to them. However, that was all there was to it.
There were plenty of people like them in the capital.
Usually, Wang Chong wouldn't have spared this trio an additional glance on the streets.
However, Ma Yinlong spent three whole days gathering these three people in order to introduce them to Wang Chong. Given that effort, he really had to examine them seriously.
"These people... they were officials from the Bureau of Punishments back then?" Wang Chong asked as he assessed the trio before him. He could sense the same emotions from them as the one he sensed from Ma Yinlong back then. If his deductions weren't off, they should be those who were also affected by the case back then.
"Un, but just these two. Solitary Wolf was from the Bureau of Military Personnel," Ma Yinlong said heavily as he pointed to the ferocious-looking mercenary.
"Back then, there were many important and minor officials across the six bureaus who were assassinated, causing a huge uproar. We were the officials in charge of the case back then, and failing to solve the case, we were all punished. I was demoted to become a copyist in the Bureau of Punishments. Old Eagle was stripped of his position and investigated. He ended up spending several years in jail, and after he was out, he had no choice but to retire as a bird merchant. Even though Steel Arms wasn't jailed, he lost an arm while facing the Goguryeons while investigating the case. After the incident, he spent his days in taverns in hopes of keeping his sobriety at bay. On the other hand, Solitary Wolf concealed his identity and became a mercenary instead, working for anyone who could offer him money."
"Throughout these years, many of our brothers have died or were crippled. We are probably the only ones who survived the Goguryeons' assassinations." A tinge of sorrow permeated Ma Yinlong's voice as he recounted the affairs back then. The eyes of Old Eagle, Steel Arms, and Solitary Wolf behind him also reddened.
Even though Wang Chong had never gone through the incident back then, and he knew not of the experiences of these men, he could roughly imagine what they had felt throughout these years from Ma Yinlong's voice.
A decade ago, before King Sosurim assassinated the influential officials of the royal court, they were still ambitious young men of the Bureau of Military Personnel and Bureau of Punishments. They had a bright future laid out before them.
Yet, due to that incident, the brothers who investigated the case together with them ended up either dead or crippled. The haughty talented young men back then had fallen down to earth, reduced to such an unseemly plight.
And it was on their sorrows that the name of “King Sosurim” bloomed to become a legend.
The others also felt the same as well, and in an instant, the atmosphere in the room grew heavy.
"Heh, we shouldn't talk about these depressing matters anymore. Perhaps this is our life. Fifteen years have passed, and we still can't escape our destiny. Since the matter started with us, let it end with us as well. Old Eagle, Steel Arms, and Solitary Wolf, this is Wang gongzi. His grandfather... is Duke Jiu of Great Tang!"
Initially, the trio only came here due to Ma Yinlong's plea. However, after hearing that Wang Chong's grandfather was Duke Jiu, their eyes were immediately filled with respect.
"Wang gongzi!" The three proud men immediately lowered their heads before Wang Chong and bowed deeply.
"Wang gongzi, since you're the grandson of Duke Jiu, you can't be considered as an outsider. Back then, when we failed to solve the assassination case, we should have been executed under the laws of Great Tang. It's your grandfather and his group of officials that convinced His Majesty to spare us. Thus, gongzi, feel free to command us as you please!" Steel Arms stepped forward and said, and the other two nodded in agreement.
Wang Chong's eyebrows shot up in astonishment. This was his first time hearing of this matter.
If not for the trio speaking of it, he would probably never have learned of it, either.
But considering how large the case was back then, many eyes were probably on it. Given his grandfather's standing back then, it was natural that he would get involved as well.
His grandfather would never stand idle and watch as Ma Yinlong and the others were executed by the royal court, given his temper.
"Wang gongzi, don't judge them based on their appearance. Despite having a missing hand, being a drunkard, and a person who puts his life in for money, they are all top-notch experts. Furthermore, there are probably no other experts in the capital who knew the Goguryeons better than they do." Ma Yinlong said.
"Steel Arms may only have a single arm, but his remaining right arm is extraordinarily powerful. His Right Arm Swordsmanship is forceful and deadly, even I don't have the confidence to stand up against him. Solitary Wolf often gambles with his life, fighting large groups of enemies at once. As such, his attacks wield fearsome might that even Goguryeon assassins would have to back down before. Even back then, he was an expert in the Bureau of Military Personnel, and he was currently more formidable than he was then—even the guards of the king residences wouldn't be able to match up to him now."
"He would serve as the greatest shield for gongzi. Even if gongzi were to meet with the assassination attempts of the Goguryeons, as long as there is a breath remaining in Solitary Wolf, he won't allow anyone to get close to gongzi."
Wang Chong could tell that Ma Yinlong was worried that he would underestimate the men he brought, thinking that they were incapable of protecting him.
But there was indeed nothing Wang Chong could refute in Ma Yinlong's words.
Be it Miyasame Ayaka or the experts from the Zhuang Clan and Chi Clan, they were no match for Ma Yinlong and his group at all. After all, they were much older and had cultivated far longer than Miyasame Ayaka and the others.
The gap in their experience was simply too huge!
... However, I really couldn't tell that beneath the strong alcohol smell of Steel Arms is a formidable expert, Wang Chong thought.
He had experienced Ma Yinlong's might personally, and given that the latter was full of praise for Steel Arms's Right Arm Swordsmanship, he must be truly powerful.
Ma Yinlong had already introduced two of the trio, and only the last one was left.
Wang Chong turned his gaze to the last man, Old Eagle.
"As for Old Eagle, heh, his martial arts are only average. But he possesses a talent that we are in dire need of. That's the reason why I brought him here."
Instead of beating around the bush, Ma Yinlong immediately dove into explaining Old Eagle's capabilities. "Old Eagle is a formidable eagle tamer, and back in those years, he was publicly renowned to be the best in the capital. This is precisely the reason why he was sent to work together with us to investigate the Goguryeons. The eagles he tamed are extremely intelligent, and they are capable of tracking, scouting, and hunting."
"In truth, the person whom the Goguryeons wanted to eradicate the most back then wasn't me, Solitary Wolf, and the others, but Old Eagle. Even now, the Goguryeons are still trying to track him down. Fortunately, other than the few of us, no one has ever met him."
"I believe gongzi knows that the Goguryeons like to use ravens as a source of communications. The ravens they use are exceptionally swift, such that even gyrfalcons aren't able to keep up with them. However, the eagles that Old Eagle trained have successfully captured and followed them without being noticed. If we want to find the Goguryeons' gathering point outside the city, we will require Old Eagle's ability."
"Ah!" At this moment, Wang Chong finally widened his eyes in shock as he assessed the “bird merchant”-attired Old Eagle before him. At this moment, he finally understood why Ma Yinlong went through so much trouble to bring him here.
With Old Eagle's help, the Goguryeons would be unable to conceal their tracks anymore. Furthermore, regardless of the messages they sent, Old Eagle would be able to intercept them beforehand.
To deal with the Goguryeons, Old Eagle's ability was indeed of vital importance!