Joy of Life - Chapter 277

[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:48:02]
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Chapter 277: King Jing’s Birthday Feast

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

“Am I a fool?” King Jing’s crown prince looked into Fan Xian’s eyes seriously. “Please tell me that I am a fool.”

Fan Xian did as he pleased and told him with a sincere tone of voice, “In some ways, I think you really are a fool.”

What Li Hongcheng asked was spoken when Fan Xian had his fingertip pointed to the sky, and that which Fan Xian responded to was his battle for authority with the princes.

King Jing’s manor’s lawns were finely cut, but as tidy as they were, they lacked a certain elegance. The lawn was slightly yellowed and almost looked like a carpet, spread out to skirt the paths with care. Fan Xian knew it was King Jing’s own hard work that shaped the lawns in the way they were; through his adoration for gardening, he worked on them each and every day. He pointed towards the grass field and said, “Look, this is life.”

Li Hongcheng mockingly responded, “If you are willing to take care of a garden every day, I will have the second brother give to you a few thousand acres of land in Jiangnan.”

Fan Xian, in distress, shook his head and said, “I told you; what occurred recently wasn’t my idea.”

Li Hongcheng had a warm, sunlit face, and as he heard this, he was surprised. The tip of his eyebrows furrowed somewhat. If what happened in court recently was not initiated by Fan Xian, then it may have been the Emperor. If this was true, then that could suggest most vehement things. Did the Emperor not love his second brother?

Fan Xian looked at him and said, “of course, I was a little selfish. You should know that I am not all that fond of the second prince.”

Li Hongcheng frowned at these words and said, “Ever since you entered the capital, my brother and I have treated you nicely. Of course, I won’t tell you that there wasn’t room for improvement, but we have treated you far better than the eastern palace could.”

Fan Xian coldly laughed and did not respond.

Both of them walked side by side into the manor. They did not visit the backyard, for the birthday feast was yet to begin. They walked into Li Hongcheng’s hidden study room. Fan Xian sat beside a table and between his eyebrows, a chill developed as he looked upon Li Hongcheng.

The servants who served tea had already left and now it was just the two of them.

“Polite? Having the Imperial Censorate frame me is polite?”

Li Hongcheng was surprised, and he wore a wry smile. He said, “The Imperial Censorate was my aunt’s idea. I am sure that you know why. No one asked you to investigate my aunt and my second brother, as soon as you returned to the capital.”

Fan Xian did not speak of what had occurred Niulan Road, he just shook his head and said, “I told you before that I have my personal reasons. The reason why I have to investigate the eldest princess and your brother is something you should be able to understand, too. Both of them have depleted the palace treasury of its wealth, and what? You expect me to inherit an empty shell next year?”

Li Hongcheng said, “how do I say it? You are the eldest princesses’ son-in-law and Wan’er is her only daughter. Do you really think they would push you onto a trail that you cannot return from? Taking a step back will yield benefits for the both of us.”

“It is okay to take a step back.” Fan Xian looked at him sternly, and said, “I am just worried about you. I know why you are standing by your brother’s side. You think that if he was to become an emperor in the future, he will fare better than the one in the eastern palace. His personality does seem to appear nice and soft, and you think that your manor will receive a better life once he takes the throne, but did you ever think about how we constantly refer to him as ‘brother’ over and over today? Do you truly believe he won’t forget about his siblings once he inherits the mantle?”

Li Hongcheng laughed and said, “It is lucky that this is coming from you. Others might believe these words were ones meant to sow discord.”

Fan Xian waved his hand and said, “I was serious about what I said, and you believe I am just being nosy… in the springtime, I talked to you near the Liu Jing riverside, telling you that you should not be getting yourself involved in all this.” He looked into Li Hongcheng’s eyes and said, “I know what you have done. Your identity comes from King Jing, and despite your swathe of subordinates, none are fighters. I am not saying this because I am being arrogant, I am speaking to you in truth. The power you have does not rival mine, so how can you swing between princes so daringly?”

He did not wait for Li Hongcheng’s reply; Fan Xian just stood up. With a serious voice, he told him, “What I have just told you may contain traces of narcissism, and perhaps you will laugh at me in secrecy, but the Emperor has already made his choice. I suspect that your second brother is in for a rough road in the days ahead, and that is why I recommend you keep your distance for now.”

He patted Li Hongcheng’s shoulders with genuine sincerity and said, “I am not saying this for you, or anybody else. I am saying this for Ruoruo’s sake.”

Li Hongcheng agreed. Although his face showed no emotion, he was touched on the inside. After a while of silence elapsed between them, he said, “You do not understand my second brother. He was forced as well. Besides, we have since founded a profound relationship between us; I cannot let that go so easily.”

Fan Xian shook his head and did not reply.

The King Jing’s birthday feast had now begun. Upon the big circular table was place a variety of luxurious dishes. King Jing was sat in the first seat, his beard riding the gentle breeze. He was dressed not unlike a rich merchant, a far cry from the noble he was, or the gardener’s role he often partook. He could be compared to the boring merchants of Jiangnan, those who had gathered too much wealth and were bored.

Seeing his son walk out with Fan Xian side by side, he laughed. He waved to Fan Xian and gestured for him to approach. He said aloud, “You, come sit next to me!”

What Fan Xian feared the most in King Jing was his vulgar language. With a bitter face, he remorsefully went to sit beside him. Wan’er, who had her hair tied up, laughed at him as she joined. And then, beside Wan’er, Fan Xian’s sister went to sit quietly. Fan Xian thought that he had just used Ruoruo’s name shamelessly in a petty bid to comfort Li Hongcheng’s distressed mind. He despised himself deeply for doing this. He picked up a glass and cheered King Jing, his father and Liu Shi, who were sitting on the opposite side of the table in apology of Fan Xian’s late arrival.

There was nobody else at the birthday feast, it was just the Li and Fan family. The elders were here, however, and it did not matter if it was Li Hongcheng or Fan Xian, both were were cautious in their presence. The vast amount of delicious food that were laid out upon the table could not be enjoyed to their fullest because of this.

After a while of drinking, King Jing grew unpleased. He picked up a jar of alcohol and talked to Fan Jing, saying, “How do you teach your kids at home? They’ve barely said a word since they got here!”

Fan Jing picked up the tail of a deer and put it in his house mouth steadily. He said, “Whatever it is I teach is better than what you do. At least I do not swear incessantly in front of the kids.”

“F*ck you! King Jing wiped the drips of alcohol from his jaw and said, “Don’t you speak ill of me before my daughter!”

King Jing’s wife died early, and he had a few other wives in the manor, but none of them were qualified to sit at the table today. Princess Rou Jia and Li Hongcheng were sat near him, and after the Princess heard her father swear like that, she glanced at Fan Xian. She felt incredibly awkward and quite a bit angry, for she thought her father was being embarrassing.

After hearing this, Fan Jing’s face went dark. He then said, “Hit yourself in the mouth!”

Not since Wan’er’s marriage and integration into the Fan family had she had seen both of these families sit together. Looking at both of these elders, who seemed ready to begin an argument, she pulled at Fan Xian’s sleeves. She gasped when hearing Fan Jing tell King Jing to hit himself in the mouth.

Fan Xian, however, was used to seeing such thing unfold like this. It was actually the reason he showed no concern. It was strange that his father had always been serious and calm, but he was different in front of King Jing. It was during these times that you could see beyond his quiet, self-worn veil, and catch a glimpse of the nuttiness of his youth.

King Jing heard what Fan Jing said, and prepared to fight back. He thought about what he would say next, but when he opened his mouth to talk, all that was heard was “Ouch!”

He had a wry smile on his face, and lifted his right hand to lightly slap himself. It was obviously not too hard, but the sound was crisp and clear for all to hear.

Fan Jing did not let it go, however. He instead raised a chopstick and pointed it at King Jing’s nose, saying, “Your son is getting married soon. Perhaps now would be the best time to fix that mouth of yours.”

Feeling slightly embarrassed himself, King Jing politely said, “I am sorry for the way I spoke.” He looked around the table, taking notice of all the younger people who were there and madly said, “As for what happened earlier, no one heard anything!” He embarrassingly coughed twice, and then asked Fan Xian, “How is my mother doing in Danzhou?”

Lin Wan’er did her best to hold back laughter, and thought about why Fan Jing would ask for King Jing to slap his mouth for saying “f*ck you”. Her husband’s grandmother was special because King Jing was raised by her in Danzhou

Fan Xian now had a bitter look on his face He was thinking, You elders are the ones arguing, so why drag me into this? Why don’t they just exchange simpler pleasantries, like “I wish you good health”. He rolled his eyes and said, “King Jing, why don’t you take a drink? You have little to do in the capital, and Hongcheng just spends his time relaxing there. Why don’t we find some time next year to go back to Danzhou for a little vacation. The tea trees there are the best.”

King Jing looked at Fan Xian and understood what he meant. In his heart, he loved the idea, and as such, he smiled and said, “That is a wonderful idea. I am going to march right into the palace and talk to the Emperor about it tomorrow. That being said, you will probably be unable to go, for you will be in Jiangnan next year.”

Li Hongcheng, whose ears perked up when he heard this, was shocked. He acknowledged this was a cruel ploy by Fan Xian.

Fan Xian said, “Why am I going to Jiangnan?”

King Jing replied, “you look like you are so smart, all the time. Even the second prince was put at a disadvantage by you. But why are you sounding so stupid now? Next year, you are to take over the palace treasury, yes? How are you to accept this position without going to Jiangnan?”

Fan Xian held his head with a look of confusion and said, “Why must I go to Jiangnan to take over the palace treasury?”

King Jing’s eyes opened wide. He looked at Fan Jing and said, “Um, is your son pretending to be stupid? Or is he really this dumb?”

Fan Jing’s eyes had now widened. He looked at Fan Xian and said, “I thought this kid wasn’t very wise, but thought he was at least a little smart. But now I know, he isn’t even a little smart.”

Lin Wan’er’s cheeks puffed up as she spoke, “My husband is not aware of the fact that the three big vaults are located in Jiangnan. Uncle, you should continue your drink and not proceed to talk about such dull affairs.”

King Jing almost choked with laughter, saying, “Ladies are outgoing. So it was true. I am your uncle, after all; how can you keep helping the Fan family after marriage?”

Lin Wan’er was laughing, saying, “I think you like my husband, too. You don’t always have to talk about me.”

Li Hongcheng, who was sitting next to her, nodded, then turned his gaze towards Fan Xian, who was sitting beside his father. He then saw his father smile at Fan Xian, and a feeling of jealousy consumed him. He and the second prince were the same, disturbed with the notion that their father looked upon Fan Xian with greater fondness.

At the end of the feast, the young ones at the table were drinking, wishing King Jing a happy birthday. By this point, however, he had drank too much and his spirit soared with far too much hype. His words became increasingly ridiculous to hear. He began saying after Li Hongcheng and Ruoruo got married, they should quickly conceive a child. He then went on to say Princess Rou Jia should marry Fan Xian in two years time, avoiding her grace from benefitting any other family.

Ruoruo was nervous when hearing this, and she tucked her hands into her own sleeves without saying anything. Li Hongcheng’s face was calm, and he gave a loving look towards his fiancee.

Fan Xian was the most nervous right now, however, and so he quickly replied, “Rou Jia’s identity is not something I can accept so lightly. King Jing, you have drank far too much.”

The young lady Rou Jia, gave Fan Xian a stern and displeased look.

King Jing reeking of alcohol, said, “In the capital, bastards are everywhere. Do you think I will ever quit my worrying, if she ends up marrying some other yahoo? What identity are you even referring to, anyway? She is my daughter. Or what? Are you trying to tell me that she is not good enough for you?” He turned to look at Wan’er and asked, “Do you have an opinion to share?”

Wan’er started laughing, saying, “I have no opinion. If you can convince my grandmother, then this thing is already settled.”

As soon as King Jing heard the word “grandmother”, his mind awoke from the intoxication that ailed him. He thought that his mother would not allow Fan Xian to marry both of his daughters, and amidst a barrage of mumbling, said, “I may have to think about this some more. Rou Jia’s personality may be too soft and weak… F*ck! Not marrying Fan Xian? That means the empty spot may be open for that northern girl. It wasn’t worth it! It wasn’t worth it! Fan Xian looks so handsome, and it’s going to benefit that female tiger from the north? It’s not worth it!”

He looked drunk, and turning to look at Fan Jing, tripped over his words to say, “What was that woman from the north called?”

Fan Jing had evidently drank too much as well. He burped and responded, “Haitang. She is not far from sainthood in the north. She is a student of the legendary master, Ku Hei. I don’t know why she looks up to my good-for-nothing son.”

Despite saying “good-for-nothing”, the words were spoken with a certain streak of pride.

After these words were said, everybody started laughing. Even Liu Shi, who had been quiet the entire time, brought her hands to her mouth as she giggled. Fan Si Zhe and Li Hongcheng laughed the hardest, but Fan Xian was the one who now looked the most miserable. He did not expect that after his father became drunk, he would set loose the chains that upheld his rigorous formality. He didn’t expect his father to remember the name Haitang either.

Fan Xian felt a certain pang of pain his right arm, but his face did not change. He gently held Wan’er’s hand and held a cup in his left hand. He raised the arm up and spoke aloud, “Let’s drink!”

With a chorus of laughter being sung from across the table, even Ruoruo was gently laughing.

“That Haitang…” King Jing suddenly said, “I am simply afraid that she is not a private student of Ku He anymore.”

Fan Xian was at first a little nervous when hearing Haitang’s name being spoken, but hearing that last sentence, he was now aware that his arrangements were now put into motion. This information was already circulating around the capital.

Fan Jing nodded his head and signalled that he did not understand. He said, “That is strange. This Haitang lady,” he looked at his son and continued, “The rumours speak of her enormous talents, and of her being the youngest nine-ranked elite in history. The northern people are known to claim her as being a woman who was sent by God. To have a student like this, why is Ku He not yet satisfied? Why has he begun recruiting again?”

Li Hongcheng knew about it as well, and after furrowing his eyebrows, said, “Is it a conspiracy of the Northern Qi Kingdom?”

King Jing now began yelling and said aloud, “There is no conspiracy! What? You think accepting a student is a conspiracy? The next thing I know, him eating dinner will become a conspiracy of the Northern Qi Kingdom. Stop thinking of such nonsense all the time; you’ll only wear yourself out. You are a grown up, and yet you have not done anything of remote worth.”

Li Hongcheng gave no response. Fan Sizhe, who was beside him, felt for him. He lifted his glass and proposed a cheer with him.

Fan Jing did not want to see King Jing teaching his son in this way, and so he said, “It may not be a conspiracy, but there is no denying that it is strange. After Ku He’s isolation for a few months, he all of a sudden returns with the announcement that he was told by God himself to take on two new recruits? It was an auspicion, elucidated to him from the sky. That is really strange.”

King Jing slowly drank a whole cup of alcohol, and with a serious look, spoke, “The four great grandmasters; they are the best of the best. I know that of the other three, the first, Ye Liuyun, has never accepted a student. Si Gujian, although he is not known to accept many people, has taken to the smithing of weaponry, and he created a lot of nine-rank elites in Dongyi City. Ku He used to have four students, and each of them were incredibly impressive.”

Fan Xian thought of Lang Tao’s scimitar, which was like a reaper of souls, and nodded in correspondence.

King Jing’s eyebrows still took on an odd shape as he continued his speech, “But these three grandmasters have not accepted new students in years. All of a sudden, Ku He returns to say he will accept new ones once more? It is a tremendous event for this world. Although people like us may care little for such things, for the fighters of our land, this is an incredible opportunity. If you became a student of Ku He, no matter how you end up, you can forge a great relationship with Tian Yidao.” He sighed for a moment, and then said, “If people are able to have a closer relationship with Ku He by being his student, I am sure that the people of this world will only think positively of it.”

Fan Xian gave a curious facial expression and asked, “Ku He is a Northern Qi Kingdom grandmaster, so if he wanted to accept a student, he should search for one there, shouldn’t he? What does this have to do with us?”

Fan Jing looked to his son and said, “this time, Ku He wants to broaden his search across the world. He wants all to be granted this opportunity. Although he is a grandmaster of the Northern Qi Kingdom, he is only situated there. To be a grandmaster is to be someone of supreme authority and position; rightfully, he should not be relegated to the sole kingdom he resides in. If any of our civilians were given the opportunity to become a student of his, I am sure the Emperor would be pleased.”

Fan Xian nodded in understanding, but in his heart, he thought of something else. He did not know how Haitang convinced the grandmaster, but whatever she did had proven to him that he had underestimated her abilities.

After the feast, Liu Shi went to the back of the yard to join in with the women and their conversation. The young ones went down to the lakeside to enjoy the gentle breeze, while Fan Sizhe had disappeared.

King Jing was in the yard he himself maintained. He and Fan Jing both lay upon bamboo chairs; their eyes closed in silence together.

“Recently, Fan Xian has been a little over the top in his behavior. You should rein him in a little.” King Jing’s eyes were really bright and Fan Jing’s face was really calm. They did not look drunk as they had earlier at the table.

Fan Jing agreed, though modestly. He replied, “When he came to the capital, that kid once told me that I could never fully control him.”

King Jing “hmmm”’d and said, “if you and I are unable to control him, are we just going to hand over the task to that crippled old man? That crippled old man is full of poisonous thoughts; who knows what he desires?”

Fan Jing was laughing as he responded, “That crippled old man was the person your manor first sent out. Otherwise, why else would the Emperor trust him?”

King Jing coldly laughed and said, “Well, I will let you do as you see fit. Besides, after all these events have begun to wind down, and my interest in these matters wanes.” He closed his eyes as he continued talking. “Fan Xian, this kid, he has a good heart. I am merely worried that the Emperor may end up squeezing him too hard, and his modesty may escape him.”

Fan Jing sighed and said, “You know, when it comes to this whole thing, I don’t have the right to speak on it.”

King Jing shook his head and said, “Let those kids to have fun; this is the manner of scene I am most fond of watching.”