Joy of Life - Chapter 317[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:48:18]
Chapter 317: The Snow of Shangjing City
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
In the northeast, about 1,200 miles away from the capital of the Qing Kingdom, was the older, brilliant Shangjing City. The snow fell heavier here, and snowflakes the size of goose feathers darted and drifted to the ground. The streets and alleys of Shangjing looked as if they were covered by a layer of pure white wool. Snow piled up on the roofs of the manors with warm stoves. Black eaves peaked beneath the white snow and the contrast appeared unusually beautiful.
At the city gates, the palace, built against the mountain, could be seen in the distance. The black eaves of the palace roofs were a deeper color than those of the people’s private residences. On the mountain, layers of snow-covered trees grew from the snowy rocks, waterfalls gradually weakened to icy creeks, and the stone paths became oblique and isolated. The winter mountain and the Qing Palace seemed to have merged into one entity.
Many things had happened in Northern Qi after summer passed. The most shocking was, naturally, the assassination of the Provost of the Discipline Commission, Shen Zhong. The general who had been patrolling the streets that night, Shang Shanhu, was still under house arrest at his manor, yet the court and palace made their attitude clear.
After Shen Zhong died, countless crimes were pinned against him. His family was destroyed and its members killed. Only the eldest daughter, who had been a familiar sight around Shangjing, had been able to disappear without a trace.
The sudden death of Shen Zhong was a heavy blow for the Brocade Guards. The already somewhat-weak special forces of the Northern Qi had been undermined by the young Emperor. Having lost one of their shrewdest leading figures, they were even weaker. Even the empress dowager spoke in a lower voice.
Within a few months, all of the Brocade Guards were slightly anxious at heart. No one
had stepped forward to take charge of this yamen, and they didn’t know how the court was going to deal with this. Fortunately, a few days ago, the court had finally given a clear edict. The young master of Marquis Ning, the Vice Minister of the Honglu Temple, Wei Hua, would take over the position left by Shen Zhong.
According to the rumors in Shangjing, the Dowager Empress had wanted Marquis Ning to take the position of Provost. However, she was blocked by the young Emperor. Since the imperial edict clearly ordered the Marquis’ son to take the position, debate on the topic could not be avoided. Who knew if this argumentative mother and son duo had finally come to some kind of understanding and compromise?
Today, the Brocade Guard mustered their spirits and brought out the fierceness and force of their heyday, and began to carry out their new duties.
More than a hundred brown-clothed Brocade Guards surrounded Xiushui Street, letting the snowflakes fall on their bodies.
Xiushui Street was not as ordinary as it appeared. The storefronts on this street had deep backgrounds, particularly the seven stores in the middle. Those were owned by royal merchants of the South Kingdom. The two countries were currently in their honeymoon phase. Logically, the Brocade Guard was reorganizing itself and shouldn’t have been causing trouble.
The development of events took everyone by surprise. Along the street, shopkeepers stood outside, rubbing their hands in the cold and nervously watched the Brocade Guards take away the wine seller. This shop owner’s surname was Sheng, and his name was Huairen. He was one of the ringleaders of the South Kingdom treasury in Shangjing.
The shopkeeper of the glass store, Shopkeeper Yu, held onto the old wooden door and asked in a shaky voice, “How dare they take him away?”
The shop boy replied quietly, “They say they found a large cache of goods in Jingnan. There were no documents or even tax records. The Brocade Guards followed that clue to Shangjing and dug out this shopkeeper Sheng.”
Wind and snow dove toward them, circling their bodies and fluttering away. They were brighter than the glass bottles behind shopkeeper Yu. He watched with worry the departing Brocade Guards. He knew very well about the smuggling from the treasury to the north; this was originally a deal made by the Eldest Princess. Northern Qi had always implicitly allowed it and enjoyed the benefits that lower prices brought. Why did they sudden strike today?
In Shangjing’s beautiful Royal Palace, the young Emperor was currently wrapped in warm blankets. In one hand he held a cake which he brought to his mouth, and in the other he held a scroll. He was reading carefully and with great concentration.
The new Provost of the Discipline Commission, Wei Hua, looked at him carefully. He hesitated for half a moment before mustering the courage to break into the Emperor’s thoughts. He said quietly, “We caught a few people… however, the Cui clan and Xinyang have given the court a lot of help up to this point. It is not good in terms of face, so following the empress dowager ‘s orders, those with status were released in the end.”
The young emperor did not look at him, but the corners of his brows furrowed in annoyance. “Women,” he said, “are soft-hearted. Since we have already turned on them, why should past affections be considered?”
Wei Hua naturally did not dare to join the conversation as the Emperor berated the empress dowager . The Emperor shook his head, and his gaze remained on his book. He continued, “It is not important whether or not we caught them. How much of the… cargo did we capture?”
“A lot.” A trace of excitement glinted in Wei Hua’s gaze. “Our messages were accurate. The southern barbarians didn’t think we would break the old rules. They were caught
off-guard and suffered great losses.”
He suddenly thought of something and hesitantly said, “This matter is a bit absurd. Even if Fan Xian had planned to rob the treasury with the Qing Kingdom’s Eldest Princess he had no reason to give us such a valuable gift. Given his current power in the Qing Kingdom, he is completely capable of taking all the cargo and not letting any of it come to the north.”
The Emperor still didn’t look at him. He spoke coldly, “Naturally he had something to ask of me in return for this valuable gift.”
“The timing is not a problem. According to messages from the south, Fan Xian acted before we did. The south shouldn’t suspect that Your Majesty is working with him to split the spoils. They will only think you took advantage of the situation. Only…”
The Emperor suddenly put down the scroll in his hand heavily. He narrowed his eyes at Wei Hua. The warning in his eyes was very clear. “Only five people in the court know of this matter. I don’t want it to leak out because of you.”
Wei Hua was terrified. He prostrated himself on the ground and swore an oath before saying, “Rest assured, Your Majesty.” Even though he was the son of Marquis Ning, in reality he was closer to the Emperor than that. He knew he was able to take charge of the Brocade Guards this time because the Emperor wanted to give him a chance. It was up to him whether or not he could grasp it.
“Is the diplomatic envoy from the Qing Kingdom still protesting?” the Emperor asked suddenly, with great interest.
Wei Hua nodded and smiled without humor. “Sir Lin cries and yells every day in the Honglu Temple. He demands justice for the Cui clan and says the court did not investigate before acting, and has forcibly seized the Cui’s money and goods, an act against the law. He claims it will greatly impact the friendship between the two countries.”
The Emperor raged, “Who are the Cui clan? They are the Qing Kingdom’s greatest smugglers! I have helped the southern barbarians discipline their citizens, and instead of thanking me, they blame me. Sure enough, these southern barbarians don’t know any etiquette.”
Wei Hua smiled weakly and thought, You help another country discipline their merchants, but you are unwilling to hand over the money and cargo you captured. How is this logical? After the Cui clan incidence, Lin Wen, as the diplomatic envoy from the Qing Kingdom, did not know the inside story, so of course he was going to fight for his people.
“The most annoying part is that Wang Qinian.” Wei Hua spoke suddenly; he had a headache. “Sir Lin only makes a ruckus in the Honglu Temple, but Sir Wang comes daily to the Taichang Temple and begs to see Your Majesty. He says the Cui clan are famous merchants in the Qing Kingdom, and as officials of the Qing Kingdom they must protect the interests of the Cui clan.”
The Emperor was momentarily surprised by this news before bursting into laughter. Laughing loudly, he said, “Interesting, very interesting. Not only is Fan Xian himself interesting, even his trusted aids act in such a ridiculous manner… clearly it is their own master who wants to kill off the Cui clan, yet with their ruckus, not only have they cleared Fan Xian’s name, they have smeared mine in passing.”
Wei Hua remained alert of his counterpart in the south. Unable to resist, he asked, “Your Majesty, if… the origins of this matter travel back to the Qing Kingdom and the Qing Emperor learns of Fan Xian’s actions, I’m afraid he will be very angry… perhaps Fan Xian will never be able to rise again.”
During the talks in the summer between their two countries, Wei Hua learned how cold and ruthless Fan Xian was beneath the warm, elegant, and scholarly exterior. Once he had taken over the position of Provost of the Brocade Guards, he immediately considered Fan Xian as his greatest enemy. He constantly thought about how to bring Fan Xian down. Having now thought of a plan that would make it difficult for him to ever rise again, he couldn’t help but celebrate in his heart and looked at the Emperor with a face full of hope. What disappointed him was… the Emperor only shook his head.
“Consider things more long term.” The Emperor spoke with a mocking tone. “The cargo of the Cui clan was already within my country—why would I steal their goods? Is it because I need their money? The court has always dealt with the Eldest Princess and both parties have reaped great rewards… do you not know why we worked with Fan Xian this time?”
The Emperor picked up his book from the table and spoke softly as he read, “The treasury of the south court is about to be named ‘Fan.’ If you are not completely confident in destroying him, then it is best to treat him politely. My people this season are counting on Commissioner Fan… to provide, year after year, cheap goods.”
After Wei Hua left, the Emperor’s expression immediately relaxed a great deal. He stretched inelegantly and gave a big yawn. At this moment a beautiful woman in an elegant court dress raised the curtain and walked out. Looking in the direction of the departing Provost, she blinked and asked curiously, “What were you talking about? It seemed to be related to Fan Xian.”
“Lili, you get so nervous every time you hear the name ‘Fan Xian.’ Are you not worried I’ll be jealous?” The young Emperor pulled her into his embrace. He spoke next to her ear, “Fan Xian has moved against Xinyang in the south. I… just helped him a little.”
It was much more than just a little help. The Cui clan’s routes in the north had been completely destroyed and the remaining goods and money had both been completely seized by the Brocade Guard. A famous and powerful merchant clan had one hand chopped off, and the other one—which remained inside the Qing Kingdom—would,
sooner or later, be completely severed by the silently terrifying Overwatch Council.
Si Lili giggled and said, “Of course I’m nervous. Sir Fan was our matchmaker.”
The young Emperor thought about it and realized she was right. If Fan Xian had not had that “strange ideam” to have grand uncle Ku He accept Lili as a disciple, then it would have been very difficult for her to enter the place given her identity.
“What are you reading?” Si Lili curiously snatched the scroll from the Emperor’s hands.
The Emperor panicked and snatched it back, saying, “It the newest chapter of the Story of the Stone, which Fan Xian specially sent to me… there is only one in the world. Don’t ruin it.”
Si Lili’s brows smoothed and she laughed, cuddled at his side asked gently, “How does Fan Xian dare… act against his mother-in-law?”
The Emperor shook his head. “That guy is even braver than I am. The internal workings of the palace in the south are far more complicated than ours, so who knows?”
Northern Qi’s most precious river was the Yuquan River, which started on a mountain and ran down; it went around half of the Royal Palace and then bisected the old city in Shangjing. The further upstream you went, the closer it was to the Royal Palace, and the quieter it was.
Today, it snowed hard, and ice debris was hidden near the banks of the river. It was cold beyond comparison. Here, there was a small garden from which you could see the black eaves of the Royal Palace and the winter trees in the mountain. What would be the identity of the person who was able to live here?
At this moment, there was a youth of about 13 or 14 who was doing hard labor in the yard. The youth’s face was slightly chubby and he pulled along a millstone. Gritting his teeth, he walked in a circle with the millstone squeaking behind him. His legs shook with the effort. Despite the cold weather, the back of his shirt was soaking wet. He seemed indescribably wretched.
After a few rounds, the youth could take no more and pushed away the handle in his hands. He turned his head and yelled angrily, “There aren’t even any beans! Why are you making me push the empty mill? Can you not even afford a donkey?”
The person he was yelling at was, at this moment, relaxed beyond measure under the eaves of the roof, lying on a thickly-padded chaise lounge. Her eyes were bright but not eye-catching. She was currently watching the snow fall past the eaves and seemed to be day-dreaming. Hearing the youth’s angry yelling, she yawned and stood up. She stretched and said lazily, “It’s snowing today, where am I going to buy beans? As to the donkey… don’t I have you now? I sold the donkey the other day. The chickens and ducks in the yard all need warmth in the winter. That’s going to cost money.”
The two people in this strange scenario were, naturally, Fan Sizhe, who had been exiled to Northern Qi, and, the most famous youth of Northern Qi, Miss Haitang.
Haitang wore a flower-patterned winter coat with both her hands stuck in her pockets. The trace of a smile flashed across her usually expressionless face. Watching Fan Sizhe she said, “A letter from your brother arrived the other day. He says for me to discipline you well.”
If she hadn’t said anything it would have been fine, but once she did, Fan Sizhe finally went crazy. He had been in Shangjing many days now and he had done nothing except been used for hard labor by this peasant girl. She had even given Yan’er away!
He suddenly remembered that this peasant girl had the high ground, was good at martial arts, and was clever. He had tried to escape multiple times but never succeeded. Life in Shangjing was difficult beyond compare. Thinking of all this, he squatted down angrily and yelled, “Who are you to me? Why do you have the right to discipline me?”
Haitang smiled but did not reply. She just laid down again and closed her eyes slightly; it seemed that she was going to sleep to the accompaniment of the snow and wind.
Fan Sizhe watched her and knew that if he didn’t obey, he probably wouldn’t have food to eat. He could only take up the handle again. He gritted his teeth and said, “You look like a peasant and you want to marry my brother! Don’t expect me to accept you as a sister-in-law in the future!”