Joy of Life - Chapter 385

[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:48:45]
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Chapter 385: The Investigation And The Artist’s Work (1)

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

“This is what you taught me.”

Fan Jian sighed. His fingers gently rubbed and felt the texture of a piece of paper.

There was a portrait of a woman’s head drawn in charcoal on the paper. Although there were very few strokes, it managed to capture vividly the woman’s spirit and appearance, particularly the eyes of the woman. They looked at Fan Jian with a kind of compassion, warmth, cheek…as he gazed at her.

“The picture the Emperor had a great artist secretly draw of you is in the palace,” Fan Jian gazed at the woman in the picture and said with a slight smile. “But for me, your appearance has always been in my mind very clearly.”

“Every time I want to talk with you, I cannot resist but to draw another one.”

“To draw a cheeky you, a cold you, a hurt you, a happy you.”

“There are so many of you, which is the true you? It’s a pity, there is no way to ask you.”

Fan Jian sighed and brought the paper to the candle to burn. He watched the elegant complexion gradually disappear into the fire, and said in a daze, “If, that year, the Emperor and I had not gone back to my old home in Danzhou for the summer, I would not have met you, and…nothing of the later things would have happened.”

“Perhaps, I would still be that artist lingering all day long in the brothels.” The Minister raised the corners of his lips and a small self-deprecating smile rose to his face. “You said before, this world most needed artists. Pity, in the end, I became the person in Qing Kingdom who stinks the most of bronze.”

The fire on the paper gradually burned to the center, leaving black ash and broken remains of paper.

“You’ve always seen me as the most trustworthy elder brother.” Fan Jian spoke like this in the end. “I am very grateful for your trust, so be at ease, even if I don’t have the power to change too much. At least I will determinedly stand in Jingdou and watch Xian’er gradually grow up.”

A soft knock came from outside the study.

“Come in.” Fan Jian said with a slight smile.

Lady Liu walked in carrying a cup of winter cherry. She gently placed it on the table. The worry on her face was impossible to remove. What had happened in the palace had long traveled home through Yi Guipin. As the present mistress of the Fan manor, she knew what kind of difficulty the old master was going to face in court tomorrow.

Fan Jian glanced at her and sighed. “Be at ease. The Emperor will not be overly cruel.”

A slight anger flashed through Lady Liu’s eyes. She gently said, “If the Emperor remembers your past friendship, he would not have been provoked by those small incidences and want to investigate the Ministry of Revenue. In the six ministries, who was clean all the way from head to tail?”

Fan Jian shook his head and said, “You have to trust in the Emperor. This matter involves major court politics, of course, it cannot be easily overlooked.”

Lady Liu knew that the old master did not want to continue this sorrowful topic and shook her head helplessly.

Fan Jian lifted his whole and said toward the trace of the burnt paper on the desk, “Salutations to each.”

And then drank the winter cherry in one gulp.

Lady Liu was startled. She wondered who the old master was saluting.

On the second day, the court conference began again. As expected, the Emperor strictly criticized the botched performance of the Ministry of Revenue in the last two years and pushed most of the blame of the crime onto the head of the Minister of Revenue. As the Minister of Revenue Fan Jian was still said to be sick and did not attend court, thus the Ministry of Revenue had no one to defend it. The leaderless group of Ministry of Revenue officials wretchedly endured the attack of the civil and military officials in court.

The court sent out a public edict to begin the investigation into the Ministry of Revenue deficit. The Overwatch Council would be specifically carrying this out, with the Ministry of Appointments, Ministry of Justice, and the Supreme Court helping. Hu the Scholar from the Hall of Governmental Affairs would lead the investigation with the Crown Prince at his side to help out.

There had been rumors of investigating the Ministry of Revenue, so this matter did not surprise anyone. Once the circumstances were laid out, the officials still felt a thread of shock at such a big move. It looked like the Emperor really did want the Ministry of Revenue to have some hard times.

Who knew how Sir Fan junior in Jiangnan would react after learning about this matter?

That afternoon, the officials from various departments united in the investigation began to establish their presence in the Ministry of Revenue’s yamen. There were also Jingdou garrisons responsible for transferring soldiers to guard the various warehouses, since the first adversary they investigated was the problem of the accounts of the seven departments of the Ministry of Revenue.

For a while, the usually lively Ministry of Revenue yamen beside the big locust tree became even noisier. There were far fewer officials who came today to pick up money, but there were a lot more officials to check the money.

The officials of the Ministry of Revenue anxiously invited in officials carrying the imperial edict to investigate. After an endless amount of trouble, they finally managed to get enough grand chairs to invite the various officials to sit down. Then, the left and right assistant ministers reported the circumstances of the running of the Ministry of Revenue for the past two years. Earlier, under the eye of the Overwatch Council, some began to clean out the accounts to be checked over later.

Hu the Scholar and the Crown Prince sitting in the center did not make things difficult for the Ministry of Revenue officials. After some warm words and advice, they waited for the specific investigation to begin. However, the officials of the Ministry of Appointments and Ministry of Justice had a rare chance to make things difficult for the old men of the Ministry of Revenue. How could they pass it up? They intimidated with words and raised their voices in angry scolding. They directly called the Ministry of Revenue a place that sheltered evil people and abetted wrongdoing, and not somewhere to help the court control money and grains.

Hu the Scholar couldn’t stop himself from furrowing his brows. He knew that these two senior officials were not friendly with the Fan family at all. If he didn’t keep a close eye on them, he was afraid the investigation would truly become a method for the other party to attack dissidents.

Facing such an ostentatious scene, and looking at the important officials sitting in the hall, all of the officials of the Ministry of Revenue, including the left and right assistant ministers, felt a sorrowful mood and some kind of hopelessness. Minister Fan was not in the yamen, and these officials of the Ministry of Revenue all felt a sense of being isolated by the court officials. They knew they were about to face the most critical juncture of their official careers, nay, of their lives.

The Overwatch Council officials watched the work of organizing the accounts. They watched the old officials clean out more than seven large bamboo baskets of account books. They carried it with difficulty to the main hall.

The Crown Prince was shocked by all the accounts and said with surprise, “There are so many account books. To match them all one by one, how long will that take?”

The left assistant minister of the Ministry of Revenue said angrily, “Your Highness, the Ministry of Revenue has seven departments matching the seven Roads’ finances. There are another four minor departs matching to river works and such. There are three large warehouses, the Xi Mountain documents warehouse, and seven other warehouses that were transferred to the Ministry of Revenue by the palace treasury to manage. There are 17 warehouses near Jingdou, and there is also the Baoquan Office and Qianfa Hall that were responsible for minting money. As for storehouse yamen for the watercourse affairs far away in Hangzhou and…”

This assistant minster blathered on and spoke for as long as it took to drink a cup of tea, and he didn’t even stop for a break.

The Crown Prince’s mind became confused from the listening and quickly raised his hand to stop it.

The officials investigation the Ministry of Revenue were all stunned. They had always known that the Ministry of Revenue was responsible for managing money, but how could they have expected there to be such a complex structure set up beneath it? In order to investigate clearly, it looked like it wasn’t going to be the work of a day or two.

The assistant minister smiled superficially and said, “Your Highness, at this time, portions of the yamen accounts are still being tidied up. The seven large baskets here are the accounts of the Shangdong Road silver company because the minister had made me responsible a few days ago for tidying up the accounts for this Road, so they were quickly moved out. As for the final accounts, it would need at least a dozen more days to clear them out.”

Rebuked by the assistant minister, the Crown Prince’s face almost choked on his anger. “I don’t care how many accounts there are, and I don’t care how many days it takes. Since the Emperor has sent down an edict to investigate, you have all better move quickly. Otherwise, don’t blame me reporting you for secretly obstructing the edict to investigate!”

No one expected this assistant minister to remain fearless and said, “You highness, naturally I do not have such daring. Since all the officials are following the Emperor’s orders to investigate, there has to be some method. Which department exactly are you starting with? Other than accounts, when will you begin checking the amount of stored silver in the treasury? A few million liang of silver, even if it’s counting…it will still take a few days.”

The Crown Prince angrily swished his sleeve and didn’t bother to argue with these wicked officials. In any case, when they found a problem, there wouldn’t be good consequences for them.

Hu the Scholar watched coldly from the main table and felt it was odd in his heart. The Ministry of Revenue under the management of Minister Fan was indeed different from the other ministries. Although the assistant minister was not a lowly position, it was interesting that he dared to clash with the Crown Prince openly.

He knew that the assistant minister was angry today, and couldn’t help smiling and explaining, “The assistant minister Yu’s words are not wrong. Since we are investigating, of course, it should be done methodically and thoroughly. Furthermore, it is best if it did not disturb the day-to-day affairs of the Ministry of Revenue. All the state affairs up and down the country need the Ministry of Revenue to send out silver. If we overly disturb the affairs of the Ministry of Revenue in our investigation, I’m sure the Emperor would not be happy to see that.”

Assistant minister Yu was clearly more respectful toward Hu the Scholar. He bowed and said in an even voice, “We will do as scholar instructs.”

Since they didn’t know where to start checking, they first had to tidy up the accounts in the Ministry of Revenue, and then have specialist officials proceed with the auditing. The Overwatch Council, Minister of Appointments, and Supreme Court all had specialists. However, looking at the state of things, it would have to be at least the day after tomorrow before they could start.

An official suddenly said to Hu the Scholar, “In my opinion, why don’t we…first take out the accounts concerning the treasury and Jiangnan department, and have a look.”

The entire hall fell silent.

The treasury was where the silver for the national treasury was stored. If the Ministry of Revenue really did move the treasury silver to Jiangnan as the officials in court had deduced, it would certainly be in the Jiangnan company account. This official had clearly targeted that department with the rumor in mind.

Hu the Scholar started slightly, but could not find any reasons to refuse. Furthermore, he wanted to know whether or not the Ministry of Revenue had the daring to privately move national funds down to Jiangnan. He and the Crown Prince discussed it briefly, and then ordered the Overwatch Council official go with the Ministry of Revenue official to first bring these two accounts.

The first night there was no trouble.

The second day there was no trouble.

The third day there was no trouble.

From the beginning, the Qing court’s investigation of the Ministry of Revenue fell into the endless ocean of the battle between accounts. The officials who wholeheartedly wanted to find a problem with the Ministry of Revenue were, in a flash, buried under the accounts that were more than the snow on Cang Mountain.

In the spacious main hall, the accounts were piled like small mountains. Everywhere permeated the smell of dusty old paper, and it restricted the breathing of some of the officials investigating. Their eyes were filled with the yellow paper and numbers that exhausted their visions. They caused these officials’ eyes to blur and their hearts to become confused.

The silent investigation halls were filled with the endless sounds of pages being turned, pitter patter of the abacus, and occasional sound of tea being sipped. The silence and monotonous and repetitive sounds mixed together like an effective lullaby.

The investigating officials, who sat on the grand chairs, were still physically and emotionally tired. They were full of spring fatigue, even though they did not need to personally face those terrifying and complicated numbers.

They had been busy for a few days auditing the numbers on the accounts and still did not find any problem. They were still checking the numbers of the treasury and Jiangnan department accounts, and, for now, had not found any evidence that would be used to flip the Ministry of Revenue.

This point caught everyone by surprise. Even Hu the Scholar, who secretly leaned toward the Fan family, felt it was strange. With so many accounts, even if it wasn’t intentional, there should at least be some careless mistakes for it to be normal, right? With such an oceanic volume of calculation work, had the Ministry of Revenue not made any mistakes at all in the past two years?

It was said that if the water was clear, there would be no fish. If the accounts were clean, then they were fake. It was impossible for there be to such a perfect account in the world. If there was, then it had to be a fake account.

Hu the Scholar thought this, and so did the investigating officials from the Ministries of Administration and Justice also thought this. They began to check with more vigor. If they could find a single hole, they would be able to use a hair to move the whole body and pull the entire Ministry of Revenue from its horse.

However, when this warm but tedious afternoon ended, the various officials buried in the accounts raised their heads and looked at each other with shocked eyes and shook their heads at their respective superiors. The countless threads of disappointment welled up in their hearts.

There was not a problem, at least, not in the accounts of the Ministry of Revenue and the Jiangnan department.

The Ministry of Revenue they had investigated was very clean, strangely clean, as a naked as virgin after a bath.

“Something is not right,” The Minister of Appointments, Yan Hangshu, who had rushed to the Ministry of Revenue, shook his head and said to Hu the Scholar beside him. “It is too unusual.”

Hu the Scholar nodded.

Yan Hangshu narrowed his eyes and said, after some thought, “Of course, there wouldn’t be problems from just checking these two accounts. People are not stupid. They knew that the court suspected this area so, of course, they covered their tracks in this area very well. However, all of the accounts and treasuries are under our control. The items and numbers have to match up. If the Ministry of Revenue really does have a problem, it must be from covering their tracks. I think…our next step shouldn’t be focused on these places, we should expand out. Check the seven departments and three treasuries. All of the accounts have to be brought together and checked. We will surely find something fishy among them.”

Hu the Scholar furrowed his brows and said, “Not even talking about how difficult it would be, it would certainly take a lot of time.”

The Crown Prince listened at the side. Suddenly, a strange feeling welled in his heart. Have the officials beside him never taken advantage of the treasuries the Ministry of Revenue managed? How did they all have the daring to endlessly expand the accounts being checked? He thought about it and agreed with Yan Hangshu’s suggestion. To be able to defeat the Fan family was what he most wished to see.

News of the clean accounts traveled quickly from the Ministry of Revenue to the Fan manor. The expression of the supposedly sick Fan Jian did not change, he only muttered to himself, “When an artist makes fake accounts, of course, they seek perfection. Go investigate. The broader the better. The bigger the mistake you, find the better.”