Chapter 90 The Heartless Scholar
That deputy general was dumbfounded.
He was too overwhelmed to react.
The sneer on the faces of the other three deputy generals also froze in an instant.
Feng Yuanxing, Ma Junwu, and Zhen Meng opened their mouths in shock, suspecting if their ears were deceiving them.
The little attendant named Qing Feng was usually resourceful, giving others an expression that he was a young but steady man. Thus, when facing such a situation, they were all waiting for the little attendant to crack the tough nut. However, to their disappointment, Qing Feng simply threw his calm and patience into the wind and gave vent to a torrent of abuse.
“Who are you?” demanded that deputy general, who finally recovered from his stupefaction and locked his malicious eyes on Qing Feng.
Qing Feng held his head up and answered, “I am the top attendant of my Young Master!”
As he said, he showed a quite proud expression.
Upon hearing his reply, the deputy general gave a snort before saying, “Turned out you’re just a little attendant. How dare you…”
“You shut up!” snapped Qing Feng. “You’re merely an Eighth-ranking deputy general. How dare you badmouth a Seventh-ranking official! It’s a felony. Insignificant as I am, I’m entitled to scold you. With so many folks here to bear witness, they can prove my Young Master was not the one to blame. Thus, today, I can do away with you as easy as killing a chicken. Now, apologize to my Young Master, won’t you?”
Qing Feng put on a rather stern look as he shouted in a harsh tone. At that moment, he seemed extremely commanding.
At that point, something clicked and Feng Yuanxing suddenly caught on what Qing Feng was trying to do.
After being continuously rebuked in public, the deputy general surely looked much less overbearing.
It should be noted that the hierarchies in the government were quite stringent. Pursuant to the laws of the empire, cursing a high-ranking official was a serious crime.
No matter it was in the Western Qin Empire or in the other two empires, such a defy against higher authorities was a taboo. When a man did it repeatedly, his sin would even more severe. If Li Mu were on the scene, he certainly had the power to kill him on the spot.
“How…how could I be afraid of your Young Master? Humph, you have no idea how I survived all those fighting and killing. I’ve been to real battlefields, and I…” stuttered the deputy general in the attempt to find the right words to make a counter-attack. Still, he failed to keep his previously arrogant edge in his voice.
Qing Feng displayed a cold smile that only a grownup would do before retorting, “Been to the battlefields? Big deal! My Young Master has beheaded Si Kongjing with a broadsword, hit Wu Biao with one shoot of an arrow. He also suppressed more than five hundred warriors in Wulin World who aced at skills like the Sky Dragon Sword, the Iron Hand Holding up the Sky, the Cloud-dragon Sword, as well as the Cold Mountain Sword. Tell me, can you achieve that?”
By that moment, the stunning combat Li Mu did in the county had already been spread around.
Back then when he was challenged by that devilish Boody-moon Evil Master, he already caught much of people’s attention. Since then, he was no longer a nobody. Later when he reaped a win in that tough battle, he naturally made his name across the empire.
“I…” That deputy general sounded much less confident now.
Because he knew his cultivation was still inferior to Dongfang Jian’s accomplishment in the Sky Dragon Sword. Given that Li Mu had defeated Dongfang Jian with a single blow, the deputy general was clear that he could also take his life without effort.
At that thought, he felt his heart skipped a beat.
“Rumor has it that this Taibai county magistrate Li Mu has no fear of murder. He might really kill a deputy general who abused him on the spot.”
Taking advantage of his momentary hesitation, Qing Feng pressed, “What are you waiting for? Get on your knees and spit out your apology now!”
That deputy general turned ashen-faced. Sweat started beading on his forehead.
“Well then, it’s enough. He was just kidding. Think about how noble County Magistrate Li is. He certainly would not mind this little joke!” said a husky voice from the carriage.
An armored soldier clenching a spear went up to the carriage and opened the door respectfully.
Two beautiful maids about 15 who were both in cyan stepped out. One of them kneeled to the side of the cart and arched her back, ready to serve as a step-stool. Then, a young man dressing like a scholar came out behind the door and got off the carriage by stepping onto the backside of that attractive maid.
The young man was about 20 years old. He had fair skin and a well-featured face. At first glance, everyone thought he was handsome. But upon the second glimpse, they found there was a flame-shaped scarlet birthmark as large as a boy’s palm on his left cheek, which sort of dented his good looks.
“Mr. Zheng, please forgive the incompetent me.”
Flustered by all the scruples, the deputy general turned and begged for pardon in a haste.
At the sight of that young man with the birthmark, Feng Yuanxing immediately knew he was that legendary, heartless figure who took command of the Chang’an magistrate.
Having worked in the officialdom for many years, Feng Yuanxing heard loads of stories of this Mr. Zheng, who was also called the ‘Heartless Scholar’ by all those serving in the government of Chang’an. But much to his surprise, the cold-blooded guy who held numerous officials in awe for more than 20 years was still very young.
It was said that the current magistrate of Chang’an trusted Mr. Zheng very much. He regarded Mr. Zheng as his closest supporter and practically followed every advice he told him. Hence, despite the fact that Mr. Zheng held no official position except being a schemer of the magistrate, his every word and action affected the fate of nearly 10,000 officials in Chang’an.
“As I told you before, you guys have lived in the Chang’an government for such a long time that you’re starting to behave condescendingly. You really could use some introspection. Don’t act like this anymore. Now, you can go.”
The young man ordered as he waved away the deputy general nonchalantly.
Too scared to say another word, that deputy general lowered his head and stepped sideways.
After that, the young man took a few steps forward before darting his eyes in Feng Yuanxing’s way. He straightened his clothes and then made obeisance as he announced, “Zheng Cunjian, scholar, pay his tribute to your honors.” Upon seeing Mr. Cheng made his greetings, people reckoned that he was quite humble, not as lofty as they had pictured at all.
Feng Yuanxing, however, was frightened to see him being so respectful. He hurriedly replied, “Please, I don’t deserve such courtesy. I hope you can forgive me for not welcoming you at an earlier time. I really didn’t know you were visiting us in person.”
As he spoke, Ma Junwu and Zhen Meng, who were beside him, came forward and gave their salute.
“I’m accompanying Chu Shufeng, the newly-appointed deputy county magistrate of Taibai County, and Ning Zhongshan, the Dianshi janitor to take their posts here under the order of the magistrate of Chang’an. We might need to trouble you honors a lot in the days to come. I wish you won’t mind that.” Zheng Cunjian pleaded without showing any emotion.
After hearing those words, Feng Yuanxing realized the two middle-aged men, one of whom dressed like a scholar and the other like a combatant, were the new Dianshi janitor and Deputy county magistrate of Taibai County. Instantly, a weird feeling surged up from his stomach.
“The government of Chang’an appointed a new Dianshi janitor and a new Deputy county magistrate without notice?”
“That doesn’t fit with the official routine.”
Generally, the county magistrate did have a say in the appointments and removals of lower-ranking officials. As far as Feng Yuanxing knew, Li Mu had recommended to the Chang’an government some candidates for the two posts. But those two were definitely not among the list. Obviously, the Chang’an government did not adopt Li Mu’s proposal. Instead, they made those two the chosen ones and let them take office without even notifying any other officials beforehand.
This appointment, of course, was not as simple as it seemed.
Zheng Cunjian then looked at Feng Yuanxing and said, “Secretary Feng, please inform County Magistrate Li of our arrival.”
“Er…” Feng Yuanxing hesitated, struggling with a spasm of headache.
He subconsciously looked over his shoulder at Qing Feng. Capturing the little nod of the latter, he bowed and said, “Certainly, I’m on it.”
Then, he turned and went back into the county office.
At the gate of the county office, the atmosphere was a little awkward.
Cool-faced, Zheng Cunjian leisurely looked around and eventually landed his eyes on Qing Feng. At once, his lips curled into a sardonic grin out of no reason.
A few minutes passed by.
Feng Yuanxing walked out of the county office once more. He looked quite embarrassed as he reported, ” Mr. Zheng, His Honor is in the training room. The door is closed shut. I made several servants knock the door and even tried to break in, but no one answered us. Now, what would you like me to…”
Before he finished his remark, Mr. Zheng nodded and replied, “Never mind. Just let me in and I’ll wait until His honor completes his closed-door training.”
He then gave a series of commands as though he were the host of the county office before ushering the new Dianshi janitor and Deputy county magistrate in along with those deputy generals.
At the same time, a hundred armored soldiers were stationed on garrison duty in and out of the county government. As to those guards originally placed in the institution, they were relentlessly driven away by the newcomers who seemed well prepared to take over the whole place.
Feng Yuanxing and the others could do nothing about it except giving a wry smile.
After a while.
Everyone entered the reception chamber of the county government. Zheng Cunjian occupied the seat of honor without any hesitation. Holding a celadon teacup, he lightly cleared away the tea leaves with the lid and took a sip.
Although Feng Yuanxing and his men also settled themselves in a chair, the rest of the officials of the Taibai County, which amounted to 40, all stood straight in the chamber, not daring to even breathe loudly. They fixed their eyes on the floor because they had no guts to look at the ‘Heartless Scholar’ in legends, as if the one sitting in the seat of honor was the magistrate of Chang’an instead of an intellectual with no titles.
“Now that County refused to get out of his closed-door training, I say let’s bring out all the files stored in this government to allow Ning Zhongshan and Chu Shufeng to review them. From now on, the issues in this government shall be determined within these two.”
Zheng Cunjian said that as if by the way. But actually, he had just stripped Feng Yuanxing of the dominant position he had long occupied in the county office as the most trusted crony of Li Mu.
His tone was not harsh or urgent, but his voice made it clear that the decision was not open for discussion.
Feng Yuanxing whined inwardly. Nevertheless, he did not dare to complain.
At those words, a civil official quickly took off to retrieve the files.
Zheng Cunjian scanned all the civil officials standing in the chamber and was satisfied to see the revere and fear in their eyes.
He enjoyed making bureaucrats shudder with fear despite his civilian status.
He was not an official of the government, but his power was on par with or even superior to that of any real official.
“Secretary Feng, what’s the name of that little attendant again?” asked Zheng Cunjian causally.
Feng Yuanxing lowered his head and answered, “His name is Qing Feng. He is a trusted servant of County Magistrate Li.”
“Really, a trusted servant? Haha.” Zheng Cunjian commented frostily, “I was told that County Magistrate Li operates in a cruel fashion. But I never knew a little attendant of his could be so sharp-tongued. Humph!”
As he let out that sneer, Feng Yuanxing and the others could not help but worry about Qing Feng and break out in a cold sweat.
The ‘Heartless Scholar’ was the type to seek revenge for even the slightest offense. That was a widely known fact in the Chang’an government.
“Secretary Feng, I heard that these days it is you who take charge of the affairs in the Taibai County, isn’t it?” Zheng Cunjian posed another question.
Feng Yuanxing hastily responded, “Since County Magistrate Li has been very busy, I merely took care of a small part of it.”
A cold smile curled up Zheng Cunjian’s lips. Then, he probed steadily, “You know what, a couple of days ago, the youngest son of the magistrate of Chang’an, who is also his favorite, took a trip to Taibai County with several friends of his. Curiously, he and his friends soon disappeared. I wonder if Secretary Feng has heard about this issue.”
Feng Yuanxing’s heart trembled.
“Surely, what bound to happen will happen.”
“But why did it pick this juncture…?”
In the Righteous Manor of the county.
Similar to the morgue or autopsy room on the Earth, Righteous Manor was a place that housed corpses which were involved in criminal cases. Post-mortem examiners of the government guarded those corpses and were allowed to do further examinations on them. It was a lasting tradition since the Western Qin Empire came into being.
Right now, several experts of Taibai faction in white swordsman uniforms scuttled into the Righteous Manor.
“Found them! It’s truly Brother Lu and his guys.” The swordsmen shouted.
“How…how can it be? Brother Lu and the others have disappeared for four days. They were truly murdered?”
“Who was so audacious to kill disciples of our Taibai Sword Faction?” A disciple asked incredulously.
“Quick, report to Elder Zhou!”
“Revenge, we must seek revenge!”
In the hall of the Righteous Manor, disciples of Taibai Sword Faction roared indignantly as they recoginized the bodies lying on the floor. Those were their faction brothers who had vanished for several days. Their abrupt death did render them infuriated.
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