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"Gao Sheng, how do you feel about this?" Diwu Qing Rou asked with a smile.

"While Brother Cheng focuses on the general structure, I have picked up something from the emotions and content of the message!" Frowning, Gao Sheng stared hard at the paper and continued, "In my opinion, these words are unemotional and incoherent."

"First, let me bring your attention to the phrase 'many years'. These two words share the same sentiment. However, they differ greatly from the phrase 'painstaking effort'. The word 'effort' in 'painstaking effort' appears to have a weaker brushstroke although both should have been written at the same time. This is far from ordinary. Moreover, the words 'try my best' seems relatively drier although it should also be written together. They also lacked a certain solemn air associated with words like these."

"If this was truly written by Number One, he should have been ready to fight to his death when these words were written. When embroiled in a dire situation like this, his thoughts and sentiments will definitely be elucidated in the brushstrokes. These thoughts should be accompanied by his arrogance as well. Hence, this note should have conveyed an exceptionally strong resolve of a soul who would rather be a piece of crushed jade than a piece of dull but unscratched tile. Yet these words are completely devoid of such sentiments. In fact, they are very lifeless!"

Gao Sheng continued, "Therefore, Prime Minister, I inferred that Number One has probably encountered trouble. He might have fallen into the hands of King of Hell Chu and this note is a trap for us!"

"Oh?" Diwu Qing Rou's eyes brightened and he smiled questioningly, "If this is indeed a trap, how do they intend to trap us? What does King of Hell Chu wish to achieve?"

"If we choose to believe in the contents of this note, we would have concluded that Number One is safe and that he remains entrenched in power." Gao Sheng glanced at Han Bu Chu with eyes full of condescension as if the latter was a fool.

Han Bu Chu snorted before turning away.

"If we accept the letter in the note and continue communicating with Number One as usual, King of Hell Chu will just have to wait for all our people to walk into his trap like a spider waiting for its prey. While we can ensure that Number One will keep his lips sealed, we cannot assume so for the others. Once King of Hell Chu succeeds in forcing their mouths open, small packets of information will be leaked consistently and this will undermine the whole of Iron Cloud Nation's spy network under the charge of Number One. Dire consequences would ensue!"


"This has to be King of Hell Chu's scheming trap!"

"Are you sure? In your opinion, is Number One still alive then?" Diwu Qing Rou has grown increasingly intrigued by this discussion.

"We cannot be certain! But the probability of him being alive is high!" Gao Sheng pondered for a long while before answering, albeit with much uncertainty.

"Why is that so?" Diwu Qing Rou questioned further.

"If Number One falls into the hands of King of Hell Chu hands, he will certainly not speak a single word." Gao Sheng said softly, "However, given the importance of his role, the enemies won't release him for sure, neither will they kill such a useful source of information and a potential bait. If I am King of Hell Chu, I will lock him up. If he still refuses to speak after the first day, second day and the third day, I will hold him for another few months till he speaks."

Gao Sheng continued, "According to my prediction, Number One has to be alive. However, he is probably not in a good state. He has surely been tortured!"

Han Bu Chu snapped, "Gao Sheng, your logic is flawed! Your claim that Number One could have fallen into the hands of the enemy is a possibility. However, you further asserted that he has been tortured as though he has truly fallen into King of Hell Chu's hands. You're making a hasty assumption!"

Gao Sheng looked at Han Bu Chu contemptuously and snickered without even bothering to reply.

Han Bu Chu was seething with rage. He wanted to rebuke but Cheng Yun He pinched his thigh, causing him to flinch before he could speak. Diwu Qing Rou waved his arm to conclude the discussion.

"How possible do you think that Number One is already dead?" Diwu Qing Rou asked.

"The possibility…is very small." Gao Sheng replied hesitantly and continued, "No matter how hard they torture him, Number One will not say a word. With someone as tight-lipped as him, nobody can expect to extract anything useful from torture. In other words, they are just keeping him alive to torment him…"

"If King of Hell Chu is a righteous man, he may choose to give Number One a merciful end. He is not a fool. He knows that keeping Number One alive will be useless to him!" Gao Sheng continued, "However if he is a vicious person, he will probably keep Number One alive for the sake of tormenting him!"

Gao Sheng pondered for a moment and continued, "According to the information we gathered on King of Hell Chu, the way he chooses to deal with problems in Iron Cloud depends on his temper. Far from being an honourable hero, I am certain he won't hesitate to use any means to achieve his objectives. Furthermore, he always succeeds in tracing everything to its sources given limited information. Hence, Number One is a crucial trump card in his hand. He would probably continue to use unscrupulous and cruel methods to force open Number One's mouth. He definitely wouldn't kill Number One!"

Diwu Qing Rou suddenly turned solemn as he nodded his head slowly.

Gao Sheng's mouth had become a little dry from all the talking. He picked up the teacup in front of him and emptied it in one gulp.

"If the situation is truly what Brother Gao has predicted, Number One is surely already in the hands of King of Hell Chu!" Cheng Yun He asked, "Should we rescue him now?"

"Should we rescue him?" The question drew Gao Sheng's absolute attention. The three strategists looked at one another with horror in their eyes.

"Brother Cheng, you're pushing your limits a little too far!" Gao Sheng warned, "The prime minister will decide whether to rescue him or not. This matter has great implications. How can you expect an immediate response?"

The three strategists and Number One were similar in terms of their power and ranks. If Diwu Qing Rou chose to rescue Number One, the three would have felt more at ease.

Such a decision would imply that Diwu Qing Rou would certainly rescue them if any of them were embroiled in a similar situation.

However, if the Prime Minister chose not to rescue Number One, the three strategists would also have a justification as well. Number One was stranded far away in the Iron Cloud Nation. Security would be high for an important figure like Number One and to deploy a rescue team to the prison would be a herculean task.

In order to rescue Number One, a large team would be necessary. Furthermore, if Number One was still alive, he would have limited mobility due to his injuries. A small error would result in the destruction of the rescue force.

There were strong justifications for and against rescuing Number One. In their minds, these two courses of action could lead to extremely different outcomes!

Diwu Qing Rou looked out of the window with a calm look on his face. Clasping his hands behind his back, he appeared surprisingly relaxed.

Gao Sheng's words matched exactly with his inner thoughts. The issue on rescue brought up by the strategists was something which Diwu Qing Rou was still deliberating about. However, as compared to them, Diwu Qing Rou was thinking another layer deeper. "Is this yet another trap set up by King of Hell Chu?"

"Is King of Hell Chu using Number One as a bait while hanging a hook above my head?"

In order to rescue Number One successfully, he must plan every detail with utmost precision. In addition, those in the rescue team must be highly capable individuals. If he were to lose these people, it would be a great loss.

"Should I rescue him, or should I not?" For the first time in his life, Diwu Qing Rou felt that he was unable to come to a final decision. Rescuing would incur extremely high risks but not rescuing would be cold-hearted.

Diwu Qing Rou knew that even if he chose not to rescue Number One, the three strategists would understand him. At most, they would feel slightly disappointed.

However, he could not underestimate this slight disappointment. Such decisions could sway people's hearts at the most critical moments. Furthermore, would Number One be disappointed if he chose to not save him?

If he had to disappoint Number One, the entire spy network in Iron Cloud, which was under Number One's control, would be undermined!

"Rescue! We must rescue him!" Diwu Qing Rou finally came to a conclusion. Even as he announced his decision, his heart was clearly bitter. "If this is all part of King of Hell Chu's plan, then I have lost one round in this long distance battle..."

"...because I cannot avoid acting according to my opponent's plan."

'I will force you to rescue him! You have to come even if you don't wish to!'

Such situation was the first in Diwu Qing Rou's life. He was always a few steps ahead of others, forcing others to go along with him. Even the greatest general on the continent, Tie Long Cheng, was controlled by him for a decade! A battle involving millions of soldiers controlled single-handedly by Diwu Qing Rou himself!

'If I need you to go there, you have to go! If I want a hundred thousand of your people for sacrifice, fifty thousand would not be acceptable. Whatever I want, you must cooperate with me! Even if I am your enemy and even if you hate me to the bones, you can only comply. Otherwise, it will be the end for you and your nation.'

'I won't threaten you directly. But you have no other choice other than obeying my commands and complying obediently!'

With one hand, he controlled the people. With the other, he controlled two nations while both were at war. He manipulated the situation so well that others had nowhere to turn to but to follow his path regardless of how angry or acrimonious they were! There was never an option to act against his will.

It was a great pleasure! Diwu Qing Rou had truly relished in those times!

However, he finally had to hand over this pleasure to someone else.

"Prime minister!" The three people spoke simultaneously. Although they had all wished for the Prime Minister to take this option, they also knew the colossal risks involved!

"Even if we know this is King of Hell Chu's trap, we still have to rescue Number One!" Once Diwu Qing Rou had made a decision, nobody could change his mind. He looked at the three and replied, "Not only Number One, if any of you fall into a situation like this, I would do the same too."

The three strategists were touched by the choice he made. At the same time, they were also ashamed of their earlier thoughts.

"Trap?" The three asked, "You feel that this is King of Hell Chu's trap?"

"Yes! This is a trap! That exceptional King of Hell Chu is my archenemy!" Diwu Qing Rou's eyes shone with excitement, "I have never expected to lose on my first confrontation with him."

Upon hearing this, the three men's faces turned pale as a look of uneasiness appeared.

To be considered Diwu Qing Rou's archenemy was a great honour! To outsmart Diwu Qing Rou was unthinkable!

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