Joy of Life - Chapter 190

[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:47:28]
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Chapter 190: A Blade in an Oil-Paper Umbrella

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

Barely a few days later, the Imperial Censor wrote a letter impeaching Prime Minister Lin Ruofu on charges of secretly usurping the property of another and conspiring to commit crimes against the people. This matter shocked all levels of society, but as Wu Bo’an had been labeled a spy for Northern Qi, generally speaking, public opinion had been on the side of the Prime Minister.

But as Lady Wu was on her way to make a statement to the Supreme Court, she somehow came across an assassin. It was unclear whether it was simply Lady Wu’s good fortune, or the bad fortune of the Prime Minister, but at that moment the Second Prince and Crown Prince Jing were walking together, and just managed to save her.

From that moment on, things began to change.

It was said that inside the palace, His Majesty had asked the Crown Prince and the Second Prince how he should deal with this matter. After a moment of silence, the Crown Prince said that there was not enough evidence, and that the Prime Minister had worked tirelessly for the state, so rumors were not to be easily believed. Although the Second Prince had saved Lady Wu in the street, he and his elder brother the Crown Prince kept silent.

After all, the Prime Minister was head of the bureaucracy; however the matter was dealt with, it would cause a ruckus.

But hearing this from his own son that night, King Jing was angered. He rarely entered the palace, but he did so and spoke all night with his elder brother, the Emperor. No one knew the specifics of what they had talked about. That night, His Majesty looked at over a decade’s worth of official documents, looking at the accounts of the Ministry of Revenue and the hard-won political achievements of the Prime Minister. Silent and dumbfounded, he could only sigh.

“Provincial governor of Shandong Road, Peng Tingsheng… Hm, he passed the provincial exams 11 years ago. At the time, I had just taken my position. I felt that he was an obedient scholar.” Prime Minister Lin Ruofu was in his forties, but his face looked old and haggard. “But I didn’t think he would be this obedient. You should be aware that I did not order Peng Tingsheng to carry out such matters. Wu Bo’an was already dead. If I really wanted to take my anger out on his family, it wouldn’t be so simple.”

“Perhaps Master Peng tried to fathom your thoughts, Prime Minister, and that is why he did such a confusing thing.” Lin Ruofu’s trusted aide, Yuan Hongdao, frowned slightly as he spoke.

“Oh?” Lin Ruofu looked at him with a smile that didn’t quite look like a smile. “But Peng Tingsheng is not a confused person. If the order did not come from the Prime Minister’s office, then he would not put his own career at stake. Besides, who was it who attempted murder on the street the other day? Why are they investigating my office?”

Yuan Hongdao looked somewhat stupefied. He gently stroked his long whiskers. “He Zongwei is on the side of the Eastern Palace, but he is merely a pawn. He wouldn’t have the gall to do such a thing. Someone is certainly supporting him, but I do not know whether it is the Empress or the Eldest Princess.”

“It is Yunrui.” The Prime Minister smiled. “Her power in the court is mainly with the Imperial Censorate. This is her revenge against me.”

“Revenge for what?”

“For… many things.” The Prime Minister sighed. “Including matters with Chen’er, with her son-in-law, and matters between her and myself.”

“In truth…” Yuan Hongdao started to speak, but stopped.

“Out with it.”

Yuan Hongdao smiled. “In truth, we must still look to His Majesty’s opinion. If His Majesty does not believe it, then your position as Prime Minister is as stable as Mount Tai.”

“His Majesty can certainly see such a clumsy strategy clearly.” The Prime Minister smiled. “But the question is whether His Majesty wishes to see things clearly or not.”

“Why do you say such a thing, Prime Minister?”

“A great number of city officials have died these past few days. I am head of the bureaucracy, and as such it is my responsibility.” The Prime Minister closed his eyes as he made his analysis. “The most important part is whether His Majesty wishes to allow me to continue as Prime Minister.”

“Prime Minister, there is still a chance to turn things around,” replied Yuan Hongdao respectfully. “I ask that you speak with Minister Fan. Fan Manor has close relations with the Overwatch Council. If Chen Pingping wishes to stand by you, then no matter what the Imperial Censorate tries to do to you, His Majesty will also stand resolutely by your side.”

Lin Ruofu shook his head. “His Majesty simply wants me to get out of the way.”

“To get out of the way of whom?”

“The Crown Prince. Or perhaps the future Prime Minister.” Lin Ruofu thought for a moment. “Fan Xian has great power. If I am still in the court, and he has control of the Overwatch Council and the palace treasury as well as still having me behind him, then perhaps even the Princes cannot touch him. Some days ago I told him that a tree that stands out in the forest will be broken by the winds…”

“His Majesty’s opinion is clear. He wants Fan Xian to become a great minister, who can assist the next Prince who sits upon the Dragon Throne… Since Fan Xian wants the top spot, I will naturally have to resign.” Lin Ruofu smiled. “While I remain in place, Fan Xian is dangerous.”

Yuan Hongdao was somewhat alarmed, but in the corner of his eye he saw the faint smile on the Prime Minister’s face. It seemed that he was mocking something.

The sound of Dabao playing in the water could be heard from outside. The Prime Minister’s face seemed to soften. He stood up, walked to the window and looked out, watching his simple-minded son. He frowned. “Tomorrow I shall have Wan’er take Dabao to Fan Manor.”

Yuan Hongdao waited for what the Prime Minister was going to say next.

“I will enter the palace and seek an audience. I believe that in light of my years of service, His Majesty will allow me to have a relatively peaceful retirement.”

Yuan Hongdao was about to speak when the Prime Minister coldly waved his hand to silence him. He turned his head and gazed at him quietly.

After a long period of silence, Lin Ruofu spoke, a twinge of sadness in his voice. “You wrote the letter to Peng Tingsheng.”

There was a sudden silence in the study. Some time later, Yuan Hongdao finally spoke in a low voice. “That is correct. Even this assassination attempt was arranged by me, to be carried out by your guards, Prime Minister.”

“Why?” The Prime Minister frowned, seemingly pained. “Ever since I entered the court as an official, you have been my only friend. I have had great respect for you. Why have you waited all these years to finally move against me and leave me with no way out?”

Yuan Hongdao and the Prime Minister had been friends for half a lifetime; indeed, they could be called lifelong friends. To his surprise, Yuan Hongdao had made many arrangements that had left the Prime Minister in such an awkward situation. He knew too many of the Prime Minister’s secrets, and this entrapment had left Lin Ruofu with no choice but to concede!

He looked at the Prime Minister’s withered face and spoke with a hint of regret. “Everyone has their own goals and intentions. Old friend, I have hidden myself in your study all these years precisely for such a day as this. I promised someone that when they needed you to step down, I would lend a helping hand.”

Lin Ruofu looked at his old friend, the corners of his mouth slightly curled. “Yunrui must have promised you a great many things to sell out your friend for glory.”

Yuan Hongdao shook his head. “I am neither selling out a friend, nor do I seek glory… It is simply that His Majesty needs you to retire, as does the Eldest Princess. The royal court needs you out of the capital. As for glory…” he laughed bitterly. “I always assumed… if you had never discovered what I have done, I would accompany you to the countryside, and we could spend our retirements together.”

Lin Ruofu was rather surprised. He felt less and less sure of the true feelings of this advisor who had followed him all these years.

Night shrouded the capital, and accompanied by a pageboy, Yuan Hongdao prepared his luggage. Somewhat disappointed and frustrated, he turned around to look at the tightly closed gate of the Prime Minister’s manor. He sighed quietly and climbed into a carriage.

Inside the carriage, an imperial censor looked at him coldly. “Mr Yuan, when will you give your statement to the Supreme Court?”

Yuan Hongdao did not look the middle-aged man in the eye. He softly stroked his long whiskers with his left hand, and after a long time, he spoke dispassionately. “There’s no point. The Prime Minister will seek an audience at the palace tomorrow. His Majesty will put a stop to the investigation.”

Hearing this, the imperial censor became suddenly angry. “The evidence is there. His Majesty will have that corrupt Prime Minister sent to prison! If you will not dare to testify, then you will be held responsible. You have followed him for so many years. Do you really think that you are clean?”

Yuan Hongdao looked at him coldly. He was widely known as a refined master manipulator, and now his gaze was frigid and severe, like a pair of sharp blades. It struck fear into the imperial censor.

“I only take orders from Xinyang.” Yuan Hongdao looked at the pitiful censor and spoke with a voice like ice. “When have you ever arranged my affairs?”

The censor was shocked. He finally understood how the Prime Minister’s most trusted advisor could turn traitor at the most crucial moment… He was on the side of the Eldest Princess!

At dawn, a carriage hurried out of the west gate of the city, its horses galloping unceasingly along the official road toward Xinyang.

Yuan Hongdao fingered the sharp blade hidden in his umbrella and frowned. He calculated that after he arrived at Xinyang, that madwoman the Eldest Princess would have orders for the pawn she had kept hidden for so many years.

Deep in his heart, he could not help but feel some remorse for Lin Ruofu. After all, they had been friends for decades, and he had spent more time together with him than he had with his own family. He had been hidden in the Prime Minister’s manor for so many years, and had finally fulfilled the promise he made long ago. In the process of the Prime Minister’s resignation, Yuan Hongdao had played the most dishonorable and yet most important role. Lin Ruofu had not killed him; Yuan Hongdao was grateful for that.

He had already dismissed the pageboy who was following him. Other than Yuan Hongbao himself, the only other person in the carriage was the coachman. Yuan Hongdao coldly watched him crack his whip. He had a nimble hand and was clearly quite skilled.

Some time later, the carriage passed a courier station 40 kilometers away and came unto a desolate and uninhabited mountain road. At that moment, the carriage slowly came to a halt. The coachman turned his head and fixed Yuan Hongdao with an unusually sharp glare.

There was a moment of silence before the coachman suddenly spoke. “The Director has asked me to express his gratitude.” He was quiet for a moment. “Allow me to show my admiration personally, sir.”

Yuan Hongdao felt somewhat hurt. “I do not admire myself… When it comes to the plan in Xinyang, I believe that having done this, the Eldest Princess will believe me now.”

He was a saboteur; one who had been planted by the Prime Minister’s side many years ago by Chen Pingping.