Joy Of Life Chapter 694
The head of the Qing Bureau of Military Affairs, the foremost person in the military below the Emperor, Commander Ye Zhong, personally led the elite troops outside of Taiping Courtyard and was responsible for subduing, overseeing, and controlling Fan Xian. It had to be said, the Qing court and Royal Palace had maintained a high level of respect and alertness toward Fan Xian.
Fan Xian's face was sallow and slightly pale. Streaks of murky colors appeared to stand out brightly on his handsome face. It was marks left by the rain and dust from his thousand-li ride. He looked at Ye Zhong's slightly cold gaze on top of his horse. He appeared somewhat wooden and indifferent. It was as if he did not see Ye Zhong himself or the thousands of armored riders.
For someone as powerful as Fan Xian and Ye Zhong, they knew that no ace, no matter how powerful, would be able to escape the pursuit of thousands of elite cavalry while on a plain unless one had already entered the realm of a Great Grandmaster. However, this was just on the outskirts of Jingdou with dense forests, clear rivers, and private residence. If Fan Xian did actually abandon everything in Jingdou and turned to escape like a bird flying into the woods, these thousands of cavalry would probably not be able to catch him for a while.
However, the Emperor had given orders for Ye Zhong to personally lead troops to handle this matter, so he had thought of this. Among the thousands of elite cavalry, there were many military aces. Most importantly, there was Ye Zhong, one of the few martial artists of the Qing Kingdom ranking above the ninth-level who could oppose Fan Xian face to face.
Fan Xian narrowed his eyes and looked at Ye Zhong on the horse. Suddenly, his mind turned and he thought of another matter. Involuntarily, he began to laugh self-mockingly.
Initially, there were three kingdoms under heaven. Going by the number of ninth-level aces, Dongyi had the most. But, the Qing Kingdom had conquered the world on horseback and had no lack of aces. In particular, there were the most aces between the seventh- and eighth-levels. There were also a number who were about to enter the ninth-level in Jingdou.
All of this had become history. The Tiger Guards, which had gathered the most seventh and eighth-level aces, had all become sacrifices to the sword of Dongyi because of the Qing Emperor's cautiousness toward the previous Minister of Revenue. The powerful figures in the military had almost been wiped out during the Jingdou rebellion three years ago. Qin Ye and his son had both died in front of the Royal Palace. Additionally, there was old Eunuch Hong, who had been lost at Dong Mountain, and the Great Priest and Second Priest of the Qing Temple who had died one after another.
Because of the Emperor's schemes and paranoia, the top aces of the Qing Kingdom had been reduced unwittingly. Now, there was a massive vacuum. In order to subdue Fan Xian, a superior ninth-level figure, there was no one to send. The foremost person in the military, Ye Zhong, had to be sent forth personally.
"I am very surprised you can still laugh," Ye Zhong said calmly. He had slowly restrained the coldness in his eyes.
"I am just thinking of a problem. If you and Gong Dian both died, does the Emperor… still have any trustworthy and powerful people by his side?" Fan Xian asked in a raspy voice as the corners of his mouth quirked.
Ye Zhong's heart trembled. He knew Fan Xian had seen the gap present in the Qing Kingdom's military strength. Although the Qing Iron Riders were still without equal in the world, regardless of whether it was the Dingzhou Army, Yanjing Camp, or old subordinates scattered across the border of the Western Expedition Army that the Great Prince commanded, each of them was a ferocious tiger and wolf on the battlefield. If it came to a small elite group led by a powerful figure for direct clashes, the Qing Kingdom was hard pressed to find an ace that could be relied on.
"All the powerful figures in the world are in my hands," Fan Xian slowly said as he looked at Ye Zhong. "I don't care what order the Emperor gave you earlier. I only know that if you do not immediately call back the scouts and riders you sent out, many things you do not want to see will appear."
It was an arrogant phrase. The earth under heaven belonged to the Emperor. The subjects under heaven belonged to the Emperor. As the most powerful Emperor in the world, the Qing Emperor should have the loyalty of the most powerful figures in the world. However, times had changed. Regardless of whether it was luck or happenstance, Ye Zhong had to admit that the truly powerful aces under heaven had mostly landed in Fan Xian's hands.
Although Ye Zhong did not know about the truth of the assassination in the Hanging Temple, the scene on the execution field confirmed for him that the true aces of the Overwatch Council, such as the mysterious head of the Sixth Bureau, who legend said was the younger brother of Sigu Jian, the Shadow, was certain to follow Fan Xian's orders blindly.
Most importantly were the 13 disciples of the Sword Hut. Except for Yun Zhilan, who had already taken the position of Master of Dongyi, there were still 11 ninth-level aces.
"The Emperor gave no clear orders concerning you," Ye Zhong said in a heavy voice, "but the Black Knights and First Bureau officials who followed you out of the capital have broken Qing laws and committed treason. Do you think the court will leave them their lives?"
"It is me who wants to protect their lives." Fan Xian lowered his head tiredly. He felt that it was very tiring to stand there and discuss this with Ye Zhong. Slowly, he said, "You are a clever man. You know how to do it. The Emperor is in the midst of his anger. I hear he has also been injured. I'm afraid that the orders he is giving right now are not that wise."
"I am controlling my emotions with difficulty. I think that you don't want to really drive me crazy. Once I lose control, it will not be beneficial for you, me, the officials, and people of the Qing Kingdom, or even to the one in the Palace." Fan Xian's body was bent. He shook his head and said, "You know what my bottom line is. Starting from the old cripple until me, the style of the Overwatch Council has always been to protect their own. We cannot tolerate our own being hurt."
"I understand, but defying the edict…" Ye Zhong calmly looked at the messy hair on Fan Xian's forehead. "I am an official of the Qing Kingdom, I have an obligation to capture and kill all traitorous officials and those who break the law."
"Don't say such pointless things." Fan Xian waved his hand tiredly. "There is no one else here at the moment. If you want to ensure a thousand years of peace for the Dingzhou Army, then you best make up your mind quickly."
Ye Zhong and Fan Xian stood far in front of the cavalry. No one could hear their conversation. Even Yan Bingyun, who had followed Fan Xian the entire time, stood quietly by the black carriage and did not approach.
Ye Zhong thought silently for a long time and then said, "Even if I let them go now, the Black Knights under your command are already mentally and physically exhausted. Regardless of whether you are having them go to Xiliang to join Hongcheng or to Dongyi to join the Great Prince, the soldiers stationed in the provinces all along the way…"
Ye Zhong suddenly stopped and sighed in his heart. Well-informed of the situation, he knew what the court had planned these few days. In the intelligence reports, Fan Xian was still clearly far away in Yanjing a few days ago. Who knew he would have rushed back to Jingdou by now? Thinking of this, the heart of this powerful military figure couldn't help but be shocked. He could not understand how Fan Xian had flown across thousands of li and led hundreds of Black Knights back to Jingdou.
"As long as you don't personally take action, those provincial soldiers will not stop my people," Fan Xian said in a raspy voice. "As long as I am willing to go with you, the Emperor will not be angry at you letting them go."
Ye Zhong was silent for a long time. He then suddenly said, "That's true. As long as you are willing to return to the capital, the Emperor's rage will decrease greatly."
"See, is this not a very simple matter?" Fan Xian said this without expression. He turned his head and walked straight into the black carriage led by Yan Bingyun. Putting down the curtain, he closed his eyes and began to rest.
The carriage shook slightly and began to move down the road. Thousands of Qing elite cavalry seemed to be either escorting or guarding as they followed the black carriage slowly toward Jingdou.
They entered through Zhengyang Gate and once again moved along the quiet and severe street. Fan Xian, who had eyes his eyes closed the entire time in the carriage, suddenly asked, "Are we entering the Palace?"
"No." Ye Zhong rode on the horse and straightened his smallish frame and calmly replied, "The Emperor has not given an order. You are just not allowed to leave the capital."
"Very good, then I will go home," Fan Xian said quietly. He then closed his eyes again. Responsible for driving the carriage, Yan Bingyun's expression tightened slightly. Pulling on the reins, he followed the split at the salt market to the south.
All around, people secretly followed the black carriage closely. Ye Zhong's subordinate cavalry also sent a group after him while Ye Zhong himself stayed at the intersection and did not make any movements.
There were already pedestrians on the streets. Although the scene on the execution field in the rain had already traveled hotly among the common people, it was, after all, a distant matter and could not truly impact the lives of the people. Thus, following the end of the rain, life in Jingdou returned to normal.
The people walking below the eaves and to the sides had long been chased to either side of the wide street by soldiers. They stared woodenly at this sight and watched the black carriage surrounded by soldiers. Very easily, they guessed the true identity of the person in the carriage. Nervousness, excitement, confusion, and worry flashed through their eyes.
On his horse, Ye Zhong watched with an indifferent expression as the black carriage slowly drove toward the south side of the city. His heart felt unusually heavy. Logically speaking, he fulfilled his orders to bring Fan Xian back to Jingdou and strictly prohibit him from leaving, but he still could not relax. Under Fan Xian's naked and calm threat, he had no choice but to give up pursuing the Black Knights riding through the Qing Kingdom's fertile lands and those First Bureau officials who dared to oppose the Emperor's edict. When he entered the Palace later, who knew what kind of anger from the Emperor he would be met with. Yet, the coldest, hardest, and heaviest rock weighing on his heart was the attitude Fan Xian had demonstrated all along the way.
Ye Zhong knew that it was not he who had captured Fan Xian back to Jingdou. Rather, it was Fan Xian who had followed him back to Jingdou. What chilled his heart was that Fan Xian had no intention of entering the Palace to see the Emperor. Regardless of whether Fan Xian angrily accused the Emperor or explained something to the Emperor, it would all be more comforting than his present indifference.
That indifference actually hid within it an anger toward the Emperor and a suppressed coldness, as well as a disregard for imperial authority. Ye Zhong did not know why Fan Xian had the daring to do this, but he knew that the cold war between the Emperor and Fan Xian had just begun.
The Emperor, currently being tended to, was perhaps waiting, at this moment, in the Palace for his illegitimate child to enter the Palace and explain something or rage about something. However, Fan Xian disappointed all of the Emperor's hopes and estimations.
Ye Zhong slowly lowered his head. Thinking about Fan Xian's calm and powerful words in Taiping Courtyard earlier, he could not help but shake his head gloomily. He had been forced to retreat under Fan Xian's cold coercion. This proved that Fan Xian now had the power to openly contest against the Qing army. Such power would, without a doubt, cause many changes in the relationship between the Emperor and Fan Xian.
Ye Zhong could even guess the Emperor and Fan Xian's thoughts. The Emperor would never voluntarily send an order to have Fan Xian enter the Palace. He would wait until Fan Xian entered on his own. However, Fan Xian would never voluntarily enter the Palace. He would wait until the man on the throne spoke first.
This was a so-called test of attitude, intention, and willpower. The basis of such a test was in the power each side held, and more so in each side's powerful and icy heart. Who would jump up first?
Ye Zhong took a deep breath. The expression on his face returned to being severe and calm. Squeezing his heels, he prepared to enter the Palace to debrief on his orders. When it came to the battle between this father and son, it was not something he could interfere in as an official. The reason he had interfered in the Dingzhou Army back then was because of the Emperor's orders. It was clear that the Emperor's attitude toward Fan Xian, his illegitimate child, was completely different to that of his other sons.
As the head of the Qing military, Ye Zhong only hoped that this battle would be able to end peacefully or end as quickly as possible and not be like the autumn rain these two days, always leaving one cold and uneasy.
The carriage stopped outside the Fan manor's doors in the south of the city. The street was silent. The two stone lions being rained on at the manor doors had their eyes opened wide, staring angrily and uneasily at the people walking past. The tightly closed main doors immediately opened. A few knife-wielding manor guards surged out and stood beneath the carriage.
Fan Xian walked down from the carriage and did not glance at Yan Bingyun on the shaft of the carriage. He only lightly swept his eyes around his surroundings and easily saw the many staring spies. They were probably sent by the Palace. They could be nothing but people of the 13 city gate guards or the Supreme Court.
Further up the street at the intersection, the Overwatch Council's secret agents were still there. A warm smile rose to the corners of Fan Xian's lips. When it came to surveillance, the entire court added together probably still wasn't a match for the Overwatch Council. It looked like the secret agents in his hands remained in his hands and had not been taken by the Emperor.
He walked up the steps. Sitting on the shaft, Yan Bingyun sighed. As he prepared to leave, he suddenly heard him speak.
"I probably won't be in charge of the Council for much longer." Fan Xian did not turn his head. One of his arms was being held by a woman of his household. Tiredly and with some self-mockery, he said, "I hadn't been in charge long anyway, but I hope that you will not make the mistakes you have before. The reason the Overwatch Council can be so united is not because of a clear distinction between reward and punishment. Rather, it is protecting our own."
"A lot of people are probably already in prison. It will be impossible for these old folks to continue in their positions in the eight bureaus." His back slowly straightened. "If they lose their posts, then so be it. But, you have to ensure they can live. If they die, no matter how much you protect this damn Council, it will not have any meaning. Do you understand?"
Yan Bingyun was silent for a moment. He then nodded his head, not caring about whether Fan Xian could see him. Fan Xian sighed and stepped over the high threshold of the Fan manor supported by the woman.
The moment he entered the Fan manor, a familiar air washed over him and enveloped his exhausted body. It made him instantly feel sleep. This was probably the supposed effect of home. Fan Xian forcefully straightened his body and walked on the stone path, even leaving the support of the woman.
There were spies hidden everywhere in the manor. Guards walked around sternly. Everything was well organized with an abundant air of severity. This was the tradition of the Fan manor. No matter what storm raged on outside, there would not be any large flaws inside. During the Jingdou rebellion three years ago, the Fan manor had prepared sufficiently. Now, the Fan manor was prepared again.
This tradition was a rule laid down in his father's time. Regardless of what mess Jingdou was in, it would take an attack by at least a few hundred soldiers to drag the Fan manor down. Fan Xian looked with satisfaction at all of this and knew that Wan'er had prepared adequately. He had to maintain his strength to let the people of the Fan manor, who saw them as their mainstay, know that their young master had not fallen.
Passing the flower hut, he came to the back garden. At the door of the Flower Hall, he saw that gentle woman. Fan Xian looked at her and forced a smile with great difficulty. "I'm back."
Mist rose in Lin Wan'er's eyes but was forcefully pressed down. She had also come back not long ago from the Palace. Walking forward a few steps, she caught Fan Xian's icy cold hands. Smiling sweetly, she said, "It's good that you're back. Sleep first, you probably haven't slept in days."
"Haven't slept in six days, I also didn't think I would be able to do it." Fan Xian's heart twinged with pain as he forced a smile. Putting the weight of his body on his wife's shoulders, they walked toward the bedroom. As they walked, he said in a warm voice, "Presumably, these two days have been hard on you."
"Not hard." Lin Wan'er helped him into the bedroom but found that there were traces of blood on his palm. Her heart dimmed, but she didn't say anything. She only had him sit on the edge of the bed. She then ordered servants to quickly bring hot water to wash his face with. She also placed the copper feet-washing basin beneath his feet.
Lin Wan'er sat on a little stool and helped him take off his shoes and socks. Only then did she discover that the days of hard traveling, although it was on horseback, had made it so that Fan Xian's feet seemed to have become joined to his shoes. Particularly the balls of the feet where it pressed against the stirrups, there were deep and bloody cuts.
Lin Wan'er heart clenched. She carefully placed Fan Xian's feel into the basin of hot water. Fan Xian sighed. It was uncertain whether it was from the comfort or sorrow.
"The Council was surrounded by people. It was impossible to get in," Lin Wan'er said with her head down as she gently rubbed his feet.
"When I went out of the capital earlier, some daring men from the First Bureau followed me out," Fan Xian said with a gentle smile as he looked at his wife's head. "I know it was you who told them. I've already arranged for them to leave, so don't worry. As for the Council, at least it's under our eyes. Of course, the Emperor would not allow me to contact it."
Lin Wan'er's hand froze for a moment. On one hand, she was worried about Fan Xian. On the other, she was wondering if she should speak about that matter. After a moment, she said with her head down and in a trembling voice, "Sister went into the Palace yesterday to tend to the Emperor and has yet to come back."
"That's normal," Fan Xian said calmly. He had already heard this news from Yan Bingyun. "The Emperor always holds one's weakness tightly. Only the old cripple didn't have any weaknesses for him to grasp, so he ended up like he did."
Speaking of Chen Pingping, Fan Xian's face dimmed. In reality, Chen Pingping's only weakness in this life was Fan Xian. However, in this stalemate, the old cripple had still severed his connection to Fan Xian, leaving the Emperor with nothing to grab, and finally walking into a stalemate he was certain to die in.
After saying this, Fan Xian fell asleep. With both his feet in the water basin and his head on his chest, he fell deeply asleep. Having not slept for a long time, he finally relaxed in front of his wife. With an unshakeable sorrow on his face, he fell asleep deeply.
Lin Wan'er gently stopped the movements of her hands and looked at the sallow and sorrowful face. For some reason, a sorrow rose in her heart as a few tears slid down her cheek. She gazed at Fan Xian and wondered when that bright and charming youth had become so pitiful.
Fan Xian slept for an entire day and night. When he slowly awoke, he found that it was already another dusk. The slightly dim dusky light shone through the window and enveloped everything familiar in the room with a strange light.
Wan'er's voice came faintly from outside the window. She seemed to be ordering the servants to do something. Fan Xian's didn't want to disturb her and remained quietly lying under the warm and thin blanket, unwilling to rise. Perhaps he knew that once he rose from this soft blanket, he had to face everything that had happened and would happen.
His gaze moved slightly. He saw a towel draped over the side of the bed. He stretched out his hand and pulled it toward him. He then carefully wiped the dirt from the corners of his eyes. Immediately after, he looked at his body and found that it was clean and fresh. It looked like Wan'er had wiped down his body while he had been sleeping.
With just these two simple movements, he triggered aches and pains throughout his entire body that were difficult to endure. The thousand-li dash, his valiant killing, and marrow-deep sorrow had indeed weakened him to the extreme. It was not something a simple night of sleep could fix.
Fan Xian lay quietly on the bed and slowly activated the two bouts of zhenqi in his body, particularly Tianyi Dao's natural zhenqi, to recover his yuanqi. He gazed straight ahead at the complicated motif on the ceiling and wondered what the man in the Palace was thinking.