Volume 4 Chapter 121
This chapter is generally about fighting don’t buy if you’re not interested
On the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month, Gu Yun secretly sent envoys to ‘visit’ the Dongying and Nanyang islands. So far, the front line had been on a stalemate for more than three months. Some fronts had been expanded under the constant struggle of both sides, the flame of war had spread from Jiangbei to the thirteen counties in Jiangnan, even to Guangdong and Guangxi.
A large number of people who refused to abandon their ancestors’ land and cross the river began to form their own militia. Although the common folk mechanics did not have Ziliujin, they tried every way to replace it with coal and explosive powder as fuel, and forged a number of less fancy military equipment in various ways.
These equipment did not have much variety, hence Ling Shu Institute announced the establishment of many branches all over the country to exchange and teach technologies outside of the highly confidential military type.
The far-reaching impact of the war also gradually emerged.
Fang Qin never thought that it wasn’t the Yan Wang Party that would break the peace in the court, but the pure officials of the two courts——
Great Liang’s Autumn Examination hosted once every three years happened this year. Because of the war, it was interrupted in the middle, then continued to be delayed for some time; only until January did the names of the people who passed were released, gathered into a “Plum List”, which was nicknamed “Moldy List” by scholars all over the country.
*”Plum(梅)” and “Mold(霉)” are homophones, both pronounced as méi
Less than three days after the announcement, a scholar in Shaanxi Province committed suicide. The officials dared not let troubles happen at this key moment, trying their best not to report it to the superiors. However, suppressing it for a few days, when the grand meeting of the imperial court was dismissed, someone stopped at the gate of the imperial platform wanting to report it to the emperor.
This was a long story.
Yan Wang went to Jiangnan twice, cut off countless heads, and issued the most severe administrative governance* to date, which made the serious and ever-growing problem of corruption in Great Liang from the Yuan He Dynasty to decline for a while. In these few years of war, even the Imperial Palace was tightening the spending, the official salaries had to be reduced again and again, plus the Feng Huo tickets had made it worse, being closely linked with the assessment of the administrative governance; it was no different than closing the source but opening the outlet. The life of officials had never been so difficult in the past hundreds of years.
*in an administrative governance(吏治), the ministers and other members of the court are merely civil servants who can only implement policy, but not make them
There was a saying: it was easy to go from poverty to extravagance, but difficult the other way around. When it involves the large possessions of gold and silver, no one would care about ‘everyone is responsible for the rise and fall of the country’.
But even if life was difficult, there’s no other way. No one dared to receive gifts. Everyone knew that Yan Wang was behind the rich merchants, receiving something incorrectly would perhaps turn the gift into a life-claiming token. No one dared to dip their hands in the military expenses. The taxes after the reform was also impossible to touch, and there was no need to mention the relief funds for natural disasters, the heads of Yang Rong Gui and his party had yet to become bones.
Fortunately, this year’s Autumn Examination was not at the point of attention. The whole country was busy fighting the war and earning money, no one cared about these useless scholars, thus someone immediately came up with a vile scheme.
As a result, pulling out the radish dragging the mud with it, implicating a big fraud case involving nine provinces, shocking the whole country.
Fang Qin managed to press down many shit-stirring sticks around him with difficulty; he had yet to enjoy a few days of peace, but was already covered with papers from the two courts falling like snow.
Those pure officials were different from the Yan Wang Party: the Yan Wang party had always been pragmatic and had a purpose for all their activities, they fought for power in an orderly manner, many of their actions could be predictable; but these ‘clean’ people, who have eyes higher than the top of their heads, regarded fame and wealth as garbage, were all ‘revealing crimes simply for the sake of revealing crimes’ — this was something they did. Their personal fame was closely related to the number of people they personally dragged down.
The young masters and nobles rarely ever entered these two courts, thus a majority of these monsters came from poor students, and what the fraud in this imperial examination touched was also the interest of poor students.
The mad dogs in the two courts who haven’t bitten anyone in a long time seemed to have their tails stepped on, barking loudly. They screamed and scolded in a variety of ways every day, forcing Li Feng to investigate strictly; it seemed as if they were not satisfied with the investigation, they would line up and knock their heads on the column in the middle of the court to die altogether for the emperor to see.
The brief and false peace was broken.
Nine provincial officials, there was no telling how many intricate relationships were involved in it, even including Fang Qin’s good for nothing younger brother.
The youngest child and the eldest grandson were the raison d’être of an old man. Even Grand Scholar Fang, who no longer care about the world for a long time, was shocked. Fang Qin could turn faces with anyone, but not with his own father, his mind was in an entangled mess.
But without waiting for Fang Qin to think of a solution, this time, not knowing whether it was intentional or not, the emperor directly jumped over Da Li temple and the inspector’s office and sent this case to the Grand Council instead, letting Jiang Chong lead the investigation, the others could only cooperate.
Paper could no longer contain fire.
Although Fang Qin was born into a rich family, before, he always harbored the hope of being able to shine bright for generations and therefore refused to throw away his dignity and commit dirty deeds with his party. For this reason, he first abandoned Lu Chang, who dared to intimidate him, then abandoned the old fool, Wang Guo. At present, he was finally at the point where he could no longer abandon any one — his mother was still bedridden in the next door.
After appeasing this person and explaining to the other, when Lord Fang left the door, there was still a group of people waiting for him to make a decision. He was in a state of anxiety. Just after one night, there were two bleeding blisters on the corner of his mouth. After accompanying his old crying mother, Fang Qin heard that another was coming. He rubbed between his brows and coldly said, “Just say I’m not at home, send them away.”
The servant retreated quietly; just then, an adviser came up and whispered, “Is something troubling Master Fang?”
Fang Qin sent him an angry look. Fortunately, with his excellent self-control, he soon hid his gloomy expression and said slowly: “The scholar rebelled unsuccessfully for three years. This time, from when the accident occurred to reporting to the imperial state of the capital, it all happened too fast. It was almost as if someone was assisting… that Li Min’s outward appearance was all clear and bright, only daring to stab people under the table. This kind of person with a kind face but a dark heart could only deceive the emperor. “
The adviser asked again, “Does Master have a plan in mind?”
Fang Qin was currently very irritated — if he knew ahead of time, even if it’s only one day ahead, there’s still a little room for maneuver. But the speed of the outbreak was too fast. The emperor knew earlier than him, which directly put Fang Qin into a very difficult situation.
Fang Qin sighed: “It is very tricky, Yan Wang‘s type is of tigers and wolves. Once he catches the prey’s neck, he won’t let it go again.”
“I heard that His Highness Yan Wang‘s reform has not been completely finished, and there are hundreds of disputes in the court. I think he is too hasty. This step is how his intelligence backfired at him.”
Fang Qin stopped his steps, he could see that the man next to him was beating around the bush with the intention of baiting him. Fang’s Manor raised a lot of advisers, but most of them could only accompany the old scholar Fang in playing chess. There were few who had the intellect to open their mouths in front of Fang Qin. It’s rare to be able to seize a chance, of course, the adviser would want to let himself be known.
Fang Qin reached out and stroked his beard: “Why did you say so?”
Seeing the opportunity came, the adviser quickly poured out the previously prepared words: “Now that it has come to this, I’m afraid there’s no chance to rebuttal the case. Why don’t we dig to the root and directly try to abolish the new official law of Yan Wang?”
Fang Qin originally assumed he had wise ideas. Hearing this, he cut off the flickering hope in his heart and coldly said, “Cheating in the imperial examination is a serious crime of beheading and losing position no matter the dynasty. What does it have to do with old and new official laws?”
The adviser smiled calmly and said: “My Lord, a greedy person is a greedy person, a cheater is a cheater; but now, it’s involved nine provinces and countless important ministers, could this still be a coincidence? The emperor will also think that there must be some reasons behind it. How could these officials be so vicious? Because these two years are really not easy to live, the refugees must be settled, the taxes must be paid, the military expenditure must be spent, and the quota of the Feng Huo tickets must be completed.”
Fang Qin’s brow slightly moved: “The circulation of Feng Huo tickets can be equated with gold and silver, the regulations had been set after the Jiangnan accident. What are you planning to say?”
“It can be equated with gold and silver in circulation, but it doesn’t mean it can be equated with gold and silver when handing over to the imperial court,” said the adviser, shaking his head. “Moreover, there are many rich businessmen who migrated from the south to Jiangbei, the people’s civilization there is relatively premature, but the Central Plains to the northwest are not the same. If they don’t accept it, they won’t accept it. If the government used force, they will have a chance of running into the commoners who cry and threaten to hang themselves. If something goes wrong, the imperial court has to ask who is responsible? Who is prone to blame and who are the ones that walk on ice? Master, think about it. If you really dare to make this bet, there may be room for salvage. Even if the Third Master is punished and dismissed of his position, as long as the power of the Fang family is still there, who can say he won’t be able to rise again in the future?”
Fang Qin listened and was silent.
The adviser said in a low voice, “My Lord, it’s hard to know what will happen in the future. We’re looking forward to the end of the war to turn over the old debt. Of course, Yan Wang‘s side would also predict this. Don’t say ‘not fighting is fighting’. If you don’t take the initiative to move, you can only be forced to die by them — this follower had said too much today, Master, please pardon me, I will take my leave.”
On the sixteenth of the twelfth lunar month, when the governor of Shaanxi government, one of the masterminds involved in the case, was tried, he was really crying out in court that his jurisdiction was poor and weak, thus it was difficult to promote the Feng Huo tickets, so the local government could only buy by it themselves. The court also sent down three decrees of quota in succession, unable to fulfill them, they could only borrow from everywhere, yet there was no real income, they had to make such a lowly decision.
As soon as these words came out, it was a stone that stirred up a thousand waves. All the guilty ministers all spoke of the same and pulled down Yan Wang‘s party that was originally watching from the sideline. Some even spilled nonsense: Cheating in the imperial examination was equal to selling and buying position, then linking the official reform with the Feng Huo tickets, was that any different from selling position?
This new year has passed by in a scuffle, no one had the peace of mind to eat dumplings.
At the end of the day, the Grand Council had to write an apology letter, officially announced the abolition of the laws that involved the Feng Huo tickets in the new official reform, and suspended the sale of the Feng Huo tickets for the time being.
However, with the war going on, to prevent the imperial court to once again falling in a situation of having no money available, the Grand Council took the opportunity to put forward the idea of stopping the official casting of silver, following the Westerners’ policy of ‘jiaozi*’ in the occupied land and the previous dynasty, let the Bank of Long An issue a special type of ‘temporary silver’ to use in place of gold and silver coins, and drew up a series of new regulations, sending together with the apology letter.
As long as the new regulations were feasible, everyone had no opinion on whether it was ‘iron jiaozi‘ or ‘paper tongbao**”, but it could never be controlled by the Grand Council.
*A type of paper money issued in Sichuan in the Song dynasty.
**tongbao: A way to call coin money.
So at this time, the steam rail that was about to be formed had unexpected problems.
The north and south sections have been basically connected, only the middle section was left. If they were connected, the work will be completed. However, the last section had been delayed for more than a month and dared not start construction. The problem laid on the land.
Most of the land along the line had been reserved, but it was impossible for such a long area of land to be all without an owner. If it was private property, it will be bought at market price by the Canal Office. At the same time, it would give some other subsidies, such as tax relief and so on. There were also people not willing to sell their ancestral property, thus the court will rent it instead and write down the lease and pay the rent every year.
Since the year of Yuan He dynasty, the government of Great Liang had paid attention to being a benevolent government, strict with civil and military officials, but very polite to common villagers. Because of this politeness, there was a fatal omission in this lease — it only stated the lease term, not what would happen if the original owner no longer wanted to rent.
They didn’t expect that someone would destroy the imperial court’s agreement.
And the last part of the road happened to be a large piece of rented land. The original owner was a major landlord, doing other businesses in his family. They had already come to an agreement; although the construction had not reached this place, the rent has been paid.
Unexpectedly, the man suddenly repented and returned all the money without missing a coin. Although this person had no official position, the force behind him was powerful and large, closely related to family of Imperial Duke Zhao. As soon as he retreated, no one dared to slap his face. He completely avoided the Canal Office’s people coming to see him, hence it was too late for the steam rail to change its course, they had to make a big circle to go around it.
Due to the stagnation of the steam rail, Gu Yun wrote several letters asking for the completion date. At last, he sent it straight to Li Feng and said that the materials on the front line could not keep up, if this continued, he would be forced to shrink the front line.
Fang Qin’s youngest brother hadn’t cleaned himself up yet. At this time, Grand Scholar Fang finally expressed his clear dissatisfaction with his son’s ‘excessive worry’ and ‘lack of skill’, and began to make his move.
The man who was once the examination teacher of half the court did two things at the same time.
First of all, he secretly met with the foreign affairs official of the imperial court who made contact with the Western envoys. He suggested that the national strength of Great Liang might not be enough to support the long-term war with the Westerners at this time. If they fought on like this, it would only be a waste of resources, hurting both sides. The great achievement did not fall on the butcher in battle, but the one who could eventually promote peace treaty, the one who could return peace to the nation.
The foreign affairs officer, once a student of Grand Scholar Fang, asked cautiously, “Teacher, if the emperor is determined to fight, how can we, as subjects, be able to push him?”
“It depends on how you talk to the Westerners.” Grand Scholar Fang’s appearance bore the aura of someone who practiced cultivation, speaking with deep meaning, “What they want is nothing more than benefits. Do you think they are willing to continue to fight with Gu Yun to the death, or are they willing to step back and cooperate with our court’s pro-peace faction to achieve an early armistice and mutual friendship? The emperor and the court want dignity. If the foreigners really are sincere and will save them faces, we won’t be stingy, is that not right? Without the frontline battle as an excuse, I don’t believe the emperor will let Yan Wang continue to do as he pleases.”
Sending away the foreign affairs officer who seem to had just woke up from his dream, he then asked his wife to invite someone — it was Emperor Long An’s nanny, who was once very well looked after by his wife after she left the palace to retire.
Li Feng loved his nanny very much. He was originally talking to Chang Geng about business; hearing that the nanny delivered the plaque asking to enter the palace to visit the sick queen, he hurriedly instructed Chang Geng and rushed to the back palace.
Chang Geng left the palace slowly. The whole palace was shrouded in the sunset. The gold glint on thousands of glazed tiles disappeared in the hue. There was a little ice slag on the edge, which was not easy to detect, appearing very cold and distant.
The weather was so cold, yet the capital was so hot.
In recent days, the front line had become more and more tense, Gu Yun’s letters have also been reduced. The rambling chatter was almost gone. There were only a few private letters occasionally, containing only a few words.
Chang Geng slowly breathed out and stood under the red wall for a while, thinking, “The day after tomorrow is the sixteenth day of January.”
However, the mist that engulfed the country still has not seen signs of being dispelled.
Although that result was getting closer and closer in his step-by-step planning, he was still in a state of panic every once in a while.
At this time, a team of guards passed by, saw him, and hurriedly came forward to greet: “Your Highness.”
Chang Geng did not say a word, staring at the guards for a moment, then as if struck by a spell, he immediately walked away.
“I want to see Gu Zi Xi,” he thought, “Right now.”