Joy of Life - Chapter 638 - Discussing Marriage, Discussing Merit[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:50:24]
Chapter 638: Discussing Marriage, Discussing Merit
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
After the rebellion in Jingdou, a large number of people in control died in the palace. The connections became much simpler. The overall atmosphere also became more respectful and direct. The empress died, but it seemed the Emperor had no intention of installing a new one. The empress dowager died. There was no longer an old woman sitting up above watching the concubines. Lady Shu apathetically accepted the result of her son’s death. She only fasted and prayed in her silent palace. The Emperor not banishing her to the Cold Palace was already a kind act.
In the palace, the women with the most sway were the mother of the Third Prince, Yi Guipin, and the Great Prince’s mother, Lady Ning. These two mistresses had both been hurt in the rebellion and formed a friendship bound by blood during the battle. Together, they handled the matters in the palace. It was very harmonious.
As for the matter of inheritance, it couldn’t cause any major problems at the moment. Although the Emperor had not chosen another Crown Prince, the bright-eyed people all knew the prince most likely to eventually control the territories of the Qing Kingdom was the Third Prince, Li Chengping.
Although the Third Prince was only in his teens, of the only two “brothers” that could threaten his position, everyone knew the Crown Prince had no interest in the throne. Furthermore, the blood of a Dongyi slave woman was a natural obstacle when it came to matters of inheritance.
The other competitor was Fan Xian. However, Sir Fan junior was an illegitimate child. Furthermore, he was the Third Prince’s teacher. Most importantly, judging from his actions these years, Sir Fan junior had no interest in the throne.
For the officials and mistresses in the palace, whether or not Fan Xian had an interest was a question worth careful consideration. For now, the Third Prince’s road was bright and the support at his side was true. The future of the entire Qing Kingdom was clear, the atmosphere in the Royal Palace was good. Unified meetings were happening every day. Each person’s spirit seemed to be energetically reaching upward.
Fan Xian traveled at double speed the entire way. When he returned to Jingdou, it was already dusk. After entering the palace, the day had become black. He sat in the royal study and rubbed his gently rumbling stomach. He couldn’t help furrowing his brows and thinking that he should have gone to Xinfeng Restaurant first and gotten some buns.
This was a marvelous thought. However, he carried a heavy responsibility given to him by the Emperor. Since he was returning to the capital to report, he didn’t dare linger outside the Palace.
Just as he was silently fuming, he suddenly saw two eunuchs carrying a food box into the royal study.
The Emperor was having dinner somewhere in the palace. Even though the inner court informed him Fan Xian had returned to the capital, he couldn’t make it at the moment. Fan Xian looked in surprise at the food box and smiled. “You know I haven’t eaten?”
Eunuch Yao usually followed the Emperor’s side. The head eunuch on duty outside the royal study was also an old friend of Fan Xian’s. It was Eunuch Dai who had performed a great deed during the rebellion in the palace.
Eunuch Dai looked at Fan Xian with a smile and said, “You anxious about state affairs, so presumably you’ve missed the eating hour. I’ve picked some pastries to tide you over. The Emperor is having dinner in the back palace. Even if he wanted to award you a bowl of caviar with rice, there isn’t time.”
Fan Xian didn’t bother being polite and began his attack on the contents of the food box. As a subject, sitting in the royal study while the Emperor was not present was already a crime punished by beheading. To eat without asking for an edict in the royal study was an even more disrespectful matter. However, he had long received a special edict, so he sat calmly and ate with relish.
Eunuch Day stood smiling at the side. He thought Sir Fan junior was indeed not like other officials. Immediately after, he thought of the matter that had been spreading sensationally all under heaven. Eunuch Dai warmed again as he thought of the historical deed Sir Fan junior had done for the Qing Kingdom. Who knew how the Emperor was going to reward him? The reason this head eunuch was so excited was because he knew much of his future lay in the Emperor’s hand. But, a smaller portion was completely in his relationship to Sir Fan junior.
His life in the palace had gone smoothly until Fan Xian showed up. Only then did he start to experience misfortune and then began to rise again. Since he had done well during the Jingdou rebellion, he was now the deputy head eunuch. His status was far more respected than when he had been in Lady Shu’s palace.
Sometimes Eunuch Dai would think back and feel a lingering fear. If he had stayed in Lady Shu’s palace, he would probably be a member of the Cold Palace by now or may have even died a long time ago. Thinking of this, he couldn’t stop himself glancing back from the corners of his eyes. The eunuch following him had also once been favored and served in the royal study. Unfortunately, he served in the Eastern Palace. Although he had not committed any wrong, his status had fallen a thousandfold.
Fan Xian put down his chopsticks and spoke warmly with Eunuch Dai for a little while. Only then did he slowly turn his gaze toward the person behind the eunuch. Looking at the increasingly solemn young eunuch, whose acne was still as clear as day, he calmly said, “So, you still haven’t died. That is somewhat unexpected.”
Hong Zhu’s expression was respectful as he bowed toward Fan Xian and replied, “I have just received the Emperor’s grace and came out from the Cold Palace earlier in the year.”
“In the future, remember to serve the Emperor carefully,” Fan Xian spoke neutrally.
Eunuch Dai casually said some flattering words and then led Hong Zhu away from the royal study. He thought there had long been rumors that young Eunuch Hong and Sir Fan junior did not see eye to eye. Back then, it had been Sir Fan junior who had kicked him to the Eastern Palace. Looking at the situation now, this was indeed probably the case.
He couldn’t help but laugh coldly in his heart. Even though Hong Zhu had been looked after by old Eunuch Hong back then, he still wasn’t a match for the little Duke’s hand that extended in from outside the palace. Old Eunuch Hong had died. Hong Zhu’s position in the palace was now very awkward.
When Eunuch Dai left the royal study, he completely missed Fan Xian and Hong Zhu meeting each other’s eyes with mutual concern and their gentle, not easily noticed, nod.
It was completely quiet inside the royal study. Fan Xian was organizing his thoughts. Hong Zhu coming out of the Cold Palace was a matter. He had long been liked by the nobles in the palace. During the rebellion, it appeared Hong Zhu knew nothing at all, so reinstating him was natural. During that matter, Fan Xian had taken many roundabout ways to help him out.
As for their mutual entanglement three years ago, Fan Xian no longer thought about it. At least, this eunuch had helped him a great deal. In terms of favors, it should be he who owed Hong Zhu and not the other way around.
As he thought this, the sound of hurried footsteps rang out from outside the royal study. Faintly, a light shone through the darkness through the glass and floated in this direction.
Fan Xian quickly drew back his stretching arms and stood to welcome the Emperor.
The door to the royal study was pushed open. The Qing Emperor, wearing a bright golden robe, walked in with large steps. His slightly thin face was calm. Only the white hairs at his temples revealed his true age and the toll these years had taken on his spirit.
The group of serving eunuchs did not enter. Cleverly, Eunuch Yao closed the door tightly behind them. There was only the Emperor and Fan Xian left in the royal study.
The Emperor sat with great ease on the soft couch and rubbed his knees with his hands. His eyes looked at Fan Xian. Suddenly, he laughed.
Fan Xian was completely confused by this laugh and stood awkwardly where he was.
The Emperor shook his head and said, “You are very good.”
Since it was good, why did he shake his head? Fan Xian laughed uncomfortably. He took out the case of secret reports the Council had prepared and placed it on the table in the center of the soft couch.
The Emperor opened the case and began to read. The case was filled with the initial results of the negotiation between the Qing Kingdom and Dongyi, as well as the Overwatch Council’s analysis of Dongyi’s bottom line, the territorial map Dongyi provided, and the details of the division of people and finances.
The matter of Dongyi had shocked the entire world. The diplomatic group responsible for negotiations and Fan Xian both maintained daily communication with the Royal Palace in Jingdou about the details. The Emperor was aware of the negotiation details but, after all, the two places were very distant. To truly have a first-hand account of the situation required Fan Xian to return to Jingdou to make a report.
The Emperor slowly put down the scroll and stood up. Walking to a wall of the royal study, he pulled open the curtains hanging across.
Below the curtain was a large map of the entire world. The various provinces and areas were all drawn clearly. Even the seashores to the east and south were drawn with great detail. This map not only included the Qing Kingdom’s territories, but it also included the territories of Northern Qi and Dongyi.
The first time Fan Xian truly entered the royal study to discuss state affairs, he had sat with the ministers and scholars and seen this map. He knew of the Qing Emperor’s endless enthusiasm for expanding his borders. At the time, there were three princes by the Emperor’s side. Now, two of them were gone.
The Emperor’s steady palm moved across the map. Although the light inside the royal study was bright, it wasn’t like the shadow-free lamps of an operating theatre. Wherever his hand moved on the map, that area would be in a patch of darkness. It was like a black arrowhead containing endless power and representing tens of thousands of troops filled with murderous intent.
The palm landed above Dongyi and the vassal states surrounding it. He lightly tapped it. The Emperor did not turn his head. He calmly said, “Without using a single soldier or firing a single arrow, I have obtained this piece of land. Fan Xian, tell me, how should I reward you?”
“The negotiations haven’t come to an end. Plus, there is internal conflict within the Sword Hut. I’m also afraid that the nobility of the vassal states will turn traitorous. Most importantly, we don’t know if the matter of stationing troops will cause a rebound in Dongyi.”
Fan Xian responded with a smile. He could see that although the Emperor’s expression was calm, he could not hide the joy deep in his heart. This Emperor, who was focused solely on unifying the world and establishing a 10,000-generation legacy, had spent decades getting rid of Ku He and Sigu Jian. He was now able to take the first step in a 10,000-step journey. It was impossible to hide such joy.
“How is Sigu Jian?” The Emperor turned around and smiled, not continuing the question of reward.
“Completely crippled. He is certain to die within three months.” Fan Xian answered quickly and cleanly.
The Emperor thought deeply for a moment and then sighed. “So, he’s about to die. I truly admire that sword-obsessed idiot. He endured Uncle Liuyun’s scattered hands and another punch by me. Yet, he was still able to live for so long. The strength of his physical form is truly the strongest of all of us.”
Naturally, his words excluded Wu Zhu.
Fan Xian’s eyes moved slightly. He quietly said, “It is also fortunate that Sigu Jian didn’t die. Only he could suppress the powerful warriors in the Sword Hut. Without his consent, the negotiations would probably not have been successful.”
The Emperor smiled and didn’t say anything. He could never quite understand this son of his. Was he speaking for Sigu Jian? What purpose was there in speaking for a Great Grandmaster who was about to die?
Fan Xian thought for a bit and then said, “I think the negotiations will continue until next year. At that time, Sigu Jian would have died long ago. However, since he had already decided and delivered it all around, presumably his disciples in the Sword Hut would not disobey his wishes.”
“Will Thirteenth Wang take over as the Master of the Sword Hut?” The Emperor asked suddenly. He cared nothing about Fan Xian and Thirteenth Wang’s private friendship. He cared that the Master of the Sword Hut had to be someone controllable if he wanted to truly control the territories of Dongyi.
Thirteenth Wang, had deep connections with the Qing Kingdom. Regardless of his ability, first and foremost, he was someone who could be controlled.
Fan Xian’s heart tightened. His mind turned quickly. “The opening ceremony for the Sword Hut was delayed a month. No one said anything. I haven’t found out who Sigu Jian is thinking about leaving the Sword Hut to.”
“There is no need to inquire,” The Emperor’s face became solemn. “If Dongyi truly submits, the Master of the Sword Hut will have to follow my orders. Regardless of who Sigu Jian chooses, if I don’t give my approval, it won’t work.”
Fan Xian’s mouth tasted bitter. He had originally been worried that Sigu Jian would forcibly expose the Shadow’s identity and have him become the second Master of the Sword Hut. Now, it seemed he should be worried about other matters. This action of the Emperor’s was like choosing the Dalai Lama back in the day.
Thinking about it closely, the Emperor was right. Even though the Qing Kingdom would send officials and troops to be stationed in Dongyi, in the hearts of the Dongyi people, the true master was still the disciple of the Sword Hut. This would probably be clearly stated in the negotiation between the two countries. The Qing Kingdom would not make any major changes to Dongyi within 50 years.
If the Qing Kingdom didn’t have the authority in name to appoint and dismiss key figures, what kind of submission was this?
“I will make clear this point to them after I return to Dongyi.” Fan Xian didn’t hesitate and agreed straightforwardly.
“As long as the Sword Hut submits, there is no need to worry about the merchants of those small places,” the Emperor said with narrowed eyes. “If Sigu Jian is clever enough, he won’t make any more trouble before he dies. If he is truly an idiot, I will teach him a powerful lesson.”
When an Emperor raged, the world flowed with blood. The lesson the Qing Emperor spoke of was to brazenly send out troops to force Dongyi to submit through martial power.
Fan Xian didn’t comment and directly asked, “If the Sword Hut decides, what about the Master of the City?”
“Weren’t the people in the manor of the Master of the City killed by Sigu Jian?” The Emperor stood by the map and suddenly glanced deeply at Fan Xian. “Not only was I surprised, other than overjoyed, the entire court was also astonished. An Zhi, Sigu Jian, that old man, looks on you with particular favor. Who would have thought he would truly suppress his wild nature and agree to your request?”
Before leaving for Dongyi, Fan Xian and the Emperor had argued for a long time. In the Emperor’s opinion, even if Sigu Jian died, he would not allow the city he had single-handedly protected for such a long time to surrender to the Qing Kingdom without sending one soldier or firing one arrow. Fan Xian had maintained his opinion and used a long time to convince the Emperor to let him try.
The thing was, he had actually succeeded in one try. This reality filled the Qing court with joy and surprised the Emperor. He even felt a glimmer of unease because this illegitimate child of his was giving the world too many surprises.
There was suspicion and doubt in the Emperor’s gaze, but it seemed Fan Xian did not notice anything. Smiling bitterly, he said, “I cannot claim credit. If the Qing Kingdom was not strong, after Sigu Jian’s death, Dongyi would only be able to surrender or break. It would certainly not have submitted to the Qing Kingdom.”
These words were true. All diplomatic negotiations were rooted in a foundation of power. The major powers under heaven had made their first appearance. Perhaps Northern Qi had the power to oppose the Qing Kingdom for a few years, but Dongyi was established through trade. Its foundation was not solid. It was like duckweed in the water or a faint cloud in the sky. A gentle wind was enough to enough to turn it into chaos.
Under the powerful pressure of the Qing Kingdom’s national and military force, Dongyi did not have many choices. Fan Xian’s success was actually the Qing Emperor’s success. Under his rule, there was a particularly powerful empire.
Fan Xian suddenly took a deep breath and said, “As you know, my mother came from Dongyi. Sigu Jian still has some lingering affection for me.”
He knew he wouldn’t be able to hide this from the Emperor, nor did he want to hide it. As expected, it was clear the Emperor knew Ye Qingmei had once lived in Dongyi. After hearing these words, he only smiled slightly and said, “Indeed so. What requests did Sigu Jian make to you?”
Fan Xian raised his head and said, “He hoped that the Dongyi under the Qing’s rule would still be the Dongyi of today.”
“I allow it.” The Emperor waved his hand decisively. Without waiting for Fan Xian to say anything else, he said, “The Dongyi I want is the present one. If it becomes like Jiangnan, why would I want it?”
Fan Xian was stunned. The problem he had been most worried about, the problem that Sigu Jian had been most worried, had not been a problem for the Emperor. He wanted the present Dongyi, the largescale foreign trading port with the faint sense of merchant self-governance.
Thinking of this, Fan Xian’s couldn’t help but feel a boundless admiration for the Emperor. Only an Emperor with his sights far in the future would be able to tolerate such a situation. The Emperor’s will and vision were probably even broader than he had imagined.
Immediately after, the Emperor discussed with Fan Xian the details of incorporating Dongyi into their territory as well as the major problems that could arise and other related responses. The night was gradually deepening, but the light in the royal study remained just as bright.
The territory beneath the heavens gradually changed appearance under this father and son’s discussion.
After a long time, the Emperor rubbed his tired eyes and turned his head to glance again at that map. The territories of the world had already changed, but this map had not. Quietly, the Emperor said, “I’ll need a new map made again tomorrow.”
“Congratulations, Your Majesty,” Fan Xian said with a smile.
The Emperor finally laughed. His palm suddenly slapped heavily against the map, on the foreign territory colored in green. The bright yellow robe seemed to carry an unstoppable and unyielding strength.
“There is only this one piece left under heaven.”
Fan Xian’s heart tightened abruptly.
For the second time, the Emperor raised that question. “An Zhi, tell me, how should I reward you?”
There were many examples in history of one’s great merits making an Emperor feel uneasy and not ending well. The downfall of these examples was often in this question. Since their deed was too great, they had received too many rewards. So, there was nothing to reward. Of course, the one on the throne could not give half the throne to the examples. Thus, the examples always, without exception, bounded onto the path of death. Occasionally, there were examples who jumped out and successfully rebelled, but those were rare.
Hearing these words, Fan Xian did not feel any fear. He only put on a bitter expression and sank into thought. His deed this time had not been that great. According to what he said earlier, the subordination of Dongyi was, when all was said and done, because of the Qing Kingdom’s powerful strength. He was only a lure, an excuse. He was an excuse Sigu Jian used to convince himself.
As for making an Emperor uneasy through a great deed, it was nonsense. The Emperor was the foremost person since ancient times in terms of self-confidence and narcissism. Throughout his entire life, he had never worried that an official or a son would be able to get ahead of him. A powerful Emperor would have sufficient generosity to those below the throne.
Fan Xian did indeed have the third problem, which was the problem of having nothing to reward. He was already a Duke and controlled the palace treasury and Overwatch Council. He held one-third of all the power in his hands. What else could he have the Emperor reward him with? Actually have him titled as a prince like the people in the diplomatic group guessed?
There could not be no reward. The entire world was watching Jingdou. If Fan Xian put in the most effort but did not receive a decent reward, the subjects would feel chilled at heart toward the Emperor.
After a long time, Fan Xian suddenly smile bitterly. Looking at the Emperor by the map, he scratched his head and said self-mockingly, “What if… You give Dongyi to me?”
Of course, this was a joke, a grand joke. Titling him as prince would, at most, make him a leisurely prince of Danbo. If the Emperor actually separated Dongyi out, that would be splitting territories and establishing an aristocracy.
The Emperor also smiled, but his smile was not as amused as Fan Xian thought it would be. On the contrary, it carried an inexplicable sense of mockery. “Looks like Sigu Jian wasn’t lying on Dong Mountain. He wholeheartedly wants you to go be the Master of the City.”
Fan Xian’s heart chilled. He replied with an awkward smile, “In any case, that Master of the City doesn’t do anything.”
“Choose something different.” The Emperor didn’t even bother to comment. He sat down and picked up a cup of warm tea to sip slowly.
Fan Xian stood in front of the Emperor and thought hard for a long time. He then probingly said, “Someone has to go manage Dongyi. What if you have a Prince to be the Master of the City?”
In Dongyi, there was only the Great Prince who was a Prince. He had the blood of Dongyi, and his identity was noble. Having the Great Prince be the Master of Dongyi would be the best move in subduing the hearts of the Dongyi military and people.
“This matter will be discussed in the future.” The Emperor’s brows furrowed. It was clear he was moved by Fan Xian’s suggestion, but he was more uneasy than anything else.
“I won’t enter the Hall of Governmental Affairs,” Fan Xian suddenly muttered. “Being with those old men every day is enough to bore me to death.”
The Emperor smiled and said, “Is Sir He not in the Hall of Governmental Affairs? He is also a young man.”
These were just words. The Emperor would not have Fan Xian give up the power of the Overwatch Council to enter the Hall of Governmental Affairs and ruin his future plans for the Qing Kingdom. However, hearing the Emperor’s words, the face of an irritating official who stood guard by Ruoruo every day outside the Danbo medical shop rose before Fan Xian’s eyes. With a cold laugh, he said, “If Your Majesty wishes to reward me, then I ask Your Majesty to reward me two edicts.”
Concerning the matter of the appointed marriages, Fan Xian and the Emperor had already fought a six-month cold war. When Fan Xian spoke, the Emperor knew what he wanted to say. He marveled to himself that the kid dared to use his good deeds to beg for a favor. His expression immediately became ugly.
“One edict for Ruoruo, and one for Roujia,” Fan Xian said in a low voice. “Please allow them to choose their own husbands.”
The Emperor looked at him coldly. A moment later, he suddenly said, “In the Roujia matter, I will grant it to you. But, for your sister’s marriage, I will not allow it!”
Fan Xian feigned anger but was calm within. He knew the Emperor was still not willing to let go of this matter because he was going to use this to completely push him down. Unless he relented and used the affection between father and son, the wish between an Emperor and his official to beg the other, the other would certainly not let this go.
This was a grudge but not just a grudge. The Emperor wanted to completely control Fan Xian, to have Fan Xian completely lower his head in front of him. The Emperor had long sensed that this son was not like his other sons. He had too many traces of his mother.
His dead sons had appeared incomparably respectful toward him on the surface but were secretly thinking of things not even worthy of beasts. An Zhi gave off a sense of unwillingness to behave from the marrow of his bones. Although the Emperor enjoyed Fan Xian’s naked honesty, he wanted to beat it into naked loyalty.
“There is no need for further discussion.” The Emperor stared at Fan Xian coldly. Suddenly remembering something, he smiled slightly and said, “Just one edict for Roujia to compensate you for your work seems a little less than just. However, I recall that you are still the Commissioner of the Overwatch Council?”
Fan Xian’s heart jumped. He knew the climax was approaching, but his expression was one of confusion.
“Chen Pingping, that old dog, doesn’t do anything anyway. You can directly take over the position of Director and let that old fellow rest properly,” the Emperor said as he looked at him with slight mockery. “Just over 20 years old and I am having your take on the position of the Director of the Overwatch Council. That is a generous kindness. Are you not going to give thanks quickly?”
Fan Xian was indeed still only the Commissioner of the Overwatch Council. After all these years, under Chen Pingping’s purposeful nurturing and letting go of power, he had long controlled the entire Overwatch Council. What difference was there to being Director? The Emperor wanting to use such a natural promotion to brush aside the work he had done with Dongyi and kill off his thoughts of breaking the marriage was truly merciless.
Fan Xian’s lips twitched as if he wanted to angrily speak disrespectful words. In the end, he pushed down his emotions. He gave a careless bow, expressed his thanks, and took leave of the palace. The Emperor laughed in the royal study, not caring about his son’s rudeness and unfilial behavior.
Fan Xian returned to his own manor. After the conversation in the royal study, his mood had relaxed. At least that Emperor, who seemed capable of everything, could not control every detail under the heavens. In this battle of tempers and natures, he had won again.
Sitting by the bed with his feet soaking in boiling hot water, he relaxed slightly. Lin Wan’er, her face filled with tiredness, leaned against his shoulder and said, “You should have said something if you were coming back. The family was not prepared. All the servants are asleep, and you aren’t willing to wake them up.”
“I’m just resting for a few days. I still have to go to Dongyi to oversee everything.” Fan Xian gently held his wife’s hand. “There’s nothing I can do about it.”
“I wonder who gave you this name.” Lin Wan’er yawned. She was already a woman who had a child, yet her face still had a childishness to it, particularly her round cheeks, which Fan Xian liked a lot.
He gently squeezed his wife’s cheeks and said with a smile, “Other than that person, who could choose such a tasteless name?”
“Why are you so spirited today?” Lin Wan’er suddenly yowled.
Pleased with himself, he said, “Today, I received a good position. Tomorrow, I am going out of the city and into the garden to evict him!”