Ignoring the startled cry of the member of the Taiyi Sect, the young girl, and nearby passerby, the startled minister barreled through to stand before the stone monolith. His finger flying over the surface of the black monolith, Wei Xuan rapidly searched for the name once again.
There, at the forty-third row and the sixty-seventh column, was a person’s name so familiar to him.
Wei An Fei.
His fourth daughter’s name.
“You there! What are you doing, this area is restricted!”
The member of the Taiyi Sect rose from the seat in anger, walking towards Wei Xuan with angry strides.
Before he could shove his sect emblem into Wei Xuan’s face, the minister had grasped him by his robes, dragging him off of his feet.
“You tell me this minister one thing,” Wei Xuan growled, a domineering pulse of spiritual essence exploding from within his body. Shaking the unlucky sect member, the minister began his series of interrogations in public.
“Who enlisted this name onto this monolith?”
The member of the Taiyi Sect’s eyes widened frantically at the terrifying fluctuations of spiritual essence rippling from Wei Xuan’s body, fearing that his measly cultivation of the Foundation Establishment Realm was insufficient to preserve his life.
However, upon hearing Wei Xuan’s question, the young man gradually calmed down, relief flooding his heart.
“I… I don’t know,” he quickly responded, his gaze following Wei Xuan’s extended finger to the identified name.
“A young man came by earlier to register on behalf of someone else, and he gave me this name.”
“A young man?” Wei Xuan repeated in surprise, his brows knotting in suspicion.
“I don’t know,” the young man quickly shook his head.
“But he had the Imperial Family’s emblem in his possession, and registered four others at the same time.”
Imperial Family’s emblem?
Wei Xuan paused, panic bubbling within his heart.
Staring at the unlucky young man with a gaze that pierced deep into the soul, the minister stepped forward with an imposing demeanor, asking again with a powerful voice.
“Are you completely certain that the man possessed an emblem from the Imperial Family?”
The member of the Taiyi Sect nodded his head in assent, fear displayed within his gaze.
Feeling the deathly grip on his robe vanish, the young man raised his gaze in a fervor, only to realize that the frightening minister had disappeared.
However, he dared not to fix the creases formed on his clothes, and instead sat back down before the table with shaking limbs and cold sweat dripping from his neck.
“Official Wei, please, this way.”
A high-ranking eunuch gestured for Wei Xuan to follow him, an amiable smile on his aged countenance.
Carefully observing the eunuch’s appearance and recognizing the purple-golden robe belonging to the highest-ranking palace servants, the minister quickly stood to greet.
Wei Xuan quietly ventured as he followed the eunuch down a long corridor leading from the central hall of the Imperial Palace. The old eunuch smiled, before dipping his head into a bow.
“This slave is the servant of Her Imperial Highness,” the eunuch replied in a tone that was neither servile nor aggressive.
Though it possessed the customary traits of a eunuch’s higher-pitched voice with a weaker emphasis, the placid tone inadvertently caused Wei Xuan to raise his guard.
“Official Wei may call this slave Eunuch Lin. Her Imperial Majesty requested to convene with Official Wei at the Fleeting Spring Pavilion.”
“Why has His Imperial Majesty… chosen not to meet with this one?” the minister suddenly questioned, his gaze flickering with an unfathomable glint.
“His Imperial Majesty knows this official best, it doesn’t seem appropriate that Her Imperial Highness is calling this one?”
The eunuch suddenly shuddered, and the horsetail whisk clenched in his bony palms trembled in an unsteady manner.
Eunuch Lin continued to use the placid tone to respond to Wei Xuan, but the underlying fear could not be hidden.
“Official Wei must not have known, His Imperial Majesty is preoccupied with other matters at the moment. Her Imperial Highness dispatched this old slave to guide Official Wei to the proper destination.”
Wei Xuan raised both eyebrows in surprise, a furious sneer threatening to erupt at the corner of his mouth.
The minister continued to retain his amicable gaze, however only Eunuch Lin was conscious of how many daggers would have pierced into his body had they were not in the Imperial Palace.
As expected, the empress had not informed Lu Jing Yi of his visit.
Otherwise, if the emperor were to discover that Wei Xuan had demanded his audience with utmost urgency, he would have flown from the steps leading from his throne in anxiety.
The Right and Left Imperial Censors declaring an emergency visit with the emperor was relatively common; out of the higher-ranking officials within the Imperial Court, the inconspicuous third-ranking Defense Minister rarely demanded the personal attention of the Emperor of Great Yong.
“Official Wei, this way.”
The corridor opened to reveal the breathtaking scenery of a pavilion residing over the surface of an expansive lake. Though it was merely the early comings of spring, the chirping of birds and vibrant plantlife decorated the entire vicinity of the pavilion.
Fish swam underneath, the colorful scales reflecting a vast assortment of multifaceted lights. A bridge connected the pavilion to the land, and Wei Xuan could see the silhouette of a woman resting within.
The old eunuch retreated to the side, his right arm extended towards bridge to persuade Wei Xuan into meeting with the empress. The minister coldly huffed, before traversing the bridge to greet the empress.
Each step rang with a powerful indifference, the invisible but surely present fluctuations causing the nearby guards to tighten their grips on the swords holstered at their waist.
“Minister Wei greets Her Imperial Highness.”
Wei Xuan clasped his fists before his chest in the jianghu’s salute, his refusal to bow expressing his utmost disappointment. His unexpected action at the edge of the bridge startled the occupants within, and an uncomfortable silence deafened the surroundings.
“How dare you!” the palace servant next to the empress roared with fury the instant she recovered.
Pointing towards the minister’s sarcastic greeting, the maidservant’s eyes bulged with anger as she ordered for the guards nearby to strike!
“Not daring to bow to the Her Imperial Highness, you have great courage! Guards! Strike-”
A slender hand cut off the remainder of the maidservant’s enraged tirade, forcing the guards to return to their positions.
Her gaze roaming through the man-made lakeside pavilion until it landed onto Wei Xuan’s countenance, the empress narrowed her eyes when she noticed that the minister’s gesture had not changed.
“Minister Wei does not follow the teachings of Great Yong’s officialdom?”
Wei Xuan revealed a thin smile, before brazenly sitting directly across of the empress.
Maintaining the farthest distance from the woman without appearing too disrespectful, the minister glanced out of the pavilion and into the lake, tracing the swimming fish with his gaze.
“Your Imperial Highness may not have known,” Wei Xuan finally spoke in an even tone.
“His Imperial Majesty has issued this official, the Right and Left Imperial Censors, and the Three Judgement Ministers, that the officialdom’s greeting to the ruler is only to be conducted in public or during the court’s session. As for private interactions…”
“This minister doesn’t understand; this minister requested a private meeting with His Imperial Majesty, so why is Your Imperial Highness responding to my request instead?”
Feng Yu Xin fixated a direct glare at Wei Xuan, a frown beginning to surface on her countenance.
“Official Wei displayed such obsequious behavior during the court sessions,” the empress remarked with a dry tone.
“Is this your true character? This is quite the interesting case, no?”
“The Imperial Court is the Imperial Court; a private meeting with His Imperial Majesty is still a private meeting at its essence,” Wei Xuan snapped back in a flat tone, his gaze refusing to land on the empress for the slightest second.
The beautiful woman raised an eyebrow in bemusement, before tapping her index finger onto the table covered by snacks.
“Speak. Bengong wishes to know why Official Wei appears so destitute.”
The minister’s lips twitched as he fought to suppress his anger. Maintaining a calm visage and smoothening his tone, Wei Xuan fixed an annoyed glance at Feng Yu Xin.
“Then this official shall ask of Her Imperial Majesty. Exactly why has my daughter’s name been registered onto the list for the Taiyi Sect’s special opportunity, especially without her own father’s consent?”