Joy of Life - Chapter 329[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:48:23]
Chapter 329: Wishing You Meteoric Success
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
Walking out of the door, Fan Xian tossed the cup of cold tea he was holding.
With a splash, the cup landed directly stacked on top of the other cup, with very little tea spilling out.
He walked downstairs and said something quietly to Hong Zhu, and the two of them left the little tower, walking along the cold stone paths.
After seeing Fan Xian off at the palace, Hong Zhu went around Taiji Palace, through the stone arch gate, and went to the royal study to report back on his orders. All along the way, he joked with the serving girls he saw, and chatted with the eunuchs. He was unspeakably happy. The eunuchs and serving girls found this to be a little strange. They noticed that since Hong Zhu had begun serving the Emperor, his status had gone up and his personality had become steadier and stricter. What had happened today for him to be so cheerful?
Seeing that the royal study was not far away, Hong Zhu came out of his daze. He knew that his behavior was a bit over the top, so he stopped and grabbed two handfuls of snow from the rocks beside him. He rubbed his face vigorously and forced the hot skin of his face to cool down. It was only then that he felt better. He coughed a few times, and copied how Eunuch Hong, an ancestor of palace eunuchs, used to conduct himself. With a deadly serious face, he pushed opened the door to the royal study.
At the moment, the Emperor was arguing about something with Shu the Scholar, and their voices were very loud. This Shu the Scholar was certainly brave: he was not willing to give even an inch in front of the Emperor. Hong Zhu could faintly hear something about a river, transferring money, Ministry of Revenue, and other such things.
Hong Zhu perked up his ears and waited to one side, not even daring to breathe loudly. He could guess what they were talking about for Shu the Scholar to gather his courage and go head-to-head with the Emperor.
This winter was the ideal time to dredge the river. The palace secretaries had two months ago come up with a plan to do so. They were just waiting for the Ministry of Revenue to put together the funds before organizing the provinces and counties to call on the people to repair the river. However, unexpectedly, the Ministry of Revenue was unable to provide this much silver. This had seriously delayed the repairing of the river. Thus, Minister Shang had become the target of public criticism. If the Emperor had not saved him, Minister Shang would have had to, at the very least, resign his office.
The Qing Kingdom was in its golden age, yet the national treasury did not have sufficient silver! The palace secretaries questioned the Ministry of Revenue, but the Ministry knew nothing; they only said that the palace had transferred it. However, palace spending had always come from the palace treasury… could the palace treasury have possibly fallen into such a state?
The business of the palace treasury involved the Eldest Princess, and involved the face of the royal family. Furthermore, the Overwatch Council had been investigating the Cui family recently, targeting the palace treasury. At this moment, the officials of the court could not question the Emperor directly.
Thus, Shu the scholar had entered the palace. It seemed that the conversation between the ruler and his official was not going smoothly.
The Emperor coughed and faintly said Fan Xian, Jiangnan, and a few other indistinct words. Shu the Scholar’s expression finally cleared a bit. It seemed that he was very confident that after Fan Xian went to Jiangnan, he would be able to solve the Qing Kingdom’s financial problems.
The old scholar lowered his voice, his face full of concern. “I’m afraid there won’t be enough time. If it floods next year, what are we going to do? Jiangnan is a complicated matter. Even if Commissioner Fan has extraordinary talent, it will take him at least a year to sort everything out. Even if the heavens are merciful next year, what about the year after?”
The Emperor smiled and comforted Shu Wu, “Fan Xian is leaving in a few days, there should be enough time.”
Shu Wu hmm’ed his acknowledgement and left the royal study smiling merrily. In reality, both ruler and official were experienced and prudent. How could they possibly stop worrying just because a young man like Fan Xian was going to Jiangnan?
Besides, Shu the Scholar was actually fighting for more than just these things on the surface. As the head of the civil officials in court, he needed the Emperor to make clear his stance on certain matters. What was going to happen with the palace treasury? And more importantly, after the two recent rumors, how exactly was the court, and the palace, going to deal with Fan Xian?
The royal family liked to be mysterious. They were secretive about many things and did not announce them publicly. The officials in the court could not handle this; everyone was terrified and needed some kind of firm answer. Since the Emperor had explicitly stated the date that Fan Xian would leave Jingdou, he was announcing that the management of the palace treasury would be certain to start, and would start strongly. He was also using Shu Wu to inform the officials of the court to stop the speculation about Fan Xian’s identity. Regardless of whether he was a bastard of the rebellious Ye family, or the Emperor’s illegitimate son, he was leaving Jingdou. So stop guessing, and let the matter die down!
“Hong Zhu,” The Emperor suddenly woke from his thoughts and asked, “what reaction did he have earlier?”
Hong Zhu was startled, and immediately answered in a lowered voice, “Commissioner Fan had tears in his eyes, and he seemed relieved… for some reason, he laughed loudly for some time in the tower.” To serve beside the Emperor at such a young age, the eunuch was naturally a few points cleverer than the ordinary person. He immediately knew who the “he” was in the Emperor’s words: Sir Fan junior, who had just left the palace.
The Emperor’s expression was slightly severe, but he turned it into a smile. “This is good. Once he’s let go, he can work for the court without worry.”
Hong Zhu smiled carefully and did not dare to comment. However, he was greatly shocked by the Emperor’s next words.
“Starting next month, go serve at the side of the empress.” The Emperor said this casually as he rubbed a piece of meditative jade in his palm.
It was like a lightning bolt had struck the eunuch’s heart. With a thud, Hong Zhu knelt down and prostrated himself on the floor, crying, “Your Majesty, I… I don’t know what I did wrong. Please, kill me instead of sending me away.”
The Emperor furrowed his brow and looked at him in disgust. “How immature! You’re going to be the head eunuch over there—I was promoting you. Look how it scared you… you’re not fit for such responsibility!”
Hong Zhu panicked, and knew he had done something wrong. Yet, his face remained full of tears and he cried, “I don’t want to be some head eunuch, I just want to stay by you.”
“Ah.” The Emperor half smiled at little eunuch and asked, “What’s so good about staying by my side?”
The word “good” could have been a joke, or it could have been a guillotine. Hong Zhu hesitantly lifted his head; there was dust stuck to his tearful face. “Serving beside the Emperor,” he stuttered, “I…it is honorable.”
Hong Zhu bobbed his head like a bulb of garlic and sobbed, “I deserve to die… I shouldn’t have been greedy…” He knew very well that none of the masters in the palace cared if the eunuchs took a bribe, but it just depended on how the master was feeling.
“How much silver have you taken?” The Emperor looked at the eunuch’s dusty and tear-streaked face, thought it was rather funny and began to laugh.
Hearing the laughter, Hong Zhu felt his heart steady a little, and slowly replied, “In two months at the royal study, I’ve taken 400 liang of silver.”
The Emperor’s face suddenly darkened and became very cold. “Is that so? Then who bought that 800 mu of land for you? Who gave you the connection for your brother’s position? You sure are bold. You haven’t been by my side for even 100 days, and you’ve already done all this!”
Hong Zhu’s expression was dismal and he abandoned himself to despair. He broke down, sobbing loudly, “I am guilty, I am guilty.” He didn’t even dare to beg the Emperor to spare his life.
“Who was it?” The Emperor turned around and kicked off his shoes. He sat down on the divan and began to annotate memorials again.
Hong Zhu’s face was blotchy, and he knew he couldn’t hide this. He gritted his teeth and said, “It was… Commissioner Fan.”
The Emperor’s expression did not change. He hummed gently in a questioning manner.
Hong Zhu suddenly crawled over to the Emperor. He raised his face and cried, “Your Majesty, you can kill me if you want—but the heavens will prove, the heavens will prove, I am loyal to Your Majesty. I swear that the Commissioner and I… the Commissioner is a good man. I begged him to do this. Have mercy on him.”
Only now did the Emperor show a trace of astonishment. “Oh? You are begging forgiveness for him?” He suddenly laughed out loud, and said, “This child… seems like he has better relations with people than I thought.”
The Emperor stared at the eunuch’s messy face and jokingly scolded, “Get out, Fan Xian told me of this matter long ago. If I hadn’t liked your cleverness, he would have chopped your head off long ago. Yet, you still ask forgiveness for him.”
“Ah?” Hong Zhu’s astonishment was stuck between awkwardness and distress; it took him a while to recover his wits.
“Are you still not getting out?”
“Yes, Your Majesty.” Hong Zhu had a woebegone look, but he was overjoyed in his heart. He didn’t bother to get up and just crawled out of the royal study. Whether he was moved to the empress’s palace as the head eunuch or was sent somewhere else, at this moment, he didn’t care.
It wasn’t after Hong Zhu had hidden in a side room after leaving the royal study that his breathing began to even out, and he started feeling the icy coldness of the sweat on his back. He accepted a towel and roughly wiped off the sweat and dust on his face before waving the servants away irritably. It wasn’t until he had reached his own room that he began to truly feel the fear.
“Sir Fan junior was right: there is nothing that can be hid from His Majesty.” The eunuch’s heart was still fluttering with fear. If His Majesty lets you be greedy; you can be greedy, so you might as well do everything openly.
Right here, right now, his admiration for Fan Xian settled into the deepest part of his bones; and along with admiration, he felt gratefulness for Fan Xian. The young man had guessed that the Emperor did not care about a eunuch beside him being greedy—this was because he was extremely intelligent. Furthermore, Sir Fan junior had used this situation to hide the most important thing, and this was the crux of the matter. In the future, the Emperor would not suspect anything if he were to become closer to Sir Fan junior.
Thinking of that matter, the eunuch’s eyes narrowed into a smile and he felt unspeakable gratefulness. The only issue was that he was about to be transferred from the royal study, and he didn’t know if he would be able to help Sir Fan junior in the future.
In the carriage leaving the palace, Fan Xian half closed his eyes to rest. Gao Da and the two Tiger Guards had been ordered off the carriage; Su Wenmao was the only other person in there.
Fan Xian couldn’t determine if the Qinian Unit had spies from the palace in it. However, he had run into Wang Qinian, and had asked him to train these unsuccessful Overwatch Council officials and bring them to his side. These were the people he could trust the most. If there was anything he needed to get done, he only trusted them.
“Are there loose ends in the Yingzhou matter?” he asked with furrowed brows.
Su Wenmao was not currently driving the carriage, and he carefully listened to the noises outside before replying quietly, “The Zhizhou of Yingzhou died of illness after he was sent to prison. We didn’t go through the Council. We used your medicine, and nothing will be found.”
Fan Xian nodded. “If it is safe, then don’t touch the family of the Zhizhou. This matter ends here, you should know what to do.”
Su Wenmao nodded. He knew the Commissioner was reminding him to keep this secret. The Commissioner trust in him to do carry out these secret tasks meant that he had finally became his confidant.
Deep down, he did not approve of this matter. Assassinating a Fourth Grade Official, a Zhizhou, was something that was rarely seen since the inception of the Overwatch Council. If nothing happened in the future, then all was fine. But if something were to happen, the entire Overwatch Council would be doomed. Furthermore, the Zhizhou was part of no faction, and had been purely a servant of the Emperor.
Seeming to guess what Su Wenmao was thinking, Fan Xian smiled coldly. “That Zhizhou had no regard for human life and forcefully occupied peasant properties. Furthermore, he collaborated with bandits and massacred villages and exterminated entire families. Taking his life was letting him off easy.”
Su Wenmao said with concern, “Sir, although that is the case, evidence was never found. The captured thief refused to give up anything on the Zhizhou.”
“No sh*t,” Fan Xian said. “If we could get evidence, why would I go to all this trouble?”
Su Wenmao shook his head in disapproval. “It was still too risky. Sir Qi might write to the palace secretaries, or even jump over them and report directly to the Emperor. Although there is no evidence, for the sake of Sir Qi, he would have preferred the Zhizhou brought forward.”
Fan Xian smiled, but shook his head and didn’t say anything.
This Zhizhou matter was something the Emperor could not know about. He closed his eyes to rest his spirit but his mind was spinning quickly. He had to bring down the Zhizhou so far from Jingdou because he wanted to buy a favor from eunuch Hong Zhu. A favor so big that Hong Zhu would have to repay it in the future the moment he remembered it.
Eunuch Hong Zhu, who currently served in the royal study, was from Yingzhou, and was surnamed “Chen.” The Zhizhou who had been killed by Fan Xian, had forcefully taken the Chen family business because of the mountain products located there—he had only been Zhixian at the time. Luckily, the Chen family had two scholars, and naturally they would not yield. They went over mountains and crossed provinces to make their case, and they said they would take their lawsuit all the way to Jingdou.
In a moment of terror, the Zhixian acted decisively and colluded with thieves to completely exterminate the Chen family.
Who knew how many people died that night?
At the time, Hong Zhu and his brother were still kids. They had been playing in the mountain and had forgotten to go home, so they were fortunate and managed to escape this tragedy. The brothers were clever, and crossed the mountain overnight and begged until they arrived at Shangdong Street. Too afraid to report this to the yamen, they could only struggle desperately for life. Finally, the day came that the brothers could not stand it anymore. Chen Xiaodi, now Hong Zhu, had taken the knife and thrown his lot in with the palace, a crotch full of blood.
After entering the palace, Chen Xiaodi lived a life full of cowering. He was bullied by the older eunuchs and had his butt pinched by the dreadful old serving women. Fear grew under the humiliation, until he was too scared to even say his family name.
Coincidentally, one day, as Chen Xiaodi was carrying water, he walked by a side path of Hanguang Hall and happened to see old eunuch Hong sleeping outside. The old eunuch was wearing his old clothing from many years ago, not the palace clothing, so Chen Xiaodi did not recognize him. Seeing the old eunuch lying on a broken bamboo chair, with flies hovering around his face, he though him very pitiful.
They had both fallen into hard times at the end of the world, and at this point, Chen Xiaodi was still a warm hearted person. Seeing that he had no chores to do, he went back to his room and grabbed a fan, and began to chase away the flies for Eunuch Hong.
Once Eunuch Hong woke up, there was not some grand storybook scene where the man handed down skills to Chen Xiaodi and accepted him as a disciple; it was not as though from this moment on, Chen Xiaodi could do what he liked and was respected everywhere. No, the old eunuch gave only one thing besides gratefulness for the fan.
Eunuch Hong realized that the little eunuch did not have a surname, and so gifted him one word.
And because the old eunuch was lying on a bamboo chair, he casually named him Zhu. This was the story of the name of the later-powerful eunuch, Hong Zhu.
From that day on, Eunuch Hong did not give another thought to Hong Zhu’s life or death; he didn’t even say another word to him. Even after Hong Zhu went to the royal study and looked for ways to please Eunuch Hong, the old eunuch didn’t acknowledge him.
But the little eunuch had a name. Surname Hong, first name Zhu. The surname Hong meant something special in the palace. Furthermore, as Eunuch Hong did not speak out against it, gradually, some people began to say that Hong Zhu was Eunuch Hong’s adopted grandchild. And so no one dared to bully him anymore; instead, they tried to please him. They would give him all the light and respectable work to do.
Hong Zhu was a clever man and had gone through traumatic childhood experiences, so his personality was very calm and steady. With this many opportunities in front of him, as well as Old Dai losing power, the people and things in the palace changed, and the little eunuch got very lucky. Entering the royal study directly and serving the Emperor was one of his opportunities.
Seeing more of the world, he realized just what the palace was like. He learned that the Zhizhou was not some big official, and the fire of revenge in his heart began to burn. Only, he was still very young, and didn’t know the way, and had no idea of where to start. Was he going to tell the Emperor of his tragic experiences? He didn’t have that kind of bravery.
Right when he had started to lose hope, the heavens sent a person to his side.
The carriage jolted, and Fan Xian slowly woke up. He yawned, still tired.
He had deduced Hong Zhu’s situation, and his subsequent actions had been completely unknown to the eunuch. He just slowly completed the task, and had only him about it today.
Fan Xian knew that, given Hong Zhu’s development in the palace, and seeing how much the Emperor trusted him, within three years this little eunuch would have substantial influence. At that point, he would be able to casually say something, and there would be plenty of people in the six ministries willing to help him seek revenge. Fan Xian had decided to act before this happened and exact the revenge very cleanly. No threats, no mercy, leaving no possibility of future troubles.
This was the superior method of doing someone a favor.
This man had been the Zhizhou of Yingzhou. Hong Zhu was recorded as being from Jiaozhou. The two places were far apart, and the extermination of the family had happened a long time ago, and was long forgotten by everyone. Fan Xian was not worried that someone would guess Hong Zhu’s connection to this matter. He had also been very careful and had not told anyone.
Even if the Emperor later discovered that the Zhizhou of Yingzhou had died strangely, and found it was the Overwatch Council who had acted, Fan Xian would still be able to find some excuse. As long as it was not connected to those beside him, and did not harm the palace, the life of a mere Zhizhou was, in the Emperor’s eyes, certainly not as precious as his own son’s.
He lifted a corner of the carriage curtain and squinted at the distant, blurry corner tower of the palace behind him. He hoped the little eunuch would be able to rise meteorically in there.