Prince Bao hosted the banquet to entertain the officials and ministers. There were guards spread about the entire palace, both outside and the inside. After Song Qingshu left the table, although he encountered a few pairs of patrolling guards, when they saw the official uniform on his body, they nodded and let him through.
However, Song Qingshu was not a fool, and he didn’t think that the guards in the inner courtyard of the palace would just let him go like that, so he hid his tracks along the way, and finally found Xia Qingqing’s figure by the lake.
The woman stood there alone, staring at the water in a daze.
“You came very quickly.” Hearing the sound of footsteps behind her, Xia Qingqing seemed to have expected that he would come, so there wasn’t any surprise in her voice.
“Why are you waiting here alone?” Song Qingshu looked around, with her current status, she couldn’t just come here alone.
“To wait for you.” Xia Qingqing turned around with a faint smile on her face.
This beautiful woman was still the same, but her identity had changed so much. A trace of unconcealed sadness flashed across Song Qingshu’s face, “Why didn’t you ask me before you made this decision? I would tell you the plan in my heart completely! Why did you choose to leave me?”
“I’ve asked you many times…” Xia Qingqing stretched out her fingers to smooth the loose hair behind her ears, and gave a slight smile, “But every time you only said, ‘Trust me, believe me’. “
Song Qingshu became stunned when he heard her words, as it was all true.
Seeing his reaction, Xia Qingqing’s expression became complicated, “Okay, I’ll give you another chance, tell me your plan now.”
Song Qingshu suddenly hesitated, that matter was too important to be leaked, especially now that she had become a concubine of the Prince…
“Forget it, I already know the answer.” Xia Qingqing sighed faintly and stopped talking.
“Now the times have changed, and your identity is different, it is naturally impossible for me to tell you anything.” Although Song Qingshu had an intense urge to tell her, in the end, his reason still prevailed. (G: This is why our MC is different.)
“I understand. And, this is probably the last time we will meet. You have your plan, and I have mine. I don’t want to disrupt the waves.” Looking at the lake in the distance, Xia Qingqing calmly spoke her mind.
“Isn’t your plan to seduce Hongli (Prince Bao) and provoke his conflict with Kangxi, but do you really think Hongli can defeat Kangxi?” Song Qingshu sneered.
Xia Qingqing was stunned for a moment, then her expression turned frosty, “You can think of it like that, but this is my own matter, and I don’t need other people to worry about it.” But, she silently added in her heart, ‘Of course I know that Hongli is not Kangxi’s opponent…’
“Okay then. But, the future is unpredictable.” Song Qingshu resolutely turned around and left.
“The future is unpredictable…” Xia Qingqing became absent-minded for a moment while muttering to herself, and a hint of bitterness flashed across her face.
Back at the banquet, Song Qingshu laughed as before, frequently got up and mingled with Shengjing officials. He had become quite adept at such things after staying with Wei Xiaobao and Duo Long for so long. When he noticed that Hongli had gotten up and left the table, he drank even more happily. By the time he came out of the palace, he was already drunk akin to a pool of mud.
“Old Zhao, what do you think is the matter? Why is Lord Song suddenly acting like this…” Zhang Kangnian looked at Zhao Qixian in astonishment while supporting the drunk Song Qingshu.
“How would I know, he was just fine before.” Zhao Qixian spat out, his expression was even more depressed.
“Hehe, I’m sorr… I’m sorry for today. I will recommend you to be promoted to an official position after returning to the Capital.” Song Qingshu barely opened his eyes after hearing their discussion, and said with a smirk.
“Since that is the case, I think you should vomit on me too.” Zhang Kangnian on the side said with a wry smile.
“Uh, I’m joking, Lord Song, don’t take it seriously!” Zhang Kangnian’s desperate wail spread afar in the night sky.
In the palace of Prince Bao. At the Yilan Pavilion where Concubine Fang lived.
“Your Highness, it’s getting late, please take your leave.” Xia Qingqing coldly said.
“Qingqing, you are truly my blessing.” Hongli smiled and wanted to get closer.
With a flash of cold light, Xia Qingqing pointed her Golden Serpent Sword at his chest, and said in a cold voice, “Your Highness, I will remind you again in case you have forgotten. My status as your Concubine is just a cover, don’t take it seriously. Also, I didn’t allow you to call me that.”
“Yes, yes, this King was just joking with Madame Yuan.” Hongli took a few steps back in embarrassment, “Your dance during today’s banquet has amazed both the civil and military officials, and it is the same for this King. This King feels very fortunate to enjoy such a feast for the eyes. When this King proposed it to Madame that day, I never expected that Madame would agree.”
“The alliance between us does not include me dancing for you, it will not happen again.” Xia Qingqing added in her heart, ‘That dance was not for you…’
“This King is very content even if this was the only time.” Hongli laughed, “By the way, this King heard that there has been a little trouble in Madame’s Golden Serpent Camp recently. Do you want this King to send someone to help Madame?”
“No, that’s just my deliberate scheme to misguide Kangxi, otherwise he won’t let a united Golden Serpent Camp to exist.” Xia Qingqing shook her head and refused his help with a straight face.
It turned out that Xia Qingqing was moved by Luo Bing’s remarks that day, and felt that Song Qingshu didn’t really want to avenge her. The longer she stayed with Song Qingshu, the more blurred Yuan Chengzhi’s shadow in her mind became. She was afraid that one day, she would even forget her commitment to get revenge, so he had no choice but to leave.
However, she had helped Yuan Chengzhi to command the Golden Serpent Camp for so long, and she was no longer that unruly young girl who knew nothing and only loved to show her temper. Before, she had acted so impulsively only due to the fact that the hatred of the murder of her husband had blinded her eyes. As time passed, her mind cleared as she gradually calmed down. In her opinion, Luo Bing was extremely shallow in her vision, and her strategy was full of loopholes. Xia Qingqing was not as stupid as the members of the Red Flower Society. She would not easily sacrifice her innocence for the sake of an abstract possibility.
So, Xia Qingqing went south to Shandong first. After she saw that various factions of the Golden Serpent Camp were busy fighting amongst themselves, she took a group of her followers north, to Shengjing in anger.
At that time, Hongli was having a headache. Because of the incident with Princess Jianning, he had become enemies with Wu Sangui, the King of Pingxi. He had hundreds of thousands of troops, but he had no way to advance his plans. Of course, if he was willing to be a Prince of a country, he could naturally guard his own domain and live happily for decades. But, it’s a pity that he has always coveted the Dragon Throne in the Capital, so could he be satisfied with just being a mere Prince?
Xia Qingqing’s arrival made him overjoyed, because she brought another way out for him. If he allied with the Golden Serpent Camp, the Golden Serpent Camp could help him transport his army across the sea, and he could join forces with the troops from Shandong to reach the Capital together. In this way, he could completely bypass Wu Sangui’s Shanhaiguan, and by the time Wu Sangui and Xiao Feng of the Liao Kingdom finished their conflict, he would be sitting strong on the Dragon Throne of the Qing Dynasty.
The reason why Hongli never thought about sending troops from the sea before was because none of his soldiers were good at sea warfare, and the Bohai Sea was under the control of the Heavenly Dragon Sect, but they had already taken refuge in Mongolia. If he attempted to cross the sea his troops would only be buried at the bottom of the sea. But, by forming an alliance with the Golden Serpent Camp he could solve this issue perfectly.
In its early years, the Golden Serpent Camp was prosperous at the sea, and it was still the overlord of the Yellow Sea today.
Therefore, Hongli and Xia Qingqing came to an agreement and soon formed an alliance. During this period, in order to discuss ways to deal with the Heavenly Dragon Sect and the specific details of future cooperation, Xia Qingqing had to meet with him frequently. Hongli became worried that if an unfamiliar woman often went in and out of the palace, it would arouse suspicion, and leak their grand plan. So he placed Xia Qingqing in the palace as a Concubine to hide from the public’s eyes and ears.
“That’s good.” Although Hongli still had doubts in his heart, he knew that her husband was killed by Kangxi, so whether it was for the benefit of the Golden Serpent Camp or her personal revenge, there was no need for her to lie to him. So he changed the topic of the conversation, “Madame Yuan, did you see the imperial envoy sent by the imperial court at the banquet today?”
“The imperial envoy?” Xia Qingqing’s heart jumped, and she calmly said, “I have seen him there. He’s just a pretty boy, it doesn’t seem like he has any real skills.”
“Madame Yuan is very wrong in your opinion about him.” Hongli said in a deep voice. “After Wei Xiaobao’s death, Song Qingshu has become Kangxi’s number one confidant, and he has the most possibility of winning the title of the Qing Dynasty’s number one master.”
“No matter how high his martial arts is, he’s only a sword, he can’t create a big wave.” Xia Qingqing deliberately pretended to be dismissive of his opinion.
“When one’s martial arts realm is high enough, they are no longer just a sword. Madame Yuan, do you still remember how your husband died? The Golden Serpent King had a high level of martial arts, and had an army of more than 100,000 troops. However, with a blow from a single wave, all that turned to nothing in an instant.” Hongli deliberately looked at Xia Qingqing’s face.
Xia Qingqing’s expression changed greatly, “One day I will definitely kill Dongfang Bubai to take revenge for Big Brother Yuan. But how many Dongfang Bubai are there in the world? Song Qingshu’s martial arts is quite good, but if he wants to assassinate the Prince, I’m afraid he still lacks the strength.”
“There are many masters in this palace, so naturally I don’t have to be afraid of him.” Hongli patted his chest with pride, “It’s just that even at such a young age, he already has the aura of a grand master, and there is no guarantee that he will not grow into the kind of person who can kill one person in ten steps, in the future. He is an existence we have to stay guarded against.”
“Your Highness means that before he is fully developed, we should remove him first?” Xia Qingqing asked with an expressionless face, “It’s just that I’m afraid it will startle the snake and make Kangxi vigilant.
“I think it’s just the opposite.” Hongli sneered, “According to our spies’ report, Kangxi has asked him to set up a secret intelligence agency – the Pole Arms. If it is really established, our future actions will probably be restricted everywhere, and we will always have to be passive in marching and fighting. Hehe, as the saying goes, there is a way to heaven yet you don’t go, and there is no way to hell, yet you’ve come. He has thrown himself into the net this time, how could this King miss such a great opportunity?”
“But he is an imperial envoy after all. If the Prince takes action, I’m afraid the situation will be out of control.” Xia Qingqing frowned, feeling anxious in her heart.
“It’s okay, this King has my own plan.” Hongli smiled mysteriously.
Song Qingshu was escorted back to the Sifang Pavilion by his subordinates. As soon as he got off the carriage, a guard approached him and whispered, “Lord Song, a beautiful woman came to look for you just now.”
“A Beautiful woman?” Song Qingshu slightly opened his eyes, and said with confusion, “Does she give her name?”
The guard respectfully replied, “No, but when she came, she was in disguise and seemed to be deliberately hiding her appearance. We thought that she must have something important to do with the Lord, so we took her to the hall on our own initiative, and now she is waiting inside.”
‘Could it be Xia Qingqing?’ Song Qingshu was overjoyed, he pushed away the guards and walked in.
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