Joy of Life - Chapter 453[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:49:12]
Chapter 453: Remembering The Past In The Royal Study
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The royal study was much warmer than outside. Silver bamboo charcoal from Langyazhou was being burned in three fire basins. The cleverly designed fire basins didn’t have excessive ash, only excessive heat. They enveloped the entire room in a spring warmth that did not align with the weather.
There was only a faint burning smell. The scent was not bad, but Fan Xian’s sensitive nose was not used to it. He couldn’t but miss the warmth of a white room far away in a different world. He remembered two cheeky lines he once read in his previous life—Chairman Mao had never used a cellphone, and the Emperor had never used an air conditioner.
The Emperor sat down on the low couch. From his expression, it was clear that he was pleased with the warmth in the royal study. The fine silver hair at his temples and fine lines at the corners of his eyes were all smooth. On the couch, he took off his outer dragon robe and put on a common cotton robe that a eunuch brought over. The eunuch also brought over a bowl of warm swallow’s nest.
Fan Xian stood quietly to the side, but he couldn’t help but steal a curious gaze. The daily life of the Emperor was truly nothing extraordinary.
The Emperor was drinking when his gaze caught Fan Xian’s sneaky appearance. He couldn’t resist smiling and scolded, “Does Jiangnan not have good food to look so greedy?”
Fan Xian chuckled and said, “Mainly because I had to enter the Palace early today, so breakfast was rushed.”
The Emperor waved, indicating for him to sit down. Eunuch Yao had long been waiting for this order on the side. He quickly went behind the curtain and brought out an embroidered stool. Fan Xian sat down and couldn’t help but think of a year and a half ago of his first time entering the royal study to discuss matters. He was also curious as to why the Emperor didn’t continue the royal study discussion after the court conference ended and called him in alone instead.
Having not seen the Emperor for more than a year and also thinking about such things as acting, for a moment, Fan Xian didn’t know how to begin. Fortunately, when the Emperor and an official meet, it should be the Emperor who speaks first anyway. The inside of the royal study immediately sunk into silence.
The Emperor drank half the swallow’s nest and placed it on the table. He raised his head to look at Fan Xian’s face, looking at that delicate and pure face. For some reason, his long frozen heart moved for the first time in 20 years. He couldn’t help but shake his head, trying to throw out that glimmer of emotion from his monarchical head.
“How are your injuries?” The Emperor asked as lightly as he could.
Fan Xian bowed slightly and respectfully replied, “Thank you, Your Majesty, for your concern. Your official is fine.” He knew that the Emperor certainly already knew of the news of Yan Xiaoyi’s son’s strange death, but since he was not bringing it up and not connecting this matter to him, he was happy to play mute. He couldn’t be bothered to explain more.
“Your Majesty…?” The Emperor repeated this once in his heart and sighed. He smiled and said, “There is no need to be so reserved. If you have something to say, then say it. Earlier in the year, I sent you to Jiangnan to…I wanted to train you through experience to promote you. However, it had to be hard work for you.”
For the Emperor to be able to say such gentle things, it really wasn’t easy. Although Fan Xian’s heart was moved, he was not soft. In an even voice, he said, “To be honest, Your Majesty, I was very willing to go to Jiangnan.”
He continued to smile and said, “Jiangnan’s scenery is good. I’ve always wanted to visit.”
Instead of using “official” he used “I” now. Every time these two spoke, it developed like this. First, it was official and ruler, then senior and junior, and then it became a blurry father and son situation. They never spoke of it, but they both knew it well. It was ambiguous, sour, and shameless.
The Emperor smiled and said quietly a moment later, “You did very well in Jiangnan…I am very gratified.”
Naturally, he was referring to the palace treasury matter, the Jiaozhou matter, and the Jiangnan Road matter. In everything, Fan Xian always demonstrated the elegance and spirit a young official ought to have. For this court and this Emperor, he had scraped too much goodness from the people and military.
Right now, Fan Xian was a knife in the Emperor’s hand. He had essentially already offended every powerful level in the court, and the Emperor understood this. Thinking of the attack in the valley, he couldn’t help but feel a faint pity for Fan Xian, but…not much.
They spoke some more of the Jiangnan matter before concluding the report on political matters. After all, the main part of returning to court to debrief was in court. In the court conference in a few days, Fan Xian would have to wear court robes and come into the court with a special edict to welcome the sighs of admiration or scolding from the civil and martial officials. Today, in the royal study, it was only an Emperor and a close official talking. Particularly concerning the Jiangnan and Jiaozhou matters, they had already been told to the Emperor through endless secret memorials, so their discussion today lay elsewhere.
Elsewhere lay in Danzhou. The Emperor seemed to be particularly interested in Fan Xian’s trip to Danzhou to visit family and asked about it in great detail. Although Fan Xian felt it was somewhat strange, he restrained his temper and related it all. He didn’t even leave out Dong’er’s matter, who knew just how many spies the Emperor had put around him.
The Emperor also asked about how his wet nurse in Danzhou was doing. Fan Xian replied to each of his questions and described the scenery now in Danzhou: the white seagulls and precipices beside the city walls.
Then, Fan Xian fell into silence because he had an unexpected discovery, the Emperor’s mind seemed to have wandered.
The Emperor’s eyes were slightly shuttered, and the lines at the corners of his eyes demonstrated the charm unique to middle-aged people. He didn’t look at Fan Xian and didn’t speak. He only peacefully remembered everything about Danzhou following Fan Xian’s descriptions.
Suddenly, he realized that the voice telling the story had stopped. The Emperor raised his head, startled, and found that Fan Xian was gazing at him closely. He couldn’t help but smile and said, “It’s nothing. I was just thinking that after coming back from the last Western expedition, I have not left Jingdou. I couldn’t help but miss Danzhou’s scenery.”
During the last Western expedition, there was a rebellion in Jingdou. The Taiping Courtyard was washed with flood, and Fan Xian was taken by Wu Zhu into that black carriage and escaped to Danzhou. Fan Xian’s expression didn’t change. He only hesitantly asked, “Your Majesty, you’ve also been to Danzhou?”
“Of course I’ve been.” The corners of the Emperor’s mouth tilted upwards and he smiled slightly. “When I went to Danzhou, you weren’t born yet. It was in Danzhou that I met your mother.”
The official and ruler both fell into silence,. They both felt these words were a bit stupid. When the father first just met the mother, of course, the son hadn’t been born yet.
A moment later, a slightly dazed Fan Xian said, “So it was in Danzhou.”
“Has Director Chen and…Minister Fan not told you before?” The Emperor gave a not-quite-there smile. “I had thought you knew something of what happened back then.”
Fan Xian knew that if he opened his mouth and asked, the Emperor in front of him, who was still sunk in beautiful memories, would certainly satisfy his curiosity. However, for some reason, Fan Xian didn’t want to ask. Just like how behind that silk curtain was hidden beautiful scenery of Cang Mountain, but in the mountain there were strange, large beasts.
He just laughed peaceably. “How would the elders have the leisure time to tell me these things. Only, when I was little, I knew the court granted Danzhou a special favor. In the beginning, it was three years of no taxes. When I went back this time, I found that taxes have always been waived. The people of Danzhou are living well and endlessly thankful to Your Majesty.”
“I am a ruler of the world. Loving my people is something I should do. What need is there for gratitude?” The Emperor smiled. He gazed at Fan Xian and sighed. “I’ve waived taxes in Danzhou for 20 years. One, because of my wet nurse. Two, it is also to express my gratitude for that port that year.”
These words made it difficult for Fan Xian to comment. Was he going to talk with the Emperor about his first love? Furthermore, that first love was his mother. Coincidentally, at this moment, his stomach made a gurgling noise. His mind spun and he said, “Your Majesty…I’m truly hungry, please, grant me a bowl of swallow nest to eat.”
The Emperor started and immediately roared with laughter. Pointing at Fan Xian’s nose, he couldn’t speak for a while. Ever since the Qing Emperor had taken the throne, he had established his might. He watched the world and all of his officials and people feel fear and respect. In over 10 years, there had not been an official who complained that he was hungry and asked for food during a conversation between the ruler and the official. Even when the Crown Prince and the Great Prince were young and held by concubines from the Palace, they didn’t dare speak so cheekily.
After a long time, the Emperor finally stopped his laughter. His eyes were filled with tenderness and he scolded, “This shamelessness, not even half of your mother’s…ahem, ahem.”
The Emperor forcefully swallowed those words and slanted his eyes at the half a bowl of swallow’s nest on the table. He casually pointed at it and said, “It’s still warm, eat it quickly.”
Fan Xian eagerly went forward to pick up the pure-white porcelain bowl. Without worrying about anything, he ate it all in a few mouthfuls. Although he didn’t purposely show gratitude or an expression that said the Emperor’s favor was vast and mighty, he still ate it very happily.
The Emperor saw this sight and felt pleased. He thought to himself that An Zhi was indeed not one to put on a pretense. However, the Emperor had no idea that Fan Xian was cursing in his heart. He wasn’t cursing the Emperor for being petty, rather he loathed the fact that the swallow’s nest had been eaten by the other person.
To the side, the silently waiting Eunuch Yao was shocked at seeing this scene. He had been in the Palace for many years and had only seen such a harmonious sight between the ruler and officials a few times. The last time was probably when Shu Wu the Scholar had returned from Northern Qi. In order to show his favor and that he held no grudges, he had granted him half a piece of dried meat.
However, last time, because Shu the Scholar was unbelievably moved by the dried meat, he had knelt in front of the Emperor with tears streaming down his face and repeatedly praised the Emperor. He was nothing like Sir Fan junior today, at ease and natural.
It seemed that the Emperor seemed to favor Sir Fan junior’s response more.
Eunuch Yao lowered his head, but he was sighing with admiration in his heart. This kind of official and ruler, this kind of…father and son, it was very rare to see in the Palace. As he was thinking, he was jolted awake by the Emperor’s call. He quickly took the bowl and retreated. As he walked along the eaves in the Palace, he was still thinking about the scene earlier with deep fear and admiration.
In the royal study, there was only the Emperor and Fan Xian. The Emperor suddenly opened his mouth and said, “Now you are someone with status, so you can’t mess around like you did before in the Imperial College…Danzhou, ah, to kick an official’s son so that he can’t rise from bed for half a year for the sake of a family servant always results in a loss of dignity.”
Hearing these words, Fan Xian straightened his neck. Although his tone was calm, it carried a hint of stubbornness. “Your Majesty is right, however, if there is a next time, I will still have to kick.”
“OK, OK.” The Emperor smiled. “If you want to kick, then kick. Only, there needs to be a limit to your messing around. Don’t go too overboard.”
Fan Xian sensed that the Emperor had other meanings in his words, so he didn’t comment and only nodded his head. The Emperor looked at this young man’s appearance and furrowed his brows. He thought to himself that if this kid made such a commotion over a serving girl that was chased out of his home then for the dozen subordinates he lost to the arrows in the valley, given this kid’s grudge-holding personality, if he wanted him to swallow this anger, it seemed like it would be rather difficult.
Of course, the Emperor could directly open his mouth and have Fan Xian stop, but the Emperor didn’t want to do this.
“I hear you are hosting a dinner tonight?”
Fan Xian started slightly and respectfully said, “Yes, I’ve been gone from the capital for more than a year. There are many officials and…that I haven’t seen. I’m taking this opportunity so everyone can get together.”
The Emperor’s expression became calm. “It’s still what I said before, you can mess around, but there needs to a limit.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“The court will investigate the valley incident and give you an explanation.”
Yes, Your Majesty.”
“For young people, you should put your sights further into the future. Don’t limit yourself to what is in front of you.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“In the coming year, find some time. I want to go visit Jiangnan and see what you and Xue Qing have done with my grain storage and palace treasury.”
Fan Xian suddenly raised his head and looked at the Emperor with a glimmer of shock. The Emperor was going on an inspection tour? This was not something that had happened in the past dozen years, particularly since now the various powers in Jingdou were beginning to stir. Although it is said that no one dares be overly savage with the Emperor holding the fort in the Palace, the valley incident and Jiaozhou incident both showed that the volcano under the dragon chair had become live. At this time, the Emperor dared to go on an inspection tour?
Fan Xian didn’t understand what the Emperor was thinking. After a moment of silence, he said, “The official thinks…”
He once again referred to himself as an official. This was to be a formal remonstration and attempt to dissuade, but the Emperor did not give him this opportunity. He waved his hand and said, “I have already decided. I hold the world in my hand. What need is there to be concerned over the random jumping around of a few bedbugs…I am going to visit Danzhou. In the New Year, you will return to Jiangnan. Remember to prepare, however, this matter needs to be done in secret.”
Fan Xian had nothing to say, he could only nod and agree.
The Emperor looked at him and furrowed his brows. “You remember what I said earlier?”
Fan Xian guessed with a bit of a headache, “Are you talking about…the messing around?”
The Emperor nodded his head with gratification. “I…only have these few sons. If you all want to make trouble, then make trouble, as long as it can be cleaned up. As for your thoughts, I also understand a little. Very good, continue as you were.”
Fan Xian was surprised. Son? You all? This could be considered making things clear, but he felt that the Emperor’s gaze seemed to have already pierced through his body and saw through his thoughts. The Emperor knew about his thoughts? He immediately thought of the clash he had with the Second Prince the year before last in the Baoyue Brothel and his conversation with the Second Prince in the tea shop.
If the Emperor was using that conversation to guess at Fan Xian’s heart, it had to be said, his guesses were mostly accurate.
“Has that Haitang girl returned to Northern Qi?” the Emperor suddenly asked.
Fan Xian was surprised again and a helpless expression appeared on his face. He nodded and said, “Lang Tiao brought people and took her back.”
The Emperor closed his eyes slightly. “At first, I did not like it. After all, the Chen girl has not married you for long. However, afterward, I felt that this matter wasn’t completely without its positives. Tianyi Dao has deep connections to the temples in various places. If you had the ability to control the Tianyi Dao in your hand, for the court, it would be a meritorious service above that of a military act.”
Without waiting for Fan Xian to speak, the Emperor continued faintly, “After Ku He dies, it should be Haitang who will take his place. You have to think through the connections in between.”
Fan Xian lowered his head and was silent.
The Emperor said, “There is no harm in getting closer to Northern Qi women, but with Northern Qi, you still need to maintain some distance. It’s not that I suspect you, it’s just that the aspirations of the Qing court lies with the world. During the year, you made various moves. It will always raise suspicions in the heart of some people in the military. They are all men used to horseback and direct action. They want to open up new territories. In your return to the capital this time, presumably you noticed that the attitude of the Bureau of Military Affairs is not very good toward you. This is one of the reasons.”
Fan Xian remained silent. He knew this was the so-called clash between the dove faction and the hawk faction. However, in his bones, the Emperor was certainly of the carnivorous type. Although he said he had no suspicions, this was actually a severe reminder for him.
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Fan Xian replied peacefully. “The official knows the limits.”
Seeing his careful appearance, the Emperor smiled comfortingly. Waving his hand, he said, “It’s rare for you to return to the capital, go wander around the Palace…”
He was silent for a moment then said, “Make the empress dowager happy.”
Fan Xian accepted the order and left through the main door of the royal study.
Eunuch Yao was waiting outside the door. Seeing him come out, he led him around the Palace. Although Fan Xian had entered the Palace many times and was familiar with the paths inside it, he knew that for an outside official entering the Palace to have an audience with the Emperor and then to visit the various concubines in their Palaces was already outside of the rules. He had to be extra careful, so he needed a eunuch to lead the way.
When it was all said and done, it was his position as slight outside of the royal family in addition to his status as the prince consort to the princess that gave him the opportunity to wander freely in the Royal Palace gardens.
The first place he had to go to was Hanguang Palace, the palace of the empress dowager. The empress dowager had just woken from her midday nap. Her body was still tired, so she didn’t say much to Fan Xian. However, Fan Xian sensed that although the empress dowager’s attitude toward him was still cold, compared to when they had lamb soup, it was already much better.
After talking a little Fan Xian, saw that her state of mind was not very suitable for talking. He took the cue and said his farewells. Before he left, he said once Wan’er was back, they would come into the Palace together to pay their respects. This indeed made the old woman rather happy.
Before he left the palace, Fan Xian spoke to the serving girl quietly and gave her a prescription for the old woman to take. Although the serving girls in Hanguang Palace would not dare randomly use medicine on the empress dowager, they knew the medical reputation of this popular man in court. She giggled and accepted it. Only after it was checked over by the Imperial Academy of Medicine could it be used. She couldn’t resist praising the prince consort’s filial piety.
Fan Xian smiled and didn’t say anything. He left Hanguang Palace and followed the road west in the expansive Royal Palace. When he passed Guangxin Palace, he couldn’t resist having an extra look.
To the side, Eunuch Yao carefully said, “Sir Fan junior…this is Guangxin Palace.”
Fan Xian paused and laughingly scolded, “Of course, I know. What are you thinking about now?”
Eunuch Yao chuckled and said, “No matter what, she is your mother-in-law. If you don’t visit and it gets back to the empress dowager, I’m afraid she won’t be happy.”
Fan Xian paused and stopped not far from Guangxin Palace.