n and earth were elegantly covered like a field of flowers across every part of the city, particularly near the Imperial College and the Pavilion of the Imperial Library, which were covered. As dawn gently broke, scholars and commoners alike picked up the strange papers, and were greatly shocked when reading them.
This was the first time that a war of pamphlets had arisen in the land of the Kingdom of Qing.
However, Fan Xian had overestimated the passion of the people of Qing, and understimated the control of the Overatch Council and the six ministries. Within four hours, the leaflets that had covered the entire capital found their way to the square office on Tianhe Avenue.
No one dared hold onto a leaflet for themselves. Although the commoners rarely had any contact with the Overwatch Council, they were all terrified of its vicious reputation, and no one wanted to gamble their lives or those of their families.
The Imperial College reacted with lightning speed, asking for a decree to be made the same day, and beginning the autumn term exams ahead of schedule.
All kinds of measures were taken in the space of half a day, one after another, until the situation was finally under control. But rumor does not need wings to fly, nor air to breathe. Throughout the streets and alleyways of the capital, when people saw each other, the glances they gave no longer suggested the usual greeting of "Have you eaten," and instead asked, "Have you seen it?"
The eldest princess's reputation within the capital had never been great. After all, she was in her thirties and never married, which was quite unusual.
So although the common people did not necessarily completely believe the accusations in the leaflet that she had collaborated with a foreign power, they still believed that they were not entirely without cause. The logic of the old women in the streets was even simpler: an unmarried woman of her age was not to be trusted.
The first time that the palace confronted this situation, they were inevitably nervous. Although the Overwatch Council took capable measures, the palace was still anxious and uneasy. Palace maids and eunuchs trodded lightly. They heard that the Emperor had flown into a rage in his study and that the Empress Dowager had gone into Guangxin Palace, where the eldest princess had cried for a long time after being slapped in the face.
In the rooms of the Overwatch Council, there was a deep and awkward silence. The heads of the eight bureaus all looked at their leader, Chen Pingping, as he sat in his wheelchair, pulling at his beard, looking at the leaflet, and chuckling strangely.
Master Chen could laugh, but his subordinates did not dare to. Everyone knew what was written upon the leaflet.
"Tell me, what truth is there to what is on this paper?" Chen Pingping finally suppressed the happiness in his heart and looked at his subordinates.
The head of the eighth bureau naturally bore the brunt of it. All the literary products in the capital were a responsibility of his and of the relevant officials in the Ministry of Education. The events that had transpired in the capital that day had frightened him, and so he was unable to respond to the Director's question. "The paper came from the Xishan paper store, which is the responsibility of the royal purse," he reported hurriedly. "The ink is from Wansong Hall; that family has no powerful backers."
Chen Pingping looked at him and frowned. "I asked whether there was any truth to it," he reprimanded, "not who wrote it."
The head of the eighth bureau wiped the sweat from his brow. "Slander of the princess, lies about national affairs, and inciting quarrels," he replied carefully. "Of course there is no truth to it."
Chen Pingping smiled, but his smile was cold. The window was still covered by a length of black cloth, so the area where his wheelchair was appeared somewhat chilly. "Is it all false?"
The leaflet spoke of secret agreements between the eldest princess and Northern Qi, and how she had given the Qing spymaster Yan Bingyun to Northern Qi on a silver platter. Yan Ruohai, head of the fourth bureau, frowned. "The matter with Yan Bingyun was definitely a result of a leak from someone inside the court, and that someone was of high-rank. But if it were the eldest princess, I can’t understand what benefit she would get out of it."
"This leaflet says that over the past few nights, Zhuang Mohan has secretly met with the eldest princess in Guangxin Palace," said Chen Pingping, feigning disinterest.
Yan Ruohai shook his head. "Master Zhuang was invited to stay at the palace by the Empress Dowager; we cannot take this as proof."
Chen Pingping looked at him with admiration. "Bingyun has been taken prisoner in the north, but you still continue to analyze matters dispassionately. Commendable." He suddenly lowered his voice. "But... we should not neglect our suspicions. Do not forget that we are loyal to His Majesty and to the royal family, but we did not vow loyalty to any single other person within the royal household."
He looked calmly at the person sitting at the back. That person was the head of the first bureau of the Overwatch Council, Zhu Ge. He was especially responsible for monitoring officials within the palace, and was the bureau head with the greatest power within the Overwatch Council.
Zhu Ge nodded and frowned. "People who are aware of the matter involving Yan Bingyun include both myself and Section Chief Yan. There are five people total. If the eldest princess is connected to this matter, then how did she get hold of the information?"
Chen Pingping was still looking at him calmly. The other seven officials in the room began to feel a strange atmosphere building up around them.
After a long moment of silence, Zhu Ge was still calm. He occasionally frowned, seemingly pondering whether the leaflet was true, and if so, where the eldest princess had gotten hold of the information. But the eight section chiefs sitting next to him could clearly see the sweat pouring down his temples.
Chen Pingping continued to gaze calmly at him.
Zhu Ge frowned, then suddenly spoke. "Sir, why do you suspect me?"
Waiting for him to open his mouth, Chen Pingping slowly closed his eyes and spoke quietly. "Because you're stupid."
"Why not Yan Ruohai? There's no shortage of people selling out their children in exchange for glory." From the moment that Zhu Ge had learned of Yan Bingyun's capture, he knew something was going to happen to him. He laughed bitterly and looked at Yan Ruohai.
"You are a section chief, and Fei Jie is old. If I were to step down, then you would be the one in charge of this organization." Chen Pingping closed his eyes and spoke calmly. "Unfortunately, you knew that I had other arrangements, so you were unhappy. The other side would allow you to one day take control of the Overwatch Council... His Majesty has been interested in this matter for some time, but I never thought that the snowflakes of paper that fell this morning would bring everything out into the open much earlier than planned."Chen Pingping spoke gently. "So we must deal with it earlier than planned."
"Thank you for your assistance, sir." Zhu Ge knew that if His Majesty dealt with the matter personally, he would be greeted with a tragic result. He cleared his throat and took a deep and difficult breath.