Joy of Life - Chapter 136

[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:47:08]
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Chapter 136: Intentions of Entering the Palace While Drunk

Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio

That night was destined to be like no ordinary night.

After Fan Xian had given his immortal wild poetic performance, the master Zhuang Mohan had left saddened. His Majesty clearly wished to cultivate and educate the son of the Fan family. The Crown Prince’s position was secure. So much had happened that night, so whether it was the emissaries from Dongyi, or the other officials, after returning home, they all discussed with their aides or colleagues what they had seen. But what had shocked everyone and caused the most discussion was of course the performance of the eighth-level functionary Fan Xian in the palace hall that night.

The common consensus that was finally reached was that young Master Fan was an immortal of poetry.

Any who had doubted whether Fan Xian was the true author of those verses had their suspicions roundly removed that night. Because after all, the context of the poems differed, as did their sentiments. If one were to go back and forth between such discrepantly intense moods all in one night, then naturally one could fear that such a poet were mad.

But regardless, everyone still believed that Fan Xian was no ordinary person. It was nonsensical. What ordinary man could spit forth such amazing poetry as if he were a seller at a vegetable market? Even if he took no notice of his tiredness, it was truly something to behold.

In short, every work of exquisite poetry – whether beautiful or intense or melancholy – that existed in a world similar to the one where the Kingdom of Qing existed had unwillingly or willingly fallen from Fan Xian’s lips. From that moment on, they had become a part of the spirit of that world and could not break away from it.

Within those poems were a number of literary allusions that were not clear, or parts that could not be understood; they were all taken by people to be a result of Fan Xian’s drunken unintelligibility, and they prepared for him to explain them further once he had awoken from his intoxicated stupor. As for whether Fan Xian would – in order to justify his lies – have to invent a fictional history of China, write the Four Classic Novels of Chinese literature, or castrate himself to avoid inconvenience, that was for another time. [1]

In the carriage back to Fan Manor, Fan Xian was still in a deep drunken sleep. Afterwards, some busybody calculated for him that that night in the palace, regardless of how many poems he had composed, he had drunk no less than four and a half kilos of the Emperor’s finest wine. So while he was composing the poems that would win him the infatuation of all the scholars in the land, he was utterly blacked out.

He had been lifted from the Emperor’s feet and carried out of the palace by a eunuch, absolutely stinking of wine, grumbling incoherently, and thankfully had not fainted while all those presents regarded him as a supernatural being.

As he got into a carriage from Fan Manor, the palace eunuchs warned the servants of Fan Manor to look after their master. His brain was the prized possession of the Kingdom of Qing, the old men joked, they could not allow him to injure it.

When the carriage arrived at Fan Manor, news had arrived of the young master’s great triumph at the palace, and the blow he had dealt to Zhuang Mohan. The whole house shared in his glory. A servant happily carried him from the carriage on his back, with Lady Liu personally clearing the way, taking him to his room, and going to the kitchen to cook some soup to sober him up. Fan Ruoruo worried that the servant girls were not attentive enough, and carefully wrung out a washcloth to moisten his dry lips.

Fan Sizhe, woken by the noise, rubbed his sore eyes and looked at his blackout-drunk brother with a mixture of envy and admiration. Count Sinan smiled as he wrote in his study. The look of fatherly pride on their master’s face was clear even to his uncultured servants. He thought about what he should write in the folding notebook he was going to give to His Majesty. He figured that His Majesty would not be surprised by the things that had happened to Fan Xian; after all, he was a child of the tianmai.

After a burst of excitement that lingered into the night, everyone gradually dissipated, not daring to disturb Fan Xian’s drunken dreams. At that moment, his eyes opened quickly. “My belt,” he said to his sister, standing watch by his bedside. “Light green pill.”

Seeing that he was awake, Ruoruo did not have time to ask. She quickly retreived the pill from his belt and put it in his mouth.

Fan Xian closed his eyes for a long while and slowly circulated his zhenqi, finding that the pill really was quite effective in counteracting the effects of the alcohol. The uneasy feeling had already disappeared from his belly, and his mind was absolutely sober. Of course, he was not really drunk. During his earlier “recitation” at the palace, when he had recited those ancient writers’ works just as they had, that was his own brilliance.

“I was worried whether someone would come to see me in the middle of the night. After all, right now I should so drunk that being awake would be impossible.” As he put on his clothes with his sister’s help, he frowned while he pondered. His eyes were completely clear, the alcohol at the palace having taken no effect.

“They probably won’t. I told them that I would look after you myself.” Fan Ruoruo, knowing what he was about to do, could not help but feel anxious.

“Lady Liu…” Fan Xian frowned. “Will she come to look after me?”

“I’m here on the lookout. Nobody should be coming.” Fan Ruoruo looked at him nervously and spoke in a low voice. “But you had best be quick, brother.”

Fan Xian felt for the dagger hidden in his boot, the three needles in his hair, and the pills on his waist. Confirming that he was completely prepared, he nodded his head. “I’ll be as quick as I can.”

He left the back of the manor, going through the residence that was being prepared for his marriage. He had put on clothes made for moving around at night, and under the cover of darkness he was very difficult to see. Only when he moved, his body swiftly travelling through the darkness, was there the slight sense of the presence of some sort of demon. Moving through a prepared hole in the wall, there was a carriage already waiting outside.

A slight frown showed through the black cloth that bordered Fan Xian’s eyes. Although there was no night curfew in the capital, the streets were still strictly guarded at night. After the incident at Niulan Street, the city guards had been considerably whipped into shape, so now he had to take serious precautions. So he temporarily gave up the idea of taking a carriage. His body trembling, he routed his zhenqi through his whole body, quickly accelerating his speed as he disappeared into the darkness of the capital.

Fan Manor was not far from the palace, and Fan Xian quite quickly reached the foot of the palace’s western wall. This was a place where the part-time workers in the palace came into contact with the inner keep. It was often quite busy, but this late at night, it was silent. Shielding himself behind shrubbery, he crouched as he leapt towards the bank of the Yudai River. With his left hand, he felt for the stone railing by the side of the riverbank, and like a koala, he sidled along it.

There were some bright lights ahead of him, but the river itself appeared completely dark. Fan Xian did not dare to lose focus. Using the deep wellspring of zhenqi in his body, he stopped his breathing, and carefully moved his body along.

Some time later, he had finally bypassed the two arch bridges, and had come to a secluded grove of trees within the palace. Fan Xian relaxed slightly, opening his mouth to take hurried breaths. He could feel his body becoming gradually more excited, as if these dangerous maneuvers brought him some kind of pleasure.

The wall by the side of the thicket of trees was 16 meters tall and extremely slippery; there was nowhere one could hold on to. Even the strongest warriors in the land could not vault it. Of course, to those who had already approached the rank of grandmaster, whether they could make use of this wall was a matter of waiting to be tested.

Fan Xian was not one of the four grandmasters, but he had other ways. The red surface of the wall looked slightly blue in the dark of night. Like a shadow, he swept from the trees to the wall, finding a dark gap that the light from the palace lanterns did not touch, and forcibly calming his mind, he sat cross-legged. He gradually channeled his powerful zhenqi through his xueshan point, warming it and adjusting the conditions within his body. Deep in the palace, not far from Hanguang Hall, Hong Sixiang sat quietly in a room. The Empress Dowager’s health was not good. Hearing the amusing things that had happened at the palace banquet, of how Fan Xian had caused Zhuang Mohan to spit blood, the Empress Dowager could not stop herself from laughing, but she didn’t know why. It seemed that some of the old men were sorrowful, so they had gone to bed early.

Hong Sixiang had spent years within the palace. The young eunuchs did not know how old he really was – seventy? Eighty? His only responsibility in the place now was to keep the Empress Dowager company. He had been there since the founding of the Kingdom of Qing. When he was young, he still liked to leave the palace and wander around, but as he got older, he found that there was not much difference between the inside and the outside of the palace after all.

Hong Sixiang took a shelled peanut, put it in his mouth, and chewed it loudly. Then he took hold of a wine cup and had a long, satisfying sip from it. The oil lamp on the table gave off a weak light. The old eunuch thought about young Master Fan’s drunken madness in the palace hall, and he could not prevent a smile from forming on the corners of his lips. Even if he was a eunuch, he was still a eunuch of the Kingdom of Qing; if Northern Qi could be embarrassed, then Eunuch Hong felt that it was not a bad thing.

In another part of the inner palace, there was a bright candle lit in the Emperor’s study. It was naturally much brighter than the light in the eunuchs’ room. The Emperor was an enlightened ruler who loved his subjects and was politically diligent, and so he would often read long into the night. The eunuchs had long become accustomed to it, and warmed up some midnight snacks for him, awaiting his summons at any time.

It was late in the night after the palace banquet, and the Emperor was still diligent. He sat at a desk, a writing-brush in his hand, its tip freshly moistened, like a dagger waiting to kill a man in silence. Suddenly, the tip of his writing-brush halted above the paper in front of him, and his brow gradually turned to a frown. “Are you tired, Your Majesty?” asked one of the eunuch scribes by his side. “Perhaps you should rest?”

The Emperor smiled as he rebuked him. “How did your hand not break copying all those poems in the palace hall this evening?”

The eunuch pursed his lips into a smile. “I would eagerly copy poems slavishly every day for such a genius of poetry.”

The Emperor laughed and said nothing more. He simply glanced out of the window now and again, feeling like there was something strange about the dark night.

The palace was large, in the summer evening it was quiet. The palace maids closed their eyes, but found it hard to sleep for long. The guards outside the walls kept careful watch. All was peaceful within the palace.

At the corner, by the side of the rock garden, wearing brand new dark clothes, Wu Zhu dissolved into the dim light of night. The only part of him that could have been noticed by anyone, his eyes, was also covered by a length of black cloth. With the help of some sort of technique, his whole body had become like the inanimate things around him.

His breathing and heartbeat had slowed significantly, and he moved in harmony with the gentle night wind surrounding him. Even if someone had walked past him, they were unlikely to have seen him were they not looking carefully.

Wu Zhu “looked” at the light coming from the Emperor’s study. He didn’t know how long he looked. Then he slowly lowered his head, pulled over his black head covering, and silently headed in a direction away from the palace. His path remarkably avoided all light. Going with the terrain, along the grass and the flowers, he left no trace and made no sound. Like a terrifying demon, he walked casually around the strictly guarded inner palace.

[1] In Jin Yong’s novel The Smiling, Proud Wanderer, the character Yue Buqun castrates himself in order to study the technique of Bixie Swordplay.