Joy of Life - Chapter 591 - An Old Friend In The Frontier City[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:50:06]
Chapter 591: An Old Friend In The Frontier City
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The journey went well. The group of carriages traveled along the road. They occasionally found marks and blood left by the Hu people’s sudden attacks. Each time this happened, Fan Xian would get off the carriage and look around. He would then have the Second Bureau intelligence officers carefully gather information.
In this halting way, it took six days for them to reach the most distant and youngest of cities in the Qing Kingdom: Qingzhou.
Qingzhou was very different than Fan Xian had imagined. Before he had come, he had looked closely at the Council’s intelligence reports. He had even visited the Great Prince to ask about the situation in the West. He had thought that Qingzhou was just a relatively desolate frontier city and more like a heavily guarded military camp. Unexpectedly, when he and his group entered the city, they found that other than the soldiers walking around, most people were merchants.
Merchants like Fan Xian walked with harried expressions along the few streets in Qingzhou. They hurried to exchange documents to leave and called loudly to laborers to carefully watch the goods they had brought to the border. All of this reduced the sense of blood in Qingzhou and added an abundant sense of money and chaos.
Fan Xian had thought the court designated this area as a province mostly for symbolic reasons. Qingzhou had to be particularly small and dry. He truly had not thought it would feel like a small Suzhou. He sat on the shaft of the carriage and smiled awkwardly at the sights in front of him, not knowing what to say.
The strange booming economy in Qingzhou had a lot to do with Fan Xian. In the small city, most of the brave merchants busily entering the grasslands were from Jiangnan. The Qing court had always strictly prohibited trade with the Hu people. However, three years ago, Fan Xian had remonstrated with the Emperor and secretly relaxed this rule.
Salt, metal, and grain were prohibited from being sold to the Hu people, but what harm was there in selling luxury items like jewelry, perfume, and liquor to the Hu people? First, it brought a substantial income to the Qing palace treasury because the nobles in the Hu tribes, who controlled about 90 percent of the wealth, liked these things a great deal. Second, it allowed them to conveniently send spies into the grasslands.
At the time, Fan Xian had valued this but had not come to Qingzhou personally. He did not know that his idea had allowed Qingzhou to develop so quickly within such a short time. It had already surpassed his imagination.
It seemed that small and inexpensive items could be used to exchange for the Hu people’s uncut gems, good horses, and wool rugs. For such a large profit, it made the Qing merchants very happy. They were willing to take the risk of the endless battle between the two sides to go deep into the grasslands to carry out trades.
Marx’s words were spoken very well. Fan Xian thought of this and felt a bit more confident. Since there were so many of his colleagues as cover, it seemed that the grasslands were somewhere he could go.
The soldiers stationed in Qingzhou were particularly strict about the merchant checks. Even though the trading companies forcefully shoved silver into the arms of the military officers, they did not increase the speed of the checks. Fan Xian and his group waited at the city gate for half a day and barely moved forward.
The autumn sun was a blinding white and hung halfway in the sky. Although it did not test the merchants in the city or the soldiers with the heat, the brightness began to fray everyone’s tempers.
After all, Qingzhou was too special. It was a city made up of soldiers and merchant groups. When the soldiers’ moods became irritated, their attitude toward the merchants became worse. When the merchants’ moods became similarly irritated, they could only keep their heads down and continue to smile.
The soldiers of the Western camp still did not understand why the court would allow these bastards fat on profits to enter the grasslands through Qingzhou and curry favor with their irreconcilable enemies, the Hu people. As they handed out documents, they cursed them without goodwill. They hoped these people, who were careless and shameless in their profiting, would die on the grasslands under the Hu people’s arrows and never come back.
Outside the inspection yamen, there were a few Overwatch Council officials in black robes sitting beside the military officers supervising the inspection. Fan Xian gave Mu Feng’er a meaningful glance. Mu Feng’er immediately understood his meaning. He got ready to make secret contact with the Fourth Bureau colleagues.
After getting everything ready, Fan Xian didn’t have the patience to continue waiting with the carriages. He jumped off the shaft of the carriage, patted the dust from his bottom, and led a subordinate disguised as a servant toward the inside of Qingzhou.
He ripped open his collar and tilted his head to look at the small white sun in the sky with narrowed eyes. He felt endlessly hot and irritated but couldn’t sweat much. It felt uncomfortable.
Suddenly, the Qingzhou city gate not far behind him was opened. The sound of a line of urgent and tidy horse hooves rang out by the city gate, startling the long line of merchants waiting for their goods to be inspected.
Everyone gazed curiously toward the outside of the city gate, not knowing which group had returned to camp. A group returning now should have been out all last night shooting rabbits on the grassland.
Shooting rabbits was slang on the frontier. It was similar in meaning to the Hu people’s so-called razing the ground. The Qing Kingdom and Xi Lake repeated stabbed at each other, using these sweeps and counter-sweeps to maintain the hatred between them. Although the Qing army was powerful, the troops that went out at night to make battle still appeared very brave.
Fan Xian had also heard the dense clatter of horses. He pulled his gaze back from the sky and looked toward the city gate.
Perhaps the sun in the sky had been too powerful and left a white mark on his retinas. When he looked toward the gate at the windblown riders, particularly the leader at the very front of the riders, it was like looking at a sun.
The leader of the riders, who bravely attacked the grasslands at night, was not very large or tall. The contrast of the armor actually made her appear small and thin. Fan Xian felt that her body was sparkling with brilliance, particularly her eyes under those dark, mountain-like brows.
Those bright eyes, without a trace of miscellaneous colors, were like gemstones as they reflected the sunlight. Her brows were furrowed, as if she had many more thoughts now than before. The armor on her body was stained with blood. The horse beneath her was tired. It looked like she had experienced a true battle.
As if those clean eyes pierced him with pain, Fan Xian closed his eyes and lowered his head, hoping she did not see him. However, a strange feeling welled in his heart. This scene seemed to prove that time did not only move determinedly forward.
Five years ago, when Fan Xian had moved from Danzhou to Jingdou, outside the city gates he had seen this girl with brows like distant mountains and eyes like gemstones. The girl that called him teacher then had worn a light blue coat and a cheeky white deer-skin hat. The girl today was wearing dust-covered armor and had an aura of righteousness.
Time had changed many people and many things about them. It seemed that the only thing not changed were their names.
Fan Xian lowered his head deeply and used his subordinate’s body to hide his figure. Ye Ling’er on the horse was clearly tired and did not notice that there was an old friend in the merchants on the side of the street. The merchants realized that the person leading the riders was Ye Ling’er and also withdrew their gazes.
These merchants, who had frequented Qingzhou for many years, were already used to this sight. Since it was the young lady of the Ye family who led the soldiers out, then regardless of day or night, she would always kill a few Hu people before she was willing to return to the city.
It had already been two years since the Jingdou rebellion. The Emperor remembered the Ye family’s loyalty fondly and wrote a special edict to take away Ye Ling’er’s wangfei status. In reality, he was tacitly agreeing for this girl to remarry.
In the Dingzhou army’s old territory, all of the soldiers and people were still used to calling this girl who had come home Mistress Ye. No one was used to calling her wangfei. However, Ye Ling’er continued stubbornly to refer to herself as wangfei. Only a year ago, she had taken a knife and forced Li Hongcheng to send her to Qingzhou.
Fan Xian looked at the skinny figure gradually riding away and was silent. He was aware of Ye Ling’er’s life these two years in Dingzhou and Qingzhou. He understood why Ye Ling’er persisted in her status as wangfei and wore a full set of armor.
Perhaps it was only when she was on the grasslands and swung a sword could she forget the unhappy past. The environment of the grasslands and the life of a warrior was indeed the best way for someone to become strong.
The young lady of the Head of the Bureau of Military Affairs and the daughter of the person who managed the troops of the Qing Kingdom was actually on the most dangerous border fighting face-to-face with the enemy. This was a scene that had probably never happened before in history. It was because of the theatrical nature that Ye Ling’er now earned not only sympathetic gazes and gossip but also respect and fear.
Fan Xian was not worried about Ye Ling’er’s safety because Li Hongcheng would not allow her to sink into a fatal situation. The two sides on the frontier had a natural respect and fear toward the Ye family. The riders Ye Ling’er led had to be the elite of the Qing elite.
Ye Ling’er had the power of a seventh-level ace. It was enough to protect herself. Most importantly, Ye Ling’er had chosen this path for herself. Fan Xian greatly respected this fact.
After exchanging for the leaving documents, having the Qingzhou army pull at his ear and give him a scolding, and being endlessly intimidated on the dangerous nature of the Hu people on the grasslands, Mu Feng’er, with a face full of impatience, finally finished all the necessary paperwork.
The goods were gathered in the Qingzhou yamen. When one left the city for the grasslands, one would use their travel pass to redeem the goods. This was because they were afraid that someone would secretly tamper with the goods after they were inspected.
When it came to smuggling, it was rampant on both sides. Even soldiers would be slightly involved. The General’s manor in Dingzhou turned a blind eye to this. Qingzhou was isolated on the border and life was difficult. If there wasn’t this extra income, no officer would be willing to live there long term.
That night, Fan Xian and his group rested in a large bunker. The entire room was filled with the stench of feet. The night chill seeped into their bones. Based on his “special privilege,” Fan Xian slept next to the wall. Although it was the coldest location, it was also the quietest.
Mu Feng’er was next to him repeatedly apologizing in a quiet voice. Fan Xian smiled and didn’t say anything. In the eyes of everyone, he was of precious and noble birth. No one knew what kind of hardships he had suffered through in his two lives. When it came to suffering hardship, everyone always underestimated him.
The night gradually darkened. A few strange and quiet movements came from outside the window of the bunker. Mu Feng’er, who had not fallen asleep yet immediately, became alert. Preparing to wake Sir Fan junior, he turned his face and unexpectedly saw Fan Xian’s calm eyes glowing in the dark like a wolf.
The two of them rose quietly and met up with the Fourth Bureau officials. It was the clever person who had secretly sent the knife to Jingdou. In a dark corner of the courtyard, Fan Xian lowered his voice and asked that official, “How many of these knives are there?”
“Just the one,” the official replied quickly. “We had originally found three. After I took one, I found that the other two had disappeared the next day.”
Fan Xian’s heart turned cold. He asked, “Could it be?”
The official understood what he meant and shook his head. “They weren’t taken by the Western camp. These spoils are not remarkable. They’re all piled in the warehouse, so no one notices them. As for those two knives… I don’t know who stole them.”
“You didn’t keep an eye out that night?” Fan Xian stared into this official’s eyes.
The official raised his head and replied quietly, “I watched all night, but I didn’t see anything…” He paused and said, “If someone can still a knife in front of my face, it has to be an ace.”
For some reason, Fan Xian trusted this subordinate’s confident deduction. He smiled and asked, “How good?”
“At the ninth level,” the subordinate replied cutely.
After just a bit of conversation, Fan Xian found that he liked this Fourth Bureau official, although he didn’t know his name, a great deal. He didn’t understand where this affection came from. He glanced curiously at this official and didn’t say anything. He thought to himself that all the ninth-level aces in the world were famous and powerful figures. How could there be a ninth-level ace out here in the isolated Qingzhou?
Although he liked him, the eyes behind Fan Xian’s slightly lowered eyelids became icy cold. His fingers bent slightly, preparing to strike out at any moment to kill the official in front of him.
“Last question, why are you so interested in this knife?”
The knife that had broken in the carriage had been of a common style. If Fan Xian had not been familiar with the material used in the body of the knife, he would not have found the danger hidden within.
The official did not sense Fan Xian’s hidden and unexpressed killing intent. Very respectfully, he said, “Sir, I am a member of the Qinian Unit.”
The official took a knee and offered up an object with both hands. Fan Xian took the object and gently stroked it in his palm. His mind was a complete blank. This was an item of trust from his most loyal group. However, he knew nothing of the existence of this official.
But, he had confirmed the other’s identity and did not suspect anything anymore. He nodded his head.
The official stood and said in a low voice, “I was personally chosen by Sir Wang to enter the unit. I have just never stepped out. Previously, I had been in the three workshops. I was only moved to Qingzhou at the beginning of this year. Seeing this knife, I felt that it was strange because the blade of this knife was made of the second type of steel from the second large workshop. The past weapons made by the palace treasury may be lost on the battlefield, but this type of knife hadn’t been given to the military yet. I felt that the situation was urgent, so I quickly informed you, sir.”
Fan Xian nodded and took in a deep breath. He knew that his good luck was still running, but he didn’t know who the ninth-level ace that stole the two knives was. He quietly deduced that if the person was his enemy, the court was probably already full of accusations of him betraying the country. Since it was all quiet within the court, it meant that the person who stole the sword also wanted to help him hide it.
“So, you were personally picked by Lao Wang.” In the darkness, Fan Xian smiled, but it was impossible to see that his smile was slightly twisted. “No wonder you speak so amusingly.”
Fan Xian asked again, “Concerning the name Songzhi Xianling, have you found anything?”
The official stood up and reported seriously, “There have been a few extra outsiders among the Hu people’s Kings’ banners, but there is none named Songzhi Xianling. I haven’t found any clues.”
“Hmm. I have already asked the Second Bureau to investigate this name,” Fan Xian said. “Wait here. Once there is news, immediately send someone into the grasslands to inform me.”
“Sir is going into the grasslands?”
“I am going to find the person who stole the swords.” Fan Xian’s voice was very cold. Shortly after, he softened his voice and patted this official’s shoulder. “You did very well this time. After you finish investigating this case, come back to the capital to help me.”
“Thank you, sir, for the promotion…” The official was overjoyed and knelt down to accept the order. He lowered his voice but could not subdue his joy. “It’s been two years since I saw Sir Wang. I wonder he if is doing alright.”
As for Wang Qinian’s whereabouts, Fan Xian had not spoken of it to officials within the Council. Everyone, including Yan Bingyun and them, all thought that Lao Wang was carrying out the Commissioner’s secret mission and no one suspected anything. The Overwatch Council officials on the outside knew even less.
Hearing these words, Fan Xian was silent. He thought to himself, Wang Qinian, you old bastard, you’ve already gone, but you’re still helping me. How can I not miss you?