Joy of Life - Chapter 506 - When All Was Done[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:49:32]
Chapter 506: When All Was Done
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
In the pavilion on the mountain, the smile suddenly disappeared from the Northern Qi Emperor’s face. It recovered its usual seriousness. He had grown up in the Royal Palace. When his father died, he had faced the most difficult test in his life. With the powerful support of Imperial Advisor Ku He, the empress dowager managed to support him through that hardship. This kind of beginning destined his reign as a monarch to be unusually rough.
There were many reasons for things being rough. The most important one was a secret kept in his heart, the empress dowager’s heart, and Imperial Advisor Ku He’s heart.
For this secret, the Northern Qi Emperor had made many sacrifices and changes that twisted his personality. He could not be overly close to many people. He could not be overly intimate with his sisters. He couldn’t do and think as he wished. Over a dozen years, the people at his side had never changed. When he washed, it was as strictly guarded as if enemies were going to charge in. There were a number of concubines in his Palace that remained resentful.
In order to divert the Qing Kingdom’s attention and make the officials in court more alert, he and his mother had put on a show for many years. It had been very tiring to pretend that he and his mother did not get along.
He did not want to shoulder these burdens. Since he had begun to do so, as a descendant of a warring family and having inherited the ambition and willpower his father should when he conquered the kingdom, he had to play his role well.
It had to be said that he had done well these days. No one could pick out too many problems with the young Emperor. He allowed, and even secretly directed, Shang Shanhu’s attack on Shen Zhong and his family that rainy night. Thus, he firmly put the controls of the Brocade Guards into the hands of the royal family. He placed Shang Shanhu under house arrest to weaken his drive. He then let him out to the North to suppress the forcefully pushing Qing Kingdom army. He suppressed tyrants within his kingdom but colluded with Fan Xian outside the country borders.
One incident after another was taken care of. During the two years that the Northern Qi politics had been managed by him, it appeared much more organized. However, the Northern Qi Emperor knew in his heart that there many types of advantages in each level. No matter what he once imagined, he never thought that, through Fan Xian, he would be able to obtain so many benefits.
He lightly patted the railing and looked at the clear flowing water in the mountain cave. He sighed and quietly said to himself, “But why did you come? Why did you give all those advantages to me?” A cold self-mocking smile rose to the corners of his lips. “The illegitimate son of the Qing Emperor… How different could he be from his father?”
During the time he learned to be an Emperor, the only role model the Northern Qi Emperor could find was the powerful Emperor in the South Kingdom. He knew how incredible his older colleague was to be able to have wild ambition and be good at enduring silently.
“Eventually, you will become old. Actually, you’re already old…” The Northern Qi Emperor furrowed his brows slightly. His gaze moved slightly. Staring into the distance South, he thought of the rumors about the fighting in the Qing royal family that had arrived recently. He quietly said, “Even if you were once a mighty lion that broke apart the Wei Kingdom and beat the Qi Kingdom to death’s door, now you are old. Your entire person emanates a rusting stench. I really hope that you will continue this sinister rotting and force him to my side.”
These words seemed to be sighing about every detail in history and increasing his own confidence. Everyone knew that, no matter how sensitive, overly suspicious, and bastardly the Qing Emperor was, history only trusted history. History had already proven that the Qing Emperor was the only victor these 30 years.
The young Northern Qi Emperor narrowed his eyes. The corners of his lips twitched up. Muttering to himself, he said, “I hope that you can survive this time so that I can defeat you openly and publicly on this world stage.”
He couldn’t quite understand Fan Xian, but Fan Xian could also not understand him.
As a monarch, no matter what color the heart in his body was, his first considerations were his throne and the world. If the relationship between himself and Fan Xian remained peaceful and mutually beneficial, the Northern Qi Emperor would spare no cost in fulfilling Fan Xian’s demands. For example, Haitang and Fan Ruoruo being accepted as a disciple.
If Fan Xian threatened Northern Qi in the future, the Northern Qi Emperor would mercilessly use all the power at his disposal with unusual coldness and get rid of Fan Xian.
It had nothing to do with emotions. It had nothing to do with country of origin. It had nothing to do with men and women. In this world, there were only three kinds of people —men, women, and Emperors.
The mountain stream below the pavilion flowed and flowed until it reached a pond of clear water at the foot of the mountain to the side of the lowest story of the Palace. There was a small notch made with a white stone to the west of the clear water. The clear water flowed out of this little notch, but it never disturbed the pond of water.
In the woods behind the pond of clear water, there was a large group of eunuchs and serving girls who waited with lowered heads and restrained voices. No one knew that the Emperor was in a daze in the pavilion in the middle of the mountain. They only knew that the two noblest people in Northern Qi other than the Emperor were, at this moment, standing in a daze beside the pond.
One person was the Imperial Advisor Ku He, who looked like an Ascetic Monk in hemp clothing, straw hat, and bare feet. He was sitting on a rock beside the clear water pond with a fishing rod in his hand.
While the Northern Qi empress dowager, the woman who made it so that her son could sit firmly on his throne, paid out an immeasurable amount of her lifeblood, and endured countless slanders of arrogating power and corrupting politics, sat beside the Imperial Advisor Ku He with peace and joy between her brows.
Back then, the Zhan family had risen in a disorderly world. Using military power, they had forcefully inherited the Wei Kingdom’s throne. However, wars continued year after year. Countless brave generals from the royal family died under the Qing Kingdom’s ferocious attacks. By the time the Zhan Emperor died from illness, only the young Northern Qi Emperor and his mother were left in the entire royal palace.
At that time, Chen Pingping of Qing Kingdom used spies to rock the political situation in the Northern court. The royals and noble family all cried out. The situation inside the Palace was very unstable. However, it was under these circumstances that this woman still managed to have her son sit firmly on the dragon chair.
It was mostly because of the strong stance of the Imperial Advisor beside her. At the same time, it proved that this empress dowager was not as mediocre as she appeared.
Ku He’s gazed calmly at the smooth surface of the water.
The empress dowager smiled slightly as she thought of the change over the past year or so. There had been unrests in the Palace. She had Marquis Ning leave the Palace under the risk of being killed to beg Shen Zhong to come to their aid. Shen Zhong and the Brocade Guard had performed a great service for them. However, once the Emperor grew up, he could not tolerate Shen Zhong’s continuing arrogance.
The empress dowager felt guilty toward Shen Zhong. But, her son’s mind was made up. She knew she would be unable to sway him. She quietly accepted the matter. The people of the Zhan family seemed to always be stubborn and would not change through other’s influence. For example, her son and the person next to her.
She still wanted to make an effort because last night, the Northern Qi Emperor had talked with her long into the night and felt that this matter was not as perfect as he imagined. He had asked her to persuade the Imperial Advisor Ku He. Thus, there was the meeting today beside the pond.
“I have never met Li Yunrui. We’ve only sent each other a lot of secret letters,” said the empress dowager gently. In front of Ku He, she would not use her royal title. Although her expression remained composed and dignified, her tone of voice was that of a silly little girl who didn’t understand anything.
Ku He smiled and said, “The three countries are separated by great distances. When Zhuan Mohan first accepted the invitation to go South, he had also never seen the face of the Southern court’s Eldest Princess.”
The empress dowager sighed and said, “Thus, Master Zhuan left a lifelong regret.”
Ku He shook his head. “But I have met the Eldest Princess before, so I know that this woman is not so simple. The incident in the Southern court happened so quickly without any fanfare at all. It was truly out of my expectations.”
“Duoduo means…” The empress dowager was silent for a moment. “The battle between two countries is, in the end, a competition of national power. It is better if there is less danger.”
“Why didn’t he come personally to talk to me?” Ku He smiled slightly. “The child is still young. He probably doesn’t understand why us old folks are still so wary even after the muddled behavior of the Qing Emperor these years.”
He continued, “I know and you know that the Qing Emperor is truly not a normal person. In the second generation, there was not a new Great Grandmaster. Rather, there was an Emperor who could direct soldiers like a god…” His brows furrowed. “The longer he silently endures, the more uneasy I feel.”
The Northern Qi empress dowager sighed and said, “Even so, there isn’t a particularly good solution.”
The old man laughed and took off his straw hat, revealing his bald head. Open-heartedly, he said, “I recall that Ye Liuyun also likes to wear this hat and run around all over the world. If such a person could be used by Li Yunrui, I believe the Eldest Princess will certainly think of something.”
Once the conversation reached this point, the empress dowager knew she would be unable to convince the Imperial Advisor to change his mind. Respectfully, she said, “Great-uncle, let’s watch a bit longer. Let the Southern court do as they will. It will always be beneficial for us.”
“There isn’t much time left.” The fishing rod in Ku He’s hand didn’t shake at all. Slowly, he said, “If we can’t solve these problems while we are still alive, who will solve them in the future?”
These words were almost exactly the same as the ones the Great Grandmaster in the straw hut said.
The empress dowager’s hands shook a little. She smiled as she said, “What about Haitang? Besides, there is still Fan Xian in the South.”
Ku He laughed and said, “Fan Xian. It will have to depend on his luck. If he is clever and powerful enough, presumably, he will obtain the most advantages from this matter. It could also be considered a gift from our court. Given this young man’s nature, since he owes Duoduo such a large favor, he has to remember Northern Qi with some kindness.”
When all was said and done, the powerful people in Northern Qi knew that when discussing state power, in a short amount of time, the long corrupt Northern Qi would not be able to catch up or surpass the South Kingdom. Looking at the larger picture, in the past 10 years, Qing Kingdom remained the main instigator while Northern Qi remained on the defensive.
“I originally thought that the Crown Prince of the Qing court or the Second Prince would have a better chance.” The empress dowager furrowed her brows.
Ku He shook his head. “How could Fan Xian, a person who liked to kill but was afraid of death, give them a chance to take the throne? If this was really possible, do you think he would be reluctant to act and kill? In this entire world, there are not many people who could live after Fan Xian decided he wanted to kill them.”
The empress dowager was slightly startled. She had not thought that the Imperial Advisor’s estimation of Fan Xian’s power was so strong.
“Don’t forget. He still has that blind man standing behind him. However, Ye Liuyun cannot be a bodyguard to those princes in the Qing court.”
Ku He smiled and raised the fishing rod in his hand. There was a fishing hook tied to the thin line on the rod. He was not like those boring people who tied angling to strings and used it to bullsh*t.
The fishing hook rose out of the water. A few clear water droplets dripped down from it before sinking into the water again. This pond of clear water in the Royal Palace seemed to have become excited by these few drops of water. With a splash, a wave rose and rocked the green water plants at the bottom of the pond.
Countless gold and blue fish jumped out of the water with joy and slapped the surface of the water. They seemed to be expressing their gratitude to the Ascetic Monk with the fishing rod in his hand.
The water gradually fell silent again, flowing out of the clear pond through a gap. The water dripped like a line of white jade and once again soaked half the mountain. It flowed along the rocks and out of through the Palace walls to gather in Yuquan River. The mountain stream in the Palace was just a branch of Yuquan River. It was named Yuquan River because the mountain stream from the mountain in the Royal Palace was named Yuquan.
The waters of the Yuquan River flowed toward Shangjing. Not far outside of the Palace walls, it passed a garden.
It was Haitang’s garden. It was not far from the prosperous Shangjing but also very quiet. It was truly an unusually rare spot. Fan Xian had once mocked her for only caring about her reputation but had not thought that such a garden would have an abundant air of nobility without a hint of being rural.
At this moment, two girls came out of the garden, got into a carriage outside, and drove toward the city.
Before long, the carriage had reached the liveliest place in Shangjing. The speed of the carriage slowed. As they passed an antiques shop, the coachman seemed to hear a call from a woman in the carriage and stopped.
Haitang put down her right hand that had lifted the curtain and turned her head to say to Fan Ruoruo, “It’s your younger brother. Do you want to go greet him?”
Fan Xian smiled and said, “Since he is hosting tonight, there is no need to see him early. Let’s wander around Shangjing first.”
Haitang nodded. The carriage began to move again without disturbing the people in the antique shop.
Inside the shop, a slightly rotund youth had his head bent over the goods inside. This was not just anyone. It was the second young master of the Fan family, Fan Sizhe, who had been kicked by Fan Xian to Shangjing, suffered countless hardships at Haitang’s hands, and had finally made it out and took over the Cui family’s Northern trading route.
Perhaps because he had changed his appearance or leaving home had made him mature faster, but he had a completely calm expression between his brows. The arrogance and ruthlessness of the past were completely gone. It made him appear much more mature than his actual age.
He was hosting a large banquet tonight in the Shangjing branch of Baoyue Brothel. He learned ahead of time that his sister and Haitang, the two people he was the most afraid of, were coming. He had come to the antique shop ahead of time to pick out gifts. It was imperative that he made them happy. After looking for a long time and even having the shop owner bring out the stored goods, he still couldn’t find something that pleased him. This made him very unhappy.
Behind him were still the Northern Qi aces with curved swords. Although the Fan brothers knew these people were spying for the royal family, Fan Sizhe was just as daring as Fan Xian and continued to casually use them nor change them out.
There were other people inside the shop looking at the goods. From their skin tone, one could see they were wealthy and respectable people. This antique shop was famous, so the goods were very expensive. Those who came in to make a selection were all major figures in Northern Qi, either, wealthy merchants or nobility.
These people did not know Fan Sizhe. Looking at the four aces he had with him as guards, the secretly guessed that he must be the son of a family that didn’t want to be in the limelight.
The shop owner came out solemnly with a red-cloth covered wooden plate. Moving close to Fan Sizhe’s side, he said, “Young master, if you want a pair, there is only this left.”
Fan Sizhe raised a corner of the red cloth and saw a pair of jade lions on the plate. The carving was well done. The lions appeared strong, steady, and particularly adorable. He couldn’t help but smile, thinking, Giving this pair to his sister and Haitang was indeed very appropriate. It also gave him an opportunity to take out some of his anger.
“This will do.” He waved his hand.
Unfortunately, the nobles on the side who were also looking for goods also liked this pair of jade lions. They asked if Fan Xian would be willing to let them have it. The son of a wealthy family was even willing to give a red pocket to show his sincerity. In big places like Shangjing, Jingdou, and Dongyi, there were usually not many fights over goods. After all, everyone present was wealthy and respectable. No one wanted to offend anyone.
In Shangjing, Fan Sizhe always kept a low profile. The wanted posters in Qing Kingdom still had his name. Other than the Brocade Guards and officials related to the Qing royal family, few people knew his actual identity. If this had been in the past, Fan Sizhe might have given into the wealthy young man’s gentle request. Today, he truly liked this pair of jade lions, so he hesitated and did not reply.
With this hesitation, the mood of the nobles became rather unhappy. They thought to themselves that they had already given sufficient face. If it wasn’t because the master had been invited to an important gathering and had given the matter of finding a gift to the young master and truly needed this pair of precious jade lions as a gift, why would they stoop to talk reason with a stranger?
The people split apart as a young noble about 12 or 13 walked out. He pointed at Fan Sizhe’s nose and cursed, “In Shangjing, there has yet to be someone who dares to fight with me for things!”
Fan Sizhe furrowed his brows. If it had been in the past, he probably would have struck out with a fist already. As he grew gradually older, his nature became much more composed. He asked, “You are?”
Someone kindly reminded him, “This is the young master of Marquis Chang’an’s family.”
Marquis Chang’an and Marquis Changning were the Northern Qi empress dowager’s brothers. This identity was indeed sufficiently noble. However, after Fan Sizhe started slightly, he began to laugh hatefully.
“Your father needs a gift for tonight, right?” No matter how much improvement Fan Sizhe had made, he was once, after all, a lawless fellow. Gritting his teeth, he stared viciously into the child’s eyes and said, “Little rascal!”
After he said this, the people on the other side all crowded over. The group emotion was charged, as if they were preparing to act.
Fan Sizhe laughed coldly and led his four guards out of the shop.
In the carriage outside the shop, a strange light flashed through the eyes of one of the guards. He asked Fan Sizhe, “Boss, do you know that boy?”
Fan Sizhe spat and cursed, “Little bastard. Big brother had once broken his hands, yet he hasn’t learned anything at all. If he dares to annoy me again, I’ll break his other hand.”
Inside the shop, everyone looked at each other, thinking, The man earlier was very bold to have the courage to call the son of the Marquis a little rascal to his face!
There was little idle chatter. The young master bought the gift, forcefully suppressed his anger, and happily returned to his manor. Following his father, he came to the Baoyue Brothel branch that had opened less than four months in Shangjing, preparing to participate in a very important gathering.
After he entered the building and sat down beside his father, he looked at the chubby boy talking merrily with his cousin at the head of the table and was immediately dumbstruck.
His cousin, Wei Hua, was the most outstanding youth in the entire Wei family. He was greatly liked by the Emperor and held the important position as Commander of the Brocade Guards. He held terrifying power all over Northern Qi.
However, this incredible figure was talking carelessly with the chubby young man as if they had been friends for many years. There was even a faint wariness between his brows.
The young master of Marquis Chang’an stared dumbly at this scene, thinking, Who exactly was the chubby guy who had called him a little rascal earlier?
Fan Sizhe found a moment in his conversation with Wei Hua and slanted his eyes down at the tables. He found that Marquis Chang’an had actually brought his useless son with him. He wondered to himself how could someone so old could have such a young son. Hopefully, he wasn’t wearing a hat. As he silently criticized him, he smiled toward Marquis Chang’an and greeted him.
He had hosted the feast today and hadn’t invited any outsiders. Everyone was a member of the Northern Qi royal family. The purpose was very simple. The news from the Qing court was clear, Li Yunrui had already fallen. There was no one else within Qing Kingdom who could threaten his brother. He had to grasp this opportunity to expand their entire business.
Doing business with Northern Qi was actually like doing business with the Northern Qi royal family. Thus, he had invited everyone in the Wei family. At the same time, he had also invited Haitang and his sister to help him hold the fort.
What was Fan Sizhe afraid of? All of the low-priced goods from the South were in his hands and endless products from the palace treasury were being delivered to him by Xia Mingji. If the Wei family wanted to make money, they had to depend on him.
He narrowed his eyes in a smile and gazed at Marquis Chang’an’s son, whose face had changed color slightly. He blinked. His meaning was clear, Where is my pair of jade lions?