Joy of Life - Chapter 206

[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:47:35]
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Chapter 206: Arriving in Shangjing

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

Fan Xian shook his head with a smile, showing he hadn’t suffered from loneliness during the trip. He knew that ever since he became a frequent visitor of Si Lili’s carriage, he and the word “dissolute” probably became inseparable in the eyes of others. He thought for a moment before saying, “We’ve been traveling at a fast pace on the official route for several days. We should have passed the distance between the capital to the border… It seems like Northern Qi’s territory is quite vast.”

For a moment, a strange silence fell over the carriage.

A while later, Lin Jing smiled. “Indeed. Although last year we took a large piece of land from them, Northern Qi still remains the biggest nation in both territory and population. They weren’t a strong opponent only because of many years of civil unrest, which caused the people to become fractured.”

Fan Xian frowned as he thought about all the troubles Northern Qi would bring if it was able to pull itself together. As he processed his thoughts, Gao Da said in a low voice, “Looks like there’s still a huge piece of land waiting for us to conquer.”

Gao Da was a man of few words. Recently – not having to escort Xiao En anymore – he had started to spout out some simple remarks every once in a while. Absurd yet humorous, Fan Xian let out a chuckle, laughing at this terrifying self-confidence that Gao Da had cultivated from Qing’s twenty years of victories.

Wang Qinian smiled bitterly, “Say, Sir Gao, please don’t take my role as the fall-guy.”

It had always been customary for envoys to stop by Northern Qi’s various courier stations; only a few made stops at larger towns. While Qing’s envoy wasn’t exactly happy with the arrangement, they couldn’t object much considering how well they were treated. Everyone knew that Northern Qi lost much dignity during the negotiations, so naturally Qi wouldn’t want its people to see the envoy from the south pass through the cities with swagger.

However, meeting civilians along the way was unavoidable. One day, Fan Xian asked a question he had been holding in for a while. “How come the people of Northern Qi don’t hate us? On the contrary, their gazes hold a hint of contempt and disdain, and even sympathy?”

“In their eyes, we’re still barbarians from the undeveloped south,” Lin Jing explained. “As for the war, that has been covered up by Qi’s Imperial court. Even though the civilians realize Qing is tremendously powerful, deep down they still somewhat look down at us.”

Fan Xian shook his head and sighed. “Pretending to be unafraid of the dark by blindfolding oneself…”

“Northern Qi is continuing Northern Wei’s tradition. They believe themselves to have the Mandate of Heaven. It’s little wonder they look down upon all surrounding nations.”

That was the truth. Despite the extermination of Northern Wei two decades ago, it had casted its shadows onto the surrounding smaller nations as the most powerful of its time. Now, that influence still remained in the hearts of the people in the northern regions, which was why the people of Northern Qi believed themselves to belong to the most powerful nation in the land. To them, Northern Qi still held onto its former glory. When they encountered people from other nations, they would habitually raise their chin and gaze down upon them, wallowing in self-esteem, self-pity, and self-respect.

People always wanted to live in the past. Of course, Northern Qi’s officials knew the world had changed. That fact could be seen in their manners toward Qing’s envoy.

“And most importantly,” Lin Jing continued to explain, “Northern Qi inherited most of Northern Wei’s land and officials. For that reason, all the scholars basically treat Northern Qi as the standard in education; and they are correct. Northern Qi’s spring examinations are way more exciting than ours. Not only do their scholars gather in the capital; even those from Dongyi City go, regardless of the distance.”

Wang Qinian added, “That’s right. Several years ago, even scholars from Qing would go to Northern Qi to take the exams.”

“Nonsense,” Fan Xian said mockingly. “A subject of Qing could hold a position in Northern Qi?”

Lin Jing smiled. “Of course not. It’s just the people of the world all seemed to agree that if one could score into the top three in Northern Qi’s examination, that person would be qualified to become an official in any nation. That includes our Qing. Sir, you are an Academician of the Imperial College, I believe you should know the scholar Shu Wu?”

Fan Xian nodded.

Lin Jing sighed. “This scholar Shu took Northern Qi’s examination, during which Zhuang Mohan was the examiner. Because of that, Shu Wu could go around calling himself Zhuang Mohan’s student… Just think, he could become an official by taking an examination in Northern Qi. That shows how esteemed Northern Qi’s education system is.”

Fan Xian smiled and shook his head. “No wonder His Majesty has been focusing so much on education in the past few years. I guess he couldn’t stand being inferior in that regard.”

“Correct. In martial prowess, no one can rival our nation,” Lin Jing said. “But regarding civil virtues, there are not many notable Qing scholars.”

“Education isn’t the end of the road.” Fan Xian said.

Lin Jing thought of something and laughed. “Of course, Sir Commissioner, you made such a splendid debut and made that Master Zhuang Mohan cough up blood. After that, I doubt anyone would dare to say anything against Qing.”

Wang Qinian hurried to agree, and Gao Da nodded. It was true that Fan Xian’s rise in the capital didn’t necessarily make all sides happy, but in the bigger picture, having a talented young man who could beat down Northern Qi’s pride was something everyone in Qing wanted to see.

It was such a dry and boring journey without any beautiful women; Fan Xian wanted it to be over soon. But this long path seemed to have no end. The four wheels of the carriages stirred up pale dust, giving the entire envoy the appearance of a yellow dragon, locked onto the path by the trees on either side. This dragon seemed to be writhing in vain to escape its constraints.

The trees on either side of the road had leaves of various sizes. But overall, compared to the trees in Qing, their leaves were much broader. Their trunks were thick, and they were planted a certain number of meters apart. Fan Xian poked his head out the window, squinting at the trees as he passed them. For some reason, he recalled the world of his previous life, which he hadn’t thought of in a long time. He still remembered being on the train to Beijing many years ago. When the train passed Hebei, the same types of trees grew on either side of the tracks, and he passed them just like he did now.

There was no dust outside of his window. Because of his position, he sat in the first carriage. The ones suffering from the dust were the subordinates and the officials of Northern Qi.

Then, without warning, a black shadow appeared in the distance, towering directly above the tapering line of trees. It was an intimidating sight.

Fan Xian thought it was a dark cloud and grinned. While he wasn’t going to ask everyone to take their clothes inside like he did back in Danzhou, he was ready to remind the carriage driver to put on a rain cloak.

As the carriage moved forward, the group eventually saw the shadow clearly. At that moment, the clouds in the sky dispersed, as if to welcome these guests from afar, letting the rays of the spring sun shine onto that shadow.

It turned out… the shadow was the extremely huge walls of a city.

This city’s walls were much larger and more magnificent than those of Qing’s capital. At almost ten meters tall and built using large blocks of stone, the walls slanted slightly, giving visitors from afar a feeling of pressure which was hard to describe. It was as if those walls would press down onto you at any moment. On top of the walls were watch towers and patrolling soldiers.

Overall, those tall walls gave off a sense of towering solemnness.

It was all clear in front of the city gate; there were no civilians lingering there. Northern Qi’s foreign relations officials were waiting there for the arrival of the diplomatic mission from the south.

On the official path, the carriages gradually slowed. Squinting, Fan Xian pulled his head back inside. He didn’t think this city would appear so stunning; he wasn’t prepared at all.

They had reached Shangjing, the capital of Northern Qi.

Festive music sounded as the two sides greeted each other. The officials of Northern Qi were dressed in bright, fancy clothes. Qing’s envoy, on the other hand, were obviously fatigued from their journey. The contrast in appearance was quite jarring.

Fan Xian calmly observed all the tedious procedures. When he was introduced, he gave a slight nod. In the eyes of Northern Qi, this handsome young official was an arrogant person of low standing. However, Fan Xian did not care about his impression in the slightest.

All his attention was on the buildings of Shangjing. These massive city walls – for how long had they been standing on these lands? How many storms had they endured? The huge stones showed signs of weathering on the edges, but they adamantly retained their sturdiness.

This sight gave Fan Xian a feeling that was different from everyone else’s. He felt that eighteen years after coming to this world, he finally got a sense of this world’s history, even if it was only remnants of it. While Qing’s capital was also grand, to him everywhere seemed to have a “fresh” taste to it. Fan Xian knew that taste was left behind by his mother, which was why being able to see such ancient buildings today gave him an incredibly aged feeling.