Joy of Life - Chapter 544 - That Night[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:49:47]
Chapter 544: That Night
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
With a dink, the knife in the eunuch’s hand grazed by the Third Prince’s young body and plunged ruthlessly into the ground of the Chen corridor. It actually sent up a few pieces of stone. One could see how powerful the strike was.
The Third Prince twisted his body and cried out wildly. His legs kicked blindly. He just happened to dodge the strike while he wildly waved the dagger in his trembling hand.
With two rips, the bottoms of the eunuchs’ robes were sliced open, revealing two wounds. The eunuchs’ faces became cold. It seemed they had not thought a precious prince would carry a dagger with him at all times and that it would be so sharp.
The first time he had pulled the dagger from his shoe, it did not have the effect it should have had. Although the dagger was sharp, it was held in the hands of youth.
In his moment of life and death, Li Chengping learned courage to kill that Fan Xian had at age 12 but did not learn his teacher’s ability to kill. Although the murderous eunuchs did not know any martial arts, they were strong and powerful. They were not people he could resist.
A eunuch pinned Li Chengping tightly to the ground with his foot while the other eunuch stood on his elbow, rendering him unable to move. Looking at the rip of his clothes, he shook his head. One hand pressed against Li Chengping’s throat. Holding the knife in his other hand, he brought it down once again.
Li Chengping’s breathing became more and more difficult. He watched as the knife came down and knew that he was going to die. Involuntarily, boundless regret welled in his heart. Thinking about the strike earlier, he didn’t even manage to graze his enemies’ side. Filled with hopelessness, he couldn’t help but give up, close his eyes, and begin to cry.
He waited for a long time.
Li Chengping seemed to feel the pain of a sharp object piercing into his chest. The metal hand on his throat cut off his breathing. But, he was still alive. The two feet on his body and hand seemed to not be stepping down any further.
He opened his eyes in fear and saw a sight that astonished him. He saw that the two eunuchs above were like him with their eyes open wide in fear. Two streaks of black blood flowed out from the corners of their eyes.
Li Chengping knew that a chance to live had come again. Crying out wildly, he pulled his right hand from below the eunuch’s foot and stabbed it viciously into the foot that stood on his chest.
The dagger entered the flesh and sent up a bloom of blood.
Li Chengping struggled to stand. He couldn’t help the fear rise as the two vicious eunuchs fell down like two blocks of wood. His legs trembled. He didn’t have the courage to move forward and see what exactly how the two eunuchs had blood come out from the corners of their eyes and then fallen down.
He lowered his head and saw the knife stuck in his chest. Only now did he feel endless pain and began to cry wretchedly.
Fortunately, when the eunuch had stabbed down with the knife, his strength was already gone and could not continue exerting force. The tip of his knife only pierced a third of the way in. This allowed Li Chengping to narrowly escape and keep his life.
Li Chengping dragged his watery legs to the two already dead eunuchs. Despite his fear, he had endless confusion in his heart. He wondered if the heavens were helping him by cursing these two eunuchs.
It was not a curse. The Third Prince finally understood this as he recovered his wits. He stared at the two tears on the abdomen of the eunuchs’ robes in a daze then lowered is head again to glance at the black dagger in his hand.
The dagger in his hand was sharp. Although he only waved it wildly earlier, it had sliced through the eunuchs’ clothing and grazed their skin underneath. Because the dagger was too sharp or his teacher had smeared some drug on the dagger, the two eunuchs had not felt anything.
The dagger was coated with the Overwatch Council’s most powerful poison. Once the blade broke the skin, the drug entered the blood. Only a moment was needed for the two eunuchs to be poisoned, leaving not even a last moment to kill someone.
What a powerful poison!
Having escaped death by the skin of his teeth, there was not a part of his body that wasn’t trembling. He held the dagger tightly and looked at the two eunuchs at his feet, whose faces were gradually turning black. Finally, he could not stand anymore and fell to the ground. He knew that if the dagger didn’t have such a powerful poison, then no matter how much he struggled, he would not have been able to escape death.
His whole body trembled as he sat next to the two bodies. His face was pale. He didn’t know what he should do next. This was his first time being attacked and first time killing. Even though he was an incredible prince who had matured early, his state of mind had suffered a great shock.
After sitting for an indeterminable amount of time, the 12-year-old finally came to his senses and climbed to his feet with some difficulty. Looking at the two bodies beside him, a complicated emotion that a child should not have appeared in his eyes. This emotion included fear, helplessness, unhappiness, and a glimmer of excitement. It gradually turned to calm and anger.
Who wanted to kill him? Li Chengping didn’t know but was aware that his brothers could not escape being implicated. He suddenly gave a cry and began to sob. He grasped the dagger by his hand tightly and plunged it down with force.
One stab, two stabs, three stabs. He numbly and mechanically plunged the dagger into the body of the eunuch next to him. Endless amounts of fresh blood flowed out which, in the end, turned to black blood.
He hated these people, so he had to make sure that they had died completely. He was careful to not allow the poisoned blood to touch his body.
After some time, he stopped his terrified crying and stood up by holding onto the columns in the corridor. He looked at the long length of the quiet and empty Chen corridor. His lips trembled slightly. He then began to call out in a high voice.
At the end of the Chen corridor was the Cold Palace. There were no serving girls there.
“Mother, I can’t let you go live in the Cold Palace.”
The beginning of autumn was not cold, but the Third Prince was tightly wrapped in a large blanket in a side room at the rear of Hanguang Palace. He looked at Yi Guipin, who was looking at him with tear-filled eyes. Lowering his voice, he said in a determined and cold tone, “I don’t want to die, and you can’t die either.”
Yi Guipin’s eyes were red. She held him tightly.
Earlier, the Cold Palace had come with a message. Only then did everyone know that the Third Prince had secretly slipped out of Hanguang Palace and had almost been assassinated deep in the Palace. In a great rage, the empress dowager had ordered the internal palace to increase defenses. Not only did she want to capture the assassins, she also heavily punished all the eunuchs and serving girls in Hanguang Palace. Even Yi Guipin did not escape it.
Earlier, the empress dowager had stayed by the bed of the fainted Third Prince for a while. She had only left a little while ago.
After the empress dowager left, Li Chengping woke and said these words to his mother in a trembling voice. It was clear that he had been faking the fainting in front of the empress dowager. The Third Prince had a secret fear of the empress dowager and didn’t want to face his grandmother.
“Don’t worry…” Yi Guipin held her son, her shock had not yet passed. In a trembling voice, she said, “In Hanguang Palace, there is the empress dowager watching. They won’t dare try anything.”
Li Chengping’s face became dark. He knew that his mother was only comforting him, but he didn’t say anything. Yi Guipin lowered her head to look at her son, wanting to speak but stopping. Finally, she couldn’t resist and quietly asked, “Those two eunuchs… How did they die? Who did they belong to?”
“I don’t know.” Lin Chengping had not told anyone about the dagger. As he was calling for help, he had already hidden the dagger in the woods beside the Chen corridor. A glimmer of fear shone through his eyes as he looked at his mother. “They just suddenly died. I don’t know who wants to kill me.”
Yi Guipin became silent and glanced around. She realized that many people made for chatty mouths. There were many eunuchs and serving girls waiting outside. It was indeed not convenient to say too much, so she hesitantly closed her mouth.
After they learned the news of the Emperor’s assassination, she and the Third Prince had essentially been under house arrest in Hanguang Palace and did not know what was happening outside. They only knew that Fan Xian had already been cast as an imperial criminal and the Fan and Liu families were both under control by the internal court. The empress dowager’s gaze on them was also becoming more and more indifferent.
Looking at the Palace today, Yi Guiping felt a bone-piercing cold. She thought to herself, Hanguang Palace may not be very safe.
At this moment, a middle-aged woman walked in. It was the Great Prince’s birth mother, Lady Ning. Yi Guipin quickly stood up and bowed. The two mothers met each other’s eyes and sighed without end.
The Crown Prince had also come to visit and comforted his brother. He promised to find out who the real culprit was. These words were said with great sincerity, but Yi Guipin just could not believe them. After night gradually fell, the people left, and the room became silent, Yi Guipin gazed at her son hiding under the blankets. Faintly, she said, “If it wasn’t the Crown Prince, who could it be?”
Which of the powers in Jingdou right now would benefit the most from the Third Prince’s death? Unwillingly, Yi Guipin thought of a person’s name but didn’t say it.
Li Chengping watched his mother’s thoughtful expression. His heart jumped. He knew who his mother was suspecting and shook his head firmly. “It wasn’t teacher.”
Yi Guipin had suspected Fan Xian. There were a great number of civil officials in court presently who stood firmly on Fan Xian’s side and were using the so-called posthumous edict and the name of justice to attack the Crown Prince. If the Third Prince had really died in the Royal Palace, no matter what, the Crown Prince would not be able to clear his name. He would be disadvantaged in public opinion. If Fan Xian truly had the confidence to defeat the Crown Prince, what was the point of leaving the Third Prince? Yi Guipin looked at her son and faintly said, “Although he is your teacher, he is not your true cousin.”
“He is my trueborn brother,” the Third Prince said as he bit his lip.
Yi Guipin sighed. “In the royal family, what affection is there between brothers, and teachers and students? Earlier, you didn’t tell the empress dowager and the Crown Prince that the two eunuchs had used an item of trust to trick you to go to the Chen corridor. If it wasn’t your teacher’s people, how could they have those items?”
The item was actually simple. It was from the Peng family’s country estate next to Xi Lake in Hangzhou Jiangnan. It was a page from the Third Prince’s favorite book.
Li Chengping lowered his head. “I won’t suspect teacher. I trust in his abilities. If he truly wanted to kill me and cause the Palace to be in turmoil for longer, he would not use an item of trust. These are all things that can easily go wrong. And, teacher would never make such a mistake.”
Yi Guipin forced a smile and didn’t say anything. Emotionally speaking and based on the current dangerous situation, she wanted to believe in her son’s judgment of Fan Xian. Other than Fan Xian, the mother and son had no one else to rely on.
Yes… But, I wonder when Sir Fan junior will be able to rescue us, Yi Guipin thought to herself. If Fan Xian truly backed the Crown Prince into a corner, the Crown Prince could only brave the risk of offending the world and use bloody methods to subdue the officials’ hearts. At that time, they would probably no chance of survival.
In the front of Hanguang Palace, everyone was silent. The entire Palace was enveloped in a suppressive and tense atmosphere. The Crown Prince and empress sat on either side of the empress dowager and gently massaged her back, The situation of this mother and son was much more relaxed than Yi Guipin and her son. However, they knew that nothing could go wrong with the old woman beneath their hands.
“Aunt,” the empress glanced at the empress dowager and timidly said. “The Third Prince is fortunate and lucky…” She glanced at her again. “To be able to survive in such a situation. Looks like Fan Xian, that traitor, has taught him a great deal.”
The Crown Prince furrowed his brows. He saw the skin at his grandmother’s temple tighten and knew that his mother’s words had foolishly angered the empress dowager. Huffing coldly, he said, “It is good that brother is alive. There is no need to talk about other things for now.”
The empress dowager breathed heavily a few times and forced down the anger in her heart. She patted the back of the Crown Prince’s hand and thought that of all the children and grandchildren in the royal family, probably only the Crown Prince truly understood what she was thinking. Thinking of this, the empress dowager felt that her choice was not wrong. Qing Kingdom needed a person who was as filial as the Crown Prince.
“You can all go out.” The empress dowager coughed. She appeared unusually tired. Waving her hand, all of the eunuchs, serving girls, housemaids, and even the somewhat dissatisfied empress was chased out of the Palace, leaving only herself and the Crown Prince.
The empress dowager turned and looked at the Crown Prince with spiritless eyes. Holding his hand, she faintly said, “I don’t want you brothers to kill each other. That is why I am pushing this body to watch all of this. I appreciate that you can understand all of this.”
The Crown Prince didn’t answer. He only sighed. Maybe he had thought of his brother Fan Xian.
The empress dowager’s gaze immediately became cold and seemed to pierce through to the Crown Prince’s inner heart. “As a monarch, one needs to make a decision when the time comes and be generous when the time comes. As for Fan Xian, he is the wicked culprit that assassinated your father. His surname is Fan, not Li. What is the point of thinking of all of this?”
The Crown Prince lowered his head and accepted the lecture. “I understand, some people cannot be forgiven.”
“It is a pity we have not caught him yet.” The empress dowager slowly closed her eyes. “Where are Shu Wu and the other officials being held?”
“They’re being held in the prison of the Ministry of Justice.” The Crown Prince smiled bitterly. “Presently, they cannot be placed in the Overwatch Council’s prison. However, for some reason, these officials have either been deceived by Fan Xian or are very confused. They refuse to give in.”
The empress dowager laughed coldly. “Deceived? They’re nothing but a group of putrid scholars. Only your father would allow them to be so impudent. Perhaps they had already seen the posthumous edict in Fan Xian’s hands and that is why they dare to be so tough.”
The Crown Prince’s expression changed slightly before immediately becoming calm again. “There is no posthumous edict.”
“Correct.” The empress dowager looked at him in approval. “How do you think we should discipline these wild speaking officials who are threatening the royal family?”
The Crown Prince’s expression changed again. He knew that the empress dowager wanted him to make up his mind. After a long time, he said in a heavy voice, “Those who deserve to die should die.”
“Very good.” The empress dowager’s face gradually became cold. “If you want to do things firmly, don’t be afraid to kill people.”
“However, the people of the Overwatch Council are not listening to royal command and are acting ruthlessly,” the Crown Prince said after some thought. “A number of officials have been assassinated. The people are fearful, and the court is in turmoil. Fan Xian organizes it all while he hides in the darkness. At this time, I can’t think of a way to deal with him.”
“Fan Xian is using blood and heads to intimidate officials to try and cause large-scale turmoil in Jingdou,” the empress dowager looked at her grandson and gently said. “Say what you want to say.”
The Crown Prince was silent for a moment. He then raised his head and said in a firm voice, “I would like to ask you to move the troops into the capital to quell the disturbance!”
Hanguang Palace fell silent once again. After a long time, the empress dowager slowly opened her mouth and said, “Today in Taiji Palace, Yan Hangshu also suggested this. How was it rebutted in the end?”
The Crown Prince laughed bitterly and shook his head. “No one thought that after the all the scholars from the Hall of Governmental Affairs entered the prison that someone would jump out today.”
The person would jumped out in court did not hold a high position, but his identity was special because he was the Left Imperial Censor of the Imperial Censorate, He Zongwei. He had always been on the side of the Eastern Palace and once helped the Eldest Princess chase Prime Minister Lin Ruofu out of Jingdou. He always had an unclear hatred of the Fan manor.
The Crown Prince always thought that he would be one of his staunch officials in court in the future. Unexpectedly, when he was about to give the order to move the army into the capital, he had jumped out in objection.
He Zongwei’s objection was extreme. He took off his official robes, removed his official hat, and led a dozen other Imperial Censors in kneeling in front of Taiji Palace. In a great rage, the Crown Prince had given him 12 strikes with the wooden board and was going to have him thrown out of the Palace. However, this once famous talent of Jingdou, knelt with bloody spots in front of the Palace wall and refused to move a single step.
“Imperial Censor He’s objection makes a great deal of sense,” the empress dowager lowered her eyelids slightly and tiredly said. “I have actually prevented the Qin family from entering the capital and was also worried about this problem. Court precedent strictly prohibits the military from entering the capital to interfere in politics. Once the precedent was broken, I’m afraid it will bring endless troubles in the future.”
The Crown Prince was silent. He knew what the empress dowager was worried about. She still hoped that he would be able to take power peacefully. As he did not have supreme authority in the military like his father, once the military was involved and the Ye and Qin families were powerful, what would the future Qing Kingdom look like?
“The Qin family has been loyal for generations, so there is no need to worry,” the empress dowager said coldly. She had a deep connection to the Qin family. “But the Ye family? Ye Zhong is your second brother’s father-in-law.”
The empress dowager looked at the silent Crown Prince and, after taking a deep breath, opened her mouth to say sinisterly, “However, with Fan Xian… This shadow is acting too wildly. If there is no army to subdue him, Jingdou will never calm down. Even if you kill the dozens of officials in prison, what will it fix? If the situation drags out for a few more days, once the other five Roads of elite troops become restless, the situation will become very worrisome.”
The Crown Prince bowed silently and said, “I need the military to enter the capital. Compared to the troubles in the future, Fan Xian is a dagger placed in front of me.”
He furrowed his brow slightly. “What about He Zongwei’s side? He is, after all, the Left Imperial Censor. He has a group of Imperial Censors below him who are unafraid of death and playing at a deadly remonstration outside the palace walls.”
The Crown Prince’s worries were not without reason. It was not rare to see officials being killed throughout history but killing an Imperial Censor was a great taboo.
Even with the Emperor’s supreme authority in the military, when the Imperial Censors as a group attacked his illegitimate child Fan Xian, he still only doled out a few beatings as a show.
“Someone has to be the wicked one,” the empress dowager stared into the Crown Prince’s eyes and lovingly said. “I’ll send down the edict to punish these people.”
The empress dowager paused and said, “After the army enters the capital, your elder brother’s Command post can be handed over.”
The Crown Prince bowed with sincerity, moved and speechless.
In Guangxin Palace not far from Hanguang Palace, the Eldest Princess, who had formed this plan from the beginning and then watched with cold eyes as countless roles played out on the stage, finally, for the first time, sank into worry. Everything that had happened made her feel that something was strange.
“Why has Fan Xian not been caught yet?” she looked at Eunuch Hou beside her and asked frostily. “The internal court has aces and the Jingdou government has put in great effort. How long do I have to wait before I can see his head?”
She said these words in front of her daughter. To the side, Lin Wan’er listened with a slight smile as if not worried at all about her husband’s safety. A number of days had already passed. Since the Palace had not managed to catch him, then he would never be caught.
After chasing Eunuch Hou out of the Palace, the Eldest Princess’ face immediately changed expression and became calm. It was impossible to tell that she had just been very angry.
She knew that Fan Xian was not that easy to capture. Since this young man could come down alive from Dong Mountain, it proved that he had some ability.
This was a massive plan that involved the entire world. The focus of the Eldest Princess’s thoughts had always been on Dong Mountain and not in Jingdou. From the beginning, she had not thought that Fan Xian would be able to return to Jingdou alive. This alone had intimidated the foundations of her state of mind.
Since Fan Xian was alive, then Yan Xiaoyi had died. Li Yunrui’s lowered her eyelids slightly and restrained the coldness in her eyes. She wondered just what realm Fan Xian’s cultivation had reached to challenge the authority of the Royal Palace through such impudent assassinations in Jingdou.
She suddenly furrowed her brows and looked at the cold Guangxin Palace. “This Palace is giving off a smell of death and ash. I want to go out.”
Lin Wan’er watched her mother quietly and said, “You’re afraid.”
“What is there to be afraid of? That Fan Xian would attack and enter the Palace tonight?” The Eldest Princess gently patted her daughter’s slightly think cheeks. “I understand Fan Xian too well. He will forever be an assassin and mouse that causes little troubles in the night. He never has the courage to carry out open resistance against his enemies because he is more afraid of dying than anyone.”
The Eldest Princess tilted her head slightly and looked at her daughter, “I have been thinking about a question. If I use your life to threaten him, what exactly would he do?”
“I am very curious about the answer to this question.” The Eldest Princess smiled. “I am waiting until Fan Xian can kill his way to me.”
Fan Xian still thought that he knew the empress dowager’s thoughts very well. The grandmother of the old Li family still hoped for a peaceful transfer of power and was unwilling to let the military’s impudent and uncontrollable power to turn the entire Qing Kingdom into a chaotic mess. That was why he was regularly and thoroughly carrying out his plan.
It was clear that he had underestimated the strength of his image as a god of death in the darkness in the hearts of the nobles in the Royal Palace. He had not thought that his assassinations in Jingdou would push the empress dowager and Crown Prince into moving the military into the capital to quell the disturbance.
The next day, the Jingdou Garrison in Yuantai camp would enter the capital to quell the disturbance. If Fan Xian could not control the Royal Palace before then, a wretched end would greet him.
He had not thought that the timing of the Qin family entering the capital would be forcefully delayed by one night with bloody courage by the three surnamed slaves he had a deep and absolute hatred for.
In this case, He Zongwei had given him a great help.
The empress dowager and Crown Prince’s determination had clearly come one day too late.
The heaviness of night was the time for the Imperial Army to switch guard. The Imperial Army controlled the front half of the Palace as well as a number of important streets outside the Royal Palace. As the present situation was very tense, the imperial soldiers coming off duty temporarily stayed in the private residences in these streets, not daring to return to the camp to await orders.
A group of about 200 soldiers wearing full armor walked with unusual composure to the front of the Palace gates. They exchanged defensive formalities and commands with the soldiers on guard.
Given the present situation, the Commander of the Imperial Army, the Great Prince, had already not returned home in three days. He stood on the palace walls and watched the exchange below with cold eyes. After a moment of pause, he slowly walked down.
In a full suit of armor, he stood in the Palace doors like a god blocking all attacks from the outside of the Palace.
He coldly watched this group of soldiers and silently nodded his head a moment later. The personal officer next to him swallowed and nervously went forward to check all the paperwork. He then waved his hands and allowed the clearly unfamiliar imperial soldiers into the Royal Palace.
The Great Prince stood at the Palace door and had the on-duty soldiers split into two lines to march past him. This group of soldiers coming to take over the watch walked without sound and in strict military order.
As the last of this group of soldiers walked through the Palace gates, the Great Prince suddenly gave a sigh. The last person of the nodded slightly at him.
“Commander, what next?” The officer was the Great Prince’s trusted aide, a general that had climbed up through the Western Expedition Army. Such a small matter as exchanging paperwork did not need to be handled by him personally. He knew that in this exchange, he had to handle it himself.
Looking at the soldiers gradually disappearing on top of the thick palace walls, the officer swallowed and forcefully suppressed the fear in his heart. He asked for instructions in a trembling voice.
The Great Prince slowly gripped the sword at his waist tightly. The line of his face that was turned to the wind was particularly hard. “Have everyone wake up for a last minute meeting.”
Once he said this, a thick sense of murder appeared outside his body. Although the Great Prince was not a martial ace, he had spent many years killing on a battlefield. Countless lives had fallen to his sword. Since he had made up his mind, the first thing he had to do was get rid of the restless fellows within the Imperial Army.
The officer knew that the Commander was going to kill people tonight. Yan Xiaoyi’s trusted aides in the Imperial Army were probably going to be all killed. At this moment, he didn’t feel fear. Rather, he felt a boundless excitement. He immediately went to send out the order.
The front wall of the Royal Palace was wide. Four horses could ride abreast. It was completely built by green bricks and naturally gave off a murderous air.
A group of imperial soldiers lined up and watched the square below the Royal Palace. They were strictly on guard, as if preparing to greet an attack from outside the Palace at any moment. One person among this group of soldiers gazed deeply into the Palace.
Fan Xian gently tidied his soldier clothing and looked at the familiar Palace. It was completely dark inside. He didn’t know where his family or enemies were. He knew he had brought 200 people into the Palace. They were going to face the internal soldiers and ace eunuchs of the internal court. No one knew the chance of success for such a risk.
Because he was unable to judge whether the Great Prince would be able to completely control the Imperial Army when the killing began, he could not depend on the power of the Imperial Army.
“Never do what an enemy wants you will do. The reason is simple. They want you to do it.”
Fan Xian spoke to the Deputy Commander of the Black Knights next to him.
“This was said by a person named Napoleon. The door to the Royal Palace is already open, but the door to the rear of the Palace is still closed. They won’t expect us to forcefully attack the Royal Palace with so few people.”
He did not know of the Eldest Princess’s judgment of him. If it had been the Commissioner Fan of old, the immortal poet, he would indeed not have chosen such a direct and courageous attack.
However, Fan Xian had changed from the moment he had risen in the meadow.