Joy Of Life Chapter 696
Fan Xian washed his hands seriously. It took three basins of clear water before the fresh blood was washed off his hands. The servants poured the bloody water onto the roots of the trees by the stone lions outside the front doors of the Fan manor. No one knew if it would raise some kind of evil spirit. The clothes on his body were still covered with bloodstains. He took them off nonchalantly to put on a fresh set of outer clothing. The sleeves of the robe fluttered slightly in the evening air.
This dramatic scene was performed outside of the front doors of Fan manor. Sun Jingxiu, a leading official of the Ministry of Justice, and an internal court eunuch sent by the Palace all came after hearing the news and saw all of it.
Fan Xian's hands left outside the sleeves were shaking slightly. He had burned through too much energy seven days. It was not something a night of sleep could recover. Additionally, under the cover of darkness, he had used the sword in his hand to kill all the people outside the manor responsible for keeping it under surveillance like an evil demon. It was another drain on his energy. It made his face slightly pale.
His handsome and slightly pale face, accompanied by the sword on the ground and stench of blood all around, made Fan Xian appear particularly terrifying.
He was the Director of the Overwatch Council and a killing machine of the darkness the Overwatch Council had raised for 20 years. Usually, people were fooled by his identity, noble title, powerful position, and glory. They did not realize that Fan Xian's most powerful ability was his skill in killing people.
He had not killed all the spies the Palace had sent to watch the Fan manor. Those that had escaped before Fan Xian could act and those who had revealed their identities had only been knocked out. As for those particularly far away from the Fan manor, within the boundary of streets and alleys, the spies disguised as various common folk and merchants did not have any chance to negotiate or surrender before they became a fleeing spirit on the blade of the sword in his hand.
After waking from the nightmare, and his eyes had left the blinding coldness of the snowy mountain, Fan Xian had taken countermeasures at the first opportunity. Such a counterattack could not help but seem overly bloody and unreasonable.
Fan Xian was not a bloodthirsty person. He knew the spies outside Fan manor had been sent by the Emperor and important officials in court. Those people did not know of Fan Xian's present state of mind. They had to be even more on guard. However, he had no choice but to kill them. His first accurate deduction after opening his eyes was that the Emperor would weaken his power. Furthermore, the Emperor would strictly control contact between him and the Overwatch Council subordinates loyal to him.
Although Yan Bingyun, with the help of the Royal Palace and suppression through military strength, had managed to take control of the square and sinister building in name, everyone knew that after Chen Pingping had died wretchedly in front of the Royal Palace, the sinister Council only had one master left: Fan Xian. If he could rebuild even the slightest connection to the Overwatch Council, then even the Emperor would not be able to stop Fan Xian successfully obtaining the power of the Overwatch Council.
At least for now, the Emperor would not allow Fan Xian to obtain the Overwatch Council's help again. Ye Zhong had led troops to "invite" Fan Xian back to the capital. With so many spies hidden outside the manor, it was clear the Emperor wanted to put Fan Xian temporarily under house-arrest.
Fan Xian could not give the Emperor time to make these progressive arrangements. Once Fan Xian lost contact with the Overwatch Council for too long, the court would gradually take apart the personnel structure within the Overwatch Council and clear out officials loyal to Chen Pingping and Fan Xian. They would then desperately fill it with spies, just like how the Imperial Censorate filled the Overwatch Council with spies two years ago.
Before the Overwatch Council left his control, Fan Xian had to, voluntarily, tidily, and readily, have the subordinates loyal to him return to the darkness and calmness to wait until he needed them once again. All of this relied on him making contact with the most loyal Qinian Unit.
The spies outside Fan manor had to die. Fan Xian would not risk carrying out this dangerous task while being followed. Under the Emperor's authority and suppression, the only way to find a flaw in the surveillance outside Fan manor was through the terror of blood and death. There was no other way.
The news that a First Bureau crow had risked death to come into the manor made Fan Xian's heart freeze. He steadied the hand grasping the sword.
Four Overwatch Council officials had already been hanged in the prison, but they weren't the heads of the eight bureaus. It looked like Yan Bingyun was still desperately protecting the Overwatch Council's survival, but he still could not save those officials.
The four officials were those who had tried to forcefully rescue the Director when he had been sent into the Overwatch Council's prison. The Emperor would not allow officials who disobeyed him to exist. So, they had died, cleanly and tidily.
For Fan Xian, this was a dangerous signal that the Emperor had begun to purge the Overwatch Council. So, he also had to take action. He had not used any of his inconsiderable powers or available subordinates. He personally stepped over the tall threshold of the Fan manor and pulled out the icy sword from behind him. He took a walk in the night and killed 14 people.
The lantern in front of the Fan manor front doors was hung high. All the torches were lit on Chang Street in the south of the city. Everything was illuminated like daylight. A few officials watched the bloody corpses being carried out from the streets and alleys all around. They met each other's eyes with cold hearts and pale faces, unsure of what to say. They had always known that Sir Fan junior was a powerful character who did not act according to common logic. They still could not understand why he would risk the Emperor's rage and danger of being thrown into prison to kill so many people in front of so many people.
The officials all knew that these bodies being piled into carriages were capable spies the Palace and their own yamens had sent out. Their target had been this little duke in Fan manor. It was no wonder he had become so angry, but was the follow-up strategy of this kind of violent killing?
Each of the yamens of the Qing court were probably used to sending out spies to find out the information and intelligence they needed. No one knew how many spies they had in each nobleman's manor and each official's manor in Jingdou. The Overwatch Council was an even older hand at doing such things. According to the rumors, the First Bureau was at the level where they could place a spy in the manor of each official in the capital above the sixth-level.
Concerning the matter of spies, they were not a secret in the Jingdou officialdom. The officials were all used to it. Even if an official one day discovered that there were spies from the Palace or the Overwatch Council in his manor through some strange events, he could only pretend to not know. If he really could not go on pretending, he could only look after them carefully, give the other party verbal reminders, and politely send them out of their manor and back to their yamen.
The officials knew these spies represented the Emperor's eyes and authority of the court. They had never thought that there would be an official like Sir Fan junior who would coldly and arrogantly kill all of these spies.
The vice director of the Ministry of Justice glanced at the uncomfortable Sun Jingxiu and said in a low voice, "Sir Sun, you'll have to ask the little duke about how we should report back on this matter."
Killing people in the streets had already broken one of the Qing law's capital offenses. Even though Fan Xian was now of noble rank and within the boundaries of the Eight Deliberations, which enabled him to avoid the death penalty, he could not escape punishment. Furthermore, the people he had killed today were all secret subordinates of the court.
However, Fan Xian washed his hands under the bright light of the lanterns and changed his bloodied clothing in front of the officials with a cold and calm expression. Who dared to capture him?
Among the officials present, only the magistrate of the Jingdou Government, Sun Jingxiu, should be managing this matter. Furthermore, the crowd all knew that the Sun manor had close relations to the little duke. A few months ago, the little duke had battled it out with Scholar He of the Hall of Governmental Affairs for the sake of Sun Jingxiu's career prospects. It had ended with Scholar He in the dirt, so the gazes of all the officials landed on Sun Jingxiu's face.
Sun Jingxiu's heart was bitter like he had eaten ephedra. He knew what his colleagues were fearful of. In recent days, things had not been easy for him. The Overwatch Council had run into major trouble, old Director Chen had been sentenced to death by a thousand cuts, and he had personally seen Sir Fan junior ride alone into the execution field. He had broken out in cold sweat from the fear. He didn't know what role Sir Fan junior would play in court in the future. Would he pass into oblivion or be severely punished by the Emperor?
If Fan Xian lost power, Sun Jingdou would not be met with a good end. Thus, he had spent the entire day in the Jingdou Government waiting in fear for the Emperor's orders to remove him from his position. Unexpectedly, the Emperor's order had not arrived. His support, Sir Fan junior, had done another universally shocking and treasonous thing.
He made his way over to the front door of the Fan manor with his body slightly bent. He bowed deeply and formally to Fan Xian. He then quietly said some things.
Fan Xian was sitting tiredly on the long bench. He had thrown the Wei Emperor's sword to the ground by his feet. He was not surprised to see Sun Jingxiu approach him. He replied with a cold expression.
The other officials were too scared to move forward and did not know what the two of them said. They could only hold their impatience. After Sun Jingdou came down from the stone steps, the vice director of the Ministry of Justice furrowed his brows and said, "What did the duke say? Killing people in the street is not a minor matter. Even if it gets to the Taichang Temple, it still needs an explanation."
The vice director did not have the courage to order the 13 yamens of the Ministry of Justice to send people into the Fan manor to capture him. However, the Qing laws were strict. These officials had seen all this and could not pretend they had not seen anything.
No one knew what Fan Xian had said to Sun Jingxiu, but the Jingdou Magistrate no longer wore an expression of fear. With a calm expression, he said, "The duke said that recently Jingdou has not been peaceful. The Overwatch Council has found that there are people coming into the capital to kidnap children. As you know, the Fan manor has two young children, so Sir Fan junior is nervous. Thus, he had walked around the various streets and alleys by the manor earlier and saw some suspicious figures. Seeing that they were not trustworthy people, he asked them a few questions. Unexpectedly, these bastards dared to take out weapons to attack the duke. Of course, the duke would not treat these scoundrels kindly."
With these words, the officials in the center sucked in a cold breath. They had seen shameless and ruthless nobles, but they had never seen such a shameless and ruthless noble. Fourteen lives taken just like that. And, he had forced the suspicion of kidnappers onto them. If it was self-defense, it was understandable. To say that the Duke of Fan manor had ridden out alone to inquire as to the whereabouts of the kidnappers and had ended up being pursued by 14 people, no matter how often it was said, no one would believe it.
"Naturally, I do not believe it, but I also don't have any evidence. Of course, we can also invite the duke back to the yamen to record his confession or something. But, it's already late, and I am not interested in doing it." Sun Jingxiu's back suddenly straightened. Looking at his colleagues around him, he said coldly, "You all have this authority in your yamens. If you are willing to take over this case, help yourself… However, I want to remind everyone that most of the people who died were from the Palace. The Palace has not spoken, so it is best to not act rashly."
This was the most useless sentence ever. Everyone knew who had died outside the Fan manor. This had always been a matter between the Emperor and Sir Fan junior. Even if these officials were given some courage, they would not interfere. However, Fan Xian had been too excessive. The matter was about to reach the Palace. If they did not have some reaction before that, who knew what the Palace would think of them?
After saying this, Sun Jingxiu left with the bailiffs of the Jingdou Government, not bothering to deal with the matter anymore. In his simple conversation with Fan Xian, his mind had been put at ease. Although it had been a difficult pill to swallow, at least the duke had said that as long as he did not die, nothing would happen to the Sun manor. Since he had already said so, Sun Jingxiu had nothing else to complain about. Everything was up to fate.
Watching the people of the Jingdou Government leave the front doors of the Fan manor, Fan Xian rose from the long bench and glanced coldly at the officials below the stone steps. From beside his foot, he lifted the sword of the Wei Emperor that everyone saw as a treasure. As if he had picked up a wet mop, he casually slapped it a few times against the head of the stone lion.
Such an action was very much like that of a brutish idiot who cared nothing for his dignity or life, yet it was Sir Fan junior who had performed such an action. The powerful contrast changed the expressions on the officials' faces.
After entering the manor, a serving girl came forward to hand him a thick robe. Only then did Fan Xian feel his body warm slightly. As he pulled his robe shut, he walked toward the rear residence of the manor and ask casually, "Is the water boiled with bulrush roots ready? If so, send it over quickly."
The serving girl made a sound of acknowledgment. She then went to the little kitchen to keep an eye on it. Fan Xian walked alone to the rear residence and sat down on the side of the bed. To his wife, Lin Wan'er, beside the table, he quietly said, "Killed 14, 28 may come tomorrow."
"Those are only subordinates of the court acting on the orders of the Palace and various yamens, why…" A reluctance appeared on Lin Wan'er face. "Besides, even if you are unhappy and want to avenge the Overwatch Council subordinates who died in prison, there is no need to vent out your anger on them."
"You don't understand. The Emperor wants to put me under house arrest in the manor. He knows that unless he comes out of the Palace to personally keep an eye on me, even if Ye Zhong comes, he cannot stop me having contact with the outside world." Fan Xian wiped the cold sweat from his forehead. He still felt that his body was a little weak. In a raspy voice, he said, "The Emperor is concerned with tens of thousands of matters each day, how could he keep an eye on me personally? Thus, he can only scatter a huge net around the outside of our manor."
"I have to tear open this net. Otherwise, we will become frogs in warm water. We won't even how we died when we die." A scary coldness rose between Fan Xian's brows.
"But, as you said, you killed 14 people today and tomorrow there could be 28. The Emperor is the master of the Qing Kingdom, and the people of the world are all tools in his hands. You can't kill everyone like this." Lin Wan'er looked at him with worry.
"Once more are killed, people will become afraid," Fan Xian said with his head slightly lowered. "Imperial authority is deeply rooted in people's hearts and cannot be opposed. The fear of death would presumably make some of the spies unconsciously reveal some openings."
Hearing these words, the worry on Lin Wan'er's face did not abate. Her watery eyes were filled with concern and unease for Fan Xian. Quietly, she said, "If the Emperor wants to subdue you, there are still many other ways."
Fan Xian's hands supported him on either side of his body. He lowered his head in thought for a moment. He then faintly said, "He has kept my sister in the Palace, this is forcing me to not leave the capital. If he wants to subdue me, he must shut me into the Royal Palace by his side. I don't think the Emperor would take such a risk."
He raised his head and looked at this wife's worried face. Gently, he said, "Shuning and Langzi have both already left the city. You did very well in this matter. Otherwise, as parents in the capital, it would be difficult to act openly."
"They should have already arrived at the country estate, but I think the Palace would have heard." Lin Wan'er sighed. She walked to his side and gently leaned her head against his shoulder. "I don't understand what you are going to do, but you have to remember that sister is still in the Palace and the two small ones have not gone far."
"That is why I have to make contact with my people." Fan Xian tenderly and gently stroked his wife's thin face. "Usually, Sisi is an unremarkable person. In reality, she has strong opinions and can suffer great hardships. Teng Zijing is experienced in handling things and, presumably, would not allow the Palace to grasp head nor tails of this. If I can make contact with people of the Qinian Unit, I will be able to send them back to Danzhou."
"As for my sister still in the Palace, it shouldn't be a problem." Fan Xian's voice suddenly grew cold. "I openly challenged the Emperor's might today to see how far he is willing to go."
"Are you not worried that Uncle Emperor will punish you severely?" Lin Wan'er sat up straight and looked at him with worry. She deeply understood how cold-blooded and heartless that relative on the throne could be. Once he discovered Fan Xian was no longer the illegitimate child he could control, what would his reaction be? Lin Wan'er had always thought Fan Xian's present actions were overly extreme and risky.
"Any action of the Emperor's has nothing to do with familial affection and feeling. It is only related to benefits," Fan Xian said with his eyes closed. "If we acknowledge this foundation, then we can try to make an analysis. Perhaps the Emperor may be angry, but he would not force me to the extreme."
"Regardless of whether it is the children I am preparing to send to Danzhou or Ruoruo in the Palace or you," Fan Xian said slowly as he opened his eyes and looked at his wife, "these are all of my bottom lines. If the Emperor breaks them, he will be forcing us to turn against him early."
Lin Wan'er looked at him with some confusion.
Fan Xian said, "I never underestimate any of my enemies, but I also never underestimate myself. Regardless of whether the Emperor forces me to rebel or kills me, it will only bring him and the Qing Kingdom consequences they will find difficult to endure and a chaotic situation that is hard to clean up."
"If I die, what would happen to Dongyi? Would the disciples and grand disciples of Sigu Jian honor that incomplete agreement? Although there are spies of the court mixed into the 10,000 elite troops in the Great Prince's hands, the incident with the Imperial Army three years ago demonstrated that with the Great Prince's ability to control troops, he is completely able to take hold of this powerful army within a short amount of time. Chen Pingping is dead. If I die too, he won't listen to my words anymore. Even if he doesn't lead his troops back to attack Jingdou, he would at least stay in Dongyi and coldly watch his father in Jingdou. The Emperor best not use Lady Ning to threaten him. From what you described, after the royal study incident, Lady Ning has already made up her mind to die. Given her valiant and hot-blooded nature, if the Emperor used her life to threaten the Great Prince back to the capital, she would probably immediately die in front of the Emperor."
"Yun Zhilan is also not an idiot. If I die, he would be able to guess the Great Prince's thoughts. With the appearance of such a powerful supporter, he would give him all the help he needed and preserve Dongyi's independent position."
"If I die, how will Hongcheng in Dingzhou react? If I die, what chaotic end will the Jiangnan I have run for five years fall into? Even if Xia Qifei betrays me, I can still make the entire Jiangnan fall into chaos."
"And, there's also the Overwatch Council. It is currently maintaining its silence, partly because of the army outside the Council, The more important reason is that the officials are all watching me in secret. They want to know what I want to do. If I also die, the Overwatch Council would fall apart."
"So, you see what kind of instability would arise if the Emperor forced me to rebel or if he directly killed me." A strange smile rose to the corners of Fan Xian's lips. He faintly said, "How could he bear to do this? How could he dare?"
Fan Xian still had many hidden bargaining chips that he did not speak of. First, there was no need. Second, he was not too confident in the bargaining chips to the North. However, he had said his words coldly, firmly, and with full confidence.
With his mother's legacy and the care of countless elders, including the grace and trust of the Emperor and the strange old creature's explicit or implicit hopeful nurturing, Fan Xian had not disappointed the masses. He had become the only person in this world who could meet the gaze of the Powerful Qing Emperor and not have to retreat.
Perhaps no one noticed, but once people turned their gazes to it, they found out with surprise that all the storms in the Qing Kingdom and in the world had created Fan Xian, an abnormal existence.
"I think you have still underestimated the Emperor," Lin Wan'er said quietly after a long silence. "Perhaps for the sake of the Qing Kingdom and the world, he can tolerate your disrespect. This is not just because he is worried about your influence in events. It also includes many other things, perhaps some of which are very small. Once he realizes that you really have no lingering affection for him, he will get rid of you."
"The best way to destroy a person is to destroy his body." Lin Wan'er looked at Fan Xian in a daze. "Do you think the Emperor would care about the betrayal of Dongyi if the Emperor could actually bear to kill you? Would he care about Hongcheng's tiny amount of power in Dingzhou? Or, how much pain and suffering the people of Jiangnan would endure?"
"If he could bear to kill you, how could he care about any other matter under heaven? Even if the entire world betrays the Emperor, he would still have the courage and strength to reconquer it. Besides, you are just creating scabs that are difficult to heal in his world."
Lin Wan'er gently stroked his wan and sallow face and said with a sigh, "Don't think about me. Don't think about the children. Regardless of what you do, think more about yourself."
Fan Xian was silent. He had to admit that although he had always been the person who knew the Emperor the best, when it came to moods, ways of thinking, and habit, his wife, who had grown up beside the Emperor, had a better grasp of it.
"Let's not talk about this anymore. When the bulrush root soup comes in, you should drink it while it is hot." Fan Xian managed to force a smile. Over these years, Wan'er's illness had remained steady. Other than the medicine prescribed by Sir Fei and Fan Xian, most of the credit had to go toward this soup made from bulrush roots of the North Sea.
Once he said these words, Fan Xian suddenly thought of the North Sea, the prickly bulrush plant, and the woman he had not seen for a long time. He wondered if she was doing well in Western Hu. The reason he suddenly thought of Haitang Duoduo was because after his words earlier, he understood clearly what he should do.
Wan'er was right. The best way of destroying a person was to destroy their body. Fan Xian closed his eyes silently and wondered how to melt a 10,000-year-old snowy mountain. How could one defeat a Great Grandmaster? Haitang? Thirteenth Wang? Himself? Was there no one left in the world who could do it?
Fan Xian began to miss Uncle Wu Zhu, but not because of the iron rod by his side. It was just that in a dark moment of his life, he unconsciously missed his closest relative.
The next day, the front doors of the Fan manor were opened wide. The spies of the internal court were spread out again in the darkness around this street. It looked like the Emperor in the Royal Palace knew exactly what his illegitimate child was thinking and testing. He sat silently in the royal study, maintaining the status quo as he wasted Fan Xian's time and slowly raised the temperature of the water.
A huge stick of firewood stuffed under this pot was the edict Eunuch Dai brought from the Emperor. Listening to the familiar Yuyao accent, Fan Xian knelt in his black uniform in the central hall. A calm light indicating everything was within his expectations flashed through his eyes.
"By heavenly decree, the Emperor orders the removal of Fan Xian's position as Director of the Overwatch Council. He is ordered to remain in his manor to think over his actions carefully!"