Joy of Life - Chapter 263

[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:47:56]
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Chapter 263: A Youngster in the Bureau

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

“We’re fighting for time. How could I hope to take it easy?” Chen Pingping’s thin face did not show any expression. His smooth, beardless chin made the wrinkles on his face appear deeper and his overall appearance older. “Remember, I’m not that much younger than Xiao En.”

Fan Xian kept a dim silence. He picked up an ashy scent from this old cripple and reported some secret information gathered during the envoy. However, he did not reveal he had had a long talk with Xiao En in a cave one night and found the location of the temple.

“When will Si Lili enter the palace?” Chen Pingping seemed confident that he could control that woman from so far away.

Fan Xian frowned slightly, pondering about when he would come in contact with Si Lili’s younger brother. He replied, “I’m having someone arrange that right now. It’s nothing major for Northern Qi and shouldn’t be difficult.”

Chen Pingping nodded and said, “You too know that the position at the First Bureau was originally left for Yan Bingyun. But no one expected Yan Ruohai to retire at such a young age. Yan Bingyun had been working under his father, so he is quite familiar with the Fourth Bureau; it’s not a bad decision for him to stay there. That, however, leaves the First Bureau to you. You must take great care.”

Fan Xian squinted. “Is there anything specific I must pay attention to?”

Chen Pingping looked at him with a strange smile. “There are a lot of things. To tell you the truth, His Majesty always hoped you would reorganize the First Bureau. If you don’t monitor the officials in the capital closely, there will be trouble once they get too close to the princes.”

Fan Xian felt a chill and started to silently curse that esteemed one in the palace for making him clean up his sons’ messes.

Chen Pingping’s dried-up finger gently tapped the handle of his wheelchair. The joints of his fingers made them appear like stalks of bamboo. Fan Xian listened to the sound of the tapping and realized the handles were hollow, just like bamboo. He made a strange association; could the most terrifying old man of Qing be like bamboo, showing its strength against the wind?

“You did well up north,” Chen Pingping said. “I know what you’re planning making Wang Qinian stay behind. But as long as His Majesty doesn’t give the word, you may not take action.”

Fan Xian frowned, “The Eldest Prince got a lot of money out of this. And you know I’m going to take over the palace treasury next year. If I don’t clean this up before that happens, I’m going to take over a complete mess. How can I face the world when I won’t be able to accomplish anything?”

Chen Pingping gave him a look, “Lady Cui appeared on the Eldest Princess’s behalf and illegally sold goods to the north. If you were to disrupt this operation, is there anyone suitable to take it over?”

Fan Xian thought Chen Pingping would recommend somebody, so he perked up his ears.

Chen Pingping waved his hand. “I’m going to report this to His Majesty. The emperor too felt the Eldest Princess has influenced too much in recent years, even though they are family. If the emperor does not say so, you must not act… Know that the Council also want you to firmly grasp the palace treasury. Firstly because you’re the Commissioner, and secondly because the palace treasury has been crucial in maintaining the Council’s current position among the Three Departments and Six Ministries.”

Fan Xian asked, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Chen Pingping looked at him and lowered his voice, “The Overwatch Council keeps watch over hundreds of officials, so it cannot have any involvement with the other divisions. National duties and Council duties had always been made separate, and each year the Council really does use up a considerable amount of money. But so far, not a single coin has come from the national treasury, and no one can order the Council around. That is what they call independence.”

Fan Xian understood. “The Overwatch Council’s spending came directly from the palace treasury.”

“Correct,” Chen Pingping continued. “This is the iron rule that was set by your mother so that the Council would separate itself from the other officials. It is why when you’re in control of the Council, you must consider the thousands of Council officials and all the personnel abroad. The healthier the palace treasury is, the more solid the Council’s financial foundation is. As long as that is the case, the Council can maintain its state of independence.”

Chen Pingping chuckled coldly. “Since that bloodshed thirteen years ago, His Majesty has made countless of changes. The Department of Military Affairs was changed to the Ministry of War and now to the Bureau of Military Affairs. This is just a microcosm of the greater change. Even though there haven’t seemed to be much fundamental change, in reality, those departments were already mixed together into a pile. The Council remained unchanged because of its independence.”

Fan Xian smiled bitterly. “Isn’t it still at the mercy of His Majesty’s one sentence?”

“That’s why you must struggle!” Chen Pingping chillingly stared into Fan Xian’s eyes. “If one day the palace wants to break up the Council, you must fight! If the Council becomes as broken as the Supreme Court, I’m afraid… that the great Qing will slowly end up like the Wei dynasty!”

Fan Xian understood the old cripple’s worries. He had an extra life’s experience and knew the importance of keeping the Overwatch Council independent.

“Which is why the palace treasury and the Overwatch Council are one.” Chen Pingping emphasized each word. “Your father is being too naïve! To control the palace treasury, you must hold authority and tightly control this Council! And to control this Council, you must ensure its life source! Do not underestimate money; it can destroy organizations under even the strictest control.”

Hearing his father being chided, Fan Xian, as his son, could only listen.

Fan Xian went to the First Bureau on the same day and properly took up the position. The First Bureau wasn’t located in some square, dark-gray Council building, but in a courtyard next to the Supreme Court. The front gate was still just as solemn. However, the plaque that was hanging from it made Fan Xian almost shower Teng Zijing, who was driving the carriage, with spit.

Fan Xian supported himself against the carriage, forcing back his laughter as he looked at this nondescript plaque.

“Per Imperial edict: the Overwatch Council of Great Qing, First Bureau”

For the moment, Fan Xian felt an absurd mix-up in time, as if he had arrived in another timeline, standing in front of an Overwatch Council which was famous for its oilfields.

He didn’t tell Mu Tie beforehand, and the official papers weren’t sent out by the Council yet, so the Council members of the First Bureau had no way of knowing the new chief would arrive today. Those who were outside the front gate looked at their visitor who was laughing like an idiot in complete contrast against his handsome face. What was he doing still standing outside?

Fan Xian was already heading inside with Deng Ziyue and a few other aides. Teng Zijing refused to go, wanting to distance himself away from places like the Overwatch Council. An old man, around fifty years old, walked out, asking, “My lords, what has brought you here today?”

Fan Xian was a bit surprised; no one had gotten in the way the first time he barged into the Council. That was because no one in their right minds would go to the Council without a legitimate reason. Thinking quickly and looking at the doorman, Fan Xian wondered if the First Bureau often received visitors.

Although he wasn’t wearing his official garb today, Deng Ziyue and the others were wearing Council uniforms. The doorman wasn’t sure of their identities and therefore was very polite.

Fan Xian ignored him and continued straight ahead. Deng Ziyue raised his arm and stopped the old doorman.

Once inside, Fan Xian discovered the First Bureau really was different. No one came to ask any questions, and several rooms were completely empty. Somewhat puzzled, Fan Xian found a chair and sat down. Some faint noise could be heard behind him.

Many members of the Qinian Unit were originally from the First Bureau, and one of them was with the Commissioner today. His name was Su Wenmao. Seeing the expression on the Commissioner’s face, he hurried to go find whoever was in charge. Unexpectedly, he couldn’t find anyone. Su Wenmao was also confused. He had only left the First Bureau a year ago; how did the place become like this? Fortunately, he still knew where to find tea and hot water, so he brewed some for Fan Xian.

Fan Xian wasn’t in a hurry and slowly sipped his tea like some elderly official in the palace.

Deng Ziyue stared harshly at Su Wenmao, wondering why he hadn’t found anybody. Su Wenmao could only smile uneasily. He really didn’t think the First Bureau, under Director Chen, would have become so idle.

The doorman peeked inside and discovered the visitors were only drinking tea, probably waiting for someone, and therefore paid them no mind. The group sat awkwardly, until Fan Xian stood up. Signaling the others to keep seated, he walked over to the cabinet to the side and looked over the dusty casefiles. No one came to stop him, a sign that the conduct here had declined severely.

Suddenly, a few people came in, all dressed in Council uniforms. In their hands was a large bamboo basket full of fish, which were chilled with ice and appeared fresh. They didn’t even look at Fan Xian as they passed him. Instead, one of them saw Su Wenmao and yelled, “Old Su, you got the time to drop by today?”

Su Wenmao felt very embarrassed, but he saw Fan Xian’s hand signal. Returning a smile, he said, “The Commissioner is doing a report today. We have nothing better to do, so we’re just strolling around.” The Qinian Unit knew Fan Xian’s methods, so they dared not drop any hints

With a clap, that person told the rest to take the fish inside. He then said to Su Wenmao, “You sure climbed up to a high position following that young sir. Just how high will you climb in the future?”

Su Wenmao replied, “The Commissioner is strict. I dare not to take advantage of his name and misbehave.”

The person laughed, “Let’s change the subject. The First Bureau would never be so lucky anyway. Come…” He beckoned Deng Ziyue and the rest of his colleagues. “Since you’re here, no need to leave anytime soon. We all know how long Council meetings take.”

Deng Ziyue turned his head to the other side. Having been rejected, the man believed Deng Ziyue was only showing off because he had Commissioner Fan’s backup. So he chatted for a bit with Su Wenmao, and was then prepared to leave.

Then Fan Xian walked out and asked with a kind expression, “Hey, I saw your basket of fish earlier. For lunch, I assume? I’m afraid I must bother you to share some.”

It was a bit dark. The man didn’t see Fan Xian’s face clearly. He only knew he was talking to a young man. Chuckling, he said, “We couldn’t afford to eat them now. Later, they’re to be sent back home.”

“Really? Then they must be some high-quality fish, or else you wouldn’t have chilled them with ice.” Fan Xian said.

“Of course!” The man’s face was full of pride, “What we got are yunmeng fish, delivered with extreme urgency from the south, 800 li away. Netted from the great lake, their taste is damn fine. Without ice they would have gone bad already. Even the high-ranking officials in the capital don’t get to eat it so easily, only the military. And fortunately, we’re the Overwatch Council, or else there’s no way we could have gotten any.”

“Ah, so it was given by the army.” Fan Xian smiled. He knew the various departments of the capital would try to get on the First Bureau’s good side, but he didn’t know they would spend this much effort.

The person then said, “Very well, since you all are here waiting for Sir Commissioner to finish his meeting, please sit here for a moment. I must go inside first to get my share of the fish.”

Fan Xian said, “We’re in no hurry; we just came to ask Sir Mu a favor, but weren’t able to find him. Please help us out.”

The person smiled. “I thought it was some urgent business. Okay, I’ll go report. You wait here.”

He then headed toward the back while chuckling. Once outside the view of Fan Xian’s group, his expression changed. He jogged to the last room and kicked opened the door!

Inside, a few people were playing Mahjong. They were startled and started to curse. Mu Tie, sitting in the main seat, threw a Mahjong tile. “What’s wrong with you? Are you really this desperate for some fish?”

The person stuttered, “Sir Mu, a youngster has come to the Bureau.”

Mu Tie frowned. “Who is it? If it’s someone we know, bring him here. I don’t want to give up this hand.”

“I don’t recognize him,” The person’s voice was shaking, “But Su Wenmao is with him. I suspect… could he be… that young sir?”

Mu Tie was shocked. He slapped the table and pointed at the man. “You… you’ve got to be responsible for your words!” Mu Tie was so scared he walked around in circles, “Is it really the Commissioner?”

“I believe so. I dared not call him out to his face, so I hurried to inform you. If he really is Commissioner Fan, you must be careful.”

Mu Tie was panicking and ordered people to clear the desk. He jogged to the front hall along with the others, saying “Feng’er, this is all thanks to you. After this I’ll have your aunt arrange a nice marriage for you… Damn. The Commissioner came so suddenly. Thankfully you responded quickly… I expected no less! Not dropping the disguise, excellent!”

The agent called Feng’er wiped away the cold sweat on his hands. “It’s all thanks to your brilliant guidance.”