Joy of Life - Chapter 365[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:48:37]
Chapter 365: Raising A Finger
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
“Since we know it’s just a rumor, then what is there to panic about?” The old Ming matriarch shrieked. Because of some strange feelings of humiliation, the old woman’s voice became sharp and as scary as a knife being scraped across a piece of porcelain.
The great-aunt [JW1] sitting next to her shook in fright and quickly returned to her seat. She did not dare say another word.
The old matriarch was easily jealous and ruthless, which was why the old Ming master only had three concubines. Only these two women remained of that generation. Fortunately, the Ming family did not lack for boys. Discounting Xia Qifei, who was drinking at Jiangnan Restaurant, the two married sons had six boys. Ming Qingda was the eldest son of the matriarch and now the master of the Ming family. The Third and Fourth were both children of the great-aunt. Seeing their birth mother being yelled at by the old matriarch did not make them feel good, but the old matriarch had held power for a long time, so no one dared to defend her.
As the eldest son, Ming Qingda naturally had to come forward in this situation and make a small explanation. The old Ming matriarch did not even acknowledge the nominal master. Her face was frosty as she said, “Everyone remember this! The Seventh young master of the Ming family died a dozen years ago. Master Xia in Suzhou…wants to use the rumors of a dozen years ago to make trouble. The Ming family will not tolerate him.”
Ming Qingda’s authority had been contradicted, but he continued to keep a slight smile on his face. He warmly said, “Mother, naturally no one will believe such an absurd rumor, but…what is to be done if the court does believe it?”
These words were said straightforwardly. Xia Qifei was Fan Xian’s pawn. If Fan Xian represented the power of the court and wanted to use this opportunity to bloodlessly take in the Ming family’s enormous family property, this kind of situation was the most dangerous.
The old matriarch blinked her slightly murky eyes and said irritably, “If that Fan person says so, then it is so? Will the entire court not be reasonable?”
Ming Qingda thought, When was the court ever reasonable? The court had always stood on their side, so all the reason and hardest fists belonged to the Ming family. If the court had internal breaks, and their fist was enduring the pain and amputating itself, this reason would probably not be clear.
He gave a pained smile and said, “Please come to a decision, mother.”
Xia Qifei had approached fiercely. Looking at his bidding today, the amount of silver he had brought was solid and strong. He also had the support of the imperial envoy. How the Ming family should respond required the old matriarch to draft a plan.
The old matriarch was not as just, forceful, and tyrannical on the inside as she seemed on the surface. She didn’t directly answer Ming Qingda’s question and only stared at the yard full of Ming Family descendants. She said in a cold voice, “Today, the situation is not the same anyway. A few days ago, I had Lanshi go to each house to visit all you uncles, to have you all behave…today, I will repeat myself. At this time, don’t you dare bring any trouble for the Ming family. If you want to walk your bird, walk it at home. Throw out all those brutish men who only know how to wrestle from the garden!”
“And this matter, no one is to spread it! If I hear of anyone talking behind my back, watch out that I don’t pull your tongue out!”
The old Ming matriarch had spoken quickly and angrily, and began to cough. The girl servant behind her quickly patted her back. Beside her, her eldest grandson, Ming Lanshi, respectfully handed over a bowl of tea.
The descendants gathered in the yard uniformly bowed down. They did not dare violate the matriarch’s orders.
Ming Qingda glanced at his mother and hesitated to speak.
The old Ming matriarch laughed coldly in her heart. Her son lacked decisiveness in his actions. She always had to play the bad person. She had a taste of the tea and suddenly said, “Tomorrow is the second day of the bidding. You all know, the imperial envoy is targeting our family. The following eight bids are bound into two portions, and it looks like the price is going to be much higher than previous years. There is only one night. It is probably already too late to go to find a money house to issue more banknotes. At this time, you brothers, bring out your own personal stash of money and hand it to the account house.”
After these words came out, the men were dumbstruck. Not allowing them to walk their birds and wrestle was only a momentary boredom and could be endured, but…how could they be asked to bring out the pitiful amounts of personal money to fill in the public purse? Every year at the palace treasury bidding, the family prepares enough silver. If the price of the eight bids were too outrageous, then don’t compete for them. Why did they have to fight so hard? The court wasn’t going to set an upper limit. Who knew how much money would be thrown in?
These masters were all born with a golden key in their mouth, yet had no power to inherit. They only knew to enjoy the pleasures of life. What did they know about the true meaning of the palace treasury bids for the Ming family and the court power struggles that hidden behind it? Hearing these words of the old matriarch, they unconsciously did not want to obey.
The Sixth young master, who liked to wrestle, usually was a bit braver. He gathered his courage and said, “Mother, ah, us brothers have never been involved in the family business. We go about our days according to our monthly allowance, and each have a big family to feed. Even if we did have a private stash…but to put that pitiful amount of silver in…it probably…won’t do much good, why not…”
Before he finished speaking, a teacup had already smashed to pieces in front of him with a crisp sound.
The Sixth young master jumped in fright; his body was shaking. Looking at the expression of the old matriarch above, his legs softened, and he knelt down on the ground.
The old matriarch looked slowly and coldly at him and said, “Pitiful silver? Do you think I don’t know how much you’ve taken from the business these years? Each of your uncles and aunts are all famous millionaires in Suzhou now…before I pretended not to see because, after all, you are blood of the Ming family, and according to precedent set by our ancestors you are not allowed to interfere with the family business. Seeing you were pitiful, I allowed you to take some silver…but, what is the situation now? All of you, kneel and listen!”
After these words were issued, everyone, including Ming Qingda, knelt in front of the two grand chairs.
The old matriarch’s voice was like that of a venomous snakes, making them shiver without being cold. “When the big tree falls, do you think it will benefit you monkeys at all? I will speak plainly. If we don’t win the bid tomorrow, even if the Ming family can last a few more years, eventually we will fall into dust. At this time, I will not allow us to retreat. We can only go forward…at this juncture, don’t you think you can still hide!”
The great-aunt looked tenderly at her sons and leaned over to say comfortingly, “Sister, don’t be angry. They know what to do.”
The Ming masters had been scared. They bobbed their heads and repeatedly admitted their mistakes.
“As long as you recognize your mistakes.” The old Ming matriarch slowly leaned back against her chair, her eyelids closed slightly. “In a moment, you will all go back. No matter through what method, before daylight tomorrow, hand the silver to the account house. Each house 200,000 liang; Sixth is 150,000 liang.”
When these words were uttered, Second, Fourth, and Fifth all had no objections, even though they were greatly pained to do so. However, Third would not stand for it and straightened his neck to ask, “Mother, why does Sixth only pays 150,000 liang?”
The old matriarch glared at him and said, “Sixth is the youngest. These two years he’s been meeting with the garrison and likes to wrestle, so he spends a bit more. As an older brother, why are comparing yourself to him?”
Third breathed out heavily through his nose and said, unsatisfied, “Do I not spend silver usually?”
In reality, everyone knew. This was the old matriarch being tender toward her youngest born child, but these words could be said by anyone except Third because was the great-aunt’s own child. Seeing the situation was not good, the great-aunt quickly made eyes at Third, but Third was truly short on money and would not lower his head.
The old matriarch exploded in rage and said, “You only know how to spend money in a brothel and to buy those girls to bring home. Is there any reason to be spending money like this?”
Looking at the miserable plight of Xia Qifei and his mother, it was clear that this old matriarch had a strong hatred of some of men’s hobbies.”
“What about big brother?”
“I am the eldest.” Ming Qingda knelt on the floor and smiled slightly at his brothers. “Naturally I will have to contribute more. I will give 500,000 liang.”
Hearing the eldest brother say this, the brothers had nothing else to say. The Ming family immediately dispersed, and the brothers quickly left the garden to pull together the silver. Although they did hide a lot of personal money, to pull together this amount in just one night was indeed a bit difficult.
The Third young master bewailed his poverty as he headed out with his brothers, expecting his older brothers to give him a hand. This time, everyone barely had time to mind themselves. Furthermore, in the face of the old matriarch’s strict orders, no one dared to slack off. Who had the time to bother with him?
“Time is too tight.”
Great-aunt had already returned to her own garden. In the old matriarch’s garden there was only the eldest son. Ming Qingda furrowed his brow slightly and said, “This strike of the imperial envoy’s came suddenly. It didn’t leave us much time to react.”
The old Ming matriarch glanced at her son and sighed. “Today at the palace treasury courtyard, your reaction was good. At least it earned us one night of time.”
Ming Qingda smiled bitterly and shook his head. “One night is too short, furthermore, seeing Xia…Qifei’s actions today, I’m afraid he’s left plenty of strength for later. Tomorrow’s battle will probably be very dangerous. Even if my brothers can pull together all the silver, it is only an extra 1 million liang. It might still not be enough.”
Ming Lanshi listened at the side, speechless and wide-eyed. He said with self-doubt, “Father, in the bid for the eight lot in previous years, 40 percent for the deposit was only 5 million liang. This year we have already prepared an extra 20 percent. With the extra 1 million liang from the uncles, will that still not be enough?”
Ming Qingda smiled bitterly and said, “The biggest problem is that the imperial envoy is aware that we are sure to take down these eight lots, so Xia Qifei could randomly bid prices. Furthermore, the production and marketing are their internal matters, so they can run it at a loss.”
Ming Lanshi sighed. He was a clever man and wouldn’t ask why the Ming family had to win these bids. Putting aside the question of power and just taking the side of Dongyi, they would certainly beg them to take the eight bids. Otherwise, the price that Dongyi would have to pay for palace treasury products in one year would probably be more than a few million liang.”
“Is there any news from Taiping money house?” The old Ming matriarch suddenly asked.
Ming Qingda replied calmly, “They also did not expect this situation and did not prepare enough. All of Xia Qifei’s silver had come from Taiping money house. Now they can only give us promissory notes but not cash banknotes. But tomorrow, we must use cash banknotes…you know that, they also afraid of the consequences. Earlier their shopkeeper had sent word that at most they can withdraw 300,000 liang.”
The old Ming matriarch understood why. When a money house issued a banknote contract, it had to be able to honor it. Xia Qifei had already taken out a banknote of an enormous amount. They only dared to issue much less following it. Because the money house had to ensure they had the silver present to support it, this concerned the matter most important to the money house: their reputation.
Given the relationship between the Ming family and Dongyi, if it was not such a tense situation, Taiping money house could certainly write them false banknotes. The risk was truly too big, and this method was too coarse. If they offended Fan Xian too much, after the bidding, the palace treasury transport company could use the banknotes the Xia family and the Ming family had handed in and play a completely shameless game of running the bank.
This much silver…even if Taiping money house was an immortal, it wouldn’t be able to move so much in such a short time to Suzhou.
If this were to happen, Taiping money house could be considered destroyed.
Taiping money house had close ties with the economies of many countries. Usually, no officials of a country would do something so ruthless, but this time the host of the palace treasury opening bid was Fan Xian. His connections were the most difficult to guess, and he did things ruthlessly and tyrannically. Taiping money house would never dare take such a risk.
The yard was instantly plunged into a deathly silence. The three generations began to feel nervous. Tomorrow…will they really have to watch that Seventh young master steal away the Ming family’s business? Without the palace treasury’s right to sale, the Ming family was only a landlord with the most land and could be slaughtered at any moment.
This terrifying reality had the old matriarch furrowing her brows even tighter. She suddenly remembered a name and said coldly, “Has anyone come recently from that Zhaoshang money house?”
Ming Lanshi shook his head. “They know we are a big customer of Taiping money house. They tested the waters a few times, but knowing they probably won’t be able to move us, they backed down in the face of the difficulties”
The old Ming matriarch unconsciously nodded her head and said, “It seems…it is not like what I had imagined.”
Because the Taiping money house accounts had always been held in the old matriarch’s hand, Ming Qingda was the one who had strongly advocated for a relationship with Zhaoshang money house. Hearing his mother’s tone soften and relent, he felt joy in his heart. However, his expression remained peaceful as he said, “They should be trustworthy. If there really is some problem, they shouldn’t be doing it like this.”
The old matriarch furrowed her brows and seemed to be considering a difficult problem. It was a long time before she said, “Send someone to Zhaoshang money house. No, don’t send someone. Lanshi, go personally. See how much in banknotes they can mobilize tonight.”
“Yes, mother.” Ming Qingda smiled slightly and then asked hesitantly, “How will we deal with Xia Qifei?”
The old matriarch’s face instantly became frosty and she said, “I don’t know that person. You don’t know that person. The Ming family does not know that person. Since it is so, why do we need to deal with him? Don’t interfere in this matter. Don’t be used by the imperial envoy. Since the imperial envoy hopes the Ming family’s reaction will be as intense as possible, then we should be as peaceful as possible.”
Ming Qingda applauded and said with praise, “Mother is wise.”
He had to deal with the matters concerning tomorrow’s bidding and go to the accounts house to keep an eye on his brothers. Ming Lanshi had to go find the mysterious Zhaoshang money house rumored to also be backed by Dongyi. Thus, they could not stop for long in the garden. After giving their salutes they backed out.
The old matriarch watched as her son and grandson left the little garden. The severity in her eyes suddenly became tiredness. She raised her pinky weakly and tapped it on the arms of her chair.
The serving girl slipped close to stand beside the old woman.
The old woman closed her eyes with her pinky still raised. She did not put it down for a long time. She also didn’t say anything. It seemed she was considering the importance of some matter.
At this time, a dark image seemed to float up behind the old woman’s tightly closed eyes. In the picture was a sly looking woman wandering around a familiar looking man and making him laugh. She smiled boastfully and with pride in front of herself. The pictured turned. That woman had given birth to a child, and she held that infant and showed him off all over Ming Garden. Her laugh was like a silver bell…floating until it reached the heavens.
The old woman suddenly opened her eyes. Her eyes were filled with iciness, and her pinky finger trembled with emotion and bent slightly.
In a flash, she remembered many things. For example, the beautiful scene of blood flying out as the heavy blows landed on the woman’s body. The day that woman was forced to the bottom of the well by her, the snowflakes had floated so prettily all the way to the sky. That woman’s body had probably long turned into dry bones, with mice running across it. It could only make ugly sounds now and would never be able to laugh like silver bells again, right?
After that old bastard died, this family was under her control. That woman had died, but that woman’s child was not so easy to kill. After all, he was, in name, flesh, and blood of the Ming family. Fortunately, Qingda’s heart was ruthless. He beat him with a whip every day, until finally that child could no longer suffer this kind of humiliation and pain. One morning he ran out of Ming Garden.
Perhaps that child will never know that, at that time, she was standing just behind the door watching him coldly. Perhaps that child will never know that she had long decided to kill him and was waiting outside the garden to send him down the dry well to reunite with his mother.
But…why did that child not die?
Why didn’t he die?
A thread of anger and fire flashed through her icy eyes. Her always raised and slightly bent finger was finally gently placed on the back of the chair. Her slightly dry lips opened. She said in a quiet voice, to the serving girl hovering near her lips, “Invite in Sir Zhou.”
When the old Ming matriarch finally made up her mind, her son and grandson were walking next to each other.
Ming Lanshi was looking at his father with admiration and said, “You are saying, that grandmother will definitely strike against that bastard?”
“What bastard?” Ming Qingda’s face bored a kindly smile. “That is your Seventh uncle. Although he is right now our enemy, he is still your true Seventh uncle.”
Ming Lanshi smiled self-deprecatingly. Suddenly his brows furrowed and he asked, “Killing Seventh uncle will certainly end this matter completely…but how will the imperial envoy respond? No matter how powerful the Junshang Conference is, they can’t rebel.”
“Your grandmother is old,” Ming Qingda sighed and said. “The method she was using from the beginning was wrong.”
Ming Lanshi shook his head.
Ming Qingda suddenly smiled and said, “But her mistake does not represent the Ming family’s mistake…if your Seventh uncle isn’t so lucky this time, it might not be completely a bad thing. Don’t be overly worried. I know how far to go.”
This apparent master of the Ming family smiled coldly in his heart. Let the Junshang Conference that he was never able to control clash with the Overwatch Council. Someone as astute and circumspect as him would naturally have a way to clean up this mess, the only unknown was the method he would use.
“Sixth uncle got what he wanted again,” Ming Lanshi suddenly smiled mockingly and said.
Ming Qingda patted his son’s shoulder lovingly and explained, “She always likes her youngest son best…of course, it must be her own child.”
While the Ming family descended into chaos, there were many little mice who watched covetously. They all had the thought to trample each other. The youngest son of the Ming family, Ming Qingcheng, today’s leader of the Jiangnan water bandits Xia Qifei, secretly an official of the Inspector Division of the Fourth Bureau of the Overwatch Council stationed in Jiangnan, stood in the highest floor of Jiangnan Restaurant in Suzhou.
He stood on edge of the building, gently holding onto the wooden railing. He thoughtfully gazed toward an area outside the city. That was once his home, a home he had not returned to for many years—Ming Garden.
The merchant’s gathering had already ended. Although no one had set down any specific strategies, seeing the greed in the eyes of the Jingnan Xiong family and the Quanzhou Sun family, Xia Qifei knew that the commissioner’s plan had been effective. Tomorrow, the Ming family would not only have to face his own attacks but also attacks from the likes of the Xiong Sun families’ alliance. Merchants always had to eat meat. Once they are too starved, what do they care whose meat it is?
Xia Qifei narrowed his eyes. Ming Garden was too far away. Even standing on the tall roof of the Jiangnan Restaurant, he was unable to clearly see its lights.
Today had been his most unrestrained and free day since his fortunate escape from death. He could finally proudly say his name in front of everyone, Ming Qingcheng. In comparison, the thrill of crushing people with money, leaving behind his jianghu identity, standing into the light of the Qing Kingdom, all counted for very little.
As long as he was able to say his true name, it was like a slap in the face of that poisonous old woman. This thrill from revenge submerged everything. It made Xia Qifei feel unbelievably grateful to Fan Xian. He didn’t even feel any unhappiness at the seven swordsman he had sent tonight.
He was drunk on and grieved by everything that had happened today to the point that even this formidable character of the jianghu did not notice the strange people that had appeared on the opposite side of the street.
[JW1]”姨奶奶” As the concubine of the previous master, great-aunt is a close translation.