Sitting on the second layer of the dais, Jing Ke was still holding on his jade wine funnel and gulping down fine wine endlessly, as if he didn't notice Qin Qingshui playing a game of knocking forehead on the hard floor. A middle-aged scholar was sitting beside Jing Ke. He had a casual and elegant bearing and looked intelligent. His eyes were half-opened, as his gaze was on a pair of white jade chopsticks held in his hand. He didn't say anything. On the other side of Jing Ke was a middle-aged general, clad in black armor and had his hair worn in a bun with a red string; he too remained silent. The only exception was a man who sat on the leftmost. He was a tall man who looked in his thirties, and he had a rather unnatural expression.
Qin Qingshui was still kowtowing and begging for forgiveness. When the floor was smeared with a large patch of blood nearly two feet in diameter, the tall man who was sitting on the second layer of dais could no longer constrain himself. He rose to his feet, knelt down on both knees towards Yan Dan and bowed his head while saying, "Your majesty, Qingshui has just taken over the position of Central Wind Guard Chief Supervisor for a few years. The short period had given him with insufficient experience, and that had made him commit such mistake. I hope your majesty can pardon his sin.
He brought his hand and rubbed on his temple, but suddenly laughed. "Since Wuyang has talked, then I'll spare him this time. Qin Qingshui, your ancestor has asked me to spare you, then you'll be forgiven this time. I want you to investigate and find out all the ins and outs of Yan Buji's death within three months. For those who were involved in this incident, I want to see their heads in three months’ time. If you fail to do this, you can go ahead and have your retired cultivation!"
He paused for a brief moment, then continued scolding with a stern voice, "The Chief Supervisor of Central Wind Guard is a very important position. He is the ears and eyes for the Imperial Court in the entire territory of Great Yan Dynasty. Scouting Office, what is the true meaning of scouting? Go back and think for the answer yourself. The initial purpose of establishing Scouting Office was to ask you to investigate any detailed clues and traces that you can find through every grape vine. Yet for a big case like this, the drowning of a Duke, you didn't find any traces that caused the accident even after so long. As the Chief Supervisor of Central Wind Guard, are you only capable of framing someone at the city entrance with the death of an innocent life?"
Wu Qi raised his brows, looking toward Yan Dan with a surprised expression. The so-called framing someone at the city entrance was exactly what Qin Qingshui and few other men did to Wu Qi today when he just came back to Ji City. Wu Qi never thought that Yan Dan, who just came out from his secluded cultivation, had already learned about the news, and even using it to condemn Qin Qingshui.
Just as what Wu Qi expected, he heard Yan Dan continue giving out condemning speech, "Haoying Zhengqi, although you are the Minister of Criminal and Justice, those younger generations from your clan are really unworthy. I suppose Haoying Fenglong is your eldest grandson of lineage? The unruliness of this son has crossed the line. Are the patrolling officers from the department of Criminal and Justice the tool for him to frame someone? I heard the Hao Hai Kingdom at the northernmost has just discovered a vast snowfield filled with abundant resources. Ask Haoying Fenglong to build a kingdom there, and let him bring three hundred thousand people with him."
Among the line of Three Prime Counselors and Nine Ministers in the grand hall, a fat middle-aged man, whose skin was as fair as a sixteen years old virgin, had his body suddenly trembled. Without hesitation, he quickly rose and left his seat, hastening in front of Yan Dan. He knelt down and kowtowed towards the emperor, thanking for the pardon and acknowledging the emperor's imperial order respectfully.
With just a casual comment, Yan Dan had deprived Haoying Fenglong's right of inheriting the legacy of Haoying Clan. At most in three days, Haoying Fenglong would have to bring together three hundred thousand ordinary civilians and his personal guards, travel tens of thousands of miles and venture deep into the northernmost land, a world of ice and snow, to the land discovered by the Hao Hai Kingdom and endure great hardships in pioneer work to establish his own kingdom.
This was the kindness given by Yan Dan, as well as the punishment for Haoying Fenglong.
If Haoying Fenglong were lucky enough, perhaps in few hundred years from now, there would be a new vassal kingdom erected and flourishing amidst that savage land of ice and snow. He would be the founding monarch of that vassal kingdom, establishing himself a great foundation and have his name recorded in the history books of Great Yan Dynasty. But if luck was not on his side or his abilities were inferior, all three hundred thousand civilians brought by him would be devoured by the vast snowfield, and Haoying Fenglong would also vanish from this world.
Since Great Yan Dynasty was established two thousand years ago, there would be a great number of concubine sons from influential clans, or some descendants who had committed crimes and had their status deprived, who would bring out a random number of civilians and protected by personal guards every couple of years. They ventured into different parts of the world, into remote mountains or savage lands, to be the pioneers for their own foundation. Some succeeded, and the result was those over few hundred vassal kingdoms and tens of thousands of cities that hadn't been declared as a kingdom. But some failed, and no one could remember their name ever since.
Wu Qi knew this was a custom of the Great Yan Dynasty: to discover new lands and establish a city, then develop it into a kingdom. This was a path that many descendants of prestigious and influential clans would choose ultimately. After all, the resource for each clan was limited, and it was impossible to let more and more members of their clan enjoy the blessings from the clan. By risking their life and leaving Great Yan Dynasty in braving the wilderness, it was considered a way out for them. As a matter of fact, not only the descendants of influential clans would do this, among one hundred imperial clans of Great Yan, when many descendants reached their adulthood and accumulated a certain degree of abilities, resources, and connections, they would make the same choice as well.
Poor Haoying Fenglong! A brief smile of cold emerged on Wu Qi's face. In fact, by sending Haoying Fenglong to the northernmost lands, Yan Dan was actually protecting him. If he were banished to some place in the west of Great Yan Dynasty, that would land him right in the boundary under the command of West Supervisor, Lu Chengfeng. With that, Wu Qi would have one hundred methods to let Haoying Fenglong, together with all three hundred thousand civilians following him, die and vanish without a trace.
While pondering hard for methods to bring more troubles to Haoying Fenglong, Wu Qi heard Yan Dan speak again. "Qin Qingshui, What was the reason that made Taba Qingye commit such deed? As the prince hostage from the Xian Kingdom, not only did he not stay put in Ji City, he marched during the wee hours of the night and brought military-grade ballista to assault an Imperial member. Was he trying to revolt? For this matter, I give you three days to give me an explanation. Report back to me immediately once you find out the reason. And for that Taba Haofeng, order him to bring himself to West Supervisor Court and be punished with thirty strokes of cane. As the prince from a vassal kingdom, he shouldn’t be creating troubles in Ji City, or else, severe punishment will await him."
A bright gleam shone from Wu Qi's eyes. It seemed like the Xian Kingdom was also under the command of West Supervisor Court. As Taba Haofeng had committed a crime in Ji City, according to the law, he would be punished by West Supervisor Court. Since Yan Dan had spoken and given out the punishment of thirty strokes of cane, if Wu Qi didn't give Taba Haofeng a good treatment, how could he repay the 'good favor' of Taba Haofeng, when the man colluded with Qin Qingshui and Haoying Fenglong in framing him? Within the time it took to blink an eye, at least a couple dozens of vicious and cruel thoughts had emerged in Wu Qi's mind. With good enough preparation, the thirty strokes of cane could easily kill Taba Haofeng.
While he was pondering whether he should kill Taba Haofeng or just cripple the man, Yan Dan had finished with Qin Qingshui and driven him back to his seat. After that, Yan Dan shouted softly, "Where is Chengfeng, the Duke of Yan Le? Come before me and let me have a good look."
Without hesitation, Lu Chengfeng rose from his seat and walked to the forefront of the grand hall, reservedly. Then, he knelt down and bowed towards the dais. He should be feeling quite nervous, as he carried out his etiquette in a strict manner and did not make any mistake, but his movement was stiff like a puppet and looked unnatural.
Sitting aloft on the dais, Yan Dan looked down at Lu Chengfeng. At length, he nodded his head in satisfaction. His voice turned rather gentle and friendly, at least, not as fierce and aggressive like a moment ago, when he condemned Qin Qingshui. With a brief smile on his face, Yan Dan said, "Chengfeng, look up at me."
Lu Chengfeng quickly rose and raised his head, looking towards Yan Dan. After all, he was born and raised in an influential clan, so there was nothing wrong that could be picked from his bearing and image. And because of his background of a love child, Lu Chengfeng looked more mature and modest than many people at his age. Although this was the first time he met Yan Dan and was a little bit nervous and reserved, but no matter it was his expression or movement, there was nothing wrong that one could pick.
Yan Dan nodded his head pleasedly, then said with a calm voice, "You do have the image of a talented man. Let's put aside your title of Duke Yan Le first: the post of West Supervisor is important and powerful. Since you have inherited this position, you will have to carry out the task diligently. Here, I give you one year of time, place yourself in the position of West Supervisor and fulfill your duty as it is supposed to be. If you can perform it well, you'll be the official West Supervisor of Great Yan Dynasty. If your result does not satisfy me, you'll bear the title of Duke Yan Le and enjoy your retirement in cultivating."
Retired in cultivation, Wu Qi took a deep breath upon hearing that. In Great Yan Dynasty, retired in cultivating was not something good, because that was equal o losing of all of one's powers and rights, and living the rest of the life idle. It was fine if the person had talent in cultivation as Great Yan Dynasty would provide him with sufficient resources in cultivating, and allowed the person to focus on his cultivation but losing all the rights in attending any state affairs. If the person didn't have any talent in cultivation, he would be like a pig raised by the dynasty, eating and drinking all day long. And the only useful function would be marrying a few more concubines, and giving birth to more descendants for the imperial clans of Great Yan Dynasty and other influential clans.
Any man with a sane mind would not want to be forced into a retirement of cultivation, because that was not a life that would gladden their hearts.
Wu Qi had made up his mind. He had to aid Lu Chengfeng and produce some good results for his position of West Supervisor. But the question was, how he could start with it? They were only given one year of time!
Lu Chengfeng didn't dare to show any expression on his face. With utmost respect, he bowed towards Yan Dan and acknowledged the emperor's imperial order.
Yan Dan stared blankly at Lu Chengfeng for some time, then suddenly waved his hand as if his interest was worn-out, signaling Lu Chengfeng to returned to the seat. He frowned, resting his eyes on all the ministers and noblemen and kept quiet, before he slowly spoke again, "Today is a joyful day. It is a great news to learn that Princess Zhang Le has formed her Gold Core. With the young age of hers, she has become a Human Immortal. This is a proof of the ever flourishing destiny of Great Yan Dynasty… We are at the height of power and splendor."
All few thousand men in the grand hall raised their wine glasses up high, broke out in a joyful laughter and cheered, "A toss for Great Yan!"
A smile filled with a brief tiredness emerged on Yan Dan's face. He nodded his head and said, "Well, since this is a banquet of celebration, I shouldn't mess with too many petty matters. Though I have settled over a few trifles just now, I hope none of you will mind that. Today, let us all drink heartily and enjoy the moment to the fullest. I want everyone to return after thoroughly enjoying yourself."
He then clapped his hand forcefully, smiled and said, "Play the music and let the banquet commence. The Emperor will enjoy the moment with all his ministers today. No one is allowed to feel restricted!"
All the people in the grand hall cheered and answered to their Emperor. But suddenly, sitting beside Yan Dan, the crown prince of Great Yan Dynasty Yan Qijun, raised both hands high up in the air. The laughter in the grand hall instantly halted as everybody turned their eyes over at him. Yan Qijun let out a bright laugh, then said, "Today, Zhang Le has formed her Gold Core, it is a day worth a grand celebration. It happens that the Grandmaster of Zither, Yue Tan, who has her name heard throughout all the lands under the heaven, is visiting Ji City currently. I had spent a great effort and finally was able to invite her here, so she could perform her marvelous art in front all of you."
All the men in the grand hall cried out in disbelief. Some younger men even forgot themselves and shouted out the name of 'Yue Tan' aloud, totally forgetting that Yan Dan was still sitting in the same hall with them.
However, Wu Qi noticed that even Yan Dan's face was filled with excitement, as if the emperor himself was also surprised to learn that Yue Tan would perform her art in this place. This had struck Wu Qi with wonder, curious about what kind of a person this Yue Tan was. Was she a superstar in this world? Why had all the men in the hall forgotten about themselves just by mentioning her name?
Lu Chengfeng too was looking left and right in bewilderment, as he also had no idea who this Yue Tan was. After all, he was a hayseed who just came to Ji City from a remote place in Lu Kingdom. Since when he had the chance to learn about this name, a name that only passed secretly among all influential clans?
Right when Wu Qi was still wondering and Lu Chengfeng's face was still filled with bewilderment, not knowing from where, a tune of zither suddenly came to their ears. Like a stream of refreshing spring water, it instantly flowed and filled the entire imperial palace.
In an instant, the world became silent, and this tune of zither was the only sound they could hear.