Joy of Life - Chapter 588 - The General’s Manor[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:50:05]
Chapter 588: The General’s Manor
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
Songzhi Xianling? This was a completely unfamiliar name. Fan Xian thought of a person called Songgan Zanpu and shook his head. He asked, “This is the language of the grasslands…?”
His brows suddenly twitched. He thought that if this mysterious figure came to the grasslands from elsewhere, then the alias must contain its own meaning.
“This is the language of tribes to the North. It is not the language of the grasslands.” Hu Ge replaced the curved knife in its sheath. “I’ve investigated for three months and can confirm that this person came with the Northern tribes to the grasslands. I’m not sure what Songzhi Xianling means, but Xianling should mean something twinkling.”
Fan Xian’s brows furrowed together. Twinkling… Twinkling… Sparkling… Diamonds sparkling? He immediately became sidetracked thinking about the name. He didn’t think of the fact that twinkling could be an adjective or the movement of something, for example, flowers blooming.
It proved that the lack of a unified language among the Hu tribes brought people a great deal of trouble. Fan Xian had a headache. There were too many reports at hand. What could be done with knowing one name? With some impatience, he raised his eyes and looked at Hu Ge. “Are the brothers from the North still moving endlessly toward the grasslands?”
Hu Ge nodded solemnly. “It’s already the fourth year. The first year was scouts from the brothers in the North. There weren’t many people. The second year was the warriors from the North. That was the largest group. In the past two years, it’s mostly the elders, women, and children who had been left in the North. They migrated with great difficulty following the path excavated through the heavenly meridian.”
“If… If Songzhi Xianling is of the Northern tribes, then which year did they come to the grasslands?”
“It would have been one of the earlier groups. Although they are mysterious, since they can influence the decisions of the Kings banners, they must have the absolute support of the Northern brothers behind them. Otherwise, no one would listen to them.”
“You’re saying…” Fan Xian stared into Hu Ge’s eyes. “The Northern brothers have already found their footing in the grasslands and have received the Kings banners’ recognition?”
“This is a natural matter. They are courageous. Although they only number in the tens of thousands, almost every one of them is a warrior. They are also more unified between than tribes than the people on the grasslands. Plus, the water, grass, and land they requested were not unfair. Regardless of whether it is the Kings banners or the two Kings, they all welcomed their arrival.”
Hu Ge continued seriously. “The Northern brothers never participate in the internal conflicts on the grasslands, so they are all targets to be recruited by various sides. Although the voices are still steady and calm, they appear to be growing louder and louder in our ears.”
Fan Xian nodded and didn’t say anything. The reason for the lack of supply in the Qing Kingdom’s Western frontier was because Northern Qi and the North had been struck by natural disasters a number of years in a row. Great snows had sealed the plains and forced the Northern Man people to have no choice but to migrate tens of thousands of li to the grasslands. The tyrannical people of Xi Lake and the power Northern Man people joined together, increasing the pressure on the Qing Kingdom’s borders.
His heart felt slightly icy. If the Hu people truly came together, then it would actually be a big problem for the Qing Kingdom. Under the Qing Kingdom’s decades of oppression, the Hu people had long become weakened. Additionally, the provocation and sinister plans of the Overwatch Council, which had not abated at all the past 30 years, had made it so Xi Lake was not a threat. No one would have thought that the arrival of the Northern Man people would be like a shot in the arm to the Hu people or that Songzhi Xianling would have a way to mend the differences between the Hu people.
“Tell me about the situation on the grasslands.” Fan Xian looked at Hu Ge in front of him calmly. In his mind, he was thinking that even if Songzhi Xianling could temporarily unify the Hu people, since he could find Hu Ge, then he would certainly be able to rip open a new tear within the Hu people.
Thinking of this, he couldn’t help but feel faintly excited. If the grasslands was a game of chess, then it was time for him and Songzhi Xianling to put down their pieces back and forth to see who would win the final victory.
Of course, it will be me, he thought. He had to win because he loathed Songzhi Xianling and had acutely captured the plans Songzhi Xianling had deeply hidden.
The temperature between night and day in the Western frontier was extreme. The sun slowly moved. It was like it had given an order to the temperature in Dingzhou. It grew gradually hotter and then gradually cooler. When the shadows of the mud walls grew longer and longer, the sun drooped lower in the west. The temperature became lower and lower. The first meeting between Fan Xian and Hu Ge came to an end.
Thinking back over the intelligence he had learned from Hu Ge, Fan Xian confirmed that they had benefited greatly from this trip. He then confirmed methods of communication and details of contact. Following that, he began the final negotiations.
Regardless of whether it was silver and jewelry, silks and satins, teas and pottery, it was a troublesome matter if they were to be transported to the grasslands and handed over to Hu Ge with no one being the wiser. The grasslands and the Qing Kingdom had been engaged in war for decades. Since the Qing Kingdom had always had the definite advantage, all of the tribes on the grasslands had long become used to calling themselves citizens and providing tribute.
The trading between the two sides had never stopped. The two sides were firing poisonous arrows at each other at the foot of the mountain, but perhaps on the other side of the mountain, traveling merchants were working hard to enter the grasslands to bring in goods from the Central Plains in exchange for furs and other objects. War and commerce did not obstruct each other.
It was important things like metal weapons, salt, and grain that were difficult to smuggle. Since Fan Xian had the Emperor’s personal edict, he did not care about that.
Hearing Fan Xian’s last words, Hu Ge furrowed his brows and said, “Commissioner, there is trust between us, which is why I have told you about this path. I hope you won’t disappoint me… If you do disappoint me, believe me, I don’t need the Kings banners to move troops to be able to destroy you on the grasslands.”
Fan Xian knew what this Hu tribe ace was scared of and shook his head. “Relax. Although the scenery is beautiful over there, I cannot get used to drinking horse milk. I have no interest in bringing troops over.”
Having received the promise, Hu Ge relaxed slightly. Raising his bowl, he saluted Fan Xian and then drank it in one go. Alcohol splashed down and wet his beard and clothes.
Fan Xian smiled and picked up his bowl, preparing to end the deal. Unexpectedly, he heard a light whistle coming from outside the stall. His brows immediately pulled together. He put the bowl of wine back down on the table.
This whistle was like a herder herding camels. It didn’t draw the attention of Hu Ge’s people. Hu Ge noticed that Fan Xian had put the bowl back down. His heart trembled slightly. He thought that he still had some other conditions. He quietly thought to himself that the Qing people were indeed cunning and liked to open their mouths as large as lions.
Unexpectedly, Fan Xian looked at him and said, “Are there any problems with the people you brought?”
Hu Ge’s expression darkened, understanding that something had gone wrong outside the stall. He shook his head and said, “They are all men from my tribe that had scattered to various places. There’s nothing wrong with them.” He knew the situation was urgent. As he spoke, he began to gather things together, preparing to escape. If Dingzhou’s army and government knew that he was in the city, they would try to capture him at any cost.
The killing on both sides had been bitter and desperate these years. If they could capture the foremost ace under Zuoxian King’s banner, Dingzhou would bloom with happiness.
Fan Xian watched his actions but didn’t rise. Lowering his voice, he said quietly, “They’re still outside the street. They haven’t surrounded us yet. Go from the back. I’ll stall for you for a while.”
Hu Ge looked at him, feeling strange. He had taken a risk to come to Dingzhou. He had not thought the person meeting him would be Commissioner Fan of the Qing Kingdom’s Overwatch Council, such a noble figure.
Since Fan Xian had come himself, Hu Ge had put much more trust in him. This would be of great benefit for their future cooperation.
“I won’t see you off,” Fan Xian picked up his bowl and said. “Go carefully. We’ll meet another day.”
Hu Ge nodded solemnly and accepted a heavy bag that Mu Feng’er handed over. Putting his fingers between his lips, he gave a sudden whistle. Lifting the curtain, he followed the dirt hole toward the back of the lamb shop. At the same time, a few unremarkable Hu merchants and fellows outside the lamb shop mixed into the crowd.
“They’re used to covering up everything. After all, their tribe had been massacred many years ago. They wish to revive it, so there is bound to be many things that can’t be revealed.”
Mu Feng’er looked at Fan Xian drinking with his head down and knew what he was worried about. “We notified him early. Dingzhou’s people won’t be able to catch him.”
Fan Xian nodded. A few Overwatch Council subordinates disguised as merchants from the Central Plains rushed in to report. “Officers from the Western camp have already entered the mud street and will arrive imminently,”
Mu Feng’er glanced at Fan Xian, wondering if they should leave right now.
Fan Xian shook his head. Since the Dingzhou military had their eyes on his group of people, then the carriage he had left by the dirt wall was also under their control. The three of them had come to the lamb shop, but they had left a few Sixth Bureau subordinates in the distance to prevent unexpected situations. Since the two sides had run into each other, there was no point in leaving.
Furthermore, for the safety of Hu Ge and his people, Fan Xian had to stall these Qing troops, who were here to capture spies.
“If they don’t come down heavily, we won’t move.”
Fan Xian drank a mouthful of wine and spoke to his subordinates. Mu Feng’er and the other Overwatch Council officials looked at each other and nodded.
They suddenly heard a commotion outside the lamb shop. The startling sound of horse hooves rang out as countless people charged in, surrounding the shop. Faintly, an official could be heard shouting loudly. It seemed he had discovered that targets had already left from the lamb shop.
Fan Xian’s brows furrowed. He felt that this was very troublesome. Standing up from the dirt, he turned and tore a bamboo strip from the mat. He then walked out of the store.
The murderous aura was thick outside the stall. A full 200 Dingzhou soldiers had thoroughly surrounded the stall. The long spears in their hands were pointed at the people walking out of it. Light reflected chaotically off the sharp spears, as if they would be able to turn these Central Plain merchants into minced meat at any moment.
Outside the circle of soldiers, there were some ordinary merchants minding their own business and looking at the scene with curiosity and tension. They didn’t know why the general had used such a great force to deal with merchants. The clever ones had already guessed that the merchants’ identities were probably not that simple.
“Do not allow anyone to suspect the escaped Hu Ge.” This was the true meaning hidden in the order Fan Xian had given earlier. The spy the Overwatch Council had hidden in Xi Lake was too important, so Fan Xian did not trust anyone, much less with all these people watching.
A soldier moved closer to the officer’s ear and said something. The officer’s eyes lit up. Presumably they had confirmed the other party’s identities. Looking at Fan Xian and his group, he said in a cold voice, “Come. Seize these spies!”
Fan Xian looked at the soldier’s face and recognized him as the soldier guarding the eastern gate. It was he who had checked their documents to enter the city. He immediately knew what the problem was and couldn’t help but smile. He glanced at Mu Feng’er.
Mu Feng’er knew that there had been flaws in his details that had drawn the suspicions of Dingzhou’s government. He was angry and also afraid that he would move Fan Xian to rage. His expression became increasingly ugly. He looked coldly at that guard while surrounded by countless spears. The look in his eyes was like he was preparing to get a bowl of water and swallow the other person whole.
The officer did not know what was going on in these merchants’ minds. Looking at the complete lack of fear on their faces, he felt increasingly certain that these merchants were strange. As he prepared to give orders and send out a group of subordinates to capture the escaped people, he urged his horse forward to stop in front of the merchants.
They couldn’t let the Dingzhou military capture Hu Ge. Fan Xian furrowed his brows. Mu Feng’er received the order. A cold light appeared in his eyes as he pushed with his feet, spraying yellow dirt in all directions. He seemed to flip through the air like a grey shadow. Pressing his palm against the horse’s head, he pulled a short knife out of his sleeve and took control of the officer who had acted so carelessly.
As the officer dared to ride alone in front of them, he had great confidence in his abilities. Seeing the situation change, he didn’t startle. He lifted the sheath of his sword with one hand, slapping it toward Mu Feng’er’s wrist. Letting go of the reins with his right hand, he aimed straight for Mu Feng’er’s throat. His movements were clean and tidy. This was an authentic Ye family capture move.
This officer’s martial abilities were indeed good, but he only thought that these merchants were spies and could not imagine their true identities. It was inevitable that he would underestimate them.
He blocked Mu Feng’er, but he could not block the black shadows that had risen at almost the same time as Mu Feng’er. With a few spluttering sounds, the shadows landed at the same time on the officer’s horse. Some grabbed his hands and others went for his throat.
When the swordsmen of the Sixth Bureau took action, even Fan Xian feared them a little, much less this unremarkable soldiers in Dingzhou.
With a neigh, the horse suddenly found that there were four people standing on its back. How could it take such a burden? Its front legs weakened, and it fell down.
A puff of dust went up. The Dingzhou soldiers were shocked as they watched their leader being taken down so easily by a few spies.
Mu Feng’er snatched the officer’s knife sheath and placed the short knife in his hand against the other person’s neck. To the Dingzhou soldiers charging in from all directions, he shouted, “Come if you’re not afraid of death.”
The officer’s face was pale. He had not thought he wouldn’t be able to block even one move from the spies. Gritting his teeth, he roared to his subordinates, “Seize these people!”
At this time, he believed that not only were these people spies, but that they were also very powerful spies. For the safety of Dingzhou, how could he care about his life and death?
He didn’t care, but Fan Xian cared. If a clash happened, the Dingzhou army could not leave his people alive. How would he explain things to the court later?
“We are not spies.” Fan Xian walked forward. He looked at everyone and said mildly, “We are only merchants.”
With this disruption, this officer’s order for pursuit had not been given. Hu Ge and his people should have safely escaped the circle of soldiers. Fan Xian’s emotions steadied. He indicated for his people to put down the weapons in their hands. He smiled at this brave officer and said, “Sir, my people are all brutes. My apologies for startling you.”
No one believed these words. No matter how brutish a jianghu man, they would not attack the court’s military.
The officer touched his tensed throat and found that he was still surrounded by the spies. Looking at their leader, Fan Xian, he ruthlessly said, “Let’s see where else you can escape to!”
“We’re won’t run. We truly are just merchants that overreacted earlier. That is all.” After saying these, even Fan Xian couldn’t resist wanting to laugh. Hu Ge… ah … Hu Ge. I have truly caused a lot of trouble for your sake.
“Is that so? Which family do you belong to?” The officer watched Fan Xian darkly. It seemed that he was not worried about his safety at all. The Dingzhou soldiers around the outside did not know what was being said. They could only send an urgent message to the General’s manor and, at the same time, put in order the matters for encircling this area. No one thought any more about the people that may have escaped from behind the stall.
“The Xiong family from Lingnan.” Mu Feng’er said.
“Since you are merchants, come back to the manor with me to be inspected.” The officer’s teeth were about to shatter from the grinding. He roared, “Otherwise, kill right here without discussion!”
In his opinion, these spies were probably going to break through the soldiers in a moment. As he was being controlled by them, it would be inconvenient for his subordinates to take action. No matter what, the other party would certainly not accept his suggestion of having these merchants return with him to the General’s manor to be questioned.
Unexpectedly, the young and handsome merchant thought for a moment and nodded. “Alright, we are law-abiding merchants. Of course we are willing to explain ourselves.”
The officer furrowed his brows, not sure what these spies were thinking about. Did they not know that after being captured, endless torture and questioning waiting for them? Since the other party seemed muddleheaded and stupid to such a level, the officer would not miss such an opportunity.
“Bind your own hands.” He gazed at Fan Xian and roared.
The merchant Fan Xian was obedient, even more obedient than he was in front of the Emperor. He allowed the Dingzhou soldiers to truss him up. Furthermore, his shoulder had been heavily struck by a soldier and actually hurt.
The Overwatch Council officials under him were also well-behaved, obediently allowing themselves to be captured without a single struggle. This, on the contrary, confused the Dingzhou soldiers.
Since these merchant-like spies had already taken control of their leader with one move, the soldiers were not overly polite. As they tied them up, they did it roughly.
Fan Xian stood by the officer’s side and begged, “Don’t hit people.”
The officer glared at him. He couldn’t understand how this spy could be so daring. Resisting in the streets was a small matter, yet he spoke so calmly to him.
“There are people in the shop that had been knocked out by us, don’t forget to bring them with us.” At this time, Fan Xian was more like an advisor to the Dingzhou army.
“What’s all this nonsense? Just you wait. You won’t die even if you want to,” he viciously said as he stared into Fan Xian’s eyes.
Fan Xian didn’t get angry. He smiled bitterly and said, “Presumably, you’ve also caught the merchants I brought into the city with me. I ask that you give the order to not use torture.”
The officer took at him with ridicule and thought to himself, I’ve seen countless spies, but such a childish and laughable one is a first.
Fan Xian looked at him and said, “We didn’t kill you earlier. Why can’t you return us the favor?”
The officer was feeling more and more confused. He felt a chill at the bottom of his heart. He wondered if he had done something wrong. In the next moment, he unconsciously stopped his subordinates hitting the spies.
Something big had happened in Dingzhou. They had caught another group of spies. Although there were spies every year and new ones each month, the spies from the lamb shop were unusual. They had come from the Central Plains. No one knew if they wanted to get into business with Xi Lake in selling privatized salt or if they had even bigger plans. Additionally, a strangeness exuded clearly from these spies.
The upper echelons of the Dingzhou military developed a great interest in this group of spies. They had long not approved of the court and Overwatch Council’s judgment. They did not think that there was a god-like general in the Xi Lake Kings banners. The Hu people had been so powerful these years because they were colluding with someone within the court who was being provided with a great deal of support.
These merchant spies that came from Jiangnan through Jingdou seemed to further confirm this point. This was an important matter, so there had not been time to torture and question the spies. The Commander of the military within Dingzhou had ordered, before the Governor’s manor could stretch out their hands, for the spies to be brought back to the General’s manor.
When it came to stealing credit, it was all the same whether it was on the front lines or in the back.
The officer escorted Fan Xian and his people into the General’s manor. The General himself was doing the questioning. Involuntarily, joy grew in his heart. He thought to himself that even though he had been made a small blunder today, he had caught many important figures, so his achievements should outweigh his mistakes.
“You haven’t had time to question them?” The General sitting above ground his teeth audibly. “Then what are you waiting for? First, break their legs and then give them 30 paddles. Then they can be questioned.”
The Dingzhou soldiers all shouted in unison and prepared to act.
The General spat and cursed, “Son of a b*tch, not even kneeling when you are before me, quite the spirit… What bullsh*t Xiong family of Lingnan? Even if you’re Xia Mingji’s people, I’ll still beat you.”
Everyone in court and in the military knew that Xia Mingji was Commissioner Fan’s property. There was practically no one in the world who would not give Fan Xian face. What was strange was that the tone of this General’s words did not seem like a boast.
Fan Xian raised his head with a put-upon expression and looked at the heavily bearded Western Expedition General. He wondered to himself how the man could be so ugly. He sighed and said, “A beating is out of the question.”
The General of the Western Expedition, appointed by imperial order, Li Hongcheng, was angrily drinking hard liquor and wondering, Why can’t these goddamn Hu people let me relax a little? Suddenly hearing these words, he unconsciously glanced down the hall and saw a rather familiar face.
The features on the face were slightly different, but the mischievous light in those eyes were just as rich as before.
General Li Hongcheng paused and froze for a moment. He then sprayed out a mouthful of liquor right on to the face and clothes of that trusted officer.