Joy of Life - Chapter 387[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:48:46]
Chapter 387: Picking Up A Giant Snowball
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The investigation of the Ministry of Revenue made great progress. The officials of the three departments were pressed closer and closer to their goal. The Crown Prince’s expression also became more and more boastful, and he would sigh occasionally when in conversation with Hu the Scholar. No one knew whether he was sighing about the purge that the Ministry of Revenue was facing or the stronger and stronger spring.
The description of rolling a snowball was appropriate. In Cangzhou, where there was snow year-round, the winter jackets of the tens of thousands of soldiers did not bring too much trouble for the Ministry of Revenue. But from there, traces could be followed to the capital and that led to other old incidences. All of the clues were gathered at the Ministry of Revenue.
The deficit became larger and larger. Qing Kingdom’s wound, which the Ministry of Revenue officials had always carefully hidden, was bloodily torn apart and revealed for the officials to appreciate.
After the investigation unit went into the Palace to report, they increased the intensity of the investigation. At this point, even Hu the Scholar new that the Ministry of Revenue could not be protected anymore. If Fan Jian quickly resigned right now, the court might still leave the Fan manor some face for Fan Xian’s sake. If this confrontation went on, it would not be as simple as Fan Jian losing his post.
Although Hu the Scholar and the civil officials were terrified by the Ministry of Revenue’s deficit, they also did not wish the court to make too big of waves. They also did not want the temporarily balanced court to have some kind of slant. So, through some channels, they conveyed kindness to the Fan manor.
As long as Minister Fan personally asked to resign, Hu the Scholar and Shu the Scholar were willing to jointly guarantee his safety.
This was the only kindness of these officials. For Fan Jian, a veteran official who had followed the Emperor for almost 30 years, once he had decided on an idea, the response he made would be incredibly stubborn. The Fan manor expressed gratitude for the kindnesses the various manors secretly made, but as for the kindness themselves, Fan Jian himself still did not make any specific responses.
He had not entered the Palace crying and sobbing to the Emperor. He also did not submit his resignation. In fact, he was still ill at home, and his illness did not seem to be taking a turn for the better.
The officials knew that Minister Fan was not sick, and the Palace also knew. But, the Emperor did not send the royal doctors and eunuch Hong to check up on the Fan manor. Since the Palace that had not treated the Fan family fairly, the Palace tolerated Fan Jian’s way of showing resentment through his illness.
In the following days, the Crown Prince sat in the Ministry of Revenue and watched the people below investigating. It forced Hu the Scholar to also personally come to watch. The investigating and the investigated were both quite tired.
On this day, the work of investigating the Ministry of Revenue made another breakthrough progress. The silver in the accounts did not match that in the national treasury. The huge amount of deficit pointed in four directions to four unremarkable officials.
Finally, they found specific people executing the orders and specific incidents of the deficit. Hearing this report, the Crown Prince’s eyes lit up, but his expression remained very calm. He was thinking, If we follow these officials all the way up, will we not pen you into a dead end, Fan Jian? Wait until we trace it all the way to Jiangnan. The court will remember that 20 million liang of silver that was to Fan Xian’s credit, but the corresponding crime would force Fan Xian to suffer all of the consequences!
When Hu the Scholar heard the names of the four officials, particularly the last one, his eyes also lit up. His expression remained calm. He thought Minister Fan’s methods were truly very exquisite. It looked like he and Shu the Scholar’s worries these days had been unnecessary.
The Crown Prince was young and did not have the same meticulousness of thought that Hu the Scholar had. He also did not have Hu the Scholar’s ability to remember all that passed before his eyes, so he did not see the trap within. Under the mindset being able to successfully capture their enemy, he danced with joy and, without any thought to his reputation, ordered his officials to focus their attack on this problem.
Although the Minister of Appointments stood secretly on the side of the Eldest Princess and the Second Prince, in front of this positive situation and with the Crown Prince leading the way, he cheerfully joined in. He stood beside the Crown Prince and cheered. Although he didn’t personally participate, his cheers rang out without stopping. Hu the Scholar watched from the side and smiled secretly.
The investigation of the Ministry of Revenue had reached a critical juncture. In the main hall, deep in the courtyard, the Crown Prince’s proud laughter rang out. In his hand, he held the official’s confession. With an imposing and tyrannical aura and a cold light growing gradually in his eyes, he forcefully questioned the Ministry of Revenue official in front of him.
“Speak! Where did the 400,000 liang of silver in this account go?”
It was deep into spring, and the weather had become hot. The wretched sixth-level official kneeling in front of the others was already soaked through with sweat, and the color of his official robes had become dark purple. Hearing the Crown Prince’s strict yelling he wanted to cry but had no tears. He was only an agent, how could he know where the Minister had moved this cache of silver?
The Crown Prince saw the official’s frightened state and glanced at him with irritation. He suddenly remembered his goal and softened his voice. “The move for this cache of coins was signed by you. You have to explain where this silver went next. The court’s silver cannot just randomly be used like this.”
This official could not stand the pressure of the questioning and stammered, “It was unfinished work left by the vice-director of Jiangzuo.”
The Ministry of Revenue had seven departments, and each was managed by the director and the vice-director, fifth-level officials. The vice-director of Jiangzuo was Fang Li, a relatively high-level official in the Ministry of Revenue.
His name, along with the other three directors in the Ministry of Revenue, were targets the Crown Prince’s investigating officials had already found. Today, they were to be questioned in court, so the Ministry of Revenue could no longer deny anything.
The Crown Prince was quite pleased with this sixth-level official’s behavior, although his face remained dark. He said in a cold voice, “Go wait below and listen.”
The official left the hall in a fluster and sullen. He didn’t know what he was about to face.”
“Send in the person called Fang Li.”
The Crown Prince was in high-spirits and did not notice that his actions had already overstepped the regulations. In his ordering of people around, he did not consult the opinions of the nominal leading official, Hu the Scholar.
In a moment, that vice-director of the Ministry of Revenue, Fan Li, walked in. He bowed to the various officials standing around. His bearing was proud, and he did not seem to know what was about to happen.
The Crown Prince looked at this person’s face and found his heart thudding. He felt he looked a bit familiar. He took a closer look and found that he seemed to have heard this official’s name somewhere before.
Fan LI had already come into the hall, and the Crown Prince didn’t have much time to think more. Hu the Scholar and Yan Hangshu still maintained a sly silence. They gave the entire stage to the Crown Prince and let him play on it alone.
The Crown Prince looked at the two officials beside him and huffed quietly thinking. In the future, this whole world would be his, what was it to question a few Ministry of Revenue officials? As long as it could implicate Fan Jian and connect all the deficits with the silver in Jiangnan…even if it looked ugly right now and damaged the dignity of the Eastern Palace, he could not worry about that right now.
He slammed the table and said in a cold voice, “Report your name and rank.”
The Ministry of Revenue vice-director of Jiangzuo started, and his lip trembled slightly. His face was full of shock as he gazed at the Crown Prince. He had not expected that the Crown Prince would be so severe to him. His face flushed red. He raised his clasped hands with difficulty and said, “I am the Ministry of Revenue vice-director of Jiangzuo, Fang Li.”
The Crown Prince frowned and had an Overwatch Council official hand over the file found a few days ago as well as the confession of the official who signed the silver transfer. He asked darkly, “Tell me, where did this 400,000 liang of silver go?”
Fang Li looked like he had been struck by lightning. He stared at the Crown Prince like an idiot, or perhaps…he stared like the Crown Prince was an idiot?
He stammered for a long time before he said in a trembling voice, “Your Highness, I truly don’t know.”
The Crown Prince frowned with a look of worry for the country and its people. “Just saying you don’t know…I’m afraid…won’t be enough…”
Now Fang Li was truly stunned. Particularly when he heard the Crown Prince say “I’m afraid” with a twist, his heart dropped into an ice vault. He understood what he heard and saw. The Crown Prince not only forgot who Fang Li was, he had completely forgotten about the 400,000 liang.
He was sorrowful in his heart. He laughed self-deprecatingly and helplessly, after all this, what did he count as? He was just a small fry in the Ministry of Revenue. He had worked for the Crown Prince before and drunk with him at the same table. Why would the Crown Prince need to remember his normal and unremarkable face now?
What was that 400,000 liang for? That year, the Crown Prince liked women. He liked to spend money on women, repair gardens for women to play in, and reward his trusted aides. Who was the Crown Prince? He was the future master of the country. Eventually, all the money in the world was his. If he used it, he used it, why would he waste his thoughts to remember where it had come from?
Fang Li’s mouth was dry. He stared speechlessly at the Crown Prince. He wished that the other party would be able to remember something to prevent this absurd and unbelievable situation from continuing and developing to a point of no return.
Unfortunately, the Crown Prince did not seem to notice the gaze of this Ministry of Revenue official.
The investigation work was still ongoing, and the vice-director of the Ministry of Revenue knew that this matter was too big. Once he spat out the truth in front of all the officials, it could not be taken back again. He determinedly gritted his teeth and refused to say another word.
The Crown Prince felt this was very strange. He frowned as he looked at the familiar looking official. He didn’t understand where the other party got their daring from. The confession was before them yet he said not a word…was the other party…did they want to take all the blame for Fan Jian? Or, has there always been something more to this matter?
The long silent Minister of Appointment, Yan Hangshu, suddenly aggressively slammed the table and said severely, “This bastard sure is daring! Come! Drag him out and question him properly!”
He turned his head and asked, “Sir Hu, can corporal punishment be used?”
Hu the Scholar, who had been staring at the ants fighting in front of his shoes the entire time, seemed to only just realize what was happening. He opened his pair of listless eyes and said, “Ah? Use corporal punishment?”
The last word of “use corporal punishment” was said without much tone, and it wasn’t clear whether it was a question or consent. Yan Hangshu impatiently raised his clasped hands and said, “All will be as you order.”
An official of the First Bureau of the Overwatch Council took the order and prepared to go forward to drag out this stubbornly quiet vice-director. The stubbornly silent Fan Li heard that he was going to prison and the words “use corporal punishment.” In his fear, he finally couldn’t control his state of mind and gave a wretched cry, “I’ve been wronged. I was a graduate in the first year of the Qing calendar and became the vice-director in four years. It is all because of the power and might of the royal grace, how could I do such an illegal thing?”
This succession of sentences spewed forth, but he truly had some ability. In such a tense moment, he still only gazed at Hu the Scholar while he explained himself and refused to even glance at the Crown Prince.
When the always silent Yan Hangshu jumped out and suggested using corporal punishment, a sense of oddness deepened in the Crown Prince’s heart. When he heard Fang Li’s explanation, he felt a chill go down his back that pierced right to his bone.
A graduate in the first year of the Qing calendar? The son of the previous Director Guo of the Board of Rites, Guo Baokun, who had always had good relations with the Crown Prince was a graduate of the first year of the Qing calendar—Fang Li and Guo Baokun were the same year.
Countless memories resurfaced in the Crown Prince’s mind. In a flash, he remembered many things. That year, because of Guo Baokun’s recommendation, he had condescended to have had a meal with a low-level official of the Ministry of Revenue called Fang Li. Through the arrangements of the Eldest Princess, he had the other party receive two promotions in the Ministry of Revenue.
Later, the Crown Prince had hinted to Guo Baokun, and this trusted aide of his and Fang Li had secretly moved a cache of silver from the Ministry of Revenue for his own use.
Only, many years had passed, so no one knew where that cache of money had been spent. Guo Baokun had long died somewhere, and the Crown Prince had forgotten all about this matter and Fang Li. Who would have thought he would meet this person again while investigating the Ministry of Revenue?
Had…that 400,000 liang of silver flowed into his own pockets?
The Crown Prince’s face was filled with shock as he watched Fang Li being dragged out of the hall by the Overwatch Council. A bitter taste rose in his mouth, and his chest began to tighten. He knew that this official could not be questioned by the three departments, otherwise, there would be a big problem. He understood that he had already made the stupidest mistake and could not let this mistake continue.
He glared fiercely at the Minister of Appointments, Yan Hangshu, who stood beside him with a slight smile on his face. He roared out, “Wait!”
The manor of the director of the Board of Rites, who had been knocked down by Fan Xian, was, in name, close to the Easter Palace. In reality, they were the Eldest Princess’ trusted aids. The Crown Prince had discovered this the night His Highness recited poetry. Since the other party was the Eldest Princess’ people, Yang Hangshu knew of the matter of him borrowing money from the Ministry of Revenue through Guo Baokun. The Crown Prince thought fiercely that it was fine that this old man hadn’t reminded him, but he wanted to strike him while he was down.
“Your Highness, what’s wrong?” Yan Hangshu gazed at him with a slight smile.
The Crown Prince was speechless for a moment. It was impossible to stop. He had single-handedly begun to investigate the case with great fanfare. In the end, he had implicated himself. How could he wrap this up?
He frowned and narrowed his eyes, “It looks like this official has something to say. It won’t hurt to ask him first.”
Yan Hangshu smiled and nodded his head. Hu the Scholar naturally also did not have any objections.
Fang Li, who had just narrowly escaped death, knew that the Crown Prince had finally remembered him and let out a big breath. When he met the Crown Prince’s worried gaze, he knew that today’s matter was truly difficult to handle.
A vicious thought flashed through the Crown Prince’s mind. He suddenly remembered that Guo Baokun had long disappeared somewhere. As long as he, himself, refused to admit anything and found a way to have Fang Li keep his mouth closed, then he could wash himself clean.
Having thought through this point, he said with a warm expression, “Fang Li, think carefully before you tell us where this silver went. I am investigating this case by imperial edict, of course, I will not let go of a corrupt official, but…I will also not wrong a good official.”
Hope flashed through Fang Li’s eyes. He knew the Crown Prince was hinting to him to randomly accuse someone else. Since this 400,000 liang account had been dug out,, there was no way to close it in front of Hu the Scholar, Minister Yan, and the officials of the Supreme Court and Overwatch Council. He knew it could only be like this. He lowered his head. His eyes darted wildly as he made up his mind. He only had a moment of time, but he didn’t know who to push it onto. After taking the money back then, he had secretly destroyed the accounts, but it was difficult to give this large amount of money another purpose.
Yan Hangshu glanced at the Crown Prince and sighed in his heart. He knew that the other party was preparing to sacrifice a pawn, and this pawn seemed to be prepared to be sacrificed. It was a little unexpected. How could such a useless individual such as the Crown Prince have made this low-level official, Fang Li, so obedient? It was clear that the Crown Prince had not recognized this person earlier.
He didn’t understand that in Fang Li’s heart, the Crown Prince was the one to inherit the throne one day. As long as he could survive this matter, he would always have a chance to turn his fortunes around. However…for 400,000 liang, why would the Emperor take pity on the life of a low-level vice-director? Fang Li had clearly not thought about this point.
Not letting Fang Li think for too long under the inspecting gazes of the hall of officials, a slightly tired voice had already helped him answer and resolve his dilemma. At the same time, it looped a chain around the Crown Prince’s body.
“I recorded this transaction.”
“That year the Board of Rites sent out orders because the Emperor had written an imperial edict to repair the buildings in various locations for the autumn examinations as well as the school residences, so he needed the Ministry of move money. Altogether there were 14 transactions for a total of 400,700 liang of silver.”
“The silver had already been sent to the Board of Rites. They should have the receipts. However, I did not handle this matter myself. I will go check to make sure in a moment. It was all carried out according to the Qing law and court regulations. Please don’t make things difficult for my poor subordinates.”
“As for whether or not there is a problem with this cache of money, word just needs to be sent to the various provinces to see the conditions of the autumn examinations and school residences, and everything will be clear.”
Minister Fan, who had been sick for many days, finally dragged his weak and ill body to the Ministry of Revenue yamen. He stood near the door and recounted each transaction weakly to the officials in the hall.
The official from the First Bureau of the Overwatch Council quickly went forward to help, while Hu the Scholar led Yan Hangshu and the investigating officials to quickly rise and bow. Although there were special investigation officials, not a single person dared to show a trace of disrespect.
This Minister of Revenue, who had led the Ministry of Revenue for nine years, defended his subordinate as well as explained word by word exactly where the silver had gone. As long as it was checked, the truth of this matter would come to light. The Crown Prince’s face grew pale, and his eyes began to wander.