A plan to rescue former Red Flame Army general Wei Zheng was quickly drawn by Mei Changsu.
Observing how the pale-faced scholar developed an intricate prison break strategy and simulated each step of the operation in meticulous details, the chief of the Medicine Valley kung fu sect was awfully impressed. “What a marvellous action plan!” he exclaimed.
Mei Changsu played it down. “Planning a rescue operation is no different from preparing a war. All you need to do is to coordinate all your resources, evaluate enemy’s strengths and weaknesses, map out the tactics based on the condition of the terrain, run a simulation to discover possible errors, and backup with risk control plans.”
The Medicine chief was curious. “May I take the liberty to ask if you ever commanded armed forces at war?”
Mei Changsu paused.
The Medicine Valley chief slowly shook his head. “What a waste of talent.”
Another Chinese New Year’s Eve arrived and fireworks once again lighted up the night sky over the capital city of Great Liang.
It was roughly around the 5th century.
Mini fireworks and firecrackers were commonly lit up during the Chinese New Year festival in private Chinese households for more than a thousand years
Mei Changsu cheerfully watched his teenage bodyguard lighting up fireworks in the courtyard. Yet before the light of the fireworks was extinct and New Year’s dinner began, he ordered to activate the rescue operation.
A formidable wheel was turning and no one could stop it now.
When the emperor happily hosted Chinese New Year’s banquet in the grant meeting hall, a kung fu man from Mei Changsu’s Left Shore Alliance emerged on a palace rooftop, quietly sneaked into the monarch’s treasure terrace and took away a priceless jade bead.
At the same time, several elite households in the capital reported being robbed.
The emperor was very upset. What a bad omen! He ordered Prince Jing to impose a curfew and capture the culprits.
A front courtyard of an ancient Chinese Taoist temple
Shortly after the city-wide curfew was imposed, Xia Jiang, the chief of the Royal Discipline Committee, received a message from Marquis Yan regarding his missing son.
Xia Jiang’s wife left him with their son after he had an affair with Princess Xuanji of the former Hua Kingdom. 16 years had passed, he might have long lost his affection for his wife but still cared greatly about his son, so he hurried his way to Cold Bell Taoist Temple outside the city to meet the marquis.
But once he was there, he quickly realised Marquis Yan was just trying to lure him away from his Royal Discipline Committee.
Ancient Chinese bomb and an underground prison cell
“Prince Jing is going to break the prison today, isn’t he?” Xia Jiang examined Marquis Yan, smirking. “But he won’t succeed because what is in the underground prison is not Wei Zheng but bombs. Prince Jing is done with.”
Marquis Yan was unruffled. “How can you be so sure it will be Prince Jing’s men to break into the prison?”
“Regardless whose men, he’s finished.” Xia Jiang was super confident. “Just picture it. After the bombs are detonated by the intruders and the prison is exploded, Prince Jing’s curfew officers will definitely dash in to investigate, and by then they will be killed, injured or captured. You tell me, how Prince Jing can ever claim his men are not involved in the prison-breaking operation?”
Back in the city, a rescue operation had already begun. The kung fu men from Left Shore Alliance and Medicine Valley easily breached Royal Discipline Committee’s initial containment line and entered the central courtyard.
Their target was the underground prison cell in the rear quarter of the compound where Wei Zhen was known to be held.
An ancient Chinese prison watchtower
Standing alone on the watchtower of the Royal Discipline Committee’s compound observing the blitz assault was Lady Xia, a senior Royal Investigator and the wife of a Red Flame Army general allegedly killed by Mashal Lin Xie but in fact, murdered by Xia Jiang and Marquis Xie.
It was she who opened the gate for the kung fu men, with her boss’ consent.
Prior to the operation, she visited Wei Zheng in the basement prison cell but had no idea her boss had placed the prisoner in a large number of land mines.
Fortunately, as the break-in went suspiciously smoothly, following Mei Changsu’s early instruction, the chief of the Medicine Valley decided to abandon plan A and activate plan B.
His men released medicinal smoke extracted from special plants, which temporarily made the guards in the Royal Discipline Committee lose their mental sense and body balance.
Thus without incurring any casualty, the kung fu men all safely drew off the compound.
A courtyard in an ancient Chinese Law Enforcement Department
Xia Jiang expected to return to the Royal Discipline Committee compound to witness piles of blood-smeared human body parts, but instead, he found everything was exactly the same as it was when he left the premises, and not a single prison breaker was killed, injured or captured.
“What happened? Why the bombs were not detonated?” he shouted.
“They didn’t break into the underground prison, Sir.”
“They didn’t? — OMG, they must find out Wei Zheng was not here!” The thought terrified Xia Jiang and he immediately rushed to Justice Department to make sure Wei Zheng was still locked there.
However, when he arrived in the deadly quiet department, he realised he made a big big mistake.
“Thanks heaps Your Honour!” a man laughed aloud. “Thanks for showing us the way, otherwise we would not have dreamed you actually hide him here.”
The speaker was the chief of the Medicine Valley sect. Behind him, kung fu men kept jumping off the roofs.
It was too late for Xia Jiang to summon his guards. After a brief trade of punches, knives and arrows, he could only watch Wei Zheng being taken away by the kung fu men.
Xia Jiang rode into the palace at full speed and, with the help of Prince Yu, blamed Prince Jing for the prisoner’s escape.
Sticking to Mei Changsu’s advice, Prince Jing rejected all charges and questioned Xia Jiang why he secretly moved the prisoner away from the basement cell.
However, the emperor’s distrust of Prince Jing returned and granted Xia Jiang the full authority to investigate the incident.
“The first person I want to interview is Mei Changsu, please allow me, Your Majesty,” Xia Jiang bowed to the throne.
Prince Jing swiftly raised his objection, “What it has anything to do with Mei Changsu!”
“I haven’t talked to him yet, Your Highness, how do I know? What harm an interview will do to him — why you are so cross?”
“Father, Mei Changsu is very ill –”
“Say no more, let Xia Jiang do his job,” the emperor ordered.
With the emperor’s permission, Xia Jiang wasted no time laying siege to Mei Changsu’s residence.
Yet before the guards had a chance to break in, the gate opened, and Mei Changsu was standing there, alone, calmly.
Xia Jiang knew the president of the kingdom’s most powerful kung fu sect had a few awesome bodyguards and expected a fierce battle in order to detain the man. He didn’t prepare for this. “You — are, ready?” that was all he could say.
Mei Changsu nodded his head. He was emotionless when he walked out of the front door.
While Mei Changsu was arrested by Royal Discipline Committee, Prince Jing had been suspended from all his official duties and placed in home detention, Yujin, Marquis Yan’s son, took Lord Ji, the emperor’s brother, to attend a private flute solo.
Since the veggie delivery guy revealed his relationship with Mei Changsu and Wonder Tune Studio, musician Gongyu became a wanted person by the authority and now she hid in a deserted terrace house that had only one small window to a quiet alleyway.
Lord Ji found the room was somehow a bit smelly, so Yujin suggested opening the window. Musician Gongyu responded swiftly.
But when she opened the window, she quickly stepped back and cried in a low voice. Yujin dashed forward to take a look and exclaimed in astonishment, “How come she is here?”
“Who is here?” Lord Ji also went to the window. Looking down on the alleyway, he saw a blood-smeared heavily injured man being taken to a horse-drawn carriage by several kung fu guys under the instruction of Lady Xia, the serial royal investigator from the Royal Discipline Committee.
In the Royal Discipline Committee, a gravely ill Mei Changsu had been locked in humid and cold solitary confinement in the basement.
Xia Jiang hoped the experience would be daunting enough to break Mei Changsu’s will.
When Mei Changsu was brought to see Xia Jiang on an open veranda, it was two days late.
Xia Jiang told the detainee he had two choices: to confess or to undergo all sorts of physical torment.
“I choose to confess.”
“Very well,” Xia Jiang was satisfied. “Now tell me who is behind the prison break operation.”
“Whom do you wish me to accuse of?”
“I’m serious,” Xia Jiang warned.
“So am I,” Mei Changsu beamed. “Let me think about, who should be behind the operation. — It must be Prince Jing, yes, it was Prince Jing.”
Xia Jiang opened his palm, revealing a tiny black ball. “Do you know what this is?”
“This is a drug called Black Golden Pill. Once you take it you’ll die in seven days unless I offer you an antidote.”
“I see,” Mei Changsu smiled. “If I backtrack on my statement before the throne, you will leave me to die.”
“It looks like I’m done with.”
“It doesn’t have to be like this if you tell me why you come to the capital to help Prince Jing?”
“Who else I can help with except him?” Mei Changsu lifted a brow. “Crown Prince? Prince Yu? Phew, both are bastards. So you see, I have no choice.”
“Yes, you do. You’re the president of the kingdom’s most powerful kung fu sect, you’ve already had everything, money, fame, freedom, you don’t have to come here to help any prince, but you do, you risk your life to engage in this bloody political battle. I would like to know why.”
Mei Changsu was silent.
Xia Jiang thrust his hand into Mei Changsu’s face and forced the sick man to open his mouth. “Now take the pill!”
“Don’t – don’t – don’t be like this –” Mei Changsu urged Xia Jiang, “let’s be a bit civil — let me take it myself.”
Once got the pill, Mei Changsu began to examine it as if appreciating an artwork. “What if my loyalty to Prince Jing is so strong that I rather die than betray his trust?”
“You’re not coming here to show off your loyalty to Prince Jing. You come with a big mission, and I believe only Prince Jing can help you to accomplish this task. Hurry up!” Xia Jiang demanded. “You’re not fancy anyone would come here to save you, are you?! Prince Jing can hardly save himself now.”
“You seem to be really scared of Prince Jing.”
“Me? Scared of Prince Jing?” Xia Jiang burst into a fit of neurotic laughter.
“You do, just like you once scared of Prince Qi.”
“Why do I need to be scared of them?”
“You should ask yourself, what you have done to a good prince, what you have done to 70,000 Red Flame Army troops. Do you think nobody in the kingdom will remember it?! You think history will help you hide the fact?!”
Xia Jiang darted at Mei Changsu, shoved him towards a column and choked him with his strong arm. “You are not coming here to help Prince Jing but to seek justice for Prince Qi and Red Flame Army. Who are you exactly? Are you associated with Prince Qi?”
“I’m an admirer of Prince Qi, his admirers are still full of the kingdom, don’t tell me you don’t know that.”
“I admit I can’t conquer you, but I can kill you!” In a towering rage, Xia Jiang stuffed the pill into Mei Changsu’s mouth.
Nirvana in Fire (6): A Rescue Operation