Joy of Life - Chapter 434

[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:49:05]
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Chapter 434: Snowy Night Meets Green Banner

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

One winter day during the sixth year of the Qing calendar, the faint dusk sunlight shone through from the distant Cang Mountain. The day was very cold, and the private residences all around were covered in white snow.

The clouds gradually thickened and completely swallowed the faint sunlight. The wind also grew gradually stronger, picking up the collecting snow on the ground and swirling it in the air while more snow fell down from the sky. Coming from different places, with different colors, the snowflakes borrowed the strength of the wind to twine together, twisting in all directions in the oppressive air and demonstrating different layers of white and cold.

The wind and snow picked up again. The people rushing along on the roads faced unspeakable hardships. They all searched for the closest village or inn to rest. This year, Qing Kingdom had not suffered floods, but the snows were falling heavily. It was fortunate that during the summer, Jiangnan’s disaster relief had gone unusually smoothly. The disaster-stricken commoners had places to stay, so their chances of freezing to death were much smaller.

This was Yingzhou, the province hit hardest by floods and where the bandits had been most cruel after the disaster.

However, ever since imperial envoy Fan Xian had gone to Jiangnan, the Yingzhou bandits, either because they were afraid of the might of heaven or afraid of Sir Fan junior’s legendary tactics, had become much better behaved and quietly gone into hiding.

It was because of this that these travelers dared to travel on the roads in such snowy weather. However, although the human disasters had left, the heaven had no sense of honor. Although the Yangtze was not sealed, no one wanted to brave such cold to travel toward Jingdou, except for a group of black carriages.

The windows and lower edges of the carriage were sealed tightly with glue. Not a breath of cold air was able to pass through. However, the thick cotton curtain hanging in front was being attacked by the wind and snow, and would occasionally make muffled, sorrowful sounds.

A heating stove was lit in the carriage. A gust of warm air infused with fragrance rose into the air, making the carriage as warm as spring. It was a fresh contrast to the cold air outside the carriage.

Fan Xian felt a bit hot. He reached with two fingers toward his neck and loosened the robe slightly, revealing his neck. He took two deep breaths. Only then did he put down the scroll in his hand and gazed with narrowed eyes out of the carriage.

He only saw a clean white outside. Cang Mountain village, the winter fields, and the pond were all buried under the snow, frozen into ice mirrors. The scene of flooding at the beginning of the year had already disappeared. The people who had died in the flooding had also long been buried. Perhaps their white bones were shivering deep in the earth.

In the distance, there were some simple and crude houses. It could be seen that the materials used in building were not very solid, and they were not very good at keeping out the cold. However, spots of firelight could be seen peeking through with some sense of warmth. Fan Xian nodded with satisfaction. As long as they had firewood for the stove, it was good. Although the people’s lives were hard, they were good at enduring. A tiny amount of warmth was enough to protect them through this evil winter.

“Find a place to rest.” Fan Xian looked at the snow collected on the Overwatch Council coachman outside the carriage. He couldn’t help but furrowing his brows and said, “Although making time is important, don’t get sick because of the cold.”

“Yes, sir.”

The group of carriages slowly made a turn, following the widest of ridges between fields toward the closest village.

For his return to the capital to report on his duty, the court had set a time limit. Who knew that they would run into the largest snowstorm in years? They had been delayed for a few days in Shazhou and suddenly time was short. That was why the Overwatch Council subordinates would follow his orders to change carriages in Shazhou and continue against the wind and snow by land.

When they entered the village, there was already a local Lizheng, shivering and rushing over to welcome them. This Lizheng was offering up with both hands a thick cotton coat and looking at this group of black carriages with curiosity and fear. He wondered to himself which major figure would be hurrying in such snowy and windy weather.

Naturally, there were Overwatch Council officials who communicated with him. Fan Xian did not wish to overly disturb places, so he had traveled stealthily the entire way. He disembarked from the carriage and felt the snow being blown by the wind into his collar and unconsciously tightened it. Wrapping the silver-white fox fur cape around him, he walked into the village.

Leading a few swordsmen from the Sixth Bureau, Hong Changqing followed silently behind him.

Fan Xian slanted a glance at them and thought of Wan’er, who was still in Jiangnan and very busy. The Third Prince had already left for the capital a month earlier. To ensure his wife’s safety, he had left Gao Da and the other six Tiger Guards in Hangzhou.

When he had left Danzhou, they had just been entering into autumn. Fan Xian and his group first went to Hangzhou. These few months had mostly be used in cleaning out the leftovers of the Junshang Conference in Jiangnan, as well as on other official affairs.

After the matter they had decided on in Danzhou had been approved by the Palace, Wan’er had taken the lead and begun it. The matter had developed unexpected smoothly. The Linnan Xiong family and Quanzhou Sun family had both put in a large amount of silver into this enterprise. Even the dying Ming family put in a token amount. However, Wan’er had still not thought of a name to use, so had taken on the name of “Hangzhou Conference” for now to use.

With silver to support it and its connection to Fan Xian, the Hangzhou Conference could easily purchase the Northern Qi grain ahead of time. It could easily break through the obstacles in various provinces without worrying about the government coming to make trouble for them. Adding to it were the widespread connections of the Fan, Liu, and Lin families, as well as Xia Qifei’s Jiangnan water bandits’ channels into the public. The Hangzhou Conference developed quickly. Other than the court’s route, the disaster relief in Jiangnan now had an extra smooth and quick channel.

However, Fan Xian and Wan’er were always hidden behind the scenes. Very few people knew the role this couple played in the Hangzhou Conference. They all thought this matter was organized by the nobles in the Palace and that the palace treasury River Transport yamen was just a tool.

This winter, another heavy snowfall came to Jiangnan. No one knew how many families would run out of food, how many families’ homes would be crushed, or how many people would be frozen to death. Lin Wan’er had to stay in Hangzhou for a bit longer, at least until she had helped the Jiangnan people get through this period. It was still that old saying, even if they couldn’t help much, it was still better than nothing.

Lin Wan’er was busy in this matter. Her long helplessly suppressed talent in strategy was finally demonstrated a little. Fan Xian had not spent much time or effort on this matter. It was just his wife alone using letters to control the situation. She used coldness, might, and gentleness to manage this strange beast. It was like carefully having to plow the fields for everyone under heaven but not to point where it would have the government, that horse keeper, become unhappy.

That matter required a lot of hard work, a kind of balance and tediousness. Even Fan Xian was somewhat afraid of it. However, Wan’er had finally found something that she could do to prove herself. How could she be willing to let go so easily? So, she continued despite the hard work. When Fan Xian had left Hangzhou, he was worried that she would not look after herself. The Teng family’s wife was also a servant deeply terrified of the Mistress, so he had decided to also leave Sisi there.

As Fan Xian thought, he quickened his steps into the village. The carriages had already been secured. After leaving some guards, his subordinates, a total of more than 30 people, followed him into the village. They entered the just emptied nobility school.

The Lizheng followed carefully at the end. He didn’t dare ask who this important figure in an expensive fox fur cape was. He only guessed endlessly in his heart.

Entering the empty school, someone had already lit the fireplace. After cooking some sweet ginger water, the women in the village busily portioned it into bowls and respectfully handed it to the officials.

Fan Xian picked it up and drank a mouthful without saying anything. His clear and spirited eyes were only looking in a daze at the row of houses outside the main door. He suddenly opened his mouth and asked, “If the snow gets even heavier, can these houses handle the pressure?”

This village was still part of Danzhou, one of the poor places that had suffered floods last year. This row of houses had been gradually built last year and appeared to be flimsy, so Fan Xian was a bit worried.

The Lizheng started, not knowing whether or not he was talking to him. Hong Changqing coughed and gave him a meaningful look.

Only then did the Lizheng wake from his shock. Half bending over, he moved two steps closer to Fan Xian and respectfully replied, “Master, in a few days, the snow will accumulate even thicker. As for whether or not it can hold, I am really not sure.”

Fan Xian glanced at him in surprise, thinking, A mere Lizheng, yet he did not boast at all That was very rare. He smiled warmly and said, “Then, won’t you need to patrol it every day?”

The Lizheng chuckled and said, “Look at what you’re saying. With such heavy snowfall, as the Lizheng, of course, I must take an extra look every day.” He continued proudly, “However, I think it should be fine. These houses may look unremarkable, but they were designed by the old carpenters in the palace treasury. I heard that over in the three large workshops, they all live in these kinds of houses. The pressure of the snow shouldn’t be a problem.”

Fan Xian smiled, and his subordinates behind him also smiled. The Lizheng was a bit confused, wondering what there was to smile about.

He asked a few more questions about whether there was enough wood and charcoal and other such questions, then Fan Xian ended his conversation with the Lizheng. For some reason, a complicated emotion welled in his heart. The strength of Qing Kingdom was indeed great. As long as it was used well, it was no problem to ensure that these people had a normal life. He seemed to have gradually become used to the feeling of being a powerful official. Although he was just passing through, he still couldn’t resist asking a few questions.

A powerful official?

Fan Xian sighed and walked to the door of the school. Narrowing his eyes, he looked out at the darkening sky and increasingly cold wind, heavy snow, and deep chill, but his thoughts had floated to somewhere else. The first time he thought he should become a powerful official in this lifetime, he had told his father. The second time was in Shangjing, Northern Qi, and he had told Haitang after drinking.

Haitang left.

When Lang Tiao had brought the Northern Qi diplomatic group to Suzhou, Fan Xian had known that Haitang would certainly follow her elder brother back to Northern Qi. For one, there was the Northern Qi empress dowager’s edict and for two, Haitang could not find an excuse to convince herself to stay. She was the sage girl of Northern Qi, not the Qing Kingdom’s princess. Why should she spend all day in the Fan family’s Hua Garden? Furthermore, her most important task in coming South was to supervise Fan Xian carrying out their secret agreement on behalf of the Emperor. Now, given her relationship to Fan Xian, even the little Emperor was feeling a bit of a headache. Naturally, he would agree with the empress dowager and summon this aunt disciple back.

Fan Xian did not see the scene with his own eyes, but he seemed to be able to see it in his mind. That floral clothing, that village girl, holding her basket and swaying her body with a carefree attitude as she left Suzhou without even glancing back.

However, although Haitang had left, Fan Xian’s agreement with Northern Qi was still progressing steadily. The smuggling going North under Fan Sizhe, as well as Xia Qifei’s Southern support, had already entered a stable period. Both sides of the channel had been opened and goods produced by the palace treasury flowed endlessly into Northern Qi territory. Naturally, the price was much cheaper than that on the market. The inner court of Qing Kingdom had lost a great deal of money because of Fan Xian’s secret tricks. However, the Hangzhou Conference gained a great deal of money.

It was all the people’s silver, so why care about who was holding it and using it?

Under Fan Xian’s assault, the Ming family had truly sunk into an impasse. Although the Ming family still had tens of millions of silver in property, property was not liquid. The Ming family was reluctant to sell off the land and property to bring life back into their business, so they could only borrow from outside to have sufficient turnover.

The problem was, the old Ming matriarch had been strangled by Ming Qingda. However, this Master of the Ming family had not had the time to completely take over the old Ming matriarch’s position in the Junshang Conference. Although Dongyi’s Taiping money house still supported the Ming family, it was clearly much weaker in strength.

Thus, Ming Qingda could only go find the money house that had reached out to him in his time of greatest need—Zhaoshang money house.

Fan Xian stood by the door with his head down. He thought, The more borrowed, the better. He had followed the Emperor’s wishes and was going to completely bring down the Ming family without soldiers or bloodshed, which was why it had dragged on for so long.

He raised his head and looked at the heavy snow in front of him. His heart was filled with satisfaction and pride. He had touted his own horn for so many years, but to be able to deal with Jiangnan, he had to allow himself this opportunity to be proud.

It was at this moment, his pupils suddenly constricted.

In the heavy snow, a streak of black broke through the wind and approached like a flash of black lightning, it seemed to have crossed the line between space and time. Using the power of the wind to cover the sound of it cutting through the air, in a flash, it had appeared in front of him.

It was an arrow. A black arrow.

Fan Xian narrowed his eyes. He did not move or dodge. He used the Tyrannical zhenqi in his body. Raising his left hand, the long sword at his waist swung and the point of the sword came chopping down.

There was a muffled clash.

This seemingly plan, but actually very vicious strike, of Fan Xian’s landed in empty air.

A green banner suddenly appeared in front of him. Below the banner was a green-clothed man. That man wore a green ribbon tied on his hair.

This soul-eating arrow landed on the pole in the middle of that banner; the feathered arrow quivered.

There were two large words written on the banner.

“Tie Xiang.”

The secret agents of the Overwatch Council had already reacted. Six of the swordsmen raised their crossbows and surrounded the green-clothed man in the center while the other swordsmen of the Sixth Bureau had already followed the snow in the dark and had moved toward the position where the arrow had come from and disappeared into the darkness.

Fan Xian looked at the green-clothed man. His eyes were calm, and he was thinking about something. Suddenly he opened his mouth and said, “Retreat.”

A simple word and all of the Sixth Bureau swordsmen who had gone out preparing to kill the archer followed orders and came back. Silently, they stood on the snowy plain in front of the school and surrounded the green-clothed man in the center.

Fan Xian raised his head and glanced at that green banner. Suddenly, he opened his mouth and said, “A fortune teller. Did you foresee that someone would come to assassinate me?”

The green-clothed man had his head lowered so his face could not be seen clearly. They could hear him say with a slight smile, “A mere arrow, how could it harm Sir Fan junior?”

Fan Xian calmly said, “That is why I don’t understand. You didn’t move for the large arrow, so why are you here for the small arrow?”

The green-clothed man said warmly, “Although the arrow is young, it is an aggressive personality and always a bit impetuous.”

Fan Xian was silent.

The green-clothed man continued, “I am not a fortune teller…” He put two of his fingers together and, trembling, pointed at the two words on his green banner. “My name is Tie Xiang.”