Joy Of Life - Volume 2 - Chapter 309
The plum garden was behind Guang Xin palace. The environment there was very quiet. By going through Tianxin Tai, you would arrive at Yin Feng Ge;this was where Fan Xian was recovering. The Emperor had given him permission to stay in the palace while he healed, and the people in the palace all acknowledged that he had performed a great service for the royal family. But as a male chancellor, it was felt that his treatment was inappropriate. Fan Xian was well aware of this, so he just stayed in the plum garden. And in regards to the visitors who wished to see Fan Xian, he took advantage of the fact that he was ill as an excuse not to see them.
At this time, there was a noblewoman who looked as happy as she seemed clumsy. She was walking through Yin Feng Ge, and the way she appeared seemed to suggest that she was familiar with the place. She held the hand of a child, and a few maids of hers trailed behind her.
Fan Xian was surprised;it was who Yi Gui Pin. He did not say anything. Ever since Fan Xian had stayed at the palace, she had brought the third prince to sit in that place everyday. At first, it was because they were relatives, not to mention that Fan Xian had saved the third prince's life in the Floating Temple. She wanted to show her appreciation, and Fan Xian was not one to deny it. However, Fan Xian knew that her intentions weren't wholly pure and that she had an ulterior motive.
"Auntie, didn't I tell you that you did not have to come? Why are you even bringing stuff here?" Fan Xian was smiling as he said this.
In regards to appropriate mannerisms, he should have called her "lady". But ever since he first entered the palace last year, Yi Gui Pin had always enjoyed him calling her Auntie. She adored this sweet nickname, and Fan Xian was willing to oblige her. Today, the maids behind Yi Gui Pin were carrying a number of boxes;the contents of which weren't known to Fan Xian.
"It is a soup made from cordyceps." Yi Gui Pin and the two maids beside Fan Xian bowed. They did not behave like strangers to each other, and so they immediately presented a jar of the stuff. Yi Gui Pin then sat down next to Fan Xian and said, "This is not from the palace. It was formulated in your manor, and I was asked to deliver it to you."
Fan Xian made an "oh" sound in response. He then observed the maids who were pouring out the soup, noticing that one of them was quite familiar. With laughter he said, "Even Xing'er has come?"
Xing'er was the maid that guided him through the palace on his first ever visit to the place. She did not expect that Fan Xian would still remember her. Hearing his words, she blushed and with a high-pitched voice replied, "Yes."
This made everyone laugh. Yi Gui Pin, with a grand smile, then said, "You are badly injured. Even now, you still haven't forgotten about..."
All of a sudden, she regretted her suggestion. She hastily ended her sentence, held her mouth and smiled again. She was not that old, and Yi Gui Pin's personality was beautiful and pleasant. She was an easy person to get along with. She then turned to talk with Wan'er, and discuss the house with Ruoruo. It comforted them to know of how well the Fan Manor was being kept in their absence.
The third prince, who sat next to Yi Gui Pin, looked a lot more honest than he used to. He didn't look as cruel as he did back in the Bao Yue brothel. He looked down to the ground and with a face of sadness, remained silent. Only now and again would he raise his head to take a gander at the patient.
After what happened at the Floating Temple, the anger towards Fan Xian regarding the events of the Bao Yue brothel had all dispersed. Aside from his big cousin, it seemed to him as if no one else valued his life. This included his two brothers as well. There, they only looked to their father. Had Fan Xian not been there, he was afraid that his life was to be lost at the hands of the assassin.
For the eight-year-old kid, it did not matter how mature he was, he was still at the age that could only judge people through black and white values. People were either good or bad. The third prince looked at Fan Xian's pale face. He thought of Fan Xian covering him from the front in the Floating Temple, and through his reminiscing, admired Fan Xian and his courage a great deal. What he was feeling was could not be measured..
Wan'er looked at the third prince and asked, "Third Prince, why are you so quiet today?"
The third prince began laughing, and he said, "oh, nothing ails me, big sister."
Wan'er was even more confused, and so she said, "it seems as if you have completely changed."
Yi Gui Pin looked at her son and said, "if it wasn't for Fan Xian, this child would have lost his life. He was shocked a great deal, but it's better for him to be an honest boy."
Fan Xian was lying on the sofa. It was an inconvenience for him to turn his head, so he used the corner of his vision to observe the women who were chatting. He slowly drank the soup which had been produced from cordyceps, by Xing'er who was feeding him. When Xing'er brought back the bowl, she quickly rubbed his chest with her incredibly soft fingertips.
Fan Xian was surprised. He knew that this maid would not flirt or tease him, but he also knew that there was something Yi Gui Pin wished to tell him privately. So, he said, "Wan'er, could you go take the third prince for a walk in the garden? Ruoruo, you can accompany them."
They both looked at each other. They also knew that Fan Xian and Yi Gui Pin had something to discuss, so they stood up and brought the third prince with them to the garden. As he went, it looked as if he did not want to leave. They also brought the maids and eunuchs with them.
Inside Yin Feng Ge, only Fan Xian and Yi Gui Pin remained. Those two and Xing'er. The reason Xing'er stayed with them, was because Yi Gui Pin thought it to be inappropriate for the wife an Emperor to spend time alone with a young male chancellor.
Fan Xian was having difficulty turning his head, and so he looked at Xing'er.
Yi Gui Pin smiled and said, "she is just a maid I brought from my home. Do not worry."
"Auntie," Fan Xian was bearing a wry smile as he said this, "What is it? Must you really be this careful? I am heavily injured and have only been awake for two days."
Yi Gui Pin waved her handkerchief. With a smile, she responded, "If I did not come seek you out, would you have sought me out?"
These words were not playful. She calculated Fan Xian's desire to learn of what had been occuring outside the palace in his absence. In regards to the assassination in the Floating Temple, it was a little spooky. And the fear of it happening did not only concern the people of the palace;even the civilians were talking about it, and this was quite strange. At the dinner table, in various restaurants across the capital, people would repeatedly curse the assassin, all the while trying to guess his identity. Hundreds of people would provide hundreds of answers. Yi Gui Pin knew that the Emperor wanted Fan Xian to recover in peace, so he prevented him from attempting to do his own research into the matter. Yi Gui Pin, however, had decided to help him out in this regard.
"Aren't you afraid that the Emperor will punish you?" Fan Xian looked like he had a smile, yet did not have one.
"Now is the time." Yi Gui Pin said this straightforwardly, though corrected herself to laugh somewhat. She then said, "Aside from you, there is nobody else I can rely upon."
Fan Xian knew exactly what she meant. There were four wives with kids in the palace. The children that belonged to the Empress, Ning Cairen and Shu Guifei had already grown up to possess their own power. And this Yi Gui Pin before him, although she was a noble who had received support from the Fan Manor, bore the third prince, who was still too young.
After a time of silence had elapsed between them, he described to her what transpired in the Floating Temple.
Although she had already heard it once from her son, she was still brought terror when she heard it here again. Her hands were tightly holding onto the handkerchief in her possession, and it seemed as if she feared the prospect of another assassin hiding in the ranks of the guards of the palace, waiting for his moment to slay her son.
After she heard this, she angrily stated;"How is it possible for an assassin to be hidden within the guard!? The guards are each vouched for and given background checks to ensure a three-generation-long lineage of association with the palace before being accepted and put into service."
"I don't think the issue lies in..." Fan Xian now laughed, and then finished with, "Can I call him the third brother?"
"You are the elder brother, you can call him whatever you desire."
"I don't think they are intent on harming the third brother specifically." Fan Xian explained quietly. "Maybe the assassin would have slain the third brother as well, but it was the Emperor who was undoubtedly the primary target. You need not worry over his safety. Although the crown prince is worried about the power of the family, my and the second brother's relationship isn't very good. The third brother is still too young, so there is no need for him to become a target."
Saying these things in the palace was bold, and the person to speak such words would possess a fair amount of courage. Although Yin Feng Ge had no spies watching, Yi Gui Pin's face still warped nervously. She let out an unnatural laugh.
What she worried about the most was someone wanting to do harm to her son. But hearing what Fan Xian had just told her, she did not worry so much. She felt at ease. She then began reciting to Fan Xian the events that had transpired outside the palace. Fan Xian had no idea how the investigation was proceeding, but because Yi Gui Pin's family had spies outside the palace, she was able to gather a a lot of accurate information. The intel she had gathered was pretty much irrefutable truth.
"Gong Dian has already been captured."
Fan Xian gave a slight "hum", but did not reveal the shock in his heart. Yi Gui Pin had used the word "capture". That meant the government had already confirmed his involvement. Still, it did not come as a surprise. As leader of the royal guard, and leader of the ordinary guard, he neglected his duties and was absent during the assassination attempt. Him being gone meant that, at the very least, his career would be buried so deep it would never see the sun again.
This is what interested Fan Xian the most;what was this clumsy leader doing the entire time the assassination was underway?
"He was in Jingnan, fourteen miles away in Luo Zhou. He said his presence there was at the adherence of orders given to him." Yi Gui Pin was talking with a confused look. Even though she was trying to downplay his crime as she spoke, she should not have said that he was following orders. If these words reached the Emperor's ears, it would be a grievous thing indeed.
"And in regards to what he was doing there, the Overwatch Council has been investigating for the past two days and have not found anything out."
Fan Xian took a deep breath and told her, "I know Gong Dian to be a supremely loyal person, but I did not know that he could be this stupid."
Fan Xian shook his head and sighed. He then said, "If it was not the Emperor's idea for him to go work in Luo Zhou, then it must be that person. But the problem is, there was an ongoing assassination during his absence;how could he make that person the savior? Even though he was up there, the Emperor would not admit it. I am only afraid he will die all the quicker."
Yi Gui Pin was still struggling with Fan Xian's forthwithness and straight-to-the-point mannerisms of speech. With a wry smile, she responded, "… We should just ignore this matter."
"Correct. We do not have the qualifications to care." Fan Xian sighed before continuing. "The Ye family is going to suffer much misfortune. Has the assassin's identity been revealed yet?"
"The first assassin to fight was that nine-ranked elite who is dead." Yi Gui Pin's eyes looked frightened as she talked. "People say it was the assassin of the Xihu King, Zuo Xian, and that he had already been in the Qing Kingdom for fourteen years, spying and gathering intel."
"What does this have to do with Xihu?" Fan Xian asked. "How could people from Xihu have infiltrated the palace for so long? How has their presence gone unnoticed for so long?"
"These Hu people are powerful." Yi Gui Pin then took time to think of a way to organize and articulate how she would best explain this.
Fan Xian knew that the assassin who was killed by Eunuch Hong's hands was the heir of the "fake princess". While they made peace with the Qing Kingdom upon the country's founding many years ago, he had assumed and maintained his appearance as a person of this kingdom. That marriage was extremely famous. Because when Xihu was beaten by the Qing Kingdom, they sent a collective of peacemakers to the capital. Their request for peace, however, was rejected.
After that, the team of peacemakers returned to Xihu dishearteningly. No one would have expected that they left an elite in the capital, one who had remained in the shadows all this time, only to take action now.
"How could he mix in with the palace and become a guard? Who approved him?"
"The person who did that died a long a time ago." Yi Gui Pin furrowed her eyebrows and explained, "So, it became an undecided case. One without resolution."
In his heart, Fan Xian's curiosity was piqued. For this entire affair, he had finally obtained his first few clues.
Fan Xian said, "That young eunuch is still alive. With how the Overwatch Council does things, they should be able to investigate."
Yi Gui Pin nodded in correspondence. She then said, "They have investigated him quite thoroughly. That little eunuch is an heir of a sovereign who died amidst some chaos. Many people died during that time in the capital, about fifteen years ago. So, that sovereign's manor maid helped him escape. He had only just been born, you see. Coming from that family, he was therefore on the list, but he was somehow overlooked… that maid probably committed suicide. After this, the baby was raised by a farmer in the countryside. He was later castrated and brought into the palace."
"How could he conceal the dagger?" Fan Xian thought this was the real conundrum. A young eunuch like that wouldn't have been able to arrange something like this.
What Yi Gui Pin was to say next would turn Fan Xian's thoughts on their head. "For the past three years, he has had the duty of the brushing the top floor of the Floating Temple. He was just recently doing it before the flower event, so it is only natural that he would have hidden it during his time spent there. The Overwatch Council was already able to confirm who crafted the blade and when."
Fan Xian furrowed his eyebrows. The young eunuch was the victim of that bloody night, fifteen years ago. Fan Xian knew of this bloody night well, too. It too. It was the night that the Emperor, Chen Pingping and his father avenged his mother's death. Back then, even the most famous sovereign was killed. No one knew of the true death toll that was incurred on that one evening in the capital. Even the Empress' family was killed, leaving her all alone in the palace. Who could know what was going through the eunuch's head?
Xihu and a sovereign… these people really did possess the correct motivation and courage to try take out the Emperor. The only perplexing angle concerned why they were cooperating in this sordid venture.
"Did the Ye family have any reaction?" Fan Xian asked, with gravity in his tone.
"What reaction could they be expected to have?" Yi Gui Pin was laughing as she spoke, shaking her head in tandem. "Ye Zhong sent eight documents in confession. He did not dare return to Cangzhou, and so he just stays in his manor. Even for the royal guards he owned, he had them sent to the capital government for employment there instead. He is being extremely cautious to see how the Emperor reacted."
"The Emperor?" Fan Xian then began laughing. "Let's see if this Yeliuyun returns to the capital."
Both of them thought to say something, but all of a sudden, noise erupted from the direction of the plum garden. The sounds then subsided, which had them start talking about something else instead. Fan Xian discussed the Bao Yue brothel, and apologized for the damage he had done to the Yi Gong family. Yi Gui Pin had represented the sovereign, and thanked him for the intimacy. She appreciated Fan Xian's willingness to teach the kids and end their downward spiral into wretchedness that would otherwise tarnish the title of sovereign.
They both had a nice chat before parting.
"What were you two talking about?" Wan'er saw Yi Gui Pin holding the third prince outside. She was curious and asked, "This woman has always been quite calm going about the palace. Why did she look so nervous today?"
Fan Xian laughed and said, "The kids are grown up. As a mother, how could you expect her to remain the same? Once we have a baby, you will understand."
Wan'er was shocked. She then thought of her belly, which had yet to feel any movement. But now that her husband was injured, there was nowhere further they could take this discussion. So, she forced a smile and changed the subject. She said, "How is it going outside the palace? Is it still a mess?"
Fan Xian wanted to tell Wan'er all of what Yi Gui Pin had told him. He saw that there was a eunuch and maid not too far away from them, so he said, "the wind is getting cold. Let us go inside."
They knew that there were some words that were inappropriate to speak in front of the servants, and so Wan'er and Ruoruo nodded. They then told the eunuchs to carry the sofa.
Back in the room, Fan Xian lay on the bed. He opened his eyes and observed the ceiling above. No one could guess what he was thinking. After a while, he spoke. "What do you think will happen to the Ye family?"
There was no one else in the room, so he did not have to care about what he may or may not say. In a straightforward manner, he said, "Gong Dian must have received an order, and that is why he was in Luozhou. This was most certainly not an idea of the Emperor. Otherwise, Gong Dian would have said it was a mistake. And the Emperor would not have been able to fix this."
His heart shivered. "This move sounds ridiculous, but it is quite effective. The Empress Dowager secretly asked Gong Dian to go Luozhou. As leader of the royal guard, he had no choice but to oblige. At the time this request was accepted, the plot to assassinate the Emperor had unraveled and was acted out. If he went on trial, and Gong Dian admitted that it was the Empress Dowager that gave him the secret order to depart the capital, that would mean he was telling the world that the Empress Dowager wanted to kill the Emperor. If Gong Dian didn't want his entire family killed, he had no choice but to swallow these words and accept whatever punishment awaited him."
Wan'er and Ruoruo were smart people. They did not think that the Empress Dowager did this. Wan'er made a sad face and said, "You mean, Gong Dian's passage to Luo Zhou was established by my grandmother and the Emperor?"
Fan Xian confirmed.
Ruoruo frowned sternly and asked, "Why would they do something like this?"
Fan Xian coldly laughed and responded, "Gong DIan is leader of the royal guard and he was a classmate of Ye Zhong. If he was unlucky this time, the Ye family would follow."
Wan'er worried about her good friend Ye Ling'er. She sighed and professed, "The Ye family has been loyal. Why would the Emperor want to…?"
Before her words were finished, the implication was understood. Fan Xian merely sighed and said, "If the Emperor wasn't doubting the Ye family's loyalty, of course he wouldn't choose to do this. But he now harbors some suspicion, so they can only put the Ye family to the side. At the very least, the important areas of the capital would not allow the brothers to act as guards. The key point is, the Ye's is, the Ye's family had a grandmaster who only resided in the Qing Kingdom. As long as Yeliuyun is not dead, there will be no reason to move the Ye family."
"So, this is why they used the most embarrassing method to do this." Fan Xian sighed and continued, "Aren't they afraid of chilling the chancellor's heart?"
"But why would the Emperor doubt the Ye family?"
"It is simple." Fan Xian explained by saying, "The Emperor wants the second prince to marry Ye Ling'er. If Ye Zhong could get the right timing, he could reject the marriage. There would then be no fear of a cancellation of this marriage. He should just quit his job being a capital guard as soon as possible, though not totally retire, mind you. The Emperor would feel safer if he moved to the border."
"He didn't do any of this. So…"
Wan'er and Ruoruo nodded. Ruoruo couldn't help but say, "There are lots of twists and turns to this tale."
"When I was in the northern Qi kingdom, I surmised that there may come a day like this." Fan Xian proceeded to say, "I just never guessed that the Emperor may take advantage of such a cheap tactic."
All of a sudden, Wan'er said, "It seems as if this assassination in the Floating Temple was expected by the Emperor."
Fan Xian looked at her and nodded. He told her, "I just didn't know that everything was planned. I was just thinking that perhaps the Emperor only planned the interference of one of them."
Wan'er looked into his eyes and responded, "The Emperor never wanted to take big risks. I would say that the fire that started was the most he would do."
The wife and husband then stared at each other for a long while, both in silence. They both seemed afraid. If the fire in the Floating Temple was arranged by the Emperor, then for the attacks that followed, who set those up?
Fan Xian slowly closed his eyes and said, "The arrangement for the assassins' assault were too well-done. It was perfect enough for me not to believe it. This must have been devised by an organization. Perhaps the collective efforts of many."
"It was just a coincidence." Fan Xian then continued to say, "it was probably the cloaked assassin of the palace who was hiding just a few miles away. All of a sudden, there was panic due to the starting of the fire. This was his opportunity to strike, or so he thought. So, all the day's events weren't planned and organized all in one. They just happened to occur at the same time."
Towards the close of his dialogue, he told himself, "Obviously, this was something that was not planned and brought about a great deal of damage. It was beyond the Emperor's expectations completely."
Inside this gloomy building, which was not a great distance from the palace, Chen Pinping was sitting in his wheelchair. He did not say anything, nor did the other seven leaders who were with him. None of them knew what to say. An assassination of the Emperor was attempted;aside from the royal guard, who else might be held responsible for letting this happen? The Overwatch Council would have to suffer because of this as well.
If it was not for the commissioner who was lying in the palace recovering right now, the entire situation could undoubtedly be resolved. The Overwatch Council was currently facing the fate of the Ye family, and they were just waiting for the palace to punish them. Yan Bingyun, who had officially become the Fourth Bureau's leader, finally broke the silence in the room. He coldly spoke out, "The assassin who was from Xihu who hid within the guard, the young eunuch from that bloody night fifteen years ago, and the legendary Si Gujian's brother;these few people are not compatible. They could not have come together to do what was done. We still haven't found out who started the fire either. A lot of our intel points to the northern Qi kingdom's Brocade Guard being in a bit of a mess. They wouldn't have found the time to arrange this. Dong Yi City does not seem to have played a hand in this as well."
The Sixth Bureau's leader coldly said, "Si Gujian's brother is just a legend. Nobody knows if this person truly exists."
The Second Bureau of the Overwatch Council was in charge of analyzing details. The leader felt guilty and profoundly sorrowful. He said, "there is no further intel to relay. This is my own shortcoming. But I think that to arrange an assassination like this, some sort of contact must have taken place. There must be some source to obtain data from, but there has been none to find. I am guessing that between those involved with the assassination, there wasn't much contact between them, if any. I would surmise that the assassins involved did not actually know each other."
Chen Pingping, who was sitting on a wheelchair, slowly opened his eyes. He looked at his subordinates with a certain gloom. He was thinking, Of course you people cannot figure out that the fire was started by the Emperor. And about that assassin from Xihu and the brave little eunuch, who knows where they come from? The Emperor and the old man are not a real fairy.
"This was a stalemate." The old man yawned. "It was just a coincidence. There is nothing further to think about."