With hurried but orderly footsteps, Yan Ruohai—director of the Fourth Bureau of the Overwatch Council—entered the Ministry of Justice. Behind him was a mob of the council’s secret agents. They were quite intimidating.
Seeing the Overwatch Council putting up such a front, Guo Zheng didn’t say much, "I didn’t think Sir Yan would come to oversee the interrogation." Yan Ruohai, however, ignored the Imperial Censor. He only looked at the handsome youth sitting on the chair. Smiling, Yan Ruohai greeted him. "Yan Ruohai at your service. Young Mister Fan, we've met before."
Fan Xian stood up and smiled, "If you hadn't come, I’d have demolished the entire ministry and gone into exile." He was kidding, of course.
Han Zhiwei took a glance at Yan Ruohai and frowned. Why did the council come here to complicate things? He said, "Young Sir Fan is acting impetuously in a court of law, and he has struck several court officials. His crimes are so severe that I'm afraid he may not be able to leave the Ministry of Justice today—no matter who comes to save him. What's more, I have already sent out the order to apprehend over a thousand suspects, including Yang Wanli. As soon as they confess, everything about this case will come to light."
"There's no need for that," Yan Ruohai said. "The men you sent were all stopped by Sir Mu Tie of the council. They’re having tea now. Minister, if you have time later, why not go and take your men back?"
The apprehenders had become the apprehended. The Ministry of Justice had been made a fool of today! Han Zhiwei pointed at Yan Ruohai and cursed out: "Since when do you have the right to interfere with my business? How dare you obstruct my orders?"
"The cheating scandal is being taken care of by our council. By His Majesty’s wishes, the Ministry of Justice and Supreme Court are both assistants." Yan Ruohai looked around. After realizing the Commandant of Justice wasn’t there, he smiled, "As assistants, you must do you jobs well. Including Yang Wanli, there are four people under the supervision of the council awaiting their sentences. We cannot hand them over. Yourmen are the unruly ones, Minister. What’s wrong with Sir Mu inviting them to the Overwatch Council?"
Han Zhiwei said coldly, "Forget about the matter with Yang Wanli. It’s just that, by the rules, the Ministry of Justice is to interrogate this Young Sir Fan first. And since he is standing here right now, you can talk all you want, but you shall not take him away."
Up until this moment, the three interrogators had no idea about Fan Xian’s true relationship with the Overwatch Council. They thought the council was trying to shield him because he was working on the cheating case, and because Fei Jie was his teacher. That's why Han Zhiwei tried to pressure Yan Ruohai by bringing up rules. Yan Ruohai frowned as he saw Fan Xian was surrounded by the Ministry’s men brandishing sabers. "How dare you disrespect Sir Fan like this?"
Realizing he had been ignored, Han Zhiwei became enraged, since Yan Ruohai was of a much lower rank. Han Zhiwei hadn’t dealt with the Overwatch Council too often and was unaware of how haughty the officials from there could be.
Yan Ruohai frowned again. This time he saluted Han Zhiwei. "Minister Han, I respectfully ask for your understanding in having young Sir Fan returned."
Han Zhiwei thought things would get complicated as soon as he saw the Overwatch Council enter. His master probably wouldn’t expect Cheng Pingping to interfere. But since things had already developed to this point, Han Zhiwei clenched his teeth, "The interrogation isn’t over yet. How can I allow him to leave? Sir Yan… this is against regulation." Copying Guo Zheng, Han Zhiwei tried to cite regulation to pressure Yan Ruohai.
Yan Ruohai frowned for the third time and waved his hand.
Many grunts sounded in unison. There was a flurry of punches and kicks as the men of the ministry got knocked
out cold before they had a chance to react. In terms of martial prowess, the Fourth Bureau was second only to the Fifth Bureau in the Overwatch Council. These low-level bailiffs never stood a chance.
Finding his surroundings had quiet down a bit, Fan Xian waved his sleeves and walked over to Yan Ruohai. "Sorry for the trouble. I thought only Wang Qinian would come."
Han Zhiwei erupted, "Such disregard for Imperial law – is your council trying to rebel? I will tell this to His Majesty tomorrow and have you all executed."
Yan Ruohai frowned for the fourth time. "By Imperial law, the officials of the council’s Eighth Bureau only answer to the emperor. During times of emergency, they may even disregard the laws of Qing. Unless His Majesty wishes it, the other government branches may not conduct their own interrogations. Director, did you forget that?"
Guo Zheng mocked him. "Sir Yan, of course we wouldn’t put you on trial. But what does Sir Fan have to do with the Overwatch Council? Nobody knows which eight officials are in the Eighth Bureau. Since when did Sir Fan became one of those eight officials? Just getting a position in the council takes five years… Sir Fan is seventeen. Did he start managing council business when he was twelve?"
No one would believe this, so Guo Zheng and Director Han weren’t worried that Fan Xian would leave the Ministry of Justice that day. As soon as he took a step outside the building, he would be disregarding the laws of Qing, and that would be a grave offense. Along with all of the officials he had alienated, and not even the Prime Minister and Minister Fan could protect him. His Majesty would have no choice but to sentence him.
Yan Ruohai took a glance at Fan Xian and smiled warmly.
Fan Xian smiled in reply. He reached for his belt and took off the jade ruyi scepter and other accessories. He tossed them to one of the council agents. He then slowly took out a yellow, wooden plaque. The title "commissioner" was written on it.
He straightened his arm to show the plaque to Guo Zheng and Director Han, who straightened their necks to see it. After making out what the plaque said, they were shocked back to their seats. It was as if that wooden plaque had slapped them hard across the face.
Fan Xian shook his head while smiling. "May we meet again, my lords." After that, he and Yan Ruohai left under the guard of the council agents.
Guo Zheng’s face turned pale, while Minister Han leaned back in his chair, deep in thought. Neither of them had expected Fan Xian to hold the position of a council commissioner!
What is a commissioner? It is a supreme existence above even the Eighth Bureau of the Overwatch Council; the council’s most secretive position. The officials at court all had their guesses, but none of them guessed this legendarily secretive Commissioner would be the young Sir Fan full of poetry and sunshine!
"What do we do?" Han Zhiwei opened his eyes, showing a chilled gaze, "Unless His Majesty wills it, no one may interrogate the Commissioner of the Overwatch Council. You and I both knew there’s no way His Majesty would grant such an order."
Guo Zheng frowned, looking at the departing crowd. "It’s like an iron tortoise; there are no openings for us to make a move. But I am curious, why didn’t Fan Xian reveal his status from the beginning? Why did he come here? Was he really not afraid we would lock him up before Yan Ruohai arrived?"
Director Han was puzzled by this also, but he was worried about something bigger. Since he could not eliminate Fan Xian from power today, it meant that he would be facing a great counterattack in the future. He sighed as he recalled Fan Xian saying "may we meet again". His sigh was bitter and fearful. He didn’t know if those currently backing him up could protect him.
Outside the Hall of Justice, Fan Xian said calmly, "There was no need for such drama to force me to reveal my identity."
Yan Ruohai smiled. "Director Chen believes that since your identity must be made known to all in the capital, it’s only natural to choose the correct location and time – and to reveal it using a most dramatic method. That was a great opportunity. All the scholars in the capital had gathered outside the Hall of Justice protesting on your behalf.
Fan Xian shook his head and said nothing. Today had been very risky. If whichever power was behind this really wanted to succeed, they would be sure to use even more vicious methods. If it weren’t for his training in Cang Mountain, Fan Xian wouldn’t so confident to act like that in a court.
"The Overwatch Council is a special organization, so its never had a good reputation." Yan Ruohai explained, "So Sir Director Chen wanted to establish and spread your name from this case. Having gained the support of the people, they would not fear you as the Commissioner of the Overwatch Council."
"I see… So it was just to build my image." Fan Xian inhaled deeply. He was still troubled by earlier developments. There would be a time to sort those out.
Yan Ruohai didn’t understand that he meant. He returned the jade ruyi scepter and the other accessories to Fan Xian.
Feeling the scepter in his hand, Fan Xian suddenly said, "Wan’er is in the palace now explaining things to the prince. I also didn’t think the prince lost too much face during this year’s examination. Going by his temperament, he shouldn’t react so strongly. Back in the Hall, Minister Han became vicious all of a sudden. Who in Eastern Palace is backing him?"
Yan Ruohai smiled. "If not the prince, then empress dowager."
"Empress dowager?" Fan Xian raised an eyebrow. He was starting to alienate more people. But he didn’t know if empress dowager… was trying to deal with him due to the reason he feared the most. He gripped the jade scepter tightly and remembered it was given to him by empress dowager. He wanted to throw it away.
Yan Ruohai reminded him, "It’s a gift from the palace. To dispose of it would be a capital crime."
Fan Xian laughed, "Thanks for the warning. But now that everyone knows I’m the Commissioner, who would dare question me?"
"Nobody in any of the administrative organizations, but there is still the palace." Yan Ruohai sighed. Knowing Fan Xian was younger than his son, Yan Ruohai patted the youth on the shoulder.
Fan Xian gratefully accepted the information and stated sincerely, "Please rest assured, Sir Yan. During the forthcoming trip to Northern Qi, I will surely bring back Brother Yan safely."
Once outside the ministry gates, the surrounding commoners and scholars all burst into cheers, overjoyed that Sir Fan had walked out safely.
Fan Xian smiled at the crowd and thanked them. Now he understood why he had acted so arrogantly in the Hall of Justice. It was because he felt he had finally done something extremely right, just like that one part he read in a novel in his previous life: "What is justice? Justice is doing the right thing." He had done what he felt was right to do. It was a good feeling; a powerful feeling.