Joy of Life - Chapter 356

[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:48:34]
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Chapter 356: The Pebble In The Eye Of The Ming Family

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

Suzhou was a prosperous scene. The tender green colors all around were not much different from any other place in the Qing Kingdom. However, the stalls like forests, busy docks, endless crowds, large patch of government buildings in the south, manors of the rich, imposing salt merchants to the west, courtesan girls and teasing playboys in the east, and the brave, sinister and cunning gang brothers in the east all wove together to form a flavor different from any other in the world. It was danger, excitement, wealth, and desire.

There was less hiding behind pedantic erudition and pressure from the millennium old court. Although the might of the government remained and no one dared to challenge it, the flow of people was too large. There were massive amounts of goods and silver leaving and entering the docks, so the people had money in their pockets and were more confident in all that they did. Putting aside the merchants who had deep connections with the government, the gang brothers, who made their living from the river, had begun to copy the scholars of Jingdou and wore green robes. They were no longer so violent.

The large piece of land downstream of the Suzhou docks were property of the Ming family. Long-robed men were quietly listening to the lecturing of a young master. The men were clearly practitioners of martial arts, but they did not show a trace of arrogance in front of this gentle and honest looking young master was because he was the son of the old master, Ming Lanshi. The people on the docks depended on the Ming family to survive and were like a family servant.

After young master Ming had left, the men pulled on their long robes to wipe away the sweat on their forehead and discussed secretly among themselves. They found it strange that the young master had come personally to remind them that they should be better behaved these days in Suzhou. With the power of the Ming family, were they to be afraid that someone would come and pull their pigtails? The governor did have this power, but had old master Ming not fed the other party well these years?

The long robes were indeed convenient for wiping away sweat. These gang brothers were, after all, not true Jingdou scholars. However, there were a few clever people among them who had vaguely guessed that it had something to do with the spring opening of the palace treasury. Haven’t you heard? The Cui family, the one that was named along with the Ming family as the two wealthy families had been completely wiped out by the court during the New Year! Rumors say that this matter was single-handedly controlled by the young commissioner of the Overwatch Council, and this commissioner was right now the imperial envoy in Jiangnan!

No wonder young master Ming was so careful and scared that the government might find some pretext. It turns out that he was scared of the selfish and stubborn Sir Fan junior.

“It’s not that I am afraid of him.” At the moment, Ming Lanshi was sitting in the carriage and no longer able to maintain the cool and composed façade he showed outsiders and his subordinates. His face was heavy. “It is just that Sir Fan junior is unlike any other official in the court.”

If Fan Xian were to see the person conversing with young master Ming, he would certainly be surprised. The person sitting opposite in the carriage was the host of the Martial Conference on the side of the West Lake in Hangzhou. It was that official of Jiangnan Road.

At that time, Fan Xian had quietly approved of the official’s speech and actions, but he probably could not have guessed the relationship he had with the Ming family was so deep. Ming Lanshi spoke without any hesitation in front of him. It was very clear that this official was someone the Ming family trusted. If Fan Xian had been more suspicious, he could have discovered his relationship to the Ming family and would have been more alert to the so-called Martial Conference.

That official, Zou Lei, was the Imperial Censorate of Jiangnan Road. He asked with confusion, “Cousin, how is the imperial envoy different from other officials in court?”

Ming Lanshi smiled coldly. “Sir Fan is so young yet holds such power in his hands. Can other officials compare? The Overwatch Council is different to your Imperial Censorate. And now he has the identity of an imperial envoy.There is even less obstacles when he handles matters. Even the governor has to leave him some face. You should have received the news. When Sir Fan junior arrived at the palace treasury, he beheaded five of the trouble causing treasurers; there were even two masters of the workshops among them! And now he has even pulled out all of the Eldest Princess’ transport company officials! Which official in the court has the confidence to use such ruthless methods?”

Zou Lei sighed and shook his head. “Without insiders, it will be difficult if the family wants to interfere.”

Ming Lanshi looked at him and sneered. He said with contempt, “I think being an official has made you muddled. What time is this? You still want to interfere? I just hope that the imperial envoy doesn’t interfere with us. That would be enough.”

When they were in Loushang Tower beside West Lake, Zou Lei was respectful of Ming, yet he did not leave him any face. He seemed to be used to this kind of tone, which showed how deep the Ming family power went in court.

Zou Lei furrowed his brows in worry. “But the imperial envoy’s trip down to Jiangnan is a clear sword pointed toward the family. Does the old master have any arrangements?”

Ming Lanshi smiled bitterly and shook his head. “This is what I was saying earlier. Sir Fan is different from other officials. Normal methods will never work. If it was any other high-ranking official who came to Jiangnan, the Ming family would have plenty of methods to deal with them. But it just happens it is Sir Fan junior, so the methods we usually use would have no effect at all.”

Zou Lei asked, “There is no such thing as a not-corrupt official.”

Ming Lanshi’s eyes narrowed as if he had thought of something that brought a chill to his heart. After a moment of silence, he said faintly, “This is the most vulgar method and usually the most effective method. Father is very good at reading the situation. He knows that we must use the golden axe to split the mountain…we have also tried this before.” He shook his head and sighed. “In the end, the other party did not accept it at all and returned it back straight away. They didn’t say anything crude. They were like a block of ice.”

“How much did you give?” Zou Lei did not believe there was such a thing as an official who was not corrupt. Even if he was the illegitimate child of the Emperor, he still needed silver.

Ming Lanshi showed four fingers.

Zou Lei asked with confusion, “Only 40,000 liang?”

Ming Lanshi’s brows tightened as he lowered his voice to curse. “40,000 liang? Did you not see the 130,000 liang of silver that young master brought in his chest? This time father had collected all his bargaining chips and even pushed down the tribute money for the capital and pulled together a total of 400,000 liang!”

“400,000 liang!” Zou Lei’s heart stuttered and his lips trembled. This was a huge amount, enough to buy a small kingdom. Did that not move the imperial envoy’s heart?

Ming Lanshi gritted his teeth and said, “And 20 percent shares.”

Zou Lei could not believe his own ears. This 20 percent shares was even more terrifying than the 400,000 liang. How could the family bear to use such a large amount to bribe Fan Xian? Usually when they paid tribute to the Eldest Princess, they were never so generous. This couldn’t even be called generous. It was cutting off flesh to preserve the peace.

Ming Lanshi slowly closed his eyes. His eyelids trembled, and his expression twisted. He was probably very unhappy. Zou Lei did not dare to say anything more. The carriage sank into silence.

After a long time, Ming Lanshi, who was already gradually controlling much of the Ming family property for his father, opened his eyes and slowly said, “We all underestimated Sir Fan’s appetite. Don’t forget, his father is the Minister of Revenue. 400,000 liang is absolutely enough to bribe a prince, but it is not enough to bribe him. It is what I said earlier, this method will not work.”

“What about the Eldest Princess?” Zou Lei said with some hatred. “The Ming family has done so much for her. She can’t just stand and watch, right?”

Ming Lanshi thought for a while and then said quietly, “To defeat an official when bribery does not work is an injury. The center needs to move the limbs, so we need to work in Jingdou. To calculate the various officials in the court, unfortunately this method will also not work.”

“Why?” Zou Lei was surprised.

Ming Lanshi smiled self-deprecatingly. “What kind of person is Sir Fan? Behind him stands the Director of the Overwatch Council and Minister Fan. Although Prime Minister Lin has retired long ago, his might still remains. As long as the Emperor does not show any bias, which official will dare follow our wishes and accuse him in a memorial? Your Imperial Censorate has done it twice, unfortunately the floggings the Emperor ordered has chilled their hearts.”

Zou Lei thought about it and then shook his head. “Now is not like the past. Sir Fan is far away in Jiangnan and cannot defend himself. He is also distant from the Overwatch Council, and his reaction will not be as quick as before. Even if his relationship to the Emperor is not normal, even if he was a proper prince, he can’t cause any big trouble in Jiangnan without being summoned back the Jingdou. If we cause some trouble, perhaps the Emperor will summon Sir Fan back.”

Ming Lanshi ridiculed his companion. “This is where you officials go wrong when you look at problems. You always look at the person’s official position and identity. You’re right. Even if was a proper prince who came to Jiangnan, the Ming family would have ways for him to leave with his tail between his legs. Fan Xian is only the Emperor’s illegitimate child, and it seems like we should not be afraid. However, the family does not look at problems the same way officials do. In our eyes, Sir Fan has power, soldiers, money, an excellent reputation, and strikes with ruthlessness. Even if he has some flaws, they have been completely wiped away by the Overwatch Council that is responsible for magnifying flaws. It is impossible for others to capture him. Who can swallow such a smooth pebble? He is much more difficult to defeat than any prince.”

“If we really did as you wanted and incited the commoners of Jiangnan to cause trouble…” Ming Lanshi smiled coldly, “Do you not think that Fan Xian would dare to call the Black Knights straight into Suzhou and directly exterminate our family?”

Zou Lei sucked in a cold breath and said with hesitation, “No way, right? Does he not care at all about the face of the court? Qing law is not a toy.”

“He is a madman,” Ming Lanshi ground his teeth and cursed in a low voice. “A madman who looks cultured and refined. If we can avoid angering him we should, unless you are certain you can make him disappear completely from this world.”

Zou Lei suddenly became silent. A moment later he quietly said, “The Martial Conference?”

This was a secret way the Ming family controlled the martial artists in Jiangnan, only they wore the cloak of the court, so the Ming family did not control many of the martial aces on the jianghu. However, they did have on hand some fugitives that Zou Lei controlled. Finding out that that the Ming family had no way to strike against the pebble that was the imperial envoy, hatred flashed through his heart and he suggested this solution.

Ming Lanshi looked at Zou Lei like he was an idiot. “Did you not know that Sir Fan himself is already a ninth-level ace? Did you not know that the Emperor has assigned him an elite group of Tiger Guards? Did you not know that the swordsman of the Sixth Bureau, responsible for assassinations in the Overwatch Council, never leave his side? Did you not know that Haitang from Northern Qi has lived with him in Hangzhou for a time?”

Ming Lanshi’s voice grew louder and louder as he spoke. He felt that this younger cousin official, who usually seemed so clever, was like an idiot today. He cursed at him. “Just with that Martial Conference? Master Yun that father had invited from Dongyi showed himself briefly on West Lake and someone stabbed him! The aces of Dongyi were chased and killed by those strange people like dogs without a home…that was Yun Zhilan! Dongyi! A descendant of the Sigu Sword did not even have time to strike when facing Fan Xian. Do you think the martial artists of Jiangnan could kill him?”

Zou Lei’s face was green one moment and white the next. Only now did he think about the fact that Fan Xian was nothing as simple as just a powerful official.

In today’s world, Fan Xian was among those who had the most money. And those in the world who had more money than him definitely did not have his power. Those who had more power than him did not have his skill in martial arts. Those who were better at martial arts were not as shameless as him. Those who were more shameless than him did not have as strong a support. Those who had stronger support had not yet been born.

Give him money, he did not consider it valuable. To want to whittle away his power in the capital, he was not worried. To want to assassinate him, he was not afraid. To want to stain his reputation, he did not care. He would only use a knife to saw off your head to relieve the anger in his heart.

It took decades of hate to form this abnormal existence. He was an invisible prince, yet he had the Overwatch Council and Ministry Revenue that a prince would never have. Even the Eldest Princess, who had been influencing the situation at court from the shadows for over a decade, could not find a way to strike at him.

What method could the Ming family have?

Zou Lei comforted Ming Lanshi and said, “Sir Guo is in Suzhou at the moment. Let’s see what he thinks. The Eldest Princess will do her best in Jingdou. What you said earlier makes sense, but if Fan Xian is so arrogant, I’m afraid the Crown Prince and the Second Prince will be uncomfortable. Even if we can’t have him summoned back to Jingdou, if the people in the Palace talk, it will suppress his threatening manner a bit.”

Ming Lanshi nodded. He knew they could only just manage to maintain the current situation. Hearing the word “Guo,” he couldn’t stop the nerve appearing on his forehead. In a cold voice he said, “Tell your superior not to get involved! Back in the day, when he was in the Ministry of Justice, he hit Fan Xian, which resulted in him being chased to Jiangnan. Does he want revenge? Don’t forget, the imperial envoy is the youth who is best at holding a grudge. I don’t want to be dragged down by that old Guo Zheng!”