Joy of Life Chapter 643: Separate Challenges
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The emotions Fan Xian had to express had already been expressed. The things he should feel regret, grief, and determination for had already turned into new slurry in his mind. His sister had also talked about the true reason she had come to find him, so he would not continue staying with these graves. The group of people quickly climbed back into the carriages and drove toward Jingdou. On the carriage, he listened intently to his sister's narration about what exactly happened at the manor. His furrowed brows gradually loosened. The matter was much simpler than he had imagined. It couldn't be considered a big deal.
Any matter involving the Jingdou magistrate should have been a major deal. In Fan Xian's eyes, these clashes in officialdom truly did not matter much and were only a little troublesome.
"She came this morning. She only said she was here to visit the princess. According to Teng's wife, looking at young lady Sun's gaze, she'll probably come looking for you again." Fan Ruoruo lowered her voice. "Sister-in-law went into the palace. There was no one in charge in the manor. Knowing that her identity is sensitive, they came looking for me."
"What's sensitive about it?" Fan Xian raised his brows and said unnaturally. "Sun Pin'er's is not much older than Rou Jia. It's not improper for her to come to the manor to chat with you two."
"That's not what I meant." Fan Ruoruo saw through her brother's unease at once. "It's just that Sun Jingxiu is putting on a birthday banquet in a couple days. If he invites you to go, he will personally give you an invitation. In no way would it be up to his unwed daughter to come forward."
"How could he give me an invitation?" Fan Xian smiled. "He's too busy being afraid of me. I destroyed his life's reputation. Besides, he is only a third-rank official. Even if he's putting on a big show, the bother shouldn't fall on me."
"He certainly has something to ask of you." Fan Ruoruo lowered her head in thought. She then said, "I just don't know what troublesome matter it is."
Fan Xian paused slightly. These few months, he had put all his attention on Dongyi and had paid less attention to Jingdou, so he didn't know what unusual movements were happening. However, there was worldwide peace, and the Qing court was unusually calm. How could someone voluntarily jump out to cause problems?
After thinking for a bit, he lifted the curtain and gave Mu Feng'er a meaningful glance. Mu Feng'er understood and rode his horse closer to the carriage. Lowering his head, he listened to Fan Xian's quiet orders and repeatedly nodded his head.
The group of carriages entered Jingdou and went around into a side alley by the streets in the south of the city. Quietly, they stopped by a corner door. Fan Xian climbed down from the carriage with his sister and glanced around. Like a thief, he sneakily entered the door. After entering the garden, he didn't rush to the side hall to see the young lady of the Sun family. On the contrary, he made a hushing gesture and ducked into the third quiet study.
Fan Ruoruo looked at him with confusion. She that all the way back in the carriage, her brother had been concerned about the matter of the Jingdou government. Sun Pin'er was just in the side hall. He could go directly to her to clear things up, so why was he hiding?
Fan Xian watched his sister's state of mind and said with a self-mocking smile, "After all, she is an unwed girl. It is a bit inappropriate for me to go see her."
Fan Ruoruo spluttered with laughter and said, "You're afraid of that? If you really understood that there are differences between men and women, three years ago, you wouldn't have hidden in young lady Sun's boudoir for so many days." After saying this, her face couldn't help but blush slightly with embarrassment. Blinking her eyes at her brother, she asked with a giggle, "Not only me, but even sister-in-law and Sisi were later curious of how exactly you slept those few nights in young lady Sun's boudoir?"
Fan Xian did not smile or get angry. He only sighed helplessly and said, "For such a clear-as-ice and clean-as-jade young lady to be troubled by these rumors is already my bad. Each time I think of it, I always feel some remorse. Yet, you're still using this to make fun of me. It is very unkind of you."
Fan Ruoruo respected her brother a lot. Upon hearing these words, she quickly restrained herself and fell silent. No matter what, she could not brush away the curiosity in her heart. During the Jingdou Rebellion, Fan Xian hid in the boudoir of the government of Jingdou and secretly relied on the procedures of the government to arrange for the Black Knights to enter the capital. At the same time, he subdued the Jingdou government. This was Jingdou's favorite legend.
Many people speculated on the relationship between Sir Fan junior and the young lady of Sun Jingxiu. Why would that girl take such a risk and betray her father to help Fan Xian? Why did Sir Fan junior put a great deal of effort in protecting Sun Jingxiu afterward? He seemed to only remember his meritorious deeds and did not hold a grudge. He helped him firmly sit in his position as Jingdou magistrate and made sure he was not implicated in the rebellion.
Even Fan Xian did not know the story of how those few nights had become common knowledge to everyone. He was worried that this would impact Sun Pin'er's reputation and bring this girl trouble. When the rumors had reached their worst, he had been angry and had asked the Overwatch Council to investigate. In the end, the investigation concluded with a serving girl in the Jingdou government.
Since it was the other party's household that had carelessly allowed the rumors to get out, there wasn't any way for Fan Xian to deal with it. He just paid particular attention to his connection with the Jingdou government. There had barely been any communication these three years. The Jingdou magistrate Sun Jingxiu probably knew what Fan Xian was thinking and was deeply touched. Other than interactions in an official capacity, he had never even sent an invite to the Fan manor.
After staying for a moment in the study, Mu Feng'er brought his uncle Mu Tie in. When Fan Ruoruo heard the knocking on the door, she moved into the back room.
Fan Xian looked at the sweaty face of the head of the First Bureau, Mu Tie, and his dark complexion. He couldn't help but say, "Although my person is in Dongyi, if there is any major movement in the capital, you should still notify me quickly."
Mu Tie had already learned from his nephew that the Commissioner was going to ask about the matter of the Jingdou magistrate and had been prepared. Hearing the faint displeasure in his voice, his throat dried up. He didn't try to explain anything. He just put the prepared files onto Fan Xian's table.
Fan Xian picked up the files and read them one by one. His brows gradually furrowed. A moment later, he sighed.
These few months, he had been solely focused on Dongyi and there had indeed been movements in the capital. Not only Sun Jingxiu, but the lives of a few other officials had been wretched. The Ministry of Revenue and Ministry of Appointments were beginning to secretly investigate these officials. As for the specific matter they were investigating, there were a myriad.
After being in the Overwatch Council for a long time, Fan Xian knew that no yamen was completely clean. As long as one investigated deep enough, no matter the reason, one would always be able to find some problem. The Jingdou government yamen was being secretly investigated by a few allied ministries and beginning to endure an insufferable pressure. The so-called storm clouds were approaching. They were probably unable to hold up for much longer. The officialdom was the most sensitive. The civil and martial officials sensed the arrival of the storm. Even if they didn't strike while they were down, they watched with cold eyes.
No wonder Sun Jingxiu would suddenly think to host a birthday banquet. He probably wasn't sure of the Palace's intentions, whether it was just a routine check or if they were going to use this matter to have him quit his position. Hosting a birthday banquet would allow him to clearly see the attitude of the Palace.
Fan Xian shook his head. He thought this magistrate did things earnestly and honestly. Even though he had stood on the wrong side of the Jingdou rebellion, it was just a mistake of skill. It was precisely such a temperament that allowed the Emperor to tolerate him for three more years. Yet, it was also precisely this temperament that made it so he still did not understand what the Palace was trying to do. He was delusional enough to think he could continue in the important position of Jingdou magistrate.
In one glance, Fan Xian saw the underlying reason for the disturbance in officialdom. All of the other officials, including Sun Jingxiu, were completely clean. In the end, Sun Jingxiu had performed a great deed. At the beginning, he had stood against the Emperor's posthumous edict. The other officials had not stood firm during the Jingdou rebellion and were suspected of being opportunists. The Emperor was waiting for the right time to settle the accounts. Three years was not too late.
The court had long been stabilized. Given the Emperor's ruthless personality, how could he tolerate these despicable officials who had swayed in the past?
Mu Tie saw that Fan Xian was lost in thought and swallowed to soothe his throat. He then carefully reminded him, "It began with the Ministry of Revenue and Ministry of Appointment's investigation. That would only have been done after the Hall of Governmental Affairs gave its consent."
This was reminding the Commissioner that the changing of people in the Jingdou government may be the intent of the Palace. Fan Xian should not clash against the Emperor's intentions for the sake of the young lady of the Sun family.
Fan Xian smiled. He had no interest in becoming hostile against the Emperor. Furthermore, it was not worth it for the position of Jingdou magistrate. Even if the Emperor wanted to remove Sun Jingxiu from his position, he wouldn't kill him to do so. Since this was the case, he would let the Emperor express some of the resentment he still had left.
Suddenly, his mind turned. He remembered that the Emperor had once promised to do no harm to Sun Jingxiu. He shouldn't be going back on his word so quickly. Even if he was, he had been cautious of his face and shouldn't have had the Hall of Government Affairs make an appearance.
He furrowed his brows and asked, "Has Hu the Scholar said anything about this matter?"
Hu the Scholar headed the Hall of Governmental Affairs. If the Emperor truly wanted to go through the Hall of Governmental Affairs for this, then the Hall's leanings should be expressed through Hu the Scholar's mouth.
"No," Mu Tie glanced at him and said. "It was just He Zongwei who said something after drinking too much and the pressure on the Jingdou government increased."
Everyone in the Overwatch Council and Fan manor knew Fan Xian extremely disliked He Zongwei of the Hall of Governmental Affairs. No one dared to express any admiration, respect, or other such positive comments about him in front of Fan Xian.
Fan Xian laughed coldly and said, "Just one sentence after drinking and he is able to cause the magistrate of Jingdou such worry. This Sir He is indeed quite impressive."
He also understood that given the Emperor's recent favoritism toward He Zongwei, he was just using his own mouth to announce the Emperor's intention. If Sun Jingxiu was tactful, he would probably have long resigned his post by now. It was clear that this Jingdou magistrate was not so clever and did not understand this layer of meaning.
Fan Xian thought for a long time and then said, "I understand this matter now."
Mu Tie glanced at him and did not go forward to tidy the files on the table. He only said, "Since you are going to the Sun manor, you only need to remind him that there is no need to do anything."
"I know, I know. You talk too much." Fan Xian waved his hand irritably and had the uncle and nephew leave the room.
Before Fan Ruoruo come forward, another person came to report that Yang Wangli had arrived. Fan Xian's was surprised and thought, That bastard has been doing well in the Ministry of Works these days, and all his focus is on state affairs. It's been a long time since he's visited me. How come he has time today? Fan Xian also felt happy and quickly had someone bring him into the rear residence.
Unexpectedly, when Yang Wanli entered the study, his dark face was full of grievance.
Yang Wanli was the vice director of the Ministry of Work's river department, a proper leading official. Given this speed of climbing ranks, he was certain to become a Minister within 10 years. It wasn't completely because Fan Xian was supporting him from behind. He had honed experience under the blazing sun on the Jiangnan riverbanks and was no longer the sour scholar who only knew how to talk about saving the country. He was a proper industrious worker, which was why he had risen so quickly in the Ministry of Works. That was why Fan Xian was surprised by his mood today.
The two of them talked quietly about something. Fan Xian's expression grew uglier and uglier. In the end, he only consoled him quietly and had him leave. Yang Wanli rarely visited the manor. Fan Xian knew that he was indeed buried in the yamen every day and did not find it strange. On the contrary, he helped him save time.
After Yang Wanli went out, only then did Fan Ruoruo come out from the back room and said with a slight frown, "What happened now?"
Fan Xian's expression was somewhat heavy. After thinking for a moment, he replied, "At almost the same time as Sun Jingxiu's matter, He Zongwei, that bastard, is becoming more and more arrogant. He stretches his hand to whoever I want to protect."
Fan Ruoruo listened quietly and learned that things had not been going smoothly for Yang Wanli in the Ministry of Works. The Ministry of Revenue was also checking the accounts in the Ministry of Works, focusing on the water works that he managed. There even seemed to be the shadow of the Supreme Court and Ministry of Appointments behind it.
Each year, Yang Wanli had Fan Xian's money supporting him. He lived quite comfortably. He also wasn't a corrupt official to start with. Adding all internal and external factors, the accounts that passed through his hands were clean. The Ministry of Revenue could not find any problems with it no matter how hard they looked. Even when the Ministry of Appointments talked with him in private and expressed suspicion about his manor and number of servants, they were also pushed back by Yang Wanli's words that they were gifts from his teacher.
The officials of the Ministry of Works did not have the daring to go to the Fan manor to ask Fan Xian in person for proof.
In the end, they still caught some of Yang Wanli's loose ends. The reason was actually related to Fan Xian. This matter had started a few years ago. In the two years after the river works, Fan Xian was in charge of the palace treasury. Through his own tricks, his father's help, as well as Xia Mingji and Fan Sizhe's trading routes in the North, he had scooped up a great deal of money from the palace treasury. After a few twists and turns, this money was delivered to the yamen of the River Transport Governor.
At that time, Yang Wanli was still working in the River Transport yamen. The control of that astounding amount of money had been in his hands. There would always be some discrepancy in the moving of the money. That loose end had been caught. In particular, the officials of the Ministry of Appointments raised faint suspicions as to where the money had come from.
If this line of questioning was further pursued, many people would probably die. The question was, where was it from? The corners of Fan Xian's mouth twitched slightly. He scolded with a cold smile, "The silver came from me being more frugal with my spending. The Emperor knows this, so why are they still asking? How generous and virtuous."
He glanced at his sister and sighed. "Even the Ministry of Revenue is interfering. Looks like it will be difficult for the Fan family to control the Ministry of Revenue."
In a society ruled by monarchical power, as a subject, Fan Xian shamelessly boasting about controlling the Ministry of Revenue was a treasonous resentment.
However, what he said wasn't wrong. Regardless of when his father, Fan Jian, had been the vice minister or minister of the Ministry of Revenue, the entire Ministry was unanimous and cohesive. No matter whether it was the Crown Prince or the Second Prince, neither were able to extend their hand in. Even on that beautiful spring day when the Emperor wanted to use the Ministry of Revenue to create some disturbances, he had been deflected by Fan Jian neutrally.
Back then, the Ministry of Revenue was the legendary independent kingdom. If it was at that time, who in the Ministry of Revenue would investigate the Jingdou government and Yang Wanli, a student of Fan Xian's? Even if they couldn't block their superior's intention to investigate, they would have secretly informed Fan Xian of it before the fact.
With Fan Jian's sad retirement and the Emperor's unhurriedly interjecting officials into the Ministry of Revenue and moving them around, the Ministry of the present was no longer the Ministry of the past.
Each time Fan Xian thought of this, he felt angry for his father, even though this anger was completely unreasonable.
After Fan Xian brought up He Zongwei, Fan Ruoruo became silent. An awkwardness and self-blame appeared on her face. Fan Xian glanced at his sister. He said after a moment of silence, "Don't think too much about it. He Zongwei alone would not dare to touch my people. This is the palace's intention."
"Of course," Fan Xian continued with his head down, "it looks like the popular Sir He has rejected marriage with our family and the hope of currying favor with me. He has decided to follow the Emperor's intentions closely and be a loyal dog."
He huffed coldly and said, "He Zongwei knows very well that the Emperor has raised him up to be my rival and that there is only a bad death waiting for him in the future. Yet, he also has no choice. Since it is so, he hopes he can truly find a major problem between the Emperor and me and endlessly provoke me, hoping that I will truly capsize. Only then can he preserve his own life."
"Why is the Emperor doing this?" This was what caused the greatest confusion and unease for Fan Ruoruo.
Fan Xian smiled slightly and said self-mockingly. "The Emperor has already agreed for me to take over the position of Director of the Overwatch Council in the next few days."
This was only natural. Fan Ruoruo did not offer any congratulations, but the confusion thickened in her mind. Since his royal favor had not changed, why did the Emperor choose this moment to put pressure on Fan Xian's power?
"For each carrot, there is the whack of a stick. The Emperor is constantly aware of the balance between them. He is reminding me and weakening me. He doesn't want to see an official holding too much power in their hands."
Fan Xian looked at his sister and suddenly furrowed his brows. With slight mockery, he said, "Most importantly, the Emperor is making arrangements for the future of the Qing Kingdom. With the Hall of Governmental Affairs as headquarters, Hu the Scholar leading the way and holding down the court, the Overwatch Council and Imperial Censorate below mutually balancing each other, and the civil and military officials, only this could preserve the peace in the court. He is beginning to probingly explore the effects to see what his Qing Kingdom would be like in a hundred years."
"But, He Zongwei is also in the Hall of Governmental Affairs," Fan Ruoruo said with confusion.
"It is because the Overwatch Council is too powerful. Previously, it was Chen Pingping. Of the entire court, including my father-in-law, who could keep him in check? Later, there was me. It was impossible to try and hold me in check with just He Zongwei's position as an Imperial Censor of the Left with the Emperor's favoritism," Fan Xian said. "Thus, the Emperor had no choice but to have He Zongwei enter the Hall of Governmental Affairs to forcefully raise his status. He is also helping He Zongwei shear away my power."
"Of course, if He Zongwei's power in court becomes too great, the Emperor will certainly help me weaken him," Fan Xian said with a smile. "What bullsh*t schemes of the Emperor and the way of balance. It's all just because he has nothing else to do."
Fan Ruoruo was silent for a long time and then said, "But, the young lady of the Sun family… is still in the side hall." She understood that the situation in the Jingdou magistrate was indeed dire. After listening to her brother say that this was the Emperor's plan, she hadn't thought about what Fan Xian could help the Sun family with.
Fan Xian was silent for a long time. He then said, "Go tell Sun Pin'er that I will visit in two days."
Fan Ruoruo was surprised and said, "But, didn't you say earlier that this was the Emperor's intention?"
Fan Xian lowered his head. Crossing his fingers, he placed his hands calmly on his abdomen and said, "There has been mutual understanding between the Emperor and myself these three years. If it had been in the past and the Emperor wanted to strip away my power, I would let him do it. So, what if He Zongwei is arrogant for a time?"
"But, not now." He raised his head and smiled. "I don't know what will happen, so I have to ensure that I still hold enough power now."
"You're going to challenge the Emperor?" Fan Ruoruo asked, with her eyes open wide.
"I am still a young man. Some of the fire in my heart must be allowed."
Fan Xian smiled slightly. His smile was very fresh and joyful. There wasn't a trace of fire to be seen. His thoughts were actually simple. He wanted to protect all of his own people. Using the excuse of holding a grudge, he would temporarily maintain the power in his hands. In this way, he could learn how to face the powerful Emperor head on.
Fan Ruoruo was silent for a long time. She knew her brother's mind was made up, so she didn't say anything more. She couldn't resist asking with a smile, "You're really not going to talk with that young lady of the Sun family?"
"I'm afraid she won't be able to marry. It's better to not," Fan Xian replied impatiently. "Just tell her I look forward to the birthday banquet."
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