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   Chapter 90 The Stolen Army Deployment Plan

Eight-year-old Princess: Phoenix Reborn By Lan You Ruo Characters: 19102

Updated: 2018-08-31 15:57


Hua Jing had spent the whole day in her tent. When she peeked out, it was already dark. Sometimes, several patrol soldiers passed by. That and Hua Jing's agitated pacing were the only sounds that could be heard.

A sudden noise scared Hua Jing. She jumped in surprise. She turned around to see, and found that a stone had fallen by the table. Hua Jing watched as it bounced and rolled before coming to a halt. Hua Jing looked around carefully before picking it up. She split the stone into two halves and took out a strip of cloth from the inside. There were two lines of characters on the cloth, which said, Time is limited. Take action soon.

Hua Jing clenched her teeth and put the cloth into the sachet hanging on her waist. It was a letter from Qingsu urging her to finish and leave. But, she still had no idea as to how she would escape. She frowned and felt more agitated.

Hua Jing's stay in the Ning army and being a spy for Qingsu were just expedient. She had been impersonating Yun Shang since she met Qingsu, and had deceived him into writing a letter to Emperor Ning, in which he raised the request of marriage between him and Princess Hui Guo. Qingsu was so cruel that he would not let Hua Jing live if he learned the truth. So she persuaded Qingsu to send her to the Ning army. She had convinced Qingsu that she, as the Princess of Ning, could work as his spy in the Ning army, or steal an Army Deployment Map, or even poison Prince Jing.

However, Hua Jing would not do as she had assured Qingsu. She was, after all, the Princess of Ning. How could she do something to undermine her own country? She just did all this to escape from Qingsu.

But Hua Jing came to realize how simple-minded she was as soon as she set foot in the Ning camp. She had underestimated Qingsu. Qingsu not only placed guards outside the Ning camp, but he had also arranged spies to watch her inside the camp. He must know everything about her.

"Your Highness..." A voice announced from outside. Hua Jing was so shocked that she turned around hurriedly, "Who is it?"

Silence followed her question. Then the person spoke, "Your Highness, I am in service of Prince Jing. The Prince wonders whether Your Highness is willing to have a chat with him in his tent."

Prince Jing? Hua Jing squinted as she contemplated. She could feel suspicion from the Prince ever since she arrived at the camp. He always gave her the cold shoulder whenever she went to his tent. But today, the Prince was inviting her to his tent. How could it be possible? Hua Jing could not help but worry.

The soldier led Hua Jing to Prince Jing's tent. She vaguely heard the Prince speak as she stood outside the tent.

"My Lord, Her Highness is here." The soldier said aloud from the doorway. To prevent Qingsu from finding out her true identity, Hua Jing had ordered all soldiers to address her Princess instead of Princess Hua Jing since her first day at the Ning camp.

"Please come in." Hua Jing heard the Prince speak in a low and attractive voice. The soldier pushed open the curtain for Hua Jing, and she entered. But her face darkened after she got a clear view of the interior. There were three people in the tent, the Prince, Mister Xiao, and Lady Zhao.

Lady Zhao looked sullen too. She turned and gave Hua Jing a look of contempt, and said sarcastically, "It's you, Princess Hua Jing."

Hua Jing gnashed her teeth but walked in with a smile. "Mother, I didn't expect that Uncle had invited you here."

"Mother?" Lady Zhao smiled, "Your Highness is the star out of reach of the Zhao family. Before I came here, I requested the Emperor to allow Your Highness and my son to divorce. Anyway, no one knows whether Yingjie is alive or dead. Your Highness can relieve yourself of the burden if Your Highness divorces him."

Hua Jing fastened her hands into fists in her sleeves. How she desperately wished that she could consent to Lady Zhao's proposal! However, she recalled what the Empress had said to her when she was about to leave the Imperial Palace. If she divorced Zhao Yingjie at this moment, she would certainly be condemned as a hardhearted woman by everyone. Thinking of the stigma the divorce would bring for her, Hua Jing lowered her head to show pitiful meekness. She said while sobbing, "The Emperor's Son-in-Law is missing. I know mother must feel sad and worried for him. But, mother, please don't say something like that again. As Yingjie's wife, I feel no better than you. No matter what happens to him, I will bear the consequence with you, shoulder to shoulder."

Yun Shang was sitting near Hua Jing. She glanced at Hua Jing with a look of contempt, and thought to herself, You are smarter now, Hua Jing. I should never have underestimated you.

Yun Shang cast her eyes on both women before speaking with Lady Zhao with a smile, "Hua Jing is right, Lady Zhao. You two should not quarrel with each other at this time when the Emperor's Son-in-Law is missing. Her Highness is worried for the Emperor's Son-in-Law, too. Her Highness came to the border in search of the Emperor's Son-in-Law. She left the day after you left the Imperial City. All people in the Imperial City are talking about the virtuous deeds of Her Highness and lauding her faithfulness to the Emperor's Son-in-Law. But Prince Hua Jing had gotten lost along the way, and was delayed in arriving here. Her Highness must have suffered tremendously. Wouldn't it be improper for you to blame Her Highness after so long and hard a journey?"

Yun Shang smiled. Though she seemed to speak in favor of Hua Jing, Lady Zhao was clever enough to catch the subtext behind the words. Hua Jing sought to better her repute among the populace by leaving the Imperial City hurriedly and proclaiming her efforts to search for the Emperor's Son-in-Law. But she delayed her arrival on purpose.

Lady Zhao's face darkened suddenly. She said with a cold smile, "No wonder the Empress is the Empress. Her daughter is not inferior to Her Majesty in winning over the hearts of the people."

The Empress? Yun Shang smiled when she heard Lady Zhao mention the Empress. "I heard something awful had happened to the Empress during the Winter Solstice Sacrificial Ceremony. Lady Shu ran into Her Majesty by accident, and Her Majesty miscarried. The Emperor even sent Lady Shu to the Cold Palace as punishment." Yun Shang sighed and continued, "Well, what a lot of troubles we seem to have!"

This statement not only took Hua Jing by surprise, but also Prince Jing. Hua Jing stayed silent for a short while, then she said abruptly, "No. It's impossible for Mother to have been miscarried. How could that happen?"

Yun Shang showed pity and said, "I don't know all the details very well. I just heard it from others."

Miscarriage? Hua Jing paled at this thought. How could it be possible? She was hoping her mother would give birth to a son. She would have nothing to worry about if her brother was designated by the Emperor as the Crown Prince. But what had caused the miscarriage? I must return to the Imperial City as soon as possible. Hua Jing thought to herself.

Yun Shang felt happy as she watched Hua Jing's sullen expression. This is just the beginning. There will be more for you to endure. Yun Shang thought.

"You look upset, Princess Hua Jing. You'd better go back to your tent and rest. As Your Highness and Lady Zhao are the only women in the camp, it would be more convenient for both of you to share the same tent. Anyway, you two must be in need of company. Attendant. Lead the way for Lady Zhao and Her Highness." Prince Jing said aloud.

An attendant came in and escorted Lady Zhao and Hua Jing to their tent. When Prince Jing and Yun Shang were alone in the tent, the Prince asked softly, "Is Lady Shu under arrest in the Cold Palace? Would Your Highness please explain this to me? What happened?"

Explain? Yun Shang was taken by surprise. Then she remembered that Lady Shu was in service of the Prince. But how could the Prince be so sure that she devised all this to set Lady Shu up?

Yun Shang picked up the cup by her side, and tried to come up with an ideal answer. Then she heard the Prince speak after a sigh, "Lady Shu has spent many years in the Imperial Palace. I know more or less what she is capable of. You must be angry at her for what she did to Lady Jin, although Lady Jin was just an innocent victim of the war between Lady Shu and the Empress."

Yun Shang could not help but feel nervous. She said after a long silence, "How could you be so sure that it was I who set her up?"

Prince Jing walked toward Yun Shang. He lowered his head to look into her eyes. "Even if she wanted to eliminate the baby in the Empress's belly, she didn't have to do it in public. Since the Empress is unable to have a baby, how could it be possible for her to miscarry?"

Yun Shang was startled. She raised her head to stare at the Prince, "What did you say? The Empress is unable to have a baby?"

Suddenly, Yun Shang recalled what Lady Shu had mentioned about the Empress's pregnancy. Lady Shu said she didn't get any order from the Prince to kill the baby in the Empress's belly. And she also recalled the Prince had told her it was unnecessary to worry about the Empress's baby, when Yun Shang had gone to his mansion to see him. So the Prince must have known that it was impossible for the Empress to get pregnant!

"You... made her incapable of bearing more children?" Yun Shang asked.

Instead of answering Yun Shang's question, Princ

e Jing raised his hand to pat her head and said, "It's late. You'd better go to sleep now."

But how could it be possible for Yun Shang to fall asleep? What the Prince had said left her sleepless. It must be he who ensured that the Empress was unable to get pregnant. The Empress, however, must not know about all this, otherwise she would not pretend to be pregnant. And His Majesty didn't seem to know any of this. But why did the Prince tell this to her?

Yun Shang lifted her eyes to look at the Prince. But the Prince had returned to his table and was reading.

The atmosphere in the camp was quite tense the next morning. Prince Jing had summoned all the generals in the camp to his tent before the morning drum sounded. The Prince was in such a hurry that he didn't wear his armor while attending the meeting. Before long, the entrance of the camp was guarded by soldiers to prevent anyone from leaving. Even the solders in charge of cooking were prevented from fetching water from outside.

All soldiers could feel the tension, though they were not told anything. It seemed as though trouble was brewing.

Hua Jing was getting nervous for no reason as well. She paced in her tent the whole morning.

"Hum, " Lady Zhao uttered, "What a lot of noise!" Then she closed her eyes, took off the Buddhist bead bracelet on her wrist, and began to recite Buddhist texts while counting the beads.

Hua Jing stamped her foot in frustration. She couldn't stomach Lady Zhao's calmness. She walked out of her tent, and went to the camp entrance. Seeing many soldiers patrolling the entrance, she seized one of them and asked, "What's going on in the camp? I see there are more soldiers on patrol."

The soldier lowered his voice and said to Hua Jing after looking around, "I don't know, Your Highness. I just heard that the Army Deployment Plan was stolen. The Prince is so worried that he ordered us to guard the entrance lest the thief try to escape."

The Army Deployment Plan was stolen? Hua Jing was shocked. Was it possible? She could not even find where the Army Deployment Plan was being kept! It had already been stolen? Who did it? Since Ning and Yelang were at war, the military plan must have been stolen by someone from Yelang. It was useless to a third party. If Qingsu already had the Army Deployment Plan, what would he do to her? Would he do something to her disadvantage?

Hua Jing was in deep thought. Scared by the thoughts in her mind, she ran towards Prince Jing's tent. Not a solder was seen outside the Prince's tent. Hua Jing found this odd as the tent used to be heavily guarded. As she neared, Hua Jing could hear someone speaking inside.

Hua Jing bit her lip and made up her mind. She walked nearer to the tent and pressed her ear close to it. She heard a voice speaking inside, "My spy in Yelang army informed me that they were going to steal our Army Deployment Plan. So I prepared a plan. I told the soldiers that the Army Deployment Plan had been stolen, which is of course false. But Yelang's spies would think it to be true, and would no longer try to steal the plan. It might be possible that those spies would think the plan was stolen by one of them, and thus return to Yelang for a reward."

A plot? Hua Jing was taken by surprise. Was the Army Deployment Plan...

"Did you mean the Army Deployment Plan has not been stolen, My Lord? It is kept hidden in a secret place, right? But where is it hidden, My Lord?" A man asked the very question that Hua Jing wanted to raise.

"No one would expect where I have hidden it. It is sealed on the curtain of my tent." Prince Jing said with delight. "All of you ensure that the soldiers guard the camp entrance strictly, and I will dismiss all soldiers around my tent. It would seem as if the Army Deployment Plan has indeed been stolen and there is nothing important in my tent. There would be no difficulty in identifying Qingsu's spies when they take the bait."

Hua Jing fastened her hands into fists in her sleeves when she heard those words. Then she left hurriedly lest she be caught by somebody.

Sealing the Army Deployment Plan on the curtain. What a smart trick! No one would think of such a good place for hiding something. At least it was beyond Hua Jing's expectation.

Hua Jing studied the surroundings carefully before walking towards the medical tent. When she passed by a tent, the curtain of the tent was opened suddenly. Hua Jing was pulled into the tent and her mouth covered by a hand.

Prince Jing and Yun Shang were alone in the Prince's tent after all the generals had left. Yun Shang stood up and asked, "I saw an empty chair just now. Who was missing?"

Prince Jing lifted his eyes to look at Yun Shang, "Zhang Ying asked for leave this morning. I know from his attendant that he had diarrhea last night."

"Oh." Yun Shang nodded. Then she fetched a book, sat down on a chair, and began reading.

It was very quiet in the tent. The rustling of pages being turned and the rising smoke from the stove were the only dynamic things in the tent.

After a while, the Prince heard Yun Shang speak softly, "Does Qingsu really think that Hua Jing can get the Army Deployment Plan?"

Prince Jing smile, "Why not? The Army Deployment Plan is not completely fake. Qingsu would certainly have to test the plan when he gets it. If he wants to test the plan, he would try our forces that are deployed closest to his camp. I have indeed arranged our soldiers in that area, though not too many. Qingsu would believe that he has acquired the real Army Deployment Plan when he finds our men as shown in the plan."

However, Yun Shang was not as optimistic as Prince Jing. After all, she knew how the Prince had suffered because of Qingsu in her previous life.

Yun Shang heard a hiss while in deep thought. It seemed the Prince had aggravated his injury when he was about to pick up the teapot on the table. He had worn a white night robe to pretend as if he had been awakened from his sleep for something urgent. The cut was bleeding now, and there was blood on his robe.

Yun Shang said with a frown, "The cut has torn open." She walked to the Prince, rolled up his sleeve, and unbound the bandage. The cut was so deep that even the bone could be seen. Yun Shang frowned again at the sight of the cut. Then she walked towards the screen and fetched a white jade bottle. She poured some powder onto the cut from the bottle, and bound it again with a strip of clean cloth.

Yun Shang was so focused on treating the Prince's injury that she didn't pay attention to the Prince's smile. She said, "You looked as health as anyone else. I thought maybe you were not hurt badly. But the cut is too deep. Please don't lift anything heavy again."

"It's OK. Just a mild wound. I have suffered many such wounds on my body. Not to mention those scarred ones. It doesn't matter." Then Prince Jing continued, "We cannot control everything at the border. I was lucky this time as I could get treatment for my wound. I can even take rest as there is time before the next battle. But it was quite different three years ago when I was at war with the State of Xia. I was shot by an arrow and there were enemies chasing me. I didn't have the time to take a break. And it was snowing. I escaped into a thick forest, and passed out there in the snow. Fortunately, I had a narrow escape. I awoke later, and met my subordinates who came to save me. But the would festered for lack of attention. I had to lie in bed for quite a few days. I almost lost one of my arms that time."

Yun Shang was breathless as she listen to the Prince tell his story. She felt so sad for him that she only regained her ability to speak again after a long while. "People that narrowly escape are blessed. No matter what the situation is, taking care of one's body is of great importance. And it is also important to stay alive. You will break the heart of those who care you, if you don't take care of yourself. Having so many scars can be unsightly. What if your wife dislikes you for your scars when you get married?"

Prince Jing raised his head to look at Yun Shang after hearing her words. "Hum? Dislike? It doesn't matter. Doctor Xue Yan has many medicines that eliminate scars. But..." Prince Jing continued with a bitter smile, "If I cannot marry the woman I love, I would rather stay single for the rest of my life. Then nobody would have the chance to dislike me."

Yun Shang paused when she heard the Prince's words. Then she managed to tie a knot on the bandage, and started another topic. "Keep the wound away from water. My medicine is much better than the military physician's. Please keep this bottle, and let the military physician use this medicine instead." Yun Shang gave the bottle to the Prince after finishing speaking.

Instead of taking the bottle, Prince Jing said, "Although the military physician's medicine is slow in taking effect, it is effective, too. You keep this for you. It might be of help if you get hurt."

Yun Shang was taken by surprise. She lowered her head to look at the white bottle in her hand, and replied gently, "Yes."

Yun Shang felt embarrassed now and could not utter another word. Fortunately, the curtain was raised. Then the Deputy Commander came in. He realized what had happened when he saw the Prince's bound up arm and the bottle in Yun Shang's hands. The Deputy Commander felt a little flushed, too. But he quickly reported to the Prince, "My Lord, Princess Hua Jing is missing."

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