Joy of Life - Chapter 381[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:48:43]
Chapter 381: The Palace And The Court
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The Emperor was not in a good mood.
In the Palace and court, everyone knew the Emperor has not been in a good mood because the he had temporarily paused his regular event of watching opera with the empress dowager. Every day, other than in the daily court attendance, not many people had the chance to see the Emperor. Eunuch Yao, Eunuch Hou, and the reinstated Eunuch Dai had been surrounded by officials on a daily basis. Everyone wanted to know exactly what had happened.
The Emperor also had not summoned any of his trusted officials into the Palace. It didn’t look like it was because he was worried about something.
People just knew that the Emperor was not in a good mood. In the court, most of the memorials sent in from various provinces were rejected. The official of the Supreme Court was ruthlessly scolded, and old Master Qin of the Bureau of Military Affairs was also scolded by the Emperor. The Qin family were the most trusted of the Emperor’s aides and powerful military officials. Under normal circumstances, he would give the Qin family some face in front of the civil and military officials, but today he had treated them harshly.
At the Jingdou garrison, young General Qin Heng’s expression did not change. When he entered and left the Hall of Governmental Affairs, he maintained a clear smile. It looked like he did not care much about the scolding the Emperor had given his family.
Looking at this scene, the officials understood that the Emperor had wrongly scolded his trusted aide to warn someone else in the capital.
This was a confusing method. No one could guess who the Emperor was warning, but the warning itself existed. As expected, on the third day, Ye Zhong, far away in Dingzhou, once again sent a bitter memorial to the Emperor stating that since there was peace under heaven, Dingzhou no longer needed to maintain so many soldiers.
The Ye family asking to personally disband the military showed their terrified posturing. The Emperor lightly allowed it and did not allow the court and Bureau of Military Affairs to debate the matter. All of the officials, including the newly appointed Hu the Scholar and Shu the Scholar, all thought it was a follow-up to the Hanging Temple incident last year and did not connect it to anything else.
After the Ye family asked for disbandment, the Emperor’s mood seemed to improve. He resumed his daily visit to the empress dowager and allowed the Eldest Princess to live in the Palace again. Guangxin Palace once against truly opened its doors for the Eldest Princess.
Distance creates beauty and danger. One family all living together would certainly be much safer. The old man in the Chen Garden thought this must be what the Emperor thought. He sighed and knew matters had not gone exactly as he had planned. There was still much he needed to do. Since the seeds had begun to sprout in the black soil in their hearts, there would eventually be a day it would grow into a poisonous vine and unstoppably push through that layer of hard rock on top.
Only the people living in the Palace knew the Emperor’s mood had not truly taken a turn for the better. His face still carried a trace of worry and unhappiness.
He was the ruler of the world; the master of the Palace. He was the one everyone had to watch when they made any small movements. Everyone’s livelihoods depended on him, as did everyone’s hope for the future and wealth. Everyone in the palace was careful and nervously tried to guess what other thoughts were hidden in the Emperor’s heart.
The eunuchs that closely served the Emperor in Taiji Palace and the royal study had become highly experienced. They did not make any sounds to the probing questions from various palaces. Under the might of Eunuch Hong, the housemaids and eunuchs in the various palaces also did not dare to ask too obviously.
After the Eldest Princess moved unhappily into Guangxin Palace, she immediately recovered her usual beauty and went to talk and keep the empress dowager company daily. Occasionally, she would also go the Eastern Palace to visit the empress and Crown Prince. However, she was somewhat confused and wasn’t sure exactly what the Emperor was thinking.
A lead eunuch in the Eastern Palace had become an important person. Eunuch Hong Zhu had always served beside the Emperor and was well-liked by him. It was rumored he had some relation to Eunuch Hong and was familiar with the people and going-ons in the Taiji Palace and royal study. If sending someone to make discreet inquiries, he would be the most appropriate choice.
Hong Zhu had taken up the post of a fourth-level lead eunuch in the Eastern Palace for three months. Using his status as being assigned by the Emperor and his own careful and satisfactory service, he had received the empress’ approval. Except, it was impossible to obtain acceptance at once. However, the empress had given Hong Zhu sufficient benefits. She wanted to see whether or not he could be used and to what extent.
The empress smiled slightly as she gazed at Hong Zhu kneeling before her. She quite liked this little eunuch who understood the situation. He was discreet and had delicate features. She gently said, “The Emperor is worried about matters of state, and I wish to help lessen his burdens. Although the back palace is not to interfere in state matters, if I know about the Emperor’s mood, I will be able to make some soups to send and make His Majesty feel better.”
Hong Zhu furrowed his brows and said, “Empress is thoughtful.”
“Go ask,” the empress sighed and said. “If the Emperor finds out, there is no need to hide it. It is not anything shameful to start with. Don’t bring misfortune on yourself.”
Hong Zhu’s expression was moved. He took his orders and left.
Not long after, the recently popular figure made a few rounds of the enormous Royal Palace. After he had been fawned on thoroughly, he didn’t dare continue receiving praise so proudly and quickly returned to the empress’ palace.
He leaned in close to the empress’s ear and said a few words.
The empress frowned slightly. Her noble face faintly showed her worry. She sighed and said, “So it is because of the empty national treasury. I have also heard of the work to repair the banks of the Yangtze River. It’s been delayed from the beginning of winter of the year before last until now, and it’s all because there isn’t enough money…ah, if I could make silver appear out of thin air then I could solve His Majesty’s worries. It’s a pity…”
Hong Zhu chuckled and said, “Empress is the mother of the world, why do you need to worry about such things? As for the national treasury, isn’t it Minister Fan who manages the Ministry of Revenue?”
When the empress heard the words “Ministry of Revenue,” her eyes lit up. She asked with false nonchalance, “Minister Fan has been managing the Ministry of Revenue for many years, it could be said he has worked hard. The empty national treasury…is a problem of income, does he have any solutions?”
Hong Zhu was slightly startled. He began to speak then stopped.
The empress saw his expression and smiled disdainfully. “Child, you have quite the load on your mind.”
Hong Zhu jumped in fright and quickly knelt down and said with a pained expression, “I don’t dare, only in the royal study…I heard that the Emperor had been very angry yesterday saying that the Ministry of Revenue was useless, and that…” He lowered his voice and said, “I heard…there are officials in the Ministry of Revenue who are in the red and secretly moved national funds. The amount was also very large, so the Emperor…was angry.”
The empress’ heart stuttered. She immediately hid the expression on her face. She smiled slightly and said, “There is no need to tell me of these state affairs. How is His Majesty’s mood recently? Where does he often wander to in the Palace?”
Hong Zhu looked around. He knew this was tabooed information in the Palace, but he gritted his teeth, crawled to the empress side, and said something in a low voice.
The empress’ willow-like brows went up and then shortly softened again weakly. Her lips trembled slightly, and her cheeks were pale. In a cold voice, she said, “The little tower…the little tower again.”
After Hong Zhu had left the palace full of unease and fear, a young man flashed out from behind the windscreen. He wore a light yellow robe. The needlework on the surface was soft and gentle, and his eyes were bright and spirited. In the palace, other than the emperor and dowager empress who could wear this color, the only other person was the Crown Prince.
Qing Kingdom’s Crown Prince’s body was already much better than it was a few years ago, at least his face had lost that unhealthy pallor. This was because of the empress’ strict teachings and the fact she did not allow him to waste too much energy on the matters between men and women. It was also because as he gradually became older, he faced numerous complicated situations and forced step by step by his royal brothers. He had to make changes out of necessity.
His biggest enemy had been the Second Prince, but after the Second Prince was successfully half crippled by Fan Xian, he suddenly found that who he thought was his greatest help, Fan Xian, was actually his father’s son. What’s more, he was the son of his father and that witch.
For the Eastern Palace, they had long had an insoluble hatred for the Ye family. The Crown Prince was now most wary about Fan Xian, who was far away in Jiangnan.
Everyone involved knew everything clearly. After Fan Xian’s past was exposed, if the Crown Prince took the throne, Fan Xian would definitely not meet a kind end. If Fan Xian alone held great power, he would certainly not allow the Crown Prince to inherit.
“Mother, it seems we can make a move in the Ministry of Revenue matter.” The Crown Prince had been behind the windscreen the whole time listening to the empress and Hong Zhu’s conversation.
The empress closed her eyes and thought for a bit. “This eunuch, Hong Zhu, just how trustworthy are his words?”
The empress smiled slightly. “I thought so too. Hong Zhu originally served in the royal study and followed beside your father. His meteoric rise was just a matter of time. Although he has now been moved to the Eastern Palace and raised to levels to be the head eunuch, he holds much less power now than earlier in the year.”
The Crown Prince said, “If Fan Xian had not told father about Hong Zhu taking bribes…father would not have angrily sent Hong Zhu away.”
Everyone knew about this matter in the palace. They all knew the story of that day in the royal study. They all thought that Hong Zhu had left the royal study because he had offended Fan Xian.
The empress sighed and said, “Looking at His Majesty’s punishment, he seems to truly like Hong Zhu this little eunuch…the question is, I am not sure whether this matter is real or fake.”
The Crown Prince furrowed his brow and thought for a moment. “Hong Zhu’s grudge against Fan Xian should be real. The eunuchs and serving girls in the Palace have all heard him gritting his teeth as he talked about this matter. As for father’s side…even if he did send Hong Zhu to watch me, I haven’t done anything slightly wrong for much of the last year.”
The empress nodded as a murderous intention flashed through her phoenix eyes. She smiled coldly and said, “As long as the reason for His Majesty’s anger is real…then we can investigate the Ministry of Revenue matter. We can’t let Fan Jian stay in the Ministry of Revenue anymore, otherwise, with Fan Xian controlling the palace treasury in Jiangnan and Fan Jian controlling the national treasury in Jingdou, your future is going to be difficult.”
The Crown Prince nodded and said, “I will remember well father’s teachings and only do what father wishes me to do.”
The empress furrowed her brows and said, “I’ll go to Guangxin Palace in a moment to ask your aunt for her opinion.”
Hearing the Eldest Princess mentioned, a strange light flashed through the Crown Prince’s eyes. He immediately hid it well and asked hesitantly, “Are we still asking aunt’s side to step forward this time?”
The empress shook her head and said with a cold smile, “She is also not someone easy to get along with…besides, now that the Emperor has had her move into her palace, is it not so that he is able to keep a close eye on her? With her deep in the palace, it will be much more difficult for her to contact the officials in court. When your father does something, although it always looks simple, it is actually extremely clever. You should learn more of this from him…ah, if that aunt of yours wants to make any move, it is not going to be easy.”
This nominal mother of the country sighed, yet there was a schadenfreude that couldn’t be hidden revealed between her brows. The Eldest Princess has shone too brightly among the women in the Qing Kingdom and always faintly covered the empress’ glory. How could she possibly be happy? Now, her husband found this aunt to be more and more objectionable. Although logically the empress knew that it was nothing good, emotionally she couldn’t help feeling a thread of joy.
That shameless vixen!
“I am just letting her know.” The empress sighed and patted the Crown Prince’s shoulder. “You’ll have to temporarily put up with your aunt’s relationship with the Second Prince. Don’t think about what happened before. As for the matter of investigating the Ministry of Revenue running into the red this time, I will find someone to do it…don’t worry.”
A chill emerged between her brows. “Although my natal family has already been murdered by those wretched people, I still have some people hidden in the court. As for Fan Xian…did he think he could hide his transfer of that much silver from the national treasury to Jiangnan from the world? Did he think he could hide it from the Emperor? No matter how much the Emperor likes Fan Xian, he would definitely not allow this kind of thing to happen right beneath his nose!”
The Crown Prince was slightly startled. No wonder the Ministry of Revenue was in the red so badly. It turned out that Fan Xian’s daring was unbelievably big. Only now did he know that his mother and aunt had long grasped the root of the Ministry of Revenue problem. No wonder they were so confident.
The empress smiled slightly and said, “After the Ministry of Revenue matter, the world will have a few days of peace. Fan Xian will not be able to hop around like he is right now. Think about it closely. In His Majesty’s mind, as long as you don’t overstep your boundaries, even if you competed with those people a bit, he will pretend he didn’t see. In the end, you are still the Crown Prince, and this is something known by everyone under heaven.”
The Crown Prince sighed. “In all these dynasties and generations, I am perhaps the most good-for-nothing Crown Prince of them all.”
The empress smiled coldly and said, “There have been countless Crown Princes in history whose lives were not as good as yours before they inherited! What are you afraid of? As long as you endure until the day you take the throne, then that will be your moment to shine.”
She continued coldly, “Naturally I have my reasons for my certainty that the Emperor still wants you to inherit.”
The Crown Prince said anxiously, “But…although the Second Prince is about to fall, the Third Prince has gone down to Jiangnan and has been with Fan Xian the whole time.”
This was the matter most secretly discussed in the Palace. The Third Prince had followed the imperial envoy to Jiangnan at such a young age to watch how things are handled. Nominally he was there to learn, but was he learning how to govern a country? Thus, the birth mother of the Third Prince, Yi Guipin, became the center of the discussion. However, this woman of the Liu family maintained her silence and kept to herself.
The empress glared at the Crown Prince and said between gritted teeth, “To be so scared of a yellow-faced child, how juvenile are you?”
The Crown Prince said unhappily, “I just cannot see…the intentions you say father has.”
“If he didn’t have such intentions, he would have deposed you long ago!” The empress felt resent for him not managing to meet such expectations.
The Crown Prince smiled bitterly. “Perhaps father is giving me a chance.”
The empress shook her head and said calmly, “You’re wrong, compared to your brothers…you have one particularly powerful advantage, yet you…still do not understand.”
The empress’ expression was calm with a hint of iciness. She slowly said, “The Great Prince has a Dongyi background. The Second Prince’s birth mother, Lady Shu, has some power in the capital. The Third Prince’s mother, Yi Guipin, is born of the Liu family, which is a large family in the capital, and has Fa Xian as a support. Of all the princes, only you…only the two of us are alone without any family power to use.”.”
“The Emperor and I are, after all, a husband and wife that has lived together for all these years.” The empress smiled disdainfully. “Everything about your father is great; he is just too paranoid. With the passing on of this throne of the Qing Kingdom, of course, he fears that the power of the Li royal family would fall to relatives…so when picking his heir, he cannot accept someone who has an overly large family power behind them.”
“Thus the Second Prince is not possible, and the Third Prince…even less possible!” The empress’ cold gaze was like two knives scooping out the Crown Prince’s heart. “Only you…the Emperor allowed that old cripple to kill all of my family. One reason was because of the evil witch, but isn’t another reason so that your future obstacles have been swept clear?”
“Don’t be scared, my child.” She gently stroked the Crown Prince’s icy cheeks and sighed. “If nothing goes majorly wrong, no matter what the Emperor does, it is all to help you grow stronger. Many years ago, he chose you and has never doubted his choice.”
The empress laughed hysterically and said, “Even if his choice was originally wrong.”
Suddenly her expression became severe. She said through gritted teeth, “So, do you understand? You are able to have your position as the Crown Prince and to be sure of keeping your position in the future…it is all because your mother’s family had to pay a price of 3,000 lives! Those are your ancestors, your relatives! They all died. They used their blood, their bodies to lay down this path for you to the royal seat! You must endure until the day you succeed!”
A spring breeze floated through the Royal Palace, but this spring breeze was so icy that it made one chilled.
The Crown Prince couldn’t help shivering. Because the empress dowager, his great-grandmother, had always controlled the back palace strictly, he had only in recent years learned, from his mother, of the truth of that night when Jingdou ran red with blood, that his grandfather and uncles had all died in that political turmoil.
So…it was because father wanted to remove the relatives beside him…
His heart began to clench. He had no idea how he should respond. If his mother’s analysis was correct, then as long as he appeared sufficiently steady and nothing majorly went wrong in the world, then that dragon chair would still be his.
The Qing Kingdom’s Crown Prince’s gaze became determined. He nodded seriously toward his mother.
Mother and son seemed to both have forgotten that sentence they had said—the inheritance of the Crown Prince was under the condition that nothing major went wrong—and everyone in the world knew, no matter whether it was Chen Pingping or Sir Fan junior, they were both dark and ruthless people who were experts at finding big problems in no problems.
The Palace and court were actually two parts of one whole. With the Emperor, a difficult to ignore role, the two sides were beautifully and harmoniously unified together. If the officials wanted to curry favor with the Emperor, they had to curry favor with the nobles in the Palace. If the nobles in the Palace wanted to extend their hands beyond the Palace, they had to use the officials outside to do things for them.
The so-called interest group was thus created.
When the Emperor raged in the royal study about specifically the Ministry of Revenue’s deficit and after this message had traveled through countless channels out of the Palace, the entire officialdom began to slowly stir. If the Emperor did not like something, as an official, their highest goal would be to quickly catch up. Even if those standing against the Emperor were figures of legendary rank like the great grandmasters, the officials would still have to summon their courage and be first. They would not be satisfied to be behind others.
With the Emperor’s mood as a marker, these things were never wrong.
However, a clear time difference appeared between the news in the Palace and the reaction in the court. The officials were steadier and more cautious than in the past.
Since they were investigating the deficit of the Ministry of Revenue, they could not help but involve the Minister of the Ministry of Revenue, Fan Jian. Everyone knew that Fan Jian was not only extremely ruthless but also very close to King Jing, who had affection with the Emperor as milk brothers. The officials were unsure what affection exactly the Emperor had to Fan Jian.
The second reason the officials were careful was simple—Fan Jian’s son, known as Fan Xian and by the courtesy name An Zhi, was the commissioner of the Overwatch Council and the current all-powerful imperial envoy of Jiangnan Road.
Everyone knew that Fan Xian was the Emperor’s illegitimate child. They also knew Fan Xian’s filial piety was famous throughout the entire kingdom. Countless stories floated among the people, such as refusing to recognize his father on the pain of death while in the Palace or that he fought desperately at the annual meeting to be allowed to enter the Fan memorial hall.
If the investigation reached Minister Fan, no one knew how Fan Xian would react. The officials knew the Second Prince had once tried to use the Second young master of the Fan family. In the end, he had angered Fan Xian, who had used countless dark and ruthless moves against him. He arrogantly defeated the already secretly powerful Second Prince until he was utterly defeated from head to tail and was incredibly wretched.
In the end, Fan Xian successfully had the Second Prince banished to a house arrest. This brilliant result was enough to shock most of the officials who were politically opportunistic. Sir Fan junior didn’t even care about the Second Prince, much less other officials.
The pressure coming from the palace grew stronger and stronger, and the information from various sides confirmed that the Emperor indeed had thoughts of singling out the Ministry of Revenue as a point of attack. The true reason for the Emperor’s bad mood these days was also the Ministry of Revenue. Thus, the slowly stirring officials finally suppressed their natures and began to go home to write their memorials.
Among these officials were some who truly acted for the country and hoped the court would investigate the officials involved in the deficit of the Ministry of Revenue. There were some who received orders from Palace nobles who wanted to use this opportunity to topple the Fan family and play a trick of striking from a distance to destroy Fan Xian’s reputation while he was far away in Jiangnan. Most were politically opportunistic officials who had been in the court for a long time and rose in ranking by guessing the Emperor’s intentions.
For many different reasons, the officials in the Jingdou court came to a rare unanimous consensus. They asked that the court investigate the rumored matter of the Ministry of Revenue’s deficit to give the Emperor and people under heaven an explanation.