Joy of Life is a web novel produced by Mao Ni, 猫腻.
This lightnovel is currently ongoing.
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Read WebNovel Joy of Life 676 A Carriage Enters The City Alone
On the mountain, silvery moonlight shifted in and out of the clouds, brightening and dimming the illumination. Jing Ge stared at the lonely carriage on the road at the foot of the mountain. An angry and cold huff came from behind the silver mask a little while later. A solid spear made of black material hung by his warhorse, but there was more than his pair of hands on this horse’s reins.
After the rebellion in the autumn of the seventh year of the Qing calendar, the Qin family fell. In the eyes of the people in the Royal Palace, the silver-masked Jing Ge, who had challenged Qin Heng, had become a legendary figure. As Fan Xian’s trusted aide, Jing Ge had taken over the position as the Commander of the Black Knights, the head of the Fifth Bureau of the Overwatch Council.
When the old man in the wheelchair had been taken into the carriage, a glimmer of hopeless anger welled in Jing Ge’s heart. He had squeezed his legs around his horse and was about to lead his Black Knights down to take him back. He could not watch as Director Chen stepped onto the path back to the capital and death.
In the past, he had been bullied in the army camp. During a routine demonstration, he had given a wretched cry and struck out in self-defense. Unfortunately, he had accidentally killed the eldest son of the Qin family. From that day onward, he had been banished to the Qing Kingdom’s death row while the wife and children he had left at home were secretly killed by the Qin family as revenge. He had been a dead man when he was unexpectedly rescued by Chen Pingping in secret and placed into the Black Knights with a silver mask to hide his true appearance. For the sake of revenge and to repay his grat.i.tude, he had stayed in the Black Knights and worked his way up to the position of deputy commander.
Fan Xian gave him an opportunity for revenge, so he felt grateful toward Fan Xian. However, he knew that it was Chen Pingping who gave him a second life. The silver-masked Jing Ge regarded old Director Chen like his birth parent.
The Black Knights were on the mountain as Chen Pingping’s wheelchair was put into the carriage. A killing desire surged in his heart. He was about to charge down when the bald man beside him coldly pulled on his reins.
Jing Ge gazed back angrily. He stared at the bald man through the opening on the silver mask with eyes as deep as h.e.l.l but did not move. The bald man’s seniority in the Overwatch Council was even higher than his. He once even had a more important position. This bald man was the head of the Seventh Bureau that Fan Xian had once met in the Overwatch Council’s prison.
“The Director said your task is to take these Black Knights and escort the group of carriages out of this territory and ensure the Black Knights are wholly handed over to Sir Fan junior.”
The bald man’s face appeared particularly aged and tired. Just like Jing Ge, the depths of his heart was filled with sorrow and anger, but he was Chen Pingping’s most trusted old official. His appearance in the Black Knights was by order of the old Director to suppress any restless actions the Black Knights might make.
“Do you know that if the Director returns to the capital, he will never come out again?” Jing Ge said each word slowly as he looked at him coldly.
“This is what the Director wants. Everything I am doing is according to his wishes,” the bald man said calmly, refusing to back down a single step.
Jing Ge stared dazedly at the road and saw the severe gaze Chen Pingping sent back from the door of the carriage. His body trembled. He slowly raised his right hand and gently formed a fist, reining in the wild emotions of the men beneath him.
After a long time, he watched as the black carriage slowly headed back to the capital escorted by the Jingdou Garrison’s elite riders. Jing Ge took a deep breath and slowly took off the silver mask, revealing the terrifying and wretched wound. He did not speak for a long time.
He bid farewell to Chen Pingping, knowing that he might never see the old Director again. The eyes of the always cold and indifferent Jing Ge grew slightly wet.
The bald man gazed in the same direction silently with a slight smile on his face, but a joyful death wish gradually rose in his eyes. The bald man dismounted and knelt down facing the silent road. He then kowtowed respectfully.
Jing Ge looked at his expression and felt a shock. He knew that once this elder had finished his mission of watching him leave the kingdom, he would probably follow Director Chen. He felt a cold sorrow in his heart but did not say anything. He just watched him quietly. He then dismounted and kowtowed in the same direction.
All of the Black Knights dismounted at the same time. On this little mountain, they knelt densely and kowtowed toward the already empty road, making their farewells to the old Director.
After a moment, Jing Ge put on his silver mask and issued an order in a raspy voice, “Pull together and head east.”
These 4,000 Black Knights were the Overwatch Council’s most powerful and dependable martial force. Regardless of how the Emperor wanted to deal with Chen Pingping or how the court wanted to weaken the Overwatch Council to cancel out the counter-attack that could happen because of Chen Pingping, the Black Knights were always the most important factor in the eyes of the court.
With Chen Pingping’s orders, Jing Ge had to deliver these Black Knights safely and without any missing out of the Qing Kingdom’s territory and into Fan Xian’s hands. This was one of the last gifts Chen Pingping was giving to Fan Xian.
The silver-masked Jing Ge knew his mission was heavy. Like his figure, as he led the Black Knights down the mountain, he was also very weighted.
If Chen Pingping truly wanted to openly declare war against the Emperor, these 4,000 Black Knights traversing across the provinces of the Qing Kingdom could, without question, begin their attack within the Qing Kingdom and carve out countless deep wounds in its abdomen. In addition, there were spies the Overwatch Council had inserted into various departments and armies. If Chen Pingping wanted to make one last struggle before he died, it would not be difficult to sink the entire Qing Kingdom into instability.
Chen Pingping did not choose to do this. He would rather return to the capital alone and face the incredibly powerful Emperor rather than have the Overwatch Council loyal to him turn against the court and begin a war. On the grandest level, he had protected the interests of the Qing Kingdom. After all, he was loyal to the Qing Kingdom.
Of course, as old and crafty as Chen Pingping was, he could not allow the men of the Overwatch Council to be manipulated by the court and the Emperor because of his return to the capital. He knew that with the Emperor’s powerful strength and the Qing Kingdom’s powerful national machinery, even if the Overwatch Council fought with all its strength, at most, it could sink the world into instability but be unable to ensure its survival.
He did not want the men of the Overwatch Council to be hurt, so he had chosen to go with the carriages out of the capital. When they arrived in Dazhou, he cleverly gathered the people he wanted to protect, the strength he wanted to leave Fan Xian, and had them go far away from Jingdou.
This included w.a.n.g Qinian, the luggage, beautiful women in the carriages, Overwatch Council officials most loyal to him, head of the Seventh Bureau who had followed him for 30 years, and the 4,000 Black Knights he had secretly been training for many years.
These were all people Chen Pingping believed had to survive. They were also people Fan Xian needed. These people were moving silently and sorrowfully through the night, preparing to leave the territory of the Qing Kingdom and enter deeply into Dongyi, which was already under the control of Fan Xian and the Great Prince. From there, they would leave the control of the Qing Emperor and truly become an independent and powerful force in Fan Xian’s hands.
This force was the bargaining chip Chen Pingping left Fan Xian. It was a bargaining chip that would allow Fan Xian to negotiate with the Emperor.
The bargaining chips had their own emotions and loyalties. The Black Knights moved like spirits as they searched for the mountain path. Under the cold gaze of the bald man, the silver-masked Jing Ge could only destroy any thoughts he had about sending forth men to kill the riders of the Jingdou Garrison and bringing back the old Director. However, there were even deeper thoughts among the Overwatch Council officials and secret agents in the carriages the Black Knights protected.
w.a.n.g Qinian’s appearance after his disguise was not only rigid but also aged. He glanced beside him at the blood-covered Gao Da. He suddenly said after a moment of silence, “The Director returning to the capital… only wishes for death.”
Gao Da was still half unconscious. The mute woman glanced at him, unsure who these words were for.
Slowly walking outside the carriage, someone suddenly sighed. A common-faced Overwatch Council official pushed open the carriage door and walked in. Sitting opposite w.a.n.g Qinian, he was silent for a moment. He then said, “Everyone knows but no one can stop it. You should know that the Director is doing this for the benefit of the Council. He doesn’t want the Qing Kingdom to become destabilized or the duke to be involved.”
“Zong Zhui, you’ve been following me the whole time. Are you worried that I’m going to go inform Sir Fan junior?” w.a.n.g Qinian had not the slightest interest in making jokes. He looked coldly at the person across from him. “If the Director dies, it is impossible for Sir Fan junior to not become involved. Since this is so, why not do this ahead of time? In this world, there is only him who could stop what is going to happen in Jingdou.”
Zong Zhui and w.a.n.g Qinian were known together as the wings of the Overwatch Council. They were two of the best people in the world at traversing long distances and following tracks. He looked at w.a.n.g Qinian calmly and said, “Before the Director left, he gave you a strict order prohibiting you from notifying Sir Fan junior.”
w.a.n.g Qinian’s brows suddenly furrowed. “I’ve heard Sir Fan junior has already left Dongyi and suffered a number of attacks from Dongyi rebel soldiers. How could those rebel soldiers know the return route of the Overwatch Council?”
Zong Zhui did not reply. w.a.n.g Qinian stared at him and said, “It was the Director who let it slip. He wants to stop Fan Xian arriving in the capital early. He wants to end all of this before Fan Xian gets back to the capital.”
Zong Zhui silently agreed.
w.a.n.g Qinian slowly lowered his head and said, “Time is needed to get from Dazhou back to the capital. If I leave now and hurry to the east of Yanjing to notify Sir Fan junior, he should have time to get back to Jingdou.”
A complicated expression suddenly appeared in Zong Zhui’s eyes. “These years, I’ve been with the old Director and you’ve been with Sir Fan junior. The mission the Director gave me was to keep an eye on you.” He sighed. “The Director was right. Those who follow Sir Fan junior for too long become different from the rest of us. They become rash and rarely consider the consequences. I must carry out the Director’s orders and cannot allow you to drag Sir Fan junior in.”
“You can stop me?” w.a.n.g Qinian said, staring at him.
“Victory has never been decided between us, even when you were in a civilian post a few years ago.” A strange smile rose to Zong Zhui’s face.
Immediately after, the smile froze on his face because the hilt of a knife silently tapped on his waist and caused half his body to go numb. Following that, w.a.n.g Qinian chopped on the back of his neck with his palm. Without a sound, he fell to the wooden floor of the carriage.
Holding the child, the mute woman watched all of this with shock, unable to speak.
Tightly holding the knife, Gao Dao had his eyes open and breathed with difficulty. To w.a.n.g Qinian, he said, “Go.”
w.a.n.g Qinian glanced at him and slowly nodded. “Sir Fan junior has said that living is the most important thing. I think he would want the old Director to live.”
Gao Da coughed and blood came out. In a raspy voice, he said, “Time, nonsense.”
w.a.n.g Qinian gave a warped smile and turned to lift up the curtain on the black carriage. Like a gust of wind, he swept out. The night was dark and heavy. The only person who could catch up to him was lying in a dead faint on the floor of the carriage. He was going to notify Fan Xian. No one could stop him. He just didn’t know if there was enough time. Once Fan Xian knew about all that had happened in Jingdou and Dazhou and hurried back, would Chen Pingping still be able to sit safely in his wheelchair?
After a number of days, the Jingdou Garrison riders finally returned to the outskirts of Jingdou. Since there was a black carriage that could not go very fast among them, the speed of the entire group had been reduced to a crawl. No one had any problems with it. They seemed to feel that the slower they went the better. The Commander of the Jingdou Garrison, Shi Fei, had been by Chen Pingping’s side the entire time in the carriage like a filial junior. He served Chen Pingping food and water, helped him rise and rest, and also kept him company during the day. They talked about the past and future of the Qing Kingdom, the funny political matters in court, and thought-provoking rumors that came from the Palace.
It was very much like an aged official being brought back by a junior to retire. However, everyone knew that this was not the case.
It was already autumn. When Chen Pingping, who had been “invited back,” and the Jingdou Garrison returned to Jingdou, they purposely chose the darkest hour before dawn. There was only a smudge of white on the eastern horizon, but it was not bright. It was impossible to display Jingdou’s clear sky in front of everyone. They could only smell the glimmer of heat left in the air as it moved through their nose.
Other than the dozens of people who were hurt, everyone else surrounding the black carriage came to a stop outside Jingdou’s Jingyang Gate. As they traveled, Shi Fei had sent a report of what had happened in Dazhou along top secret channels to inform the Bureau of Military Affairs or internal court. When the dense ma.s.s of riders came to the gates, the 13 gate guard soldiers at the east gate did not appear surprised or raise the alarm.
It was quiet on top and below the city walls. In the darkness, there was an occasional sound of horses shuffling. The smear of light in the east shone on the tall Jingdou city gates and illuminated a startled cry from the topmost layer of brick. A bird that had risen the earliest flew quickly across the front of the wall and gave a cheerful chirp.
With a heavy creak, the Jingdou city gates opened on the rare occasion before it was time to do so. Acted upon by gears and levers, the heavy city gates revealed a pa.s.sage that could just fit carriage. It was pitch black inside and impossible to see what dangers were hidden inside.
The soldiers of the 13 gate guards stood guard on top of the wall. They looked cautiously and curiously at the city gate. They did not know what had happened or why everyone, from their highest superior to the Jingdou Garrison soldiers who had mysteriously appeared outside, appeared as if a powerful enemy had arrived. All of the handing over was completed in a fearful silence. The black carriage, driven by the old servant, slowly entered Jingdou.
Until now, this carriage was still under the control of the old servant of the Overwatch Council. None of the military officials in and out of the city took the old driver’s position or lifted the curtain to ascertain the ident.i.ty of the old man inside.
Shi Fei silently watched as the carriage entered Jingyang Gate. He then watched as the city gate slowly closed. He knew his mission had finally ended. What happened next had nothing to do with him. No matter how angry the Emperor was that he did not completely finish his task, She Fei did not care. He only stared dazedly at the tightly closed city gate. Countless complicated emotions rose in his heart.
Other than fear, the civil officials Qing court felt a great deal of irritation toward the Overwatch Council and old cripple. They thought that this old cripple was just an old dog of the Emperor’s, a terrifying figure that bit all who met him. In the eyes of the military figures, the Overwatch Council was their most loyal and dependable ally, although they also felt boundless fear toward Chen Pingping. Shi Fei suddenly felt that this elder, who would rather return to the capital alone than have the Overwatch Council fight with the military, was worthy of his admiration.
After he was silent for a long time, he slowly waved his hand and led the Jingdou riders slowly away from the thick city walls and suffocating city gates.
The black carriage slowly entered through Jingyang Gate. The thick city gate slowly closed. A few people slowly came close to the carriage. Since it was still in the darkness before the dawn and the light was very dim, it was impossible to see the people’s faces clearly.
Those responsible for standing guard at Jingyang Gate were all top figures in the Qing court including Eunuch Yao from the palace, the head of the Bureau of Military Affairs Ye Zhong, and a scholar of the Hall of Governmental Affairs, He Zongwei. The three of them approached the black carriage. For a moment, no one spoke.
In the end, it was Ye Zhong who spoke. He looked at the carriage and said evenly, “It’s been a hard trip for you.”
Eunuch Yao calmly said, “Please follow me into the Palace to meet the Emperor.”
To the side, He Zongwei did not speak. With a calm expression, he maintained the silence he should have in the situation.
It was silent in the carriage. After a long time, the old man slowly sighed and said gently, “I am just a lonely old man coming back to the capital, yet it has disturbed your peace. I am very apologetic for it.”
The carriage began to slowly move. Escorted by internal court eunuchs and aces of the military, it went along the street by Jingyang Gate and headed toward the Palace at the center of Jingdou. It seemed the Overwatch Council in the city did not know that their old master had returned to Jingdou and was about to face the Emperor’s rage. Even the officials of the court and the sharp-nosed Jingdou commoners did not know about this.
In the darkness before dawn, the trees on either side of the street from Jingyang Gate looked like countless boats that swayed in the cool autumn breeze.
The street led directly to the Palace. There were no pedestrians on their side. Presumably, they had long been cleared and the highest level of prohibition had probably been declared.
Empty and lonely, there was only a black carriage moving forward alone.
Just as it reached the brightly lit Royal Palace, the sun finally broke free of the restraints of the earth and bathed the Royal Palace in a glorious light. The golden fire-like warmth and light also just happened to envelop the black carriage.
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