Joy of Life - Chapter 228

[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:47:43]
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Chapter 228: Killing in the Alley

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

“He who is without mercy may not necessarily be a true hero, but a real man is one who loves his children?” Haitang repeated it slowly to herself, that ordinary-looking smile of hers returning to her face. She led Fan Xian through the wooden temple doors.

“Master Fan.” Si Lili curtseyed. A gentle, distant smile appeared on Fan Xian’s face. He cupped his hands and returned her greeting. “Lady Si, when did you arrive in Shangjing?”

“Thank you for your concern. I arrived three days ago. The journey was peaceful.” Si Lili’s eyes dropped. She was still wearing the thin light-green garment she wore on her journey. It was warm, so she had no fear of catching a cold.

Fan Xian exchanged some quiet words with her.

Haitang watched calmly to one side. There was a slight smile behind her eyes; the strangeness between the two of them did not escape her gaze. Fan Xian felt somewhat odd. Why had Haitang brought him to this temple to meet Si Lili? And where were those old palace maids who waited on her constantly? Did Haitang not know he was a foreign envoy, who should have kept miles away from the woman who was the object of the Emperor’s desires?

“This is where I live,” explained Haitang, seeing Fan Xian’s puzzlement. “Lili cannot enter the palace easily, so His Majesty has asked me to look after her.”

Fan Xian laughed bitterly, then thought of something that Si Lili had once said. The two women had first met and become friends in the royal palace of Northern Qi. He suddenly thought of something – could it be that Ku He also lived in the royal palace? Although the temple was rather remote, Fan Xian still felt some apprehension. “I shall wait for you outside,” he said after exchanging a few words with them. Without awaiting their reply, he left, waiting in the courtyard outside.

After he had left, Haitang looked at Si Lili. There was a moment of silence before she finally spoke. “I brought him to see you,” said Haitang. “Don’t you have anything to say to him?”

Si Lili lifted her head, and a hint of frustration showed in her beautiful face. “I told you I did not want to see him,” she said softly, “and I presume that he does not wish to see me either. Now he is outside, and I still don’t know how to reproach you. Haitang, you are a troublemaker, even if you are Ku He’s disciple. You shouldn’t meddle in such affairs. They are off-limits.”

Haitang smiled calmly. “What is there to fear? His Majesty is not a narrow-minded man.”

Wisps of sweet fragrance gradually filled the air in another elegant, neat room of the temple. On the table, the color of the green tea mixed with the amber color of the utensils, creating a calming sight.

“Why did you bring me to see Si Lili?” Fan Xian sat cross-legged at the small table, his brow wrinkled; worries had finally appeared on his elegant face. He had done his utmost to arrange matters regarding Xiao En; Si Lili was a hot potato thrown into his hands.

“I was talking about Yan Bingyun before,” said Haitang with a smile. “I wanted to see whether you were polluted by the secular world, Master Fan.”

“‘Polluted by the secular world’ is an odd thing to say.”

“Master Fan, don’t tell me you haven’t read the Story of the Stone?” Haitang seemed astonished.

Fan Xian’s heart skipped a beat. He didn’t respond, and simply laughed bitterly. “Miss Haitang, have you misunderstood something? Si Lili was simply the criminal who I escorted on her journey. It was simply part of the agreement. There’s nothing between us.”

“You have misunderstood me as well,” said Haitang calmly. “The reason I invited you to my home today is because there is something I need your help with.”

“What is it?” asked Fan Xian, getting straight to the point.

Haitang smiled. “In truth, it was something that vexed His Majesty when you last stayed in the palace.”

Fan Xian looked at her. Her ordinary-looking face had a way of making people feel closer to her. “Clearly, His Majesty did not want you to know of his frustration.”

Haitang adjusted her right sleeve with her left hand, grasping a teacup with her fingers and bringing it to her lips. She sipped gently from it. “His Majesty did not want you to know at first. But I have been his close friend for a long time, and save for me, there is no one in the Qi royal court willing to help him deal with this matter.”

“I don’t understand.” Fan Xian, of course, had guessed what the young Emperor was distressed about. He smiled. “Since there is such opposition toward Si Lili entering the palace from all levels of society, why does the Emperor still wish to have his own way? Looking at the current situation, since Si Lili can only stay with you for the time being, I presume that the Empress Dowager will not allow her to enter the palace.

“Master Fan, do you think that there is something behind this?”

“Correct. I have never believed that monarchs can have such feelings.” For some reason, Fan Xian was also faintly unhappy, and it showed in the vitriol of his words.

Haitang was stunned. She looked at him with her calm eyes, and after a long while, she spoke. “Rulers are people too. How can one speak with certainty in matters between men and women?”

Fan Xian shook his head, and thought of the rulers of his previous world. Perhaps Emperor Xuanzong of Tang was a different sort, but ultimately, had Yang Guifei not still died at Mawei? [1]

“Master Fan, you are married,” said Haitang inadvertently.

Fan Xian stared blankly for a moment, then thought of his wife at home, and of their first meeting before that temple altar. He couldn’t stop his lips from curling into a happy smile.

Haitang watched his face and sighed to herself. “I hear that you love your wife dearly, Master Fan. If someone were to stop you two from being together, then what would you do?”

Fan Xian raised his eyebrows and did not reply. But if anyone truly did dare to get between him and Wan’er, then they would bring about their own destruction. Gradually, he seemed to understand the mood of the young Emperor in his palace. But when he remembered that the object of his affection was Si Lili, Fan Xian felt somewhat odd – even though his agreement with Si Lili was only an agreement that they would both make use of each other.

Haitang’s request was, in truth, what Fan Xian wanted. If Si Lili could not enter the palace, then the losers would be the Overwatch Council of the Kingdom of Qing. He just couldn’t guess what the Emperor wanted from Fan Xian.

“At all levels of society, no one wants to help His Majesty get Si Lili into the palace. You should know that there were some issues with Lili’s identity in the south. And I am limited in my position; in this matter I have no right to speak.”

Fan Xian laughed coldly. “Of course, she would give her life for Northern Qi. But do you mean to say that I have the right to speak on this? I am simply a foreign envoy. After Wuduhe, this business should have nothing to do with me.”

Haitang smiled. “His Majesty and I wish to make use of your wisdom.”

Fan Xian laughed involuntarily, smoothing the errant hairs on his head with a finger. “You really do think highly of me, Haitang.”

“Master Fan, you were born in complete obscurity, but in a short time, you became the immortal of poetry, watched by the entire world. Of all the people in the south who have real authority, if you say you have no wisdom, no one would believe that.”

“I will think of a way, but I do not know if it will be successful.” Fan Xian took a sip of the leftover tea on the table. “The Empress Dowager is the key. If she is not willing, then there’s nothing that will work.”

Haitang stood up from her seat in a polite gesture. “Thank you in advance.”

“It seems that you and Si Lili are good friends.” Fan Xian returned her bow. “If I should need your help in the future, I hope that you remember the feelings between us today.”

“As long as it does not involve the politics of this country, then there is nothing I will not do,” replied Haitang, her face expressionless.

“Do not worry. What I will ask you to do may never happen. If it does happen, then it will only be a domestic issue for us in Qing, and it will not require you to betray the way of nature that you have sought after all your life.”

“That is for the best,” said Haitang, relieved.

Fan Xian was the head diplomat from the south, and his every move in Shangjing was observed by Northern Qi. This was something that all diplomats tacitly agreed to and were accustomed to, so it was hard to find an opportunity to act completely freely. But today was an exception, because Fan Xian was walking with Haitang, and Haitang clearly did not like having those Brocade Guard rats following her. So as they walked under their umbrella in the rain, they seemed to walk along leisurely. Having thrown them off their tail, they believed that the Brocade Guard would not have the gall to openly show any opposition to Haitang. And yet they still dared to follow them.

Coming out of the temple where the two young ladies stayed, Fan Xian stretched his body out, and discovered that there were two Brocade Guards on the street corner that he had not seen before. A smile floated across his face, and he walked toward the street corner into an alleyway.

The weather had not cleared up after the rain, and a cool breeze occasionally brushed past the raindrops that hung from the tree branches, splashing them against his face.

Thinking of Si Lili and the Emperor, Fan Xian still did not fully understand, but the topic that Haitang had just brought up had filled this youth, who had not yet turned seventeen, with thoughts of returning to the Qing capital, of returning to his wife and his sister’s side. A feeling of homesickness began to well up in him, and warmth began to flood his heart.

People were passing through the alley, a few coolies dragging handcarts behind them, hurrying toward the shops where they worked. The smile on Fan Xian’s face was as gentle as sunshine as he strolled through the alley.

As the handcart brushed past him, Fan Xian flicked his wrist, thrusting with the black dagger he had concealed in the palm of his hand!

With a spluttering sound, the dagger stuck into the throat of the coolie – a spy in disguise – the cold edge of the blade meeting flesh. He collapsed to the floor, dead.

The next moment, Fan Xian stepped onto the overturned handcart, his body flying through the alley like a shadow, poison needles clasped in his fingers, sticking them into a pressure point in one man’s chest. His left hand moved strangely under his right armpit, and he fired off three crossbow bolts, killing another stunned man instantly.

Turning his hand over, he chopped at the cervical vertebra of the paralyzed man, breaking it to pieces. Fan Xian shed his outer layer of clothing, turned around, and used his rain hat to cover up his face, covering up his sunshine-like smile. He pulled the crossbow bolts from the man’s body and walked out of the alley.

[1] Yang Guifei was the concubine of Emperor Xuanzong, renowned for her beauty. After a mutiny at Mawei Courier Station (in modern-day Shaanxi), Xuanzong acquiesced to the soldiers’ demand that Yang be put to death.