Joy of Life - Chapter 354

[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:48:33]
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Chapter 354: Road Of Spring

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

The four-wheeled carriage rolled across the newly grown grass on the official road. When it hit against the gaps in the rocks, it made a squeaking noise that harmonized with the sounds from the reed between the pivots of the carriage. It was as cheerful as if it were singing.

The road out of the palace treasury was one filled with joyful scenes. Little birds swept at startling speeds through the woods near the rice paddies in the distance, green seedlings shyly showed off their long figures, and the wild grass in the rice paddies beside them did not disdain to look at them. There was a continuous line of carriages on the road and goods ships went to and fro along the river taking the goods of the palace treasury out through various routes to sell to all. It was a lively scene.

Soldiers cleared the way for a group of carriages, so they passed easily through the innermost inspection lane. Originally, the goods carriage on the official road did not dare fight for road space with the group of carriages and unconsciously slowed down, however someone in the group of carriages seemed to have noticed that there were too many goods leaving the palace treasury today and that was the reason the traffic was so busy. The person then gave an order for their group of carriages to stop at a patch of grass beside the road and unexpectedly allowed the goods carriages to pass through first.

In the second to last carriage were the pitiful palace treasury transport company officials who had been stripped of their official’s hats and robes. These officials were the Eldest Princess’ trusted aides who had been put into the palace treasury. Although they had expected their lives to be more difficult once Commissioner Fan took over, they had not expected Fan Xian to not leave any face for the officials or his mother-in-law. He straightforwardly had them captured for matters related to the jianghu. Only now did the officials realize they had fallen into Fan Xian’s trap. They felt panicked.

However, Fan Xian did not immediately open the court and try the case. These officials had friends and family. They found out last night in prison that Fan Xian was going to take them to Suzhou to have the governor of Jiangnan Road, Xue Qing, personally hear their case. Hearing this news, the officials’ mood became a little bit better. As long as they were not facing the tiger’s bench and pepper spray of the Overwatch Council, how could this case be so easily decided? Even if the Overwatch Council held the confessions of the traitorous treasurers and they denied all charges in Suzhou, Sir Xue Qing would have to give the Eldest Princess some face. As long as they could drag it out until pressure from Jingdou arrived, Fan Xian would not have the time for them and would probably pay no more attention to them.

“Why are you having Xue Qing try the case?” Haitang half leaned on the side of the window and slightly furrowed her brows.

Fan Xian lowered his head and said, “I am not suitable for doing this.”

Haitang hmm’ed slightly and didn’t continue to speak. Ever since the day of the strike, the atmosphere between the two of them had become a little strange. The trust they had in each other seemed to have weakened. They treated each other with respect, but there was now distance between them. After the incident, Haitang thought it over and understood something. She knew that her request to explore that day had indeed put Fan Xian in a difficult position, however, in the following days Fan Xian was always purposely lighthearted and she didn’t find a good time to speak up and explain. After all, no matter what was said, as the female sage of Northern Qi, Haitang’s position was special. Fan Xian’s pride also triggered her pride.

Thus, the two of them maintained this awkward question and answer.

“I want to confirm one more time, has the silver arrived in the account?” Fan Xian furrowed his brows and asked.

A faint smile rose to Haitang’s face as if mocking Fan Xian’s concern for his personal loss and gains. She quietly replied, “I already told you last time in Suzhou, why are you so worried? Perhaps you don’t trust me anymore?”

Fan Xian suddenly felt that the atmosphere in the car was somewhat oppressive. He said some words to Sisi beside him in a low voice and then raised the curtain to get off the carriage.

Sisi slightly tilted her head and looked at Haitang with curiosity. She didn’t know how this girl, whose name rang out everywhere under heaven, had offended the young master. She saw clearly these few days that although the young master and Haitang did not have any romantic relations, their initial behavior was that of old friends who had known each other for years. They were a bit strange recently.

Haitang was confused by Sisi’s gaze and suddenly smiled.”What are you looking at?”

Sisi replied grumpily, “Is it only you who can look at me, but I can’t look at you?”

Haitang smiled and shook her head. Out of habit, she tucked her hands into her waist and to find it empty. Recently she had been wearing the clothes of a serving girl rather than the flowery jacket she was used to. There were not two big pockets in front.

She gazed at Sisi and teased, “I’m looking at you to see what a girl that Fan Xian likes looks like.”

This was an honest reply. Haitang never understood how Fan Xian could always stay calm in front of Si Lili and purposely maintained his distance, even though her friend was clearly the most beautiful girl in the world. Even after that one demented night, he did not have any lingering feelings for Lili. They had been in Jiangnan a dozens of days now and Fan Xian had not even asked her anything like how Lili had been doing recently.

Even if someone was heartless, they wouldn’t be so cold toward a world-class beauty. They had one night of fate and the blessing to share a carriage with. Haitang had begun to suspect that Fan Xian might have some kind of unmentionable disease, like that of the Emperor.

However, Fan Xian had taken Sisi into his rooms. Haitang knew that Sisi was the girl in Fan Xian’s room and felt it was a little strange. However, after watching these few days, she didn’t see anything strange about Sisi. Her appearance was dignified and delicate, but far from Si Lili’s charming and full figure.

When Sisi heard Haitang say “a girl Fan Xian likes,” her face immediately blushed red. In a timid voice she replied, “How could the young master…like me?”

Haitang gave a pained smile and shook her head. “If he doesn’t like you, why would he take you into his rooms? Although Fan Xian is a cold-blooded and ruthless man, I don’t think he would act like this.”

Sisi suddenly raised her face and revealed an expression that was both proud and confident. “You got it wrong. The young master is someone who attaches a lot of importance to emotions.”

“Emotions?” Haitang tasted the word, remembering that Sisi had served Fan Xian from a young age. For a moment she furrowed her brows and felt suspicious. Was Fan Xian, this cold-blooded, ruthless, young and powerful official who calculated others for fun, truly someone who valued emotions?

She sighed. As the clothing did not have a big pockets, she regretfully tucked her hands into her sleeves and asked, “Sisi, why were you staring at me earlier?”

Sisi actually had conflicting emotions about Haitang, who had not left the young master’s side these few days. After all, she was not the wife of the young master and was a person of Northern Qi, who they were enemies with. After she had interacted with her for some time, Sisi, like many others who interacted with Haitang, easily began to like this warm-speaking girl whose actions were done openly and was straightforward in personality without being brutish. Haitang’s identity was noble. Although her appearance was plain and she didn’t speak much, she treated everyone with sincerity. No matter their identity, she would always view them as equals, for example, Sisi who was still a serving girl. On this point alone she had far surpassed many others. It was a respect and equality from her bones.

Hearing Haitang’s question, Sisi couldn’t help covering her lips as she smiled and said, “The same reason as you. I also wanted to see what a girl that Fan Xian likes looks like.”

The carriage became silent. Haitang looked at Sisi without her big and bright eyes like she was watching a small cute animal. A moment later, with each of her hands tucked into the other’s sleeve, she loosened her shoulders and said, “Will the Hu stop killing people?”

Western Hu and Norther Man have for hundreds of years brutally killed countless people of the middle plains and their ferocious names had spread in all directions. Sisi answered firmly, “Impossible!”

Haitang slowly blinked and gave a slight smile. “It’s is the same logic.”

A soft wind caressed Fan Xian’s face telling him it was spring. He closed his eyes and welcomed the breeze against, breathing in the scent of life. He felt content. The wind rustled the green leaves in the trees beside the rice paddy in front of him. His eyes moved slightlysuddenly upon hearing a rustling sound coming from behind him.

It was not the wind brushing through the trees, sweeping on the street, throwing of a dice,pencil writing on paper, or silkworm eating mulberry leaves. It was her walking. The village girl was walking.

Fan Xian didn’t open his eyes and slowly asked, “What is impossible?”

“Hm?” Haitang walked peacefully to his side. Her light reply was very much like how the blind man used to represent his questions to Chen Pingping.

The corner of Fan Xian’s mouth turned up a little and said, “Why do you think it would be impossible for me to like you? According to news from the Council, the Northern Qi empress dowager is anxious about the matter of your marriage.”

Hataing tucked both hands into her sleeves and stood beside him looking at the plowing ox in the rice paddy in front of them. She smiled a shallow smile. She knew her conversation with Sisi in the carriage had completely been heard by him. She opened her mouth and said, “Looks like you’re zhenqi is recovering well.”

Fan Xian opened his eyes and stared at a little bird that had landed on the back of the plow ox. He smiled and asked, “I asked…why is it impossible for me to like you?”

Haitang twisted her head to glance at him and found that he was asking this question seriously. Grudgingly she replied, “You are always say such pretty words, but it’s not like you’ll get anything out of it.”

Fan Xian was silent, remembering his conversation with Seventh Ye yesterday. After he was reborn, there were many things that he could only do but not say. With Haitang, it seemed like he could only speak and not do? He couldn’t help smiling and said, “I am just curious as to why you are so certain.”

Haitang smiled. “When we were in Shangjing, you once said that as long as it is a man, or any male creature, they all think with their lower half. I speculate that I do not have the appearance to attract your intentions. After all, my identity is not the same. You are afraid of the consequences and will not be able to obtain any benefits, why would you like me?”

Haitang was a Northern Qi sage girl, and Fan Xian was a powerful official of the South Kingdom. The two could interact as friends, but if they truly wanted to become a couple, the Northern Qi dowager empress and the Emperor of the South Kingdom would certainly not allow this kind of thing to happen. On the contrary, it would damage their plots. However, Fan Xian was not thinking of these things and mockingly said, “The matter of liking has nothing to do with benefits. I have discovered that in less than half a year, your temperament is very different from before.”

It seemed like Fan Xian had said this to Haitang before in Hangzhou.

Haitang was quiet for a moment before slowly opening her mouth to say, “The Tianyi Dao is about interactions between heaven and mankind—to consider the heavens above and to care for the tens of thousands of people below. I originally thought it was fine to allow these things to take their own paths, but after half a year of being involved in many plans that have been completely different to the heart, it is impossible to not be accustomed.”

Fan Xian nodded his head slightly and said with approval, “These fighting and scheming things are indeed more suited for people like me to do. You should go back to being a village girl, a profession with a future.” He thought of something and sighed, “Speaking of your temperament being not harmonious, the fault lies with me. If I hadn’t pulled you into the situation in Shangjing, perhaps you would still be in your garden raising chickens and teasing donkeys.”

He turned to Haitand and smiled slightly. “Does this count as me luring you on to the path of evil?”

“What evil path?” Haitang replied peacefully. “It is nothing more than demons of the heart. If there is desire, there will be loss. Although my desires appear grand, I will still have losses. This is the so-called way of nature.”

Fan Xian asked, “Then you will continue to persist?”

“Of course,” Haitang said in a gentle voice. “An Zhi, you once said something that resonated deeply in my heart.”

“What did I say?”

“In this world, there are never good battles, and no bad peace.” Haitang smiled slightly. “And so for this goal, I am willing to help you.”

Fan Xian once again sank into silence, looking at the scene before him absentmindedly. He saw the bird, perhaps not finding any parasites on the yellow mud-caked back of the plowing ox, gave a cry and then flew away.

“You don’t have to feel so inferior,” Fan Xian twisted his head to gaze at Haitang and said in a serious voice. “I have always thought you looked very dignified.”

Haitang was surprised and took a moment to react. “Please instruct me, is this praise or are you ridiculing me?”

Fan Xian smiled and shook his head. “It is only in response to what you said earlier about the reason I could never like you. I just had something to express on it.”

Haitang finally couldn’t resist rolling her eyes at him like a little girl. It was a rare occurrence.

Fan Xian felt the point between his eyebrows itch and extended a finger to rub it. He said gloomily, “Don’t compare with me. If the women in this world are compared to me, there will be few beauties left. This is not my problem, this is my parents’ problem.”

No matter how self-confident Haitang was, she was still only a teenage girl. Unless they were blind, which girl did not care about their appearance? She became frustrated by Fan Xian’s words that were comforting on the surface but teasing underneath. This bastard’s mouth is indeed irritating. She gritted her teeth and said, “As a high-ranking official, it is better to not speak nonsense.”

Fan Xian seemed to not have noticed her growing rage and explained seriously, “It is not nonsense. You said that it would be impossible for me to like you because you are not pretty enough, and I am explaining to you that, in my eyes, your appearance is truly not bad…”

Haitang was startled. Fan Xian’s next words came quickly. “After all, there is precedent. That wife of mine, everyone in Jingdou says her appearance is just delicate and pretty, but in my eyes Wan’er is the most beautiful woman in the world…” He shook his head and sighed. “My idea of beauty is probably very different from most of the people in this world.”

These words knocked Haitang over. She gave a muffled snort and removed her hands from her sleeves, shook her sleeves and left. This shaking of her sleeves caused bits of grass on the ground to fly around chaotically and a wind to blow for no reason. Her manner was imposing and threatening. This must have been a shake that held the supreme zhenqi of the Tianyi Dao.

Fan Xian stretched out a hand to cover his eyes and looked tragically at the patch of grass. He rocked back and forth as if he could fall at any moment and not get up again. Even like this, his joyful laugh rang out from among the sky full of grass.

The wind stopped, and the grass fell. Haitang stood silently to one side with a trace of ridicule on her face. She looked at him and mocked, “Now that you’ve humiliated me, have you let out your anger from the previous days?”

Fan Xian was slightly startled. He sighed and smiled slightly, “Duoduo, are you still angry?” This was the first time after the jianghu incident that he had called her “Duoduo.”

Haitang paused for a moment then slowly turned and walked toward the carriage. The swordsmen of the Sixth Bureau in the carriage had come out to watch, and the Tiger Guards, led by Gao Da, were also staring alertly at Haitang. After all, these subordinates of Fan Xian did not know what was happening with the wind and grass earlier. They were very afraid Haitang would suddenly strike.

Fan Xian caught up and said with a slight smile, “Don’t rush to get into the carriage yet. Walk with me awhile.” He waved his hand to have Gao Da and company retreat. He gave them a few more instructions before heading off with Haitang shoulder to shoulder along the official road toward the trees.

The two walked next to each other and were already some distance from the group of carriages. Sunlight filtered through the spring trees around them in streaks, dots, and forks, they became different kinds of beautiful sunspots lighting up their clothes.

“I am someone who cares deeply about the word ‘trust’,” Fan Xian said quietly. “Perhaps it is because it has always been difficult for me to find someone worth trusting. When you wanted to leave the manor, I was a little disappointed.”

Haitang lowered her head slightly. She didn’t explain anything. Instead she said straightforwardly, “I am also someone who cares greatly about trust. After all, we are subordinates of two countries. If we do not have the trust, it will be very difficult to succeed.”

Once everything was laid out, it became simple. It was no longer necessary to ask whether Haitang wanted to spy on the workshops that night or if Fan Xian had misunderstood the girl. Since Fan Xian’s scathing mouth had repaired some of the trust between the two of them, to bring up old matters again would be stupid.

The two walked forward shoulder to shoulder. Haitang used the remaining light to glance sideways at him and furrowed her brows. Her hands were still in her sleeves. It was just not as comfortable as Fan Xian’s hands in his big pockets. Fan Xian explained quietly, “It’s the robe of the Overwatch Council. I had Sisi add two pockets.”

Haitang smiled slightly and sighed a little regretfully.

Among the trees beside the official road, the rustling began again. For this man and woman without romantic interests, who particularly demanded each other’s trust, it was like half a year ago in the Royal Palace in Shangjing, Northern Qi, on the path beside the Yuquan River. A kind of natural and involuntary dragging of the feet and lazy walking.

Behind and before them were all spring colored, and the green leaves above their heads were tender and loveable.

“How are you planning to defeat the Ming family?” Haitang asked quietly.

Fan Xian’s eyebrows rose slightly. “There are 16 items at the palace treasury opening bidding. In the past, the Cui and Ming families would take up 14 of them. Now that the Cui family has fallen, they left about six places. I have arranged for people to take them over. Once Sizhe is about done with taking over the broken pieces of the Cui family business in the North, the North and South can join and the road will reopen again…as long as your commander doesn’t meddle randomly, the road for the goods to the North shouldn’t be a problem. As for what portion will be smuggled goods, this will have to depend on what kind of control I have in the palace treasury. Other than that are the helpers my father have transferred to me. I don’t know how much use they will be.”

This was his agreement with the young Emperor in Northern Qi. Haitang had come north to keep an eye on the matter, as well as that huge amount of silver.

Haitang was silent for a moment and then said, “Even if you manage to completely control the palace treasury in a short amount of time, if the quantity going north…per the agreement, was more than what the Eldest Princess smuggled every year, how will you ensure the quantity you promised the Qing court? I am worried you won’t be able to justify yourself to the Emperor of the Qing Kingdom. On my trip here this time, His Majesty asked me to bring a message for you. Since it would impossible to satisfy the needs of the North this year, we can postpone for two years and discuss it after you are standing steady. After all, this is a long-term plan.”

Fan Xian was startled. He didn’t expect the Northern Qi Emperor be so considerate of him and couldn’t resist laughing. “We’ll see how it goes. As long as the palace treasury can produce markedly more than previous years, it will be easy to explain to the court.”

Haitang glanced at him and asked with suspicion, “Where will this increase come from?”

Fan Xian answered calmly, “First, the production of each of the workshops in the palace treasury will have to increase. After the financial resources have been expanded, there will be the old shopkeepers, Su Wenmao, and old officials of the Ministry of Revenue who can change the accounts to smuggle goods out. You know that the person who inspects the accounts of the palace treasury is myself. If I want to smooth over any traces, it would not be difficult. Second, I plan to take a big ruthless chunk out of the Ming family and dig out the wealth of this big family to offer with both hands to the Emperor. The Emperor is sure to be happy.”

They had returned to Haitang’s original question: how exactly was he going to defeat the Ming family? Listening to the tone of his voice, it seemed to Haitang that he did not intended to crush the Ming family in a short amount of time. “You can suffer the Ming family?”

“I have to suffer them, at least for this year.” Fan Xian smiled self-deprecatingly. “The roots of the Cui family were too superficial and their battle lines were too far away, so the Overwatch Council was able to defeat them in one battle. However, the Ming family is a centuries-old big family. Before the palace treasury, they were a famous family in Jiangnan. Their roots are very strong. They are a large family of tens of thousands of people, with countless members in court as officials. If we used a lightning-strike method to defeat them, Jiangnan Road would probably sink into chaos. Most importantly…”

His expression became serious. “The Ming family has benefited greatly from the palace treasury these years. As it is such a large business, they were not the only ones to do so. Behind this setup are the shadows of the royal family—the Eldest Princess, the Crown Prince, the Second Prince—who all have shares in it. Perhaps you won’t believe it, but even the Fan family has a place in this. Furthermore, they deliver expensive gifts to Jingdou every year. Every ministry, even the Bureau of Military Affairs, have an extremely good impression of them. Plus they always keep a low-profile. You’ve seen the young master Ming. His person and way of doing things are both steady. Their reputation among the people is not bad. If we want to move them, it is truly difficult.”

Haitang was beginning to feel that this matter was a little complicated, however, she found that although there was worry between Fan Xian’s brows, he had not lost his confidence. “What is your trump card?”

“The Emperor,” Fan Xian said seriously. “The Ming family has stolen silver from the palace treasury and given it to the princesses, princes, and officials. Everyone in the world likes the Ming family, except the Emperor. The silver the Ming family has stolen is his.”