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In these few days following the return from Gong county, the Court had been slow to decree the execution of any rewards.
Tang Fan had no idea that Sui Zhou had earned himself a title of nobility at his trip into the palace today; he had gone to the bureau at the time of the Rabbit,(5-7a) as was habit.
The various offices of the Ministry of Justice had not had much going on recently. Lu Tong’guang had even paid him a visit out of boredom — seeing that Tang Fan was always preoccupied with something, he couldn’t help but curiously ask him what he was actually doing. Tang Fan then explained to him how he was planning on sorting out the oversights in the Great Ming Code, as well as additionally draw up Regulations for Interrogation and Sentencing for use as a reference supplement to the Code.
After hearing of all that, Lu Tong’guang was dumbstruck, shaking his head. “What’s with all the toil, Runqing? We’re only insignificant fifth-rank Chiefs. Even though someone like you has a future path that cannot be measured, who knows when you’ll be promoted to a high post in the department? Also, just take a look at those up above. Even if they’ve assumed duties of Solons or Ministers and whatnot, are those still not sinecures? It’s great that you’re motivated, of course, but even if you finish it, it likely won’t be taken seriously!”
Tang Fan smiled. “I’m idling my time away, anyway. I prefer to find something to do.”
Lu Tong’guang scooted in closer, lowering his voice. “Has Liang Wenhua bothered you over Yin Yuanhua’s death?”
“Not yet. Have you heard anything?”
“No,” the other answered, shaking his head. “You haven’t been in the Ministry for long, so you might still not understand. Liang Wenhua really put the utmost of care into that student of his. He probably treated him better than his own son. His lack of reaction after something like this happened is really fishy.”
In this day and age, if a student betrayed their teacher, they would suffer despisal by all folks and bear infamy for all their lives. Teachers guided students not only for them to serve as their help, but to lay plans for future generations, making it a mutually beneficial set-up. Furthermore, if a father promoted his son, he would definitely receive criticism, while a teacher looking out for their student was a just and proper matter. This was why, in the Great Ming’s officialdom, the relationship between a teacher and student differed little from a father and son, and was even closer and more secure than that.
Tang Fan smiled bitterly. “He has long regarded me as being on Minister Zhang’s side. Even if Yin Yuanhua was alive, he still wouldn’t be looking at me kindly.”
Lu Tong’guang sighed ruefully. “Yeah. If Minister Zhang hadn’t left, things would be fine, but since he has, this Ministry has turned into Liang Wenhua’s domain!”
Zhang Ying hadn’t done much of anything in the Ministry, but he had still been a Minister. With him in the lead, Liang Wenhua had been afraid to overstep no matter how powerful he was, but with him gone, those officials that had either refused to get friendly with Liang Wenhua or had remained neutral were naturally starting to worry about their own futures.
Ones like Lu Tong’guang were fine. His presence in the Ministry hadn’t been strongly felt to begin with, and he had never provoked Liang Wenhua. As long as he obediently obeyed and didn’t contradict his superiors, nothing would be done to him.
In comparison, Tang Fan had no such good fortune. Ever since his return, the looks he had been receiving from all over the place had slipped-in sympathy or schadenfreude. Before he had left, he had barely managed to set up a network of connections, so after Zhang Ying’s transfer, his situation was in peril yet again.
Were it to be said that everyone had seen him as a newcomer last time and thought to crowd him out, then this time around, they purely felt that since he had already offended Liang Wenhua unto his death, his end was bound to be tragic, so they dared not get too close to him.
Even Peng Yichun and Lu Tong’guang, in Liang Wenhua’s presence, were too afraid to express too much familiarity to him.
To be accurate, there seemed to be one word currently stuck to Mister Tang’s forehead: ‘unlucky’.
While the two spoke, a clerk knocked on the door outside and came in. “Sirs, Assistant Minister Liang has invited all the Chiefs and Deputy Chiefs over for a discussion.”
Lu Tong’guang and Tang Fan exchanged a look. “Do you know what this is about?” the former asked the clerk.
“This subordinate does not.” The clerk was familiar with Lu Tong’guang, so he said a bit more. “However, seeing as how Sir Liang appears to have just returned from the Cabinet, perhaps it issued some documents?”
Lu Tong’guang believed that things weren’t that simple, but he didn’t question him further, smiling and thanking him. The clerk had to pass the message on to other offices, and thus hurried off.
“It’s yet another prickly case to busy us, isn’t it?” Lu Tong’guang said in self-contempt. “Other Ministries either handle imperial exams or capital inspection, and they’re all stylish, having processions lined up outside them for gift exchanges and favors. Our Ministry alone has not even ghosts willing to enter it!”
Tang Fan laughed. “Maybe there’s actually something good afoot?”
They laughed and chatted as they walked to the Ministry’s discussion hall, then were surprised to discover that Liang Wenhua, who would have been unfashionably late in the past, was already seated there.
Busily restraining their smiles, they stepped forth to bow.
Liang Wenhua was friendly beyond the norm, too. “No need for so much politeness. Sit down and wait for the others.”
That gaze of his landed upon Tang Fan — so soft, it was even about to leak water.
When Lu Tong’guang saw that, he couldn’t help but shudder. Is the sun rising from the West today?
They didn’t have to wait for long. The Chiefs and Deputy Chiefs arrived in succession. As soon as they all noticed that Liang Wenhua had arrived early, they were just like the first two, immediately stopping with their chatting, then quietly taking their seats.
Yin Yuanhua had died, and no one had yet taken over his position, making Tang Fan the only one from the Henan Office that had come. There was not one absence from the other Offices. The last to arrive was Right Assistant Minister Peng Yichun; upon seeing this scene, he was visibly a little surprised, then walked over to his right-hand seat without another world.
Seeing as everyone had arrived, Liang Wenhua cleared his throat. “I had you all come here today due to what happened in Gong County.”
In unison, everyone’s eyes quickly went to Tang Fan.
Seeming to not notice their reactions, Liang Wenhua continued on. “A short time back, Chief Tang was ordered to proceed for Gong to investigate the case of Song tomb robberies and the senseless deaths of villagers. The truth of that has already come to the surface. There was another vault beneath the tomb, which was discovered to be a Gong noble’s grave from the Spring and Autumn Period. Due to the demons of the White Lotus Society causing mischief, odd beasts in the vault had been released to devastate the area and bring disaster to the citizenry. Thankfully, they were able to be eradicated, and a certain number of society followers were wiped out. This is a great contribution. The original intention of His Majesty and the Cabinet was for Chief Tang to be awarded heavily for his role as imperial ambassador in this assignment.”
As soon as that came out, the gazes on Tang Fan suddenly became a bit cauterizing.
There were also some racing thoughts, however, as one word was promptly latched onto: ‘original’.
Sure enough, Liang Wenhua switched direction. “However, the Ministry of Justice and Brocade Guard jointly handled the case. At the time, the Ministry dispatched four people, but only three returned. Henan Deputy Chief Yin Yuanhua was unfortunately amongst those killed, and as the lead envoy, Tang Fan cannot shirk blame.”
So this is what he was getting at!
Peng Yichun, Lu Tong’guang, and the rest of them had that same realization. They had known from the start that Liang Wenhua would never let Tang Fan off — as it turned out, he had merely been waiting for news from the Cabinet before trying viciously humiliate Tang Fan.
Thinking of this, they couldn’t help but secretly squeeze out some sweat on Tang Fan’s behalf. They had no idea what Liang Wenhua was going to say next.
“Merits are merits, demerits are demerits. The Court has always had clear definitions between rewards and punishments. It has never discarded demerits because of merits, nor has it overlooked merits because of an official’s faults. Tang Fan’s merits and demerits counterbalance. He will be dismissed from his post as the Henan Office Chief in the Ministry of Justice, and allowed to keep his cap and belt in dormancy. He will also be granted fifty taels of silver as resources to return to his hometown.” Liang Wenhua’s gaze swept over the crowd’s stunned expressions, then landed upon Tang Fan’s face. “The order of dismissal will surely be sent over from the Ministry of Appointments today. Just wait a minute.”
Compared to everyone else, Tang Fan was actually the calmest — so calm, he was almost expressionless, even. He gave a hum, looking like his mind had just come back from wandering.
Liang Wenhua’s face twitched. “…Tang Fan, did you hear any of what I just said?”
In his own opinion, it would have been best to straight-up strip Tang Fan of his rank and make him a commoner. He had previously heard word from the Cabinet that the Emperor had appeared to have agreed with that standpoint, but somehow, later on, he had changed his mind yet again, and switched the ‘return to commoner status’ out for ‘cap dormancy’.
They were both post dismissals, but there were differences between them. The former removed an official’s status, fired them straight to the bottom rungs, and demoted them to being amongst the rabble. The latter preserved the official’s status, allowing them to chill out at home, where if they wanted to rise back up at any time, they could.
Being returned to commoner status didn’t mean that it would be impossible to resume being an official, of course, but it was certainly a hundred times harder than it would be with just cap dormancy.
Still, even though both sides had differences, they were really only slivers of deviancy. Even in cap dormancy, if one never got the chance to make a comeback for all of their life, what was the point of it? Wouldn’t it be the same as being a plain citizen, just nicer-sounding?
As Liang Wenhua thought, he could only attribute this to the Emperor’s soft heart, then pinch his nose and take it.
Were Tang Fan currently a Vizier or major official, the odds of the Emperor remembering him in his dormancy might have been quite high. Since he was just an insignificant, fifth-rank Chief, however, barring any incident, he would basically never bring him to mind.
Hence was why Liang Wenhua was more or less happy with this outcome.
Regardless, as long as Tang Fan was kicked out of the Ministry and disallowed from being an official again, he could do whatever it was he wanted. Without an official’s post, he was exactly like that old man Zhang that had gone to Nanjing — both were grasshoppers after autumn that would stop hopping after a few days.
On Tang Fan’s end, he had been thinking while Liang Wenhua was speaking. Despite his distraction, he had kept one ear listening, and remembered all of the other’s words once he thought back to them. He met Liang Wenhua’s eyes, nodding. “I heard all of it.”
He had long anticipated how his own end would go, but these circumstances were actually much better than those anticipations.
Liang Wenhua nodded slightly. “We still have things to discuss next. You may abstain.”
He had proclaimed Tang Fan’s ousting in advance, but the Ministry of Appointments documents would not be coming the day of. In the strictest sense, Tang Fan was still an appointed official. Him telling him to abstain right now was nothing other than him trying to embarrass him.
Those in officialdom had always valued reputation over their own lives. Had anyone else been humiliated like this, even the ones present here with good tempers would find this completely insufferable.
On the contrary, Tang Fan was calm, not looking bothered at all. He nodded at Liang Wenhua, cupped his hands at everyone seated, and even showed a smile. “I am indebted towards all of the consideration everyone here has shown me after I entered the Ministry, and I can’t thank you enough. Now that I must leave in a rush, I’m afraid that there’s no time to treat you all to parting wine. For the time being, note the occasion down, and we’ll make up for it later, when the chances arrive. The emerald mountains do not change, the green waters flow forever — we depart from here, but we will meet again.”
Liang Wenhua coldly laughed on end in his head. Why are you going on about mountains and waters?! What, are you still thinking that there will be a day that you’ll come back for revenge? You won’t ever have one where you can turn your fate around! I’ll make you regret going against me for the rest of your life!
In his view, Yin Yuanhua had died by Tang Fan’s hand. The reason why he was not in a hurry to take revenge was that he was precisely waiting for Tang Fan’s dismissal. When the time came, how could he allow him to screw around and do whatever he wanted? As long as he gave the slightest suggestion towards local officials, he would guarantee that Tang Fan would be tormented until he longed for death.
Although a thousand twists and turns had gone through his head, Liang Wenhua was placid on the surface. “First, go to your workroom and pack up your things. If someone from the Ministry of Appointments comes, I will send them straight to you. If nothing occurs, leaving a little sooner is fine.”
If it was said that they all had been embracing the attitude of play-attending while watching Liang Wenhua and Tang Fan fight previously, the sudden feeling of watching a fellow sufferer now surged instead. The looks in their eyes as they watched Tang Fan changed a little.
The man in question didn’t appear to notice. Calmly done listening to what Liang Wenhua had to say, he smiled lightly, then walked out.
At first glance, his gait was a bit brisk.
No one believed that he was actually happy, of course; they only thought that he was pretending to be relaxed and forcing on a smile. Any person that had studied strenuously for over a decade, finally crossed a single-plank bridge in an impressive display to pass the imperial exams and become a Palace Honorate, and then ended up being forced to pack their things and leave after only a few years would certainly feel fury, and a difficulty to take this.
Tang Fan was no exception. He was, at best, simply a man with above-average open-mindedness, not a saint. He owned all the emotions a typical human should have. It was merely that no amount of indignance he had would help to change reality; if he wept bitterly and got angry, that would just give those throwing stones at him while he was down in a well something to laugh at. Why bother to act like a petulant child, then? It was better to be optimistic.
Being an official gave being-an-official benefits, and not being an official gave not-being-an-official freedom. He was not someone obsessed with the job. When Liang Wenhua had declared his fate, following a split second of anger, his very first feeling had been the relief of a weight being lifted from him.
If one wanted to be a mediocre, corrupt, or stupid official, things would be easy. If one wanted to be an official with a conscience, each day they were one was like a stone weighing down the body. Now that he had no post, how could it not seem exactly like he had completely unloaded his burdens?
He was even thinking about how after his dismissal, he would finally have time to visit his sister that he hadn’t seen in many years.
The more he thought, the happier he was, which had inevitably made his pace somewhat jaunty.
Liang Wenhua watched Tang Fan with his eyes as he departed the discussion hall, right about to tell the clerk outside to shut the door. However, he saw that when he had barely reached the entryway, Tang Fan stopped, turned his head, and stepped one foot back in again, pure doubt on his face. “Sir, you just said that His Majesty bestowed me fifty taels of silver. Dare I ask when that commitment will be honored?”
Having been an official for many years, Liang Wenhua had seen many be stripped of their post and dismissed before. The reactions of those a bit intenser would be to wail and howl on the spot like madmen, while those a bit calmer would be pale-faced and dispirited.
No official had ever acted like this. Who cared about that tiny bit of silver?
Was this guy actually sick in the head, to care enough to ask such a question?
He looked at Tang Fan the same way the tomb guardian had eyed humans, mouth twitching. “Go to the Ministry of Revenue yourself to collect it.”
“But if His Majesty bestowed it, it ought to be coming out of the internal treasury,” Tang Fan answered innocently. “Is no one from the palace coming?”
Liang Wenhua’s face was dark. “Tang Runqing, you’re intentionally causing a ruckus! This Ministry is no longer your bureau, so go wherever you may want, but your dismissal was not this Minister’s say! What’s the use in asking me this?!”
This well-fed man could never understand how hungry men starved. He had no idea that in Tang Fan’s point of view, ‘fifty taels’ was the equivalent of ‘I can buy a lot of good food.’
Seeing his ghastly attitude, Tang Fan could only sigh — his face very plainly saying ‘you really like to stir things up’ — then turn around and leave.
Assistant Minister Liang was made to choke until his eyes rolled back into his head from that look he gave him. Everyone else looked at each other; none of them were sure whether they ought to pity Tang Fan, or express their admiration for how mad he had just made Liang Wenhua before he left.
To be completely honest, Tang Fan hadn’t even done that on purpose.
Fortunately, the Emperor was comparatively credible. No long after the Ministry of Appointments’ order reached Tang Fan, someone came from the palace to give him the fifty silver taels and two added bolts of silk.
In all likelihood, after the Chenghua Emperor had seen the two trunks of treasures, he had recalled Tang Fan’s dismissal, then felt guilt on his conscience, thus using silk to appease Mister Tang’s wounded spirit.
The color of the two bolts was too gaudy. They weren’t suitable for men, but for women of the family. He wouldn’t reject things for no reason, of course, so he went home while holding the cloth and coin.
Following his return, he found that Sui Zhou had come back a step ahead of him, and was speaking to Ah-Dong.
Upon seeing the bolts he had, Ah-Dong exclaimed out of surprise that they were pretty, then came up and took them with a giggle. “Big brother, Brother Sui got promoted!”
On the road way back, Tang Fan had brought to mind that although he would be faulted for everything, with those two trunks of treasure that Sui Zhou had brought into the palace, the Brocade Guard would not only be fine, but inevitably get promoted higher. Hence, he was not surprised at all by her words, smiling. “What kind of promotion? Was it a leap all the way into being a real Commanding Envoy?”
Ah-Dong couldn’t say, so she turned to look at Sui Zhou, who shook his head. “No.”
Tang Fan told Ah-Dong to take one of the bolts and gift it to the Sui family’s young lady, while the other one she could keep for herself to make clothes out of. Ah-Dong hugged the cloth, said that she was going to bring both bolts over to let Ah-Bi have first pick, then giddily left.
After washing his hands, Tang Fan returned to the small courtyard to sit down, casually picked up a piece of candied mulberry, and placed it into his mouth.
These mulberries had been picked from the mulberry tree they had planted themselves, having ripened in the late spring-early summer period. After picking and washing them, they were boiled in sugar water, and once the sugary taste had permeated the fruits, they could be taken out of the pot. Once cooled, they were to be packed into a jar, sealed up, and placed into the cellar. One jar would keep for around half a month. Whenever wanted, they would first be soaked in well water, then spooned out, giving the most icy, refreshing sweetness on summer days.
“Come, tell me! What kind of promotion did you get? Did Pang Qi, Yan Li, and the rest of them get promotions, too?”
“They went up one rank. Just like how you said, His Majesty intends to switch out Yuan Bin.”
“For Wan Tong?”
Sui Zhou nodded. “He still values him.”
“His Majesty is compassionate,” Tang Fan lamented. “That’s not a bad thing. Rulers during peace and prosperity are soft-hearted, which is always better than harshness.”
It was just a shame that the majority of the people he was fond of were undeserving of his fondness, instead exploiting their monarch’s favor to get themselves gains at all costs.
Wan Tong was supported by the massive tree that was Consort Wan, but his competence was only average, and he would not stop causing problems that the Emperor once used to suppress, until the child kidnapping case had happened. Wan Tong had been involved behind the Southside Gang, who had dared to kidnap the children of important officials, which had then given the Emperor no choice but to sack him after that massive fuss.
Now, circumstances had changed with the passage of time. Consort Wan must have constantly begged on her brother’s behalf. Adding that onto how the Emperor had to feel that Wan Tong was closer to him than Yuan Bin was, the Brocade Guard was still grasped quite reliably within Wan Tong’s hand.
“His Majesty does not have any less trust in you than he does Wan Tong, but your experience is shallow right now, and hastily giving you the top seat would likely incite unhappiness. Furthermore, Wan Tong has no ability to get into civil or martial officialdom, nor can he go to the Depots. The most suitable position for him can indeed only be in the Brocade Guard. Maybe that’s why the Emperor is thinking to wrong you for a few years first, then make it up to you later?”
His analysis of people’s minds was utterly convincing. Sui Zhou recalled how the Emperor had been towards him — was that not exactly right? He would not have received a title of nobility so easily, if not.
Chenghua’s treatment of those close to him… was really indescribable.
Sui Zhou was quiet for a moment. “He sealed me as Count Ding’an.”
Tang Fan was caught off guard, at first, then became pleasantly surprised. “Not bad, not bad! What an unexpected delight! Congratulations to you, Guangchuan!”
The other smiled with a light shake of the head. “It’s just a boon title. There’s no joyous occasion here.”
Tang Fan clapped him on the shoulder, laughing. “Hey, overdoing it with the modesty just makes you sound fake! It’s just a boon title? Can you go out on the streets and find me a boon title to try on? I’ll have to call you ‘Count’ from here on out! Have you spoken to your family yet? This is an immensely joyous occasion!”
“I’ll go over tomorrow.”
Tang Fan nodded, sincerely happy for him. He even threw his own dismissal to the back of his mind, not neglecting to remind him, “Since you’ve gotten such happiness, don’t forget to do a dinner treat!”
“…Even if this didn’t happen, don’t you have me treat you all the time?”
Hearing that, Mister Tang’s thicker-than-a-wall face went a rare shade of red.
However, he then heard Sui Zhou ask, “What about you, then?”
Tang Fan smiled nonchalantly. “What about me?”
“Your rewards should have come, right?”
Thinking about how if he let him know that he had just been dismissed, the nice and happy ambience here would definitely be destroyed, Tang Fan said, “I wasn’t promoted, but the Emperor rewarded me with silver and cloth bolts.”
Sui Zhou’s brow slightly furrowed. He was unsatisfied with that, but he was also aware that the promotions of civil officials were not as easy as his, so he didn’t ask further.
“I’m going to send this silver to my sister,” Tang Fan added. “You’re not allowed to seize half of it.”
Sui Zhou had no idea how to react, setting his suspicions to the side. “If you’re not going to randomly spend it, why would I seize it?”
There were two types of different-surname nobility titles in the Great Ming: lineage and boon. Boon titles like Sui Zhou’s weren’t granted a residence, but there still weren’t exactly many of them. Once bestowed, the title had great use in being taken out to be a gold-lettered personal signboard. Average people would have to respect him as a Count, and even Wan Tong, if he really did take charge of the Guard again, would have to have some apprehensions towards him.
As was known, Wan Tong received favor, yet still had no title.
When Ah-Dong brought the bolts to the Sui home, she related the good news to them while she was there.
Their responses were a little strange, however.
Sui Zhou’s big brother, Sui An, had a stuffy expression at the time, looking like he was unable to react. A good while later, he said, “Congratulate him on my behalf.”
“Little brother-in-law really has a bright future,” Sui An’s wife, Lady Jiao, said sourly. “He’s even putting on big airs. Instead of personally coming to inform us of something as major as a title, he just sends a little girl!”
Ah-Dong had visited the Sui’s many times, so she had some understanding of their internal conflicts. “Big Brother Sui, Sister Sui! Don’t misunderstand me! I only came over to play with Ah-Bi! I thought that this was a great thing, so I had to let the elders know first, and I just blurted it out! Don’t blame Second Brother Sui, it has nothing to do with him! With how staid he is as a person, he must be thinking to wait until an imperial edict comes down to say something!”
She called Sui Zhou just ‘Brother Sui’ to his face, but in the Sui home, because Sui An was here, she had to switch labels to avoid confusion.
Now that she was getting older, her words and actions were also getting better. Still, no matter how well she spoke, her words would inevitably be a bit grating to those with biases.
Lady Jiao curled her lips in a sneer. “He broke off from us long ago. Even if there is a decree, it wouldn’t reach us here, would it?”
With how mean you are, it’s no wonder he never wants to come here, Ah-Dong thought to herself, no longer saying a word.
Sui Bi quickly smoothed things over. “Mom, I’m going out to play with Ah-Dong!”
Lady Wu, who had been sitting there silently for a long time, nodded. “Go on.”
Sui Bi inwardly sighed. Leading Ah-Dong by the hand, she left, not caring if her sister-in-law was still grumbling there.
To her, her parents were way too docile, yet her eldest brother had taken a very fearless wife that could make high waves with no wind around, always insisting upon disturbing the home’s peace for no good reason. Her middle brother hadn’t been able take it, so of course he had moved out. Nowadays, when one’s parents were still alive and healthy, there would be no care for a branching of homes, but if the parents consented, it could still happen.
Their parents preferred their eldest son, too. Their second son had been titled, yet they were still worried about their eldest’s feelings, not daring to show the slightest bit of joy.
Shaking her head, Sui Bi said to Ah-Dong, “Let’s walk around the market. My brother’s been titled, so I should buy him some gifts.”
Ah-Dong sighed. “I just hope Brother Sui won’t be disheartened because of this.”
Sui Bi could only sigh along with her.
The two little ladies did not need to be vexed, as Sui Zhou had long predicted his family’s reaction. That was why he had made no big parade about it, instead intending to use the later opportunity of paying respects to his parents to mention it.
Against that hope, once he returned to the Northern Bastion Office the very next day, his titling had long spread far and wide. All ranks of the Office felt that they had gotten extraordinary prestige from this, congratulating him one after the other, calling him ‘Count’ with every breath. They were even more excited than they would have been for the New Year.
Xue Ling had remained in the Office, not having the chance to go to Gong County with them. Since all the guys that had gone had been promoted a rank, and had also had an exciting and thrilling adventure, he had long been gearing up to do something, going for Sui Zhou to ask for orders. “Brother, you have to take me next time, no matter what! I stayed here for a month, having to deal with those Eastern Depot assholes every single day! I’m so sick of it!”
“Ah, Old Xue, that’s where you’re wrong,” Pang Qi mocked. “We staked our lives on the front lines so that you could live a comfortable life! You don’t comprehend what painstaking efforts our big brother took!”
“Get out! Quit being here!” Xue Ling kicked at him.
Pang Qi dodged him with a rotten grin, then sighed. “What a shame it is that Sir Tang got implicated for no reason in that thing with Yin Yuanhua. He can’t even be an official anymore.”
Sui Zhou’s hands paused in their actions. “What do you mean, he can’t?”
“Did you not know that he’s been dismissed from his post, brother?”
Sui Zhou had just been walking into his workroom, bowing his head as he went to untie his sabre from his belt. Hearing this, he immediately turned to look at him, that cold gaze terrifying Pang Qi.
“What happened?” Sui Zhou asked.
Pang Qi hurriedly explained the whole sequence of events to him. Over the span of a day, the news of Tang Fan’s dismissal had long gotten around. All anyone had to say was that he was unlucky.
Clearly, he had established a merit, yet in the blink of an eye, he was no longer acting as an official. What was that, other than poor luck?
Sui Zhou said not a word. Without untying his sabre, he turned and went out.
“Brother,” Pang Qi hurriedly said, “where are you going?”
However, once in the palace, Sui Zhou did not get to see the Chenghua Emperor.
He waited for about two shichen outside, until the door-watching eunuch spoke to him. “Sir Sui, His Majesty said that if you have come to beg for leniency on Tang Fan’s behalf, return. If you have something else, he will see you.”
The Emperor was oblivious, but he wasn’t stupid. He knew that Sui Zhou was good friends with Tang Fan, and that his entry this time had to be to intercede for him. He himself didn’t look favorably upon Tang Fan, so giving him cap dormancy instead of directly stripping him of his rank was already him placing value onto his contribution, as well as giving leniency in regards to Sui Zhou’s reputation. How could a revered regent of enormously heavy words be of two minds?
Still, he saw Sui Zhou as a nephew. Not wanting to make things hard for him to his face, he simply stopped his intentions dead with one sentence.
From Sui Zhou’s view, though, Tang Fan had clearly done a great job, and yet his reward had been to get deposed. It was absolutely indecipherable.
He clenched his fists that were hidden inside his sleeves, fixedly staring at the eunuch before him. The attendant couldn’t help but draw a few steps back out of fear that he would beat him up.
Sui Zhou merely stood there for a long while, then turned and left.
The attendant watched his retreating figure, then let out a long exhale, patting his chest and mumbling to himself. “So scary!”
When the guard heard that Sui Zhou had gone to the palace, they feared that he would accidentally offend the Emperor, all waiting restlessly. Upon seeing him come out, they all quickly surrounded him and babbled at full speed.
“Brother, you met with His Majesty? What did you say?”
“Look at your face, Brother! Wouldn’t that have made him mad?”
“Yeah, Brother! I know you have a good relationship with Tang Fan, and we don’t have a bad one with him either, but we really can’t butt into it! Envoy Yuan handing over his power is coming soon, and Wan Tong will be back! You can’t let him get something over you right now! If you aren’t in the Office anymore, we brothers will refuse to mix in with Wan Tong!”
Sui Zhou was dizzied by their nonsense, immediately frowning. All those around him, upon seeing his expression, swiftly calmed down.
“His Majesty did not meet with me,” he said.
Several of the others let out exclamations, all a bit shocked.
On the way back, Sui Zhou had already figured things out. The root of Tang Fan’s dismissal lied with Liang Wenhua. He alone, however, could not have spoken to the Emperor, so there certainly had to have been the aid of others mixed in with that, for the Emperor to have altered his opinion.
Chenghua hadn’t even been willing to see him. Clearly, his ruined impression of Tang Fan had already taken deep root, and could not be changed in such a short timespan.
In fact, thinking about this from the other side, Tang Fan no longer had Zhang Ying’s protection. Even if he did return to the Ministry of Justice, he would still get trounced by Liang Wenhua, unless swapped to another department to start fresh. In that way, Tang Fan was getting a period of rest, and seemed to have no harm done to him. Once public interest died and the Emperor’s impression of him faded, Sui Zhou’s intercession would have a much better effect than it would have now.
Even so, Liang Wenhua had framed Tang Fan to this extent. Tang Fan could swallow this anger, but he, Sui Zhou, could not.
Noticing how the other Guards were all watching him nervously, he said mildly, “No one in this world is without weak points. As Brocade Guards, we naturally must have an omniscient presence to prepare for any inquiries from the Sacred One. I heard recently that Liang Wenhua wants to be promoted as the Minister of Justice. If he’s ever made a mistake, however, I’m afraid he won’t be worthy of a post amongst the Six.”
Pang Qi and the others understood as soon as they heard this, their eyes sparkling. Each of them had evil smirks. “Don’t you worry, big brother. Leave it to us. We guarantee that even if his dad pissed his pants many years ago, we’ll be digging it all the fuck up!”
The translator says: *sui zhou voice* so you have chosen Death
I just want everyone to know that the original title for this was ‘Achievement Unlocked: Another One Rages to Death’.