Joy of Life - Chapter 347

[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:48:30]
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Chapter 347: Arriving At Shunde

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

Fan Xian’s gaze swept over the trees beside the road. Behind them were endless fields, and not far away was the sound of a flowing river. He looked further and further through all of this until his gaze landed on a big workshop some distance from the river. There were faint spirals of smoke rising from it. They were not the clear smoke of a rural family, instead it was black smoke that carried a familiar smell.

Was it a blast furnace?

The commoners in this large piece of land had all been taken into the palace treasury to do work. Their wages were much higher than planting grains, thus their focus on maintaining the fields had lightened. In the midst of this swathe of fertile land, wild weeds and new grains fought for growth. It looked very mixed and chaotic.

Fan Xian took a deep breath, smelling the freshness in the air, and felt himself feeling assured. It looked like the environmental pollution here was not as bad as he had imagined. The environment further out in the mines was much worse.

Looking at the scene before him, it seemed that a feeling he had lost long ago was returning. The feeling was coming warmly and not turbulently, and it made him a bit confused. Last year in September, he had felt there was something he craved from the depths of his heart, but he never found it.

Seeing him being absent-minded, Haitang put her hands in her sleeves like an old man and watched the handsome face by the window with furrowed brows. She also sank deep into thought. This young and powerful official—what exactly did he want to do?

“How do you feel?” she asked, seeing that Fan Xian’s state of mind was unsettled.

Fan Xian replied quietly, “It should be me asking you that.”

Haitang smiled. “It is indeed a rarely seen sight. I never thought that the palace treasury of the Qing Kingdom was so large. Those things I saw earlier, I couldn’t even put names to them.”

Fan Xian replied, “Just look. I imagine you won’t be able to go back and make one like it.”

A strange light appeared in Haitang’s eyes. “You have such confidence in the palace treasury?”

Fan Xian paused slightly then quietly said, “It’s not that I have confidence in the palace treasury.Instead, it’s that if you could only look at the outside of these things that originally shouldn’t have existed in this world and learn how to make them…That would be unbelievable.”

Not knowing what she had thought of, Haitang was quiet for a while. She then said, “The people in the palace treasury these days are all trusted aides of Xinyang. How do you plan to take over?”

Fan Xian’s eyebrow arched and a light smile appeared on his face. “Who cares whose people they were. Now, they are all mine.”

Haitaing looked at him suspiciously. “You really plan to go to the death against them?”

Fan Xian quieted down and became serious. “This question of yours seems to have come a bit late.”

Haitang furrowed her brows tightly. “I trust that your mother-in-law is not a muddled person and not able to see clearly the current situation. Logically speaking, no matter if it is you or her, you both have the desire to discuss anew and not get violent. Furthermore, for your own interests, neither you nor her want to see you two have a falling out.”

“If I don’t have a falling out with her, I suspect that is not something you and the Northern Qi Emperor wants to see.” Fan Xian smiled cynically. “Don’t worry, I won’t make a new alliance with my mother-in-law and bully the orphans and widows in your North.”

Haitang was silent and didn’t know if she believed him or not.

Fan Xian was not concerned about the attitude of Northern Qi. As long as there was the palace treasury, the Northern Qi people had to take him seriously. As to what Haitang said earlier, it did make sense. In the eyes of the big players in politics, any and all hatred and desire for revenge could be discarded in the face of a bargaining chip that offered a sufficiently large benefit. Since Fan Xian and the Eldest Princess had Wan’er in the middle to smooth the way, in eyes of the people, Fan Xian didn’t have any reason not to accept a truce—as long as the Eldest Princess was willing to compromise.

In reality, the Eldest Princess had already made a compromise. After the assassinations in Cang Mountain, she truly felt Fan Xian’s great power and had written a number of letters to try and reach this effect. Fan Xian had not accepted them.

“To reassure you further,” Fan Xian drew back his gaze from out of the window and said quietly, “the Eldest Princess is already willingly to accept the reality that I am managing the palace treasury, but I did not acknowledge her.”

Haitang suddenly raised her head. Her bright eyes stared at Fan Xian’s back. She didn’t know why he would reject a compromise from Xinyang.

Fan Xian quietly explained, “She wanted three-tenths of the shares, and then she would cooperate with me to easily take over the palace treasury. This condition was not demanding.”

After a moment of silence, Haitang furrowed her brows and said, “Not only is it not demanding, it could be considered a very sincere condition. Originally…from the perspective of my Qi court, the worse your relations with the Eldest Princess the better it would be for us. However, from the perspective of being your friend, I want to give you some advice. Ultimately, you power is given you by the Qing royal family, and she is, after all, your mother-in-law. There is no reason not to accept such a good condition.”

Fan Xian smiled self-deprecatingly. “Is it? I don’t believe so. Perhaps it is because I believe, from the marrow of my bones, that I will not allow anyone to fight against me on the matter of the palace treasury.”

“Why?” Haitang still did not understand his thoughts.

“This is the business my mother left behind.” Fan Xian smiled warmly. “I am not as capable as her, so I can only be a second generation, but I cannot let this family fail.”

Inside the carriage it became silent.

After a while, Haitang quietly said, “But the current treasury is now that of Qing court.”

“The court is only an illusory image,” Fan Xian said. “What is the court? The Emperor? Officials? The empress dowager? The people? Most importantly is what I can do with the palace treasury in my hands and on what will the money be used. If…if the court cannot use it well, then I will use it in the court’s stead to change this illusory image into two solid words ‘the people.\'”

Haitang smiled slightly and said, “You’re playing the sage out of habit again.”

Fan Xian replied, “I have told Yan Bingyun before, to occasionally be a sage is a very good supplement for the spirit.”

After making clear the discussions he had in secret with the Eldest Princess and thus reassuring Haitang, Fan Xian sank into silence, absentmindedly watching the scenes outside of the window. The watermills by the river, mechanical sounds from the workshop, and black smoke from furnaces in the distance were all fanning that unnamed desire in his heart.

“Sir, we have arrived.”

The humble voice of the palace treasury transport official woke Fan Xian from his thoughts. He looked with some confusion at the two women in the carriage and realized they had already reached the palace treasury transport. He quickly tidied his clothes, lifted the curtain, and jumped down—rather than maintaining the appearance an official should by slowly and steadily coming down. This one movement showed the strange nervousness and excitement in his heart. After all, he had finally arrived at the palace treasury where his mother had started the family fortune. How could he maintain his usual calm?

Planting both feet on the hard earth, Fan Xian narrowed his eyes and considered everything around him. He found that on the side of the street was a normal yamen. It looked nothing like the Great Leap Forward scenes buzzing with activity he had imagined. It was a little cold and cheerless on the streets, although the buildings were new and beautiful. It didn’t look like a worksite.

The official responsible for bringing them from Suzhou to here had probably seen plenty of Jingdou officials with this kind of expression. He carefully explained, “The three workshops are still some distance from the yamen. Sir, please rest for today, and go down to inspect tomorrow.”

Fan Xian was disappointed. He had originally planned to blow some glass, weave some cloth, and shake hands with fellow workers and colleagues today, but unexpectedly he had to wait another day.

The doors to the yamen were open wide. The palace treasury transport officials, as well as those of the Overwatch Council responsible for protection, split into two lines and welcomed the imperial envoy.

Fan Xian walked in first, with Gao Da and a few Tiger Guards following silently behind. The group of about a hundred people were settled down in a short span of time, it looked like the palace treasury worked quickly. Haitang and Sisi were taken to the back residence, along with the girls they had bought along the way. The long, cold and silent transport department manor became lively.

After the various officials had greeted Fan Xian, they sat in the yamen in order and waited for Fan Xian to speak to them.

Fan Xian was not familiar with the situation of the palace treasury, and this was his first time holding court. He found it very strange. He indicated for Su Wenmao to say something superfluous on his behalf before dismissing them all until the official opening the next day.

After returning to the back residence, he didn’t even have time to familiarize himself with the manor before he summoned the leader from the Overwatch Council stationed there permanently. The official, Dan Da, was about 40 years old and had a head of white hair. It seemed like the defense work of the palace treasury drained the spirit.

He indicated for the other party to take a seat. Without being superfluous, he directly said, “Tell me about the situation.”

Dan Da was under the jurisdiction of the Fourth Bureau. Since autumn, he had received a secret letter from the Yan father and son, and had long made preparations. Hearing Fan Xian’s question today, he quickly told everything he knew.

He understood that as this was Commissioner Fan’s first trip to the palace treasury, he didn’t have any trusted aides. If he wanted to quickly control the situation, then Commissioner Fan needed to find someone he could trust. Since Dan Da was an official of the Overwatch Council, he was close to the center of power and naturally had to climb quickly so as to not waste the opportunity heaven had given him.

Fan Xian listened and nodded. Dan Da spoke and did things well. He clearly explained the current situation of the palace treasury, main duties of the three big workshops, and faction each treasury official treasury belonged to. He left out nothing.

“Why has the palace treasury suffered so many losses these few years?” Fan Xian was born with audaciousness. He dared to ask this kind of question in an open way, not at all acknowledging the fact that it was not convenient for the Overwatch Council official in front of him to talk.

Dan Da did not dare to be so bold in front of Fan Xian. As a lower ranking official, how could he properly explain the matter of the palace treasury in just a few sentences? However, he spoke with consideration. “In reality, it can’t be considered a loss. It is only that the taxes going to Jingdou have decreased by a few levels.”

Fan Xian gave a pained and helpless smile. “This golden egg-laying old hen earns less each year. How different is that from suffering a loss? I wonder how my predecessor managed it.”

The previous head of the palace treasury transport was Huang Yuanshu. His cousin, Huang Yi, was the leading strategist of the Eldest Princess in Xinyang. When Fan Xian took over the palace treasury, he didn’t meet with Sir Huang. The two parties mixed like fire and water and were too lazy to complete the superficial exchange of power paperwork. Indeed, they were both typical bachelors.

Dan Da didn’t dare comment and disparage the Eldest Princess. He said sincerely, “As to why the profits are decreasing each year, one reason is because the costs of the three big workshops are growing larger and larger. Including the head of the workshops, those treasurers are taking too much. Second, the channels for export have had problems these years. The pirates on the seas have gone wild. Not to say too many, but at least one or two ships out of then are captured on the seas. Third is the problem of supplying goods to Northern Qi. A few years ago, the accounts were too much of a mess, so no one knows how much the Cui family smuggled out. No one dared to investigate these things. Fortunately you acted and found evidence against the Cui family. With this one act, you redeemed much of the loss for the court.”

Fan Xian listened with great interest, but already he knew exactly what was going on. What pirates? It was just all a show of the Ming family stealing their own goods. He saw that Dan Da spoke then stopped, and asked curiously, “What other reasons are there?”

Dan Da glanced at him and gave a pained smile. “Another reason is…the expenditures for the Council have grown too quickly these years. You know that all of the expenses of the Council come directly from the palace treasury. The expenditure of the palace hasn’t grown in recent years. Rather, it is the Council who is spending too much. Adding to the previous reasons, with these expenses…no matter how much the palace treasury can make for the court, if it’s needed everywhere, it is nowhere near as grand as it once was.”

Fan Xian sucked in a cold breath. He hadn’t expected that his own Overwatch Council was one of the vampires sucking the palace treasury dry. He turned the information over in his head and thought of the disciples in the Third Bureau who developed large-scale killing weapons every day and of the Second Bureau’s crows that scout out messages everywhere. No matter how they were outfitted, they always needed financial support. The Fifth and Sixth Bureau were even worse. They were completely unconstructive and were only for destruction and a black hole yamen for sucking in gold. Even if none of these Council businesses were counted, he had visited Chen Garden many times. That old cripple kept many beautiful girls and lived a life of extravagance beyond that of emperors. All this money was from the palace treasury.

He shook his head and smiled bitterly. “Don’t mention the Council stuff for now. If it gets out, that would be embarrassing. Just investigate the other reasons.”

Su Wenmao, behind Dan Da and Fan Xian, couldn’t help smiling, thinking that the commissioner spoke very straightforwardly.

“I’ll handle the export channel problem and the pirate problem, which removes two of the four problems.” Fan Xian stared into Dan Da’s eyes. “I don’t understand how the treasurers of the three big workshops could have such corruption. These officials stay for a long time in Jiangnan and can’t leave without permission. It is indeed difficult work. They deserve the slightly higher official salary the court gives them.”

Dan Da did not dare meet his eyes. He lowered his head and said, “The three workshops are responsible for all of the production in the palace treasury. Those items are all made by their hands, so…so…”

“So what?” Fan Xian’s smile was cold. “Do dare they to use that as a threat?”

“Naturally, they dare not to threaten.” Dan Da gave a pained smile. “The court manages the palace treasury strictly. All processes, materials, and methods are only known to the top-, middle-, and low-level officials. The things in their heads are like the court’s silver-producing machines. If they have any desire to do so, they could reduce the production of the palace treasury. Thus, their position in the palace treasury has been somewhat special. Even the court turns a blind eye. They’ve gotten a bit arrogant.”

“Oh?” Fan Xian narrowed his eyes with a hint of humor. Those were once little helpers of the Ye family; now are they wealthy technocrats through monopoly?

“What is this if not threatening?” Fan Xian found this to be absurdly funny. He chuckled and said, “How did the Eldest Princess deal with these departments?”

Dan Da thought about it and furrowed his brow before answering. “The Eldest Princess only asked that production levels not drop. As for the demands of the treasurers, she did her best to satisfy them. Furthermore, she greatly raised their statuses. Of course, if the treasurers stepped too far out of bounds, the Eldest Princess had her methods. Six years ago, she killed seven trouble making treasurers in one go. From then on, the treasurers learned to become wealthy through keeping silent. Although they have little respect for us normal level officials, they dare not be disrespectful against the court.”

Fan Xian smiled coldly. “Arrogant? Extremely high statuses…then I’ll have to make it my first order of business to bring them down to the dust.”

He felt angry. It was clear that his mother-in-law was not one for management to be able to turn a supersized enterprise into something like this. No wonder the Emperor complained every day, and his father worried about the emptiness of the national treasury.

Dan Da was startled. The commissioner was young. If he introduced vigorous new policies, and thundered down his anger, then he would offend all of the treasurers. Never mind the export channels of the palace treasury, they might not even be able to ensure their own production and quality of products.

He stacked his hands and with seriousness said, “Please consider it carefully, sir. It won’t hurt to tackle it gently with a gradual approach.”

Fan Xian smiled and shook his head. “We cannot go slowly. Ten thousand years is too long. We must seize every minute. After 10 days, I must return to Suzhou to organize the matter of welcoming the palace treasury bids. If I don’t bring the people under control in the palace treasury within these 10 days, how will you manage things in the future? I don’t have the mood to come visit here every day.”

With a pained look Dan Da said, “This matter is not easy to solve. Even if you manage to control them on the surface, if they secretly meddle in the workshops, or they may not even need to meddle, they will be able to lower the production of the palace treasury. Investigating won’t make things clear. In the end, this responsibility will have to be taken by you.”

Fan Xian enjoyed the man’s straightforward tell-it-like-it-was attitude of speaking. The atmosphere with an official of the Overwatch Council was much better than those with the Jiangnan Road.

He waved his hand to stop the other party’s urgings. “Don’t be afraid. If we kill butcher Zhang, will we have to eat pork with hair?”

Dan Da and Su Wenmao were startled. They didn’t know where the commissioner got his confidence from. The treasurers were in charge of production. This was not the Overwatch Council’s forte. Su Wenmao then remembered that the palace treasury was once the property of the Ye family, and his master was a descendant of the Ye family. Perhaps the commissioner had some ideas.

Fan Xian did not explain anything. He only ordered them to prepare for the proper opening of the yamen and then went to the back garden. Although he was a little upset, he had two bowls of porridge. He then invited Haitang to join him for a walk to the three workshops.

His subordinates had prepared him a pass. Even if he didn’t reveal his identity, there shouldn’t be a problem. He was also bringing Haitang with him, and not because he was being kind and wanted to extend the glory of the palace treasury to Northern Qi. He needed Haitang, his strong bodyguard.

The chickens crowed, and the belly of the sky was white.

A shadow flitted across the back wall of the transport department’s manor. Fan Xian and Haitang ended a night of investigation and returned to the study.

Fan Xian had a serious expression and frowned. “Nightly, there is song and music. The management is corrupt. These two lines are right, correct?”

Haitang was still immersed in her shock. She had accompanied Fan Xian’s wandering around the three large workshops. Although she didn’t come into contact with anything military related, what she saw still stunned her. So that was how cloth was made. It wasn’t even done with manpower. Instead, they used some kind of water power. How could the power of the river water be tamed like this? Thinking back to what she saw, she felt admiration for the Ye mistress who had long since disappeared into the waters of history. The gaze she gave Fan Xian intensified.

Wasn’t Fan Xian the son of that Ye mistress?

Fan Xian was not as shocked as her. The initial novelty had worn off. Although he still felt pleased about what his mother left behind, the palace treasury of the Qing Kingdom could not compare to a village company from his previous life. There were only some basic things. If it weren’t for the fact that the Qing Emperor was clever and closely guarded the production, these things probably would have lost their value long ago.

Fan Xian could not be so shocked by a small Shunde village that couldn’t produce electric refrigerators. What shocked him was another matter. The treasurers of the palace treasury lived an extravagant life. If he could take the silver they were using, how much more money would go into the accounts?

What the Eldest Princess was worried about didn’t worry him too much. What technological monopoly? What they did wasn’t that difficult. Although he was not born into the sciences, blowing some glass wasn’t too much of a problem. Most importantly, it was not his fault that he had people behind him.

Knowledge was power. Knowledge was confidence. Knowledge was money. This was what Fan Xian had come to acknowledge on his first day in the palace treasury.