Chapter 383: The Relationship Between Clans!
After all, they had fought alongside one another, and they had gone through life-and-death situations together. Thus, Bai Siling and Xu Gan had put considerable trust in Huang Yongtu.
They had considered their foursome a tightly-knit team which they could entrust their lives to, so they felt deeply betrayed when that ambush happened.
"This is truly disappointing. Back then, we even tried our best to save him from the Iron Cloak Highwaymen, and this is how he repays us," Bai Siling said indignantly.
"It can't be helped, our paths differ from his. From the very start, the Huang Clan hoped to join King Qi's faction," Xu Gan sighed.
Compared to Bai Siling, he was less affected by the incident. He had witnessed many collusions and betrayals occur over profits in the capital, and he had known that there would come a day when he would have to step into that world as well.
In truth, there was nothing wrong with Huang Yongtu's action, except for the fact that he had chosen to bet on the wrong person. This was also where the two of them differed. While Huang Yongtu had chosen King Qi, Xu Gan had placed his stakes on Wang Chong.
The fact that Wang Chong could escape from the assassination proved that his judgement was right, Wang Clan was indeed worth his support!
"There's just one thing that I am unable to figure out. How did you know the traitor was Huang Yongtu, and not us?" Bai Siling asked, intrigued.
She had been contemplating this issue ever since returning from the ambush. Of the four of them, who was the one who revealed the information to the assassins?
But no matter how she thought about it, she felt that the traitor couldn't be any of them. Or perhaps, she was unwilling to doubt the comrades whom she had fought alongside.
Bai Siling even thought that there might be a mistake in her conjecture, and that this entire matter was just a huge coincidence, or perhaps there might be something else that she had neglected.
But when she received news that Wang Chong had appeared in Huanxi Manor, the final shreds of hope that she had clung to dissipated.
At this point, the only thing she wanted to know was how Wang Chong could be so certain that Huang Yongtu was the traitor.
"Actually, that wasn't too difficult to figure out." Sipping on the fragrant cup of tea he held in his hands, wisdom gleamed in Wang Chong's eyes.
"It might be difficult for others uncover the news that I would be participating in a mission of the training camp, especially considering the secrecy measures of the Bureau of Military Personnel, but they couldn't possibly stop King Qi and the Yao Clan from finding that out, and I have no doubt that they would do so, too.
"In the mission, I would have to leave the safety of the training camps and the capital. In other words, that would be an ideal opportunity for them to make a move on me, and there was no way they would allow this chance to slip past their fingers. However, before we could venture too far away from the capital, we were already assigned veteran cavalrymen, and that would make it difficult for any assassin to strike.
"Thus, the only opportunity they had left to strike was when I returned from Longxi. But to do so, they needed someone to liaise with them from within, preferably one of us four."
At this point, Wang Chong sighed.
"Honestly speaking, I wished that I was just overthinking it, and maybe King Qi wouldn't touch me at all. However, the outcome has proven me wrong.
"Do you still remember what I said to you all after meeting the Big Dipper Army commandant right after the battle?" Wang Chong asked.
"I do. You said that you had to leave," Xu Gan replied.
"Un." Wang Chong nodded, and his gaze abruptly turned cold. "I said those words on purpose to test you all. Back then, the command to return had yet to arrive from the Bureau of Military Personnel, and leaving without official orders could easily be deemed as insubordination. In other words, if anyone were to offer to leave with me at the moment, he must be the traitor! There are two reasons behind that conclusion. First, he would lose the opportunity to strike if I were to leave alone, and that would mean the failure of his mission. Second, he had nothing to fear, since King Qi was backing him."
Hearing Wang Chong's words, Bai Siling and Xu Gan glanced at one another in shock. They didn't expect there to be such significance behind Wang Chong's words.
"But what if we had offered to leave with you in that situation? After all, we went there as a team, and we have undergone numerous life-and-death situation together, so there's still such a chance, right? Weren't you jumping to conclusions a little too soon then?" Bai Siling asked.
"You're right. If that was the only case, I would have only suspected him. But do you remember the letter pigeon that arrived at that moment?" Wang Chong uttered coldly.
Huang Yongtu had wanted to do him in, but he had grossly underestimated him.
"Was there something wrong with the pigeon?" Xu Gan frowned. He couldn't tell how the pigeon was involved in this matter.
"Do you mean to say that its arrival is too timely, and thus it's suspicious?" Bai Siling replied after a moment of contemplation. Thinking back, she did find it bizarre as well, but she chose not to think too deeply into it.
"That's one thing, but besides that, the content of the letter is something worth looking into as well. Do you still remember what was written on it?" Wang Chong asked.
With a frown, Bai Siling said, "Back then, Zhang Lin said that..."
"... Zhang Lin said that the Bureau of Military Personnel sent a message requesting everyone to report back to the capital after the third mission is completed!" It was Xu Gan who finished those words. He clearly remembered what Zhang Lin said back then.
"That's right," Wang Chong nodded. "The Bureau of Military Personnel wanted us to return after the third mission was completed. In other words, the Bureau of Military Personnel doesn't even know whether we have completed the mission or not.
"The Bureau of Military Personnel would never issue us new instructions without confirming whether we have completed the previous mission. This is probably their standard practice to minimize the possibility of military intelligence leaking out. Xu Gan, do you remember when we received the first command from the Bureau of Military Personnel?" Wang Chong turned to Xu Gan and asked.
"We received that at the first gathering point, right after we were assigned twenty cavalrymen each," Xu Gan replied immediately.
"That's right. The Bureau of Military Personnel confirmed that we had reached the first gathering point before sending a letter pigeon over. It would never have sent the pigeon if we weren't there yet. I'm not too sure how they did it, but there is no doubt that they do have a way of ensuring that, and the easiest method of all would be time estimation.
"They probably estimated that we should have reached the first gathering point by that time, so they sent the letter pigeon over," Wang Chong said.
"Siling, do you recall when we received the second letter?"
"We received it after encountering the Iron Cloak Highwaymen. If what you said is true, isn't it weird that the royal court only sent us the instructions for the second letter after we had already encountered the target?" Bai Siling replied.
"That's indeed an estimation error on the royal court's part, but if you were to think about it, we have already completed the first mission by then, right? Even if we hadn't, we should have already failed by then. After all, the bandits and highwaymen would only become stronger the further we advanced, so the chances of success would have become even slimmer then." Wang Chong said.
Bai Siling and Xu Gan nodded in agreement. It was indeed true that they had completed the mission by then. If they hadn't, it was likely that they wouldn't have been able to do so from that point on.
"Besides, do you recall where the den of the Iron Cloak Highwaymen was?" Wang Chong asked.
"It was a hundred li away from where we encountered..." At this point, Bai Siling abruptly halted as realization struck her.
"That's right." Putting down his teacup, Wang Chong affirmed Bai Siling's deduction. "In order to catch us by surprise, the Iron Cloak Highwaymen left their base and galloped over a hundred li to attack us. In other words, the reason why the royal court made that estimation error was due to their inability to ascertain the movements of the Iron Cloak Highwaymen.
"Moving on, when did we receive the news regarding the third mission?"
"We received it in the Iron Cloak Highwaymen's treasure vault." Bai Siling was able to answer this one swiftly.
"That's right. Through these three examples, isn't it clear that the royal court would only issue instructions after confirming the previous mission had been completed? There's no way they would have sent us that message right after we beat the Tibetan soldiers since it would be impossible to ascertain that we had already completed the mission at that point.
"It was then that I became certain that the letter didn't come from the Bureau of Military Personnel," Wang Chong said.
"WHAT?!" Hearing those words, Xu Gan and Bai Siling could no longer maintain their composure, and they stood up in shock.
"Wang Chong, do you mean to say that the final instruction we received from the Bureau of Military Personnel was forged?" Bai Siling asked in astonishment.
Forging a letter from the Bureau of Military Personnel was a heavy crime!
"I didn't say that. Besides, it's not quite possible for Zhang Lin to be unable to ascertain whether a letter had truly come from the Bureau of Military Personnel or not. However, if one thing is certain, it is that the final letter we received didn't come from the same source as the prior letters.
"My guess is that King Qi prepared that letter in advance. As it was impossible for them to guess what our third mission would be, they could only write the letter as vague as possible.
"With that letter, Huang Yongtu would be able to return with me when the time came without incurring the suspicions of others. Everything had been meticulously planned out!" Wang Chong said calmly.
At this point, Bai Siling and Xu Gan were already shocked beyond words. Even though they had been beside Wang Chong for the whole journey, had Wang Chong not pointed all this out to them, they would never have noticed such details.
"... But if you have already suspected Huang Yongtu then, why didn't you expose him? Why did you even bring him along?" Bai Siling asked.
"I was going to, but he never tried to break away from the group!" Wang Chong sighed deeply.
Bai Siling froze for a moment before she realized what was going on.
Supposedly, right after Huang Yongtu confirmed the location, he should have broken away from the group since it was unlikely that the assassins King Qi had hired would be able to recognize him. That would have affirmed Wang Chong's suspicions.
But even up to the point that the assassins arrived, that timid Huang Yongtu never tried to leave the group.
"What do you intend to do next? Are you going to deal with him?" Bai Siling asked.
"That would depend on how the Huang Clan responds." Wang Chong replied.
The Huang Clan's response came way faster than Wang Chong expected. That night right after he confronted Huang Yongtu at Huanxi Manor, the head of the Huang Clan appeared in the Wang Family Residence.
"Gongzi, our Huang Clan is at fault here. No matter what, we will surely give a satisfactory explanation to the Wang Clan. However, I sincerely plead for you to believe me when I say that the Huang Clan is unaware of this matter. All of this was that bastard's own doing."
As soon as the head of the Huang Clan appeared before Wang Chong, he immediately kneeled down and kowtowed.
The head of the Huang Clan was already in his fifties, and he seemed to be a very ambitious and proud man. His cultivation was also way beyond Profound Martial realm.
But at this moment, this haughty man was kneeling before a junior far younger and weaker than him.
This was no longer a matter of age or cultivation realm. This was simply how the clans in the capital resolved their conflicts.
In here, Wang Chong represented the Wang Clan, one of the most prestigious clans in the Great Tang Empire.
Even the head of the Huang Clan had no choice but to lower his head before the immense power behind Wang Chong. Besides, the issue at hand wasn't any trifling matter.
If handled improperly, it could spell the utter destruction of the Huang Clan.
"I can assure you that our Huang Clan has no intentions of making an enemy out of the Wang Clan, and we don't intend to get involved in the dispute between the Wang Clan and the Yao Clan, either. No matter what, I beseech gongzi to believe us on this."