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The instant Sui Zhou stepped into the suite, he saw Tang Fan giving him a honeyed smile.
Sui Zhou: “…”
Tang Fan got up to welcome him. “Guangchuan, I have something I’d like to trouble you to help me with. I heard that the Bastion Office holds files of records from over the years, is that correct?”
“Could you let me peruse them?”
Sui Zhou nodded, adding on, “The happenings of the Eastern Depot’s fire are starting to take shape.”
Tang Fan’s energy picked up. “How do you say that?”
“The task force leader on duty that day was Meng Qishan, a staff member transferred from the Brocade Guard. His family has been military for generations. Both his father and grandfather were once assigned to work under Count Yingcheng.”
Eunuchs were in charge of the Eastern Depot, but not everyone below them was necessarily a eunuch. A lot of them were even borrowed from the Brocade Guard, which was why Sui Zhou had relative ease when he wanted to find something out.
“Count Yingcheng?” Tang Fan mumbled to himself. “Count Yingcheng of the Sun family?”
His eyes suddenly brightened.
Sui Zhou nodded.
Unable to wait even a bit, Tang Fan grabbed his sleeve and pulled him outside. “Take me to the dossiers your Office has from the first year of Chenghua. I have a little idea!”
These dossiers were indeed more complete than the Prefecture’s; such was the advantage of a special-ops division. Many of Shuntian’s archives had been brought over here, and even some intact development processes, as well as some insider secrets, could be read.
At this moment, Tang Fan obviously didn’t have the inclination to go scouting for hidden divinations not related to this case. He directly sought out the files from the first year of Chenghua, then pulled them out and looked through them, explaining what he had found at the Feng home to Sui Zhou all the while.
“You suspect that the Feng family also had a connection to Count Yingcheng?”
Tang Fan nodded. “I have that notion, but I still need to find concrete evidence. Otherwise, it’ll be difficult for us to convict someone going off of the Eastern Depot’s fire alone!”
Sui Zhou spoke no drivel, merely lowering his head, pickup up a file, and starting to pore over it.
Tang Fan had originally been fatigued from staying up all night, but because Sui Zhou had come along with an additional important clue, he was now brimming with vigor. He looked through them at a rapid velocity, nearly reading ten lines with one glance as he speedily flipped pages.
In truth, the Emperor had actually ascended the year before the first year of Chenghua, but the Late Emperor’s reign title was still being used at the time, since the New Year needed to pass before it could be officially changed. Many things had still happened in that year, however.
Following the Tumu Stronghold Revolt, the Dynasty’s vital energy had been greatly injured, the capital army had been almost completely wiped out, and there had been no lack of natural disasters. Many long-established ills finally broke out; in that year alone, at least four local rebellions started up, and despite all of their ultimate annihilations, the Dynasty still had to waste manpower and resources on them. Not only had there been that, but the White Lotus Society also took the opportunity to incite revolts, confuse the commonfolk, and oppose the Dynasty while waving the banner of this being gods’ will…
For this reason, the files from that year were doomed to be in a thick stack, enough to have them looking through them for more than half a day.
On the first month of the first year of Chenghua, a Yao in Dateng Gorge, Hou Dagou, led the people to rebel in quick succession…
No, not this one.
He proceeded to look down.
In March of the first year, Sichuan’s Duzhangs and Miaos joined up for a rebellion, invading Jiang’an, Hejiang, and various other counties. Count Xiangcheng Li Jin was imperially ordered to campaign against the barbarians, with imperial eunuch Liu Heng supervising the army, which lasted until mid-June…
Not this either.
In that May, rebels falsely named Zhao Duo as King Zhao…
Not this either.
In that March, the Jing–Xiang refugees Liu Tong, Shi Long, and Feng Zilong gathered together into a mob. They falsely claimed to be founding a country, swarmed with hundreds of thousands of people to invade Hanzhong, obtained total victory, and soon after…
Tang Fan’s pupils shrunk, his finger that was pressed against the dossier suddenly stopping.
“Guangchuan, come take a look at this!”
Sui Zhou took it, gaze sweeping onto the area Tang Fan indicated. “Feng Zilong?”
“That’s right. Is it possible that your Office has already researched the connection between Feng Zilong and the Feng family?”
Sui Zhou nodded. “It is. Rebels like him generally have records for family-connected punishment.”
He found a file very quickly. “Here. He came from the Jing-Xiang area. During the first year of Chenghua, he had been accompanying the rebellion, but hadn’t yet been caught by the Dynasty. In order to set an example, the Court had decreed that all of the men in Liu Tong’s, Shi Long’s, and Feng Zilong’s families were to be arrested and banished to the army, thus compelling the rebels to surrender. The Fengs in the capital’s south were his relatives within five degrees. They were originally supposed to be banished to the border, but that coincided with the Yellow River flooding Henan. Local officials presented a memorial requesting the Dynasty to dispatch people to build river dikes, and the Fengs happened to be in that group.”
“What’s the specific location of that?”
Sui Zhou answered, emphatically: “Weihui Prefecture.”
Tang Fan was shocked. “That’s the birthplace of that missing apothecary worker from Rejuvenation Hall!”
“It’s not just that. The locale Count Yingcheng had previously been stationed in was Henan, too.”
Tang Fan sucked in a light breath. “Everything can be connected to this. We guessed right earlier that there were two groups that killed Zheng Cheng — one was Miss Hui and Zheng Zhi, and the other is presumably Lady Sun of Zheng corresponding orders with Feng Qingzi. Miss Hui and him might not have known what Lady Sun was doing, but she knew what they were doing, so she didn’t neglect to use that apothecary worker to add fuel to the fire.”
“There were two people missing from the Feng family tablets,” Sui Zhou answered. “One was Feng Qingzi, and the other ought to be a third-ranked male. Judging by Feng Qingzi’s actions, the man is probably still alive, and due to him having received Count Yingcheng’s asylum, Feng Qingzi consequently aided Lady Sun in homicide. Not only that, but she didn’t hesitate to kill herself after her plan failed for the sake of protecting Lady Sun, because she knew that her little brother would have someone taking care of him. If she had instead sacrificed Lady Sun, she would face the same difficulty of escaping death, and Lady Sun would retaliate against her brother.”
He seldom spoke so many words in one breath, yet the expression on his face held no variation from the norm. Tang Fan kind of wanted to laugh, but held it back, nodding in earnest. “Right. Looking at the timeframe, Miss Hui and him ought to have set to poisoning him first, but Lady Sun might have felt that the effect was too slow, so she gave it a push on the sly. That’s all just speculation right now, though. If we can find Feng Qingzi’s little brother, or that worker, it’ll be proof of our theory.”
Sui Zhou frowned. “The worker won’t be found. An insignificant figure like him has likely long been silenced by the Sun family. As for the brother, he can be searched out. In order to coerce her, Lady Sun had to have placed him where she could see him so that she could be at ease.”
“The news of Feng Qingzi already being dead needs to be concealed now,” Tang Fan said. “Only let the outside world know that she’s kept here in the Office, and then keep an eye on the people in Marquis Wu’an’s Estate. With her absent, a certain someone will certainly worry that she’ll say some things that shouldn’t be said, thus revealing her true nature.”
Sui Zhou hummed. Without any nonsense, he got up, went out, and ordered his subordinates to go do that.
There was no opening the Brocade Guard and Eastern Depot couldn’t get into. They had staff secretly set up everywhere in the capital to surveil all its officials, so that whenever the Emperor needed it, activities could be reported to him at any time. This was also an old rule passed down from the Adept Ancestor.
By the time he got back, he saw that Tang Fan had since fallen asleep face-first on the table.
The other hadn’t slept for a whole day now, and had barely managed to boost his spirits for looking up files previously. As soon as things had relaxed, he conked out.
Sui Zhou had been wanting to ask him about things related to the case, but upon seeing how he was, it wouldn’t be good for him to go over and pat him awake. Therefore, he sat down at the side, and then reorganized the dossiers that they had recently rummaged through into a mess.
He took them and walked over to the cabinet, line of sight inadvertently flitting across Tang Fan’s face. Light from outside shone in, slowly spreading over the man’s form. It even revealed the fine subtleties about him, further highlighting his jade-like features to be without a single flaw.
He didn’t think so normally, but now, with an offhand look at him via this illumination and angle, it wasn’t difficult for him to discover that Tang Fan’s lashes were long, thick, and slightly curled. Yet, one look at the faint indigo beneath his eyes told that he hadn’t had enough sleep last night.
Observing for a short moment, Sui Zhou then shifted his gaze away, put the files back in their original spot, and locked them up.
The translator says: Admiring someone while he sleeps… hm… that’s pretty Gay, pal
 An extinct ethnic group, also called ‘duzhangman’ (都掌蛮), known for making bronze drums. The ‘man’ part means ‘barbarians’, a generic, non-PC term ancient China used to describe people that weren’t Han.