Joy of Life - Chapter 679 - Investigating Heaven And Earth Without Retreat[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:50:39]
Chapter 679: Investigating Heaven And Earth Without Retreat
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
It was only two words. After they were spat out from between the Emperor’s thin and heartless lips, it was as if he had laid layer after layer of icy atmosphere on the study. A boundless chill appeared. It froze all of the clear glass windows, redwood tables, and green potted plants in a frost that was invisible to the naked eye. It grew on these objects and spread out until it enveloped the entire Royal Palace, making the cold become icy. The chill even pierced the heavens and shot toward the gray ball of cloud far away in the east.
The cloud was like a startled animal. Startled by the chill, its entire body shrunk and shivered with cold. Its color darkened. It unwillingly squeezed out the wetness hidden deep within the cloud.
The wetness was water that coalesced into rain, slowly falling from the sky. In the gray and heavy Jingdou and Royal Palace, everyone who was already awake narrowed their eyes and gazed at the cloud in the sky. Only now did they know that the first rain of autumn was about to fall and the days were about to turn cold.
The chill on the Emperor’s body did not press down on the world without any gaps. The color of his thin lips was not pretty, but there was still some leeway in his heart. Chen Pingping sat in the wheelchair and calmly watched the master he had served for decades and quietly waited for his next words.
If the Qing Emperor had never felt a sliver of remorse for what happened that year, if there wasn’t a glimmer of remorse in the depths of his heart and he was heartless to such an extent, then he was the most flawless person in the world. No matter who stood before this Emperor, they would involuntarily feel a sense of subjugation and defeat. They would not look at him coldly like Chen Pingping did.
The corners of Chen Pingping’s eyes twitched. If the Emperor was really this cold-hearted, then why bother saying those two words? Although they were the most chilling words, they were still words.
The Emperor could not accept that in Chen Pingping’s heart, he could not compare to Ye Qingmei, which was why he was angry.
“For you, Your Majesty, Ye Qingmei still cannot be a passerby…” Chen Pingping sighed faintly. His eyes swept past the Emperor’s shoulder to gaze at the back wall of the royal study. It was as if he wanted to see through the wall all the way to some picture far away.
The Emperor smiled. It was very light, cold, self-mocking, pained, and complicated. He was silent for a long time before he said, “I don’t want to bring up the past.”
“Why not bring it up?” Chen Pingping narrowed his eyes at him. “Is it because you feel that she was too dazzling, to the point she completely overshadowed your pride, so you always felt uncomfortable in your heart?”
The Emperor smiled and did not explain anything. He only said, “Xiao Yezi was never one who liked to show her face in public.”
“So, you know that.” Chen Pingping gave a rattling laugh. A sliver of growing hatred grew in his raspy voice. “What exactly could you not tolerate?”
“Was it I who could not tolerate or the world who could not tolerate?” The Emperor slowly raised his head and looked straight into Chen Pingping’s eyes coldly and solemnly. “Perhaps you people have never considered this question.”
The cold voice came to a rattling stop. It was clear the Qing Emperor did not want to talk about anything that happened back then. Even faced with his friend that had accompanied him for decades and under the present circumstances, he still valiantly preserved that patch of darkness in his heart and was not willing to touch it.
However, Chen Pingping had returned to the capital today to die so that he could tear aside the screen in this middle-aged, seemingly invincible, man’s heart and reveal the possible wound. Only with this could he weaken him.
Chen Pingping stared into the Qing Emperor’s eyes and said, “Was it the empress dowager’s great unhappiness, the backlash from the nobles, or your own pride that made you make such a cold-blooded and heartless decision?”
The Emperor’s face was indifferent. He did not answer the question, but his eyes gradually grew black and distance. Icily, he changed the subject. “What made you make such a treasonous decision? You are a eunuch, do you also like women?”
“Eunuchs…” Chen Pingping slowly lowered his eyelids. “As I said earlier, whoever is good to me, I’ll be good to them. I always remembered her kindness toward me. She died sorrowfully and, presumably, with confusion. I have waited all these decades to ask you on her behalf.”
“Have I not been good to you?” the Qing Emperor’s gaze gently moved across Chen Pingping’s old face. Faintly, he said, “I gave you incomparably glory. I gave you a position that no common official would ever have. I gave you… trust. Yet you, for the sake of a woman who died 20 years ago has come to question me?”
Chen Pingping gazed at the Emperor with a not-quite-there smile and suddenly said, “She was good to me like a friend. You are good to me like a servant. Can it be the same?”
The Emperor waved his hand tiredly. He didn’t want to talk about these things that had no answers. The encounters one had in life were always strange, particularly the entanglements between friends in the past. They could probably talk for three days and nights without getting anywhere.
However, Chen Pingping continued. “I was only a eunuch in King Cheng’s manor, yet she never treated me with disdain because of the crippling of my body. She treated me sincerely and like a friend. Ah, this is a treatment that I have never enjoyed before in my life, not before her and never again after.”
He suddenly smiled slightly and said, “Fortunately, Fan Xian is quite like her.”
At this moment, in the quiet royal study, the name “Fan Xian” seemed particularly ear-piercing. The brows of the Emperor, who had maintained his coldness with a powerful state of mind, furrowed slightly upon hearing the name.
“I don’t want to talk any more about what Xiao Yezi did for the Qing Kingdom, for the royal Li family, for us.” Chen Pingping sighed tiredly. Yes, there was no need to talk about the past, it was all contained in these friends’ hearts and minds. No one purposely recalled it, but no one could forget it.
His voice was slightly sharp as he said, “Yes, when you first ascended to the throne, the politics of the court was not stable. You had to push through new policies, but the backlash was too powerful. I controlled the governance of the Overwatch Council, which also caused instability in Jingdou. Furthermore, the empress dowager had long been afraid of that woman who would not enter the palace, particularly after she discovered that woman’s influence on you was far above her own. The empress, that stupid woman, had only just married you and did not understand why instead of being in the palace every day, you were climbing over the wall of Taiping Courtyard!”
“Ye Qingmei had done all she could to help you. By the Danzhou seaside, the paintings she had once promised were gradually displayed. The old Ye family had already built three large workshops in North Min. The foundations of the Qing Kingdom were solidly laid. It seemed that she was no longer of any use to you. On the contrary, she was the cause of the most instability in court and the palace. If matters continued along her plans, the Qing Kingdom would not be what it is today. You would not allow such a thing to happen. During the process, you could offend all of the officials and scholars of the world.”
Chen Pingping narrowed his eyes and said with some mockery, “To achieve great deeds, one needs great courage. You did not have this kind of courage. And, you did not want to give up everything you already had. As long as Ye Qingmei died, you could enjoy everything she gave you but not have to shoulder any of the danger she brought.”
“Even if you had a thousand, 10,000, or countless reasons, because of this throne, this country, your own wild ambitions to kill her,” Chen Pingping pressed his lips together and shook his head with disdain, “you didn’t have any right to do it.”
The Emperor’s eyes were still blank like he had not heard any of Chen Pingping’s intense questions that pierced right to his heart. He only slowly said, “Her writings are still in King Jing’s manor, presumably you still remember them clearly. Her strange way of thinking, although wondrous, was like a poisonous flower. Once it bloomed in the Qing Kingdom, it could have caused the entire country to collapse. As the Emperor of the Qing Kingdom, I had to be responsible for the common people.”
“Of everyone in my entire life, I treasured her the most.” The Emperor turned his head and looked coldly at Chen Pingping. “I treasured her more than anyone else in the world.”
“What does it have to do with the common people? You and I both know what kind of person she was. She was never one with empty thoughts and no strength to put them into actual practice. The things she said and the words she left were perhaps things she wanted to leave behind.” Chen Pingping looked coldly at the Emperor. “You were stunned by these terrifying thoughts. You suddenly realized that her thoughts posed a great threat to this throne. Even if she did nothing now, the sparks she left behind could, at some point, burn outwardly brilliant but actually rot the throne into dust.”
“Rot the throne?” The Emperor smiled strangely. Looking at Chen Pingping, he said, “I never thought that you were this kind of person.”
Chen Pingping did not respond. After he coughed, he continued weakly. “Your Majesty, why explain so much? You might as well use those two words from earlier. You only lusted after this throne. You had too much ambition or too many wild schemes to fulfil. How could you tolerate anyone who could be a threat to this process? Returning to the start, you could not allow a woman to faintly stifle you forever.”
After hearing these words, the Emperor was silent for a long time. Who knows if this was a tacit agreement or if he was thinking about his most hidden motivations back then? After a long time, he coldly said, “If I had any wild schemes or ambitions, did she not give them to me?”
“At the time, I was just the unremarkable heir of King Cheng’s manor. Although I had great ambitions, pitied the people’s hardships, and wanted to change the chaos of war, through what virtues and abilities could I achieve or this or even dream about all this?” the Emperor said mockingly. “It was her, you, Fan Jian, everyone who helped me walk step by step to the throne to have everything I dreamed and make the possibility of everything a reality.”
The Qing Emperor’s gaze grew sharp as his voice deepened and grew. Sternly, he said, “Since I am sitting in this throne, I will fulfill all my plans from the past. No one can try to stop this!”
“Plans from the past?” Chen Pingping looked at him coldly. “Do you still remember our plans from the past?”
“I know what you want to say.” The Emperor sat on the soft couch. The two sleeves of his dragon robe spread out like clouds. A powerful and solemn aura rose from his body. Like a god among the clouds, he said in a low voice, “I wanted to conquer a massive territory and unite the world so that the billions of people in the three kingdoms would not have to suffer the hardships of war for 10,000 generations. Was this not her wish as well?”
The Emperor’s voice gradually rose with a touch of iciness as he looked at Chen Pingping. “It has been a long time since we talked like this. It is only now that I realized that you are actually someone who pities the people. But, don’t forget, I am the Emperor of the Qing Kingdom. I care nothing about the promises of the past. I don’t care what I’ve already turned my back on, but I care about her. What I promised her, I am doing one by one. Regardless of whether it is you or Fan Jian, or even if she came back from the dead and asked me about what I have done these years, I will look at you without shame and say that only I could have done all this!”
Chen Pingping sank into silence.
“She was a mysterious woman, but she was a woman. She was very childish. I never expected that you are also very childish.” The Emperor slowly closed his eyes. Only his thin lips were slightly parted. “Governing a country is not like raising flowers and taking out weeds. It cannot be accomplished by King Jing’s useless remorse. As the Emperor, any person can die to achieve a purpose.”
“So she died.” Chen Pingping was bent over in the wheelchair. “All of the troublemakers in the Qing Kingdom can die, such as the empress, Eldest Princess, Crown Prince, and many others. I don’t understand what is different about the Qing Kingdom today to the Qing Kingdom of the past? How is the world different today to 20 years ago? You said that you were the one chosen by the world. For the sake of your goal, you can sacrifice everything. If one day it is your turn to be sacrificed, will you be willing?”
“I will be the master of the world,” the Qing Emperor said. “As long as I am alive, the world will live well.”
“It’s a false reputation,” Chen Pingping said with a sigh. “You have great focus and vision, and the governance of the Qing Kingdom has never been as good, but what about after you die? People eventually have to die.”
Shortly after, the old cripple in the wheelchair waved his hand and lightly said, “You would not be afraid of the flood after your death. I suddenly thought that this question was pointless. I still thought too highly of you. In the end, you are still a common person who has been completely taken over by ambition. Regardless of whether you are a Great Grandmaster or an Emperor, you still cannot escape this.”
The Emperor was not angry. He just looked at him and quietly said, “At least I have done each thing I promised her, one by one.”
“Is that so? Before I die, can you explain that to me so that I can die in peace? Just see it as your last act of grace toward me.”
The Emperor noticed the mockery at the corner of Chen Pingping’s lips. For some reason, the Emperor’s heart suddenly trembled as anger blossomed. As an Emperor, particularly one like him, probably the least endurable thing was having someone disregard or purposely underestimate all of his accomplishments.
He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. Slowly, he said, “I don’t need to explain anything to a eunuch bastard like you. After I die, I will explain each thing to her.”
“Will you have the face to see her after you die?” Chen Pingping was completely unlike his normal self. He was about to die. His heart was clear, and his will was strong. In front of the most powerful person in the world, he coldly and purposefully scraped at his heart. “I heard that by the sea in Danzhou, you had once explained each of these things to Fan Xian. Did you want to comfort yourself or did you want her in the netherworld to forgive you?”
These words were light, but they just happened to pierce the Emperor’s heart. The Emperor opened his eyes with the strange blankness, but his face was now slightly pale.
“Why would I not see her?” The Qing Emperor was silent for a long time. He then suddenly laughed. His laughter echoed through the royal study. “The things I promised her by the Danzhou seaside and in the old King Cheng’s manor, I have done them all or are about to do them. Everything I have done in this life, were they not things that she had endlessly anticipated in the past?”
Chen Pingping only looked at him coldly.
The Qing Emperor lowered his voice and said coldly, “She wanted reform and treat the corrupt practices in court from the root. Alright, I’ll do as she wants. I changed the reign title, changed the system, and pushed new policies.”
“She said that a wise ruler must listen to advice, so I gave the Imperial Censorate the authority to discuss hearsay. She said that a mail system within the country would greatly benefit merchants and people. Alright, without a care to the state treasury, I built mail roads throughout the country in the shortest possible time.”
“She said that the eunuchs in the palace were pitiful and hateful.” The Emperor glanced coldly at Chen Pingping. “So, I deposed of the precedent of sending eunuchs to each manor, sent away half of the eunuchs in the palace, and strictly prevented them from interfering in state affairs.”
“She said that a country could not become wealthy without commerce, so I heavily supported the merchant families and sent Xue Qing to be stationed long-term in Jiangnan to prevent the court from interfering in the merchant affairs of the commoners. She said that a country without agriculture was not stable, so I build irrigation works with great energy and designated the water transport yamen to repair the banks of the river.”
“She said she wanted newspapers, so I created newspapers. She said she wanted lace, so I made lace.”
The Emperor spoke faster and faster. His eyes grew brighter and brighter. In the end, he seemed quite worked up. He looked at Chen Pingping and roared loudly, “Whatever she wanted, I did. What right do you have to criticize me!”
Chen Pingping smiled, happily and strangely. He looked at the Emperor and quietly said, “These words are very well-practiced. Presumably, other than by the Danzhou seaside, you often mutter them to yourself to that picture in the little building. Are you telling her in heaven or are you trying to dispel the chill in your heart?”
The Qing Emperor’s expression changed slightly, but Chen Pingping slowly sat up straight. Looking at him, he said, “Pushing new policies is not just changing the reign title a few times! Changing regulations is not changing the Ministry of War to Department of Army Affairs and then changing it to the Bureau of Military Affairs. Your Majesty, do you still remember what the Imperial College was called initially? Do you remember that there was once a yamen called the Ministry of Education? Tongwen Institute? What is the Transfer Department? And, what is the Shipping Department?”
“A policy is not new because it has a new name!” Chen Pingping’s sharp voice was like a whip, slicing across the Emperor’s face. “Changing regulations isn’t just changing a name. What bullsh*t new policies! Making it so that the officials and people don’t even know what to call a yamen is a new policy? Are you lying to the world or to yourself?”
“The Imperial Censorate discusses hearsay? How did it become a pile of mud in the Eldest Princess’s hands? Allow them to discuss without punishment? In the autumn of the fifth year of the Qing calendar, the Left Ministry of the Imperial Censorate was demoted and those brown-robed officials of the Imperial Censorate were beaten badly because of Fan Xian. Who gave the order?”
“Don’t even mention the mail road system! It’s just a joke. It takes a one liang of silver to send a letter. Who could afford it other than officials? Other than feeding the lazy relatives of a bunch of officials in the relay stations, what else is the mail road used for?”
“Strictly prohibiting eunuchs from interfering in state affairs? What about Hong Siyang? An assassin entering the palace involves state affairs. He was the head eunuch but had authority to lead the investigation. Alright, even if his identity was special, let me ask you, when Eunuch Yao goes out, a large number of second- and third-rank officials have to bow to him and make way. What is that all about?”
“The court heavily supports merchant families? The court does not interfere in the merchant affairs of the commoners?” Chen Pingping’s voice grew sharper and sharper. With disgust, he said, “How come so many nobles had shares in the Ming family? If you don’t interfere in merchant affairs, then what did Fan Xian go to Jiangnan to do? The merchants are now nothing more than a herd of fat sheep that the court keeps.”
“Building irrigation and ensuring agriculture?” Chen Pingping’s laugh sounded increasingly hollow and offbeat. “The river transport yamen is the most corrupt of them all. I wanted to investigate them many years ago but you, with your regent schemes, knew that this yamen implicated half of all officials. You didn’t want to upset the court and could only allow it to rot. The result? The banks of the river broke. How many people drowned, and how many people froze to death in the winter between the fifth and sixth years of the Qing calendar? Even though Fan Xian and his wife have been furiously pouring in silver these two years, they are only just maintaining it.”
“And, there’s that stupid newspaper and lace.” Chen Pingping narrowed his eyes and looked at the Qing Emperor mockingly. “The newspaper she spoke of was meant to open up the people’s minds and not the useless sh*t the internal court puts out. There shouldn’t only be stories about old dogs like me. Instead, it should have other content. Do you not think I am right?”
The Emperor’s face was growing whiter and whiter until it was almost translucent. He completely did not hear Chen Pingping’s final words.
“Perhaps you could convince Fan Xian and yourself of what you have done, what you have worked hard to compensate, what you have tried to make real for the sake of what happened by the Danzhou seaside and in King Cheng’s manor.” Chen Pingping stared at the Emperor harshly. “But, you cannot convince her in the picture. It is just that she cannot speak anymore. You can also not convince me. Unfortunately, I can still speak.”
The Emperor was silent for a long time. With his deathly pale face and slightly trembling fingers, one could imagine that the anger in the depths of his heart had already reached a limit. He slowly raised his head and looked at Chen Pingping coldly. “The biggest mistake I made in my life was when I was still the Crown Prince. I listened to her when she said the officials of the court needed an independent yamen to watch over them. So, I went against public opinion to petition my father and forcefully established the Overwatch Council.”
“I also should not have listened to her and made you, this untamable old dog, this eunuch smelling of piss, to be the first Director of the Overwatch Council.” The Emperor’s voice was very calm but contained a boundless coldness.
Chen Pingping was silent for a long time. He then raised his head and said calmly, “Even the Overwatch Council, one that I have watched over for decades, is probably not one she wanted to see.”
The Emperor heard the old cripple faintly say, “The Overwatch Council was an organization to watch over the officials, not the strange and powerful Special Forces organization it is today, particularly as this Council is still Your Majesty’s Council.”
Chen Pingping suddenly gave an ugly smile and looked straight into the Emperor’s face. “Do you still remember what is written on the stone tablet in front of the Overwatch Council?”
It was a row of golden shining words forever twinkling in front of the Overwatch Council’s sinister and square building. It had attracted the eyes of countless Jingdou people, but no one would ever truly see these words clearly. The officials of the Overwatch Council all knew these words well, but they did not know the meaning hidden behind them.
There may have been people in the past who knew the full text of this passage. Regardless of whether it was the Emperor or others, they had probably unconsciously forgotten the point. In the entire world, only Chen Pingping and the earliest people of the Overwatch Council truly knew those words.
“I hope that everyone in Qing Kingdom will be able to become uninhibited. To not surrender when being mistreated by others, to not be frustrated when assailed by disaster, to not be afraid to fix things when seeing injustice, to not ingratiate oneself like jackals and beasts…”
These were the words Ye Qingmei left to the Overwatch Council. However, these words were not complete. For some reason, the last two lines were buried in the dust of history.”
Chen Pingping’s dry lips trembled slightly as he said, “I hope that each person of the Qing Kingdom could become a king, to each become the one and only king in a land of their own.”
“Your Majesty, my Emperor,” Chen Pingping’s eyes carried a burning heat as well as a willingness to pay any price, “from the very beginning, the Overwatch Council was to watch over you.”