Joy of Life - Chapter 688 - Untitled Again[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:50:43]
Chapter 688: Untitled Again
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The first two rains of autumn came suddenly and left suddenly, carrying a sense of mystery. It seemed that the first bout of rain was to welcome Chen Pingping’s return while the second was to send Chen Pingping away. Once everything was concluded on the execution field in front of the Royal Palace, the misty rain came to a stop. The dark clouds scattered in the sky, revealing a tall, light, and clear sky. Other than the rainwater left in the streets, alleys, and bricks, everything returned to normal.
The commoners of Jingdou had seen a startling scene, but no one dared to discuss it. Silently, they followed the various streets and dispersed. The officials in front of the palace gates looked at each other and did not know what they should do next. The Emperor had already returned to the palace, and the little Duke had left carrying the old Director’s body. The water flowing everywhere on the ground did not gather into an idea, leaving them perplexed.
In this headlong charge back to Jingdou, Fan Xian and the 500 Black Knights had already broken countless Qing laws and Overwatch Council regulations. Furthermore, when he had broken into Jingdou, he had casually killed many court officials. Additionally, he caused a disturbance in the execution field in front of the Emperor. Logically speaking, these were unforgivable crimes, but the Emperor did not speak. Who could condemn Fan Xian? Who dared to condemn Fan Xian?
Hu the Scholar came down from the top of the palace walls. Many officials greeted him. This Scholar had remained silent throughout the entire event. He looked at the blood stains on the wooden stage that had become diluted by the rainwater. His brows suddenly twitched. Turning back, he saw Scholar Shu Wu, who seemed to have aged decades in an instant, follow the foot of the palace walls and leave alone. He did not greet any of them.
Hu the Scholar’s heart dimmed. He knew he could not become controlled by these emotions. Sir He had already entered the palace. He had to stay and make sure the aftermath was dealt with clearly. His gaze swept slowly across the officials of the six ministries, three temples, and three departments. Calmly, he said, “The execution is over. Open the city gates. Everything is as usual.”
Hearing these words, the officials in front of the Royal Palace couldn’t help but let out a big breath. They had been frightened about how they would deal with Sir Fan junior. It looked like, at least for a short time, the Emperor was still able to control his anger and would not give such a dangerous job to his officials to deal with.
Hu the Scholar did not care about these officials’ reactions. He narrowed his eyes. There were no Overwatch Council members among the six ministries, three temples, and three departments. This was expected. The heads of the eight Overwatch Council bureaus were currently shut up in prison. However, it seemed that Sir Yan junior had quietly left earlier.
It was not only the Overwatch Council that was controlled through internal and external coordination. A heavy expression flashed across Scholar Hu’s brows. He knew that there were also people in the Royal Palace that had been controlled, such as Lady Ning and King Jing, who had risked death to make a last attempt to ask for mercy. They were both under house arrest in the palace. Their situations were unclear.
The young lady of the Fan family, who had tended to the Emperor last night, seemed to also not have come out. Thinking of these things, he thought of the 10,000 Qing elite troops still stationed outside the Overwatch Council. A chill rose in Scholar Hu’s heart. He knew he had to immediately find Fan Xian and say something to the little Duke who had the powerful and daring to oppose the Royal Palace.
The noon sun shone brilliantly on the Liujing River outside Jingdou. The river water was clear and cold. It had warmed slightly, but there was no lively fog rising from it. Across the river was an elegant courtyard separated from the world. It had gray-white walls, yellow bamboo, and an imposing coldness. The sun had reduced the water on the roof tiles into spots of wetness. It gave off a sense of warmth that seemed to turn back time.
Amidst this stifling heat at the beginning of autumn, a black carriage drove quickly across the bridge on the banks of the Liujing River and came to a steady stop outside the gate to the courtyard.
This courtyard was were Ye Qingmei had once lived, where the Eldest Princess had died, and where Fan Xian had kowtowed to many times across the river. After the Ye family incident, it had been absorbed into the royal family’s palace treasury and become an alternative residence. Through the years, the Emperor rarely came there. Additionally, there wasn’t a concubine or prince who dared to be so tactless as to ask to live there temporarily. So, it sat empty for over 20 years. Three years ago, when the Eldest Princess was planning the Jingdou rebellion, for some unknown reason, she had temporarily lived there for a few days.
Since the courtyard was quiet and rarely visited, and because of the cold weight of history that the place sustained, it made everyone feel the urge to maintain a respectful distance. Thus, the internal court’s care of this place was not very particular or exacting. Only four members of the royal family guard were stationed there regularly.
Seeing this black carriage disregard the mark of the royal family outside the courtyard and charge straight in, the expressions on the guards’ faces changed as they walked forward. They had no time to say anything before they were subdued with crossbows held by a group of people who had surged out from behind the carriage. They were disarmed and bound.
An official of the Overwatch Council walked up and silently pulled open the curtain on the carriage.
The sound of footsteps rang out faintly. Covered in rain and with a pale face, Fan Xian walked down from the carriage holding Chen Pingping’s body. The water on his body followed his black underclothing and Overwatch Council robe over the old man’s body in his arms and dripped down, making a tapping noise.
The door of the Taiping Courtyard opened. Fan Xian did not glance at the subordinates as he walked in sternly. With a squeak, the large door closed tightly behind him. The Overwatch Council officials immediately scattered. They took control of all the important positions at the head of the bridge and kept a cautious watch all around them.
After a while, the sound of hurried and slightly messy hooves rang out. Hundreds of exhausted Black Knights rode toward them by the side of the Liujing River.
Immediately following, a thunderous wave of hooves stopped further away. It was perhaps either the Jingdou Garrison or imperial soldiers.
Finally, a black carriage arrived and stopped right across the bridge. An icy-faced official walked down from the carriage. It was Yan Bingyun. He didn’t cross the bridge. He just calmly looked at the Overwatch Council officials outside the courtyard.
The Overwatch Council officials who had followed Fan Xian to Taiping Courtyard were mostly officials of the First Bureau. There were a few members of the Qinian Unit who had been scattered in Jingdou. With the help of the palace, Yan Bingyun temporarily had control of the situation in the Overwatch Council’s square and sinister building. He was unable to control the eight bureaus of the Overwatch Council, particularly the First Bureau. When Fan Xian had been in the First Bureau, he had been strong and glorious. The officials of the First Bureau all treated Fan Xian like their lord. Now, once the curtains fell on the show in front of the Royal Palace and not long after Fan Xian had left the execution field holding Chen Pingping’s body, officials of the First Bureau came to pick him up in a black carriage.
Yan Bingyun narrowed his eyes and looked at his colleagues on the other end of the bridge. He was not surprised by Fan Xian’s lofty reputation within the Council, particularly within the First Bureau. He just found it strange that the Emperor had sent people to keep an eye on the First Bureau. Their communications were not smooth. Fan Xian had just arrived back in Jingdou, so how did the officials of the First Bureau know? Furthermore, they had just happened to come to the rescue. It was truly incomprehensible.
Yan Bingyun did not know that the young mistress in the Fan manor had already reacted the first moment the news of Chen Pingping assassinating the Emperor came out. She had prepared everything for her husband ahead of time and had maintained contact with the First Bureau the entire time. When Fan Xian rode alone into the execution field, the people of the First Bureau had already begun to move.
As for the hundreds of exhausted Black Knights, they had orders from Fan Xian earlier and had agreed to regroup at Taiping Courtyard. Fan Xian had thought everything through before entering the capital. Regardless of whether or not he could rescue the old cripple, he and his people would eventually need to meet at Taiping Courtyard.
Yan Bingyun stood at the bridge in silence for a long time. After straightening his soaked uniform, he walked along onto the bridge. Squeaking endlessly, he finally arrived at the other end. Bowing under the alert, hostile, and disdainful gaze of the officials of the First Bureau, he said in a deep voice, “Yan Bingyun of the Fourth Bureau requests to see the Director.”
Fan Xian did not know that Yan Bingyun had already appeared outside Taiping Courtyard, but he was certain that someone would come to see him and advise him. He could even accurately guess that as he walked stepped by step out of Jingdou, countless people followed behind him and countless elites of the Qing army were, at this moment, gathered outside the Taiping Courtyard, waiting for the advising to be successful or not. This was all ordered by that Emperor, right?
He did not think about all this and couldn’t be bothered to think about it. He just felt very tired and exhausted. He felt empty inside. The zhenqi that usually filled his body in abundance seemed to have all been spewed out with the cry earlier. He had spat out the impure air in his chest as well as the zhenqi, leaving behind only emptiness.
Fan Xian felt that his footsteps had never been as heavy as they were now, and his body had never been so weak. The old man in his arms was clearly very light, so why was he becoming heavier and heavier? He was becoming so heavy that he almost couldn’t hold on anymore.
A strand of slightly wet hair lay on his forehead. He held Chen Pingping as he walked by the grassy plain passed the flowering tree and little lake and came to an isolated place. There were flowers on the wall. He gently picked a shrinking and blooming little yellow flower.
He stretched out his hand and gently pressed it against the corner of the wall. With a squeaking sound, a hold slowly appeared on the ground with stone steps leading down. It was not very deep. The sunshine in the sky was completely able to reach the dry paving stones below.
Presumably, the secret rooms in the Taiping Courtyard were not secret to those old folks. Even the much younger Eldest Princess had once found one in the courtyard. After the Ye family incident, the Emperor should have checked the courtyard for the whereabouts of the chest. However, he did not find it. Since he always held a strange emotion toward this courtyard, he had never come again.
For Fan Xian, this secret passage was very familiar. Many years ago, after he had opened the chest, Uncle Wu Zhu had once brought him to Taiping Courtyard. They had followed this passage to find the bullets necessary for the burning stick.
Step by step, he walked down as if entering the netherworld. In reality, it was only a secret room 29 feet beneath the ground. The room was clean and tidy. It did not have any decorations or treasures other than a few chairs and a few coffins.
Fan Xian placed a hand on the side of the coffin and lifted open the lid. Then, he carefully placed the thin body of the old man in his arms into it. He picked up a small porcelain pillow and carefully placed it behind his head. Looking at the silk lining inside the coffin, Fan Xian tilted his head slightly but did not close the lid.
Chen Pingping’s eyes were tightly closed. His naked body was only covered by the Overwatch Council robe Fan Xian had taken off. Fan Xian stood by the coffin and looked quietly at his thin face and deeply sunken eyes. Suddenly, he felt that this entirely black clothing was far more appropriate than those beautiful silks.
The black clothing was the uniform of the Overwatch Council. It had come from Fan Xian’s body, so it was in the style of the Director of the Overwatch Council. In Fan Xian’s opinion, Chen Pingping’s life was difficult to speak of. Presumably, he would have liked to die as the Director of the Overwatch Council.
Fan Xian stood quietly by the coffin and looked at the deeply sleeping Chen Pingping. He thought that on the execution field earlier and in the autumn rain, the old man had seemingly gradually drifted away in his arms. Before he left, he had held his hand tightly. He shouldn’t be afraid of anything, right?
Looking at the old and pale face, Fan Xian suddenly remembered many things. When he was very little, this old man, who liked to cover his legs with a woolen blanket, had asked Teacher Fei Jie to come teach him so that he had the ability to protect himself in this dangerous and evil world. He made him grow familiar with all of the regulations and structures of the Overwatch Council from a very young age. Probably from the day he was born, the old man had already decided to leave the Overwatch Council, which he considered his greatest treasure, to him.
Fan Xian thought of the first time he saw Chen Pingping. It had been in that dark room in the Overwatch Council. Although it was the first time they had met, seeing the old cripple on the wheelchair was like seeing an elder he had not seen for a long time. A natural sense of closeness twined between the two of them.
That day, Fan Xian had bent his head down and gently hugged the thin and weak Chen Pingping. He had placed his face next to his just like how he did it now.
Watching fish and discussing the world by the shallow pond, gently messing around with the flowers, the dance of two wheelchairs chasing around Chen Garden… These things would not happen again. He had to stop thinking. Fan Xian tightly closed his eyes. He then opened them shortly after. Bending down, he gently placed the shrinking yellow flower in his hand in the white hair by Chen Pingping’s temple.
Fan Xian was silent for a long time and didn’t say anything more. He closed the lid of the coffin and picked up the large nail beside him that had been prepared. Aiming at the edge of the coffin lid, he circulated his zhenqi into his palms and struck down.
A series of muffled thuds rang out. Silently, Fan Xian struck again and again, hammering in all the large nails and tightly sealing the entire coffin. He shut the old man in another world. One in which he could never see him again.
After doing all of this, Fan Xian looked at the black coffin in a daze. This was only a temporary solution. One day, Fan Xian would send the old man home or to a beautiful place no one knew about. He would not allow him to remain forever in this darkness close to Jingdou. Although this was Taiping Courtyard and Chen Pingping would presumably lie to live here, it was still too close to Jingdou and the Royal Palace.
Fan Xian’s body swayed slightly. He felt boundless and endless exhaustion surge into his mind and body. He sat down in the stool beside him and pulled both his legs up. He then buried his head deep between his knees. His hands hung weakly by his side.
The places on his right palm that had been cut open by the nails began to bleed. The blood dripped onto the floor.
Fan Xian sat with his head buried for a long time. The water collected in the grassy plain in Taiping Courtyard above his head began to flow down the stone steps. It wet one layer and then another. It then froze one layer and then another.
The sunlight in the sky slowly moved. The light brightened and dimmed in the secret room beneath the ground. It was either the angle of the sunlight or the thickness of the clouds that brought all this. A sliver of sound entered Fan Xian’s consciousness. He slowly raised his head from between his knees. Coming down from the chair, he glanced again at the silent and dark coffin. He then went up along the wet stone steps.
After a strange sound, the secret door to the stone room closed tightly. Not a sliver more of sunlight or a trickle more of water would seep in. The place recovered its calm and darkness.
Fan Xian followed the small path in the grass by the lake toward the door of Taiping Courtyard. When he was not far from the wooden door, he heard the low voice of a subordinate of the First Bureau making a report. A complicated expression flashed across Fan Xian’s cold face. He quietly said something and then sat down beneath a broken tree inside the courtyard.
The wooden door opened. Yan Bingyun walked in. He stood in front of Fan Xian with his head down and did not speak for a long time. Perhaps he didn’t know how to begin.
“Start from the day there began to be movement within the Palace. You should have participated from beginning to end, so I don’t want any details to be left out.” Fan Xian sat tiredly on the broken tree root. His right hand rested on his knee. His face was an unhealthy white.
Yan Bingyun glanced at his right hand and found that it was bleeding. His heart jumped slightly, but he didn’t say too much in explanation. Instead, he calmly said, “On the second, I was summoned into the Palace and received my orders. Then, I began to make arrangements. As for Scholar He capturing Gao Da in Dazhou and the Emperor using this matter to keep the Director at Dazhou and the Jingdou Garrison to seize them, I only have an approximate idea and not the details.”
“Tell me the details you do know.”
Yan Bingyun looked at Fan Xian’s bowed head and found that Sir Fan junior was not the same as in the past. His expression was very calm. It was so calm it made one feel fear. It was not a reaction that normal people should have.
From the morning that the Jingdou Garrison escorted the black carriage into the capital, to the argument in the royal study, to the Emperor being heavily injured, to Chen Pingping being injured by the porcelain cup, to him being sent to the Overwatch Council’s prison, Yan Bingyun did not hide any details. He even clearly laid out the ugly role he played in all of it.
Fan Xian was silent for a moment. He then slowly raised his head. Looking at him, he said, “Why are you here? Do you want to drag that old cripple back to be cut a few more times? Must you have him meet a tragic end?”
Yan Bingyun did not have to control his emotions in front of him. A sorrow that could not be acted appeared on his face. In a raspy voice, he said, “I had to come see you. I had to ensure that you wouldn’t go crazy.”
“Go crazy? Rebel?” The corners of Fan Xian’s lips quirked. His laugh was very cold. “Are the Jingdou Garrison and imperial soldiers outside the courtyard not here to do this?”
Puffs of dust rose faintly around the outside of the courtyard. It had clearly just rained on the land, yet there were signs of dryness. No one knew how many soldiers were ambushed outside the courtyard, or how many aces there were to subdue Fan Xian.
Yan Bingyun forcefully controlled his state of mind. He looked at Fan Xian and coldly said, “No matter what, the old Director is gone. No matter how angry you are, you cannot change this. Even if you can escape Jingdou, what can you do? Yes, Deng Zi Yue is in Xiliang. Su Wenmao is in the palace treasury in North Min. Xia Qifei is in Suzhou. The capable people of the Qinian Unit and the most powerful Overwatch Council officials had all been sent out by me, scattered where you have the strictest control. Once you leave Jingdou, you can reconvene 60 percent of the Overwatch Council’s strength, but what can you do?”
Fan Xian looked at him coldly and did not say anything.
“Alright, presently, you are the Master of Dongyi’s Sword Hut and have countless swordsmen under your command. Additionally, there are the 10,000 elite troops led by the Great Prince stationed in Dongyi. But, the Great Prince may not be able to control all 10,000 soldiers. Besides, would the Great Prince turn against the Emperor just for you or the old Director?” Yan Bingyun’s lips were dry. His throat was swollen, but he continued firmly. “Hongcheng is in Dingzhou, and he is your good friend. Even if he was willing to raise troops for you, will the Dingzhou army listen to him?”
“I have to say, only you have the strength to stand against the Emperor. But… You are still not a match for him.”
“Done talking?” Fan Xian looked at him with narrowed eyes and tiredly shook his head. “If you want to convince me, shouldn’t you take out the letter Chen Pingping left you?”
Yan Bingyun’s body shook. He had thought everything he had done these few days in the Overwatch Council would certainly anger Fan Xian. He had not thought that he would know everything from the very beginning.
Fan Xian looked at him. “Even if you take it out, I don’t want to see it. It is nothing more than looking after the big picture and preventing the Overwatch Council from losing control for a moment before being wiped out by the Emperor. You had to become the Emperor’s second dog to forcibly protect this Council. In order to gain trust with that man, you had to do some things.”
“I know you’ve suffered,” Fan Xian looked at the despondent Yan Bingyun and coldly said. “But, this is something you’ve brought on yourself. Did you think there was a joy in enduring humiliation as part of an important mission? Wrong. You were still out of your mind. Were you going to do whatever Chen Pingping told you to do? If he wanted you to kill him, would you do it?”
“The old Director was concerned with the thousands of lives in the Overwatch Council and for the common people of the world,” Yan Bingyun said in a raspy voice. “Even if I misunderstood and became an eyesore in the eyes of the Overwatch Council officials, so what? Do you want me to watch the world fall into chaos?”
“Why can’t the world fall into chaos? Concerned with the lives of the common people?” Fan Xian suddenly laughed strangely. There was a cough in his laugh. He coughed up some blood and said, “How many people of this world have been concerned with them?”
“I do not forgive you.” Fan Xian looked at Yan Bingyun calmly, but each word he said was chilling. “Everything for the Qing Kingdom, everything for the Emperor, everything for the world. This is your attitude, but it is not mine. For the people I care about, so what if tens of thousands of people die? But, you did not do this for me. So, I do not forgive you.”
Yan Bingyun knew that there was a heart that loved and hated to the extremes under Fan Xian’s gentle exterior. After a long silence, he suddenly said, “I don’t need anyone’s forgiveness. The old Director’s choice and my opinion aligned, so I did what I did. For the Qing Kingdom, I can do anything.”
“Very good, only this way can you become a good official to the Emperor. For those damned commoners, he might be a decent Emperor.” Fan Xian slowly stood up. “For me, neither you nor he are people I can entrust a sliver of trust to. In your hearts, there are things more important than friends.”
“King Jing and Lady Ning are both under house arrest in the Palace. Young lady Fan is also in the Palace,” Yan Bingyun hurriedly said, suddenly feeling a little cold.
Fan Xian’s voice in replying to him was mocking and cold, “For the Emperor, this is natural.”
Seeing Fan Xian take tired steps toward the door, Yan Bingyun’s heart suddenly tightened. Fear surged into his heart. It was not fear for himself, but concern for Fan Xian. In a loud voice, he shouted, “Where are you going?”
Fan Xian’s hand on the wooden door froze slightly. He didn’t turn his head as he tiredly said, “Home, to sleep.”
Walking out of the wooden door of Taiping Courtyard, he looked at the officials of the First Bureau at the head of the bridge who seemed to be on guard against all possible dangers. He looked at the hundreds of exhausted and dust Black Knights, who had barely managed to form into a defensive formation, and sighed in his heart. On the other side of the bridge, on the other side of the green and yellow forest, were the troops the Emperor was using to subdue him. They were not a force the subordinates he had hurriedly brought back to the capital could stand against.
The bright sun blinded him briefly. It was only now that he felt the extent of the damage tiredness and sorrow could bring to humankind. He walked lightly to the bridge and gave a few orders to the subordinates, who continued to follow him despite the tense situation.
The deputy commander and First Bureau officials were silent of a long time. They knew that the little Duke was acting in consideration of their lives. They didn’t say anything more and took a knee uniformly. It was uncertain whether they were kneeling to the young Director in front of them or to the old Director buried in Taiping Courtyard.
After they knelt, hundreds of people mingled together and retreated west following the beautiful and quiet river.
Yan Bingyun, who had been silently following behind Fan Xian, glanced at them with a complicated gaze. He followed Fan Xian across the bridge and onto the road. He then saw the thousands of fully armored riders spread over the fields. These riders were lined up densely. Their aura was imposing.
Fan Xian looked at this powerful martial force without expression. Holding both hands behind him, he slowly walked over and approached the Commander under countless alert eyes. In a raspy voice, he said, “Call off the scouts and ambushes. I want none of my people injured.”
Ye Zhong narrowed his eyes. A cold light flickered in his eyes.