“Who Dares, Wins.”
--motto of the British Special Air Service
Chapter 229 – Go
Huang Ming immediately convened a meeting with the royal siblings. The two princes were in disbelief when they were informed of their uncle’s rebellion.
Hearing the news was like a bolt of the blue: they were just sharing gossip about the very same uncle a few mere minutes ago.
“How reliable is this news?” Chu Xiong asked sharply.
“We have already sent some people down the mountain to confirm, but the nuns have no reason to lie,” Huang Ming said. “It is said that Duke He is in control of the palace and taken charge of government affairs while your father is ill. It is said that preparations are already underway for Duke He to take charge as regent while you two are… ‘maturing’.”
“Ridiculous!” Chu Feng thundered.
“It seems that Duke He took advantage of the fact that your father sent you two here to this temple. There are stories that both of you have displeased the king and therefore the Duke was summoned for counsel,” Huang Ming said wryly.
There was nothing more irritating than having the fruits of one’s own labour be reaped by someone else who was not even in the picture. He had made an opportunity for the royal brothers to face off against each other in a more favourable condition for Chu Xiong… only for this random Duke to swoop in and seize the chance in their absence.
“But Duke He has always been loyal to our royal father. They fought in countless battles together!” Chu Feng said.
“People change, either because of circumstances or influenced by others,” Huang Ming replied casually.
Chu Feng stiffened as he understood the meaning behind his words.
“This is all too coincidental,” he grumbled for the sake of grumbling.
“What is your advice?” Chu Xiong asked, directing his question towards Huang Ming.
Huang Ming held up two fingers. “That depends. Do you want the fastest option, or the slowest?”
“What are they?”
“The slowest option is for you two to find the loyalists and establish your power base. From there you will gather an army and then march towards the capital steadily, pacifying the people along the way and announce your rightful claims to the throne.”
“That would take too long,” Chu Xiong said. “What is the alternative?”
Huang Ming laughed. “The fastest option is to immediately head to the capital now and hope to get help of the city population against the Duke.”
“How reckless,” Chu Feng snorted.
“I thought that you would prefer this method, seeing how you are a man of action,” Huang Ming said with a smile.
“I am brave, not suicidal,” Chu Feng fired back. “Are these two the only options?”
“I pick the fastest option,” Chu Xiong said decisively.
“Are you insane?” his brother protested.
Chu Xiong sighed. “Listen, you can take your time and recruit people to your cause because you are famous and the people know of your merits. But I have nothing. For me to slowly gather a force would be like watering a barren field and then praying for it to sprout.”
Chu Feng closed his mouth, not knowing how to respond to his brother’s blunt honesty.
“But more importantly, I am worried about our royal father, and my mother,” Chu Xiong continued. “We should act quickly to rescue them.”
Chu Feng scowled. “And you think I am not? I just think we need a better plan.”
“There are two of us anyway. I can go while you use the second method,” Chu Xiong insisted.
“And allow you to take all the glory while I be painted as a coward?”
“Who said I am on my own?” Chu Xiong said as he looked meaningfully at Huang Ming.
“I am flattered that you think that highly of me,” Huang Ming said dryly.
“Well, I am coming with you. Let no one say that I stayed behind while his brother went off on a life-risking mission,” Chu Feng declared.
Chu Xiong was about to refuse him when a newcomer interrupted him.
“I am going too!” Bian Qing said as she joined the discussion. “Such a fun thing, how could you leave me out?”
“You?” Chu Feng asked incredulously.
Bian Qing arched an eyebrow challengingly at him. “What, you got a problem with that?”
“Er, no,” Chu Feng answered quickly. “But this is no game, and not a sparring session! You might actually lose your life!”
“So what? I am all alone in this world anyway,” Bian Qing scoffed. “Let’s get moving, my hands are itchy already!”
Chu Feng could not believe his ears. He stared at the powerful woman, speechless and not sure on what to feel as she quickly hollered for her warrior sisters to group up.
Of course, the safest thing for him to do was to really take Huang Ming’s slow method. Being a military leader of some repute, he could rally the surrounding areas and cobble together an army to stand against Duke He.
To allow his feckless brother Chu Xiong to venture on his own on a life-risking mission was an attractive idea. There was a large chance that his rival for the throne would die, leaving the throne empty for him to take. But the question of time remained: what good was the throne if the rest of the country was in flames due to unrest?
Even if the city defenders immediately lay down their arms and throw open the gates when he showed his face, anything could happen between now and then. The royal family could have been executed by the time he reached the capital.
Furthermore, it was not guaranteed that Chu Xiong would fail. With Huang Ming and Bian Qing aiding him, his brother could very well succeed in a daring attempt to rescue the royal family. Besides, there was also a chance that they would encounter no resistance once Chu Xiong revealed himself, which was just as likely as in the earlier scenario.
In short, it was a gamble for Chu Feng. To take the safer path would ensure his safety and success, albeit at a high price. Chu Xiong could succeed but it was unlikely… and even then Chu Feng felt that their brief reconciliation meant no harm would come to him and to his mother Concubine Yang if indeed Chu Xiong became the next king.
“Why are ya standin’ there like a fool? Come with me!” Bian Qing demanded with her hands on her hips.
Something in Chu Feng tweaked.
Why did he pursue a life of martial prowess? Because he wanted to emulate the great war heroes of yore, to be the stuff of legends for historians to record and storytellers to sing. Did he not admire the likes of Ran Wei who acted decisively and cleaved those who stood in his path?
His weakling brother dared to take a chance. Who was with him? A dandy scholar and some nuns!
Where would he bury his head later in the future if he allowed this moment to pass without his participation?
He smiled. It wasn’t arrogance that he had felt. But the sort of bravado back when he entered the military; heedless of his mother’s caution and the minders that were assigned to him.
And the way Bian Qing called out to him…
She wanted him with her.
The brothers decided,
Not to be divided.