Joy of Life - Chapter 589 - Strong Liquor And Warm Intestines

[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:50:05]
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Chapter 589: Strong Liquor And Warm Intestines

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

The officer wiped away the alcohol on his face and stared stupidly at the general, unsure why the general was so angry. Was he using this method of spraying liquor on his face to express his powerful disdain because he had made the general lose face earlier on the street?

General Li Hongcheng didn’t even look at his trusted aide. He stared stupidly down the hall at Fan Xian disguised as merchant. He opened his mouth and pointed with his finger, tapping it quickly in the air but not say anything.

Fan Xian glanced at him and narrowed his eyes, shaking his head imperceptibly.

Li Hongcheng quickly suppressed the shock in his heart and coughed. Clearing his throat, he looked at his subordinates around him and said, “All of you are dismissed. Go organize the case files. When the Governor’s manor come for the people, block them with your life.”

“Yes, sir.” The soldiers who had brought the spies into the manor under escort all accepted the order and went out but the officer. A few of the general’s trusted aids in the manor and the secretary did not leave.

“General, they’re not to be questioned?” The officer wiped dry the alcohol on his face and looked at his superior with confusion.

Li Hongcheng said angrily, “What is there to question? We can’t beat them. How are we question them?”

Can’t beat them? Did the spy’s words earlier actually convince the General? That officer looked at Li Hongcheng like an idiot and couldn’t react for a moment. He felt that life was too absurd.

Waiting until the manor was much quieter, only then did Fan Xian ask with a smile, “These four people didn’t leave. Are they your trusted aides?”

At this time, Li Hongcheng had long jumped up from his dais. He muttered as he walked down, “What nonsense. If they’re not people I trust, how could they remain?”

“That’s good.” Without seeing Fan Xian exerting any strength, the thick ropes wrapped around his shoulders snapped into pieces and fell to the ground.

The eyes of the General’s four trusted aides grew round with shock. They couldn’t believe their eyes. They wondered where such an ace had come from. They came to another deeper level of understanding about the absurdities of life. This was a special bull tendon rope created by the military. It was enough to bind a ninth-level ace, so how could he escape from it so easily? How were they to know that the Tyrannical zhenqi in Fan Xian’s body had reached a peak? With the addition of the special qualities of this zhenqi, once it was fully demonstrated, it could truly be said that nothing could stand in its way.

Seeing Fan Xian escape his bounds, the four people almost pulled out their weapons to attack. Fortunately, they weren’t truly idiots. They had already noticed that the situation was strange. They hesitated and met each other’s eyes. Their feet felt slightly weak.

Fan Xian rubbed his wrists, which were red from the bindings, and looked at Li Hongcheng in front of him. “Your subordinates are truly vicious.”

“Nonsense! If they’re not vicious, how could they have captured you all?” Li Hongcheng’s fist came down on his shoulder. “How are you here? You almost caused a huge problem.”

Fan Xian flinched in pain and said, “I got hit by your people, don’t hammer.”

Li Hongcheng heard it clearly. This bastard wanted to use this opportunity to sneakily accuse his captors. As the General, he knew very well how his subordinates worked. He also knew that a person such as Fan Xian would not seek revenge for such a small matter. He laughed and did not comment.

“Sir?” Finally, the officer could no longer handle such unendurable absurdity and couldn’t resist opening his mouth to ask.

Fan Xian turned and pointed at the deputy official from the inn who was still sleeping deeply and said, “This person knows my identity. Don’t let him go for now. Wait until I’m done with my business.”

Li Hongcheng nodded and hugged his shoulder. Smiling widely, he said, “The capital sent a message and said that it would be at least 10 days before you could arrive. You’re here so early. Is there good news? Presently, I am the local overlord of Dingzhou. If there’s good news, you have to give me a share.”

Fan Xian furrowed his brows and glanced at him, feeling increasingly strange. Why was this proper heir now like a true army riffraff, particularly the sour stench on his body. He shivered and left the other person’s enthusiastic embrace.

“There’s no good news but a pile of bad. In any case, I can’t tell you anyway. There are just some things I need your help to deal with,” Fan Xian said.

As these two superiors began to talk about serious matters, they completely forgot their subordinates. The four trusted aides of the General’s manor had faintly guessed the backgrounds of these so-called spies. They looked instinctively at each other and the men who had been trussed with blotches of red and purple on their faces. Involuntarily, their hearts began to thump. They wondered silently if they had actually beaten up the secret agents of the court. Given the rumored vicious and protective tempers of the old senior and the young senior in the Overwatch Council, what should they do?

“Should we… untie these brothers?” The officer couldn’t resist asking Li Hongcheng.

Li Hongcheng scolded, “Trouble causing riffraff, quickly untie them.”

The four of them hurriedly untied Fan Xian’s Overwatch Council subordinates. They then stood to the side, not sure what to do. With smiles on their faces, they made their apologies. The Overwatch Council subordinates didn’t have any angry expressions. Used to being secret agents, they didn’t care about such a small matter.

“Lockdown the information. Not a single whisper is to escape. If someone asks about the spies that were brought in today, say that the General’s manor is questioning them secretly.”

No one knew what Fan Xian said to Li Hongcheng. Li Hongcheng turned his head and said a few things in a cold voice. He then gave some instructions, ensuring that the movements of Fan Xian and his people wouldn’t be revealed.

“After three days, choose a few death-row prisoners from prison…” Fan Xian lowered his head and said. “As for what should be done next, my people will help your people handle it cleanly.”

“Naturally, these things are to be done by them. We first have to talk.” Li Hongcheng still had his arm around Fan Xian’s shoulder, like he was terrified he was going to run away, and dragged him toward the back garden.

All that were left in the hall were the officials of the General’s manor and the Overwatch Council. They watched as their leader and superior left with their around the other’s shoulders. They looked at each other in shock. Sinking into silence, they had no idea how to refer to each other or deal with the related matters. After a long time, it was still the officer who had brought them to the manor that coughed and said in a gentle voice, as he looked at Mu Feng’er, “Sir is of the Overwatch Council?”

Mu Feng’er nodded without good humor.

“And the sir from earlier was… Sir Fan junior?” The officer lowered his voice and asked with fear.

Mu Feng’er knew of the close relationship between the Commissioner and King Jing’s heir and nodded seriously. The officer swallowed. Only now did he understand what kind of a figure he had seized. Remembering that the other party was the young senior of the Overwatch Council he had been afraid of earlier, his face gradually turned white until it was whiter than the flowers on the grassland.

The General’s manor was originally the Ye family’s manor. Later, when the heir Hongcheng entered the Western Expedition troops, given his status, he lived there the entire time.

Two years ago, during the Jingdou rebellion, half of the Dingzhou army entered the capital to quell the rebellion. Ye Zhong and Gong Dian had remained in Jingdou and not come back. Thus, this General’s manor had become Li Hongcheng’s personal manor and location of the yamen.

There weren’t any miscellaneous people in the manor. All along the way to the back garden, they didn’t see a single servant. Fan Xian secretly considered it a miracle but did not reveal anything on his face. Sitting down on an icy cold stone bench in the garden, he adjusted to the lonely and austere atmosphere that was completely different from that of gardens in the Central Plain. Only then did he deliberately say, “You have to instruct your people clearly and not let anyone think that I entered Dingzhou today.”

“So pesky! You’ve come 10 days early, of course, you’re here for business. The question is, with your current status, what are you afraid of?” Li Hongcheng picked up a big jug of alcohol and poured two bowels, placing it in front of them.

“I don’t want certain thoughtful people to guess that I am meeting someone because of my early arrival.”

Li Hongcheng’s hand putting down the jug of alcohol paused for a moment.

Fan Xian looked at him and said, “I won’t hide this from you. I’ve hidden a spy on the grasslands. I am here today to meet this spy but…” He increased the seriousness of his tone. “Other than you, I don’t want anyone to know of this. The life and death of this spy will impact the lives and deaths of many of the Qing Kingdom’s soldiers and people.”

Li Hongcheng thought for a moment and nodded. He then said, “Just as you said earlier, I will handle it properly. I’ll pick a few people on death row to take your places. I won’t let any outsiders suspect anything.”

“There is one important matter.” Fan Xian said. “The Council needs a passage that goes toward the Xi Lake. I don’t want to be attacked by your soldiers, so I need your cooperation.”

Li Hongcheng had already shaken off the surprise and joy of earlier. Recovering his calm, he said, “What do you want to do, exactly? I have to remind you that any piece of grain you send to the grasslands could kill one of the Qing Kingdom’s soldiers.”

Without waiting for Fan Xian to explain, Li Hongcheng stared into his eyes and continued. “I don’t care what the court thinks. I don’t care about what sinister plans Director Chen has. I don’t care if you’re going to nurture a spy to cause internal chaos among the Hu people. I must remind you, the Hu people are a completely different kind of existence. You’re not at the frontier. You don’t know their cruelty and capricious nature. You have to be careful of indulging an enemy.”

Fan Xian could feel the affection contained in this warning and nodded. Comfortingly, he said, “Relax, I know what I’m doing.”

He raised his bowl of wine and drank it down with Hongcheng. He then expelled a long breath. Looking at the other person’s full-bearded face and lines at the corners of his eyes, he didn’t know what to say for a moment. The two of them sank into silence at the same time. The back garden was quiet.

Three years ago, King Jing’s heir Li Hongcheng joined the army. During these three years, he had bravely killed enemies, led by example, and obtained great achievements in fighting. His fame had long traveled back to Jingdou, as well as the Central Plains. Everyone in the world praised that after the Great Prince’s Western Expedition, there was finally another powerful figure who could lead troops and fight battles. It was because of these military merits that this son of the royal family, who once had unclear connections to the Second Prince, was able to win the Emperor’s trust and take over Ye Zhong’s position to led and manage all the affairs of the Dingzhou Western camp.

However, it had already been three years. This once dissolute and free, relaxed and handsome heir had been sanded into a different appearance by the wind and sand on the frontier. Furthermore, it had been three years since he returned to Jingdou.

“Three years. Although the situation on the frontier is tense, looking at your appearance in the General’s manor, it’s not as if you don’t have time to return to the capital,” Fan Xian refilled the two bowls with liquor and quietly said. “Why didn’t you go back?”

Li Hongcheng’s palm held the side of the bowl. His expression was serious. After a long time, he slowly said, “Go back for what?”

Fan Xian knew what he was afraid of and glanced at him disapprovingly. “That’s all in the past. If the Emperor suspected you, how could he let you control the affairs in Dingzhou?”

“My glorified title is General, but my control of the army is still far below that of the Ye family,” Li Hongcheng said with his head down, “Of course, I don’t want to turn the Western camp into my personal army. As you’ve seen, I only have four trusted aides in the manor. That officer that brought you into the manor is a man of the Ye family. I can trust him, but I don’t trust those officials in Jingdou.”

“The Emperor has been carrying out a four-time duty roster. Yanjing, Nanzhao, and the soldiers of the other four Roads all come by Dingzhou to play…” Li Hongcheng raised his head and stared into Fan Xian’s eyes. “Although you’ve never held military command, you should still know that famous generals use familiar soldiers. These soldiers come and go. If the General does not know the soldiers, how can he fight a good battle?”

“When you go back to Jingdou, you have to help me. Tell the Emperor the soldiers can’t rotate anymore.” Li Hongcheng’s tone was serious. “There are indeed more than enough soldiers to replenish the army’s strength through the rotation. When it comes to fighting, it is nothing like that. The attacks of the 14 Hu tribes are becoming more and more ferocious, and more and more cunning…”

Fan Xian cut him off and said, “I know you’ve sent missives to the Bureau of Military Affairs, and I’ve seen the secret memorials you’ve sent the Emperor, but you have to understand why the Emperor has set up the rotations these two years. The Yanjing and Cangzhou areas are stuck in a stalemate. The Emperor is using the Hu people to hone the knife and train soldiers for the future. If you want the Emperor to stop this, it is an almost impossible affair.”

“I don’t care about the great undertaking of unifying the world,” Li Hongcheng said angrily. “Yes, when the great battle comes, I am willing to be a pawn before the Emperor’s horse and die on the battlefield. Presently, the situation is already urgent. If Xiliang Road is truly destroyed by the Hu people, unifying the world will be a pile of sh*t!”

There were only the two of them in the garden, so his words were particularly direct in comparing the Emperor’s national policy to dog sh*t. In any case, he knew Fan Xian’s personality and didn’t care if he heard it.

Fan Xian smiled awkwardly. “What can I do? The Emperor never allows me to interfere in military matters. It’s not like you don’t know that.”

Li Hongcheng sighed and lifted his bowl to drink all of the liquor. Cursing, he said in a low and pained voice, “Using battle to train soldiers is fine, but 10 new soldiers come and seven soldiers return. Three of them are left dead on the grassland… If it had been the previous Dingzhou soldiers or the soldiers of the Western Expedition Army that the Great Prince had led, these people would not have needed to die.”

“But…” Fan Xian knew he had to make some things clear to Hongcheng so that he didn’t unknowingly break a taboo. “If only the Dingzhou soldiers or the old Western Expedition Army soldiers are used, how can they attack Northern Qi and Dongyi? Two years ago, during the Jingdou rebellion, the Qin family’s rebel army was almost completely wiped out. Abruptly, the situation within the military became unstable and military power rapidly dropped. The Emperor has to use Dingzhou to raise up the Qing army’s spearhead again! There is no need to discuss this further. You don’t need to speak more on the matter to the court. Not only will it not have any effect, but it will also make the Emperor unhappy.”

“Of course, the Emperor can’t just watch you suffer here alone.” A slightly mocking smile rose to the corners of Fan Xian’s mouth. “Am I not here?”

Li Hongcheng shook his head and did not continue discussing this topic.

Fan Xian looked at him and suddenly said, “How often do you bathe now?”

Li Hongcheng paused. “I’ve never counted. About half a month to a month?”

Fan Xian sniffed and jokingly scolded, “No wonder you smell so much.”

Li Hongcheng glared at him.

Fan Xian laughed, “Dingzhou has deep wells and does not lack water. Furthermore, you’re a General, can you not even wash?”

“Too lazy.” Li Hongcheng smiled and shook his head. “If you were like me and had to contend with the Hu people on the grasslands and deserts for half a year, you would also get used to not washing. Besides, it’s all fighting work. It’s all a bunch of rough people at my side, so who cares about this?”

“Your subordinates don’t care, do your concubines in the manor also don’t care?” Fan Xian picked up a cucumber and stuffed it in his mouth to chew, speaking unclearly.

Li Hongcheng paused and then laughed a moment later. “There are no concubines in the manor. The Ye family’s people have all returned to the capital. I only kept a few servants.”

Fan Xian raised his head in shock, unable to believe his own ears. Back in the day, King Jing’s heir Li Hongcheng’s romanticism was famous throughout Jingdou. Secretly, he helped the Second Prince manage half the brothels and girls under heaven. It could truly be said that he had a new person next to his pillow each night. Now, he was alone in Dingzhou and didn’t even have a concubine at his side?

Seeming to guess what Fan Xian was thinking, Li Hongcheng used his index finger to knock gently against the bowl. In a quiet voice, he said, “Ruoruo doesn’t like it, so I stopped.”

Fan Xian was speechless. A moment later, he faintly said, “It is I who should apologize to you in this matter.”

“What have you done to me that needs an apology?” Li Hongcheng smiled and scolded.

Fan Xian shook his head and did not continue talking about it. He said, “When I saw you for the first time in Yishi Tavern, at your side was a leisurely guest. You were so free and relaxed. I never thought you would become like this.”

“What’s wrong with this?” Li Hongcheng thought about the things that had happened around him these five or six years and felt moved. “At Yishi Tavern that day, there was also Guo Baokun, He Zongwei, and others…”

If Li Hongcheng had not brought him up, Fan Xian may have forgotten who Guo Baokun was.

“You punched Guo Baokun and then caused him to become destitute and homeless,” Li Hongcheng looked at Fan Xian almost smiling and said. “Yet He Zongwei was able to become a popular figure at court and is one of the Emperor’s favored officials. The fortune of the world runs in this way. To be able to keep myself out of it is, in comparison, not bad.”

Fan Xian smiled and didn’t say anything.

“You’re pretty ruthlessly. Before you entered the capital, Jingdou was quiet for over a decade.” Li Hongcheng continued. “After you entered the capital, people died in quick succession. Presumably even you didn’t think that He Zongwei, that piece of trash, would be able to climb to where he is now. In the capital, the Imperial Censorate has your Overwatch Council by the neck and is beginning to enter the Hall of Governmental Affairs to discuss business. He is beginning to threaten you…”

It had to be said, Li Hongcheng and Fan Xian were unanimous in their attitude toward Sir He. Respectfully, this was because they both held onto their hate. They remember their hate of He Zongwei for wanting to take a bite of the swan that was Fan Ruoruo.

Fan Xian gave a slightly mocking smile and said, “He Zongwei can climb up high, but he will also fall quickly in the future. I’m not worried about anything.

“Of course you wouldn’t be afraid of him.” Li Hongcheng laughed. “Although I haven’t gone back to the capital, I have heard of the nickname ‘servant of three families.’ This has to be your doing.”

Fan Xian chuckled and tacitly agreed.

Li Hongcheng pointed at his face and sighed. “You still use the same tricks. First, you blacken someone’s reputation, then using the Emperor’s favor, you use all kinds of dirty tricks. I have to remind you that He Zongwei is not like me or the Second Prince. He is an official the Emperor has pulled up. You cannot underestimate him.”

This was indeed a trick Fan Xian often used. In the past, he had used it to accuse the Second Prince and Li Hongcheng of killing prostitutes and other reputation-ruining affairs. In the end, it forced the Second Prince to make a dangerous move. Li Hongcheng was kept under house arrest by King Jing in the manor for over half a year.

“Correct. A number of officials in court have begun to hold onto He Zongwei’s legs… Actually, the masters he has followed have always been Li. For such a creature as an official, what care did they have for things such as reputations?” Fan Xian said with ridicule. “These officials have probably not thought about the fact that no matter how the situation in the court develops, He Zongwei will, in the end, be hard pressed to escape death.”

“What do you mean?”

In front of Hongcheng, Fan Xian didn’t hide anything. He laughed straightforwardly and said, “The Emperor is using the Imperial Censorate to balance the Overwatch Council and weaken its power. This is something he had made clear to me ahead of time. I very much agree with this ruling. The Overwatch Council being a lone power is not a good thing for the court or the people.”

“However, the Overwatch Council’s ruthless reputations is there, so the Emperor must choose an official who opposes me to take the lead. He chose He Zongwei because he knows that regardless of how things develop, I will certainly not let him go.” A coldness rose to the corners of Fan Xian’s lips. “Thus, he can only climb as much as he can. No matter how capable he is, and even if develops the Imperial Censorate to a point that it can stand against the Overwatch Council, what of it? It is the Imperial Censor yamen that has risen, not his person.”

“When the Overwatch Council truly becomes the Inspection Council, on that day, He Zongwei will no longer have any value.” Fan Xian shook his head. “The Emperor only has a few sons now. Only the Third Prince can inherit. No matter what the Third Prince thinks in the future, when he inherits, he will have to think about my attitude. He Zongwei has oppressed me for so long, how can he not pay a price?”

“He is a rootless grass only held by the Emperor in his hand. His life is determined on how many more years the Emperor has left.”

Li Hongcheng’s heart chilled listening to this.

Fan Xian closed his eyes and said, “Everyone thinks the Emperor is healthy and a Great Grandmaster. No one thinks about the fact that the Emperor is now a man of 56.”

Li Hongcheng shook his head. “I have to admit, I don’t look as far as you.”

“Naturally, otherwise you wouldn’t have been shut up in the manor by King Jing for so long.” Fan Xian looked at him with a slight smile.

“Thinking of it now, you saved my life,” Li Hongcheng said with his head down. “If I stayed in Jingdou two years ago, I’m afraid I would already be dead.”

He raised his head and sighed with feeling, “Just like the Second Prince.

Bringing up the dead, the atmosphere became oppressive again. After a long time, Li Hongcheng managed to smile and say, “Of course, this matter is not your fault. The things you said to the Second Prince that day in the teashop outside Baoyue Brothel, he later told me all about it. I know, you just wanted to bring the Second Prince down and save his life. He was just as stubborn as you. He didn’t like listening to other people.”

From the beginning of the succession battle, Li Hongcheng had stood behind the Second Prince. After Fan Xian came into control of the Overwatch Council, he attacked them with force. He only managed to strike Li Hongcheng out of Jingdou, that poisonous vat of water, but he didn’t manage to get the Second Prince out. Fan Xian knew that Hongcheng supported the Second Prince not only for future advantages, but also because they were good friends.

“I am very sorry about their passing,” Fan Xian said. “But, there are too many things in the world that we cannot completely resolve.”

“I’ve always been curious,” Li Hongcheng stared into Fan Xian’s eyes and said, “regardless of whether it was the Second Prince or the Crown Prince, they were working hard toward something. It seemed that only you, from the very beginning, deduced that all the trouble between the princes would end with pain and failure. How did you deduce this? Did you calculate from the beginning that they did not have the sliver of a chance at success?”

“This is related to education from a young age,” Fan Xian replied seriously. “Ever since I was young, grandmother would hold me and endlessly tell me that the Emperor was like this, the Emperor was like that, the Emperor is undefeatable, the Emperor is so and so… I got used to it. I also accepted it.”

He shook his head. “The final reality proved that the Emperor is indeed undefeatable.”

Li Hongcheng was silent and speechless. He only shook his head.

“Make a trip back to Jingdou. I know you’re afraid that it will bring back painful memories, but it will be good to go visit the Second Prince. He and Chengqian, along with the empress and the Eldest Princess are all buried on a beautiful mountain. The scenery is good.” Fan Xian sincerely tried to convince this wanderer who refused to go home. “Besides, the King’s health is declining. As a son, you have to go home and see him.”

Li Hongcheng didn’t agree. He only said sincerely, “It was all thanks to your care last year when father fell seriously ill. Rou Jia told me in a letter. Thank you.”

“What need is there for thanks between us?” Fan Xian looked at him. “At the end of the year, Ruoruo is coming back to the capital.”

Li Hongcheng abruptly raised his head. There was a light in his eyes.

“Ye Ling’er came to Dingzhou to clear her head. How come I haven’t seen her?” Fan Xian didn’t continue speaking on the previous topic.

After the Second Prince’s death, Wan’er had kept Ye Ling’er company for a time. In the end, there wasn’t much effect. Later, Ye Zhong had asked for an edict and sent his daughter back to the Dingzhou she had grown up in. Li Hongcheng was in Dingzhou. He and the Second Prince’s friendship ran deep, so it was appropriate for him to look after Ye Ling’er.

Li Hongcheng laughed bitterly and said, “After that wangfei saw the grasslands, her mood became much better. However, she is not one to stay in one place. At this time, she’s in Qingzhou.”

“Qingzhou?” Fan Xian sucked in a cold breath. “That is the farthest city away. It could open battle with the Xi Lake at any moment!”

“What can I do?” Li Hongcheng glared at him. “There are countless old Ye family generals in the Western camp who look at Ye Ling’er like an ancestor to worship, not even daring to let out a fart. If she wants to go to the frontiers to fight and heal people, do you think I can stop her?”

Fan Xian shook his head repetitively and scolded, “What trouble!” Immediately after, he suddenly thought of something. “Fortunately, I have to go to Qingzhou immediately. When I come back, I’ll bring her back.”

After he said this, it was Li Hongcheng’s turn to suck in a cold breath and scold angrily, “You’re going to Qingzhou? Did you think of then that the Emperor gave the entire Dingzhou army to you to accompany you to your death?”