Joy of Life - Chapter 714 - A Commoner Facing The Emperor Alone (4)[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:50:52]
Chapter 714: A Commoner Facing The Emperor Alone (4)
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
“Why?” Right there in the wind and snow, Fan Xian sank deep into thought. He did not need any time to think. From many years ago, he knew that he would eventually be met with this question. All these years, he had been preparing and escaping, but he had never truly escaped. This was a question he had thought about countless times, particularly during those seven days and nights of thinking.
“Why?” He slowly raised his head and narrowed his eyes in the snow. Looking at the Emperor, he slowly said, “In the Imperial College today, I talked to the young people about the matter of benevolence and righteousness, about true righteousness.”
Fan Xian sighed. With a complicated expression, he said, “In the past, I had thought that all this was a sham, a lie. However, after all these years, I’ve had everything an official should have and shouldn’t have. It is not until now that I realized, other than the so-called standard, there is nothing else in the world that could make one’s life more honest.”
The Emperor looked at him faintly. His thin lips raised slightly as he repeated the words Fan Xian said this morning in the Imperial College in an icy voice, “I have nothing to be ashamed of. Ever since the ancient times, gentlemen have spoken of righteous to the world and have not allowed failure to blunt their hearts…”
The words Fan Xian spoke to the young people in the Imperial College in the morning made Scholar Hu clearly experience the murderous intent and determination hidden between the words. Scholar Hu had entered the Palace in terror and related the scene in the Imperial College to the Emperor, so the Emperor was able to recite back Fan Xian’s words.
Fan Xian also felt a tremor of surprise and smiled bitterly. “I am not someone who holds righteousness as the standard of life, and I am not a saint with supreme virtue. In my bones, I am still nothing more than someone who loves himself and respects himself.”
“This is probably what is hidden in my bones, what I have hidden and sealed away for more than 20 years.” Fan Xian looked at the Emperor and said very seriously, “I want to live this life fully and impetuously, to live without regret as much as possible. Thus, I must have a clear conscience. If things go on like this, the things buried in my bones will leave my conscience troubled forever.”
“The bustling and power of this world makes one blind and deaf, but I still cannot pretend that I do not know and did not hear of what happened back then and what happened this autumn.” A faint sorrow rose to Fan Xian’s face. “Chen Pingping returned to the capital to ask you a question, but I do not need to ask. I only know that these matters were unfair. Furthermore, this unfairness is being carried out on those who love me and those that I love. If there was never again a me in the world, never again a me that stood bravely in front of you, where would those who have passed seek their justice?”
“They should not be forgotten by this world. The injustice they endured must be redeemed through some way.” Fan Xian looked at the Emperor. “This is Your Majesty’s responsibility as well as my duty.”
The Emperor listened to the words that came from deep within Fan Xian’s heart. He was silent for a long time. He then slowly asked in an icy tone, “Why don’t you ask me what happened back then? Why don’t you ask me? Do I not have my own difficulties?”
“In King Jing’s manor, which was previously King Cheng’s manor, there are still many memorial-like writings that my mother wrote privately to you,” Fan Xian replied after a moment of silence. “I’ve read them all. I don’t need to ask anything. I know the reasons for what happened back then. As for whether her death was a good thing or bad thing for this land and millions of people, I don’t particularly care.”
He smiled with difficulty and said, “Your Majesty, this actually not a debate about the world or righteousness. This is not a public vengeance. This is a private resentment.”
“And, what a private resentment.” The Emperor also smiled. With his hands behind his back, he stood solitarily in the wind and snow. Unspeakable loneliness emanated from him. “She was your mother, but am I not your father?”
Fan Xian’s body froze slightly. He did not continue with this topic. Instead, he changed the topic and calmly said, “Your Majesty has great ambitions. You go along the path you believe is correct. However, in my opinion, no matter how glorious and correct the goal, if it is achieved through contemptible methods, it is not worth respecting.”
The glimmer of a mocking smile rose to the corners of the Emperor’s lips. Looking into Fan Xian’s fearless eyes, he said, “Do you think that your killing in Jingdou today is a very honorable action?”
Fan Xian shook his head with a smile and said, “My goal is to resolve the case from decades ago and tear apart the greatest shadow that has hung over my head my entire life. Everything is from my perspective. Just as I said earlier, this is a private resentment. It never had any intentions for glory or correctness. Since it is so, so what if the methods are contemptible?”
He paused and looked at the Emperor with a complicated and emotional gaze. “In this area, I am more like Your Majesty. For us, ‘good man’ is a very extravagant adjective. Precisely because it is so, I am not like her, confused until her death and kept in the dark. At least, before I die, I can still ask you one thing.”
These words spoke to the fundamental difference in nature between Ye Qingmei and Fan Xian. However, what was changeable and wonderful about the affairs of the world was that even though Fan Xian rushed about and enjoyed his upward rise, in the end, he had slowly leaned toward the path Ye Qingmei took. This pair of souls, which warmed each other through the barrier of time and came one after another, were probably the only existences in this world to not have a natural respect and fear of imperial power. Speaking from the innermost part of them, they both had the desire to stand upright in front of the throne.
Calmly and with a slight smile, the Emperor looked at Fan Xian with a strange emotion. Perhaps he felt that he was seeing that woman again after so many years.
The gaze that met Fan Xian seemed calm. In reality, each word struck at his heart. The Emperor sighed with emotion. He did not grow angry or gloomy. On the contrary, he calmly began to speak of another matter. “During the Taiping Courtyard incident, I did not dare to hope that you would survive.”
Fan Xian nodded his head slightly. During the Taiping Courtyard murder case, Ye Qingmei had just given birth to him and was at her weakest. He had just been born. How could he have survived against the empress’ family’s wild pursuit and Qin family military’s cold surveillance? Since the Emperor had woven such a contemptible and cold-blooded plan, he would coldly ignore his life and death.
If the old Fan family had not fought with their lives, Uncle Wu Zhu had not returned quickly, and Chen Pingping had not noticed something was wrong and returned early from the North, how could he possibly exist in the Qing Kingdom now?
“In the end, you survived and were delivered to my milk mother. After my shock had passed, I must admit that I relaxed a little in my heart. After all, you are my flesh and blood.” The Emperor looked at Fan Xian calmly. “Thinking of it now, Chen Pingping already had suspicions about me at that time. Otherwise, he would not have agreed to Lao Wu’s request and sent you to Danzhou. He knew that I saw both the empress dowager and my milk mother as my mothers. I could only watch as all of this became set in stone.”
“If things had gone on like this, everything would have been fine. I would be in Jingdou, and you in Danzhou. At most, during festivals, I would remember that I have an illegitimate child far away by the ocean in Danzhou and give the Fan manor some extra rewards to be delivered to your side.” There was snow stuck to the Emperor’s hair. For a moment, it was difficult to tell whether it was snow or snow-like strands of hair. He was beginning to appear old.
“Chen Pingping did not seem to agree. When you were four, he sent Fei Jie to your side and secretly gave the command of a group of Overwatch Council secret agents to my milk mother. He had come into the Palace to tell me about this matter. I had thought it was unnecessary…”
The Emperor’s brows pulled together. It seemed that he was recalling the past dozen years. “Yet, when you were 12, there was an assassination attempt on your life.”
The Emperor glanced at Fan Xian and shook his head. “Presumably you don’t know, but during the years you were in Danzhou, news from Danzhou was sent through the Overwatch Council all the way to Chen Pingping’s desk. With an enthusiasm that even surpassed his dealing of Council affairs, the old cripple often entered the Palace and told me of your every move.”
“Teasing the serving girls in Danzhou, climbing onto the roof to shout and scream, going into the kitchen to personally cook for my milk mother, the unusually dangerous Tyrannical zhenqi you were cultivating inside your body…” A strange smile rose to the Emperor’s face. “I knew of your every move even more clearly than that of my sons in Jingdou. Thus, although you were far away in Danzhou, I seemed to have grown used to you being right by my side.”
“Then, you came to Jingdou, came to my side. In the Qing Temple… In the tea store… Outside the courtyard…” The Emperor glanced at Fan Xian and gradually withdrew his smile. “You entered the Overwatch Council, ascended the Hanging Temple, accompanied me into the little tower, and were sent by me to Jiangnan. I had to admit that you were indeed my son and my favorite one at that.”
“Your mother once said that love was to become used to something. I became used to your existence when you were still small.” The Emperor suddenly raised his head and looked into the snowy sky. Seeming to be looking at someone, he abruptly nodded and said, “However, my favorite son was not willing to be my son. At this time, you still stand in front of me challenging my authority to seek justice for what happened in the past.”
He lowered his head and looked coldly at Fan Xian. “Between us father and son, there is no victory or defeat. Looking at things closely, in the end, it was still Chen Pingping who won.”
Fan Xian understood these words and sank into silence.
“Since you are not a virtuous person who thinks of the world and only seek to resolve a personal resentment instead of righteousness, then I cannot understand your decision today,” the Emperor said coldly and straightforwardly, not giving Fan Xian any further opportunities to experience him as family.
Since it was just for private vengeance and to seek a satisfying justice, why did Fan Xian take the snowy ground for the world earlier, laid out the truth, spoke reason with the Emperor, and threw out so many bargaining chips? Was it just to ask for the battlefield to be limited to the Royal Palace and for the two sides to be just between them, father and son? There had never been any benevolence to speak of in revenge. The Qing Kingdom and world could all be Fan Xian’s weapons.
Fan Xian was silent for a moment. He then said, “I thought for seven days at home.” He smiled and continued. “The so-called seclusion is all fake. Being locked for seven days and nights in the room would drive someone crazy. I also needed to eat and wander about.”
His expression gradually grew soft and calm. “When the night was deep and Wan’er and everyone else was asleep, I would sneak out of the room. With an unlined robe over my shoulders, I would wander the gardens like a traveling spirit. During those days, Jingdou snowed endlessly and the nights were very cold. The old women watching the garden were all hidden in a corner room drinking alcohol. No one noticed me.”
“So, I wandered around and around by myself.” Fan Xian watched the Emperor. With his eyes open wide, he said, very seriously, “Only then did I realize how large the Fan manor garden was. Usually, I am busy with state affairs and various schemes to the point that I almost forgot what my own garden looked like. It was not until these seven days that I noticed that the Fan manor’s garden is actually even larger in area than the Hua Garden in Jiangnan.”
“Who knows how many manors there are on the street in the south of the city? Who knows how much space they take up?” Fan Xian spoke intently. “And, the food, clothing, and expenses, usually unremarkable things I consider to be common, were, in reality, all extravagant joys for the common people.”
He pointed at the Royal Palace hazy in the snow and said, “Of course, the largest garden is still this Royal Palace.”
“Over the past few years, while I lived my own life, I also helped the lives of the common people. Regardless of whether it was the palace treasury, river works yamen, or Hangzhou Conference, I have gained quite a reputation. I had thought that I was helping them, but I suddenly understood that it was they who were providing for us.” Fan Xian’s expression was calm. He looked at the Emperor and said, “Since it is so, what right do I have to ask for their gratefulness?”
“I am not a saint. I have all kinds of flaws. It is just that I’ve hypocritically hidden them well these years. If I ask myself honestly, in the end, I still love the Qing Kingdom. No matter how bad this country is, the common people live decently happy lives under Your Majesty’s rule. With the palace treasury and the Overwatch Council, such good lives could continue for at least a few more decades if I don’t mindlessly interfere.”
“As I said earlier, I don’t even deserve gratefulness, so what right do I have to bring misfortune on them just because of my own private vengeance? Will I be happier if I shake up the world, kill and loot everywhere, split the world, and bring tragedy down on them? If I chose that path for the sake of revenge, putting aside what the old cripple would think, I believe that my mother would not be happy about it.”
Without pausing, Fan Xian continued. “Since I have sought justice for them, how could I choose a path that they would not approve of? I love the Qing Kingdom, so I hope that this is just a battle between Your Majesty and me. This is a matter between us. It is best if we don’t drag too many people in.”
“Someone once said that one’s life should progress along the correct path. What is the correct path? It is to do the right thing. However, I could not understand. There are no absolute criteria of right and wrong. How could I use my own moral compass to judge Your Majesty’s moral compass, to judge the right and wrong of the world? What was the standard for deciding right and wrong? In the end, this could only be a subjective experience.”
Fan Xian said each word slowly, giving voice to most of what he had thought of during the seven days.
“If the correct path was doing the right thing, then the so-called right thing would be in the direction that allows one’s conscience to be clear. I entered the Palace today to say and do these things with the Emperor to clear my conscience.”
As for the little that was left for Fan Xian to say, it touched upon the contention between him and the Emperor, not just now but also including possible future contentions. There was no need to speak more about the mutual damage and probing of the mind. There were only negatives.
“There are no true saints in this world.” The Emperor closed his eyes. Snowflakes hung from his eyelashes for a moment. “Perhaps your mother could be counted as one. However, your words today at least came close to true righteousness. If your mother knew that you had grown into such a young man, presumably she would feel very comforted.”
Fan Xian looked calmly at the Emperor’s pale and thin face. Abruptly, a sympathy and sorrow that scared him surged up for no reason from the depths of his heart. For such inappropriate emotions to appear at such an inappropriate time made him feel frightened. Faced with this man who was like a snowy mountain, what was there to sympathize with?
Perhaps he was sympathetic toward the Emperor for still seeing, even now, Fan Xian as the flesh and blood he was the proudest of. He had no idea that a soul with a settled nature was already hidden with Fan Xian’s shell. Perhaps Fan Xian felt sympathy toward the Emperor for having been fooled by his acting prowess all this time and it was destined that Fan Xian would not reveal his true self even when it came to the moment of life and death.
Over these years, Fan Xian had played, in front of the Emperor, the role of a loyal official and filial son, lonely subject and unworthy son. Despite his massacre in Jingdou and entering the Palace to face the scolding, he still acted pure, honest, and solemn. With his words as the blade and his appearance as the edge, step by step, word by word, he pierced into the depths of the Emperor’s heart.
This was a battle of the mind. Back when Fan Xian need to defeat Northern Qi’s saint girl Haitang Duoduo, he had begun preparations in Jingdou, drifted in the North Sea, and was half fake drunk half real drunk in the restaurant in Shangjing. Bit by bit, they came together. With the gentle touch in Jiangnan, he finally truly won this battle.
The Emperor was not Haitang. Fan Xian acted for longer and more painstakingly in front of him, but he didn’t know if he could truly touch his icy heart. However, this act was destined to go on. Even if Fan Xian died to his hands, he still had to continue actin. Otherwise, he would not be able to drag this man down from the altar and the throne or protect those whom he wanted to protect.
Throwing the handle after the blade, he who has nothing fears nothing. Fan Xian could be shameless to such a level as to meet massacre with massacre. However, the Emperor was not an opponent who could be brought down so easily. Fan Xian was cold-blooded enough, but he was even more cold-blooded. Thus, the killing intent and cold-bloodedness that was how visible to the naked eye was actually only a foundation and prelude.
The curtains were about to rise for the true show.
The wind and snow no longer swirled through the air. Instead, they fell down straightforwardly. The small petals of snow turned into flakes of goose feathers. They carried a heavy sense of beauty as they landed on the Emperor and Fan Xian’s bodies.
After entering the depths of the Palace through the Hall of Governmental Affairs and a long conversation, the two completely different circulations of zhenqi in his body had long finished resting. His entire body had entered a realm with no joy or sorrow. The zhenqi in his body was extremely full and only waited for the touch of a snowflake.
In the wind and snow, the Emperor stood with his hands behind his back. A natural and supreme authority emanated from his body. He narrowed his eyes and looked at Fan Xian with a mocking smile.
The power Fan Xian carried had long been released through the power of the wind and snow. However, as soon as it came within an inch of the Emperor’s body, it was as if it had reached an immovable snowy mountain, unable to progress another step forward.
The realm of a Great Grandmaster was not one that mortals could touch. The Qing Emperor just watched Fan Xian coldly. His gaze was enough to pin Fan Xian to the snowy ground.
Ruler and subject, father and son, stood in confrontation for a long time. Then, the Emperor abruptly laughed mockingly. “Even if I were to please your conscience, I still need time.”
After saying this, the Emperor held his hands behind his back, raised his leg, and walked away.
Amidst the wind and snow overflowing with two Tyrannical and thick zhenqis, the Emperor simply walked away without any care, easily and casually. It was as if the layers of force at this moment and the wild dance of the wind and snow could not hold back his steps at all.
This one step looked simple. In reality, it was laden with meaning and not simple at all.
With countless sounds of shattering, the sound of wind and snow rang out clearly. Fan Xian’s feet standing on the pile of snow suddenly sank an inch without any reason.
With Fan Xian’s feet as the center, countless fine cracks extended outward like lightning, but they did not fade for a long time. They remained on the snow like cobwebs. Although they were amidst wind and snow, they did not break.
These fine lines extended out over a large area and clearly showed the black dirt beneath the snow. It looked like a difficult-to-speak language and carried a strange beauty.
Fan Xian stood alone amidst the lines. He was silent for a long time. His face was cold and calm. He had exerted all his power, yet he could not hold him back a single step. The Emperor easily took the step and walked away. His realm was already beyond what existed between heaven and earth.
He suddenly thought of Uncle Wu Zhu’s words on the precipice in Danzhou of taking off one’s clothing and moving forward. The Emperor’s step earlier had perfectly fulfilled these words’ realm of perfection. Not only had he tossed aside this crippled form, he had long stepped out of this realm.
However, Fan Xian did not feel any hopelessness or disappointment. He knew that the person he faced was the last remaining Great Grandmaster in this land, and he long been close to surpassing the category of mortals.
He thought for a moment in the snow. Fan Xian then raised his knees and stepped into the footsteps left by the Emperor, walking in the direction of the small building.