Deep inside the palace, Xin Qiwu prostrated in front of the book chamber with his butt in the air. Good thing his robe was long enough so that he didn’t look too ridiculous.
"You may rise." The emperor’s voice rang out from behind the curtain.
Xin Qiwu stood up, his arms by his side. He didn’t dare move. He had been here a few times, but he still couldn’t shake this feeling of pressure. He was sweating, either from the remaining summer heat or his own nervousness. Regardless, he didn’t dare wipe away his sweat.
Behind the curtain came the sound of paper being put away. After a long period of silence, the emperor said, "There is logic and evidence, very good. Since those guys in the north wouldn’t settle down, this is very good; you’ll have to speak loudly for me."
Xin Qiwu replied in a bright voice, "Yes, Your Majesty!"
The emperor’s voice suddenly had an odd tone to it. "You made Minister Fan’s son your deputy?"
Xin Qiwu wasn’t expecting the emperor to be so interested in Deputy Fan, and sweated a bit more. He answered respectfully, "Indeed."
The emperor seemed to be intrigued, "Oh, I had already appointed him the Functionary of Taichang Temple. Why did you move him to Honglu Temple?"
While the emperor was speaking in a gentle tone, Xin Qiwu was so nervous he could faint. Not daring to hide anything, he answered truthfully, "I had recently come to the East Palace to study per Your Majesty’s orders. During that time, I talked with the prince regarding the envoy from Northern Qi. Since Fan Xian was involved with, and because of his reputation in the capital, I thought it would be best to have a scholar on our side as well. As Your Majesty knows, there’s a certain Zhuang Mohan in Northern Qi’s envoy."
"Hm." The emperor really admired this official’s frankness . He was never afraid of people conspiring in the Imperial court, but those factions needed be made public. "You weren’t wrong to do so. I leave all the authority over the matter to you today. Even if it’s the prince, you do not have to ask for permission."
"Yes." The link between Xin Qiwu and the prince was never hidden from the emperor. After all, he was assigned specifically as a servant in the East Palace.
The emperor flipped through the files again. He seemed to frown slightly. "How did Fan Xian do?"
Xin Qiwu didn’t dare steal Fan Xian’s merit and answered honestly, "The files Your Majesty is reading right now was analyzed by Deputy Fan."
"Analyzed?" For some reason, the emperor’s tone became slightly angry. "This is getting more and more absurd!"
Xin Qiwu was terrified; he didn’t know why His Majesty became angry. But fortunately, it didn’t appear to be related to negotiations. After Xin Qiwu withdrew from the book chamber, the emperor parted the curtain and walked out. There was a bitter smile that went along with the hint of anger on his intimidating face, as if to say, "It can’t be helped". He ordered a servant, "Summon Chen Pingping to the palace."
This owner of Qing, a middle-aged man who held the most authority in the world, walked out of the book chamber. Standing in the hallway, he gazed up at the moon. He smiled and said to himself, "A sharp tool which could benefit the nation, instead of using it to help Honglu Temple, you used it as the stepping stool for a child. Chen Pingping, if I still don’t tap you once or twice, you’re really going to give my Council to that child as a plaything."
Just what caliber of a person was the emperor? From Fan Xian’s files, he managed to immediately pick up the presence of the Overwatch Council. But his expression was no longer angry. Rather, he found it somewhat funny. Xin Qiwu seemed to be letting the prince win over the Fan household. The prince finally displayed some political wisdom, and His Majesty was a bit happy .
An intense quarrel was developing in the East Palace between Shaoqiang Xin Qiwu and Guo Baokun. The topic, of course, concerned the low-ranking Fan Xian. One could tell how intense the quarrel was from the look on their faces.
Xin Qiwu gave Guo Baokun a condescending look and said, "As a civil servant, I must obey His Majesty’s wishes and aid the prince in his accomplishments. So for the time being, I need to find a few talented individuals. Functionary Fan Xian is famous in the capital and has a fine demeanor, and the Fan household is no stranger to the palace. The prince should accept such a distinguished individual instead of refusing over a certain someone’s tantrum."
Guo Baokun laughed coldly, "You think I only remember that one time? Don’t forget the relationship between the Fan manor and King Jing’s manor. Fan Xian will soon become the son-in-law of the prime minister. Are you that unclear as to which side the prime minister leans?"
Xin Qiwu straightened out his neck and said, "I have no idea. I only know that there is only one emperor and one prince in Qing. Any thoughts of splitting into factions would be extremely stupid."
Xin Qiwu was not unskilled, and naturally, he knew the second prince was on the rise. But in terms of strategy, he still didn’t view the second prince as a threat to the East Palace. Otherwise, it would be opening a door full of danger. As long as the prince acts properly and sticks to principles, there would be no enemies.
The prince who was sitting up high sighed. While lecherous and cowardly, he was by no means stupid. Deep down, he understood that, in the big picture, Xin Qiwu was correct. However, in term of politics, this was a life-and-death struggle. Even if he were to be careful, no one could guarantee that his two brothers wouldn’t plot anything.
"It hasn’t gotten to that point," the prince said, massaging the sides of his head. He then continued, albeit somewhat annoyed, "The palace is still ruled by one individual. Those ready to serve the Imperial court should have the same intention. As for my royal brothers, don’t say any senseless things."
Such was the helpless situation in the palace. Even though they were impeding each other as much as they could, they couldn’t say anything on the surface.
"And Fan Xian?" Guo Baokun wasn’t willing to give up.
Xin Qiwu snorted, "Sir Guo, I believe you have been misjudging one thing."
"What is it?" The prince asked.
"Many officials, including you, grouped Fan household into the second prince’s faction merely because of their relationship to King Jing. Is there any evidence to prove that? This time, orders came down from the East Palace to give Fan Xian a chance to really prove himself. If what you say is true, then Fan Xian would not accept in the first place." Xin Qiwu continued coldly, "Most importantly, Fan Xian is soon to become the prime minister’s son-in-law. If your judgement is merely based on that, then you are being ridiculous."
"How would that be ridiculous?" Guo Baokun revealed a hint of venom in his eyes. "Both official and secret reports showed that the prime minister is splitting from the eldest princess. He is trying to remove the influences from the palace."
"As the prime minister, of course he shouldn’t be influenced by forces in the palace." This wasn’t appropriate for Xin Qiwu to say, and he realized that and apologized to the prince. The prince shook his head, signaling Xin Qiwu to continue.
"That is precisely the issue. Everyone knows the prime minister is splitting from the eldest princess… what does that have to do with the East Palace? Would that mean the prime minister is no longer loyal to His Majesty?"
The prince frowned, "However… recently, my aunt has been angry with the prime minister."
"Your Majesty, forgive my insolence… you must not change your view towards the prime minister just because of the eldest princess’s mood."
The prince only frowned harder. "But…" He stopped. Taking the chance, Guo Baokun said coldly, "But if the prime minister is still the same, then why did he stop visiting the East Palace after court meetings?"
Xin Qiwu grinned with extreme self-confidence and replied, "I didn’t deny anything having to do with that." Turning to the prince, he said, "Your Majesty, that is only an arrangement; it is still far from an actual competition of power. The real smart ones would follow the emperor closely to ensure their families’ survival. The same applies to the prime minister. While he appears to be swaying between you and the second prince, he still has to obey His Majesty’s wishes. If we want the prime minister on our side…" Xin Qi Wu inhaled deeply, "Fan Xian is the key. The prime minister doesn’t have an actual son anymore; if Fan Xian proves to be the future of Lin Manor, and if we can win Fan Xian over, then the prime minister will surely change sides."
Guo Baokun warned, "Don’t forget the relationship between Prince Jing and Fan Xian."
"And don’t you forget whose subordinate was exposed by the investigation," said Xin Qiwu coldly To have set up an encounter between Fan Xian and the prince, he was certainly hoping the prince would recall the grudge from all those days ago and humiliate Fan Xian. Good thing His Majesty was wise and would not fall for such petty trick."
The prince smiled warmly.
"Why would he use such methods if the Fan household belonged to these factions?" Xin Qiwu then said, "I believe that, with Fan household’s power, whatever’s happening behind that incident will surely come to light. If it was really ‘that person,’ I’m afraid Fan Xian would hold a grudge, so for now, there is no need to worry where the Fan household stands."
The prince was somewhat moved. He said lightly, "If the Fan household is still being fooled, there is no harm in telling them."
"Winning over Fan Xian equals winning over both Fan and Lin Manors. Those are two great powers in the capital. Many years from now on, I believe the inner treasury will be run by that youngster." Xin Qiwu said quietly to the prince, "An eighth-ranked official like him could do more for the people than merely write a few poems."