Joy of Life - Chapter 146

[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:47:12]
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Chapter 146: Poetry Anthologies and Speeches

Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio

“What’s a Banxianzhai?”

“That’s what this study is. Father said that he’ll leave this study to you; you can discuss if after you’re married. I already got Qiye the shopkeeper to go to Laohengju and order a stone tablet for the inscription. The name is going to be Banxianzhai.”

Fan Xian felt something wasn’t right. “So what’s the Banxianzhai Poetry Anthology?” he felt compelled to ask.

“Huh? It’s the poems you recited in the palace hall the other day. It’s already been compiled into a collection by the Imperial College. His Majesty is making preparations for it to be printed under the name of the Imperial Library. I was the one who asked father to get it done.”

After the Xishan Paper Store had been robbed, the imperial merchants had been removed from their posts and investigated. They were still yet to return to their former power, and furthermore, the inner treasury had been warned by the palace not to target the Danbo Bookstore again. Danbo Bookstore was slowly regaining its momentum. Naturally, wanting to prepare for its great expansion, Qiye the shopkeeper and Sizhe had fixed their sights on this poetry anthology mandated by the Emperor. Part of the money was taken by the palace, and the palace gave permission for private individuals to sell it after it was printed; this was the source of the money.

Who were the poems written by? Fan Xian. Who was Fan Xian? The behind-the-scenes proprietor of the Danbo Bookstore. This moneymaking business, whether it was Qiye the shopkeeper of Qingyu Hall, or Fan Sizhe standing behind the shopkeeper with an evil laugh, could not be allowed to benefit the royal court. Fan Sizhe had been thoroughly annoyed by his brother’s unwillingness to come up with the next ten chapters of Story of the Stone. Now that he had come up with this poetry anthology, he was willing to let that slide.

Fan Xian wrote his signature below the words “Banxianzhai Poetry Anthology” on the paper, laughing bitterly to himself. That evening, in order to provide cover for his whereabouts later that night, he had feigned drunkenness in the hall. As a result, he had fallen into a wild state, not holding his tongue for a moment. Within these poems were countless unexplained references to the classics; if he wanted to explain these references, he would have to write countless history books and stories.

Could you write the Four Classic Novels? A New Account of the Tales of the World? The Analects of Confucius? The Book of Songs? Don’t think that that’s too quaint. Could you compose A Mirror for the Wise Ruler out of thin air? Or Sima Qian’s Records of the Grand Historian? Nobody would have the faintest idea of how to write them all.

Thinking of such a volume of work made Fan Xian quiver with fear. If it really were to extend that far, perhaps Danbo Bookstore would really become a disseminator of all of the culture of his previous world, as had been his dream in Danzhou long ago. “The Imperial Library’s proofreading won’t do,” he said. “You must get it back. I need to re-edit it all. I was so drunk that day. Who knows what nonsense I might have been talking.”

He laid down his plan. If he could deceive them, then he would, but it really wouldn’t do. He could reluctantly make a loss, using drunkenness as an excuse to totally delete it all. Anyway, people often suffered from amnesia after a night of heavy drinking.

“This is out of print.” Fan Sizhe shook his head. “As I see it, wait five years. You say you won’t write any more poems. If you come out of retirement in the poetry world, I reckon it’ll make quite a bit of money.”

Fan Xian laughed and shook his head. His gaze suddenly fell on a sheet of pink paper from the bookstore. “What is that?” He asked curiously.

“A list of gifts,” replied Fan Sizhe.

Fan Xian was slightly surprised, and finally thought of his own upcoming wedding. But so much had happened recently, not to mention the fact that his frame of mind had changed slightly from what it was that first time at the Temple of Qing. He could no longer get along with her mother. The current Emperor still could still keep a handle on things. Once the Emperor no longer wanted to control keep things under control, the eldest princess would definitely kill him.

Or he would definitely kill her.

He had been looking forward to his marriage for a long time, but Fan Xian could not feel a little restless and aggrieved.

Over the next few days, the Danbo Bookstore brought out the Banxianzhai Poetry Anthology. This time, Danbo Bookstore had the printing rights, and Fan Xian had personally made bold and sweeping changes to the text. He felt somewhat more at ease. To his surprise, the bookstore held a ceremony, using Fan Xian’s name to invite people such as Crown Prince Jing and Xin Qiwu of Honglu Temple.

Fan Xian was rather shocked, and was only willing to allow his talented sister Fan Ruoruo to show her face in public and act as his spokesperson. As the bustling sale began, he used the excuse that he wanted to maintain an air of poetic mystery, and hid in the pavilion at the palace to flirt with Lin Wan’er.

An eighth-level functionary had composed one-hundred poems on the spot, shocking the master Zhuang Mohan so badly that he had spat blood and fled: this story had already spread throughout the Kingdom of Qing. Although some of the poems had already spread among the masses, this self-edited version of the poetry anthology was naturally an uncommon thing. Sure enough, as the poetry anthology spread outside of the capital, Fan Xian’s reputation grew and grew.

By the pavilion, autumn winds blew in the night. Fan Xian looked kindly at his fiancée and smiled. “The method you mentioned wouldn’t be of any use.”

Lin Wan’er looked miserable, and pouted her lips adorably. “I haven’t been outside for days.”

In truth, the young woman also knew of the business that had gone on in the capital over the past few days. Although she had grown up inside the palace, the concubines all had her in the palm of their hands. A part of it was due to her own sickness and gentleness, and she could not harm them. Another was because His Majesty seemed to love her so dearly.

Naturally, she had not read the “essay” on the eldest princess, but she had gradually heard some of the rumors. After, but before the eldest princess had left the capital for Xinyang, she had come to the pavilion, and mother and daughter had sat facing each other, somewhat like strangers; it was then that the eldest princess got in her carriage and left the capital.

Although Lin Wan’er didn’t know how Fan Xian was connected her mother’s departure, being the sensitive person she was, she still felt that Fan Xian’s mood was not as relaxed and carefree as it had been in the past, so she suggested that they find a day to go out again and appreciate the autumn scenery. The red leaves of Xishan, the mountains to the west of the capital, were well known.

But hearing the word ‘Xishan’ reminded Fan Xian of the paper workshop than had monopolized all the paper in the capital. He thought of the eldest princess seemingly observing him from the behind the paper workshop with seeming malice and timidity

Fan Xian knew that the eldest princess’s departure from the capital was a result of the Emperor’s power. His own “speech paper” had only given the Emperor a reason to convince himself and the Empress Dowager, nothing more.

To explain things, all levels of Qing society had named the leaflets that covered the capital like snow that day “speech-papers” at that time, because they thought it was a method that the common people used to get their grievances addressed after they exhausted all other options.

Over those days, there was a sudden vogue for such “speech-papers”, which had worried the Overwatch Council. Once someone had been arrested, they discovered that it had originally been a forced laborer at a copper mine, who had come to Taiyuan Road to present a grievance to the Emperor, but had been unable to enter the palace, and so had learnt to do it this way.

The Overwatch Council followed the thread, and finally discovered that the ones supplying these struggling types with paper had been the Xishan Paper Workshop!

But the people helping the laborers to write their complaints could not be found out. They could only track down the flexible and sleek handwriting to a fortune teller who had been outside the Temple of Qing. But when the Overwatch Council came to search the Temple of Qing, they discovered that there were no fortune tellers there – save for the temple attendants who had never left the temple once in all their lives.

The business with the copper mine was naturally given to a bureau to sort out, and they quickly discovered a group of officials from Taiyuan Road and arrested them as they made their way back to the capital. A month later, they were beheaded. The royal court could not bear this movement of speech-paper-writing, and reinforced the supervision of paper. But Director Chen of the Overwatch Council had not punished the copper mine laborers, and in the eyes of the bureaucracy, he seemed to have gone soft.

He came to his senses, looking at the worried Wan’er, came up to her, smiling, and softly caressed her smooth chin. “What are you thinking about?” he asked gently. “The eldest princess has returned to Xinyang. When we have the chance after we’re married, naturally, we should visit her.”

This, naturally, was a lie; Fan Xian hoped that he never had to go to Xinyang in his life, and hoped that the eldest princess would die there. Of course, he also knew that he had not truly dealt a shocking blow to the power of the eldest princess and her mysterious partner. The Emperor enjoyed playing cat and mouse – with his enemies; the eldest princess would return one day.

Lin Wan’er smiled reluctantly. “We’ll see. Yesterday I entered the palace. You know that with the recent events in the capital, the concubines are still well, but the Empress Dowager does not seem comfortable. His Majesty has also not been as friendly to me as he was before.”

Fan Xian sighed. The Emperor was worried about who the prince that her mother had been colluding with was. How could he have been as he was in the past?

The two exchanged some more idle chat before they suddenly heard what sounded like a lady-in-waiting making her way up the stairs. In a conditioned reflex, Fan Xian leapt up and climbed out onto the edge of the window, preparing to jump off. Lin Wan’er giggled. “That’s still a habit of yours?”

Fan Xian smiled, somewhat embarrassed. Looking at Wan’er’s pale face, he could feel his heart soften. He went up to her and hugged her tight. “Don’t tire yourself out before the wedding,” he said quietly. “And when it comes to your illness, don’t be afraid. Leave it all to me. I’ll be here for you.”

The green branches outside the window had kept their lively colors in the stubborn autumn winds, trying to prove that despite their bleak surroundings, that they were still beautiful.

At a bend in the staircase, the servant girl Siqi watched the mistress and her young man, and couldn’t help but stick her tongue out. She knew that the young man of the Fan family was a gifted scholar, but he was still shameless.

The wedding was at hand, and all of Fan Manor was in motion. The eldest princess was not in the capital, so the work of making arrangements was down to Concubine Shu in secret. Apart from feeling a sense of glory, all of Fan Manor felt cautious. There was a fear that some detail had been missed somewhere, that rules had not been meticulously abided by.

But rules are difficult things. Lin Wan’er’s status as a princess was only in effect inside the palace. Outside the world of the palace, her status was that of Prime Minister Lin’s illegitimate child, only forced to be acknowledged by him at the start of the year. So it could not be ascertained whether this marriage ultimately still used the ceremonial protocols reserved for princesses, or normal marriage standards for the children of cabinet minister.

Lady Liu entered the palace again, finally receiving clear instructions from the Empress Dowager. Although the Empress Dowager did not like the Lin family’s participation in her precious little granddaughter’s marriage, she had to agree to it. At the same time, she also announced that the wedding would not be performed in accordance with protocols for the marriage of a princess.

Although those old ladies with inside knowledge within the upper echelons of the Fan clan were slightly disappointed, when they thought of the marriage to the family of the Prime Minister, they felt it was a thing of great renown, so they eagerly prepared for it.

But no one imagined that the sight of Fan Xian’s marriage to Lin Wan’er would be thought far more deserving of remembrance than the marriage of a princess and the Emperor’s son-in-law for many years to come.