Joy of Life - Chapter 264

[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:47:57]
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Chapter 264: Rectification!


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


Mu Tie walked in with a dark expression. Without even look at the visitors, he said in a cold voice, “Which lord wishes to see me in person? This better be important. Do you not know how busy the First Bureau is?”


Su Wenmao winked at his colleague. Actually, Mu Tie was aware who came and was only putting on an act, pretending to just notice Su Wenmao’s hint. He turned around suspiciously and saw the young man.


“You are?” Mu Tie frowned and took a step forward. Suddenly, with a shocked expression, he fluidly knelt down on one knee. “Lord Commissioner, Mu Tie at your service!”


Fan Xian showed no expression; he had no intention of playing along.


In a cheerful voice, Mu Tie said, “Sir, why didn’t you tell us you were dropping by today? Now that we made you wait outside, it reflects poorly on us.”


Fan Xian still didn’t say anything, but the corners of his lips curled up. Seeing this smile gave Mu Tie a chill; it was well-known that this young Sir Fan always smiled the sweetest when he was at his angriest. As a result, Mu Tie lowered his voice, “Um… Sir, uh… I.”


Fan Xian kept on smiling and looking at him in silence.


A look of regret appeared on Mu Tie’s tanned face. He dared not utter another word. He knelt again.


The atmosphere was utterly crushing.


Regardless, after Zhu Ge’s suicide, Mu Tie had been running the First Bureau and taking care of pretty much everything. For that reason, Fan Xian did not want to make a fool out of him any longer. Frowning, Fan Xian said, “The guest hall is too dirty. It is unsuited for keeping visitors.”


Startled, Mu Tie’s mood perked up immediately. He harshly chided Feng’er, “Get someone to clean the place up, quickly!”


“The case files are left out in the open. That’s not where they belong.” Fan Xian smiled.


Mu Tie quite literally jumped up and hollered toward the back, calling forth the other officials of the First Bureau, who began to move those dusty case files back to a secure room. The officials had all been slacking off, their laziness apparent as they staggered out. They saw Sir Mu obediently standing next to a young man whom they didn’t recognize. However, since their job was to carry out various investigations, they were able to figure things out quickly and realized who the young man was. Greatly startled, they picked up their pace.


Soon, the place had been cleaned and the case files put away. The First Bureau still retained its ability to react quickly.


“Other than those absent due to Council duties and those who cannot expose their identities, I want to see all the personnel of the First Bureau. You have one hour to gather them before me.”


With that, Fan Xian sat back down. He then reached out his hand, and Mu Tie fawningly delivered a cup of tea. Somewhat dejectedly, Mu Tie said, “Right away, Sir.” He knew it would be incredibly difficulty to fool this young lord; and besides, his entire future was in this young man’s hands. Mu Tie had no choice but to obediently carry out the order, hoping Fan Xian would dislike him less.


“Just for that, no need for you to go.” Fan Xian took a sip of his tea. Finding it cold, he made a face. Just as Mu Tie hurried to pour him another cup, he looked at Mu Tie and set the cup down onto the sparkling-clean table. “Follow me inside. I’ve some things to say to you.”


Wasting no time, Mu Tie ordered a subordinate to go summon all the absent Bureau members that were not out on official duty. He then followed Fan Xian to the backyard. Looking at Fan Xian stepping inside the room he had just exited, Mu Tie became nervous.


Fan Xian frowned, looking at a Mahjong tile by the doorsill. “I see how this Bureau held the most authority within the Council; even the Mahjong tiles are made of jade.”


Sweating, Mu Tie explained: “It’s fake jade. I wouldn’t dare lie to you. It was a new product made by the palace treasury two years ago, and the First Bureau received a set. The material resembles jade, but it won’t shatter when dropped. This set has always been here in the Bureau. No one dared to take it back to their own home. Normally… when there isn’t much work to do, we occasionally play… This is truly shameful; please punish me harshly.”


Fan Xian shook his head. “Let’s put this aside for now. I’m only disappointed by the fact the First Bureau of the Overwatch Council would do this shabby of a job at hiding its tracks. You did play Mahjong here earlier, correct? You put everything away. Why is there a single tile by the door?”


Mu Tie wiped away the sweat on his forehead; he had thrown that tile at his nephew earlier; some servants must have failed to see it when putting the Mahjong set away.


Fan Xian sat down and looked at Mu Tie. “What have you been doing? Seeing how the place is short on work, it’s not really a crime to play Mahjong once in a while…”


Just as Mu Tie felt a sense of relief after hearing that, he heard a thunderous slap! Scared senseless, he cowered in front of Commissioner Fan.


Fan Xian had smacked the table forcefully. With his power, obliterating this table into pieces was child’s play. But his intension was simply to make noise. In a cold voice, he chided, “After seeing the fish, I found out you guys have the gall to receive benefits from other departments. Do you have a death wish? If the rest of the Council finds out, you’re most likely the first one to be executed.”


Mu Tie immediately knelt down. He stammered but couldn’t come up with words; he didn’t realize a basket of fish would be such a big deal.


Fan Xian continued coldly, “Didn’t think that basket of fish would be a big deal, did you? You and the rest of the First Bureau should especially know about the rules of the Council. If you chummy up with those Court officials, how the hell will you investigate them?”


Fan Xian always carried himself as a gentle person, but even a gentle person gets angry at times. His words were chilling and serious, and they made Mu Tie feel dreadful.


Fan Xian was surprised and disappointed; not only in the First Bureau he was about to take over, but also in the official kneeling before him.


“Stand up.”


Under normal circumstances, such seriousness was not needed. But Mu Tie knew he had to put on his best, most formal behavior. Besides, he had at least some connection to Fan Xian. Mu Tie only dared to rise to his feet after Fan Xian permitted him to do so.


Staring at his striking face—with its dark skin and thin iron lips—Fan Xian frowned. “In the entire capital, you are the first to know my real identity…”


When the investigation for the Niulan Street case was underway, Mu Tie had visited Fan Manor to ask questions. At the time, the Fan household didn’t have its current fame. And yet this young lord revealed his identity as the rumored Commissioner of the Council. For Mu Tie, it was a rare opportunity. He had thought his years from that point on would get easier, but unfortunately that opportunity went to Wang Qinian instead.


“This year, you’ve helped me with some things.” Fan Xian squinted. “Logically speaking, you should try to pick up after me. But you didn’t, and I am very pleased with this. I thought you were a man of honesty. I was not expecting you to change so much in just a year. You once carried yourself so properly you even felt uncomfortable flattering your superiors. And now, you’ve become like this, a slippery, lying official who spends his days just coasting by. I am so disappointed.”


The only one more disappointed in Mu Tie was Mu Tie himself. Although he wasn’t as close to Commissioner Fan as Wang Qinian was, and although Commissioner Fan did not have any grand plans for him, Mu Tie still rose from seventh-rank to fifth-rank within a year; he was well aware it was all thanks to Commissioner Fan.


Mu Tie took a deep breath. He didn’t try to explain himself. Instead, he lowered his voice and said, “Sir, I shall make up for it in the future.”


Fan Xian noticed the change in Mu Tie’s demeanor; the man now spoke reflecting his actual rank. With a hint of admiration in his eyes, Fan Xian said, “Good. Not everyone has the talent to be the supporting role. Don’t get hung up on how Wang Qinian does things. You should return to your former self – the man who was so dedicated in carrying out the investigations. Of course I won’t ruin your future.”


A storm is followed by clear skies, and clear skies are followed by another storm. Mu Tie thought the Commissioner’s mood was like the summer. Fan Xian then lowered his voice. “So tell me, how did the First Bureau become like this? I’ve been to the other Bureaus, and there is no comparison. The people at the other Bureaus all watch themselves and work diligently. Playing Mahjong? They made sure to hurry even when coming out for greetings… and look at you! How is this place any different than a marketplace?”


Mu Tie was already determined to redeem himself. He did not dodge anything and said, “Sir Commissioner, the blame does fall on me. It’s just that in the past year there hasn’t been a proper chief taking charge, and the other personnel didn’t really obey me, so the whole place started to fall apart.”


Fan Xian was aware of that. The first chief of the First Bureau secretly aligned himself with Xinyang and sold out Yan Bingyun, which led to his capture. When the Council investigated itself later, Zhu Ge, having failed, committed suicide. From that day onward, the First Bureau had been without a chief. Partially because Chen Pingping wanted to wait until Yan Bingyun’s return, and partially because, for the time, there wasn’t anyone suitable to take such a controversial role.


“Even without leadership and management, the regulations and duties still exist, so why is everyone idle? Did the Council never discipline you?” Fan Xian asked.


Mu Tie didn’t understand either and shook his head, saying, “The regulations are indeed there… but for we in the First Bureau to take any action, we must first receive word from the Council. Without a leader, the ordinary officials like us can’t just go around and wait for things to happen.”


Fan Xian became angry. “Did the Second Bureau not send in any intelligence in the past year?”


“They did, but we do not have the legal authority to initiate investigations on officials third-rank or higher. At the very least, we need the Director’s permission.”


“Third-rank or higher means you can’t do anything. What about those of lower ranks?” Fan Xian was feeling a bit hopeless.


Mu Tie replied, “Sir, I really wouldn’t dare to hide anything from you. Even though the First Bureau is the most crucial in name, it is the most useless in practice, and the reason is simple. The Second and Third Bureaus only deal with intelligence, poison, weapons, and other inanimate things; the Fifth and Sixth Bureaus are responsible for guard duties; the Seventh Bureau deals with criminals; and the Eighth Bureau deals with books. Of the eight bureaus, only the First and Fourth Bureaus interact regularly with ordinary people, and the Fourth Bureau is mainly focused on foreign and domestic affairs. No lower-ranked official would dare to go against the Fourth Bureau. They withdrew those county magistrates after coming up with some random excuses. Who would dare question them?”


Speaking here, Mu Tie started to mock himself. “The First Bureau is located in the heart of the capital, looking glorious and all, but the ones we deal with are the officials of the Imperial court. In terms of status, they’re more distinguished than we are, never mind rank—it’s only natural for them to treat us well because of the Overwatch Council. But if conflict were to arise… they certainly wouldn’t be afraid of us.”


That did not sound right, Fan Xian had never heard of such immense uselessness—”You have the authority to investigate any official below the third-rank. If they want to get on your good side, it’s only because they fear you. How could there be any confrontation?”


Mu Tie laughed at himself. “Sir, those officials might be below the third-rank, but what about their teachers, mentors, and whoever’s backing them? They had already spread out a large network in the capital. For certain cases, even if we do dig up evidence, it won’t be easy for us to report the findings.”


Fan Xian squinted, “Why?”


“Simple. Those in the First Bureau also live in the capital.” Mu Tie sighed. “While their wages are much higher than what the average court official earns, their relatives still need a source of livelihood. Putting aside anything involving the officials, let’s take selling vegetables for example. If you investigated a low-ranking official, then whoever backs that official could make it so that you wouldn’t be able to set up a vegetable stand. On top of that, they would do it completely within the law so that there is nothing you could do about it. As for those with connections to the palace, they wouldn’t even take us seriously. An official’s corruption might be known to many, yet we could not do a thing… why? Because Eunuch Dai of the palace might be his uncle!


“Ever since Sir Zhu… chose to end his life for his own crimes, the First Bureau has been without a person in charge. There’s no way we would offend the court officials so easily. Who doesn’t have relatives? We’re all trying to leave some breathing room in case of future interactions.


“I must admit that I too had acted with self-preservation in mind for the past year. Other than the big cases sent down by the Council, I pretty much did no investigations. Sir, it’s not me being a coward; living in the capital is simply too difficult. There are simply too many officials I have to face on a daily basis.”


Fan Xian responded calmly, “This is how I need you to talk to me from now on. In rectification, the first thing that needs to be fixed is the First Bureau only trying to please your superiors without actually being productive.”


This was the first time Mu Tie heard the term “rectification”, and for some reason it made him afraid, so he quickly began to ask Fan Xian for advice. As Fan Xian spoke expressionlessly, Mu Tie listened as if in worship. Afraid he might forget something, Mu Tie prepared a brush and some ink to write things down… Some time passed before Deng Ziyue lightly knocked on the door. “Sir, everybody is here.”


Barring those made unavailable due to their duties, all the personnel of the First Bureau were present, each in official uniform, standing solemnly to hear the Commissioner speak.


Fan Xian sat in front of them without any intention to stand up. He scanned the crowd and gave a slight nod. To his satisfaction, the past year did not take away these men’s solemnness. He could detect the Council’s signature gloom about them.


Mu Tie leaned down and whispered to Fan Xian, “The First Bureau is special. The men here are all the ones that could show themselves openly. The majority of our personnel are still hidden. The list of names is being kept by the Council and could not be accessed. If you wish to read it, you need the First Bureau’s report and permission from the Director.” Thinking of Fan Xian’s position, Mu Tie added, “As the Commissioner, you do not need permission from the Director. I am going to work on that report in a bit.”


Fan Xian shook his head. He said with a smile, “No need. Starting today, I am in charge of the First Bureau. If there is a need for any reports, I will have people write them.”


Mu Tie stiffened for a moment. He thought Commissioner Fan was only here today on an inspection, not to take charge of the place! But then Mu Tie showed a face of joy after realizing working with Commission Fan every day would make it easier to get close to him.


It was all quiet for a long time. Fan Xian did not speak, and the officials remained standing without relaxing their posture one bit. Although they were not soldiers, their black clothes were still quite pleasing to the eye, reminding Fan Xian of Scotland Yard in the rain.


A long time later, Fan Xian stood up and said lightly, “I am Fan Xian. Starting today, I am your boss.”


Most of the men had guessed who Fan Xian was, but having the famed young Sir Fan take charge of the First Bureau today still surprised them. Still, the majority were happy. After all, after Zhu Ge’s death, not only did work become difficult, but the Bureau was being looked upon with disapproval even within the Council. Now, under young Sir Fan’s leadership, who would dare to get in the way of things? They believed they would secretly receive even more benefits from the other departments in the capital.


But what Fan Xian said next chilled them all.


“I know how you spent the past year.” Fan Xian smiled. “From now on, that way of life is over.”


After this very simple statement, Fan Xian sat back down and gave Mu Tie a look.


Mu Tie stood up and cleared his throat. Looking at the men with authority, he said, “I have gathered everyone here today because the Commissioner has some things to say for his first day in charge of the First Bureau. And now, I have things to say as well, on the Commissioner’s behalf. The main points were all suggested by the Commissioner. I ask all of you to listen carefully.”


And the men did just that.


“Today, I want to talk about the way we conduct ourselves.” Mu Tie frowned, deeply bitter. “Why must there be an Overwatch Council? Why must there be us, the First Bureau? Because there are corrupt officials out there taking advantage of the people, lying to His Majesty, and twisting the law. His Majesty wishes for honest rule, the people should live enjoyable lives, and the law must be upheld. Those are the reasons why the First Bureau exists.”


Mu Tie had always been known as an investigator, so the crowd of officials were stunned at this political speech. But facing the weight of His Majesty, the people, and the law, no one dared to say anything.


“We, the First Bureau, are His Majesty’s eyes and ears. If we wish to fulfill our duty in assisting His Majesty, we must be united in action, stay in optimal condition, and act with authority! In reality, however, we have been the opposite…”


“What problems do we currently face? His Majesty had been clear. We are not without accomplishments. On that, the Commissioner has commended us.” Mu Tie’s voice suddenly turned cold. “… But! There have been many issues in the past year. I, who was in charge, assume all responsibility and will ask to be disciplined tomorrow. However, starting today, you must cease any actions which go against Council regulations.


“Do not privately use the First Bureau’s name as a way to receive gifts or money from other government divisions.


“Do not, for any reason, refuse to make any reports.


“Do not maintain frequent contact with any outside officials. If doing so is required to investigate a case, you must report this to at least three people!


“We must strengthen our organization and efficiency, strengthen…


“Strictly adhere to Council regulations and related policies. If any one of you have done anything improper in the past year, you have ten days to report to me without consequence.”


As Mu Tie kept talking, the crowd of officials grew tense. They didn’t know this was the so-called “rectification”. All they knew was that if Commissioner Fan really wanted to, they could no longer leach off benefits like they had done for the past year, and would instead once again be involved in the dangerous work of antagonizing high-ranking officials in the capital. Many couldn’t help but appear troubled or even bitter.


Even so, there were no murmurs among themselves, nor were there any objections. Though there were changes in expression, each official still forced themselves to stand motionlessly with extreme self-control—they had been trained by Chen Pingping himself, and were still the most disciplined secret agents in the world.


After Mu Tie finished speaking, Fan Xian stood up. With his hands behind his back, he smiled. “If there are any objections, please speak now.”


Silence.


The difference in status between Fan Xian and the Council’s ordinary personnel was too great; no one dared to disagree.


Grinning, Fan Xian casted his bait. “Come together and think, all of you. The Director sent me here to show that each of you is still being held in high regard. You all know how busy I am; if this were some ordinary government division, I’d be too lazy to come.”


Hearing this made the crowd relax a bit; Fan Xian was infamous for hiding malice behind his smile, and this time, no one was able to see it. Not to mention, with Fan Xian’s noble background and his reputation as the world’s leading scholar, no one expected him to know all the shady business of the Council. Together, they decided to agree with Fan Xian for now and bowed. “As you wish, Lord Commissioner.”


Fan Xian frowned slightly, a bit dissatisfied.


Mu Tie was standing close to Fan Xian and saw the glint of coldness in the Commissioner’s eyes. Believing Fan Xian to be dissatisfied by his subordinates for not showing enough loyalty, Mu Tie anxiously signaled to Feng’er, who was standing in the front row, with his eyes. Feng’er was Mu Tie’s distant nephew, and also had the family name Mu.


Mu Feng’er thought his uncle was signaling for him to make an objection—but how could he refute the Commissioner?! Terrified, his legs shaking, Mu Feng’er thought back on his uncle’s kindness and steeled his resolve. Stepping forward, he made a clear salute and said, “Lord Commissioner, while the First Bureau watches over the hundreds of officials in the capital, private relations are unavoidable. Everyone has relatives. My older brother-in-law, for example, works in the Equestrian Bureau. It’s fine for me to avoid interacting with him, but I’m afraid there would be much unrest once back home.”


No one dared to laugh despite hearing such mischievous words. No one knew why Mu Feng’er was so bold today.


Fan Xian was secretly happy, but he kept a gloomy expression and chided, “You think Council regulations are a lump of excrement for you to smear all over your face? Mu Tie, drag this distant nephew of yours outside to await punishment!”


Mu Tie sighed and did as told with a sad face. Fan Xian scanned the crowd coldly. “Anything else to say?”


Everyone knew Fan Xian was abusing his authority. Unexpectedly, someone came forward and said, “Lord Commissioner, it is our duty to carry out investigations, but what should we do in cases of people of high status? What should we do if our families are being troubled? What should we do if the palace speaks out?”


Everyone was quiet. The First Bureau was most afraid of dealing with officials who had connections to the palace. As mighty as the Overwatch Council was, it still belonged to the palace.


Fan Xian was extremely calm. “Use my name.”


Those words meant that when dealing with whoever dared to use their status or connections to threaten the First Bureau, simply throw out the name Fan Xian! Nowadays, with the exception of officials above the third-rank and members of the nobility, no one would dare to mistreat Fan Xian’s subordinates and risk offending him.


With one hand controlling the Overwatch Council, the other controlling all the money, who would want to offend him?


That official still spoke out despite what just happened to Mu Tie and his nephew. For that, Fan Xian looked at him with slight admiration. Slowing his speech, Fan Xian said, “Let me hear all your opinions. I hold nothing against you.”


That official had just said all he wanted to say and struggled to add, “I believe it is only right for us to not accept valuables in private, but there really is no harm in accepting some under the Bureau’s name. Also, setting up good relations with other government divisions could aid in future investigations. And lastly, after dividing up the benefits, it’s nothing but a bonus.”


Fan Xian knew they all treasured the benefits they received and laughed coldly. “Speaking of payment, you earn three times as much as a government official of the same rank. Even though you don’t have as many outside resources, you’re still being paid plenty, which has been the Council’s intention since its creation. What’s there to complain about?”


Su Wenmao was a bit more familiar with Fan Xian. He said, “The Council always endured retaliation from the officials and disdain from the people, and the First Bureau is in a rather special situation. Since the Imperial court isn’t willing to give out bonuses, so…”


Fan Xian shook his head and stopped Su Wenmao. He stared at the Council members gathered before him. The heavy atmosphere had been crushing down until there was only silence. Then, Fan Xian said slowly:


“Do not ask what the Imperial court can do for you—ask what you can do for the Imperial court.”


Su Wenmao was stunned for a moment. Upon further pondering, he realized what Fan Xian just said was extremely meaningful. He felt a sense of admiration for Fan Xian, while at the same time he felt a sense of shame in himself. Indeed, when those of the First Bureau were all plotting for their own benefits, did they ever think about why the Overwatch Council was established?


The official who had spoken out before Su Wenmao was also awed. Years of education and training by the Council and discipline by Chen Pinping made him feel like his mindset had returned to how it was when he stepped into the Council for the first time. Deeply moved, he clasped his right fist and shouted:


“All for Qing.”


“All for Qing!” was what all of them had to memorize on their first day in the Council.


Fan Xian was happy and clasped his fist in return. “All for life,” he thought to himself.


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