Joy of Life - Chapter 707 - Chaos In Jiangnan[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:50:50]
Chapter 707: Chaos In Jiangnan
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
In the winter of the 10th year of the Qing calendar, General Li Hongcheng’s achievements in the Qingzhou battle were made known to the world. He returned to the capital following an imperial summons. In the year he had just stood firm, he became the deputy head of the Bureau of Military Affairs, a high honor. However, the people of the court singing the praises of the greatness of the Qing Kingdom could clearly see that the position of deputy head was actually an empty position. Under Ye Zhong’s suppression, Li Hongcheng would never have a military force that belonged wholly to him as it had in Dingzhou. And, no one forgot that the previous person to take the lofty position as deputy head at such a young age was Qin Heng, and his end was not very glorious.
After Li Hongcheng returned to the capital, he entered the Palace to meet with the Emperor as soon as possible. Inside the royal study, the Emperor did not vent a glimmer of anger. Instead, they talked calmly about the scenery in Xiliang. When Li Hongcheng saw Fan Ruoruo by the Emperor’s side, his mood dropped to the bottom of an abyss. After leaving the Palace, he went to the Bureau of Military Affairs to take the post and set a date for his return to the Bureau. Li Hongcheng then went home and saw King Jing, who had been under house arrest in the Royal Palace for a while and had just been let out, as well as his frail and pitiful sister. The three of them sat silently. The King sighed repeatedly. He patted Li Hongcheng’s shoulder and said, “Fortunately, nothing went wrong. You did what you could for that side by being able to hold out and return to Jingdou.”
That night, Li Hongcheng still personally made a visit to Fan manor. He knew how much hope Fan Xian had in hope. Although he had tenaciously resisted the Emperor’s edict and Gong Dian’s pressure, and had managed to drag things out for a few days, in the end, he had been miserably summoned back. He had to personally give Fan Xian an explanation.
No one knew what this pair of friends said in the study in the back garden of the Fan manor. Presumably, it was nothing more than an expression of apology to each other. The Palace did not seem interested in this conversation because no one stopped Li Hongcheng entering the manor.
“I also didn’t think things would turn out like this.” Fan Xian laughed bitterly and stood up to hug him. He gently patted his back and saw him out of the study.
Before Li Hongcheng left the study, he turned around and glanced at him with worry. “Deng Zi Yue should have escaped, but I’m afraid a number of your Qinian Unit people died in Xiliang Road. After all, this is the business of the Council, so I don’t know the details. I hope you can control your emotions.”
“I don’t know who the betrayer is. Perhaps people in the Council caught wind of one of the three meetups. After all, Yan Bingyun went personally to handle it. Faced with this person, I also don’t have much confidence.” Fan Xian’s expression was gloomy. “But, don’t worry. I’ve never had much interest in matters of revenge. I am just feeling somewhat at a loss.”
“If even you feel at a loss, then I urge you to behave well these days.” Li Hongcheng shook his head and rejected Fan Xian’s intention to see him out of the manor. Like his father comforted him, he patted Fan Xian’s shoulder with force. With a sweep of his robes, he headed out of the manor.
After watching Li Hongcheng’s lonely figure disappeared into the winter garden, Fan Xian was silent for a long time before turning his back and sitting back down in his chair in the study. Hongcheng had passed on Gong Dian’s evaluation of him earlier. The evaluation could not help but make Fan Xian taste bitterness in his mouth. Bullying deadweight? If there was actually an in-depth investigation, Fan Xian’s plan in Dongyi and Xiliang did indeed have such an intention. However, this kind of intention, without a doubt, would not be able to stand firm on a moral ground.
Men should delight in gratitude and vengeance. How could the blood and lives of soldiers be used as bargaining chips? However, who could truly understand what Fan Xian was thinking? It was precisely because he did not want too many innocents under heaven to lose their lives in the battle between him and the Emperor that he had chosen the present setup.
The Great Battle of Qingzhou was a perfect embodiment of the Emperor’s ability to plan far ahead. Regardless of whether it was Hu Ge’s feigned attack or the Chief’s reaction, all of it was a foundation Fan Xian had put a great deal of effort into. Yet, this foundation had been heartlessly and calmly exploited by the Emperor.
Fan Xian did not feel a glimmer of closeness with the Hu people on the grasslands. The bodies and burned homes on the fields of Xiliang Road would only make him clap and praise the Qingzhou battle. The problem was that this great battle had easily torn apart all of the preparations Fan Xian had made in Xiliang Road. If Li Hongcheng still wanted to stall for time and not return to the capital under these circumstances, it would be the same as seeking death.
Fan Xian felt a deep coldness and admiration for the Emperor’s methods and ability. A sense of weakness grew in his heart.
“You heard all of it, this has nothing to do with me.” Fan Xian’s hands pressed against the table. He tiredly closed his eyes.
Haitang Duoduo, who had returned to the central plains and put back on that flowery coat, appeared behind him. After the battle at Hong Mountain, she and the group in Dingzhou had moved out at around the same time. Li Hongcheng had returned to the capital very quickly, but he was still one day behind her. Presently, the Palace’s surveillance of the Fan manor had relaxed a great deal. How could they possibly stop Northern Qi’s saint girl from quietly entering the manor?
It had been a year since they met. Haitang looked silently at the young man in the chair and thought, He is not actually very old, so why does he look so aged now? There was a permanent tiredness on his face that could not be wiped away. Remembering all that had happened in the Qing Kingdom these days, remembering that Overwatch Council Director that passed away, Haitang suddenly understood why Fan Xian appeared so tired.
“Because you had Hong Yiqing bring me a message, many people died on the grasslands,” Haitang said.
Fan Xian opened his eyes and said with a cold laugh, “I just wanted the grasslands court to agree to let Hu Ge send out troops. I had not thought the Chief would use the opportunity to take the advantage.”
Haitang paused slightly and did not explain to him that she had once tried to suppress Su Bida’s wild ambitions. Lightly, she said, “In the end, it was still your Qing Kingdom that gained the advantage.”
Fan Xian was silent for a moment. He then said, “We can put aside the matter of how the information was leaked. I sent to people to Xiliang Road. Hong Yiqing still has not managed to gather up the people of the Fourth Bureau. Clearly, Deng Zi Yue was being watched by the Council during the transition…”
Speaking to here, he took a deep breath. He suddenly remembered the young general of the Ye family mentioned on the intelligence reports. Apparently, the young general had led 4,000 light riders into the grasslands to pursue what remained of the Chief’s court. Fan Xian could not help but admire his courage. Remembering that they were deep in the grasslands in the cold of winter, he suspected that very few of the 4,000 riders would be able to make it back alive.
“Those Man riders that moved from the North to the grasslands… Do they still listen to your command?” He raised his head and glanced at Haitang. “After all, you are the princess of the snowfields and have the respect of the Chief on the grasslands. Your position is lofty. Presumably, you have some power.”
Haitang’s brows furrowed slightly. Her eyes, as bright as the North Sea, flashed with a glimmer of anger. Coldly, she said, “At this time, you’re still worried about the life and death of those 4,000 light riders? You really live up to being a powerful official of the Qing court. Why don’t you think about the complete loss of the young warriors on the grasslands and the tribes that have no strength to resist?”
“I am a Qing person, then a Central Plains person. Lastly, I am a person,” Fan Xian replied with his head down. “Just as you said, Su Bida’s ambition is too big. He took the strong warriors of various tribes and strength of the grasslands. It now has been hollowed out. After the Great Battle of Qingzhou, 4,000 riders entered the grasslands. As long as the Man riders left in the west of the grasslands maintain their distance, they might actually be able to come back.”
“It’s already over for western Hu. If the opportunity is right, the tribes you brought to the grasslands from the North might be able to use this opportunity to rise up.” Fan Xian gently tempted Haitang. “You must accept this reality and then exploit this reality.”
“I am not the same as you. There are many things that I know align with my interest but do not align with my standards. I cannot do them.” Haitang’s lowered her eyelids slightly. “But, your words right now surprise me greatly. You are clearly a bullying and ruthless person who does not put the interests of the Qing Kingdom first. Why would you make such a request?”
“If I really give no consideration to the interests of the Qing Kingdom or the world, why would I still be here in this manor? Regardless of whether it was spilling hot blood or concealing the world, I have long done it.”
“When did you become a saint?” she asked.
“I am not a saint. But, having reached a certain point in life when the highest-level of desires, such as power, has been satisfied, I have become biased toward psychological consideration. Furthermore, I don’t like being seen by others as a cold-blooded and heartless degenerate who only knows how to use the blood of soldiers.”
“In the end, you are still a hypocritical and selfish person,” Haitang said looking at him. She took out the little knife from inside her clothes and placed it in front of him.
Fan Xian replied expressionlessly, “If this is considered hypocritical and selfish, I think that all the people of the world would be very grateful to my vanity. I know your Emperor is a woman, so let’s just say I’m threatening you.”
Haitang’s body shook slightly. She looked at him for a long time without speaking.
Fan Xian also maintained his silence. The entire study was submerged in an oppressive atmosphere. After a long time, he uncomfortably said, “A lot of time, I need someone to help give suggestions. In the past, Yan Bingyun and Wang Qinian filled this role. Presently, Yan Bingyun has gone to be a pure official, and I have sent Lao Wang away. I can’t ask either of them. I’m not an immortal. Faced with him, I don’t have a shred of confidence. There is no one to help me. The situation is rather helpless.”
“Is this you being pitiful in front of me?” Haitang asked sarcastically. She paused slightly and sighed. “What do you want to ask?”
Fan Xian gently clapped his hands and invited Haitang to sit down on one side of the table. Then, he drank some cold tea to soothe his throat. Running his tongue across his lips, he said, “My sister is in the Royal Palace. My entire family is in Jingdou. My subordinates who believe in me and are loyal to me are in the shadows of this country. I have strength, but it is difficult to move the foundations of this court. I don’t want to move this foundation and cause all the moss, ants, and sunning bunnies to fall off and die. But, my opponent has mighty power, a cold nature, and supernatural plotting abilities. He has the loyalty of most of the people on this piece of land. And, most importantly, although there were rumors from the Palace after that initial autumn rain that he was gradually coming down from the altar and becoming a mortal, and leaving many emotional openings, I still believe that his blood is cold enough and his heart strong enough that if I truly took action, the people I want to protect would actually stop existing.”
“In the past, I was terrified of dying. Now, I am not very afraid.” After Fan Xian said all that, he continued to summarize the situation. “But, I am very afraid of the people I love and protect dying. Can you help me resolve this problem?”
Haitang was not silent for very long. Very straightforwardly, she said, “No.”
Fan Xian spread out his hands and let out a long sigh. “See, there is no one on earth who can help me resolve this problem.”
“What do you mean him coming down from the altar?” It was clear that Haitang was interested in his matter. She didn’t know where Fan Xian’s deduction of the Qing Emperor came from.
Fan Xian placed his right hand gently over his heart. With a not-quite-there smile, he said, “After all, the hearts of a father and son are linked. There are some small changes you cannot sense, but I can sense. He lets me stay in the manor to do all these things, then he smashes them one by one for me to see. Although this demonstrated the might of a ruler, don’t you think that this is actually very troublesome? He has too many ways to make all of this disappear, but he did not do so. He is holding a grudge against me, against Chen Pingping, and against my mother.”
“A man without meridians, affection, and righteousness has now learned to hold a grudge. Do you not think that he is becoming more and more like a normal person?” Fan Xian shook his head and said with a bitter smile, “Presumably, this was also a result the old cripple wanted as he died.”
“You still have no way to change the situation.” Haitang sat on the chair and lowered her head slightly. “You’ve been sitting in Jingdou these months but have tossed the seeds of chaos all over the world. Your thoughts are actually very simple.”
She raised her head and stared into Fan Xian’s bloodshot eyes with her bright ones. Heavily, she said, “Presumably this was also part of Chen Pingping’s plan for revenge. First, rock the world, force an abdication during the chaos, and then follow up with a lightning attack. However, you did not obtain the Emperor’s trust in the way he imagined. That is your pitiful vanity making mischief. At the same time, you don’t have a way to actually act viciously against the world. That is your pitiful hypocrisy making mischief.”
“You should know that although your character appears sinister, in reality, you are not an ambitious and ruthless character. There are many things you cannot do.” Haitang blinked and withdrew the chilling coldness in her eyes. Calmly, she said, “Since it is so, everything you are doing right now cannot be described as anything other than naïve and childish. In the end, you still don’t have the confidence to oppose him directly.”
Fan Xian was silent for a moment. He then said, “Who could have that confidence? During these few months, I’ve just been making noise on the side, trying to warn him and maintain the image that I could be destroyed at any moment as I do my best to protect the people beside me. If it were not for the Emperor giving consideration to the fact that I have things to lose and have not made half the Qing Kingdom sink into chaos, do you think Yang Wanli, Cheng Jialin, and the people of the First Bureau would be able to survive?”
He raised his head and stared at Haitang. “I must prove my strength to be able to protect these people’s lives. Yes, at the very end, I will still need to contend with the Emperor face to face. I don’t have the confidence. That is why I have been waiting for a person to come back.”
“The blind master.” Haitang did not ask. Instead, she straightforwardly spoke the name that seemed to carry magic. “You can’t always put your hope on the elders who once raised you. Regardless of whether it is your mother, Chen Pingping, or Minister Fan, they’ve already done too much for you.”
She looked at Fan Xian. A glimmer of tenderness suddenly rose in her heart. “Have you ever thought about what if the blind master does not return? Then, what is the purpose of you enduring in Jingdou?”
Haitang urged Fan Xian seriously. “Many things need to be done by yourself. Regardless of whether or not you have the confidence, the situation has forced you to this point. Since you cannot remain aloof about your mother and Chen Pingping’s deaths, then you’ll never be able to act as his good official, his good son.”
Fan Xian suddenly felt that these words were very piercing. He furrowed his brows and raised his hand to stop Haitang speaking. In a low voice, he said, “You’ve never personally experienced his power. That is why you can so easily speak of confidence.”
Haitang sighed and said, “How much longer can you wait? He didn’t give any thought to the commotion you two made in Cangzhou. Instead, he just directed troops into the West and easily wiped away all the problems there. Afterward is Jiangnan and then Dongyi. No, he might not even bother with Dongyi and directly enter the North. When that day arrives, all of your power will have been wiped out. Other than hiding like a man of leisure in Jingdou and watching as he walks step by step to the apex and smiles coldly at the spirits of your elders, what else can you do?”
“He won’t touch Jiangnan. If he touches there, I will have to take action. If I take action, the entire Qing Kingdom, including him, will feel the pain.”
“I don’t know what you’ve done in the palace treasury, but I believe that such a person as the Qing Emperor would not care about any losses for the obsession in his heart,” Haitang said.
An icy voice suddenly rang out from the shadows of the study. “The Emperor, that bastard, is not even human. What does he know of pain?”
The person speaking was the Shadow. He had been floating around Jingdou a few months like a shadow. Immediately after, another direct and steady voice rang out. It seemed to also want to persuade Fan Xian. “I don’t understand much about things like self-confidence. However, if I really have to strike, I would tell myself that I must be self-confident.”
The person speaking was Thirteenth Wang. Even when faced with the Qing Emperor, this unfathomable Great Grandmaster, this determined last disciple of the Sword Hut was still calm and dedicated.
Just as Fan Xian analyzed before, the Qing Kingdom’s greatest weakness was a lack of peak individual martial strength. The once powerful figures had all died one by one within the Qing Kingdom. Of the ninth-level aces in the world, more than half stood in Fan Xian’s camp. Even the Qing Emperor did not dare underestimate such strength.
If old Eunuch Hong, the father and son of the Qin family, and Yan Xiaoyi were still alive, then the Qing Kingdom could truly be said to be a solid military camp.
Fan Xian was silent for a long time. He did not directly respond to the urgings of the three peak martial artists in the study. Instead, he furrowed his brows and said, “I don’t want all of you to die to his hands. Furthermore, in the end, this is my business.”
Fan Xian was like a wild animal trapped in a snowstorm, anxious, gloomy, and uneasy. He watched as the powerful Emperor used schemes and foresight far superior to his own to slice off his, metaphorical, arms one at a time. He watched as the Qing court methodically took steps toward unifying the land while he was unable to do anything.
In front of the Emperor, Fan Xian, who had always been good at hiding himself, finally lost his confidence for the first time. He didn’t know how he could defeat such a powerful figure. Thus, he waited. But, he didn’t know if the person he was waiting for would return. To ensure his and the safety of the people around him while he waited, he was working hard to do something.
However, Jingdou was unexpectedly calm. According to intelligence Baoyue Brothel had obtained with great difficulty, Fan Wujiu in Scholar He’s manor, once the Second Prince’s strategist, had been injured during an attack and had disappeared. He Zongwei had not been implicated by this matter.
Amidst his disappointment, Fan Xian finally understood that Scholar Hu, that old fox, was not so easy to exploit.
What made Fan Xian feel more defeated was that the news that had finally arrived from Jiangnan was not good news. The sending of messages in this time and age was always so slow, slow enough to make one angry. The information Fan Xian received in December was already the events from a month ago.
The palace treasury transport company had received the Palace’s secret edict and began the preparation work for the treasury bidding in the spring of the next year. However, there was a shocking change in the process of the palace treasury bidding this year. The silver prepared for bidding would be according to the court’s evaluation. This directly changed the palace treasury’s authority to seek investment and the agreement between the court and merchants to be arranged solely by the court. In other words, with the palace treasury bidding next year, whichever family the court wanted to win the bid would win the bid.
Even if the Ming family, which Xia Qifei represented, had the secret support of both Zhaoshang money house and Taiping money house, they may still not be able to continue their past splendor. Without a doubt, this was a heavy blow against the strength of Fan Xian’s faction.
The rules of the palace treasury bidding had been set when the three large workshops were created. Regardless of whether it was the old Ye family or the later palace treasury, no one dared to change them lightly. The change this winter was, without a doubt, a regression of a humiliating nature. Everyone knew that this edict would produce negative influences on all the commercial activity in Jiangnan.
Out of many people’s expectations, the giant merchants of Jiangnan did not band together to oppose this crazy edict. On the contrary, Lingnan’s Xiong family and Quanzhou’s Sun family both maintained their silence while a few salt merchants were eager to give it a try. Everyone knew that quite a few of those salt merchants had died to Sir Fan junior’s hands during that Spring Examination case back then.