Joy of Life - Chapter 710 - Heartbreak In Front Of The Hall[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:50:51]
Chapter 710: Heartbreak In Front Of The Hall
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
This line of houses at the wall of the Royal Palace were not eye-catching, but it was the important location where the Hall of Governmental Affairs discussed affairs. Through a courtyard by the back corridor, one could directly enter the Palace. It was the most important place. Imperial soldiers and guards guarded it tightly. Even when the rebel soldiers had surrounded the Palace that year, they had not thought to make an opening from here because there were still layers of palace walls behind the Hall of Governmental Affairs. Inside the houses, great danger abounded in all directions.
In the blink of an eye, almost seven years had passed since he left Danzhou in the fourth year of the Qing calendar. Other than the two years he spent sporadically in Jiangnan, the truly exciting, nerve-wracking, and memorable time of Fan Xian’s second life had mostly happened in Jingdou. His identity was not like that of most people in the Qing Kingdom. He had entered the Palace too many times. It was as easy as going home. Regardless of whether it was his identity as the Commissioner of the Overwatch Council or the illegitimate child of the Emperor, they both made the prohibitions around the Palace not exist for him.
On Jan. 7, Fan Xian walked to this row of houses at the foot of the Royal Palace like he was taking a stroll. Although the New Year Festival had just passed, the Hall of Governmental Affairs was still busy with officials from various departments coming to discuss affairs. By the outer boundary, no one noticed a figure holding a black umbrella in the snow. Inside, the imperial soldiers and guards responsible for inspection became stupid under Fan Xian’s gentle smile and watched in a daze as he just walked in.
Fan Xian had come too naturally, too logically. All of the soldiers and guards were used to seeing this young man come in and out of the Palace without obstruction. For a time, they didn’t manage to react and allowed him to pass through layers of imperial guards until he reached the main room of the Hall of Governmental Affairs.
Inside the main room, there were two warm benches. Layers of items were piled chaotically on them. There were memorials from various places piled everywhere along with edicts the Emperor had drafted, as well as the ink stone and paper laying messily on the table. The working conditions of the headquarters of the Qing court did not seem good. A few on-duty scholars and scribes ran around busily until Fan Xian put down the black umbrella dripping with snow.
The main room of the Hall of Governmental Affairs was silent. Everyone looked at Fan Xian in a daze. They didn’t know why this figure, who had been severely disciplined by the Emperor, would suddenly appear here.
While Fan Xian walked through the streets and alleys of Jingdou, various changes were happening in various restaurants and yamens in Jingdou. However, the timing of the attacks this time had been controlled precisely. When Fan Xian entered the main room of the Hall of Governmental Affairs, the fires of revenge around Jingdou had just been lit. The news had not yet reached the Palace.
The first person to react to Fan Xian’s sudden arrival was the one closest to the door. Taking advantage of the bright light, Scholar Panling, an aged scholar, stared with his slightly far-sighted eyes. Looking at Fan Xian, he said with a cough, “Why are you here?”
Ever since he was young, Fan Xian had mimicked Scholar Pan’s calligraphy and had depended on the newspaper edited by him to earn the first silver of his life. Although they had not met many times in Jingdou, Fan Xian had always been respectful toward him. With a smile, he replied, “The Emperor has summoned me to enter the Palace after mid-day. I had just reached the tunnel to the Royal Palace when it suddenly began to snow. Thinking that there wasn’t much point in standing for a long time in the snow, I decided to come here to see everyone.”
With these words, only then did everyone in the room remember that the Emperor had indeed issued an edict summoning Fan Xian into the Palace. Relaxing, they each smiled warmly and went forward to greet him. The Hall of Governmental Affairs did not have officials like the other yamens beneath them. What they cared about the most was going with the flow and being mighty but not angry. Particularly as they were the officials closest to the Emperor, they understood Fan Xian’s true position in the court. So, no one dared to neglect him.
He Zongwei was the last to stand up and walk over. There was a sliver of self-restraint in his calm expression. When he made his appearance, the entire main room of the Hall of Governmental Affairs immediately fell silent. Even Scholar Panling coughed and left with his back hunched over.
Everyone knew that Scholar He had orders form the Emperor and was desperately attacking the pitiful remainder of Sir Fan junior’s strength. Everyone also knew that during these years, Sir Fan junior and Scholar He had never gotten along harmoniously, not even once. However, the situation at present had changed a long time ago. Scholar He was at the height of his powers. His position in the Hall of Governmental Affairs was vaguely about to surpass that of Scholar Hu’s. Faced with Fan Xian, who had now sunk into a difficult situation, what would he say? What would he do?
“Long time no see,” He Zongwei said warmly, looking at Fan Xian. “It’s still early. Sit first and have a cup of hot tea to warm yourself, in case you have to stand for a long time inside the royal study again.”
The words were said warmly, sincerely, and easy; it made one feel moved. Everyone could hear the concern that came from the depth of the words. He Zongwei’s behavior gave one the sense that no problems had ever occurred between the two most famous young officials of the Qing court.
But, the truly wise person certainly heard another meaning. It was indulgence from a victor to a loser. It was concern from someone who occupied the higher ground.
The corners of Fan Xian’s lips twitched slightly. He gave a not-quite-there smile and raised his head. He looked at the scholar in front of him with a slightly dark complexion. After a pause, he calmly said, “I came here today to speak with you. Yes, my time has not come… But your time has come.”
No one could understand these words. Not even He Zongwei himself noticed the sinister background music in these words. He paused slightly and furrowed his brows as he looked at Fan Xian. It was as if he wanted to say something. Unexpectedly, he heard a noisy clamor coming from outside the main room of the Hall of Governmental Affairs. There were some cries of surprise that could not be suppressed caught within the noisy clamor.
“Such panic! What a scandal!” He Zongwei angrily criticized with a heavy expression as he looked at the official who had charged through the door.
“Sir! Deputy Cheng of the Supreme Court and the new Imperial Censor of the Left, Guo Zheng, have both been killed on the street!” The officials fearfully reported the information that had just come in front outside.
Hearing this news, it was as if a bomb had exploded within the room as cries of surprise broke out. The officials of the Hall of Governmental Affairs helped the Emperor manage the Qing court. When had such high-ranking court officials ever been assassinated in the street?
He Zongwei’s body froze. The deputy of the Supreme Court and Imperial Censor Guo Zheng had both been his trusted aides, particularly Guo Zheng. He had always regarded Fan Xian as his greatest enemy and had done a great deal for him in Jiangnan. He had achieved great things for the Emperor. He had just found an opportunity to bring him back to Jingdou. But, just as he returned to Jingdou, he died?
A glimmer of white flashed across his dark face before immediately recovering his calm. Raising his head abruptly, he stared at Fan Xian’s handsome face and narrowed his eyes. Cold light brightly could be seen within them.
Without waiting for He Zongwei to speak, Fan Xian gently shuttered his eyes and quietly said, amidst the shocked gasps, “The Minister of Revenue is also dead, as well as two vice-ministers. This is a list of names I’ve drafted. Have a look to see if there’s anyone missing.”
After he said this, Fan Xian took out a thin piece of paper and handed it over. He Zongwei’s hand began to shake involuntarily. Accepting the paper, he swept a cursory glance over it and saw a dozen officials’ names and positions. They were all his trusted officials.
After Fan Xian handed the list to Scholar He, the entire main room of the Hall of Governmental Affairs immediately fell silent. It was so silent, one would be able to hear a pin drop to the floor.
Fan Xian casually touched his temple and replaced the thin needle stuck between his fingers into his hair. Calmly, he said, “I don’t want to indiscriminately kill innocent officials, so please confirm it for me. If these are all your people, then I can rest easy.”
The paper filled with names floated to the ground. It was absolutely silent inside the room. Everyone knew that all the blood had been spilled by Sir Fan junior. However, they didn’t know if what he said was true. Did all those court officials die today?
He Zongwei understood Fan Xian, so he knew that Fan Xian was not lying. The names on that piece of paper had probably already dissolved into wisps of resentful spirits. He raised his head. A bitterly resentful fire from the netherworld burned in his eyes. He stared fixedly at Fan Xian. He didn’t know why Fan Xian did this. Did he not know that doing this was a road to certain death? He Zongwei actually felt a faint pride. He had managed to force Fan Xian into a life-and-death struggle.
“Why… Come! Capture this murderer!” The word “why” left his mouth painfully. Everyone thought He Zongwei would angrily criticize Fan Xian’s inhumane and evil actions in front of all the officials. Unexpectedly, halfway through his sentence, He Zongwei cried out in a loud voice and moved as quickly as possible toward the back of the officials.
It was still He Zongwei who knew Fan Xian bests. Since the other had disregarded his life and killed all over Jingdou, he had the intention of fighting for his life. Seeing as he came especially to the Hall of Governmental Affairs to put down his umbrella before entering the Palace, it was not to use these dead people’s names to taunt him. Instead, he had come to kill He Zongwei.
Until now, still no one believed that Fan Xian would start killing people in the dignified headquarters of the Qing Kingdom at the foot of the Royal Palace. But, He Zongwei believed it. He knew that once this ruthlessly young noble went crazy, there was nothing he wouldn’t do. Thus, he disregarded the dignity of an official and yelled for imperial guards as he sought escape toward the back of the officials.
Fan Xian did not chase him. He just used a pitiful and mocking gaze to watch his actions, looking at the pale face behind the crowd.
This was, after all, the Hall of Governmental Affairs in front of the Royal Palace. Long before He Zongwei had shouted, imperial soldiers and palace guards had already noticed the commotion inside. Once they realized things were going wrong, a dozen guards and three generals of the Imperial Army charged into the main room of the Hall of Governmental Affairs, pulled out their knives, and cautiously surrounded Fan Xian.
No matter how powerful Fan Xian, he could not kill his way out of the encirclement in an instant. Looking at this scene, everyone relaxed a little. Behind the crowd, He Zongwei’s coloring became slightly better. The pale whiteness was gone. There were now two spots of color on his cheeks. In the back, he shouted in a severe voice, “Quickly, capture this murderer!”
Men have reputations, and trees have shadows. Even if everyone knew that the blood in Jingdou today had been spilled because of an order from Sir Fan junior, before things had been investigated clearly, who dared to capture Fan Xian? Particularly in the situation where Fan Xian had not moved first, which of the imperial soldiers and palace guards dared to rashly go forward?
Commotion broke out at the foot of the Royal Palace. The sound of soldiers being mobilized rang out all around. In an instant, countless hurried sounds came from outside the main room of the Hall of Governmental Affairs as countless imperial soldiers came and surrounded this main room tightly, encircling Fan Xian and the officials who actually controlled Qing court inside the room.
Even if Fan Xian sprouted wings, he would probably still not be able to escape. However, it seemed that he did not want to escape. He just looked calmly at He Zongwei behind the crowd and casually took one step forward.
This step broke the daring of countless officials. A cry of surprise rose in the room. A dozen guards surrounding Fan Xian pressed forward.
Fan Xian stood his ground. Looking at He Zongwei not far in the distance across everyone’s heads, he calmly said, “Perhaps as many people say, you are actually a capable and honest official. And, in the future, you might become a famous official recorded in the annals of history.”
Then he shook his head and said, “However, I will not give you this opportunity to continue living. Speaking of which, it is strange, I don’t know why I dislike you so much. This kind of dislike is completely without reason. Your utilitarianism is too powerful. At all times you are thinking about stepping on others to climb up. I dislike that kind of action the most.”
“Even if I don’t like you, the most I did was punch you a few times. Unexpectedly, you later threw your entire life into the business of opposing me,” Fan Xian said with a slight smile. “Unfortunately, this business is not very glorious. On the contrary, it gave me more reasons to kill you.”
Fan Xian’s smile was very warm. In the eyes of everyone in the room, this smile was very sinister, terrifying, and filled with killing intent. However, it seemed that he had no intention to act at this moment. The imperial soldiers and palace guards around him did not make a move lightly, terrified that they would incite this person’s craziness and have him go on a killing spree.
When he heard Fan Xian’s last words, a severe light flashed through He Zongwei’s eyes. As he was about to open his mouth and say something coldly, an unexpected pain wrenched through his abdomen. This wave of pain was real and terrible. It immediately made his face pale and rendered him unable to speak.
“You are a lowly man, obsessed with utility and would stop at nothing to climb upward. You can fool the Emperor, officials of the court, and even the millions of people under heaven, but how could you fool me?” The light in Fan Xian’s eyes grew. “How many people’s blood stain your seemingly clean hands? How many people’s wronged spirits are caught on your uniform? You know, and I know.”
“Killing you, killing the officials in the He faction today, I am carrying out justice for heaven and purging those beside the Emperor for the Emperor.” Fan Xian spoke words that even he didn’t believe in, mockingly looking at He Zongwei’s pale face and taking advantage of the fact he could not speak at all right.
“I could not understand why you would climb upward at all costs and step on the bodies of my subordinates to climb into place. Later, I finally understood. It’s not because of the natural enmity between the Imperial Censorate and the Overwatch Council, not because I would not marry my sister to you, and definitely not because the Emperor had instructions for you.”
Fan Xian sighed with pity and said, “All of this is because you are envious of me. You are inferior to me in the literary arts and in the martial arts. Your reputation is not as good as mine, and you are not as powerful as me. No matter how hard you work, no matter how many big black dogs you raise, you’ll never catch up to me in this life.”
“You refuse to accept this. You refuse to accept that I have a good father, a mother… However, this is fate. What have you to refuse?”
A few soybean-sized drops of sweat dripped from He Zongwei’s deathly white forehead. His resentment-filled eyes bulged as he stared at Fan Xian. He wanted to angrily rebuke him, but he had no energy to open his mouth. He could no longer stand. He decrepitly sat down by the warming bench.
“This is discontent, but the discontent of an Emperor is the root of the chaos in the Qing Kingdom.” Fan Xian stared at He Zongwei sitting by the bench. Word by word, he said, “Too much discontent guards against heartbreak. Today, I will grant you a heartbroken end.”
Each word, each sentence pierced like a small knife into He Zongwei’s ears. He had no choice but to hear it. He knew that all the officials in his faction had died. Furthermore, Fan Xian must secretly have follow-up plans. He just didn’t understand why Fan Xian was saying all these useless things in front of so many officials.
The officials were dead, but as long as he was alive and had the Emperor’s favor, he could always raise a power that belonged to him again. Why was it that after those small knives entered his ear, they wormed around in his abdomen? Why did it seem that those knives were severing his guts and making it so painful that he wished he was dead?
With Fan Xian’s last words, the atmosphere in the row of houses at the foot of the palace walls immediately grew tense. All of the officials scattered and hid, hiding from Fan Xian’s storm-like attack that could immediately appear. However, the imperial soldiers surged in endlessly, lining up in countless rows in front of He Zongwei’s body.
Fully armored soldiers lined up in formation, making the expansive main room of the Hall of Governmental Affairs particularly cramped. Nervously, they stared at Fan Xian, all alone.
In the tense atmosphere that could erupt at the slightest touch, a stern and terrified voice shouted from the courtyard of the Hall of Governmental Affairs by the palace walls.
Covered in snow and water, Scholar Hu charged in from the Royal Palace. After listening to Fan Xian’s words at the Imperial College this morning, this scholar knew that something big was going to happen in Jingdou. The first thing he did was rush toward the Royal Palace, but he had been delayed for a time during it and only had time to say a few things to the Emperor before he heard a eunuch report that matter of the strange deaths of many court officials around Jingdou. Immediately after, there was an urgent report stating that Fan Xian had already killed his way into the Hall of Governmental Affairs.
No one dared to stop Scholar Hu. At such a tense moment, no one cared about his entrance. At most, a few officials of the Hall of Governmental Affairs watched as Scholar Hu charged to Fan Xian’s side and cried out, worried that he might be hurt by Fan Xian, that crazy person.
Scholar HU paid no attention to these cries. He grabbed Fan Xian from the back and put his old life on the line to drag Fan Xian backward as he shouted frantically, “You’ve gone crazy!”
After all that had happened, everyone believed that Sir Fan junior, the shockingly talented poet, had clearly gone crazy. Otherwise, how could he have trampled over the court’s dignity like this and did such unforgivable and treasonous things? If what happened today in Jingdou did not count as treason, what could it be?
Scholar Hu knew that just the assassination of those officials in Jingdou was enough to anger the Emperor and for him to cast Fan Xian down into the lowest reaches of hell. Yet, he continued to hold onto Fan Xian with his life, not letting him act. Killing a scholar of the court in the Hall of Governmental Affairs was essentially spraying blood in front of the palace hall.
Not only in the Qing Kingdom, never in the world had there ever been such a hair-raising sight.
The scenario was amusing and funny, but no one laughed. It was completely silent at the foot of the palace walls. Everyone watched in terror as Scholar Hu used his old and frail body to desperately hold Fan Xian. How could he drag him back or hold him still?
Fan Xian suddenly felt a glimmer of warmth in his icy heart. He smiled and said with his head down, “Let go, it’s already too late.”
Behind him, Scholar He’s body froze. He shakily released his hands, glancing at Fan Xian with disbelief. Scholar He Zongwei, who had been sitting by the warming bench behind the crowd, suddenly dry-coughed and then sprayed out a mouthful of black blood.
The blood soaked into the robes of a number of officials at the front. It was black and unpleasant. A wave of surprised cries rang out in the room. A few officials rushed forward to help He Zongwei and began to desperately cry for doctors to be summoned.
The light in He Zongwei’s eyes began to scatter. His hearing was also beginning to recede. He couldn’t clearly hear what his colleagues next to him were yelling. He could only feel the pain in his abdomen. Those little knives seemed to have successfully chopped his hot guts into pieces.
Pain, every inch of his entrails hurt. He Zongwei knew that he was done. He didn’t know when Fan Xian had poisoned him and did not notice the little needle prick on his right pinky. He just felt unsatisfied. He was clearly hot-blooded toward the world and the court. He was willing to shed blood in a just cause to obtain a pure reputation. So, why, in the end, did he spit up a puddle of black blood?
His blurry vision found Fan Xian’s cold face. There was much complaint and dissatisfaction in his heart. As an official, what regret was there in doing things for the Emperor, for the court? Even killing and betraying some people? Over thousands of years, have the people in officialdom always done it like this? Have you, Fan Xian, never had innocent people die because of you? You don’t need to betray anyone because you were born as a master while we were born as slaves…
He Zongwei wanted to angrily ask Fan Xian, What right did you have to use these mysterious reasons to kill me? You are nothing more than good-for-nothing who does not see the big picture and only does things according to his own likes and dislikes! In the end, he could not speak this question. Black blood surged out endlessly between his lips, stopping him from talking and breathing.
Just before the imperial doctor arrived, He Zongwei, the present court’s scholar and official of the Imperial Censorate, the foremost person in the Qing court these three years, died vomiting blood in front of everyone at the foot of the palace walls, inside the rooms of the Hall of Governmental Affairs.
Throughout this process, Fan Xian calmly and even coldly observed He Zongwei the entire time. He watched as he vomited blood, his pained struggle, and as he died. The expression on his face remained calm as usual. It did not tremble at all. He didn’t know of He Zongwei’s complaints and dissatisfaction before he died. He didn’t need to know. All the officials, including He Zongwei himself, who died on Jan. 7 in the 11th year of the Qing calendar were all just preparation work.
He Zongwei’s death had nothing to do with his likes and dislikes. It was for those people he had to protect, for those people in Jiangnan, Xiliang, and Jingdou who had already died. The officials the Emperor had raised purposely to defeat Fan Xian had to die.
This was just one gear in a calculation as cold as a machine. Fan Xian only had to confirm his death. There was not much emotion in his heart. There would be time to speak of emotional things before his own death.
Scholar Hu looked in a daze at He Zongwei’s body. He then turned his head heavily and looked at Fan Xian’s cold face with an angry, disappointed, and confused expression. An icy cold voice squeezed out through his chest. “Take down this murderer.”
He stood right by Fan Xian. He stood disappointedly and angrily right beside Fan Xian and gave the order to capture and even kill Fan Xian, completely disregarding the fact that Fan Xian could casually stretch out his hand and make him go the same way as He Zongwei.
Naturally, Fan Xian would not kill him. He looked at Scholar Hu and smiled with remorse.
Just before the imperial soldiers charged forward, the leading eunuch of the internal court, Eunuch Yao, finally reached the Hall of Governmental Affairs. Using a sharp voice and a powerful zhenqi, he yelled, “The Emperor has orders to have the renegade, Fan Xian, escorted into the Palace!”
The edict had finally arrived. Without a doubt, this was a certainly a fatal edict. However, the edict only summoned Fan Xian into the Palace. All matter between the Emperor and his illegitimate child could not be seen or heard by these officials of the court.
There was silence inside the large room. Countless gazes turned toward Fan Xian. He was silent for a moment and then asked, looking at Eunuch Yao, “Do I need to be bound?”
Eunuch Yao was silent, not saying a word. Fan Xian could not resist letting out a sigh. Naturally, no one would be able to bind him. However, the Emperor’s edict could easily make one’s family and friends become ropes that one could never escape from.
“My umbrella is by the door, make sure no one steals it.”
After Fan Xian said these words, he followed Eunuch Yao toward the depths of the Palace. Behind him, the officials still surrounded He Zongwei’s body, incomparably mournful.