[If you’re not reading this on chichilations, then you’re reading a stolen copy. Reposts are not allowed anywhere or for any reason!
Links for mobile viewers: Ko-fi Donation — Chichi’s Twitter — Project Index — Digital Version Library
I see all your likes and comments~ Thanks in advance~
The sponsor of this large-sized (8k) chapter is: Cuarzo (16)! Thank you, dear!!!
(Click here for details on how sponsored chapters work.)]
Tang Fan smiled lightly, then found a chair beside the bed to sit down on. With the red swelling on his face having since faded away, this action of his was naturally smooth and elegant. “What do you think about it?”
He countered without answering, wanting to know what was in his friend’s mind.
Sui Zhou was strong in martial arts and sturdy in body, so even with his serious injury, he was pretty much fine after these many days of rest. Now, sitting propped up against the wall to have a chat with his friend was just another type of rest. Hearing this, he began to ponder the question. “Many already see you as one of Zhang Ying’s, but from how I’ve seen, Wan An has long had the idea to replace him. He’s definitely not going to sit in the Minister position for long. If he leaves, you’ll be facing Liang Wenhua alone. The Court is currently divided up into different factions with fierce infighting, though; Liang Wenhua is close to Head Vizier Wan An, but Liu Xu and Liu Ji don’t like the latter. You still have a chance.”
This trip had taken a month. At this time, Sui Zhou hadn’t yet heard the news that Zhang Ying had since been sent to Nanjing, nor did he know how very predictable his own words were.
“You mean to say that I should rely on help from those two?”
Sui Zhou nodded. “Liu Xu is coarse and blunt, Liu Ji is sly, and neither are easy to cooperate with. Liu Xu, at least, is the teacher of the current Emperor. His Majesty even calls him ‘Mister Liu of the East’, meaning he clearly respects him. He’s also still appreciative of capable young officials. If you can get his protection, you won’t need to be afraid of Liang Wenhua.”
In the Cabinet, Liu Xu was lazy and negligent in his duties, but compared to the others, he was decent in character, and would often admonish the Emperor to make him have diligence and be nice to the citizenry. However, he had a poor temper and loved to scold people. If he found someone displeasing to the eye, regardless of good and evil, he would stand on manufactured moral high ground to chide them. That trait of his incited dislike, and was thus why his popularity in the Court was awful. It was only because of those that meddled in laying things out that he ended up getting placed side-by-side with Wan An and Liu Ji.
When outsiders first heard the terms ‘three papier-mâché Solons’ and ‘six clay-figurine Ministers’, all they would think was that every level of this Court had the general practice of dicking around in wait for death, practically incurable of it, while in truth, there were differences between each ‘papier-mâché’ man.
Tang Fan’s immediate superior Zhang Ying had similarly been sublimely listed amongst the ‘clay-figurine Ministers’, yet still had something of a conscience and a bottom line in his conducting principles. He couldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as the Minister of Works, Liu Zhao’s breed.
And Liu Xu, compared to the Head Vizier that was exceedingly adept in flattering Consort Wan and the Emperor, could practically be called a whiff of clarity in the muddy currents, in terms of moral character.
However, upon hearing this, Tang Fan just smiled bitterly and helplessly. “Your way would be good, but it won’t work for me.”
Sui Zhou raised his brows. “Why not?”
“He and my teacher have a grudge. They hate to see each other’s faces, and will itch to eat their counterpart as soon as they meet him. Do you think, that with Liu Xu’s personality, he would ever protect the student of his enemy?”
“It’s that deep of a hatred?”
“That goes without saying, but you know as well as I that neither of them have a good temper, and both think themselves smart, ha… in war, there is no second place, but in wars of words, there is no first place. I don’t quite know what their conflict arose from, but basically, I once witnessed my teacher splash Liu Xu with a cup of tea, saying that it was so unbelievably filthy, it was unpalatable.”
Great. With all that nonsense done, there was no need to even think about ever having a day where the two could shake hands and talk nicely. As Qiu Jun’s student, if Tang Fan paid a visit to Liu Xu, one could only imagination what sorts of humiliation he would suffer with that guy’s personality. That path genuinely wasn’t going to work.
Thinking of all that, Sui Zhou, too, was a little helpless.
He presently wielded the rank of Bastion Envoy of the Northern Office. Although the official’s cap on his head was still for that of a fifth-rank Millarch, that rank had a very different metal weight from a civil official’s fifth rank. Said civils would have to make a detour whenever they saw him, and even figures like the Cabinet Solons had to stop and say hello to him if they saw him.
Further still, he had his connection to Empress Dowager Zhou, and the Emperor had close confidence in him, making it not a difficult thing for him to continue to journey upwards.
Even so, there was not a single tactic the mighty Bastion Envoy Sui could bring out when it came to the issue of his friend’s career path.
On the surface, this seemed to be caused by the Brocade Guard and civil officials having two standalone systems for promotions, but Sui Zhou still felt that it was because he himself wasn’t powerful enough. If he had power like Grand Tutor Sun Jizong had right about now, Liang Wenhua would still have to make a few deliberations if he wanted to plot against Tang Fan. They wouldn’t have to be as passive as they were now.
Seeing his worry, Tang Fan tried to comfort him. “Don’t be like that. I know you’re just thinking of me, but whether I can remain as an official is not for you or I to be in charge of. I have already done what I should have done to the best of my ability, and my conscience is clear. Don’t be so worried about this anymore. Drink today, be drunk today, and worries will keep on coming tomorrow!”
Hearing this, Sui Zhou wasn’t sure whether he ought to be gratified by him being free of care, or vexed about his lack of care.
Still, if Tang Fan had been an official that inhaled personal gains and wanted to climb higher, the two of them probably would never have been so complementary, or become close friends.
Thus could be stated that many things with cause had result, and with failure had success. Although not everything under the sky always went as wanted, when they had gone down into the vault and encountered the bloodthirsty tomb guardians, they had believed that they were going to be buried under there, only to end up returning safely. That itself was already a blessing delivered from the Heavens; they really shouldn’t be overly demanding.
In any case, he had a lot of savings. If the time to came, he would be able to keep supporting him, so just trying to get him to stay would be fine.
Sui Zhou hadn’t yet noticed that he had unwittingly been influenced by Tang Fan’s freeness, his philosophy on life — formerly strict and methodical to the point that it had been unforgivingly precise — had slowly transformed.
Were this the past, he might have thought that Tang Fan was the sort of person to not seek to better himself, then get angered by him being a disappointment and be unwilling to associate with him. Nowadays, he could understand him, and approve of his friend’s path of conduct.
That stemmed from him knowing that Tang Fan did, in fact, better himself, and put in a lot of hard work, too. He had already performed well enough within the scope of his capabilities, he just didn’t want to be demanding, and was adaptable to all scenarios; he always worked with the ambition of a peaceful government, but his personality was one of being aloof from other’s worldliness, as if cleansed by a spring breeze.
Being able to befriend such a person was not a blessing to Tang Fan himself, but a blessing for everyone else.
“Well said.” The corner of Sui Zhou’s mouth slightly raised, his mind relaxing.
It was unclear when it had started, but whenever he looked at or thought of this man, the frostiness that he had in his eyes whenever he looked at anyone else was missing, replaced with simple, faint happiness.
Despite being injured and forced to stay in carriages for the return trip, this was truly an extremely rare period of leisure for him. Disregarding the Brocade Guard’s typical illustriousness, what type of responsibility one had matched with what kind of position they were in. Were the Guard a sinecure branch that only hid after anything happened, it would have long since been swallowed whole by the Eastern and Western Depots, and the way others would look at them would be no different than how they would look at trash, to say nothing of the fact that no one would be scared upon sighting them. The position Sui Zhou had today had been earned entirely by his own efforts.
As could be imagined, with the two’s posts and duties being what they were, they normally had excessively few days where they didn’t need to think about anything, able to just lay lazily down in a carriage, bask in the sun, and chat away every day.
When the group made its way through Baoding Prefecture, it was nearly dusk. A posthouse was not too far ahead. Everyone was a bit tired, so Tang Fan ordered for them to rest here for now, then head straight for the capital first thing tomorrow.
Cheng Wen and Tian Xuan went on ahead to present the group’s identity correspondence and put things in order, which was nothing more than letting the postpeople know ahead of time to vacate space, prepare hot water and meals, feed fodder to the horses, and so on.
However, not long after, the two returned with faces full of fury, saying that the postpeople had claimed that all the rooms were full, and none could be vacated.
That was quite surprising.
The identity correspondence they had had been jointly issued by the Brocade Guard and Ministry of Justice, and even sealed by the Cabinet to verify their status as imperial ambassadors so that they would be unhindered their entire journey. No matter who was staying in the posthouse, upon seeing this correspondence, they would need to make room immediately, regardless of how they felt about it. Following the group of big manly men that was the Brocade Guard gave such confidence in actions.
Right before their eyes, though, at this Baoding posthouse not far from the capital, this had actually failed.
Pang Qi was instantly furious, calling for two others to follow Cheng Wen and Tian Xuan back over, saying that he wanted to see which short-sighted bastard refused to yield for a convoy of imperial ambassadors.
Tang Fan and Sui Zhou didn’t take this matter seriously, continuing to stay in the carriage to read and chat. The former had a piece of five-spiced rabbit that Magistrate He had gifted him on departure — in his view, the benefit of going abroad was guiltlessly raking in his salary while sampling delicacies from all over the country. All of the previous dangers that had been in the Gong vault seemed to get gulped down into his belly alongside this deliciously salty snack.
“This rabbit doesn’t taste too different from the cooking methods of the capital,” he still said, “but there seems to be the hints of fennel and apple in it. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to find a specialized restaurant for cuisine like this after we get—”
Before he could say ‘back’, Pang Qi’s thunderously furious voice was heard outside. “What a joke! Those sons of bitches dare to try and bully our Guard?!”
Tang Fan couldn’t help but lift the carriage curtain. “What’s going on?”
“Sir Tang, I’ve asked around, and the ones staying in the posthouse are from the Eastern Depot!” Pang Qi raged. “Each one of them is occupying a room, insisting that they’re full up, and refusing to move!”
Tang Fan turned his head to exchange a look with Sui Zhou — both of them were a bit surprised.
The Eastern Depot and Brocade Guard had always found each other awful, but it had never gotten to the extent that they would completely turn hostile. A situation like this was really quite rare.
Tang Fan was somewhat puzzled. “Didn’t Chief Eunuch Shang Ming want to befriend the Guard before? Why are his subordinates so bold as to be impertinent?”
Sui Zhou knew some of the inside information, here. “What you said is something of the past. The Commanding Envoy at the time was still Wan Tong, and as the little brother of Consort Wan, Shang Ming naturally wanted to flatter him all he could. Now that Envoy Yuan took his place, Shang Ming doesn’t set the Guard in his sights.”
Outside the carriage, Pang Qi was still seething. “Brother, what should we do? Don’t tell me we’re actually going to just take this?”
After Yuan Bin had taken charge, the Guard had started to be low-key. Sui Zhou wasn’t one for ostentation, either. On the Western Depot’s end, Wang Zhi had been managing things beyond the Great Wall for these two years, meaning he, too, was neglecting the capital. This had given the Eastern Depot the chance to sit high; their tyrannical behavior had not grown overnight.
Despite Pang Qi’s question, he wasn’t someone that didn’t know the gains and losses of this. He believed that with Sui Zhou’s personality, it was nearly a certainty that they wouldn’t be going head-to-head with the Eastern Depot, but simply proceeding straight onwards to the capital.
Yet, Sui Zhou’s mild answer was: “If they refuse to move, beat them until they do.”
Everyone was shocked by this aggressive phrase, after which they started uproaring.
They all had been beaten up by the tomb guardians, and had lost several brothers. Anger had long been stuffed up inside them. Having received Sui Zhou’s permission, they got excited.
Those called out to by Pang Qi all rolled up their sleeves and followed after him in preparation to take back their place.
Inside the posthouse, the minor official that oversaw it was speaking to someone beside him, pained. “Officer Jiang, please empathize with this lowly one. Can you clear out a room for them? They are the Brocade Guard…”
Between the Brocade Guard and Eastern Depot, he could afford to offend neither — this was what was called, ‘when gods fight, mortals suffer’. The Brocade Guard had wanted rooms just now, but the Eastern Depot had yelled them away. Once the latter people patted their butts off and left, if the Guard then wanted to place this debt onto his head, wouldn’t that be a wrong to him?
Officer Jiang of the Eastern Depot laughed disdainfully. “You’re too much of a coward, Old Wei. What about the Guard? You still think things are how they were before. That old man, Yuan Bin, is used to being a tortoise with its head withdrawn, and doesn’t dare to poke it out for anything. Every single Guard has turned into a little turtle, too. No rooms means no rooms! Why should we move out for them?!”
All the Depot wardens subordinating him guffawed in cheer.
“Who are you calling turtles?”
Several Brocade Guards came striding over like meteors; it was their leader that had coldly shouted that.
Officer Jiang side-eyed him. “Ooo, it’s Deputy Millarch Pang! What’s the matter? You noticed that little words don’t work, so you came on your own personal campaign?”
Pang Qi smiled icily. “The one talking about me turned out to be you, Baby Jiang. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you, yet you’re still so hopeless!”
Officer Jiang was enraged. “Who are you calling a baby?!”
“Exactly the right person! Let me ask you — are you moving out of the posthouse rooms or what?”
The other stuck out his chin. “Our people have filled them all! So what? Get here earlier next time!”
It should be said that, aside from a few eunuchs, the underlings for use in the two Depots’ Chief Eunuchs’ hands were most likely all transferees from the Brocade Guard. Since everyone here had come from the same source, they ought to have been closer, but ever since Yuan Bin had left retreat once more and quietly cleaned out Wan Tong’s cronies, the connection between the Brocade Guard and Eastern Depot had also been severed.
Moreover, when Brocade Guards went to the Eastern Depot, they would inevitably become Depot wardens. With different superiors overhead, everyone’s benefits and standpoints would inevitably switch thereafter. These current circumstances coming about were not at all strange.
Still, regardless of what trouble was cooked up, the Eastern Depot and Brocade Guard would at least maintain superficial harmony. Officer Jiang’s present display was much too arrogant.
Pang Qi didn’t mince words with him. “I’ll ask you one last time. Will you yield?”
Pang Qi took two steps back, then waved his hand. “Beat him until he does, brothers!”
As soon as those words were said, the Guards standing behind him pounced like tigers.
Officer Jiang went pale from fright. “What are you all doing?! This is a revolt! Ow, ow…”
Watching this spectacle, the postminder’s face was nearly as white as the walls. He could only fret from the side. “Don’t fight! Don’t fight!”
Officer Jiang and them had been accustomed to living the good life in the capital, where they scattered their prestige all over its grounds. How could they ever out-fight the Guards, who had just come back from the brink of death? They were smacked around into a mess straightaway, crying out for their parents. This had changed from a scuffle to a beatdown, and in the end, they could only hold their heads, kneel, and beg for mercy, saying that they wouldn’t dare to anymore.
Within the chaos, Officer Jiang tried to take the chance to slip away, but Pang Qi, who had been waiting nearby all this time, flew a kick out, sending him straight to the ground.
Looking on as the other was coming up for another kick, Officer Jiang quickly shouted, “Millarch Pang! Brother Pang! Don’t, don’t! I’ll stop! Let’s just talk! We’re all brothers here, don’t be like this!”
Pang Qi grinned evilly. “Now you’re acknowledging us as brothers, huh? Why didn’t you say as much before, instead saying that our Commanding Envoy is an old tortoise? Huh?!”
Officer Jiang slapped himself on the mouth. “This little brother has a rotten mouth! A rotten mouth! I’m the only one that’s a tortoise! You’re a generous gentleman, Brother Pang! Don’t lower yourself to my level!”
Pang Qi kicked him again. “Admitting defeat early isn’t going to make this okay! Do you think that the Eastern Depot is that big of a ship you’re riding on, that your backing is strong enough for you even place no care upon your former brothers?!”
The other had a face full of sorrow. “How would I dare?! I won’t keep things from you, Brother Pang; we actually had an order from above that told us that there was no need to give the Brocade Guard any face outside! This wasn’t by my will!”
Since he wanted to scout for some more information out of him, Pang Qi picked him up. “Envoy Yuan is a veteran of two Courts. Your Chief Eunuch disrespecting him means he’s gotten an even heavier thigh to cling to, right?”
Officer Jiang smiled bitterly. “You know the rules, Brother Pang. How could I speak of the Chief Eunuch at random?”
Pang Qi gave an understanding oh, then turned to call to his subordinates. “He needs a spanking! Come over and keep beating him up!”
“Nonono!” Officer Jiang quickly grabbed his hand. “You haven’t been in the capital recently, Brother! The news must not have circulated fast enough! As it is, His Majesty newly sealed a State Master of Clairvoyance into the Truth, the Protection of Holiness, and Far-Reaching Benevolence!”
“A State Master of… what?”
“A State Master of Clairvoyance into the Truth, the Protection of Holiness, and Far-Reaching Benevolence.”
“…That name is way too long. What then?”
“This State Master has remarkable powers and strong magic. His Majesty is fully convinced in him, and respects him as a Master. He’s planning on building a Great Everthrive Monastery at the Western City district…”
Pang Qi kicked him yet again. “You’re spouting nonsense. What does any of that have to do with your Chief Eunuch?!”
Officer Jiang’s expression crumbled. “Ow, Brother! You’re too impatient! That Master was referred by our Chief Eunuch! His Majesty respects the Master, and has a greater appreciation towards Eunuch Shang. He told us that he suggested to His Majesty to allow Wan Tong to come back and head the Brocade Guard, and he’s already agreed. I’m telling you the truth, okay? Commanding Envoy Yuan won’t be sitting in his seat for long!”
Pang Qi was greatly alarmed, grabbing him. “Are you serious?”
“I wouldn’t lie to you! Why else would Eunuch Shang tell us not to give you all any face? He knows that all of you were promoted by Envoy Yuan, so if Envoy Wan returns, he’ll definitely put you all back in your original places! That’s why he wants to toady up to him ahead of time!”
Pang Qi was no longer in the mood to sort him out. He tossed Officer Jiang to the side, told the postminder to vacate several rooms, then rushed back to report to Sui Zhou.
Seeing as how Officer Jiang had suffered defeat, the postminder had no room for disagreement, so he had agreed over and over again before going to ready up.
After he heard the full story, there was no sort of shocked reaction on Sui Zhou’s face. He told them all to go divvy up the rooms in as placid a tone as ever.
As his boss was so calm, Pang Qi also felt relief, and went off to obey his orders.
In spite of the Eastern Depot getting out of half of the rooms, it still wasn’t enough. Just like before, Tang Fan roomed with Sui Zhou. Upon getting into the room, only then did Sui Zhou show a vexed expression.
Tang Fan picked up the face cloth out of the hot water, wrung it out, then passed it to him. “Looks like you’re going to have a hard time after we get back to the capital.”
Sui Zhou gave a rare sigh. “Yuan Bin is a hundred times better than Wan Tong, but he unfortunately doesn’t have as strong a backing as him. Each day Consort Wan still lives, Wan Tong’s status won’t drop from high up. His Majesty only wanted to teach him a little lesson before, which was why Yuan Bin was switched in, so now that he thinks that he’s had enough of that lesson, he wants to let Wan Tong back in.”
When it came down to it, Wan Tong and Yuan Bin were both the Emperor’s pawns. Whatever he wanted them to do, they would have to do.
It wasn’t just them, but everyone else was like that, too. The Great Ancestor had established the Six Branches of imperial censors with the original purpose of supervising officials and admonishing the Emperor. Later on, the Cabinet similarly came to be, where one Vizier’s word would have the Emperor thinking twice about his actions. What a shame it was that the Solons of the present Court had truly limited courage. Even Liu Xu, who held the status of the Emperor’s teacher, only dared to harp at him over inconsequential matters.
Under circumstances like these, no matter how loud the branch censors’ admonishing voices were, they would have finite effect.
Tang Fan just looked at the issue from another angle. “Guangchuan, after we return, it would be best for you to visit Commanding Envoy Yuan. He’s been in the Brocade Guard for years. Even though he’s indifferent to fame and profit, he’s definitely not someone that will allow himself to be pushed around. He asked you to take charge of the Northern Bastion Office, so he obviously appreciates your talents, and plans to foster you as his successor. If you can receive his complete endorsement and take over his power, then even if Wan Tong does come back, he won’t dare to act rashly against you, as you’ll then have firm control of the Office and won’t need to worry about him anymore. Also…“ He sat on the bed, stooped over to remove his shoes and socks, then laid down while wrapped in the blanket to brainstorm for him. “…you’re Empress Dowager Zhou’s grandnephew, and His Majesty’s trust in you is no lesser than his in Wan Tong. Once back, you only need to remember two things, and then you won’t drop in importance before the Emperor. Regardless of what schemes Wan Tong will try to use, they won’t work on you, either.”
Sui Zhou raised a brow. “I’d like to hear the details on that.”
“First, never object to anything His Majesty does. If he asks for your opinions, don’t give him your standpoint. Whatever he says, do, unless it goes contrary to your principles. Secondly, after Wan Tong tries to overthrow Yuan Bin, you need to plea on the latter’s behalf. If His Majesty asks for the reason, just say it’s sincerely because things concerning Yuan Wenzhi also concern the Late Emperor’s heart. His Majesty will not only not reproach you, but will pardon Yuan Bin, and be even closer to you.”
The Chenghua Emperor had a lot of personal defects, but was still a quite softhearted person and a cherisher of old friends. Further still, though, he was an Emperor, and disliked others opposing him all the time. Such variegated personality traits reflecting off of him forged a very contradictory person.
Even though Tang Fan had only met the Emperor a scant few times before, from the lateral descriptions given by Sui Zhou and Wang Zhi, who had frequent contact with him, it wasn’t difficult to deduce the man’s personality.
But, because these remarks were guilty of guessing at the Emperor’s thoughts, which was taboo, had Sui Zhou not been as close to him as he was, Tang Fan would have never said them out loud. Sui Zhou understood as much, warmth thawing his heart and making him quite happy. “I understand. Thank you.”
Tang Fan smiled. “Why the need to give thanks between us?”
In the night, Tang Fan dozed quite peacefully, his mood completely unaffected by all this stuff.
Sui Zhou, however, was awake.
In order to prevent himself from pressing on Sui Zhou’s injuries whenever he turned over, Tang Fan had taken it upon himself to sleep on the inside. At this moment, he was on his side with his back practically half-leaned against the wall. Sui Zhou felt secondhand discomfort just looking at him, and yet he was still deep in dreams.
Sui Zhou’s gaze lingered. He watched him silently for a long time, then reached out to trace his handsome face.
His finger ultimately landed on the other’s lips, but he merely rubbed them gently for a short moment — not with any sort of lust or vulgarity, just cherishing devotion.
Before he met Tang Fan, he had actually been very lonely on the inside.
The Sui family had never understood his act in joining the Northern Bastion Office. In their eyes, he ought to work hard for the imperial exams like his brother did, so that the Sui’s could break into a road that would honor their ancestors and shed them from their reputation as dependents upon their status as consort-kin. The Brocade Guard had great power, but its name had never been nice to ear. Filling an empty rank was fine, but would getting called a ‘Court lackey’ behind the back be any sort of good?
He didn’t need anyone else’s understanding, though. He was a lone wolf, always walking the path he had faith in.
And yet, he had met Tang Fan, someone that sincerely strategized and made plans for him.
With as good a friend as this, what more could a man ask for?
Only that they could repay each other for a lifetime.
The moon’s splendor spilled in from outside the window’s paper, landing upon Tang Fan’s face. It added something of a halo to his charms, the contrast making him look like an immortal, not a man of the mundane world.
All of a sudden, High Immortal Tang’s lips moved like he was saying something.
Sui Zhou, getting a rare bit of curiosity, came in closer, only to hear him muttering, “Crab roe…tofu soup…”
That mighty image that Mister Tang simply couldn’t allow to take form was shattered.
It could be said that the Eastern Depot people had been beaten black and blue into obedience. Officer Jiang never dared to provoke them again. Up until Tang Fan’s group’s departure, all of them had shrunk into their own rooms and never come out.
The others, of course, would never bother with fighting these advantage-taking nobodies. Right out of Officer Jiang’s mouth, they had learned that way too much had happened in the month they had left the capital.
As Sui Zhou and Tang Fan had predicted, Zhang Ying actually had been driven to Nanjing by Wan An, and the Ministry of Justice had changed into Liang Wenhua’s domain.
Via Consort Wan’s pillow talk, the Emperor intended to ask Wan Tong to take Yuan Bin’s place and regain control over the Brocade Guard.
The Emperor favored the treacherous official Li Zhisheng, and had also sealed the monk Ji Xiao as a State Master. Preparations to build the Great Everthrive Monastery had earned opposition from every level of society, because it would force tens of thousands of citizens to relocate; the Monastery wouldn’t be getting built, but the Emperor was putting more and more trust into Ji Xiao, so he still planned to build an astral observatory for him.
It was also said that since the Crown Prince wasn’t too close to Consort Wan, she kept brooding, and had frequently put forth suggestions at the Emperor’s side. Over time, the Emperor came to not like the Prince much, and was thinking of establishing another one.
That last tidbit was pure rumor, but it had to have some sort of credibility for Officer Jiang to have said it.
Pretty much none of this news was good news. As was fathomable, what awaited them in the capital could only be an even more complicated and severe scene.
When they had left the capital, it had been the beginning of spring, but now, no more than a month later, early summer had already crept in. Still, this time of the year was the best in the capital, being not too hot and not too cold, just enough to wear thin springtime garments during the day, and at most a big cloak during the night.
Regardless of how perilous the situation ahead was, such nice weather would never make anyone feel bad.
When the carriages rode into the capital and they saw the wisterias full of life, the group’s spirit was roused. Tang Fan needed to return to the Ministry of Justice to report on his work, before anything else, while Sui Zhou had to go to the Northern Bastion Office. The two made an appointment for further discussion once they were home, then went off to do what they ought to do.
Prior to entering the city, Tang Fan had freshened up in the posthouse. He was still in his everyday attire right now, but he didn’t have the exhaustion of travel about him. He wanted to go and just get this over with, anyways, rather than wait around for Assistant Minister Liang to find fault in him, so he might as well send himself to the door of his own accord.
Upon arriving at the Ministry, he heard that Liang Wenhua was not present, so he went to the workroom of the Right Assistant Minister, Peng Yichun.
The instant the man saw him, he got up to greet him with an exclamation of shock, his face full of surprise both pleasant and not. “Runqing! When did you get back?”
Tang Fan smiled. “Just now. I came to visit Sir Liang as soon as I could.”
Peng Yichun pursed his lips at the workroom neighboring his. “You didn’t go there?”
“I did, but the clerk said that he wasn’t around.”
The other gave a grunt. “He’s probably in the palace. He runs off to the Cabinet quite diligently these days.”
The Cabinet and Six Branches were both central bureaus of the Great Ming, and also the only two located within the palace.
Tang Fan smiled. “Now that Minister Zhang has left, Assistant Liang heads the Ministry. Him having to communicate with the Cabinet frequently is natural.”
Peng Yichun was astonished. “You already know?”
Tang Fan nodded. “I heard on the way here.”
Peng Yichun sighed. “Runqing, I read the documents you all sent back. I know you handled this assignment well, but the thing with Yin Yuanhua is quite intractable. Liang Wenhua certainly has a knot in his heart about it, and he might lash out at you a few times. Just bear with it. You mustn’t be affected by emotions and get into a direct fight with him.”
Although this fine sir feared everything, he wasn’t a bad person. Tang Fan was thankful for his kindness, but the man was likely destined to be disappointed. The conflict between him and Liang Wenhua would not be resolved by making one-sided concessions.
Still, he didn’t refute him, only smiling as he consoled him. “Rest easy, Sir. This official knows the weight of things.”
While they spoke, a clerk came in from outside. “Sir Tang, Assistant Liang wants you to see him.”
Tang Fan got up to say his goodbyes to Peng Yichun, then followed the clerk into Liang Wenhua’s workroom.
The man’s attitude appeared to be very different from how it had been a month ago. That wasn’t strange; power was the highest aphrodisiac for men. Wielding great authority and being subservient to another were two entirely different sensations, making Liang Wenhua’s high spirits comprehendible.
However, when he gave even Tang Fan a very friendly smile, that was highly abnormal.
The translator says: ‘Baby Jiang’ is more literally ‘Grandson Jiang’, but now the insult is WORSE
It took 69 chapters, but the diabetes is kicking in.