Joy of Life - Chapter 219

[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:47:40]
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Chapter 219: What’s It Got To Do With Minister Fan?

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

“It’s rare that I have an envoy visit me, my boy,” said the Marquis, his voice trembling, “even though I am the brother of the Empress dowager. But that was Fan Xian, the immortal of poetry. It reflects highly on me indeed!”

Wei Hua was also feeling increasingly crestfallen. He knew that although his family lived a life of luxury and had considerable power, when it came to their reputation in Northern Qi, they were not spoken highly of. His position of vice-minister in the Office of the Grand Herald had finally managed to shut some people up, but people still presumed that it was a favor granted to him by the Empress Dowager.

He sighed. He knew that his father had studied under Zhuang Mohan, and that he had been preparing to do great deeds all across the land, but due to his aunt, his father was left only able to be an idle nobleman. His melancholy had grown over the years, as had his attachment to drink, and so Wei Hua could say nothing more. But when he thought of the things Fan Xian had told him before he had departed, he still felt a certain quiet fear. “Fan Xian just told me that he wanted to do business with you. He is a commissioner of the Overwatch Council of Qing; what business can he do? And what business would he need you for?”

“I’m just a middleman,” replied Chang Ninghou. “The person he needs is Master Shen.”

“Uncle Shen?”

“That’s right. Fan Xian’s father is Minister of Revenue in the south. He himself is Prince Consort, though not legitimately. He will take over operating the businesses of the palace treasury from the Eldest Princess. He wants to meet Master Shen because he is taking steps to prepare for his future position. On their journey north, without your Uncle Shen escorting them, this shady business could not last long.”

Wei Hua’s jaw dropped, shocked by what his father had told him. “You mean… he’s planning to smuggle goods?”

“It’s a trap!” This was Wei Hua’s first response.

“He didn’t threaten me,” said the Marquis, shaking his head in disagreement.

Wei Hua was agitated. “Do you not know that there is still an agreement between our two countries? Fan Xian is anxious about it, and His Majesty wants to delay it to cause the Qing diplomatic mission to worry. In doing this, regardless of whether or not this business is legitimate, if you really have arranged a meeting with Master Shen, then we can’t disassociate ourselves from this. If Fan Xian comes looking for me again, then how can I put him off any longer?”

“So His Majesty says it should be delayed, and it’s delayed?” Chang Ninghou looked at his son. “In any case, that man will be set free, and if we can get some benefit out of it and help Fan Xian, then we should. What’s there to worry about? Anyway, your aunt is still in the palace.”

Wei Hua sighed. He didn’t know what to say. After a long while, he finally spoke in a quiet voice. “Do you think Fan Xian is telling the truth? I really don’t understand why he would take such a great risk to smuggle goods into the country.”

“Men will die for money, just as birds will die for food.” Chang Ninghou was still drunk. He thought himself the sort of man who understood the world completely. “The palace treasury?” he said with a sneer. “That’s quite a goldmine. It’s a shame that it doesn’t belong to the Fan family! Even if his father is the Minister of Revenue for the Kingdom of Qing, how much benefit can he make from the public purse? If Fan Xian really does smuggle goods produced by the palace treasury’s business up north to sell, do you know how much money that could make?”

Wei Hua was a clever, nimble fellow. He frowned, then came up with a rough figure. Over the past decade and a half, the Kingdom of Qing’s every expense had been funded by the businesses left behind by the Ye family. At the same time, they had made plenty of money from other places across the land. If Fan Xian really could pull off such a shocking stunt, the profit he could make… was stupendous!

“Fan Xian… wants to pocket that much money?” Wei Hua seemed to be finding it hard to associate the talented Master Fan he had heard so much of with this kind of greed.

With a wry face, the Marquis poured himself another glass of wine and belched. “What do you think? You know, poets have to eat too.”

After he finished speaking, the Marquis, once a gifted scholar of Northern Qi, was now asleep hunched over the table. He was covered in liquor and gave off an unpleasant smell.

In the carriage, Wang Qinian looked at Lin Jing, who was pretending to be asleep next to him. He gave Fan Xian a disapproving glare. It seemed he felt that the commissioner should not have spoken so brazenly of smuggling in front of a minister of the royal court.

Fan Xian smiled. “You don’t think I was being serious, do you?”

Wang Qinian thought he was. As did Gao Da. Who wouldn’t be tempted by the prospect of taking complete control of the palace treasury and making huge profits from those glass wares? Fan Xian was not tempted, because as the Eldest Princess saw it, the palace treasury belonged to the royal court, and as Fan Xian saw it, the palace treasury… belonged to the Ye family. It was his. At the least, one day, it would be.

Taking his own family’s goods and smuggling them to the north to sell them at a lower price? Only an idiot would do that. But the issue was that no one knew Fan Xian’s true intentions. No one knew Fan Xian’s deep history with the businesses of the so-called palace treasury, so everyone who heard of Fan Xian’s plans all presumed that the young gentleman of the Fan family wanted to carve his own little niche out of the pile of gold that was the palace treasury.

Fan Xian didn’t want to carve out a part for himself. He wanted the whole pile.

“Don’t pretend to sleep.” Fan Xian yawned. He felt tired. Next to him, Lin Jing opened his eyes awkwardly and looked at Fan Xian with slight apprehension. Although he was the vice-envoy, the young official before him was not only the chief diplomat, but also a commissioner of the terrifying Overwatch Council. He saw nothing as off limits for discussion in front of him. He spoke of illegal business that would see his assets confiscated and his entire family executed. It was hard to say for sure whether, on his way home, he wouldn’t end up encountering some unfortunate accident arranged by Fan Xian.

Fan Xian smiled as he looked at him, and clapped him on the shoulder. “Playing dumb? I’m talking about this in front of you, so of course I’m not afraid if you know. If you go back this evening and write a letter to the capital, don’t worry, the royal court will understand my plans.”

Even if the royal court didn’t understand, the Emperor would.

Lin Jing forced himself to believe that the young master would not become the most corrupt official in the history of the Kingdom of Qing. He swallowed, trying to moisten his dry throat. “Master, why did you visit Marquis Ning’s manor today?”

“First of all, I want to establish good relations with the people surrounding the Empress Dowager of Northern Qi. Hm, now it seems that the Emperor of Northern Qi is looking out for our diplomatic mission.” Fan Xian lowered his head, closed his eyes wearily, and continued talking. “At the same time, I got Marquis Ning to sort out the incident that happened at the gate of our diplomatic compound. After all, people were beaten by that brat, the young son of a Marquis, so something had to be done…”

Hearing him call the boy a brat, Wang Qinian and Gao Da smiled. Their master was quite right.

“…without having an effect on our current diplomatic affairs. Thirdly, I wish to meet with master Shen, and that can only be organized through Marquis Ning. Fourthly, I wanted to scare Wei Hua. Whether or not the Marquis has confidence in the offer I gave him, I presume he will secretly make sure things are done quickly.”

“Why are you taking such a complicated series of steps… in order to see the Provost of the Discipline Commission?” Lin Jing frowned. “He is a truly powerful official, unlike Marquis Ning. Northern Qi won’t allow it.”

“So I wanted to see what Marquis Ning thinks of it. In any case, if it doesn’t work out, there’s no great harm.” Fan Xian opened his eyes and yawned again. “As for why I want to see him? That is Council business. I can’t discuss it in front of you, Master Lin.”

Lin Jing shivered when he thought about Fan Xian’s real position. He said nothing.

Fan Xian yawned again, and indeed yawned incessantly throughout the journey. It seemed that he really was unbearably tired. After entering the palace today, he’d barely had a moment’s rest.

“What do we do in the meantime?” said Wang Qinian quietly. “This is Shangjing, the capital of an enemy nation. Will we disguise ourselves and try to make contact with our spies in the city?”

“That won’t be possible.” Fan Xian stuffed his knuckles in his mouth, attempting to stifle yet another yawn, trying his hardest to speak through his fatigue. “We can’t make our spies take that risk. It’s not time yet. What should we do in the meantime? Sleeping would be best. And waiting for Wei Hua to bring us to Yan Bingyun tomorrow.”

He fingered the stiff letter in his clothing, and a slight, worried frown appeared on his face.

After he had read it, without changing his expression, he ripped the letter into tiny pieces. This was a habit he had picked up from his time in the Cang Mountains. The pieces became almost a fine powder. Even if the intelligence experts of the Second Bureau of the Overwatch Council were to pick it up, they would have no way to put it back together.

The letter was written by someone named Huang Yi. Fan Xian had heard that name before. It was one of the Eldest Princess’s advisors in her fiefdom of Xinyang. In the Overwatch Council’s top-secret briefing, they had pointed out this scholar’s shady relationship with the Eldest Princess.

“Help, help, help. I’m not some kind of firefighter.” Fan Xian laughed bitterly. He finally realized the complicated connections behind this matter. Chen Pingping clearly did not know that Xiao En knew a secret about the temple. The Eldest Princess didn’t know either, so the motive for their actions was simple and clear.

Chen Pingping wanted Yan Bingyun to return and Xiao En to die, because he hated that old man and he presumed that it would be a good training experience for Fan Xian.

The Eldest Princess didn’t care whether Yan Bingyun lived for died, but she wanted Xiao En to live and take over command of the Brocade Guard, because she liked to see Shang Shanhu and Xiao En working together, standing between the Empress Dowager and the Emperor of Northern Qi, looking for an opportunity to cause trouble in the north.

Although he didn’t know the entirety of the Eldest Princess’s plans, Fan Xian had already decided that his mother-in-law, far away in her fiefdom of Xinyang, had definitely formed some kind of secret agreement with Shang Shanhu. Otherwise he couldn’t have spent as much money as he had.

The Eldest Princess knew nothing about the leaflets, and had not discovered their secret explorations of Guangxin Palace. But Fan Xian had hidden in the shadows, and, keeping a safe distance from the Eldest Princess, was waiting for an opportunity to strike. Now, far away in a foreign country, he had received her letter, and could not help but feel somewhat perplexed.

After all… what did it have to do with Minister Fan?