Joy of Life - Chapter 587 - Hu Ge In Dingzhou[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:50:04]
Chapter 587: Hu Ge In Dingzhou
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The day had just brightened when the group of people from Jingdou began to rise and wash up. This time, everyone Fan Xian had brought was from the Council. Other than Mu Feng’er, who was now in charge of the Qinian Unit, the other people were formed from the Second and Sixth Bureaus. A half militaristic professional life in the Overwatch Council made these people serious and silent. There was only the sound of running water and the squeaking of the door.
It was only 20 li from the inn to Dingzhou. Flying on the eight-horse wide road, it did not take a lot of time. Furthermore, they didn’t have to be careful with their horses. When this group of people came to the eastern gate of the city, the sun had not yet risen very high. There was a sliver of coldness tucked into the warmth. However, the line of farmers, as well as merchants from the Central Plain trying to get into the city, had already formed a long line.
Autumn had not yet fully arrived in Jingdou, but the soldiers at this border city were already wearing armor with a layer of cotton. Fan Xian glanced unobtrusively. He then signaled for Mu Feng’er to ready their documents.
From the beginning, Fan Xian had no plans to make public his imperial envoy status on this trip to Dingzhou. With just these dozen people, even if he wanted to make a spectacle, he wouldn’t be able to. This group of people were disguised as Jiangnan merchants. In their hands were travel passes and tea contracts from the Ministry of Revenue and the river transport department. Their disguises were not because the court had suspicions about the Dingzhou. It was because Fan Xian had to meet someone in private. In order to ensure that person’s safety, it was best to not go through court channels and to meet privately.
After all, the Hu people had suddenly become enlightened. The Emperor and Fan Xian both suspected there was a clever person making calls in Xi Lake. No one knew if the Hu people had hidden a spy in either the military or political arms in Dingzhou.
The soldiers at the east gate performed their checks meticulously. Fan Xian didn’t line up. He stood to the side and watched with cold eyes, quietly nodding his head. The Ye family had been on the Western frontier for decades, yet there wasn’t any neglect. No wonder the Emperor liked them so much.
The deputy from the relay station wiped at the cold sweat on his forehead. Following behind Fan Xian, his heart hammered like crazy. We was also disguised as a merchant. His face had been altered by the Overwatch Council officials and appeared particularly wretched. He didn’t understand why the noble in front of him had to bring him into the city or why he had to dress in this way.
The line reached Fan Xian’s group quickly. Fan Xian noticed that although the Dingzhou soldiers checked everything strictly, they did not take the opportunity to take things for themselves. Furthermore, they didn’t try to purposely make things difficult for the merchants and farmers, so they moved very quickly.
Mu Feng’er handed over the prepared documents, travel passes, and tea contracts. The soldiers seemed startled slightly and furrowed his brows, as if there was something strange.
Fan Xian narrowed his eyes, not sure what had gone wrong. However, he was not panicked. He was going to go to the Xiliang Road Governor’s manor in any case after noon to make clear his identity. There shouldn’t be any misunderstanding between the two sides.
The official’s surprise was not because there was something wrong with these documents. Rather, these documents appeared overly beautiful, particularly the stamp and signature. They were all from heads of the various yamens. This meant the identity of this group of merchants was important. Otherwise, how could the old officials in court personally audit these documents?
Fan Xian and his group had not expected that this point would attract the attention of others. It was very easy for the Overwatch Council to make these documents. However, the Imperial Censor had been keeping an eye out, so these documents were actually the real things that had been taken from each department. But, they were too real and too ostentatious. If, at this moment, it was still Wang Qinian at Fan Xian’s side being responsible for these details, he would not have made such a mistake.
The official glanced at Mu Feng’er coldly. He then glanced unconsciously at Fan Xian. He knew that the pretty young man full of nobility was the true leader of this merchant group.
Fan Xian did not look back at him. He was looking with great interest at the wall of Dingzhou in front of him. He quietly wondered to himself where these large rocks had been moved from since Dingzhou was surrounded on all sides by flat grasslands and barren lands. Was that yellow dirt between the rocks? Even that could be used in building a wall?
The official furrowed his brows and unconsciously did not want to bother the proud young man. He nodded to let them through. After this group of merchants entered the city, he called over a subordinate and gave a few orders in a low voice.
Fan Xian didn’t know that his appreciation of the city walls would give the Dingzhou soldier a proud impression. He truly liked to look at everything. After all, this was a rare second chance at life. He always had a powerful desire to know about the beauty, history, or existence around him.
He had scene Shangjing’s centuries-old ancient city walls and was even more familiar with Jingdou’s strictly guarded city walls. Now, he had the rare opportunity to come to the westernmost city in the kingdom, so he was curious. Furthermore, he still felt regret in his heart. He was not sure when he would have the opportunity to see the supposedly largest city in the world: Dongyi.
The deputy official who had followed them into the city with a mournful expression gradually learned why the Duke of Danbo had brought such an insignificant figure as him into the city. It turned out that the little duke wanted to stroll around the streets. However, the streets inside Dingzhou were a mess with various squares chaotically entwining. If one didn’t have a local leading the way, it was impossible to find many of the places that didn’t have a name.
It gave him a headache that this seemed to be the first this noble duke had come to such an isolated place and was interested in absolutely everything. He wandered everywhere and did not seem to tire. He was particularly interested in the Hu people weapons that had been shipped in from the Hu people by Xichi Lake. They drew his attention for a long time.
After about half a day, Fan Xian and his group had become familiar with Dingzhou’s commercial square. They had perfectly demonstrated the energy that a merchant group should have.
Below a mud wall, Fan Xian narrowed his eyes and looked at the tower of the grand Dingzhou wall in the distance. Lowering his voice, he asked, “Has the message been sent?”
Mu Feng’er carefully looked around and nodded. “According to the agreement made by both sides, it has already been sent. However, we arrived two days early, so the other party may not have entered the city yet.”
Fan Xian thought for a bit and then said, “We had to come two days early. It was impossible to lock down the news of me leaving the capital. Hongcheng would know for sure that I was coming. If I get stalled by that kid, he will certainly fill me with wine. Then, how will we have time to work? Besides, who knows if there are spies from the Hu people in the camp and the Governor’s manor?”
Mu Feng’er glanced back at the nervous and uneasy deputy official at the back of the group. “If we weren’t familiar with the city, we really shouldn’t have brought this person along as a guide. I don’t even know how we’re going to deal with him later.”
Fan Xian smiled and said, “It’s not that anyone will lose their head. We are ensuring the other person’s safety, so we have to be so careful. As for that deputy, when we are leaving, just give him two beauties.”
Although he had said it like that, Fan Xian also felt some regret. The Emperor had always forbidden the Overwatch Council from getting too deep into the military. Regardless of whether it was the Fourth Bureau that managed all the Roads or the Second Bureau that collected intelligence reports, the Overwatch Council did not have any capable people in Dingzhou.
Of course, the Overwatch Council had hidden spies in Dingzhou. Fan Xian thought that since it was safe inside Dingzhou, they would not need to use these spies. Otherwise, after the matter, neither the military nor the political side would be unhappy. It would be the subordinates of the Overwatch Council that took the hit.
The group of people stopped the carriage in the shade and silently waited for the sun to slowly move. For lunch, they bought some baked sesame cakes and ate them with some clear water. Fan Xian was no exception. Every time they were on a mission, his actions always brought him slightly closer to the hearts of his Overwatch Council subordinates. However, the deputy official saw that the little duke also gnawing on the baked cake with difficulty and was secretly astonished.
When the shadow of the mud wall behind the carriages had grown gradually longer, one of Fan Xian’s subordinates returned humming a little tune. He even held a Hu area specialty item that he had bought along the way. It looked like he had gone carefully. He threw these things back into the carriage and lowered his voice to speak to Fan Xian.
Fan Xian raised his head and glanced at Mu Feng’er. He smiled and said, “Looks like the other party is in even more of a rush than us. Let’s go see them.”
Mu Feng’er thought that it shouldn’t be a conspiracy. After all, Dingzhou was part of the Qing Kingdom. No one dared to do make a trap targeting the Overwatch Council. He nodded and went to call for the deputy official.
Leaving the group of carriages, Fan Xian, Mu Feng’er, and the official went through the mud wall and passed the lively street market. They walked through as curiously as merchants coming for the first time from inland. After walking for an indeterminable amount of time, they finally arrived at a lamb shop.
Fan Xian saw that the shop had no sign and couldn’t resist smiling. “This place is so hard to find.” He patted that deputy official’s shoulder. “Looks like you’re quite something to even know of such places as this.”
The deputy felt his entire body become soft and thought that this shoulder was one that had been patted by the duke. Looks like I won’t want to wash it for half a month… But I only wash once a month anyway. It should be that I won’t look for a woman for half a month…This doesn’t seem to be worth it…
While this deputy was thinking wildly, Mu Feng’er had already walked into the lamb shop. Turning his body to pass through the inner door in the mud house, he covered his nose and walked into the inner room. He sat down on the bamboo mat he had agreed on with the person earlier.
There were four bamboo mats inside this stall. There was a little table on the mat for the guest’s meat, food, alcohol, and water. Each mat was separated by a thin curtain. It did not block out the sound and was barely sufficient.
Fan Xian sat in the innermost spot. The deputy only dared to sit on half the outside seat. He kept muttering to himself in his heart, not sure why this noble figure had to find this very unremarkable stall. Was he here to meet someone?
Then, he fearfully accepted a bowl of wine the duke handed over. He carefully took a drink and fell into a deep sleep.
After eating a few pieces of lamb and drinking two bowls of wine, Fan Xian’s eyes grew brighter and brighter. He glanced at the thin curtain next to him and sent a meaningful gaze to Mu Feng’er.
Mu Feng’er thought for a moment and then picked up his bowl. He rose to lift up the curtain to move onto the bamboo mat on the other side. When the curtain lifted, Fan Xian’s eyes were sharp. He saw that the person was around 40 or 50 years old. However, his complexion was dark since he was a Hu person. It was difficult to be accurate.
The sun was well into the sky. The day was gradually growing hotter. The mud house remained cool and secluded. This was not the prime time to be drinking, so the stall was particularly quiet. There were only Fan Xian’s group and this mysterious Hu person.
No one knew what Mu Feng’er was saying over to the Hu man. After a long time, the other side lifted the curtain. Mu Feng’er nodded to Fan Xian to indicate that he had confirmed the other person’s identity.
Fan Xian half turned his body and stared at the calm-faced Hu man. He found that the man’s hand was steadily holding a bowl of wine. There was no change in his eyes. He opened his mouth and slowly said, “Why did the foremost ace under the Zuoxian King’s banner change his appearance and act so secretive?”
The Hu man put down his bowl and glanced at Fan Xian. It seemed he wanted to know this young man’s true identity. This glance contained lightning that pierced one’s heart with an imposing aura.
Fan Xian’s expression was indifferent, without a trace of a reaction.
The Hu man’s brows raised slightly as if he didn’t expect a random official from the Overwatch Council would have such unfathomable subtlety and power.
“Correct, I am Hu Ge.” The Hu man stared at Fan Xian’s face with a hawk-like gaze. “He said you are the leader, so I will talk with you.”
Fan Xian smiled and raised the bowl of wine in his hands. “There is not much that I wish to know.”
“I must first confirm the Princess’s safety.” Hu Ge, the foremost ace under the Xi Lake’s Zuoxian King’s banner, was greatly feared and respected by the Hu people. His aura was unusual. When he opened his mouth to speak the language of the Central Plains, it always felt strange and involuntarily weakened his aura a little.
Fan Xian reached into his clothes and brought out a jade hook to hand over. After Hu Ge accepted it, his brows locked together tightly. He seemed to sink into some kind of deep thought. Fan Xian did not disrupt his recollections and only watched quietly.
The Overwatch Council was able to make contact with the foremost ace under Zuoxian King’s banner because he had gone through a difficult route and had come voluntarily to them. When it came to the people who came to them voluntarily, the Overwatch Council’s policy had always been to not take the initiative, not make promises, and not take responsibility.
Until the other party gave the Overwatch Council some very useful intelligence reports, only then would the Council begin to follow this line of clues. The only person who could follow these clues was Fan Xian because the reason for the connection between Hu Ge and the Overwatch Council was Ma Suosuo.
Ma Suosuo was still being kept by Prince Heqing as a mistress. In terms of belonging, in the end, she was still Fan Xian’s. This tribal princess of the Hu people was a prisoner of war but also not a prisoner of war. The tribe she had been in had been preparing to surrender to the Great Prince. Before the time was right, they had been exposed and the entire tribe was killed by the Xihu King’s banner. The remaining people could only scatter about, each seeking shelter with a noble clan.
This Hu Ge had been a brave warrior of that tribe. Before he had time to make clear his identity and win honor for his tribe, he had received the tragic news of his tribe being massacred.
After receiving confirmation about Hu Ge’s identity from Ma Suosuo, Fan Xian began to strengthen his secret connection to Hu Ge.
Not only did Ma Suosuo know Hu Ge, but the two of them had been good childhood friends. In the words of the Central Plain’s people, they were so-called childhood sweethearts. When Fan Xian saw the other person’s aged appearance, he was hesitant in his heart. Did the Hu people age so easily because they were exposed to the wind and sun every day?
Hu Ge put the jade hook away with great care and looked at Fan Xian. “I do want to have revenge for my tribe but don’t forget, I am a Hu person. There are some things I can say and some things I cannot… You Qing people are too sinister and cunning. I cannot trust you.”
Fan Xian understood this. If he wanted the other to guide the Qing army to Xihu King’s camp thousands of li away to attack it, never mind whether the other party would do it, no one in court would dare to believe him. He lowered his head and thought for a moment. He then said, “I don’t need you to do anything. On the contrary, I can support you in doing something. I hear that the Zuoxian King is not in a good situation. If you can help him find steady footing, presumably your own power will also increase.”
Without waiting for this Hu tribe ace to respond, Fan Xian waved his hand decisively and said, “I will give you support. I ask for very little. First, you must do your utmost to prevent the attack next year spring. Even if you can’t stop it, I will need your intelligence reports… Don’t worry, the Qing are straightforward people. We won’t plan an ambush. We will put out an array and scare each other. You should know how to handle this time different.”
Hu Ge furrowed his brows and said, “Even Zuoxian King’s words don’t have much weight right now, much less mine.”
“That is your problem. Since it is a cooperation, you will have to show some sincerity,” Fan Xian looked at him and calmly said. “I won’t treat you unfairly. You will need to convince those people and, of course, you can’t do that with just your fists.”
“All the nobility in the world are the same, they all like gold and treasure, silks and satins.”
Hu Ge glanced at the young official across from him.
“I will give you however much you need for bribes.” Fan Xian’s tone was very normal, but it revealed a powerful confidence. “Furthermore, if you want to revive your tribe, presumably you will need a large fortune. Doing business with me is very simple. I just need to ask you one question.”
“Do you want to be rich?”
Fan Xian had asked this question of some people, such as the previous Commander of the Brocade Guards in Northern Qi, Sheng Zhong. Sheng Zhong had not wanted to get rich with Fan Xian. He wanted to get rich himself, so he died. Fan Xian had asked the Northern Qi’s Royal Uncle, Marquis Changning. This Marquis had been willing to get rich with Fan Xian. He not only had his family become rich, Hua Wei had also become a major official.
History had long ago proved that those who cooperated with Fan Xian were very fortunate.
Hu Ge did not know of his true identity and said in a cold voice, “Everyone loves gold and treasure, but your words are impossible to believe… So much silver and even things that silver cannot buy, yet you want me to agree with just a word from you. Don’t lie to me. Although us men who grew up on the plains are straightforward in nature, we are not idiots.”
Fan Xian’s words did indeed sound fake. The banners on the grasslands were like a forest with countless nobility. Furthermore, all of these nobles were incredibly greedy. If one truly wanted to give them their fill, one would need the full support of the Qing court. How could a young official from the Overwatch Council make such a promise?
“I can give you good knives produced by the palace treasury,” Fan Xian didn’t comment on his words and coldly said. “But, the number will be limited. After all, I don’t want the knives I give you to be brought down on the necks of the Qing people.”
Fan Xian didn’t reply to Hu Ge’s suspicion. He felt uneasy. He stared at the young and handsome face. Lowering his voice, he asked icily, “Who exactly are you?”
Fan Xian glanced at him and said, “I am Fan Xian.”
With a bang, Hu Ge’s back slammed heavily against the dirt wall and drew the curved sword at his waist with remarkable speed. Pointing it at Fan Xian, the dust on the wall fell down, tainting the food and alcohol on the table.
Hu Ge looked at Fan Xian with extreme wariness. A trace of fear grew in his eyes.
Fan Xian lowered his head and knocked his fingers against the surface of the table. He had not thought that his true identity would scare a man that was said to be the foremost ace under Zuoxian King’s banner.
How was he to know the name of the Commissioner of the Qing Kingdom’s Overwatch Council had long echoed around the world and had arrived at the distant land of the Hu people? In the hearts of the Qing people, Sir Fan junior was brilliant and dazzling. In the eyes of the Qing Kingdom’s enemies, this legendary young man was the foremost person to guard against.
Up to now, the Hu people had not been taken advantage of by Fan Xian, but they had been greatly taken advantage of by Chen Pingping. Thus, they had endless fear and caution for Chen Pingping’s heir. After Fan Xian announced his identity, Hu Ge’s first thought was that this meetup was a trap. His second thought was that if this wasn’t a trap, then this deal would, in the future, condemn the Hu people to eternal damnation.
“Don’t be so scared,” Fan Xian raised his head and slowly said. “Correct, I am the head of the Overwatch Council, but rest assured, I am a decent businessman. Don’t forget, I hold the court’s palace treasury. If you don’t believe my credit, you can send someone to the Central Plains to investigate.”
“I am not afraid.” Hu Ge had already calmed. A wolf-like wildness appeared in his eyes. He stared at Fan Xian and said each word clearly, “I just had not thought that one such as you could condescend to meet me and be so courageous.”
“This is the Qing Kingdom. This is within Dingzhou. I don’t think my courage is anything special,” Fan Xian looked at him and said. “Even a Hu man like you dared to come see me, why wouldn’t I dare to come see you?”
“You don’t know how much your head is worth,” Hu Ge said. “Are you not afraid that I’ve set a trap here to kill you?”
Fan Xian glanced at him with ridicule and wiped the grease from the meat on the curtain beside him. “Your people are everywhere around this stall. If I was afraid that you set a trap, why would I come in and sit and drink?”
“Besides, do you think that you can kill me just based on the fact you are the foremost ace under the Zuoxian King’s banner?” Fan Xian’s brows furrowed as if looking at a misbehaving child. “Your reputation is very big, but your courage is lacking.”
Men have reputation and trees have shadows. The most powerful ace of the younger generation in the Qing Kingdom had long branded his shadow into the hearts of all martial artists. Hu Ge did not have the courage to try such a dangerous thing.
Fan Xian stood and stared into his eyes. “I don’t care what you are thinking, but I have given you my conditions. I want to know that person’s name.”
During the three months of tentative contact between the Overwatch Council and him, this was the intelligence report they were most interested in. The person hidden within the Hu people’s banners was hidden too deeply and had caused great harm to the Qing Kingdom. The Overwatch Council and Bureau of Military Affairs had exhausted all their options and were still unable to learn who the person was.
The two departments were not sure if such a terrifying general actually existed among the Hu tribes or whether the two Kings had suddenly become enlightened.
Fan Xian didn’t think so, nor did the Qing Emperor. The father and son had come to similar conclusions. It was easy to change a territory but difficult to change a person’s nature. The change in Xi Lake had to be because of outside influence, so they deduced that the person must exist.
This was the most important reason for Fan Xian’s trip to Dingzhou. He wanted to dig that person out.
Hu Ge was the highest ranking figure that the Qing court could make contact within the Hu tribes. He had been pressed for a long time. Hearing this now, the expression of the Hu tribe ace changed. He knew how much help he would receive from the Qing court Furthermore, Suosuo’s life was still under the control of the young man in front of him. He didn’t have much of a choice.
“I truly have not seen that person, but there should be such a person,” Hu Ge put down his curved knife and said. “The Zuoxian King shouldn’t even have met them. Once after he drank, he angrily mentioned an unfamiliar name… Songzhi Xianling.”