Joy of Life - Chapter 413

[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:48:56]
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Chapter 413: Someone Is Having A Feast In Jiaozhou

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

The Black Knights headed straight for Jiaozhou. In order to fool people, the route they chose could not be the official road. No matter how much confidence Fan Xian had in himself and the Black Knights’ strong battle power, he knew that if a disturbance started, he couldn’t hold back one of the three great navies of the Qing Kingdom with only 400 riders.

So, entered the city quietly without a shot fired.

Seeing the gates of Jiaozhou in the distance, Fan Xian dismounted his horse. Using an Overwatch Council trick he learned in his childhood, he found a quiet spot and let the horse go. The horse had understood what his owner meant. Without hesitation, it headed toward the valley on its own and, in a moment, disappeared.

It was not that Fan Xian didn’t have the heart to kill the horse. The iron stench of blood was truly unnecessary and would only bring trouble. After confirming the horse would not reveal his movements, he sat down beneath a tree and dug a small hole beside him. He took off his clothes and buried them in the dirt. He then took out the equipment he was carrying and made a detailed survey of it. He checked that the black dagger, secret crossbow the Third Bureau had given out, and the sleeping powder and poison that never left his side were all there. He then rubbed something on his face before unconsciously nodding his head. Shortly after, he let out a sigh.

Somewhat unhappily, he buried the Emperor’s sword Wang Qinian had sent into the dirt. Fan Xian wondered when he would be able to use this sword openly and publicly.

By the time he had left the tree, Sir Fan junior had already turned into a normal young man. His appearance was still delicate; only the space between his brows was slightly wider and the corners of his eyes were pulled down slightly. He lost a bit of heroism and added a sense of sincerity. He was a completely different person.

Under the rough spun clothing was still the black night-moving clothes he wore next to his skin. Fortunately, the quality of the material was excellent and breathable, so it did not feel hot.

Following a rarely used mountain path, he headed toward Jiaozhou. The sun had long sunk beneath the top of the mountain behind him and dusk enveloped his surroundings. At the last moment before the city gates closed, Fan Xian arrived. He handed over his travel documents and answered routine questions from the gate guard, then he easily walked into the city.

The travel documents made by the Overwatch Council were not high-quality fakes. They were the real thing, so no one would find any problems. When Fan Xian answered the questions, although he was cautious and respectful, he was not panicked. Jiaozhou was near the seas, so there were many people coming and going to start. The gate guards had long seen everything, so did not give it much priority.

Going through the gates, Fan Xian rubbed his eyes and smiled, just like a traveler from far away. He used a curious gaze to evaluate the private residences and scenery around him, but he didn’t move too slowly nor did he slow his footsteps. He perfectly played the part of a foreigner busy with his affairs.

Jiaozhou was indeed different from normal provincial cities. Although it neighbored the sea, its commerce—or more accurately speaking, its bulk selling industry—was not very developed. The wealthiest street that went across the city did not have many stalls to either side. Even those that did have something of a shop front were half hidden and did not have a sign. It was impossible for outsiders to figure out what was being sold inside.

The entire city seemed solemn and quiet. It lacked the aura and smoke of life, but it had an additional dignity.

As Fan Xian walked, he paid attention to these details. He knew that this was because the Jiaozhou Navy was often stationed here. Jiaozhou was far away from the middle plain. It was truly a place where the mountains were high. The Emperor was far away and the navy themselves had tens of thousands of troops. This strength was truly scary.

In comparison to the large navy, the strength of Jiaozhou itself appeared somewhat insignificant. The highest-ranking official was only a Zhizhou. In front of the admiral of the navy, he remained well-behaved.

Jiaozhou’s commercial affairs depended on the whims of the navy. All of the life necessities of the tens of thousands of navy officials, other than what the court appointed, were commandeered from around them. Although this made the Jiaozhou people somewhat angry, it also brought a strange wealth—at least they did not have to worry about not being able to sell their goods and grain.

Because of these reasons, Jiaozhou was the large navy’s base of logistics. It was like the sweet maiden at a warrior’s side; she could only accept and could not make any sound of resentment.

With an entity as large as the navy beside them, Jiaozhou also carried a thick military aura. The best pieces of land were commandeered by military personnel. The largest manors were all lived in by high-ranking navy officials. The best girls were all forcefully taken by the navy.

Although the court had explicit orders that did not allow stationed troops and generals to live in the neighboring provincial cities, everyone knew this rule had long lost its effectiveness not only in Jiaozhou, but also the provincial and border troops. As long as it was a major figure with some power, no one wanted to live in the harsh conditions of the military camp. Instead, they bought houses and women in the provincial city.

The Black Knights were exceptions of exceptions.

Fan Xian raised his head to gaze at the brothel with its hovering red lanterns and couldn’t help but smile. Where there were a lot of soldiers, the brothels’ business would be very good. He wondered whether or not the navy officials would refuse to pay. However, according to the information from the Council, although the Jiaozhou Navy were the Emperors of Jiaozhou, they never ate the grass near their burrow.[JW1] Usually, they ate the grass on the sea to the South.

Fan Xian lowered his head and walked quickly past a large manor with grand eaves, red painted doors, and walls hidden among bamboo. It took up the space of half a street and was even more extravagant than the homes of the major officials in Jingdou.

The large manor was like the brothel in the distance with bright red lanterns hanging outside, and it appeared very cheerful. On the door were images of immortals with low-flowing beards. It appeared that some major figure was celebrating a birthday.

At odds with this festive atmosphere were the guards standing outside the large manor. The guards’ appearances were dark. Scaling could faintly be seen below their ears. They were probably people who spent much of their lives on the sea. The soldiers did not glance around. With a solemn face, they carefully watched the people passing by the manor.

There were not a lot of people who strolled past it, so they were more responsible for checking the guests. Although other than high-ranking officials in the navy, the other guests were officials from Jiaozhou. Even faced with wealthy merchants who could stand in public and some merchants from the distant Jiangnan, these soldiers did not relax. They carefully checked the gift boxes to ensure that no one brought a weapon inside.

It was their master’s birthday feast, so they had to ensure everything was absolutely safe.

Other than the front door being closely guarded, Fan Xian’s zhenqi secretly shifted and heard sounds inside the manner that told him there were a number of soldiers hidden in isolated areas.

He quickly walked by with his head lowered. A glimmer of a sinister smile rose to the corners of his lips. He clearly evaluated the strengths of the guards at the corners of the street outside the large manor and, at the same time, he drew a map of the topographical map of the surrounding area and deeply imprinted it in his mind. This manor was nothing compared with back in the day when he had only walked once through the enormous Royal Palace and memorized clearly every little alley.

Leaving behind the bustle and the sounds of greeting, he let that eye-piercing red of the red lantern disappear in the dark. Fan Xian pressed his lips together. His eyes, seemingly unconsciously, swept toward an area below the wall on the street and saw a familiar secret mark. He then turned and entered, walking to the end of a small alley.

It was a dead end.

Fan Xian raised his head to look at the wall at the end of the alley and shook his head. His toes tapped against the floor, and his entire body rose up. His palm lightly landed on the wall, and he flipped over.

Silently, Fan Xian, in the disguise of a normal commoner, once again disappeared into Jiaozhou.

Behind the wall was a little courtyard. The place was not very quiet. The sounds on a street a few large houses away could faintly be heard. Although there were six rooms in the front and back, they looked to be old and worn. It meant that although it wasn’t a normal commoner living here, they were also not living very well.

Fan Xian walked up the stone steps and entered. Pushing open the door, he made a direct line for the main seat. Picking up the teapot beside him, he sniffed it and then poured himself a cup of tea, which he drank.

Anxious footsteps came from the side as the owner entered the room. Finding a young man he did not know sitting there, he was about to ask questions. Suddenly, he saw the person’s hand make a gesture. He couldn’t help being shocked and joyful, “Teacher, you’re finally back.”

Fan Xian smiled. Putting down the teacup in his hand, he gazed at Hou Jichang’s slightly thinner face and couldn’t resist saying, “You’re in Jiaozhou to be an official. I had thought it could better your wizened body. How are you even thinner?”

After Hou Jichang had seen Yang Wanli on the banks of Jiangnan, he had made nothing of the hardships and rushed to Jiaozhou to take up his post. The trip was tiring. Additionally, he had to secretly help Fan Xian investigate those shocking matters, so the pressure on his spirit was also very large. He had been in Suzhou for a month but had not made much progress. Deeply afraid that he would hinder his teacher’s great plans, he had not slept for days. At this time, his eyes were deeply sunken and his cheekbones protruded. He looked nothing like the confident and at-ease talent he was in Jingdou.

He smiled bitterly and self-mockingly said, “I don’t have teacher’s ability to smile as I look at world affairs.”

Fan Xian sighed. Although of his four disciples, Hou Jichang could be said to be the most meticulous of thought and ruthless and daring when acting, when faced with the upcoming bloodiness, it was easy to see that scholars were still scholars after all. This matter could have been handled by the Overwatch Council. However, Fan Xian had arranged for Hou Jichang to come because he wanted to shock the Jiaozhou officials and he had a personal agenda. After Jiaozhou’s crisis, someone would fall and take the credit. Such a large meritorious service would certainly help Jichang achieve unconventional promotion.

Fan Xian wanted to leave this kind of benefit for this student, only, he had to take some shock that could be considered the price.

“Since you arrived in Jiaozhou has there been anything strange?” Fan Xian asked calmly. He did not ask about the matter of the Jiaozhou Navy smuggling because he knew well that it was impossible for Hou Jichang to have figured out these dark matters in officialdom in so short a time.

Hou Jichang thought for a bit and said, “Everyone under heaven knows that I am your student, so the officials have been quite polite to me. Even those sailors and generals have been very discreet, only…I have not found any anything, I’ve only heard some rumors.”

Fan Xian nodded. This was a situation he had long guessed. He thought for a bit and said, “The Admiral of the navy, Chang Kun, is having his birthday feast today. Did he not invite you?”

Hou Jichang paused and said, “I am only a small official, however…it should be because he was giving you face. The Admiral also gave me an invite, only…you said you were arriving today, so I have been waiting at home. I haven’t decided whether or not to go.”

“Go,” Fan Xian said without hesitation. “You go first.”

Having him go first, the hidden meaning was that Fan Xian would go after.

Hou Jichang furrowed his brows and said, “You are just one person?”

“One person is enough,” Fan Xian smiled slightly and said. “Chang Kun is not Xiao En. He does not have the right for me to attach too much importance to him.”

He paused and then said, “Today is his birthday feast. In the future, his family can celebrate his birthday after his death and have his memorial service on the same day…how much less trouble that will be.”

Hou Jichang’s heart jumped, and his mouth tasted bitter. He gazed in a daze at his teacher. He knew that Fan Xian was going to kill someone at the feast tonight, but he didn’t know how exactly his teacher was going to do it under the protection of the valiant Jiaozhou Navy. Furthermore, a navy admiral was an official of the first-level and couldn’t just be assassinated and have that be the end of the matter. The Emperor and his teacher…shouldn’t commit such a muddled mistake. If the feast became a desperate battlefield, how would they deal with the aftermath?

[JW1] I opted to keep the literal translation because there is a play on words in the following sentence: 兔子不吃窝边草 – A rabbit doesn’t eat the grass by its own burrow (idiom); One shouldn’t do anything to harm one’s neighbors.