. With a face of shame, he prostrated himself on the ground.
"Are you unable to do it, or are you afraid to do it?" His Majesty’s face kept a meaningful smile. The officials close to His Majesty occasionally wondered if it was some sort of trick. But Ye Zhong knew how much wisdom this emperor held and answered truthfully, "I am unable to investigate. I am also afraid to investigate. I really don’t think I can handle matters involving the royalty."
"You are a member of the Ye household. Are you not afraid of me sentencing you for disloyalty, for unwillingness to serve public affairs?"
Ye Zhong dared not rise. "I do not dare to guess Your Majesty’s intentions. I am stupid, and do not know where to begin my investigations."
"There is no longer the need to investigate. I’ll deal with this accordingly." His Majesty’s grin held a hint of dark coldness, but Ye Zhong, who was prostrating on the ground, could not see it.
On the other hand, Fan Xian, the real culprit, spent his days hiding in the manor. After his poetic show the other day, things like drinking tea at Taichang Temple or observing Honglu Temple became a luxury.
The negotiations were finished. Northern Qi’s envoy already left the capital. Dongyi’s envoy would be staying around for a bit longer.
After everything had truly died down, Dongyi left behind a large amount of silver before reluctantly leaving the capital. They didn’t know that it was purely due to His Majesty’s generosity that they hadn't all been imprisoned after the night infiltration of the palace.
Fan Xian had truly become someone who shook the capital through and through. No longer did people only watch out for the powers standing behind him, but rather he himself became the center of attention. After all, he was the only one who made the great Zhuang Mohan throw up blood, and he had done this at such a young age.
As if planned, both the eldest and second princes multiplied their efforts in trying to win Fan Xian over to their side. Li Hongcheng often came over for tea. Xin Shaoqing also came to visit.
But Fan Xian still had a lot of things to do, so he suspended contact with both of them for the moment. So far, he’d only accomplished two things: he found the key and he framed that Yun Zhilan from Dongyi. The pressure from the imperial court and that ninth-ranked master made him leave the capital without his will to live or a guarantee of his own safety.
Fan Xian had been waiting for a chance after discovering Eldest Princess’s conspiracy with Northern Qi.
Two days after the Dongyi diplomatic mission left the capital, that chance arrived.
Fan Xian had no solid proof of Eldest Princess’s treachery, and therefore he could not tell anyone about it, nor could he use it to take action against the princess. He always had a complex opinion of the emperor. Besides, if he told His Majesty, it wouldn’t be entirely impossible that His Majesty would kill him to preserve the dignity of the royal family.
Had it been a regular citizen of Qing, they would keep a secret like this deep in their heart, carrying it to the grave.
But Fan Xian was no regular citizen. With two lives’ worth of memories and knowledge, he knew the importance and the lethality of propaganda. He also knew that in order to deal with a crazy princess, he should use even crazier methods.
After the evening feast, the paper industry and related businesses of the palace treasury had all been monopolized. While nothing had affected Danbo Bookstore so far, it was only because Eldest Princess couldn’t mobilize the Eighth Bureau. Fan Xian knew this was the calm before the storm.
Therefore, before the storm landed, he had to strike first.
That night, Wu Zhu stood in the corner and listened to Fan Xian. Ever since opening that chest, Wu Zhu had been visiting the Fan manor more often, as if he was concerned for Fan Xian’s safety. Fan Xian spoke as he thought: "If it’s to leave behind no trace, then use the gun for everything."
Wu Zhu tilted his body, showing that he understood.
Fan Xian continued, "For the past few days, the ones trying to press down on Danbo Bookstore were those from Xishan Papermill and Wansong Hall from the palace treasury. With that established, we are going to take the paper, and use Wansong Hall’s ink. Only… Can anybody recognize your handwriting?"
Wu Zhu said coldly, "Don't worry about it."
Fan Xian knew his almost uselessly absurd plan was bound to work. He grinned. "Make pamphlets. There's no need to make them too big." He gestured the size with his hands. "It’s more important to make sure there’s a lot of them. Spread them everywhere, especially in the imperial college and other academies. The students are all hot-blooded young men; they're very easily manipulated. As for the scholars of Wenyuan Institute, they like to flaunt their characters. I think they'll get angry after seeing the pamphlets."
Wu Zhu asked coldly, "And the contents of these pamphlets?"
Fan Xian raised his eyebrows and sighed to himself, "I’m like an undercover Communist Party member."
He started to describe the contents in great detail, paying much attention on how to make the pamphlets persuasive. They had to contain both truths and lies, such as how Eldest Princess spoke to Zhuang Mohan, how much Yan Bingyun suffered undercover in Northern Qi, only to be abandoned by the palace, how Eldest Princess was harming the nation for her own benefits, exactly what benefits she gained, how many fake eunuchs were in the palace, how many old lovers were outside the palace…
Wu Zhu analyzed everything calmly. "No one would believe the princess is sacrificing so much just for some monetary gain."
Fan Xian raised his eyebrows again, "Not many people in this world are as smart as you. As long as the commoners believe it, all is well. As for the emperor, this counts as a reminder."
Wu Zhu said coldly, "The emperor doesn’t need your reminder."