Joy of Life - Chapter 647 - Chaos In Spring Garden[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:50:27]
Chapter 647: Chaos In Spring Garden
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
“Three years ago, all of Jingdou was trying to kill me. If not for the help of the Sun family, I would have been hard-pressed to have survived, much less been able to ship the Black Knights into the capital.”
The atmosphere in the royal study was tense. Fan Xian lowered his head slightly and looked at the Emperor sitting in front of him on the low couch. With a heavy expression, he said, “From this perspective, the Sun family can be considered my saviors and Sun Jingxiu a deserving official who quelled the chaos.”
“Quelled the chaos?” The Emperor did not raise his head. The dusky lantern light shone on his tightly bound hair. Strands of white hair could be seen reflecting the light. He coldly continued Fan Xian’s words. “If I remember correctly, that was the effort of the young lady of the Sun family. What does it have to do with his father?”
“The young lady is her father’s child.” Fan Xian raised his head and gazed at the Emperor stubbornly and calmly.
The Emperor put down the file in his hand and also raised his head. Looking calmly at this son, he was silent for a long time. It was as if he was trying to see the true thoughts deep in his son’s heart. A moment later, he said, “You came into the Palace today to say this?”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
The Emperor once again fell silent. After a long silence he asked, “Why?”
“I am someone who will always return a favor and avenge a grudge.” The reason Fan Xian gave was simple. “Young lady Sun did me a great favor.”
“If it’s because you want to return a favor…” the Emperor said mockingly, “I will give Sun Pin’er to you in marriage. Sun Jingxiu would be honored. Why bother fighting for his position?”
Fan Xian did not smile in embarrassment. His face was incomparably calm, although his heart tightened slightly. Gritting his teeth, his voice squeezed through the gaps in his teeth as he said, “Because, Your Majesty promised me three years ago.”
The Emperor sank into a deep silence. Three years ago, Fan Xian had asked him for compensation for his deed. Among them included the Sun Jingxiu matter. He slowly said, “What stays forever the same in this world? Particularly officials, they are the foundation of a kingdom. How could they remain forever unchanged because of one word? Following what you said, if I promise you something and that person takes bribes and bends the law in the future, will I still have to adhere to my promise to you and leave him as is?”
Fan Xian’s words earlier carried a trace of pique and an unfitting fierceness. The Emperor had been greatly angered by this sense of using achievements to coerce rewards. Immediately after, he calmed. Perhaps the Emperor liked Fan Xian’s nature of putting everything on the table to argue.
“Sun Jingxiu is a capable official.” Fan Xian refused to budge even one step. Looking at the Emperor’s face, he said, “If he takes bribes and bends the law, I would be the first to take him down and give him death by a thousand cuts.”
A strange light flashed through the Emperor’s eyes. He had not expected Fan Xian to care so much about the matter. Faintly, he thought he had probably been too rushed in weakening his power and had hurt this young man’s heart.
The matter of Dongyi was still being dealt with. The court had not truly compensated him for his achievement. Instead, it had hurriedly arranged for a political opponent for him in court. No wonder An Zhi was unhappy and forcefully pushed back. The Emperor smiled slightly, thinking he understood Fan Xian’s thoughts. He shook his head and did not say anything further.
“A routine check of achievements must be done,” the Emperor said evenly with his head down. “Since you want to repay Sun Jingxiu’s favor to you, I will not force you to be a disloyal person. If he is not suitable to continue in the position, I will have to change him out.” The Emperor raised his head seemingly in warning as well as in reminder. “Even if you are the Director of the Overwatch Council, you cannot interfere too much with matters of the court. The scholars of the Hall of Governmental Affairs toil with the matters of state. Don’t interfere too much.”
Fan Xian did not say anything more. He lowered himself in a bow and left the royal study. In the final exchange, the Emperor had expressed himself clearly. He would not personally interfere in the matter, but He Zongwei would still act against Sun Jingxiu. He also reminded Fan Xian to not do anything to He Zongwei in private. Otherwise, the Emperor would get angry.
After Fan Xian left, the Emperor glanced impatiently at the files on his table. A faint irritation rose in his heart. He pushed the files off his table with one hand. He sat alone in the royal study, thinking.
Everything is great about An Zhi, it’s just that his personality is too direct and stubborn.
As the Emperor thought this, he called Eunuch Yao in and asked him about what happened in Jingdou. His expression gradually calmed. Hearing about what happened at the birthday banquet in Sun manor, the Emperor was silent for a long time. He understood now why Fan Xian had jumped up like an old cat whose tail got stood on. An official who had just performed a great deed was about to have his power weakened and dignity swept aside. Anyone would have felt angry about this.
Perhaps this matter has been a bit rushed, the Emperor thought. But, he didn’t want to admit to his mistake. To Eunuch Yao, he coldly said, “Tell He Zongwei that he can do as he likes. As for An Zhi, you don’t need to mind him for now.”
The Emperor did not know that Fan Xian’s anger was mostly feigned. He was only using his anger and unhappiness to force the Emperor to be moved and unwilling to take unfair advantage of him so that he could keep the power in his hands longer.
Eunuch Yao made a sound of acknowledgment with great respect. Immediately after, he lowered his voice and said, “That matter has already been investigated to the end.”
The Emperor hummed. A cold light flashed through his eyes. “Speak.”
“The shipment order from the second workshop. The order for the city guarding crossbows to leave the north of Min have both been obtained. In the end, after the transfer order from the Bureau of Military Affairs, it pointed toward the Qin family. Nothing could be seen beyond that.”
Eunuch Yao spoke in a slightly trembling voice. For the last year, the inner court had been secretly investigating the attack in the valley. The Emperor still had not let go of the points of suspicion and wholeheartedly wanted to capture that person to console Sir Fan junior.
Even the Qin family, the disciples of the military founders, were unable to extend their reach into the palace treasury and leave behind no clues afterward. In the entire Qing Kingdom, other than the Emperor himself, there were only the people of the Overwatch Council.
The Emperor’s emotions were complicated. He was a vengeful and sensitive person. There were great expectations for the future. Although there were small problems within the court, there was nothing that could threaten the foundation of the Li family’s governance.
Thus, the attack on the valley had become a thorn in his heart. Not only because someone almost killed his son but more so because he realized that person had faintly left his control.
Like the present Fan Xian, it seemed that he was also going to leave his control. As for Fan Xian, he could tolerate him for now because he was his son, his most favored son, as well as a son that had performed a great deed for the Qing Kingdom. But, that person?
That person had done even more for the Qing Kingdom. Furthermore, the Emperor could not understand the reason within. He sat down tiredly on the low couch as if not wanting to continue thinking about the matter. After a long silence, he said, “The investigation in the valley matter stops here. In any case, he’s almost dead.”
“Has the person behind the two eunuchs been found?”
Eunuch Yao’s temples throbbed with pain. He shook his head with fear. He knew which two eunuchs the Emperor was talking about. This was another mystery in the fog of the Qing Kingdom. At that time, under the Emperor’s orders, the entire Qing royal family was walking along the path of having the Crown Prince ascend to the throne. The Second Prince had also temporarily maintained a peace with the Crown Prince. At that moment, two eunuchs had jumped out in the Palace and tried to assassinate the Third Prince, Li Chengping.
Who was behind it? Under the circumstances at the time, the life and death of the Third Prince had no impact on the ascension of the Crown Prince. On the contrary, if the Third Prince died tragically in the Palace, it would have been a difficult-to-endure seam on the reputations of the Crown Prince and Second Prince.
After the fact, Fan Xian had investigated thoroughly. Neither the Crown Prince nor the Second Prince admitted to it. The Eldest Princess did not even talk about such trivial things before her death. Fan Xian couldn’t continue investigating. He could only believe that, at the time, the situation changed too fast. Some unknown conflict had exploded and landed the Third Prince in danger.
The Emperor did not think this. He never let go of even the tiniest of details, which was why he was able to build the greatest empire.
Fan Xian walked out of the Palace in the dark. He did not look at the eunuchs and serving girls who greeted him humbly. Shaking out his sleeves, he left with his face dark.
When it came to treating servants, Fan Xian was the greatest oddity in the Qing Kingdom. Putting aside the servants and serving girls in the Fan manor, even the eunuchs and serving girls in the Palace, he was always soft spoken. Not only was he generous, he was also different in attitude. It was as if he never thought that these abnormal people were deserving of loathing.
It was because of this that everyone in the Royal Palace felt a respect and love for him from the depths of their hearts. Even Eunuch Hou, who had died under the arrows of the Sixth Bureau—although he was someone that the Eldest Princess had secretly planted—endlessly admired Fan Xian.
Fan Xian’s abnormal behavior was noticed by many people. His present actions were different to how he usually acted. The eunuchs and serving girls all noticed it. They all guessed that the Duke probably had another argument with the Emperor in the royal study.
Walking through the dark, gloomy, and long tunnel of the palace gates, Fan Xian stood on the square outside the Royal Palace. He didn’t turn his head back to look at the palace gates. Instead, he opened his arms wide and let out a loud cry. It was like he was venting all of the pressure in his chest through the yell.
This voice echoed throughout the quiet and empty square. It crashed into the red walls of the Royal Palace and turned back. It spiraled for a long time without stopping.
The guards inside the palace gates, Imperial soldiers outside the palace gates, eunuch who was about to lock the gates, were startled by this yell. Everyone’s gazes turned toward him.
If it had been anyone else who had yelled like that at the palace gate, the Imperial soldiers would probably have run forward long ago, beat him up, and escorted him to the prison with the crime of disturbing the peace of the palace. He would then await beheading in the autumn. With Fan Xian’s wild yell, no one moved. There wasn’t even a verbal reminder.
Even if a person went crazy, if he was Fan Xian, then everyone could only romanticize it as the wildness of a poet and look past it.
The person standing guard outside the palace gate was the Commander of the Imperial Army, Gong Dian. He was the first major official Fan Xian had seen after entering the capital. The two of them could be considered to be on good terms. Hearing this yell, Gong Dian ran out of the guard room and hurried over. Dragging him back, he said, “What crazy nonsense are you doing?”
Fan Xian tidied the sleeve on his arm and said with a cold smile, “I really feel like I’m going crazy.”
Although he said this, the expression on his face was already much calmer. He had some anger to vent earlier. Having endured in this world to now, Fan Xian did not need to hide anything in front of anyone and did not have to do anything against his nature except in front of the Emperor. Acting in front of the Emperor created pressure and was complicated.
When he saw the Emperor’s skinny and tired face, for some reason, Fan Xian thought of the picture in the little tower and story from many years ago. A wave of blood and fire surged into Fan Xian’s eyes. He could barely endure the sense of being torn apart.
Even the yell outside the palace gate was an act Fan Xian was putting on. He knew the yell would be reported to the ear of the Emperor in the royal study before long. He had to play the part of a real person, an anger-filled and slightly aggrieved illegitimate son. It was tiring. He didn’t want to keep acting.
“Come drink with me.” He stared at Gong Dian like a refugee staring at a piece of streaky pork. “I’ll seal up Baoyue Brothel and call 60 girls to come keep you company.”
“You’ve really gone crazy.” Gong Dian’s eyes were bright and full of expression. He stared back at him with a hand on his forehead.
There was a manor by Xinhuai Alley. The residence was not very big. Its eaves were not very lavish. Its location was also not very good. Compared to the other private residences around, it was not that different. The manor used to be the home of an old Imperial Censor of the previous court. After the old Imperial Censor retired and returned home, the residence became empty. It was left to some old colleagues to manage. He thought it would be convenient for when his future children came to Jingdou to advance their careers, so he had no intention of selling.
Three years ago, this manor had been sold. From them on, the quiet Xinhuai Alley became lively. Periodically, officials would come to visit. When it was New Year, the flow of people was like a dragon. It was extraordinarily lively.
Following the rise of the new owner of the Imperial Censor’s manor, fewer and fewer officials came to visit. The new owner’s reputation for honesty gradually spread out. No one wanted to come in contact with his unluckiness.
The Imperial Censor of the left and an auditing scholar of the Hall of Governmental Affairs, He Zongwei, was the new owner of the manor.
All of his colleagues had admonished him. Even the Emperor had reminded him that most of the officials lived in the south of the city while He Zongwei still lived in the old Imperial Censor’s manor in Xinhuai Alley. It was inconvenient and not compatible with the status and dignity of a court official.
He the Scholar—who stood aloof from worldly success and was deeply respected by officialdom, greatly liked by the Emperor, and admired by his colleagues—was very firm on the matter. For three years, he had rejected the Emperor’s edict to gift him a manor and lead his few servants, widowed step-mother, and a few distant brothers in living in the old Imperial Censor’s manor.
He Zongwei pushed open the door and walked into the neglected courtyard of the Imperial Censor’s manor. He looked at the wild spring scenery filling the garden and green leaves lying everywhere. He couldn’t help but shake his head self-mockingly.
He had remained in the old Imperial Censor’s manor because he had affection for it. This place represented many important things in his life. The first time He Zongwei had truly stepped on the stage of the Qing Kingdom was when the former Prime Minister Lin Ruofu retired in the fifth year of the Qing calendar.
He Zongwei “happened” to meet the wife of the Prime Minister’s strategist. To fight for justice, he submitted an imperial accusation to the Imperial Censorate and then “happened” to meet the killer of the Prime Minister’s manor. Then, he “happened” to meet the Second Prince and Li Hongcheng. Under a series of coincidental meetings, he just happened to follow the change in the picture of the court of the Qing Kingdom at the time and forcibly toppled the Prime Minister Lin Ruofu.
He Zongwei, who had missed the spring examinations because of filial duties, was still a commoner. In the eyes of the public, he overthrew a corrupt official with the strength of a brute. At that moment, his reputation began to glow brightly. In the hearts of scholars, no one saw him just as a Jingdou talent on par with Hou Jichang. They saw him as an incredible figure with powerful ambitions and a firm nature.
It was also because of the fall of Prime Minister Lin that He Zongwei saw the Emperor for the first time. From that day on, he was deeply subdued by the Emperor’s aura. It was also that day that the Emperor looked favorably on the young scholar. With an edict, he ordered him into the Imperial Censorate and made him an Imperial Censor.
After a few years, He Zongwei spun around between each faction. He finally succeeded and became the youngest person in Qing history to be a scholar of the Hall of Governmental Affairs. His popularity was at its height. No one could compare for a time. Of course, that was because no one compared him to that person. Even though he was He the Scholar, in the hearts of the millions of Qing people, that person was forever the only person up high.
That person was a dark shadow in He Zongwei’s heart. The shadow floated above his head and covered the boundless light in his life. It left behind only a cold darkness. That shadow was Fan Xian.
When He Zongwei received the unanimous praise of the scholars for the matter of Prime Minister Lin, Fan Xian had already exposed the fraud case of the spring examination and caused 15 officials of the court, including the Minister of the Board of Rites, to become dead people. Furthermore, there was the night of poetry in front of the hall.
When He Zongwei was just a common Imperial Censor in the Imperial Censorate, Fan Xian was already the Commissioner of the Overwatch Council and had forced the Emperor to beat Imperial Censors in court. Those Imperial Censors had all been He Zongwei’s predecessors and superiors.
When He Zongwei welcomed the most glorious moment of his life, Fan Xian still looked at him with disdain. He held the Overwatch Council with one hand and the palace treasury with the other. Now, he had grasped Dongyi, a massive territory, for the Qing Kingdom.
He was a talent while the other was an immortal poet. He was a scholar while the other was the Duke of Danbo. Most importantly, he was the hardworking child of a poor family while the other was the Emperor’s illegitimate son.
No matter when, no matter where, Fan Xian pressed down on him relentlessly to the point he could barely breathe. He Zongwei looked at the spring garden in front of him and at the unpruned grass and branches growing wildly and sank into a deep silence. He knew that no matter how hard he worked, he would never be able to surpass Fan Xian in his life.
He Zongwei slowly closed his eyes and sighed helplessly. He was confident in his ability and willpower. He didn’t think he was any worse than Fan Xian. But, fate had long determined this. What could he do?
Rumors said that Sir Yan junior of the Overwatch Council kept a few ruthless dogs at home, so no officials visited. Rumors said that he kept countless guards in his home. If someone shamelessly brought gifts, they would be thrown out of the manor. He Zongwei couldn’t afford to keep dogs or people, but he could afford the role of a strict official.
In order to maintain his image of being fair and honest, He Zongwei paid a great price. Furthermore, he couldn’t be as unreasonable as those two in the Overwatch Council. He had to reject bribes but also not make the other party feel uncomfortable, Thus He Zongwei was also very tired. At least, he thought he had it much more difficult than Fan Xian.
The salary of a court official was not much. It was only one third that of a same-ranked official in the Overwatch Council. Additionally, He Zongwei built his reputation on being honest, so it was difficult to maintain the spending in his manor. Although the Emperor knew his family was poor and had previously had the inner court award him a fair amount of money and items, in the end, living in Jingdou was too expensive. He Zongwei was not the most worried about Sun Jingxiu of the Jingdou government. It was whether or not he should spend money to repair the garden.
He Zongwei laughed bitterly and thought that no one knew how much he had sacrificed for his glory. He was not like Fan Xian with a large palace treasury to keep him and supported by a bookstore and brothel.
Strangely, the harder his life was, the calmer He Zongwei’s expression was. And, the happier he was in his heart. It was as if only the pain of torment could make him truly aware of the meaning of his existence.
He wanted to do great things for the court. He wanted to become a truly famous official.
He Zongwei’s eyes grew brighter and brighter, he didn’t say a single word as he looked at the messy spring garden in the night. He was thinking that Fan Xian had gone to the Sun manor. When discussing matters in the Hall of Governmental Affairs, how should he conduct himself? Earlier, a eunuch from the palace brought a verbal order from the Emperor which settled his heart slightly, but it also made it gloomier.
“I must find another way.” He Zongwei lowered his head in the night wind. Under Fan Xian’s suppression, he had to ensure that he would be able to survive after the Emperor’s death. Thus, before the Emperor died, he had to make Fan Xian die.