Joy of Life - Chapter 384

[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:48:45]
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Chapter 384: The Matter Of The Ministry Of Revenue (2)

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

After Shu the Scholar finished speaking, the Emperor nodded. Even if he did have other thoughts, he could not say anything at this time. Last year, when Fan Xian made trouble for the Ministry of Justice, the court had the Imperial Censor of the Left sent far away to Jiangnan. The excuse they had used was that he wanted to achieve extraordinary things, but his morality and conduct were not good.

These words had come from the Emperor’s golden mouth,so it could now not be taken back. Then, the Emperor had to console Fan Xian, but now the Emperor wanted to use Guo Zheng’s memorial to do some things but had been pushed back by Shu the Scholar. He couldn’t help but laugh at himself. Does this count as digging a hole and jumping in it himself?

“Didn’t a eunuch go to Jiangnan?” The Crown Prince jumped out and demonstrated his stupidity. He chuckled and said, “Father, although we cannot trust the words of Imperial Censorate Guo Zheng, once that eunuch returned, we will know exactly what happened in Jiangnan.”

These words appeared to be dependable and a compromise, but in reality, they were rather sinister. Wasn’t the eunuch’s slander of Fan Xian controlled by the dowager empress in the Royal Palace with a single word? The Crown Prince had confidence in this matter.

The Emperor glared at him and said in a cold voice, “How can a eunuch’s words be trusted? These are your ancestors’ teachings, don’t you forget!”

The Crown Prince timidly did not dare speak again. Eunuch Yao, who was serving to the side, was silent and did not speak. His expression did not change.

“We will wait for Xue Qing’s memorial.” The Emperor closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

Everyone in the royal study nodded. They though the words of a proper governor of a road were naturally more trustworthy.

Hu the Scholar, who had not expressed his opinion yet, finally spoke. “Since it is so, then the Jiangnan matter should be temporarily put aside. If this matter is true, I…cannot believe it. If it is like what the Second Prince said earlier, if someone truly privately moved the national funds to Jiangnan to profit from it, then it is indeed very close to rebellion. I believe that Minister Fan is certainly not such an insane person. However, since the Jiangnan Imperial Censorate and officials of other places have already sent up their memorials, the court cannot ignore it and ask no questions. The investigation into the Ministry of Revenue should begin to satisfy the court officials and wash clean the accusations Minister Fan has endured.”

The Qing Emperor still maintained a superficial respect toward these Scholars in the Hall of Governmental Affairs. After muttering to himself, he nodded his head and suddenly smiled self-deprecatingly. “Even if such a thing were done, it could not be considered insane…only, I am a little curious, has anyone thought about exactly how this should be investigated?”

Although the slight smile floated at the corners of his mouth, the hearts of the officials in the royal study still felt a chill. They could hear that the Emperor had a big objection toward Minister Fan, however, no one understood why the always-favored Fan manor would suddenly become somewhere that the Emperor did not like to see? But how did an Jian offend the Emperor?

The Emperor’s last question also struck the officials mute. They had no idea how to reply.

In Qing court, there were two systems used to control and govern. One was the Imperial Censor, the Imperial Censorates who had grown used to the court floggings. Another was the powerful Overwatch Council.

The Imperial Censorate was an organization that prevented corruption and had the power to raise concerns based on rumors. That was why Imperial Censorate Guo Zheng dared to accuse Fan Xian of privately shifting national funds to the treasury and competing for interest with the merchants without a shred of actual proof.

The Overwatch Council dealt with the aftermath of situations, and their powers were immense. After receiving authorization from the Emperor, they could take any civil or military officials into court for questioning.

Under normal circumstances, if a problem arose among the six ministries, the Overwatch Council went forward to investigate the matter. They could ask any official below the third-level to that square and black building to have tea. Once the matter had been investigated to the level of the vice-minister, they would go and ask for another imperial edict to be granted special privileges. Like this, they investigated level by level.

Logically speaking, the deficit of the Ministry of Revenue should follow this procedure. The problem was…The Overwatch Council had the director above and the Eighth Bureau below. It had been many years since the unwieldy-in-movement Director Chen Pingping, so terrified the officials, had personally taken on a case. In the past year, he had almost exclusively stayed in Chen Garden outside of the capital and did not involve himself in matters. There was a new position between the director and Eighth Bureau, a very strong and special position: Overwatch Council Commissioner Fan Xian.

Fan Xian had the power to mobilize the entire Overwatch Council. Other than the hiring and dismissal of personnel, his powers were not much different to Chen Pingping’s. If the Overwatch Council were to investigate the deficit of the Ministry of Revenue…

The officials in the royal study all shook their heads heavily. If the son investigates the father, it would be a miracle if any problem is found! If word of this got out, Northern Qi, Dongyi, and everyone under heaven would probably consider this the greatest joke in the Qing officialdom.

Shu the Scholar gave a pained smile and said, “Looks like the Overwatch Council will have to not be involved this time to avoid arousing suspicion. However, I do not know how to arrange for an investigation of the Ministry of Revenue.”

The elderly officials beside him all nodded their heads. Since they were going to investigate the Ministry of Revenue, then it had to be done seriously. Regardless of whether they wanted to knock down Fan Jian or the suspicions from him, they needed to treat this seriously. It could not turn into a child’s game.

The Emperor gave a cold laugh and said, “Why don’t we follow the old rules?”

“This…” Shu the Scholar repeatedly grumbled, thinking, This issue was very clear. Emperor, why must you pretend to be confused? After hesitating for a while, he finally summoned his courage and said, “Your Majesty, after all, Sir Fan junior is the commissioner of the Overwatch Council with full authority. If we have the Overwatch Council investigate the Ministry of Revenue…if this gets out, I’m afraid the impact would not be good.”

“Just have the Overwatch Council investigate,” the Emperor said coldly. “At the same time, have the Ministry of Appointments, Ministry of Justice, and Supreme Court send people to help. Then you all can pick out a leader to lead this matter. Since we are investigating the deficit of the Ministry of Revenue, it is not a task just a few people can accomplish.”

The officials in the royal study understood. Sending helpers was a way to monitor the Overwatch Council. However, they did not understand why the Emperor wanted to forcefully drag the Overwatch Council into this puddle of muddy water since he had already decided to have the Ministry of Appointments, Ministry of Justice, and Supreme Court investigate the Ministry of Revenue.

As for the candidate to lead the investigation of the Ministry of Revenue, the officials also hesitated. They were aware that the chosen official would heavily offend the Fan family and all related officials. They also knew that if they could find a problem, it would be an important stroke on their reputation in the world. Two sides balanced each other out. In the end, no one dared to brave this danger and accept this hot potato.

Even the enemies of the Fan family, the Minister of Appointments and Second Prince, were silent.

The Emperor’s mood was hard to gauge. He was smiling slightly, and his gaze slowly brushed over the officials and his sons’ faces. It landed on Hu the Scholar’s face.

Hu the Scholar secretly sighed and knew that he could not avoid this difficulty. He had entered the capital earlier in the year and been elevated by the Emperor to a cabinet Scholar in the Hall of Governmental Affairs. Although his literary reputation from many years ago remained, and his official reputation in the various Roads had laid a path for him, he had not had any clear achievements in the central hub. The Emperor had his heart set on him for no other reason than the fact that he had been in the capital for a short amount of time and had not yet become entangled with the various powers. On the other hand, he also wanted to use the investigation of the Ministry of Revenue to establish his own power in court.

Hu the Scholar was grateful for the Emperor’s trust and heavy use, but he also had a faint hatred toward the Emperor for making him offend the senior and junior of the Fan manor.

The Great Prince, who had said one line and then became silent again, now got ahead of Hu the Scholar and said coldly, “Father, I am willing to be the one to offend other.”

The Emperor chuckled and waved his hand. “You…cannot.”

“Why?” The Great Prince furrowed his brows and said. “I dare to use my head as surety that I will investigate fairly and not have any biases. Please trust in my loyalty, father.”

The smile on the Emperor’s face gradually vanished. “If I have said you cannot do it then you cannot do it. You are the leader of the imperial guards[JW1] , but you want to investigate the Ministry of Revenue? Do you want to set a precedent for the military interfering in politics?”

The Emperor said the last line very severely. The Great Prince paused and could not continue to push. Although the Emperor had always liked that he spoke his mind, today he still put on the heavy hat of the military interfering with politics on the Great Prince’s head, so he could only hesitatingly retreat.

Hu the Scholar left his seat to accept his orders. “I am willing to lead the matter of investigating the Ministry of Revenue.”

The Emperor nodded and turned to gaze at the Crown Prince. He said coldly, “The Crown Prince will also go. Follow Hu the Scholar and learn. In the matter of the investigation, Hu the Scholar is the lead. You are just there to run errands.”

“I will obey the edict.”

The Crown Prince’s face was calm, but he was overjoyed in his heart. Although he was only an errand boy in name, once he sat in the Ministry of Revenue yamen, who would not fear him as the Eastern Palace Crown Prince? Of the so-called leaders, other than Hu the Scholar, it seemed there was a share for him too. The Crown Prince was quite happy. It looked like father’s indifferent attitude toward him after the Hanging Temple incident was finally changing.

The various officials accepted their orders and left, and the royal study recovered its peace. The Emperor drank his tea with a cold expression and rose to leave the bed.

Eunuch Yao quickly placed a cloak on him. Seeing the Emperor’s mood was not very good, he carefully asked, “Your Majesty, should we return to the palace to rest?”

“No.” The Emperor headed out of the royal study. “We’re going to the little tower.”

Eunuch Yao started following and quickly caught up. He didn’t say anything, but he found it odd. Recently, the Emperor had been going to the little tower more and more.

Outside the Palace gates, the officials, each with their own unease, raised their hands in farewell. Some were pleased and headed back to announce to their cohort that the Emperor was preparing to single out the Ministry of Revenue. Some were worried and preparing to go home and consider how they were going to face the court. Some were confused and remained in their confusion, wondering how the Emperor’s thoughts could have made such a turn in just one day.

“Xiao Hu, come to my manor for a drink.” Shu Wu did not fear anything. At the Palace gates, he pulled on Hu the Scholar, who had been preparing to leave one step ahead.

Hu the Scholar’s mind was filled with the investigation and had no interest in drinking. He repeatedly begged for mercy, “Lao Shu, can’t you see my luck is not bad today? I don’t have the mood to make poetry with you.”

Both of them enjoyed literature and were leaders among the civil officials. The Emperor did not forbid officials visiting each other in private, so their friendship was good. Although their difference in age was fairly big, they were often found together.

Shu the Scholar made a sign with his eyes, and Hu the Scholar’s heart moved and agreed to the suggestion.

“The divine heart is difficult to guess.”

Shu Wu’s manor was in the south of the city and known for its quiet and seclusion. It was not very spacious, but the two of them talking tipsily under the pavilion did not have to worry about the spring breeze blowing their offensive discussions over the wall and being overheard by bystanders.

Shu Wu sighed and said, “I’m afraid it will not be easy for you as the official envoy. This is truly pleasing the brother but disappointing the wife.”

These words compared the Emperor to the brother, and Fan family as the wife. It couldn’t help but be inappropriate. Hu the Scholar laughed heartily and said, “What kind of nonsense is this? Your surname isn’t Hu[JW2] , perhaps you’ve drunk too much?”

“It is not nonsense,” Shu Wu said seriously and lowered his voice. “Tell me what you are going to do? Looking at what the Emperor wants, he definitely wants the Ministry of Revenue to be found to have some problem before he is willing to let it go. But if the Ministry of Revenue really did have a problem, then what about Minister Fan?”

“Right now, the question is, does the Ministry of Revenue have a problem or not?” Hu the Scholar’s expression was worried. “Given your detailed explanation of Sir Fan junior’s personality to me—looking at his ruthlessness in his clarity, and daring and arrogance hidden beneath his culture and elegance—for him to mobilize the Ministry of Revenue’s silver to Jiangnan for the purpose of stabilizing Jiangnan and increasing taxes… it might actually be true!”

“Putting aside whether it is true or not. In any case, every day that Jiangnan Governor Xue Qing doesn’t make clear his stance, it will be impossible for the court to the know the situation over there. As for the Ministry of Revenue deficit…”

Shu Wu smiled coldly. “The Ministry of Revenue is the yamen in charge of money. Wars need money, river repairs need money, disaster relief needs money, building gardens need money, running the spring examinations need money…all of the people in the world are stretching their hands toward the Ministry of Revenue demanding money like they are demanding a debt repayment. Adding to the fact that the princes and officials occasionally borrow a little, it is completely a mess! In every dynasty and in every generation, which Ministry of Revenue has had a completely clear account?”

“It is impossible for the Ministry of Revenue to be clean,” he continued in a cold voice. “Minister Fan of our Qing court started work as a low-level official in the Ministry of Revenue and has spent his life working in this ministry. To say something fair, the Ministry of Revenue under his management is already the cleanest and clearest Ministry of Revenue since the founding of this country. But even like this, if one were to be truly nitpick, how could one not find something?”

Hu the Scholar nodded his head. Minister Fan Jian was not like the previous Prime Minister Lin Ruofu. He was also different from Fan Xian, who was currently being arrogant in Jiangnan. Although there might be some dirty things below his hands, his actions were unusually subdued and honest. There was not much to say in terms of ability, and his positive official reputation was rare to see among officials.

If such a Minister of Revenue were to fall in the political battle this time, the two scholars would feel it was a complete waste. However, the Emperor insisted on showing his intention to make Fan Jian leave his position.

“Why was this?” Shu Wu furrowed his old brows and very straightforwardly asked the question that had been running around the hearts of every official in the royal study.

Hu the Scholar was silent. He raised his wrist and lifted a cup of liquor produced by the palace treasury and gulped it down. He didn’t say anything for a long time.

Shu Wu stared at his eyes. He knew that some of the judgements of this colleague, who was much younger than him, were worth trusting.

Forced by the other party’s gaze for a long time, Hu the Scholar sighed and slowly said, “When nobody expected it, the Emperor had this intention, it’s truly…”

He seemed to be unable to find an adjective to describe the Emperor. He could only smile bitterly and say, “It is truly admirable. His Majesty investigating the Ministry of Revenue appears to be because of his inner suspicions raised by the rumors in the officialdom, but in reality, it is a great plan of three birds with one stone to move.”

“Which three birds?” Shu Wu asked. His beard was covered with alcohol.

“The first bird, of course, is the Ministry of Revenue, it is Minister Fan. If anything is found during the investigation of the Ministry of Revenue, no matter what, Minister Fan will have to resign and go home.”

“The second bird is…the Eldest Princess’ group of officials that initiated this,” Hu the Scholar smiled bitterly and said. “If something goes wrong at the Ministry of Revenue and Fan Jian quits his position, how could Fan Xian just kindly let it go? Rest assured, the Emperor would definitely not allow this matter to implicate Fan Xian. After the incident, Fan Xian would still be the commissioner of the Overwatch Council. Thus, the Overwatch Council would naturally proceed to carry out their revenge on the Eldest Princess’ group of officials. At that time, the Emperor would be forced by the pressure in the Palace to be a mediator as he watched all this happen. He might even act as if he were consoling Fan Xian and be forced to remove a few officials.”

“Pressure from the Palace?” Shu Wu sighed. “Why will the Emperor not care about the pressure from the Palace after the incident? And stop being a mediator?”

“The logic is simple. The Emperor could push both Minister Fan’s leaving and Fan Xian’s anger onto the Eldest Princess’ officials.’ As a ruler, the most important task is maintaining the balance between the officials in the court. Fan Xian’s side first lost a Prime Minister and later lost Minister Fan. In order the maintain the balance, the Emperor must remove a large group of people from the other side.”

Hu the Scholar continued to speak, “This kind of explanation, this intention of the ruler was the best method of convincing that old woman in the Palace. Everything…is for the Qing Kingdom, is it not?”

He smiled slightly and laughed at himself.

Shu Wu continued to sigh and asked, “Then what is the third bird?”

Hu the Scholar gave him a slight smile and gazed at him. “The third bird is naturally myself and you, Lao Shu.”

Shu Wu was greatly surprised. “What are you saying? You accepted the order, and our discussion in the royal study was all public related. Fan Xian is not a muddled person. How could he be angry at us?”

“What you said is exactly what I wanted to say,” Hu the Scholar said. “Who told us to reveal our desire to pull Fan Xian into the cabinet in court today? The Emperor’s policies have long been decided. In the future, you and I will be on one side while Fan Xian’s Overwatch Council will be the other side. Since we have other intentions in mind, the Emperor will naturally break our intentions. Even if Fan Xian does not hold a grudge against us because of this matter, how could he not hate the civil officials who accused Minister Fan in front of the whole court? After this matter, Fan Xian will certainly reject thoughts for an honorable official career path. You, I, and he will never have the chance to sit together in the Hall of Governmental Affairs.”

“There are only guesses, nothing more.” Shu Wu laughed uncontrollably. “Even if the divine heart is difficult to guess, don’t make it so complicated.”

Hu the Scholar sighed helplessly. “You wanted me to say it, and in the end, it is also you who laugh. These words are enough for us to lose our heads 10 times over. Don’t you go spreading it around after drinking.”

“What, I am also a scholar,” Shu Wu chuckled. “I am just drinking with company.”

Suddenly his expression became startled. He furrowed his brows and asked, “No, your first bird isn’t right. You have to explain to me clearly. Why doesn’t the Emperor want Minister Fan to keep managing the Ministry of Revenue. Why is he forcing Minister Fan to resign?”

Hu the Scholar sighed faintly and said, “The reason is actually very simple. It is because the Emperor no longer wishes to see Minister Fan’s face every day in court.”

The two leading civil officials of the Qing court became silent at the same time. They sighed in their hearts and felt injustice on behalf of Fan Jian. It looked like with things like a dragon child, it was best to not to casually raise it.

Before the two scholars began to feel wronged on behalf of the Minister of Revenue, Minister Fan, they had once thought about whether or not they should quickly inform the Fan manor about the court’s decision to investigate the Ministry of Revenue. Later, they thought Fan manor had many connections in the Palace, how could they not know? So, this thought faded.

Indeed, not long after the conference in the royal study concluded, the supposed ill Fan Jian had already heard about it and knew that in tomorrow’s court conference, the Emperor would officially open the investigation into the Ministry of Revenue.

But he was not particularly worried. That solemn face had long lost the romantic air of the old days. It was simply cold and calm now.

“It’s not three birds with one stone, it’s four birds one stone,” Fan Jian smiled slightly and said to the person opposite. “As a loyal official of the Emperor’s for almost 30 years, my admiration for him has always been constant and never lessened. As for today’s matter, truly it is…admirable, ah, admirable.”

Regardless of whether it was in front of others or not, if the Emperor was mentioned, Fan Jian would always knit his brows calmly and be completely respectful. The two cries of “admirable, admirable” in the study were filled with great disrespect.

“What is the fourth bird?”

Fan Jian extended his right palm and opened it in front of this body. He bent his thumb in like he was learning a clever palm technique from somewhere. His four fingers pointed resolutely and unyieldingly toward the sky.

“The fourth bird is the Overwatch Council.”

“The Emperor wants to see if when his order goes out, whether or not it will be like the past when he could easily control and move the terrifying Overwatch Council or if it is as he fears and already in Fan Xian’s grasp.”

“Xian’er’s progress has been too quick.” Fan Jian thought of his son far away in Jiangnan and sighed. “If the Emperor could not even direct the Overwatch Council, then the power the Fan manor holds might be a bit too much.”

The corner of his eyebrow suddenly lightly arched up, and he smiled merrily. “And, the Emperor wants to see what the true relationship is between Chen Pingping and me. All these years, the Emperor has absolutely trusted me and that old cripple, and you know why. Before Fan Xian entered the capital, the old cripple and I never got along. If it was something he wanted to do, I would certainly not do it. If I wanted to do something, he would certainly oppose it.”

Fan Jian’s expression dimmed, “Now that I think of it, it should have been because Chen Pingping and I were suspicious of each other. We suspected that the other party had played some dishonorable role in the event of many years ago.”

“Once Xian’er had entered the capital,” he continued to explain in a quiet voice, “there was a lot less suspicion between us, so the Emperor’s suspicions of us increased. More importantly, Xian’er was becoming more and more brilliant. Every time Xian’er became more brilliant, and the Emperor thought of what happened that year and the current scene, he became a bit more objectionable toward me.”

“The Emperor is jealous.”

“And so I am leaving.”

In the end, the Minister of Revenue Fan Jian reached a conclusion.

But he immediately had a frivolous expression on his face rarely seen today and laughed mockingly. “However…you know me, I am always silent and have a talent for acting, but in my bones, I am a very fierce person. He wants me to learn from Lin Ruofu and ask to resign to prevent everyone from tearing into each other and making it an ugly scene…but I refuse to quit. In any case, the Emperor is always going to care more than the officials in the matter of face.”

[JW1]”禁军” Translation is imperial guards, but there is already a phrase for that.

[JW2]”胡话” is nonsense. Hu the Scholar’s surname is “胡” so he is punning on his name/the situation.