hands of Northern Qi alive, but we can only allow him to see the sky above Shangjing, the capital of Northern Qi."
The bureau chiefs knew that the Director had already made his decision. They nodded humbly. They didn’t want to give Xiao En to Northern Qi, no matter what. The old man was the former spymaster of Northern Wei. Who knew how many Qing spies he had killed. And even today, his scheming mind could pose a great threat to the Kingdom of Qing. If the person captured by Northern Qi had not been the son of Yan Ruohai of the Fourth Bureau, these unfeeling spymasters of Qing would undoubtedly have followed their Director's order and urged the Emperor to sacrifice the unfortunate captive's life for the sake of the nation.
Yan Ruohai also knew this, and so he was deeply grateful to the Director. Suddenly, he spoke. "What of the eldest princess?"
"We are loyal to His Majesty, and His Majesty has not said anything; we won’t act on what we don’t know. Chen Pingping had made his final judgment.
"Shall we capture the emissaries from Northern Qi and bring them back?"
"What would bringing them back do? Concede that the royal court has lost face? I’ll leave this matter in the hands of the Eighth Bureau. Say some remaining elements of the former nation of Yue to the south who are still unwilling to concede defeat are spreading rumors within the capital and have already been captured entirely. We will take a couple of prisoners to the market and execute them. Before we do, make sure the common people of the city are there to witness the spectacle." Chen Pingping spoke coldly.
The gathered chiefs departed, following their orders to counteract the rumors and arrest people. Only Yan Ruohai was left behind. He looked at the Director and spoke calmly. "There is no poison in the world that would allow Xiao En to survive the journey only to die before the lords of Northern Qi."
"What is your point?" asked Chen Pingping.
Yan Ruohai frowned. "I know my son. He would not agree with His Majesty's methods. I think he would happily trade his life for Xiao En."
Chen Pingping looked at him coldly. "You should avoid arousing suspicion in this matter. Do not get involved, and do not discuss it. As for how it is done, that is my business. You are correct, there is no poison that could miraculously bring about such a situation. Even if Master Fei were here in the capital, he could not achieve it. But Xiao En must die, and Yan Bingyun must return."
He smiled. "Do not forget, it was I who sent your son to the north four and a half years ago."
Yan Ruohai was about to say something, but Chen Pingping stopped him with a wave of his hand. "I was going to wait for Bingyun's return before I promoted you to Zhu Ge's place. Zhu Ge could have lived a few days longer, but with these leaflets flying all over the capital, and the city in uproar, I want to make it clear to you."
Chen Pingping sighed. "Something that was hidden in the shadows has suddenly become known by everyone in the capital. Such a preposterous yet effective method will probably also force His Majesty to make things clear to the officials who are aware of this matter."
Chen Pingping cleared his throat. "You should know, there is now a commissioner within the council, and as I told you once before, I am preparing to send him to Northern Qi."
Yan Ruohai frowned. "It is very dangerous." He understood that the Director wanted to give this commissioner the task of killing Xiao En.
"One cannot make a sword without striking the iron." Chen Pingping's eyes seemed somewhat tired. "If he is successful, I hope that one day, you can help him run the Council properly."
Yan Ruohai finally understood. He was secretly rather surprised, but he did not dare say anything. Crouched in front of Chen Pingping's wheelchair, he nodded sincerely.
"So who did it?" Chen Pingping pushed his wheelchair to the window, his sallow fingers lifting up a corner of the black cloth, furtively peeking his head out to look, like a child. The days of uninterrupted autumn rain had already finished the day before yesterday, and it was a bright, sunny day outside. There was a golden glint on the imperial palace in the distance.
He leant on one side of his wheelchair, using the light that peeked through the black cloth to look at the paper in his hand. He could not help but shake his head. "Regardless of whether or not she collaborated with Northern Qi, was there really any need to say that she kept three thousand gigolos inside the palace for promiscuity?" This issue regarding the reputation of the royal family was rather inconvenient to bring up in their previous discussions. Chen Pingping looked at the lettering on the leaflet, as straight and neat as matchsticks, and laughed. "It really is causing trouble. Shameful... but, the penmanship really does look like it was written by that idiot from the city of Dongyi."
"Dongyi, Dongyi... is it really you?" As he muttered to himself, a smile floated across his face. "Sigu Sword was an idiot, but he wasn't mad. In dealing with that madwoman the eldest princess, this method could actually be quite effective. If you smash porcelain to pieces, no one can tell the pieces apart. But if you break His Majesty's rules, His Majesty may not be happy.
Whether it was the calculating Chen Pingping, or the secretive and crazed eldest princess, neither could have imagined that such a great matter was caused by the work of just two people, a master and his servant.
Fan Xian watched the aftermath of the affair calmly, even was even detached. His dictation of erotic literature was seemingly something that this nation could not bear. No matter how the Emperor genuinely felt deep down, he did not care what damage he might have done to the eldest princess’s true power. But what he had wanted to happen had finally come to pass.
The eldest princess had left the palace in absolute silence, returning to her fiefdom of Xinyang. As for the conflicts and struggles that this affair had brought about within the palace, Fan Xian was unconcerned.
Just as Wu Zhu had calculated, His Majesty had bestowed titles without restraint. At the same time, Fan Xian had benefited. Although on the surface it had nothing to do with him, it seemed that His Majesty was praising him for his services to the ruling dynasty.
By imperial decree, Fan Xian immediately changed from an eighth level academic to a fifth-level administrator of the Imperial College.
In the reception pavilion, Fan Xian held the imperial decree in his hands, racking his brains. "What does an academic of the Imperial College do?" he asked his father.
"Teaches the students of the Imperial College." Count Sinan also felt that this decree was excessively unfathomable. He shook his head. "You don't have an official certificate of examination; how can you be an academic of the Imperial College?"
"Does that mean I don't have to take the imperial examinations next year?"
"That's right." Count Sinan seemed unhappy. He spoke unenthusiastically. "Not taking the imperial examinations is not the right way. Right now, it may seem extremely convenient, but in the future, it will be a hindrance to your official career." But he thought it over. Did the demand not mean peace for the whole of Fan Manor that this handsome young man could comfortably live out his days?
That was his thinking. Otherwise he would not have named the child "Xian", meaning "leisure", or his courtesy name "Anzhi", which meant "peaceful".
Once he heard that he would not have to sit the imperial exams, Fan Xian was overjoyed, and with a huge grin on his face he returned to the study. Fan Sizhe was already waiting there, grinding an inkstick while he looked at him.
"What are you doing?"
"Making an inscription."
"The Banxianzhai Poetry Anthology."