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While everyone else’s expressions had begun to more or less twist up on account of Tang Fan’s words, Minister Zhang alone smiled, even prompting with slight warmth, “Since that’s so, you may as well bring up any charters, if you have them. We can all consult them in detail.”
“As sentencing officials,” Tang Fan continued, “these things should have been plainly implemented according to the law, but when I flipped through the dossiers of last year, I discovered that the workers of the Henan Office cannot be stated to have a clear understanding of said law; I’m afraid that they haven’t even thumbed through the Great Ming Code. Their judgements have been solely based on personal preferences, and it’s gone on for so long, it’s caused the internal files and older cases of the Office to go into disarray.
“Take this case that was submitted by Kaifeng Prefecture last year. Two brothers were disputing over asset inheritance, and in order to win the lawsuit, both sides exposed the other’s kept secrets, which included a murder therein. It was difficult to distinguish between right, wrong, true, and false. Kaifeng felt the matter to be intractable because of this, so they presented this to the Ministry for a verdict. The one that the case was reported to happened to be Deputy Chief Yin.”
Hearing this, Yin Yuanhua’s heart thudded. He had a vague conjecture as to what Tang Fan was wanting to say, but it was too late for him to think to stop it. He had no choice but to let him go on.
“The result of that was that Deputy Yin sentenced the brothers to each be flogged, then persuaded according to reason that as brothers of the same parents, they should show understanding to each other. Purportedly, after the Prefecture received this sentencing from the Ministry, it complied, and the affair was indeed settled in short order.”
Minister Zhang twirled his beard as he nodded. “As you specially brought it up, did some issue occur later on?”
Tang Fan cupped his hands. “You are wise, Minister. That’s exactly it. When I reviewed this case, I found that within the secrets the brothers had mutually exposed, there was a murder accusation. It is unknown whether it was valid, but Deputy Yin did not order Kaifeng Prefecture to conduct a thorough investigation, ignoring it instead. This is one thing.
“Matters correlated to assets have also long been explicitly stipulated within the Great Ming Code, and there were precedents able to be followed for this. If there were no laws to abide by, then one would have to judge based on reasoning, but Deputy Yin has never even looked at the Code before. He disregarded the rules within it, made rash decisions, and led his subordinates into doing much of the same. If this continues, it will surely cause local officials to regard the law as empty, and they will be just like Deputy Yin, doing whatever their heart desires.”
Yin Yuanhua could no longer help himself, explosively standing up. “You slanderer! How have I done as my heart desired?! The brothers’ lawsuit had been disputed for over a decade! Much of what they claimed had long become unverifiable, so how could the truth have been determined? I went off of the rationale of human relationships to persuade them to talk it out and resolve this on their own, using brotherly affection as a basis! How is not needing to have everything appealed to the authorities an issue?!”
“The issue comes from them unmasking each other’s faults,” Tang Fan answered mildly. “I read the dossier, and when they did that, the ones that came out to testify for them were their respective wives and children, as well as their other brothers. The Great Ming Code has long stated that brothers aren’t to testify for brothers, wives aren’t to testify for husbands, and slaves aren’t to testify for masters — thus, not a one of those testimonies should have had efficacy. Yet, when writing his correspondence, Deputy Yin had not plainly pointed out and rebuked this conduct. Furthermore, if assets have gone without verdict for a long time, the whole of it should be decided upon based on law, and they should not have been allowed to talk things over amongst themselves. I previously sent someone to check things out, and he found out that after the Ministry’s order, the dispute between the brothers had not only not subsided, but grown in intensity. Their entire hometown knows about their quarrel, now. I dare to ask Deputy Yin: you said that they should proceed to be enlightened in accordance with human relationships, but where is that enlightenment?”
Yin Yuanhua’s words got stuck in his throat. All of a sudden, he thought up another problem, and hurriedly interrogated back. “You’ve only had your post in the Ministry for about five days. How could you investigate the process of this case in such a brief time period? Aren’t you just bluffing?”
Tang Fan shook his head. “Have you forgotten that the Brocade Guard has posts set up all over the place?”
The other went bug-eyed and tongue-tied. This guy actually had the Brocade Guard check things out? But, the question was… why would the Guard obey him?
He faintly realized that Tang Fan was apparently not as easy to deal with as he had imagined he would be.
Before he could react, Tang Fan seized the stand first. “The Great Ancestor said long ago that all governmental facilities need to want to benefit the world, as a present for future generations cannot be perfunctory or upholding of the status quo. Matters related to the foundation of the country are not trivial; a benevolent order blesses all the land, while a malevolent one brings endless disasters. We cannot be careless. These remarks are so thought-provoking, that even though a hundred years have passed, we must engrave them into our hearts to never forget them.
“I know that it was out of good intentions that Deputy Yin hoped that the brothers could set aside their differences and remember their love as siblings, thus avoiding the gradual formation of disaster due to kin destroying each other. However, the Great Ancestor issued the Code in the hopes that we would have laws to follow, such as for inheritance fight cases that undermine public decency. Since the two sides had been fighting for a long time, they’re both certain to be people that don’t care about brotherly affection. The law should have been stringently followed for investigation and handling, as opposed to the vain thought to use ethics to correct them, else local officials will learn from example and refuse to view the Code from then on, utilizing emotions to settle every case as they see fit. Is that not exactly what the Great Ancestor warned against, where a malevolent order brings endless disasters? Deputy Yin, your good intentions have produced foul work.”
Yin Yuanhua had been dizzied by the turnaround of his stealthily interchanging concepts. His mouth kept opening and closing, face flashing green and white.
He wanted to get angry, but that would be too inelegant — mainly because those seated here were all his superiors and colleagues, and he couldn’t do anything that would be of adverse affect. He wanted to refute, too, only to be unable to think of a resoundingly powerful retort, especially since the other had brought up the words of the Great Ancestor.
Even though he clearly knew that Tang Fan was exaggerating a trifle into a huge problem (What ‘malevolent order’? It hadn’t been anything more than a typical inheritance dispute! When did it get promoted to the degree of a ‘malevolent order’?!), he still really had no way to shoot back at him. Was he going to say that the Great Ancestor’s words were wrong? Or that this case hadn’t been that serious?
If he said anything like that, Tang Fan would inevitably quote the Ancestor to refute him again.
However, just because the student had lost the fight didn’t mean that the teacher was just going to sit, watch, and ignore it.
At this time, Assistant Minister Liang spoke up. “Your statements are rather alarmist, Chief Tang. The Code’s existence was originally for the sake of enlightening the populace. If we can first use rationality to enlighten them, then we would naturally have no need to use the law. Though we are the Ministry of Justice, as officials of the Court, we bear the responsibility of enlightenment. We should first appeal with emotion and logic, and if the citizens still don’t listen then, use the law to govern with finality. For that reason, this official believes that Deputy Yin’s sentencing has no spots of impropriety.”
Once the elite had spoken, what was right and wrong was known.
Witnessing this scene, everyone’s hearts boiled despite their dignified expressions, each and every one of them getting excited. The teacher couldn’t continue to watch his student get humiliated, so he had lent his aid — how would Tang Fan respond?
Was he going to quarrel with an Assistant Minister? That was his superior. Regardless of what he said, he would lose dignity, and others would view him as frivolous.
Chief Tang was a new arrival. Unwilling to be isolated and repressed, he had taken it upon himself to cause trouble at the meeting to single out Yin Yuanhua, which had resulted in him annoying the latter’s backer, who had interceded on his behalf. He ought to be admitting defeat right about now, right?
However, his conceding would signify that he was afraid of Yin Yuanhua. His words in his own Office would carry no weight from then on.
That sort of thought in their heads, everyone sat up ramrod straight, lines of sight meandering between these few. Kind people like Lu Tong’guang would inevitably worry for Tang Fan, but many more were inclined to harbor schadenfreude as they watched this good show.
Right then, however, someone unexpected spoke up.
“That is not what should be said. This official has also long believed that there has been subpar work done in the Ministry, and several overall unambitious folks that simply muddle through life here. As they are sentencing officials that have not thoroughly studied law, cases that should have been sentenced heavily have been let off lightly, while cases that should have been sentenced lightly have been overblown. This getting out would certainly make others’ teeth fall out from laughter, and have them think that all of us in the Ministry are like this.”
The speaker was the Minister, Zhang Ying. Ever since he had joined the Ministry, he had rarely intervened in specific Office affairs. When it came to political alignment, he closely followed Head Vizier Wan An. On the principle of ‘do nothing, and do no wrong, but do more, and do more wrong’, his daily assignments at work were to drink tea and mosey through life. Those subordinate to him had long gotten used to his work ethic; any actual business was, in reality, handled by Liang Wenhua.
For a meeting such as today’s, his greatest action should have been playing the part of a mascot overseeing the occasion. And yet, what had ended up happening was that Mister Minister, who had rarely ever expressed his own opinions, had helped a minor Chief speak, for the first time ever!
Was the sun rising from the West today?
Everybody looked at Zhang Ying in shock. The latter twisted his mustache, turning the subject of conversation around. “However, I also believe that Deputy Yin is being sincere in his job. Simply put, in cases like this from now on, prudence needs to be had. The Ministry of Justice controls the realm’s prisons, its every word and deed having great influence. Careful consideration is required.”
Though this sounded like he was trying to smooth things over, his intent to help Tang Fan speak out was quite obvious. Liang Wenhua apparently hadn’t expected that Zhang Ying would suddenly declare something like this, his face slightly twitching as he forced out a smile. “What the Minister said is correct. Before any of you do anything from now on, it would be best to comply with foundation and abide by reason, to avoid anyone picking out your faults.”
Yin Yuanhua stood to accept this lesson, trembling. “I will cautiously observe the Minister’s instruction.”
All of what Zhang Ying had said today had actually been for a reason, and not just to get Tang Fan out of trouble.
Him infrequently caring about things didn’t mean that he cared about nothing at all, but it was precisely because of this that those beneath him believed him to actually be a clay figurine. In particular, after word that he would be filling a vacancy in the Cabinet got out, Liang Wenhua had jumped up and down and made his own word law, which led to Zhang Ying feeling rather upset. I’m still the Minister, aren’t I? he had thought. Do you not place any importance upon me?
On top of that, he was in Wan An’s party. Wan An was attached to Consort Wan, and he had heard that Tang Fan had a private friendship with Wang Zhi that looked to be pretty good. He also faintly knew that Tang Fan transferring to the Ministry of Justice had apparently been owed to the Emperor passing word along himself.
That was frankly amazing.
Officialdom always required one to understand everything at first hear; someone without flexible thoughts would not have a future in it. In regards to this info, Zhang Ying had to look at Tang Fan differently.
Everyone else in the Ministry once thought that it had been unwise for Tang Fan the newcomer to offend Assistant Minister Liang, but Zhang Ying hadn’t thought the same. He felt that Tang Fan was simply confident in his backing, and he just so happened to find Liang Wenhua an eyesore, himself. Thus, no matter what, he had been determined to help Tang Fan out.
No one else knew that there had been so many twists and turns to this, of course. They were only under the impression that since Minister Zhang had helped Tang Fan speak, it was little wonder as to why the latter had confronted Liang Wenhua head-on. As it was, he had a very big backer.
In the span of a second, everyone was looking at him with different eyes.
How could Liang Wenhua not understand everyone else’s thoughts? He had no idea why Zhang Ying had lost it today, because as far as he was aware, Tang Fan and the other had never been friends before this.
It was wholly going unthought in his head that Zhang Ying’s unhappiness had been caused by his own frequent displays of strength happening over a long period of time, until the man just happened to take this chance to vent.
One meeting hence concluded, with everyone’s minds in completely different states.
Once the Minister and Assistants left the room, no one had any apprehensions anymore. Their cordiality towards Tang Fan was practically like he had been switched out for someone else. He did not take this opportunity to strike a pose, having the same approachable, smiling face as ever, where anyone could come up to talk to him, and he could strike up a chat with anyone.
Before, this demeanor had made them think he was weak and easy to be bullied, but now, it made them think that he was incredibly calm, consistent in self, and worthy of friendship.
Evidently, it wasn’t just women that were mutable, as men’s hearts were quite fickle, as well.
Witnessing this scene, Yin Yuanhua was furious, yet also powerless. He could only rush out of there to avoid courting disgrace for himself.
Dai Hongming was pacing anxiously outside the room, mulling over what unknowable humiliations Chief Tang was undergoing, only to catch sight of Yin Yuanhua charging out with a face darkened by anger.
Not long after that, Tang Fan’s figure appeared out of the doorway, yet was encircled by many Chiefs and Deputy Chiefs from other Offices. Everyone was chatting and laughing, looking exactly like good friends that had been separated for years.
Dai Hongming had to rub his eyes. He was seeing ghosts, right?
If these weren’t ghosts, then was the sky going to rain red?
Everyone worked under the same roof, unable to get away from each other — how could there be any secrets? Tang Fan’s criticism of Yin Yuanhua at the meeting, and opposition of Liang Wenhua, soon circulated.
The more it spread, the more lively powerful it was, and the more excessive its versions got. In the end, a rumor that said ‘Tang Fan slapped the table and angrily rebuked the Assistant Minister, Liang Wenhua was shamed to anger and swore wildly, Minister Zhang slapped Liang Wenhua’ was going around. There were even some inauthentically claiming that Tang Fan was Minister Zhang’s illegitimate son. Such absurd rumors that couldn’t withstand actual thought still had a huge market, and became a tale that would be widespread within the Ministry for a very long time, which everyone would love to hear after tea and meals.
Tang Fan genuinely didn’t have any personal relationship with Minister Zhang. The contact between Wang Zhi and him had been incidental on account of need for cases to be handled, but that didn’t demonstrate that he had contact with the other members of Consort Wan’s party.
Even so, Zhang Ying’s response had been completely within his expectations. To be more precise, he had long accounted for it.
The time for this ranged back to the first day he had taken up post at the Ministry. Tang Fan had already known why Yin Yuanhua wanted to make life difficult for him, as well as that him messing with him by sending sweetflag rhizomes would not only infuriate Yin Yuanhua, but greatly offend Liang Wenhua.
Hence, by the time Sui Zhou had urged him not to be overly bombastic, he’d had a complete plan.
“Everything will be set into place before I make my move,” Tang Fan had said with a smile. “Don’t worry. As soon as I had the medicine sent to Yin Yuanhua, I knew that I would inevitably be singled out.”
Sui Zhou knew that he was not someone that would make a fuss for momentary wrongs, and also never did anything useless. “What are you plotting?”
Tang Fan had rapped against Zhang Ying’s career history on the table. He wasn’t the Minister of Appointments and had no authority to look up the work histories of other officials, but who allowed him to be the friend of a Brocade Guard? The Guard itself was responsible for monitoring officials, so it had resources that Appointments had, as well as resources that it didn’t.
Everything had its uses. He had wanted to get a footing in the Ministry, and would succeed by surprise.
“Establishing my might!” Tang Fan had said with gusto. “In just one brief day at the Ministry, I found a lot of issues. However, what I want to do cannot be done with just me alone. In their opinions, I’m an outsider that’s been stuck in out of nowhere and has no roots in the Ministry; easy to bully, with no one to obey me. That’s why, if I want to stand steady, I’ll need to establish my might first.”
With how bright Sui Zhou was, he had understood his intent immediately. “So, Yin Yuanhua jumping out right now happens to make him a suitable candidate?”
“Correct.” The other had had a cunning smirk at the corner of his lips. “If not him, then someone else, but since he’s offered himself up, why would I let him down? Zhang Ying has long been dissatisfied with Liang Wenhua’s intensity, so even if he doesn’t interject, he certainly won’t stand on the latter’s side. Once we bicker in public, he’ll most likely help me speak. It’ll be because, in his eyes, I’ve been affixed with the symbol of being a member of Consort Wan’s party.”
“But you’re not.”
“Of course I’m not. Nobles don’t have affiliations.”
Sui Zhou’s brows had creased. “But won’t everyone else have a misconception about you because of that?”
“They won’t, don’t you worry. When have I ever expressed allegiance to Consort Wan? There was simply some overlap in fate and case investigation. Plus, during the East Palace case, I not only helped clear suspicion off of Consort Wan, but did the same for the Crown Prince.”
Saying so, he had sighed. “Truth be told, why would I use a method like this if I could help it? Wouldn’t it be great if everyone just earnestly set their minds upon doing their work? Why must there be so many nuisances? Back in Shuntian, I had my senior above me at the apex, while I was just a minor Judge that only needed to do my own chunk of work. There was never any need to worry about so much other stuff!”
“Officialdom will never be as calm as water. You are now the senior official of an Office, which means that you’ll need to do a cleanup before you can begin to do what you want to do.”
Tang Fan had grinned with gratification. “The ones that made me were my parents, but the one that understands me is you, Guangchuan!”
The above-mentioned had been the ins and outs of what had happened in the meeting. Tang Fan hadn’t gone to provoke Liang Wenhua on temporary impulse or a brain spasm, of course, else he would not have been able to carry on in life until now. The results of today had been completely outside of everyone else’s expectations, but for him, they had been planned for following careful consideration.
The tiny Henan Office had only a scant few employees, yet was further divided because of the disagreeing hearts of its people. It should have been impossible for Tang Fan, a stranger, to build up his prestige so quickly, yet he had surprisingly won, charging through to make himself a path.
After Zhang Ying had spoken out, Liang Wenhua temporarily put away his war flags. Having lost the support of his teacher, Yin Yuanhua dared not go against Tang Fan again.
Using this eastern wind, Tang Fan breezily tidied up the Henan Office, both inside and out. He expressly prohibited their tendency to procrastinate on work, then prompted them to have hearings and conclusions as soon as possible for the unsettled cases that had dragged on from the first half of the year. Were a major case to be issued by the Court of Judicial Review, the Ministry of Justice could make its own verdict, then issue the judgement documents back to their locality.
Tang Fan pointed out the dossiers that he had read before and felt that there were issues with, requesting for everyone to re-audit them. He also had Dai Hongming take two clerks to seek out cases from over the years that had been unable to be determined from the Great Ming Code‘s basis.
Having such a firm and decisive superior, no one dared to goof off anymore. The atmosphere of the Henan Office changed instantaneously. Dai Hongming and the rest believed that Tang Fan had Minister Zhang as a supporter, each of them converting from duplicitous feelings to total obedience, scarcely imagining that he was using a tiger’s skin as a fake banner.
Concerning Tang Fan’s dinner treat, the various Offices’ responses were entirely different from what they had been previously, going from scant responders to enthusiastic answers. They were particularly all quickly subdued once they learned that the place he was going to entertain in was Immortal Cloud…
No one else had a clue about the Western Depot’s share in Immortal Cloud, nor that Tang Fan was simply benefitting from Wang Zhi’s light. The only knew that those who could entertain there either had a good background, or wide social connections.
Since the newly-arrived Chief Tang’s influence was this strong, who would be so blind to the current state of affairs as to inconvenience him?
The only one suffering torment right now was Yin Yuanhua, which had nothing to do with them.
At the feast, Tang Fan did not follow precedent in bringing his assistant, instead having Dai Hongming and the others attend. Once again, his stance was displayed for all to see:
I, Tang Fan, do not take Yin Yuanhua seriously, and am not afraid to offend Assistant Minister Liang.
Dai Hongming and them are my people, so they will dine with me.
It was hard to tell if he was for real, or for false; he used the entirety of what was in the Art of War on an official’s scene. One month later, he had not only gained a steady standing in the Henan Office, but, owing to him keeping to his word and others having learned from Yin Yuanhua’s prior lesson, no one dared to take his words as wind past the ears again.
He did not blindly use his authority to suppress others. With Sui Zhou’s assistance, he came to know the career histories of each individual in the Office by heart. This one clerk had a seventy-year-old mother in his capital home; whenever he went to buy autumnal pear ointment at the apothecary for Ah-Dong, he would also buy a piece of mugwort and tell the clerk to soak the elder’s feet with it. That other clerk had a sick family member, so he would make an allowance to let the clerk to get off of work a bit earlier and go home to care for his relative.
Yet, Tang Fan showed no mercy towards those that were treacherous, like the clerk that had fawned on Yin Yuanhua before. Because of his reliance on the latter’s support, he had never put Dai Hongming or the rest in his eyes. Following the meeting from that one day, he still hadn’t seen the situation clearly, working half-heartedly on any tasks Tang Fan had given him. He consequently got turned into a figurehead by the latter, then booted away to do some superficial odd jobs.
Over time, grace and power were both granted like so. Dai Hongming and the rest, as expected, were deeply grateful towards Tang Fan, and they put exceptional energy into their work, overhauling the entire Henan Office.
In such circumstances, Yin Yuanhua became the one that was isolated.
He acknowledged the current state of affairs, of course. Tang Fan wasn’t going to make things hard for him, as he had come here to actually do things, not sort other people out. Still, Yin Yuanhua was forever gloomy about what had happened that day; he was too afraid to cause trouble for the time being, but he wouldn’t start on anything, which, to put it bluntly, was passive slacking.
With him like this, Tang Fan really couldn’t do much.
He was in charge of the Henan Office, but officials at the rank of Deputy Chief were not in his range. He wasn’t willing to run off to file a complaint to Minister Zhang, either — the entire Dynasty worked like this now, where even Ministers didn’t do any work. One could not demands things of others based on their own standards. Beyond that, there had been no lack of incidental elements that had caused Yin Yuanhua to taste defeat last time, and those would not happen again. His own goal of establishing might had already been achieved; he couldn’t give the impression that he was combative to his superiors.
Therefore, Yin Yuanhua was unable to cope with Tang Fan, and Tang Fan was unable to cope with Yin Yuanhua. Were no accidents to happen, this situation would persist for a very long time.
Half a year within the Ministry rapidly passed. Aside from his minor limelight at the beginning, Tang Fan’s following words and actions could be labeled as pragmatic, and low-profile.
Internally, he had gradually gained ownership over the Office’s affairs, keeping to his word. Externally, he had forged ties with all the other Offices, never holding himself as special and allowing others to receive all his credit. In result, he had speedily mingled himself into being a fish in water at the Ministry. No one would say that Chief Tang was an ‘outside household’ anymore, with how superbly he interacted with his coworkers.
At long last, he was able to catch his breath and relax a little.
Over this past half a year, he had gone out early and returned late, nearly spending even all of his vacation time hanging around the Ministry. That had been for the sake of rearranging all the old cases from previous times, and either finding the ones that had disagreed with the way the world worked, or had no standards set inside of the Great Ming Code for them. After that, based on those judgement examples, he would re-write an article in Regulations for Interrogation and Sentencing as a supplement to be added to the Code, for use by later officials to consult and cite.
This was an extraordinarily massive and complicated project; only about ten percent of it had been completed after half a year.
Even if he managed to finish it right now, it wouldn’t be able to be put into effect for a very long time. Still, he believed that it would one day have a use.
In a wink, spring of the sixteenth year of Chenghua arrived. Ah-Dong was now ten. During this time period, she had learned martial arts from Sui Zhou, simultaneously improving her martial skill by a great leap while her body stretched out as it grew, no longer having its prior chubby look. She had the pretty silhouette of a half-grown young lady, but her temperament hadn’t changed, being as carefree and unworried as ever… actually, because she had been learning martial arts, she had become a bit more valiant.
In order to prevent her from turning into an out-and-out martial artist that would never get married off in the future, Tang Fan did not neglect to force her to read when she had free time. He subsequently received verifiable proof that she did not have a penchant for it, as she couldn’t even commit the Analects to memory.
Fortunately, she was at least fluent in writing. The Tang family had never produced an illiterate; he had to console himself with just that.
All this time, Sui Zhou had been as busy as ever. Beneath his training, the Northern Bastion Office was nothing like that procrastinatory, lazy, low-efficiency state it had been in before, but ever since the incident with the Southside Gang, the White Lotus Society had apparently completely concealed its tracks.
Sui Zhou and Tang Fan had talked this over previously; they surmised that the Society had likely learned a lesson from the Gang, and would no longer rashly bring itself to the surface. It would very likely not be showing up in the capital again for a good while. Otherwise, with the Brocade Guard and two Depots at the feet of the Son of Heaven, it would be difficult for the Society to not expose its whereabouts, no matter how covered up it was.
This made it much more difficult to track down. The Guard still had a lot of other things it needed to do, so there was no way it could waste all of its energy on this all day long. Its various guard posts could only be ordered to pay close attention.
On this day of rest, Tang Fan was stealing half a day of idleness, drooling over a plate of crystal meat together with Ah-Dong while they waited for Sui Zhou to come back.
The man appeared to have gone elsewhere today, as he hadn’t returned until now.
This crystal meat had been freshly made three days ago. On account of the dish’s unique craftsmanship, it was difficult to make fresh, and complex and bothersome to cook. Sui Zhou couldn’t make it before, until he learned from his grandmother, Madam Zhou.
The dish selected for a pomegranate-esque color hidden inside a pure translucence that was like glass, and would melt in the mouth; fatty, yet not greasy. Tang Fan and Ah-Dong hadn’t yet tasted its specific flavor, of course, but from looking at its shine alone, it was already quite enticing.
Seeing Ah-Dong’s greedy face, Mister Tang scolded her. “If someone who had no idea looked at you, they would think that I’ve been starving you for forever. Don’t tell anyone that your surname is Tang when you go out! How disgraceful!”
She pouted. “I’m only ten, big brother. You have the cheek to say that to me? You’re drooling, yourself!”
“How could that be?!” he refuted, whilst resisting the urge to wipe his mouth off.
Accustomed to being jocular, they would feel discomfort if they had to go without teasing each other for one whole day.
After a good while of banter, Ah-Dong asked, “What the heck did Brother Sui go out for, big brother? Today’s a day off, so why doesn’t he have any free time? He’s always going out early and coming back late these days. Is the Bastion Office really busy?”
Tang Fan shook his head, indicating that he didn’t know. Since she had said as much, he then realized that he hadn’t seen Sui Zhou’s figure around that much, either. The Bastion Office differed from the Ministry of Justice, however; due to their special duties, Sui Zhou and the rest frequently had to take many secret assignments that could not be spoken of. Even if they had a close relationship, Tang Fan had never asked about them out of propriety.
Speak of Cao Cao, and Cao Cao would come — before Ah-Dong could finish whining, Sui Zhou’s silhouette showed up outside.
“Brother, you came back!” She got up, then bounded over to welcome him.
Noticing that he wasn’t in his Guard uniform, Tang Fan wondered, “Did you go to pay respects to your parents?”
Sui Zhou’s personal life was truly, absolutely mundane. Aside from abroad assignments, if he wasn’t on his way to the Bastion Office, he was heading home, or occasionally going over to see his family, with practically no derivations. This was why Tang Fan had asked such a thing.
Unexpectedly, Sui Zhou shook his head. “Something happened in Henan.”
[End Arc 4: Into the Ministry of Justice]
The translators says: In light of the fact that FYC deserves the Wordy As Fuck award, I’ve decided that every four arcs are getting their own digital versions, which I’ll call tomes. I am 90% sure that if I put the whole thing in one EPUB, it’ll be 5000 pages long and destroy anyone’s computer/device that tries to open it, or destroy my software whenever I try to edit it. Click here for the download for this specific chunk of novel.