Joy of Life - Chapter 318[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:48:19]
Chapter 318: Great Grandmasters, Black Market, Riddles
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The snow was still falling when Fan Sizhe finally finished pushing the millstone around for the 50th time. He was breathing hard, pain was everywhere, and he felt he couldn’t possible straighten his back ever again. The sweat on his face evaporated and turned white as it met the cold air; it looked as if his entire body was smoking.
“Wipe it off and then change into dry clothes. Otherwise, you’ll freeze.” Haitang handed him a stack of neatly folded clothes.
Fan Sizhe shook his head bitterly and walked inside to change. A moment later he
came out and yelled, “There isn’t even a place to wash—what do I do about the smell?”
Haitang glanced at him and laughed, “It’s the middle of winter, the things your brother made haven’t been shipped to Shangjing.”
Fan Sizhe couldn’t help but shake his head again and. “My brother sent me north… but not for you to torture me.”
“Jade cannot be made into anything without being cut and polished,” Haitang replied with a placid expression. “I remember one time we were talking in the Royal Palace and Fan Xian said something that I thought made a lot of sense.”
“What did he say?” Fan Sizhe asked curiously.
“‘When Heaven is about to confer a great responsibility upon a man, Heaven will first test his heart with suffering, his sinews and bones with toil, his body with hunger, and subject him to extreme poverty. Heaven will fill his journey with setbacks and troubles so as to stimulate his alertness, and toughen his nature. This will eventually fill his incompetence and prepare him for the task.\'”
Actually, when Fan Xian had recited Mencius’ words, he was thinking of the shore of the North Sea, and the reeds in the Haitang Spring. However, Fan Sizhe and Haitang could not know a person’s true thoughts. When Fan Sizhe heard this passage, he only felt a gust of cold air on his head and asked in a trembling voice, “There’s… not going to be no dinner again, right?”
Haitang smiled slightly and said, “You’re not eating here tonight.”
As she spoke, a person outside added, very respectfully, “Second Young Master, tonight, I am taking you to dinner.”
Fan Sizhe was surprised the person joined the conversation so naturally. He turned around and saw that it was Wang Qinian. Suddenly seeing someone from home made him think of all the hardships he had endured recently, and how he might be able to leave this place. Fan Sizhe became excited and started yelling strangely and rushed to the outside of the fence.
“You’re coming back after dinner.” Haitang lightly threw out this comment. It flew through the wind and snow and buried itself in Fan Sizhe’s ears; it made him shiver and filled him with endless disappointment.
Only when he reached the fence did he turn around and yell cruelly, “I came to Shangjing to make money, not to do hard labor!”
Haitang had already returned to the chaise lounge and said expressionlessly, “How easy do you think it is to turn 1000 liang into 10,000 liang? I think Fan Xian has pushed you too hard. Don’t forget, your money is with me right now.”
Outside the fence, Wang Qinian gave Fan Sizhe a look to remind him that it was best not to anger Miss Duoduo. Even Sir Fan wasn’t able to protect himself completely when dealing with her—what chance did he have?
Fan Sizhe sneered angrily and pushed open the gate.
Wang Qinian smiled and saluted Haitang, saying, “Miss Haitang, I’m leaving now.”
Haitang gazed at him and suddenly quieted down. Half a moment later she asked, “Sir Wang, are you really in such a rush for him to take charge of the Cui clan?”
Wang Qinian’s heart skipped and he could not understand how she could know about Commissioner Fan’s plan. He wasn’t sure how much implicit understanding there was between Fan Xian and Haitang; he could only smile weakly and reply, “Miss, what are you saying?”
Of course Haitang was very knowledgeable about the plans concerning Fan Sizhe. She smiled slightly and didn’t say anything more; she simply advised, “The move has just started, don’t be in such a rush.”
Wang Qinian had his servants fetch a hat and cloak for Fan Sizhe to wear. It was to partially block the wind and snow and was partially to conceal his appearance. He then saluted Haitang again and readied himself to leave this piece of land next to the Royal Palace.
“Have you read the most recent letter?” Haitang was half sitting in the chair. She smiled a not-smile at the leaving Wang Qinian.
Wang Qinian paused momentarily at her words, before smiling weakly and said, “I have business at hand, forgive me Miss Haitang. Please write a few words for me in your letter, ask that Mr. Commissioner not to bully my daughter.”
Haitang chuckled and thought that this Honglu Temple Northern Qi proctor, Sir Wang Qinian, was indeed an interesting person.
The noises outside the yard quieted. Haitang closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep. Today, the snow and wind whirled around each other in Shangjing; each sound pulled at the soul and the cold threatened with every passing howl. The peasant girl slept soundly in this cold and cruel environment; there was even the trace of a smile around the corner of her lips. With her startling cultivation, she did not care about the cold seeping into her body. On the contrary, it was easier for her to be closer with the environment, such as the stunning nature in spring or the cold severity of winter.
Snow drifted down piece by piece, dancing in the sky. Under the eaves, the girl wearing the flowered coat slept comfortably.
After an indeterminable amount of time, Haitang slowed opened her eyes. Her eyes, bright beyond compare, reflected the falling snowflakes and the gathering ice near the eaves. Involuntarily, a thread of joy and satisfaction flashed through them.
“Master, you have come.”
The stone path on the banks of the Yuquan River outside of the yard had long been covered in a thick layer of snow. At this moment, a person approached slowly across the snow. The wind and snow seemed to have vanished in an instant and the only sound that could be heard was the person’s footsteps.
The person wore no shoes and walked with bare feet on the snow, determined and sincere. In barely a moment, they had reached the front of the yard and extended a hand to lightly push open the gate. They approached the eaves and reached out a hand to gently stroke the delighted Haitang’s head. “I’m here to visit you.”
One of the Four Great Grandmasters, the one who was viewed by the people as a god—Imperial Advisor Ku He!
If Fan Xian were to see this he would definitely ridicule Ku He’s normal appearance. He couldn’t compare to Zhu Shuai and wasn’t even as exciting as Ye Liuyun. Especially after he took off his hat and revealed his big, bald head. He seemed very far from the image of a supernatural being—he was only a very simple and ordinary old man. Only his pure-white clothing and bare feet announced his identity as an ascetic monk, although he had not practiced asceticism since returning from the temple.
Haitang bowed deeply towards the teacher in utmost respect, and then invited this most extraordinary person into the room. She served him tea and sat next to him on the ground, her face full of naivety like a little girl’s. It was only in front of this Great Grandmaster that Haitang submitted so naturally.
Ku He’s face was clear, with very thin lips, and extremely deep-set eyes. His gaze was very distant with a trace of tender love as he looked at his last disciple. He smiled slightly and said, “I have come from Xi Mountain.”
Haitang’s expression changed and she asked in alarm, “Did you find Sir Xiao En’s body?”
Ku He slowly put down the tea cup in his hand. With the hint of a smile in his eyes, he said, “I found the bones of my old friend in a cave on a precipice.”
“A precipice in Xi Mountain?”
After Ku He had returned from the south, he closed himself off and refused to go out. Some of the people in Northern Qi guessed that this Great Grandmaster had been injured but did not know whom he had fought against in that terrifying final battle in a place no one knew. Some guessed it was Sigu Jian, others guessed Ye Liuyun. Some also guessed it was the Great Grandmaster that the Qing Kingdom had hidden the deepest. No one thought that Ku He and Wu Zhu would both suffer heavy injuries.
After Ku He recovered and rejoined the world, his first priority was to carefully investigate Xiao En’s movements after he returned to the country. Although this Great Grandmaster was quietly furious at the disagreements between the Emperor and his mother, Tianyi Dao took orders from the temple and rarely interfered with politics, and so could not say much. However, for this Great Grandmaster, for whom little of the material world mattered, he placed great importance on the life and death of Xiao En.
The precipice of the Xi Mountain had been searched multiple times. They did not find a body anywhere on the mountain and this became the toughest thorn in the side of Northern Qi. If that old man was still alive, then Shang Shanhu, who was under house arrest, could become powerful again.
However, for Haitang, since senior brother disciple Lang Tiao swore that Xiao En could not have survived after being stabbed by a scimitar, she believed him. Great Grandmaster Ku He had also never doubted the judgement of his first disciple.
Untold amounts of power went into searching the mountain and they left no stone unturned, yet they still did not find a trace of either Xiao En or that mysterious person. Northern Qi could not understand how there could be someone in this world who could scale the smooth as mirror surface of the precipice like a gecko.
Finally, Imperial Advisor Ku He spoke and Northern Qi angrily stopped searching. They didn’t expect for this Great Grandmaster to put aside his status and personally search. Who knew how much effort it took for Ku He to finally, in this snow and wind, find Xiao En’s body in a cave on the precipice?
Haitang stared at her teacher in surprise and only then noticed tiny wounds on both of his ankles. Concerned, she asked, “How did you get down from the precipice?” She didn’t have time to ask about Xiao En, her focus was on Ku He’s body. After all, her teacher was getting on in age and had been injured not long ago.
Ku He gently shook his head. He smiled slightly and sighed, “It was a bit difficult going down, but not impossible. It was fine as long as there was a rope. Only, I had not expected for the person Lang Tiao forced down the cliff to… escape so easily.”
Haitang lowered her head and said, “Perhaps he was carrying a grappling hook or something similar?”
“There was nowhere to use a grappling hook.” Ku He watched her with a smile. “You were so shocked before, so you must remember what the precipice of Xi Mountain looks like.”
Haitang sighed, “I really don’t understand this matter. The incident happened many months ago—have the goshawks in the mountain not eaten Sir Xiao En’s bones?”
Ku He’s two white-as-snow eyebrows floated up and he replied warmly, “That cave was very shallow. Logically, predators should have helped Sir Xiao En on his way a long time ago. I didn’t expect to find Sir Xiao En’s perfectly-preserved body as I came down on the rope. There were some dead birds next to him, but those birds had already become bones. It was only his body that, other than having lost a little water, had not rotted.”
Hearing these words, Haitain was momentarily shocked, but in an instant she smiled peacefully and said, “That’s a powerful poison.”
Ku He nodded his head gently and very casually changed the topic. “Let’s talk about the young man Fan Xian. I am very curious about him.”
Haitang’s heart thumped but her expression did not change at all. With a slight smile she related all that Fan Xian had done in Shangjing and knew that she could no longer hide anything. In a light voice she said, “The night Xiao En left the capital, Fan Xian stayed with the envoy but no one actually saw him. When I went the next day, he was lying on his bed… at the time, Lang Tiao thought the person he saw fall off the cliff with Xiao En was him. Furthermore, he is very skilled at using poison.”
On this earth, only two people had been touched by the Temple: Xiao En and Ku He. Now that Xiao En was dead, only Ku He was left. The Emperor had suffered innumerable trials and tribulations to bring Xiao En to Northern Qi only to have Ku He try with all his power to kill him. And now, he knew that Fan Xian was possibly the last person to have seen Xiao En alive. Given how careful Ku He was about the secret of the Temple… Haitang didn’t know how much trouble her words brought Fan Xian. She only knew that this kind-looking teacher in front of her was an immensely intelligent man. His topic change earlier was, naturally, to remind her.
Unexpectedly, Ku He did not continue this topic of conversation; instead, he looked at her meaningfully and smiled. He drank another sip of his green tea and said, “Your tea tastes better and better.”
“Thank you, teacher,” Haitang replied demurely.
Some time went by in silence. Then, Ku He suddenly said very gently, “I think I know who Fan Xian is.” This comment seemed to be completely out of the blue, and Haitang did not understand what he meant; she could only stare at her teacher.
Ku He stood slowly and the trace of a mellow smile rose on his face. “Before this young man came to Northern Qi, I left for a while and was injured. I am sure you are very curious as to who in this world is able to injure me.”
Imperial Advisor Ku He represented the spirit of Northern Qi and so his injury had long been hidden from public knowledge. Although Haitang knew, she had never heard the details from her teacher. Hearing this now, she suddenly focused her attention.
“It was a blind man.” Ku He turned and gazed out at the wind and snow in his disciple’s garden. He spoke slowly, “It was a blind man I had met many years ago and have never once forgotten.”
Haitang was very shocked. She thought, For someone in this world to be able to hurt teacher is already a very shocking thing, and it wasn’t a famous Great Grandmaster, it was a… blind man!
Ku He continued to speak slowly, “What was very strange was that this terrifyingly powerful blind man… had forgotten some things. He had forgotten that many years ago we had once met.”
Haitang listened in silence.
“This blind man had already disappeared for many years.” A smile once again rose to the surface of Ku He’s face. “Unexpectedly, he appeared once again in this world and the first person he sought was me. This caused me to feel a faint pride in my long-empty heart.”
Haitang was becoming more and more confused.
“This blind man had once disciplined that idiot Sigu Jian, and had once defeated Ye Liuyun so badly he gave up the sword. He ended a generation of Grandmasters,” Ku He sighed. “At the time, I guessed it was him. I just didn’t think he would seek me out—this was very different in style to his secretiveness of bygone years.”
Haitang suddenly opened her mouth and asked, “Perhaps this blind man is that most mysterious Great Grandmaster?”
Ku He shook his head; the pair of eyes that seem to pierce through everything revealed a trace of confusion. “No, the blind man never needed those empty titles. As for the most mysterious of us four… he is probably still inside the Qing Royal Palace.”
Haitang was a little confused. Since no one had seen that mysterious Great
Grandmaster, why was everyone sure he existed and was inside the Qing Royal Palace?
“The reason is very simple,” Ku He smiled. “Many years ago, Sigu Jian tried three times to enter the Qing Royal Palace to assassinate the Emperor.”
Haitang gave a shocked cry. She only just learned that Dongyi City’s Sigu Jian had done something so crazy. However, to act as an assassin at the realm of a Great Grandmaster, the Emperor would be very hard pressed to defend himself even if he were the person with the most power in the world.
Seemingly able to guess what she was thinking, Ku He said quietly, “Everyone who
knew about this thought the same as you: they believed Sigu Jian had a high chance of success… unfortunately, he failed four consecutive times in a month. Although he wasn’t injured, he also achieved nothing.”
Haitang furrowed her brows and asked, “That blind man… was he not in the Qing Royal Palace at the time?” She continued to believe that the blind man who managed to injure her teacher was most likely that mysterious Great Grandmaster.
Ku He smiled slightly and shook his head. “At that time, the blind man was with the young lady of the Ye clan, repairing the treasury in Jiangnan.”
“The young lady of the Ye clan?” Haitang was even more shocked. Although she was currently the most famous person of the younger generation, she knew that everyone in these insider stories her teacher was telling her was someone who was amazing, someone who had changed the shape of this world.
Ku He gently turned the conversation back and turned around to look at Haitang. “Do you understand now?”
Haitang’s eyes were wide and bright; she shook her head.
“Who is Fan Xian?” Ku He calmly watched his female disciple.
“Fan Xian is Ye Qingmei’s son… the son of the mistress of the Ye clan.”
Haitang was stunned and very confused. Fan Xian… was the illegitimate child of the south court’s Minister of Revenue—how was he connected to the Ye clan? The Ye clan? The Ye clan that once controlled the world through trade? The Ye clan that set up the Overwatch Council, repaired the treasury, and whose prestige lived on to this very day?
Ku He rubbed his hands, sat down, and sighed, “Xiao En was always locked up by Chen Pingping and so did not know of Lady Ye’s identity, but I happened to know. The blind man could only be a servant of Lady Ye. The time they moved me out of Shangjing was, naturally, to make it easier for Fan Xian to act. And so, Fan Xian’s identity emerged. He is a descendent of Lady Ye.”
Haitang shook her head and dared to share her opinion before her teacher: “Although this reasoning makes sense, it seems a bit too forced. What if that blind… Grandmaster became lonely living in the mountain and came out to challenge you, and had nothing to do with Fan Xian being in the north? Besides, wasn’t the Ye clan wiped out all those years ago?”
Before she had finished speaking, Ku He was already smiling. “One thing does not mean anything, but if you think about Fan Xian’s current position in the south court, and then think about the strange going-ons in the south court since he came to Danzhou… Once you add all these details together, the truth of the matter becomes clear. Don’t bandy about words like ‘wiped out.’ The Ye clan’s old housekeeper is still alive and well. For those in the Qing court who wished to preserve a thread of Lady Ye’s bloodline, it would not have been impossible to do.”
Haitang laughed worriedly, and was momentarily lost for words. Teacher was right: even if Fan Xian was Minister Fan’s illegitimate child, even if he was a poetic genius, and a true master, it would be impossible for him to have attained his current position given his identity. It was even more impossible for him to have the Overwatch Council in his left hand and the treasury in his right. The Overwatch Council and the treasury—weren’t these the most powerful things the Ye clan had left behind in this world?
Was it possible that the gentle young man, with whom she frequently exchanged letters with, had such a complicated and wretched past?
“Previously, you repeated a poem Fan Xian recited in the restaurant…” Ku He gently tapped his female disciple who was deep in thought. He smiled slightly and said, “You only discovered through this poem that he was the author of ‘Story of the Stone,’ but if you think carefully you might discover that Fan Xian used this poem to express other emotions, such as anger and bitterness.”
One summer day in the Century Pine Inn in Shangjing, Fan Xian was drinking with Haitang, and had recited a poem in his drunkenness:
“Stay in Qing, stay in Qing, and I will suddenly encounter my savior; fortunate mother, fortunate mother, collect dark deeds. I urge you, spend your life helping the stranded and assisting the poor. Do not love money, and be a ruthless uncle or treacherous brother! All your losses and gains are in the vault of Heaven.”
On that winter day, Haitang repeated the poem in her heart and finally experienced the emotions her teacher spoke off. She suddenly raised her head, stunned.
If Fan Xian, currently far away in a hot pool in the Qing mountains, knew that this teacher-student duo had so hastily confirmed the circumstances of his birth from this little poem, he would certainly leap from the hot spring in anger and run naked all the way to Shangjing and scold them harshly. Then he would explain that Lao Cao wrote this and it was a coincidence that it somewhat matched the circumstances of his birth.
Haitang soon recovered her calm and said gently, “This matter could be of great importance or it could not matter.” Since she now knew the truth of Fan Xian’s birth; she could see he must have many problems with the royal family in the South Kingdom. What to do with this information was something that needed careful consideration.
“The information that Fan Xian is a descendent of the Ye clan… should be told to the world,” Great Grandmaster Ku He said very gently.
“The blind man?” Haitang was feeling slightly dazed, and didn’t know how to best protect Fan Xian’s interests.
Ku He sighed slowly, “Although the blind man… does not seem to recognize me, I think since he purposely acted and left these clues, perhaps… he wanted to use my mouth to share this interesting information with everyone in the world.” The Great Grandmaster finally came to a conclusion: “The blind man doesn’t want to wait anymore; he wants Fan Xian to move faster.”