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Fan Xian became gloomy after realizing Wu Zhu was right. Even if Wu Zhu had helped raise Fan Xian, Fan Xian had no reason to demand anything in return. If anything, it was Fan Xian who was in Wu Zhu’s debt.
In response to Fan Xian’s silence, Wu Zhu said coolly, "I said this before; both Fei Jie and I have taught you for many years. If you can’t take care of small matters like this, it’s your problem, not ours."
"I only learned one of them was a level eight master afterwards. You also said before that my true power is level seven, but my abilities are level three. I shouldn’t be able to match that brute by any means." Fan Xian smiled uneasily. "You say it’s my problem, but don’t you mind me getting killed?"
"Did you die?" A rare second rhetorical question from Wu Zhu.
Looking at the black blindfold, Fan Xian gasped. "You were following me all along?"
"Why didn’t you interfere?" Fan Xian was suppressing his shouts of anger. "Those three guards died! Teng Zijing was hurt!"
"I don’t care about the life of anyone but yours," Wu Zhu spoke without emotion. "Those people around you were gathered by yourself. If you want to have authority over their lives, then you must protect them, meaning those guards’ lives are your responsibility, not mine."
Once again Fan Xian fell into silence. Once again he knew Wu Zhu was right.
"I couldn’t help you too much," Wu Zhu said. "In Danzhou, on the cliffs, I told you once: If I’m with you in the capital, I will bring you nothing but trouble, troubles you definitely would not want to face."
Remembering how he had sheepishly told Wu Zhu "I’ll protect you", Fan Xian smiled bitterly. He was, after all, kidding.
"You must remember, here in the capital, I will never stand by your side out in the open, unless you are dying. Or… already dead," Wu Zhu continued, still devoid of emotion.
Fan Xian didn’t understand what someone as strong as Wu Zhu was afraid of. But hearing how resolute he was made Fan Xian nod without any further discussion.
"Someone’s coming," Wu Zhu said quickly before disappearing into the darkness.
It was a guest, but not the one Fan Xian wanted to see at the moment. Li Hongcheng walked in with a gloomy face and sat down on Fan Xian’s bed without asking. With a suppressed voice, he moaned, "You heard, right? The envoy of Northern Qi wouldn’t admit to anything, and those students almost trashed Honglu Temple."
Honglu Temple handled Qing’s foreign affairs, dealing with Northern Qi, Dongyi, various va.s.sal states, and also that a.s.sa.s.sination attempt. Hearing that the place was almost trashed, Fan Xian smiled bitterly. "Those youths sure are hot-blooded. Well… of course Northern Qi wouldn’t admit it. If Qing’s people found out that another nation was able to send a.s.sa.s.sins to the capital so easily, I’m afraid the two nations would never come to peace."
Li Hongcheng smiled bitterly. "Peace has already begun to break down. As per His Majesty’s order, that envoy from Northern Qi was kicked out, luggage and all."
Fan Xian laughed mockingly. "They deal with outsiders quickly."
Picking up on Fan Xian’s hidden meaning, Li Hong Cheng frowned. "You’ve been recovering for the past few days. Some things weren’t convenient to say out loud."
Fan Xian sighed, "I don’t know if it’s because I owed you in one of my previous lives; I invited you out, and that lead to me almost getting a.s.sa.s.sinated. You’re one of the few people I know in the capital, a proper prince on top of that. You normally don’t mince words, what’s up with you today?"
Li Hongcheng somewhat blamed himself. "It’s actually my fault. No one would have thought that Drunken Immortal Tavern was controlled by Northern Qi." He then considered it for a moment and said, "For today’s visit, first of all, I’m here to apologize on the second prince’s behalf. He did plan on coming here himself, but as you know, the whole situation is a bit messy, so he can’t easily do so. There are still many out there who believe the second prince and I were the ones responsible."
Fan Xian looked at him with a forced smile.
"Why are you looking at me so mysteriously? Must I be forced to confess?"
Fan Xian and Li Hongcheng laughed together. He trusted that the prince wasn’t responsible. For the second prince, who was without any strong support in the Imperial court, losing the support of the Fan household was a grave loss. At least, it was a loss greater than the benefit they would have received from framing the crown prince.
With great difficulty, Fan Xian sat up on his bed. A maidservant helped him drink some water. Seeing another figure at the door made Fan Xian curse in silence. Despite his serious injuries, the stream of visitors never seemed to stop. How was he supposed to recuperate when he was suffering? The visitor this time was a stranger, who reported himself as an official from the First Bureau of the Overwatch Council who was investigating the Niulan Road case under Imperial order. The case involved officials of the Imperial court and various baseless rumors, so it was all handed over to the Overwatch Council.
"May I ask your name?" A servant had already poured tea for that official. Fan Xian squinted at him. Other than the time when he "barged into" the Council, this was the first time he saw one of Council’s officials. This official was seemingly cloaked in a rotten aura, reminding Fan Xian of his d.a.m.ned teacher Fei Jie.
"My name is Mu Tie." This official had thin lips and slightly tanned skin. He said emotionlessly, "Due to the severity of your condition a few days ago, a few issues need to be be clarified, which is the reason for my visit today. I respectfully request your cooperation regarding this."
Fan Xian frowned. It looked like this official didn’t know about the connection between Fan manor and the Overwatch Council. He said lightly, "I am tired. Let’s talk about this some other day."
Mu Tie didn’t seem to expect this refusal. He appeared uneasy.
Fan Xian waved his hand and asked, "The Council and the ministry already sent their reports, what’s more to ask?"
"Some questions remain unanswered." This Mu Tie followed Fan Xian intensely with his eyes. Fan Xian suddenly realized that the Overwatch Council was also suspicious about the archers. But what was the use in asking him? The only one he had seriously offended was Guo Baokun, who had a scholar’s background and wouldn’t conspire with Northern Qi. As for the princes… that was a matter he could not speak of.
Fei Jie had given him a badge. Fan Xian took it out from under his pillow and tossed it over to the official. "We’re all on the same side. If you have something to say, just say it."
Mu Tie hadn’t touched his tea. Upon seeing the badge, his expression changed greatly. He stood up, walked over to Fan Xian, and knelt down on one knee. Putting his hands together, he saluted, "I have seen Your Highness."
Fan Xian was greatly surprised by this display of respect; he didn’t think the badge would be so powerful. Unknown to him, that badge was an overseer’s badge, denoting a level of power beyond the eight bureaus of the Overwatch Council. Whoever possessed it held the same authority as the heads of the eight bureaus; only Director Chen could give them direct orders. It was no wonder that Mu Tie was so shaken at the sight of it and became so courteous.
Signaling the official to rise, Fan Xian frowned. "When will Sir Fei Jie return to the capital?" It was his most important question; first of all, he could only improve Wan’er’s body, but not cure her of her illness. Secondly, the capital was currently in a state of chaos. Wu Zhu refused to be out in the open, and his father was hiding something. Fan Xian found himself inexplicably trusting of Fei Jie, who was not in the capital.
Hearing this young master asking about Sir Fei, Mu Tie knew that the youth was an important person that the Council kept hidden. It wasn’t unusual for organizations such as the Overwatch Council to cultivate some talents among the various manors in the capital. This young master of Fan Manor was obviously one of them, and a high-ranking one at that. Mu Tie answered respectfully, "It should be a few more days."
"Did you find out anything?" Fan Xian stared into the official’s eyes.
Mu Tie replied, "The Council received word too late. The bodies of those archers had already been cremated. Our investigation brought us to the patrol division and the clues ended there."
"Patrol division? Who’s in charge there?"
Mu Tie gave Fan Xian a look, curious as to how the youth did not know who Jiao Ziheng was, and answered, "It probably isn’t one of the prince’s men." Taking another look at that unforgeable badge and reaffirming Fan Xian’s ident.i.ty, the official didn’t question it any further. This was the way the Overwatch Council did things; everything on the inside was strict and orderly.
"You’re in charge of this case?" Fan Xian looked at the official with curiosity. "What rank are you?"
"Seventh ranked," Mu Tie replied with a smile, "Only good for running errands."
"When will Si Lili return to the capital?" Fan Xian suddenly remembered the only living alibi and looked worried.
"They quickly fled. Even if we caught them now, it would take some days for them to be taken back to the capital."
Looking at Fan Xian, Mu Tie did some guess work of his own as to why anyone would conspire with Northern Qi to plot the a.s.sa.s.sination. It seemed that this young master was chosen by the Council to be developed as one of its members. Thinking about this had Mu Tie excited; he apparently thought of a way to advance his career. Brazenly, he asked, "Your Highness, while I don’t know what your duties are in the capital, you are still new to the place. If there is anything I can do to help, just give me the order."
Fan Xian asked, "Then what about this case you’re working on?"
Mu Tie grinned, "I can a.s.sign it to somebody else. The Council orders the importance of its affairs by magnitude of rank. With Your Highness’s status, asking me to help elsewhere is a common thing."
Fan Xian guessed what he was thinking right away and gave an uneasy smile. "Forget it, not even I know what could be done. If you somehow lose your life following me around, what good does that do?"
His heart darkened as he thought about his three dead guards. They had been with him since the day he entered the capital. Now they were dead, and Fan Xian didn’t even remember their names.
Fan Xian asked the maidservant to open the windows. The bright daylight flooded his room, which had been under constant darkness. Inhaling deeply, Fan Xian forced himself to become alert and decided to do something. To this enthusiastic official from the Overwatch Council, he asked, "Isn’t there a guy by the name of w.a.n.g Qinian at the Council?"