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Home > The Sage Who Transcended Samsara

183 Infiltration

 The Devil Empress led the three of them into the wing room inside a house that overlooked the street.

"Master." The people inside the house got to his feet in a hurry, the awed expression on his face bordering on piety.

Meng Qi immediately understood the Devil Empress' plans for infiltration when he saw the man. He was a middle-aged eunuch and a high ranked one at that, based on the way he was dressed. He seemed to be the secret chess piece the Demon School had set in place many years ago. He would finally be put to good use today.

The royal palace was certainly an impregnable fortress, but who could truly completely grasp the intentions of one's heart? Meng Qi suddenly had such a rueful thought.

The Devil Empress nodded solemnly. "This is a dangerous task. Do you have any unfulfilled wishes?"

For a matter as grave as this, the Devil Empress and the rest could still escape with their martial art skills if they were discovered. But there would be no such luck for a eunuch!

The eunuch was fraught with emotion as he cried, "This subordinate would go through hell and high water for the revival of our sacred clan! I have no regrets!"

"Good, very good. Once this is over, you shall return to the clan and be given important responsibilities to shoulder." The Devil Empress was not a leader with only martial arts in her mind. She was capable of encouraging and motivating her men.

She turned to look at Meng Qi and the others as she introduced, "Yu Tongen, the imperial eunuch in charge of purchasing."

Most eunuchs were simply called so, but those who carried the title of imperial eunuchs were in charge of certain tasks in the royal palace at least. This eunuch was evidently the one who had authority over purchases outside the palace. His relationship with the other imperial eunuchs in the royal palace had to be pretty decent for him to gain such a profitable position. Meng Qi relaxed a great deal upon hearing so.

Everyone exchanged nods as a form of greeting. The Devil Empress was concise with her words when she said, "Once we enter the palace, we'll wait for it to turn dark and the palace gates to be locked. I'll then go straight to the Hall of Diligent Government to ambush Wang Derang and bind him. The rest of you infiltrate the Hall of Supreme Ultimacy and ascertain the old man's situation."

The Hall of Diligent Government was where the Emperor handled his daily affairs. Next to it was the sentry for the cabinet hall. The Right Chief Minister, Wang Derang, would often stay there during his overnight bans. It was very close to the Taiji Hall where the Emperor rested. With his strength, guarding such a place was tantamount to guarding the Taiji Hall itself. He could easily prevent an assassination attempt on the Emperor and the subsequent tampering of his will. That was the best place for him since, being an official, he would be going against proper etiquette by staying in the Emperor's quarters. And Wang Derang was a renowned erudite scholar with great respect for propriety.

"Tell me about the palace defense deployment. I also need a map of the patrol routes of the guards." Though Meng Qi possessed Transformation Strategy, there were countless masters in the royal palace and there was a risk that someone could be sharp enough to see through his act. Hence his priority was infiltrating the palace the typical way.

Yu Tongen didn't speak much. He handed a few slips of paper to Meng Qi, instructing, "Burn them once you're done."

Meng Qi, Luo Shengyi, and Ruan Yushu spent the rest of the time studying the defense deployment and patrol routes as well as discussing their plans for infiltrating the palace.

When late afternoon came around and the sun began to set, Yu Tongen stood up to leave. "It's time I return to the palace. Please follow me, ladies and gentlemen," he said.

He led them through a secret passage and into the warehouse of the neighboring courtyard. In it were many heads of livestock and various vegetables and fruits, filling up nine large carts in total.

"The pig and cow bellies have been emptied. You can hide inside them, but do remember to breathe lightly," Yu Tongen instructed.

Eyebrows knitted, Meng Qi explained his concerns, "With an additional person, the cart's tracks and the sound it makes won't be the same."

The weight would be obviously different. To make matters worse, the palace gatekeepers were all imperial bodyguards with a decent level of skills. It would be nigh impossible for them to miss such a detail.

"Only the outer layer of the 10 or so bags of flour at the bottom are actually real. The inner ones contain scraps of paper, silk, and other light materials, so the additional weight of a person would be just right." Yu Tongen did not neglect this detail.

Concealing the weight of a single person was much easier than that of four people, thus Meng Qi and his team split up into four carts. The other five carts were regular ones, making it difficult to see through their act.

Meng Qi had no other queries. He selected a particularly meaty pig and crawled in. The putrid scent of blood hit him like a truck and he felt waves of nausea wash over him. He could barely breathe.

He activated the Golden Bell Shield heart sutras, and his breathing faded in an instant as he entered a partial Turtle-breathing state. Yu Tongen then sewed up the openings in the livestock's bellies and covered them with fruits and vegetables on top. It was really difficult to tell upon first glance.

When he was done, he summoned the lower-ranked eunuchs from outside to attach the carts to their horses and drive them back to the royal palace.

Meng Qi could only feel his body jerking up and down along the way. He shuddered when he bumped into the occasional object jutting out. After a long while, the horse carts finally stopped. He could barely make out someone saying, "Imperial Eunuch Yu, looks like it's a great harvest again."

Yu Tongen laughed in a sharp voice. "Everyone has been working hard all this while. Of course, we have to prepare good food for you all."

"Many thanks, Imperial Eunuch Yu." The imperial gatekeepers walked up to the carts and casually picked up some vegetables to inspect. They also carelessly prodded at some of the livestock.

Sensing the gatekeepers gradually approaching the pig he was hiding in, Meng Qi instantly braced himself in case something went wrong. His entire body tightened with tension as he readied himself to attack at any moment.

Just then, Yu Tongen stepped forward and laughed softly. "I have delayed my task by watching the opera and I'm afraid I'll be reprimanded by Head Wang. I would greatly appreciate it if you'd kindly allow me to make it back on time."

He furtively snuck a pouch full of silver taels to several of the imperial gatekeepers.

"Imperial Eunuch Yu, you're known for being an opera buff. I wonder which actor has caught your eye again?" The head of the imperial guards, a veteran who well knew how to behave in such a delicate situation, accepted Yu Tongen's kindness and stepped back with an obscene laugh.

Yu Tongen smiled and replied, "I'll tell you about it next time."

The horse-drawn carts continued their journey through a deep passage before finally reaching the inner grounds of the royal palace.

Hearing the sound of empty echoes, Meng Qi felt free and at ease. He sighed to himself, lamenting the unpredictable nature of such task. Even if the defense arrangements were watertight, there was still the issue of human nature.

The horse-drawn carts turned many corners before arriving at the warehouse of the Imperial Kitchen at long last. Yu Tongen called out loudly, "Evening has already come. You all may hurry along to have your dinner. Leave these to those laborers to move."

Labourers were the lowest ranked eunuchs who could only perform menial tasks.

"Thank you very much, Imperial Eunuch Yu!" The eunuchs under him were elated. They felt that he was being too kind towards them.

Once they had left, Yu Tongen coughed lightly as a secret signal. His underlings had all left to prepare his dinner.

Threads began ripping open as Meng Qi and the others slipped out of the livestock and entered the depths of the warehouse.

Meng Qi sniffed the stench of blood on himself, before glancing at the still-pristine white clothes of the Devil Empress and Ruan Yushu. He could not help but criticize them silently. What a waste to use their genuine Qi this whole time to prevent being stained by their environment...

Yu Tongen sent the laborers away as soon as they had unloaded the goods. He then led Meng Qi and the others out of the warehouse and into the Imperial Kitchen. At this point in time, night had fallen and dinnertime was over. The Imperial Kitchen was empty apart from the few laborers watching the fire to keep a few cakes continuously steamed, making it the perfect place to hide.

They hid on the roof beams, inhaling the fragrant aroma of the cakes.

Ruan Yushu stared fixedly at the steamers and the cakes that didn't require to be kept warm below. She mumbled to herself,

"Sweet pea pudding, lotus seed cake, chestnut cake, sweet bean paste rolls, emerald bean cake, steamed osmanthus cake with chestnut powder..."

Meng Qi could faintly hear her swallow. He desperately tried to hold back his laughter as he joked, "Go on, this one is on me."

"Really?" Ruan Yushu snapped her head in his direction.

"Dinnertime just ended, so nobody will be eating snacks for a while. By the time someone realizes, we'll have already confirmed the situation and left the royal palace," Meng Qi reasoned gleefully.

Even if someone did find out, they would probably suspect the culprit to be one of the lower-ranking eunuchs or laborers. It would be long before they would find out what had actually transpired.

Ruan Yushu nodded her head in consensus. This was an unusual sight as the two didn't often see eye to eye. She covertly slid down the pillar and seized her chance while the laborers were busy watching the fire. Her delicate hand swooped in to grab several pieces of cake, picking one cake from each pile to avoid raising suspicion.

She then squatted down and turned around to position herself behind the steamer. After making sure the steamer was blocking the laborers' line of sight, she cautiously lifted it to reveal a small opening and snatch a couple more cakes inside.

The whole process was completed all at once with vigilance, as though she had rehearsed it many times in her head.

Back on the roof beams, Ruan Yushu made short work of her food in small, quick bites. She suddenly paused, hesitantly pursing her lips together before passing a piece to Meng Qi. She stared forward the entire time as if she would regret her choice the moment she looked. "It's for you."

Meng Qi chuckled to himself and graciously shoved the cake into his mouth, marveling at its flavor.

Meanwhile, Luo Shengyi and the Devil Empress closed their eyes and rested as they waited for the night to deepen.

Almost an hour later, Yu Tongen sent out the secret signal once more from outside the kitchen. The three of them quickly left and found him in the corner of the garden.

He left immediately after passing them three sets of guard uniforms and a rope with a claw attached to them. Not a word was uttered throughout the entire exchange.

The trio found their respective locations to change and hurriedly put on their guard uniforms.

"I'll take action in an hour. Will you be able to reach the Taiji Hall?" the Devil Empress asked for convention's sake.

The Taiji Hall was guarded by countless experts. If there was nobody at the Hall of Diligent Government, it would be more difficult for the Devil Empress to infiltrate it herself in any case. Timing was key in this operation.

Meng Qi nodded. "No problem."

With the map of the patrol routes of the guards and their defense arrangement, their biggest problem was the guards protecting the Taiji Hall. They should be able to get to the Emperor's sleeping quarters within an hour.

The Devil Empress said no more and walked off at a normal pace. Her receding figure swayed as though she was gradually blending into the darkness. In no time, she had disappeared completely into the night.

The remaining three exchanged looks while keeping mum, before setting off on their respective routes as per their arrangements. Along the way, they watched for the right timing very closely. They were always able to slip between two guard teams changing shifts or wait for the split second when the guard on the roof shifted his gaze to cross long corridors and passageways.

A short while later, the trio was only one hall away from the Taiji Hall. However, the place was brimming with guards, with several teams patrolling back and forth. There were no blind spots or opportunities they could take advantage of, and the pavilion they were currently hiding in was considerably far from the hall. That made it impossible for them to forcibly slip through with the Transformation Strategy.

Meng Qi came prepared. He took a deep breath and projected his will outward, enveloping himself, Ruan Yushu, and Luo Shengyi. He then scaled the pavilion like a lizard and leaped off its roof as though he was a queer bird, jumping over the heads of the first team of guards.

Thanks to the effect of the Transformation Strategy, they were barely audible and went unnoticed by the guards.

Halfway through the air when Meng Qi was about to descend, he hurled the grappling hook outward where it caught onto the ledge of the nearby hall.

When the hook hit the ledge, a soft sound could be heard.

One of the guards slipped and fell right at this moment, creating an even bigger commotion.

Meng Qi forcefully tugged on the rope connected to the hook and was once again airborne. He meshed into the shadows of the roof, almost at the same time as Ruan Yushu and Luo Shengyi.

"Thank goodness for the Transformation Strategy..." Meng Qi rejoiced. This particular skill had indeed become less useful in actual combat but was still his divine assistance.

The trio saw their chance when the guards asked after their fallen friend. They quickly crossed the roof and jumped onto the walls, hiding on the walls near the Taiji Hall.

Outside the Taiji Hall were one guard placed every 10 steps or so apart. On the rooftop itself, there seemed to be several people, all highly skilled experts with Thwart External Training.