Joy of Life - Chapter 672 - I Want That Old Dog To Live[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:50:36]
Chapter 672: I Want That Old Dog To Live
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The cheeky spots of light ran down slightly from the bright tiles of Taiji Palace. They slipped through the heavy wooden doors of the back palace, ran into Hanguang Palace, wormed into Shufang Palace, made a few loops around the scarred tree, and, in the end, ducked into the long empty Guangxin Palace. The palace was still caught in the slightly dry autumn wind and endlessly emanating a faint sense of coldness. The white curtains had long become shreds of silk. There were plums but no people. When the splendid withered away, there was still loneliness.
Compared to the quiet rear, the area around the front hall was not aligned with the calm atmosphere inside the palace. Particularly inside the Royal Palace, in the room deep behind the palace’s red walls, there was a harsh and heavy atmosphere. A few firm and icy-eyed generals stood guard outside the room, not knowing what was being discussed inside.
“It is uncertain when the Great Prince will be able to return,” Gong Dian said distastefully. He was the retuning Commander of the Imperial Army and responsible for the safety of the entire Royal Palace.
In this world, there were not many people who could have Gong Dian stand properly beside them. The person by the desk right now was one of them. The Head of the Bureau of Military Affairs had achieved great merit during the Jingdou Rebellion. Presently, he was Commander Ye, to whom the Emperor had given command of all the troops under heaven. He stroked a teacup with one hand as his eyes focused slightly. For a long time, he didn’t speak.
“Brother?” Perhaps Gong Dian could not endure such silence. He eventually couldn’t help but prod him a little.
“Yes.” Ye Zhong replied, seemingly wake from a deep thought. “Director Fan will be returning to the capital soon. The Great Prince probably will not return until the beginning of spring.”
He glanced at Gong Dian. A complicated gaze flashed through his eyes. After a moment, he said in a low voice, “What exactly do you want to ask? Even if the Great Prince returned, he would presumably be immediately sent to Yanjing by the Emperor to prepare for the Northern expedition. What exactly do you want to ask?”
Gong Dian was silent. Both he and Ye Zhong were the Emperor’s most trusted confidants. The entire Royal Palace seemed peaceful, but there was a hidden murderous intent that he was unaccustomed to. He faintly guessed that this murderous aura had something to do with the major figure that just left Jingdou not long ago. Otherwise, Ye Zhong would not be waiting all day in the Royal Palace instead of overseeing affairs in the Bureau of Military Affairs.
“What are you waiting for?” Gong Dian asked, looking at Ye Zhong.
“I am waiting for the Emperor’s order.” After Ye Zhong said this, he thought of the Emperor making up his mind. A sliver of worry and unease rose involuntarily to his eyes. Given Ye Zhong’s status, power, and strength, there were few things that could make him feel such emotions. He slowly closed his eyes, not wanting Gong Dian to see it.
Gong Dian had already seen it and knew that he had finally guessed right. It seemed peaceful around the Royal Palace. In reality, hidden currents were surging. The entire Imperial Army’s defense levels had been raised to the highest alert. Gong Dian had only received orders from the internal court and had no idea what the Emperor, deep in the palace, was defending against. In the morning, the Imperial Army had received a message from the Commander of Defense of the Jingdou Garrison. Only now did he know that Shi Fei had led 15,000 Jingdou Garrison soldiers in a massive formation toward the south of Jingdou. It seemed they were practicing, but it also seemed they were preparing for a major battle.
The Bureau of Military Affairs began to move. The internal court also began to move. Within the streets and alleys of Jingdou, various factions began to prepare.
Only the Qing Emperor could move so many troops and form such a large formation within a day. Presently, there was only one person who was worth it for the Emperor to confront so carefully and had the power to make the Emperor focus so much of his attention.
There was only one person that could make the Head of the Bureau of Military Affairs, Ye Zhong, feel involuntarily uneasy and worried as he waited for the Emperor’s final order.
All kinds of situations combined together. Gong Dian finally confirmed that the Emperor was going to act against Director Chen.
“Why?” Gong Dian’s throat felt dry. He sat down beside Ye Zhong and drank a cup of cold tea. He was still unable to extinguish the burning fear in his heart.
The Imperial Army guarded the Palace. The mobilization of the Jingdou Garrison and the Bureau of Military Affairs was, without question, an action targeting the Overwatch Council in Jingdou. Regardless of whether it was the Emperor, Commandery Ye Zhong, or Gong Dian, once they thought of the fact that the person they were facing was Chen Pingping, none of them was filled with confidence. Only people in the highest echelon of the Qing Kingdom knew what kind of power Chen Pingping, that withered old cripple, held in his hands. Although he was no longer the Director of the Overwatch Council, he had been a king in the darkness for decades. Once he was caught in danger, no one knew what kind of power he could call on.
What made Gong Dian feel the most afraid and uneasy, and even faintly angry at the Emperor, was the fact that he couldn’t find any excuse or reason for the court to move against Director Chen.
Was it only because his achievements threatened the ruler? That didn’t make any sense. If it was so, the Emperor would have wanted to kill him 20 years ago. Did Chen Pingping have treasonous thoughts? Everyone in the world knew that Director Chen was the most loyal subject by the Emperor’s side. If it were not for him, the Emperor would have died countless times in the past.
Why? This was the explanation Gong Dian needed the most. He was beginning to think the Emperor was overly muddleheaded. Regardless of what the world thought of the Overwatch Council or of Chen Pingping, the Overwatch Council originated as the Emperor’s Special Forces organization. Chen Pingping had always been the Emperor’s loyal dog. How could the Emperor risk the danger of the court falling into chaos to do such an illogical thing? If this wasn’t being muddleheaded, then what was?
Ye Zhong sat by the little table and was silent for a long time. He knew what Gong Dian was worried about. Even though he held countless troops and soldiers in his hand, the person they faced now was Chen Pingping, the entire Overwatch Council, so he still felt a shakiness and fear in the depths of his heart.
Chen Pingping’s reputation was too magnificent. The thoughts in that mind were not things common officials were able to understand. Decades of history had long proven that anyone who wanted to use sinister plots to defeat Chen Pingping would eventually meet a tragic end.
Xiao En, at the height of his greatness, had been one of those people. Rebellions like that of the Eldest Princess and old Qin family turned into even greater jokes under Director Chen and the Emperor’s alliance.
Ye Zhong took a deep breath. There was a sliver of unswerving determination on his square and dark face. “What you need to do is to protect the safety of the Palace. What I need to do is steady the troops of the Qing Kingdom. As for those other things, there will naturally be someone to do them.”
“You will have to attack. Otherwise, the Emperor wouldn’t have summoned you here.” Gong Dian glanced with worry and unease at his elder brother disciple. Chen Pingping had been able to plant a 20-year-long spy in the old Qin family. No one knew if there were Chen Pingping’s people in the present Ye family or even the most dependable Dingzhou Army.
“The Emperor… is muddled-headed.” Gong Dian thought if the Emperor truly broke with old Director Chen, no matter the result, the entire Qing court would suffer irreversible damage because of the instability.
“The Overwatch Council may not…” Ye Zhong closed his eyes tightly and faintly said, “The Emperor must have his own way of controlling the Overwatch Council.”
Gong Dian shook his head. Although he thought the Emperor was the most powerful person in the world and the most worthy of loyalty and worship, Chen Pingping was the most powerful person hidden in the darkness. The Overwatch Council would not be so easy to control. Furthermore, he immediately thought of another terrifying matter.
“If the old Director was really brought back to Jingdou,” Gong Dian said through gritted teeth as he stared into Ye Zhong’s eyes, “what would Sir Fan junior do? The Emperor is muddleheaded!”
This was the third time he had said that the Emperor was muddle-headed. As a loyal subject, Gong Dian’s reaction was indeed rather intense. However, it was not his fault. Any person who knew what was actually happening in court would all feel a chill in their hearts. If the mission this time was actually targeting Chen Pingping, then it was also targeting the Overwatch Council.
“Fan Xian?” Ye Zhong suddenly opened his eyes. “He probably just left Dongyi. Once everything is done, what can he changed? Even though Chen Pingping passed on his position to him, in the end, this is what the Emperor wants. As his son, is Fan Xian going to have ideas of revenge against his father for his old superior?”
Gong Dian thought about it carefully and slowly nodded this head. These two major military figures only thought Fan Xian was able to take over the Overwatch Council because of the Emperor. Chen Pingping had done nothing more than pass on his experience. They had completely blindsided Fan Xian’s affection toward Chen Pingping, as well as the story many years ago that this matter involved.
“She Fei has already taken the Jingdou Garrison south,” Ye Zhong said slowly. “I just hope the ripples this matter causes are as small as possible.”
“Impossible.” Gong Dian very straightforwardly shattered Commander Ye’s illusions. They were subjects of the Qing Kingdom. They all wished the situation at hand was good and that the Qing Kingdom would be able to maintain its stability and harmony and be able to walk with steady and powerful steps toward the brightest and most glorious day. However, everyone knew that the battle between the Emperor and Chen Pingping would certainly create a huge chasm in the nation.
“I have no idea what the Emperor is thinking,” Ye Zhong said slowly with an ashen expression. “I only know that since the Emperor is moving against Director Chen, the Director must have done something.”
Gong Dian shook his head and said, “I don’t agree.”
If the Emperor of the Qing Kingdom was like a god of the sunlight—eminent, unapproachable, dazzling, and a gentlemen of the world—then Chen Pingping, who had controlled the Overwatch Council for decades, was like a king in the darkness, always carefully hiding behind the Emperor’s brilliance, doing the things the Emperor could not do, and helping the Qing Kingdom operate some playthings in the darkness.
For decades, the Qing court had been caught in a battle between the system of civil officials and the Overwatch Council. Regardless of whether it was the powerful Prime Minister Lin Ruofu or the later Hall of Governmental Affairs and Imperial Censorate, no one had been able to shake Chen Pingping’s position in court or reduce the Emperor’s favor and trust toward him.
The officials had long grown used to this and given up hope. They had thought the Emperor and Chen Pingping were an oddity among rulers and subjects. Perhaps until they grew old and died, they would remain intertwined like the dark and the light, ruler and subject in mutual trust. They were a match made in heaven.
That was why Gong Dian was scared and Ye Zhong was worried. They didn’t want to think about what terrifying power would come out when the light and darkness clashed. That kind of power probably could not be resolved by military pressure.
Knowing insider information and rushing toward the southeast of Jingdou, Shi Fei had the heaviest emotions. Like Gong Dian, he could not understand why the Emperor was turning against old Director Chen. The old Director had already resigned all of his posts and wanted to retire. Why was the Emperor turning against him now? Most importantly, why was it him?
Even though he rode through warm autumn winds, when he thought about facing Chen Pingping, he couldn’t help but shiver coldly. He would rather face the savage Western Hu who killed like it was nothing or the Northern Qi military genius Shang Shanhu than meet the old cripple, who only had a few hundred people by his side and dozens of female servants.
He led 4,000 elite troops and had long arrived at a mountain not far from Dazhou. Nervously and helplessly, he waited for the moment to arrive. Fortunately, the Emperor had still not made his order explicit. He didn’t have to send out troops yet. He hoped he would never have to send out troops. He was waiting for the Emperor to change his mind and to protect his own life.
Bring Director Chen back to the capital. From the moment Commander Shi Fei left the city, he was already aware that he was giving his life in exchange.
He rode on the horse and gazed back toward Jingdou with his eyes narrowed. He prayed with his eyes that the Emperor’s final edict would never arrive.
Eunuch Yao stood silently in the royal study. His trembling words earlier had only been something he should say as a slave. Like all of the other commanders and officials in the Qing Kingdom, he also didn’t want to see the Emperor turn against Director Chen.
After inheriting the position of head eunuch of the Qing internal court from Hong Siyang, Eunuch Yao was privy to a lot of inside information and thought he knew why the Emperor suddenly had such a strong urge to kill Director Chen. Thus, he stood nervously and uneasily to the side, not daring to say anything.
The Emperor was thinking. Earlier, an involuntary sliver of confusion flashed through his eyes. For an Emperor such as him, such confusion was an expression that had not appeared in him for many years. Perhaps only Chen Pingping could make him feel such an emotion.
A few thin files were on the table in front of him. One was the internal court’s investigation into the strange assassination attempt the Third Price was met with during the Jingdou rebellion. Another was a secret investigation into the Hanging Temple incident, particularly as it related to the conflict between the true head of the Overwatch Council Sixth Bureau, the Shadow, and Sigu Jian in Dongyi’s manor of the Master of the City this spring. The third was about Fan Xian secretly sending the heavily injured Shadow to Jiangnan. The fourth was about the valley attack on Fan Xian all those years ago, the strange situation of the Overwatch Council at the time, as well as the process of the how the two city guarding crossbows had been transported out of the second workshop of the palace treasury.
The fourth investigative file was particularly thick, but its records were also the most unclear. The internal court had secretly investigated three years. Faced with the Overwatch Council and Chen Pingping’s intentional subterfuge, the Qing Emperor had only found a sliver and no true evidence. This file talked about the Huichun Hall fire in Jingdou and rebellion of someone in the Third Bureau of the Overwatch Council. The matter pointed inside the palace, at the Crown Prince, the Eldest Princess, and that stormy night.
Then there was the fifth file, sixth file…
“The Third Prince, the Second Prince, Chengqian, Yunrui…” The Emperor’s face was slightly white. He picked up a thin file, put it to one side, and said a name. Throwing aside four files, he said four names.
In the end, he picked up a few files. His fingers tightened slightly. He then gently put them to the side. With a sigh, he said, “This is An Zhi.”
The Emperor slowly raised his head. The confusion in his eyes had long disappeared. There was only a faint sense of sorrow and a self-mocking and cold smile. “My most loyal subject had once tried to kill all of my sons. Perhaps it was better to say that he forced me to kill these sons.”
He furrowed his brows. “What surprises me the most is that this old dog didn’t even let An Zhi go. If An Zhi had not been so lucky, he would probably have long died to his hands.”
The Qing Emperor slowly shook his head and took a deep breath. An icy light shone slightly from his eyes. He faintly said, “Bring that old dog back. I want to ask him what this is all about.”
Eunuch Yao didn’t speak. He bowed deeply and headed out of the royal study. His legs were about to collapse because he knew the Emperor’s moods better than anyone. The Emperor’s last slow words were already filled with too much unstoppable murderous intent.
Before he left the royal study, the Emperor suddenly said coldly, “Send word to Yan Bingyun. Just say that I am watching him. Then, send a message to Shi Fei. I want him alive.”
The Emperor’s face remained cold. “If that old dog dies, he doesn’t need to come back alive either!”
“Bring that old dog back alive. I want to ask him what this is all about!” The Emperor once again repeated his order. He slammed his palm against the table. In his rage, the table dissolved into countless shards like fine powder, flying through the air and filling the room.