Joy of Life - Chapter 371[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:48:40]
Chapter 371: Torture Chamber And Will
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
It was quiet on the long streets of Suzhou. The crisp sounds of the carriage wheels covered a sound of surprise from within the carriage.
After controlling his surprise, the Third Prince said, “He can take this to court?”
“Why not?” Fan Xian smiled slightly and said. “Whether or not he wins is another matter, but he has to take it to court.”
The Third Prince was only nine, after all, he was still a child. Hearing this, he immediately became interested and said, “Sir, when the time comes, let’s go watch the show. I heard that Xia Qifei’s birth mother…was beaten to death by the current Ming matriarch.”
Fan Xian sighed. “It’s a family property lawsuit, not an old murder case. They’re going to talk about the articles in the Qing law. It won’t be very interesting.”
The Third Prince asked, “Sir, do you have plans?”
“No.” Fan Xian smiled bitterly and shook his head. “If all this could be planned…why would I interfere in that way? I just ask for the time to be dragged out. The longer, the better.”
The Third Prince sat back down on his chair unhappily. He looked at the unfamiliar scene around them that skimmed by and asked without thinking, “If we’re not going back to Hua Garden at this time, where are we going?”
Fan Xian looked at him and said, “The Emperor has told you to learn from me, and you have worked hard. Since you have come out with me today…you can learn along the way what you will have to know in the future.”
The Third Prince was slightly startled and didn’t know what Fan Xian was talking about.
The carriage headed to the north part of the city through the west side of city but did not enter any of the places where the heroes had long lived. They quietly followed a small alley and turned toward the west. Using the darkness of the night as a cover, and with the secret alertness of the members of the Qinian Unit, they left behind any possible spies and shadows and disappeared into Suzhou.
The carriage stopped outside a private residence. The land here was isolated and difficult to notice. Gao Da dismounted from the driver’s seat. His hand wrapped around the hilt of the long knife behind his back, and he looked coldly and closely for a while before clenching his fist to signal that it was safe. Only then did Fan Xian come down from the carriage holding the Third Prince’s hand.
The assassins of the Sixth Bureau with Fan Xian were recovering from injuries, and Fan Xian did not want the only two unharmed ones to risk their lives again. Thus, the responsibility of his safety was presently handed completely to the Tiger Guards and Qinian Unit. They seemed to be doing things very carefully.
Following the silent archway in, the Third Prince felt some fear in his heart. It was dark all around, yet his nose could smell a trace of smoke. This kind of feeling made one’s hair stand on end.
The child unconsciously tightened his hold on Fan Xian’s hand.
Entering a room, they turned into another room. It was a bedroom. All of the furniture in the room was present: a large bed, dressing table…there was even a couple lying on the bed sleeping.
The Third Prince opened his mouth wide but couldn’t make any noise. What was happening? Fan Xian started slightly and turned back to glance at the Overwatch Council official who led the way.
The expression of the official didn’t change, he walked straight to the side of the bed and pulled a hook on the bed frame. There was a squeak, and the curtain at the head of the bed slowly pulled back revealing a downward slanting path. He then made a “please” motion.
Through the entire process, the couple on the bed shifted in a bit and did not have any reaction. They did not glance at the people beside the bed. It was like they were blind and deaf; it was also like Fan Xian and this group of people were all spirits.
Fan Xian looked at this scene and couldn’t help smiling bitterly and shaking his head. He always thought it was some novel he read in his previous life. He never thought it would become reality before his eyes.
This private residence was a secret residence the Fourth Bureau of the Overwatch Council had placed in Suzhou.
The Third Prince now knew where they had come to today. He held Fan Xian’s hand and carefully walked toward the underground passage. He heart beat like a drum. He said in a trembling voice, “Teacher, although I am a prince, following the rules of the court, I do not have the right to know the Overwatch Council’s secret residences.”
Fan Xian smiled and said, “Every city has three to five secret residences. It is nothing unusual. As for the rules, I am here. No one will say anything.”
He was the Commissioner of the Overwatch Council. After that letter from Chen Pingping, he held the absolute and paramount power of the Overwatch Council.
Hearing Fan Xian say this, the Third Prince felt slightly assured and continued to walk forward in the light of the dim lamps. The residence of the Overwatch Council Fourth Bureau in Suzhou was not the largest, but it was the most hidden. Before they had gone down for too long, they arrived at a secret room.
The light was tranquil and dimly lit up the slightly narrow room. In the room were a charcoal fire, two branding irons, a few boxes of medicine, a few long benches, and a dozen sharp metal implements of varying shapes and lengths.
It was the standard setup for forcing confessions, particularly when paired with the two barely breathing people on the gibbet whose flesh and blood were blurry, it became incomparably clear.
Fan Xian smelled this familiar and intimate air, and couldn’t resist sniffing. He felt the Third Prince’s hand tighten around his and couldn’t help laughing in his heart. Although this child acted sinisterly in the Royal Palace in Jingdou, he was, after all, still a child. He had never truly seen this kind of slaughterhouse-like scene.
The Fourth Bureau officials forcing the confession had, because of the heat, already taken off their clothes. They went about their work with their upper bodies naked. Upon seeing their superior and their superior’s superior suddenly entering the secret residence, they jumped in fright and began to urgently look everywhere for clothes to wear.
Fan Xian waved his hand to stop their actions and said, “Keep on working…how is the questioning?”
One of the officials was just putting on a sleeve and, stuck in a dilemma, walked to a table in the corner of the room. He carefully brought a few pieces of paper over. They were the results of the forced confession.
Fan Xian took it and glanced it over. He couldn’t help furrowing his forehead. It was because he was always thinking of the Junshang Conference matter that he had come personally today to see the state of questioning and to hurry things up. Unexpectedly, it had already been a few days, yet there had been very little progress.
The two people who had been caught by the Overwatch Council and tortured were the two swallow-like assassins that had tried to kill Xia Qifei outside of Jiangnan Restaurant on the night of March 22nd.
That day, the two assassins had been poisoned by the swordsman of the Sixth Bureau. They had quickly seen an opportunity and had thought to escape, however, they didn’t expect to be knocked out by Haitang mid-flight. After the incident, Fan Xian took them over with no trace of politeness and hid them in a secret residence. The severe forced confession was to learn a bit more inside information about the Junshang Conference. For the Overwatch Council, the Junshang Conference was truly a mystery. Fan Xian couldn’t help but worry about a power that even the Overwatch Council had no grasp of.
A loose organisation? Yet they could use the Second Priest of the Qing Temple as a pawn?
Fan Xian furrowed his brows as he looked at the results of his confessions his subordinates’ had exhorted. These two assassins were famous killers in the Jiangnan area. Their martial skills were powerful, and they did things ruthlessly. However, they didn’t seem to know much about the Junshang Conference; they had just been bought by the Ming family with silver to work for them.
“Wake them.” He shook his head impatiently.
One of the officials took a little bottle and brought it close to the nose of the two people hanging on the gibbet and let them breathe it in. The two began to struggle weakly. Their muscles twisted and fresh blood began to flow again from their wounds. The men also awakened.
The two assassins forced their eyes open. Fear shone out of their blurred eyes. They had long lost the bravado of when they had first been captured. It looked like they had been heavily tormented by the ruthless officials of the Overwatch Council Fourth Bureau.
Fan Xian and the Third Prince sat on the unclean bench. Fan Xian flipped through the paper in his hands and quietly asked, “The Sir Zhou you talk about…how is he connected to the Junshang Conference?”
The two assassins knew of the methods of the Overwatch Council. Since they were not prepared to be martyrs, they naturally fought to answer first. They cried out in hoarse voices, “Sir, Sir Zhou is the Junshang Conference’s account house. As for what he does specifically in there, I truly don’t know.”
Fan Xian felt slightly surprised and raised his head. “Sir Zhou is not the lead housekeeper of the Ming family?”
One of the assassins said in a trembling voice, “I also only heard it once, by chance. Concerning the Junshang Conference, I truly only know this one detail.”
“You’ve been stewing for a few days, yet both of you are still quite spirited, looks like you haven’t suffered much.” Fan Xian shook his head.
A thread of hopelessness flashed through the eyes of the two assassins.
The officials of the Overwatch Council began to torture again, carrying out such work that lacked beauty and was repetitive and boring. The miserable cries in the torture room rang out again and again, incomparably mournful, yet they had no way of reaching the ground above.
Fan Xian did not cover the Third Prince’s eyes.
The Third Prince looked at this scene. His face was a deathly white, yet he forced his head to not turn to the side. However, looking at this bloody scene, he suddenly felt the food in his stomach rising uncontrollably up his throat and his chest felt suffocated.
Fan Xian took out a small box of medicine and, using the tip of his fingers to pick some out, he smeared it carefully below the Third Prince’s nose. He said quietly, “The Junshang Conference incident has already been reported to the Emperor…the other party’s daring is unexpectedly large, and so Your Highness can understand just what kind of daring the other party has. As for our enemies today and our enemies tomorrow, there are some methods we must learn, but…we must never revel in them.”
The Third Prince knew that Fan Xian was teaching him.
In the side room, the flesh on the assassins’ chests had already mixed with the blood and become gooey balls of flesh that fell hissing onto the metal board.
“We cannot consider torture and torturers as the supreme strategy in protecting the court’s rule. We cannot develop a dependence on these methods. Spreading the net wide may still miss some fish. Using torture to force a confession may still not obtain all of the necessary information,” Fan Xian said calmly. “To know the way of governing the world is to temper justice with mercy. If you trust someone, you must not doubt them. If you doubt them, then you must not use them. Leniency is the foundation. The others only work as a supplement…little tricks.”
A refreshing scent wormed into the Third Prince’s nose and removed his nausea. He understood what Fan Xian meant. Fan Xian’s different attitudes toward Ming Qingda and Xia Qifei clearly explained Fan Xian’s “if you trust, do not doubt; if you doubt, do not use” method of doing things. Tonight’s witnessing of the torture was to teach him that not all strong-handed methods were effective.
“To be able to find out about the Ming family is not bad.” Fan Xian comforted his subordinate. “Handle the confession papers well and have these two to recover. They’ll be useful in the future.”
After leaving this secret residence, Fan Xian’s mood was rather heavy. He had initially hoped to find some trace of the Junshang Conference but, unexpectedly, nothing could be discovered from these two assassins. He could only go along and teach the Third Prince some things when in reality it was only to hide his awkward helplessness.
Sitting in the carriage, heading back to Hua Garden, he carefully thought about it. The Overwatch Council was the Emperor’s secret service, so there were many things that could not be done publicly. Thus, from the structure of the organization, there were some natural limits. For example, there couldn’t be too many people. As for a strategic town far away in Jiangnan, although it had always been an important territory of the Fourth Council, it was still clear that there were not enough people.
If he wanted to investigate the Junshang Conference, which seemed like a mysterious organization floating in the clouds, the strength of the Overwatch Council at present was far from enough.
Fan Xian suddenly wished Xiao Yan could be beside him. Only, he knew that as Yan Bingyun controlled the Fourth Bureau now, he couldn’t lightly leave the capital. Furthermore, much of the work of the First Bureau, which was directly subordinate to himself, also needed Yan Bingyun to help Deng Zi Yue make decisions.
Even if Wang Qinian was here, perhaps things would be easier.
Yang Jimei not only gave Hua Garden to him with both hands, he also left behind the servants and cook. After the Overwatch Council inspected them and confirmed that these people were clean, Fan Xian did not reject this kindness.
Thus, Sisi, except for handling the intimate matters, began to enjoy the treatment of being a young mistress of the house. Although she was not used to it, there was nothing she could do. The pitiful girls that Fan Xian had bought on his way to Jiangnan also did not have the opportunity to do much. They were truly treated like the girls of a big family.
Particularly worth mentioning was the cook that Yang Jimei had left behind. He could truly make the royal cook blush with shame. The three meals each day were all different and creative. It actually made Fan Xian reluctant to go out and try the Jiangnan delicacies.
Sisi very much liked this cook. The Third Prince hated this cook.
This morning, Fan Xian, Haitang, and the Third Prince were sitting around a little table drinking a porridge made from corn, diced ham, and watercress. The color of the porridge wasn’t very nice, but the combination of different tastes mixed together was extremely delicious and strange. Fan Xian drank three bowls in a row, causing Sisi, who was ladling the porridge, to almost not have enough time to do so.
A few people suddenly came in from outside escorted by a Tiger Guard. The people came into the room, looking at Fan Xian and the Third Prince sitting around the table. They then looked at Haitang and couldn’t help being startled.
Fan Xian looked at these people crossing the threshold and was surprised. The people who came were Sang Wen and Deng Zi Yue. Sang Wen had already come down to Jiangnan to help him, but why wasn’t Deng Zi Yue keeping watch at the First Bureau? What had he come to Jiangnan for? When Fan Xian saw clearly the person standing between them, he rose to his feet without thinking and cried out in surprise, “Dabao! How come you are here?”
Who else could that rotund man standing between Sang Wen and Deng Zi Yue, without a care and a vacant expression on his face, be…other than Dabao?
Fan Xian hurried to them in fright and caught his uncle’s hand in his as he asked Deng Zi Yue, “What happened? Where is Wan’er?”
Deng Zi Yue’s expression was one of exhaustion, and he gave a pained smile. “Mistress is not feeling well recently so has temporarily slowed down her trip to Jiangnan. Only…this uncle heard that he was going to see you and was making a ruckus at home, so the Minister sent me to bring him to Jiangnan.”
“Troublemaker.” Fan Xian sighed. Immediately his heart clenched and he urgently asked, “Wan’er is not well?”
“Oh, it’s nothing.” Sang Wen’s face wore a warm smile. Her two cheeks remained very cute. “The princess has probably caught a cold and is a bit tired. She’ll be fine in a few days.”
She took out two letters and handed them to Fan Xian. “These are for you.”
Fan Xian accepted them and had a look. They were from father and Wan’er. Having no time to read them, he tucked them into his clothes and said angrily, “What does father mean by this? Right now Jiangnan is a mess, how could he send Dabao here?”
Dabao suddenly broke into a grin. He tugged on Fan Xian’s ear and said, “Xiao Fanfan, you hide so long during our hide-and-seek game this time…that’s incredible.”
Holding his bowl of porridge, the Third Prince stared curiously at the door. He found that the usually scary Fan Xian, when in front of this big idiot, was so…he couldn’t resist any longer. With a sputtering sound, he sprayed out the mouthful of porridge he had in his mouth.
Deng Zi Yue smiled awkwardly and quickly went up with Sang Wen to greet the Third Prince. He didn’t dare even glance at the sorry figure Fan Xian cut. The two of them had probably also had to suffer many of Dabao’s disturbances on the road.
Since Dabao was here, there had to be no shortage of servants on the way. Sisi knew this and quickly went out to make arrangements for them.
While Fan Xian finally got Dabao settled down, he first arranged for him to live in the back garden. He then had the little girls who had nothing to do all day go keep him company and eat melon seeds. It was only then that the front hall calmed down.
Haitang rose, gave a small bow, and then left the front hall. She knew that Fan Xian must have a lot of things to tell Deng Zi Yue.
After Deng Zi Yue entered the hall, it was like he didn’t see the girl at all. When she bowed to him of her own accord, he quickly returned the bow.
Sitting on the table, Fan Xian furrowed his brows and said, “Just last night I was thinking that there is indeed a lack of people beside me. It’s good that you came. But, what about the capital?”
“The capital has Xiao Yan keeping watch. After receiving the report you sent back to the capital, the director had me bring some people to help,” Deng Zi Yue explained. “Besides, that thing you wanted prepared, the Second and Third Bureau have been busy for months and have only just finished it. I thought I might as well bring it with me.”
Fan Xian shook his head and said, “I thought someone else would bring it. I didn’t think it would be you.”
He glanced at the Third Prince drinking porridge beside him eavesdropping and coughed a few times. He then asked the little master to leave.
After the Third Prince had unhappily left, Fan Xian furrowed his brows and said, “When you came in earlier, why was your expression so strange?”
Deng Zi Yue looked around and gave a pained smile, “When I left the capital, the rumors were flying wild in Jingdou…everyone was saying you and that Northern Sage girl, Haitang, were of the same profession, sat at the same table, slept…there is endless debate in court. Furthermore, since you control the palace treasury, you have to avoid suspicion. The officials in the court are all preparing to attack you for this matter… I didn’t expect to see her the moment I walked into Hua Garden. Only then did I know that the rumors were true, and I couldn’t help feeling worried.”
“Sleep in the same bed?” Fan Xian smiled coldly. “Fancy that those people could think of such things. Never mind, it’s fine to not discuss this matter. Show me the thing you brought for me.”
Deng Zi Yue carefully took out a flat box from among his clothes and handed it to Fan Xian.
Fan Xian opened the lid and closely examined the piece of paper lying silently in the box. The paper was slightly yellowish white, the edges curled slightly, and it looked to be quite old. The writing on the paper was a bit crooked. It looked like the writer had written it by the last light of the oil lamp.
“It’s well made,” Fan Xian furrowed his brows and said. “Although this will won’t be of much use if we want to drag out the family property lawsuit, it will depend entirely on this.”
Deng Zi Yue replied, “Rest assured, the Second and Third Bureaus worked together and consulted countless pages of handwriting from the master of the Ming family back then. The paper used is also a presently difficult-to-find old paper from that year. Combined with the skill of the antique finishing and attention paid to the details, no one should be able to tell it is fake.”
“Of course the Ming family knows it is fake; the real one was destroyed long ago,” Fan Xian smiled and said. “Using a fake to pass off as the real…there really are all kinds of professionals in our Council. In the future, we could probably make a great of silver in the fake antiques business.”
“Send it to Xia Qifei later. When the court opens tomorrow to try the case, with this will thrown in…the Suzhou government is probably going to be dumbfounded.”
The investigation focusing on the Ming family was ongoing, but there had not been any results. One reason was that the family’s ability to cover their tracks was very good. Another was that there were thousands and tens of thousands of links and connections in the Jiangnan officialdom that protected them. The Suzhou government was, naturally, one of them. Although Fan Xian did not have the means to directly behead the Suzhou government, using a secretly made orange-colored will to scare the officials of Jiangnan Road was still something easy to accomplish.
Waiting until there was only him left in the Flower Hall, only then did Fan Xian draw out the two letters tucked into his shirt. He first skimmed them quickly and then read them carefully. Wan’er’s letter was mostly talking about other people’s business in Jingdou. It did occasionally mention the situation in the Palace. Only, her phrasing was rather difficult to understand.
The biggest benefit of having his wife in Jingdou was that she could help Fan Xian at the first moment learn which way the wind would blow in the Palace.
The Eldest Princess had returned to Guangxin Palace. The Second Prince had quietly returned to the stage. The Crown Prince’s movements were the most secretive. The dowager empress seemed somewhat displeased by Fan Xian’s arrogance in Jiangnan.
The strangest thing was that the Emperor was still calm, this…wretched Emperor. What good did it do for him to make such a mess under heaven? Just where did his confidence come from?
Fan Xian sighed. His finger gently stroked the slightly scented letter paper. Suddenly, his longing for Wan’er surged up. He hadn’t seen her for a number of months. He knew that his wife and was worried about him as well as plotting.
After he finished reading his father’s letter, Fan Xian finally understood the purpose of Dabao’s trip to Jiangnan.
In his letter, Minister Fan urged Fan Xian to find a time to take Dabao to Wuzhou. The Prime Minister Ling Ruofu lived in recluse in Wuzhou after quitting his position. It had been a long time since he had seen his son. Since Fan Xian was taking Dabao to Wuhou, he could also visit his father-in-law along the way.
This excuse was very good. Even the Emperor had no way to oppose it.