Joy of Life - Chapter 348[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:48:31]
Chapter 348: Very Tyrannical, Unable To Tolerate Trouble
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The Qing Kingdom’s palace treasury transport was the most famous independent kingdom within it. Its officials were sent from Jingdou because Jiangnan was so far away. There were many temptations within the company. No matter what level an official was from the outside, they would always, in the end, be assimilated by this enormous and alluring golden nest. Overwatch Council officials were perhaps slightly better, but internal officials of the transport had long become a supporting column of the independent kingdom. No one wanted anything to change in the palace treasury.
Even though the Emperor had sent down an edict for the palace treasury to change from the hands of Xinyang’s Eldest Princess to Fan Xian, these officials—who had been the Eldest Princess’ trusted aides for a dozen years—were not at all afraid of Fan Xian’s arrival. They thought that as long as they put in the effort at the surface level, Sir Fan junior would probably not touch the root of the palace treasury. Surely the drama of a new chief bringing in his own aides wouldn’t play out.
What was the root of the palaces treasury? It wasn’t the mountains of gold and silver, hard-working laborers, or the merchants on the outside, but rather the high level artisans and treasurers of the three big workshops.
The workshops were between the Jiangnan provinces. The first was responsible for producing glassware, handicrafts that required a high standard of delicacy, porcelain goods, expensive perfume, famous liquor that had been steamed again and again, among other things. Those like the glassware section could be expanded into countless products. In general, it could be considered responsible for the production of luxury goods.
The second was responsible for producing large quantities of cotton cloth and gauze, researching different grains, creating good steel, and mass producing combinations of the first and second industries. Its main focus was producing living resources.
The third workshop was the one most closely guarded closest. It was responsible for the production of boats and other advanced military weapons needed by the military. For example, the light, repeating crossbows the Black Knights used were provided by this workshop. Further away, the Third Bureau of the Overwatch Council and the research department of the palace treasury worked nonstop to develop fire powder. However, since the Ye family had opened the workshop, it seemed that the fire powder production had gone on a wrong road, causing the current Overwatch Council to only use a cart of fire powder as a cannon and and not invent firearms.
Who knew if it was because the Qing Kingdom people were not clever enough or if that Ye woman had once done something?
The three workshops were a rough estimate. Similar productions could not be counted. They were densely spread out to the north of Min, continuously producing goods that were then picked up by common merchants and exported to Northern Qi, Dongyi, other smaller countries, and the uncivilized lands beyond the sea. The palace treasury greedily and turbulently plundered the world’s grain and money. At the same time, they spread a better standard of living and enjoyment of luxury around the world.
After the Ye family was absorbed into the palace treasury, which gave each industry a great boost, what was left behind remained. The treasurers of various levels had brought significant intelligence and made the Ye family industry bigger and brighter. This trend peaked 17 years ago. Four-tenths of Qing Kingdom’s income came from the palace treasury. It was only in recent years that this number had slightly declined. However, it still remained the Qing Kingdom’s largest source of revenue. Taking a common saying from some generation, the palace treasury was the motor of desire that pushed the Qing Kingdom forward.
These non-conforming officials, the treasurers, played an important role in the palace treasury’s production. In addition to the fact that the Eldest Princess was a woman with plots spread everywhere under heaven and was not good at nor condescended to using the mountain-splitting sword to carry out management, all kinds of situations stacked on top of each other through the years that allowed the treasurers to become a special bureaucrat.
The bottom-most workers did not earn much money. Even the officials responsible for management were not that arrogant. It was only the treasurers who, other than their ample official salary, received all manner of allowances and bonuses. It was said that this was the result of the Eldest Princess paying well to raise the wolf, as well as the chaotic management of the court.
The treasurers were truly like local tyrants. Although they were not arrogant on the surface, they secretly confiscated food and took silver, exploited the workers, and had outside money houses spread the money they obtained. They had already bought significant amounts of land in the large provinces around them. As to how many shameful methods they used, that was unknown. Furthermore, these treasurers did not hold back on bullying the lower-level workers and acting tyrannically.
The slightly higher ranking treasurers still paid attention to face, but those mid-level 30-something-year-old treasurers were completely shameless. At night, Fan Xian found a treasurer who had an astounding 12 concubines in his home. How did those concubines, who were not even 20 years old, come to him? Who could say clearly? It was only known that every year the workers would cause a ruckus and report it. Since the palace treasury was special, the victim could not leave. Even if they somehow made it to Suzhou, the court would just go through the motions and end it.
The consensus among Jiangnan Road officials was that it was a small matter to offend the ordinary people, but a big matter to offend the treasurers.
Thus, when the new head official of the palace treasury arrived at the North Min yamen, low-level workers and common people—whose hatred of the treasurers were etched into their very bones—never went forward to bang on the drums and cry out their grievances. They only watched the door of the yamen coldly with dark fire flashing through their eyes.
Fire flashed as firecrackers sounded off loudly. Red confetti danced through the skies as the main door of the north Min yamen slowly opened. Dozens of officials in uniforms filed through the slightly smoky air and split into two lines. They faced the young official in the center and respectfully greeted him.
The imperial edict was shown and sword displayed, making his identity as the imperial envoy clear. The rules of management were then explained. Fan Xian looked at the subordinates in the hall and pressed down with his hands, palm down, and said, “Please sit.”
“Thank you, sir, for the seat.” The officials of the palace treasury tidied their clothing. There were not enough chairs in the yamen, so some of the lower ranked officials stood to the back. Everyone saw the warm smile on Sir Fan junior’s face and felt their hearts steady, furthermore, they didn’t see ruthless Jingdou officials of the Overwatch Council. Their originally wary brains relaxed.
Fan Xian narrowed his eyes as he looked down. He easily found among the officials his opponent in his plan to open the mountain and stun the tiger.
About five or six people down there were three people whose faces were of a slightly darker color. They wore normal clothing with their belts tightly tied and sat respectfully. It was clear these three did not have an official post, yet they sat among the officials. Their appearance indicated they were people who often went in and out of the workshops. Thus they were even more offensive to the eye.
Fan Xian’s eyes were particularly sharp and could see that although the three people appeared respectful, there was a streak of disregard and trivialization of his person. That was a supremely confident leak of attitude. He smiled slightly and felt deep hatred for them, but he would not allow the other party’s attitude to anger him. Since the other party had been nurtured by the Eldest Princess for so many years, he had to scare them a bit to completely control the palace treasury.
He put those three aside and spoke to the officials about the intentions of the court, then he chatted a bit with the military representative sitting to his right. This military official was a distant relative of the Ye family. Although the Ye family seemed to have been forced to the side of the Second Prince by the Emperor because of the existence of the marvelous Ye Ling’er, Fan Xian and the Ye family’s relationship was passable. Thus, the Ye family general was particularly respectful toward Fan Xian. He had probably received orders from his family in the capital.
As they finished talking about official matters, Fan Xian became quiet and lifted his tea bowl to take a sip.
The Qing Kingdom did not have the custom of raising the tea bowl to send off guests, so the officials knew that Sir Fan had something important to say. They all quieted down. Everyone knew that Sir Fan junior’s inaugural speech by the Yangtze River under the bamboo canopy at the Suzhou dock had stunned the Jiangnan Road officials, so they couldn’t help but be curious about his words today.
“The palace treasury is truly an incredible place,” Fan Xian said with a smile.
The officials smiled with him. A deputy humorously chimed in. “In such a desolate place there is plenty of banging and hitting. Although noisy, it triumphs in its uniqueness.”
Fan Xian smiled and said, “I think it is incredible. Coming down to the South this time by imperial edict, if I revealed by identity and opened the yamen at every place I passed there would always be locals who sounded the drums and cried out their grievances. Many said that their local officials did not deal with matters…unexpectedly, the yamen has been open for a while today. In a place this big, there hasn’t been a single commoner who has submitted a petition.”
The officials paused and silently criticized. You traveled in disguise all the way to the South? What ridiculous cries of grievance? For Fan Xian to have seen this, he must have something to follow it with. They unconsciously became wary.
Of course Fan Xian’s words were nonsense. It was only a lure. “I am very pleased. Under the governance of you all, the palace treasury is very well ordered, without a trace of lawlessness anywhere. It is truly very rare.”
The officials flushed, and a string of humble deferrals came out.
Fan Xian’s face did not become dark, he only smiled and said, “However, I do have one question. Does the palace treasury truly not have any problems or…are some of the officials too powerful so that even if commoners and workers have grievances they would not dare tell me?”
These words were said too carelessly. It was clearly a ploy to construct a crime for someone. The officials did not have factions. They were all local officials. They felt a chill in their hearts and antipathy grew in them even if you were introducing new vigorous policies. He couldn’t can’t use such an absurd method, right? With the deputy in the lead, the officials all loudy said, “Sir, there is no such thing…no such thing.”
Fan Xian lowered his head. His finger gently rubbed the sleeve Sisi had newly repaired. “No such what things? I have heard that the three large workshops owe a great deal of wages to the workers these years, and there was also a big incident earlier. Is this true?”
The officials were startled. Earlier in the year, because the treasurers had exploited too harshly, the workers in the three large workshops had caused some trouble and two people had died. This incident had always been repressed by low and high officials. Unexpectedly, news of this had traveled to Jingdou. Since Sir Fan had already said it out loud, then he must have received definitive news, so it would be difficult to hide.
The deputy quickly went up from and smiled obsequiously. “Earlier in the year, the return flow of funds were a bit slow. The wages were delayed by three days, but those wicked people took the opportunity to cause problems and halted the production of the three large workshops for a day, which caused irredeemable loses for the court. Thus, after the company discussed it, General Ye was asked to suppress it. Fortunately, not too many lives were lost. We thought since it was near the end of the year and Sir was about to arrive, we didn’t need to report it immediately.”
In reality, it had nothing to do with delayed wages. It was more accurate to say that the treasurers took too much of the wages that were paid down. Provoked, the people’s anger rose, so the workers had rioted. The officials did not want to offend the treasurers or take out silver from their funds to compensate, so they pretended to be blind and deaf until the matter became too big. Only then did they mobilize troops to suppress the situation.
Fan Xian turned and spoke quietly with General Ye behind him. The general’s expression was awkward as he quietly responded back. The role he played in this matter was probably not glorious.
Fan Xian furrowed his brows and gently knocked on the table beside him. “Gentlemen, to put it plainly, the palace treasury is a business, but it is the Emperor’s business and Qing court’s business. Since it is used to make things, then the most important are those who make these things. If you delay workers’ wages year after year, who will want to work for you? Even if they do work for you, how would they be willingly to do it carefully? In the end, isn’t it still the court that suffers the loss?”
The officials agreed. They all said they would act strictly according to the rules of the palace treasury when handling matters and never again would such a thing like having wages delayed happen again. As to the future, it was the treasurers who would be dealing with Sir Fan junior. These officials just hoped to quickly brush by what was happening now.
It was those three with the darker complexions without official robes, yet still sitting in chairs, whose expressions became a little nasty.
“All superfluous words.” Fan Xian shook his head and sighed. “Naturally there will not be delays in the future. What about what was owed before?”
The yamen immediately plunged into complete silence.
The officials did not dare say more out of fear. There were tens of thousands of workers. In addition to food and board, drink and clothing, and a host of other logistics, the numbers reached an even more terrifying level. The court had set an ample amount for the wages of the workers. To siphon from it had already become the main source of wealth for palace treasury officials. If Fan Xian really wanted these officials to cough up all of the money they took from previous years, this would not be a small sum.
The officials knew that they were subjected to the Qing law and investigation by the Overwatch Council, so they never dared to take openly whatever little was left as tribute by the treasurers. The people Sir Fan targeted were probably still the treasurers.
Fan Xian acted like he had not sensed the quiet turbulence and said evenly, “The court cannot owe the people. What was owed over the last few years will have to gradually be compensated. It is a complicated matter, so it cannot be rushed.”
Cannot be rushed…the hearts of the officials relaxed a little, but they were scared by the following words.
“Three days.” Fan Xian smiled slightly and extended three fingers. Watching the officials he said, “I give you all three days to fill in all of the accounts and compensate the missing wages for the workers. Remember, use Taiping money house’s rate of interest as a standard. After three days, if workers come to me to say they have not received their wages, or if it is discovered by my Overwatch Council subordinates, my apologies, but I’ll have to show some ruthlessness.”
Although he continued to slightly smile, the officials could already feel a sense of coldness beginning to surround them.
The three men who had sat quietly and still the entire time finally could sit no longer. Wearing a humble expression they stood and one said, “Sir, I have something to say.”
“Speak.” Fan Xian glanced at him with interest.
“Perhaps there have been cases of being behind on payment, but this number is not large, furthermore, it is often because the accounts are wrong.” The man chuckled and said, “Sir, you have come a long way from Jingdou, perhaps you are not aware of how wicked the people here are. Those people bring their families to find work. It is clearly only one person working at the workshops, but he will report three. It is not that we are behind on payments, the reality is that they want to swindle the court’s silver.”
“Oh?” Fan Xian said. “There are such tricks?”
“Yes.” The person clearly did not notice the mocking tone of Fan Xian’s voice. Overjoyed, he said, “Sir, these workers are sly and cunning. Banking on the fact that the court loves the people, they dare to open their mouths wide. If any demands are not met, they will passively slack off at work. Some of the even worse ones dare to actually meddle with the process. Who knows how much money they have lost the court all these years?”
The man enthusiastically splashed all the dirty water onto the workers. He thought that no matter how good Fan Xian’s reputation was, he was still one of the officials. How could he ever take the workers’ side?
Fan Xian laughed coldly in his heart. The way the man put it…pushing all the wrong things he had done onto the worker. His face remained calm. “Ah, who knew that even though the Emperor is so kind, yet these people don’t know to be satisfied.”
The person laughed along. “It is indeed the case. I, a lowly official, will go back and carefully investigate the matter of the delayed payments. However, those trouble-making workers should not be let off so easily. Sir, don’t be followed by their words. Those people are sly and cunning, and really not anything.”
Fan Xian looked at the man and suddenly furrowed his brows, “Sir is?”
The deputy quickly interjected, “This is the master of the first workshop, Sir Xiao.”
“Sir Xiao?” Fan Xian seemed a little surprised. “The master of the first workshop? Head of the treasurers?”
Xiao quickly saluted and said, “It is I.”
Fan Xian stared at him for a moment then suddenly said, “You, a mere master, a little treasurer…the court has given you a non-conforming rank. You don’t even have official robes. How dare you refer to yourself before me as lowly official?”
His voice suddenly became cold. “Lowly official this, lowly official that…of which department are you an official? The yamen opened for the first time today, and you, a mere master, did not wait outside to be summoned. You dared to brazenly enter the hall and sit among the court officials. That is foolishly daring! Please, may I ask, what kind of scoundrel are you?”
The hall was momentarily silent. It was not until a while later that the officials realized Sir Fan Xian was cursing.
Immediately the hall exploded into sound. How can that be? Ever since the palace treasury had been taken by the royal family, this was the first time anyone dared to point at the master of the three workshops and curse him. Even on the Eldest Princess’ first visit to the North Min yamen she had been warm and gentle with the three workshop masters. How could Sir Fan dare curse like that?
The master of the first workshop was stunned. He thought that it was fine Sir Fan did not try to win him over, but to not give him any face and curse him so cruelly was unbelievable. He sneered coldly. His expression immediately turned nasty, however, he in front of a proper “prince” he didn’t dare say anything. He resentfully raised his hand in salute and returned to his seat to in silence.
“Remove his seat.” Fan Xian narrowed his eyes. A delightful little circle appeared between his furrowed brows. He said evenly, “In front of me, there is no seat for him.”
“Sir Fan!” That master became very angry. His bottom had not yet touched his seat before he stood straight again, pushing down the anger in his heart. “Don’t take it too far.”
Fan Xian ignored him. He drank his tea and talked with the awkward looking General Ye and deputy beside him.
As he talked, the Overwatch Council official next to him had gone down and pushed Sir Xiao to the side and removed his seat. Thus, the matter had become serious. The officials below all came out to ask for mercy. Even General Ye lowered his voice and whispered into Fan Xian’s ear, “Young master Fan, leave them some face.”
“Leave them some face?” Fan Xian smiled. “The purpose of today was to remove their face.”
General Ye became melancholy and didn’t dare keep talking.
Since the opening of the palace treasury to now, the masters of the three workshops had their own seats. Their position was special, and no one had ever humiliated their existence. At this moment, seeing that the master of the first workshop was being humiliated, the other two masters couldn’t keep to their seats anymore. They stood beside Sir Xiao, and said, facing Fan Xian at the head, “Since Sir thinks that there is no seat for us in the yamen, you might as well take them all…after all, the three workshops are nothing but lowly people.
They were not acting in a fit of pique, but using the three large workshops to suppress.
Fan Xian lifted his head and saw the three masters lined up in front of him. “Of course they are going to be taken together. Did you think there would still be places for you? Naturally, not everyone in the three workshops are lowly people, but since you have referred to yourselves as such, I will believe you.”
The three masters had not expected Fan Xian to force them step by step and not leave anywhere to retreat in his words. It was only now they realized the other party was not just establishing his power, he wanted to exterminate them. But what confidence did Fan Xian have? Did he want to see the three workshops collapse?
The tone in which the three masters replied became ruthless. “Sir, how has the three workshops offended you?”
“Exploiting wages, tyrannical behavior, threatening the court through skills, not respecting me…” Fan Xian stared at the three. “You didn’t offend me, you offended the workers in the three workshops and the tens of thousands of people under heaven and the court that feeds you.”
“A charge can always be made if you want to convict someone,” the three masters said in anger. “It is your first visit to the transport company and you act so recklessly and rashly. Does the Qing court not have regulations?”
Fan Xian smiled and thought to himself: Regulations? I am the regulations. Of course didn’t say the words out loud. He thought of when Second Fan ran amuck in Jingdou. His favorite thing to do was to say this ruthless line. It seemed that being an official was like being a hoodlum. In an unclear situation, it was always fine to use some force and trickery.
“Come. These three are causing a scene in the hall. Drag them out and give them 10 strikes first.”
Fan Xian placed the teacup in his hand gently on the table and ignored the words for forgiveness from the officials in the hall. He smiled and thought about how he could suffer hardships and powerful aggressiveness, but he couldn’t stand being alone. Why should he waste his breath on these people?