Sha Po Lang

Chapter 76: Centrifugal

Note: For more accuracy, Military Office will now be referred to as Grand Council. The Grand Council (军机处; literally Office of Military Secrets, or Military and Political Affairs Office) was an important policy-making body during the Qing dynasty ^^


“Our side had dragged the court spinning around,” Gu Yun whispered. “It is time to rest and recuperate.”____

A few days later, the news of the Western Region countries seeking truce came to the capital. After the Grand Council reported to Emperor Long An, discussing urgently for a day, they replied to the Marquis of Order. There were two things that needed to be ensured: first, let the traitors have no power to turn over in the next three to five years, to avoid inner conflict when dealing with the foreigners; second, demand Ziliujin, the more, the better. The danger of the treasury will be relieved temporarily, but the predicament of Ziliujin in Great Liang had not yet been released. All four fronts were encircled, the reason why they chose to act from the west first was because the Black Iron Camp was stationed here, on the other hand, it was because they hoped to solve the Ziliujin problem at the fastest speed.

Other major and minor matters were to be decided by the Marquis as he saw fit.

Yan Wang then entered the Palace to make a brief report on the war and the achievements of the Feng Huo ticket.

Li Feng calculated with his fingers and was almost shocked by how effective the tickets are. He couldn’t help asking, “How come there are so much?”

“It is not surprising either. There are countless people in the court who are eager to give all their wealth. There is no reason for self-preservation at the critical moment. For better or worse, they had provided some of their strength.” Chang Geng first casually flattered him in no hurry and said, “As for the people, there is a saying that ‘merchants purchase leather in summer, silk in winter, boats in a drought and carriage in a flood, waiting for the day where they could sell them for a profit’. People who can become a giant are not small businessmen who only chase small profits in front of their eyes.”

Li Feng quietly pondered for a moment and asked, “According to you, what are they seeking from me?”

Chang Geng said without hesitation: “Businessmen are rich in wealth, but they also need to come and go in the wind and rain. To some extent, they are no better than the peasants who need to assess God’s face to make a living. Sometimes a court decree can make their property collapse, or when meeting with bandits on their business trips, their lives and the lives of their families will not be guaranteed. Now the country is in trouble, the giants from the trading group came forward with Du Wan Quan, the richest man in Jiangnan as their head. On one hand, it is to serve the country, on the other hand, is it not to look for a place of support from Royal Brother?”

Li Feng had listened to many flatteries and was not so easily moved. He gazed at Yan Wang’s hidden meaning with a faint look.

Chang Geng did not let out the bait for too long either, he took advantage of the opportunity to press on: “At the moment, money is needed, the court also plans to issue a second batch of Feng Huo tickets. My brother, you see… should we give these head merchants a little appropriate profit in order to encourage more people to donate their money?”

Li Feng remained silent and looked at Chang Geng with an unusual expression.

Sometimes such things as ‘sincerity’ were only effective in a certain amount of time and would expire without waiting. For example, when the capital city was besieged, Emperor Long An was full of grief, anger, and guilt. He wished he could crash into the mausoleum of his predecessor, and his decision to pass the throne to Chang Geng was sincere.

But perhaps right now, as the situation was stabilizing, his point of view about Chang Geng that was slowly deflecting with each day was also very sincere.

Yan Wang Li Min was only in his early twenties. If he were to be placed in an ordinary family, he would still be a young man who had just begun to learn how to carry household matters. But in a short period of only six months, he had single-handedly eased the danger of Great Liang. At this time, as he was standing in the pavilion quietly, with extraordinary talents, maturity, and stability, it truly made one feel… indescribably envious.

Imagine a supreme ruler, who, just a few years after their accession to the throne, was met with two rebellions, causing irritation to pile up, creating a strange story of the ‘The Northern Camp Rebellion’, becoming a laughing stock for the world. Finally, the mountains and rivers were infected by the iron hooves of foreign countries, civilians being displaced everywhere… and all of this, after going through the lowest point, had begun to improve slowly after Yan Wang entered the palace and took control of the Grand Council —  what would Li Feng feel inside?

How should historians evaluate this period of history after a hundred years?

Li Feng truly did not want to know at all.

Most importantly, Li Min — his fourth brother, was still so young.

Li Feng’s heart was full of gloom, his attitude had also grown cold with him. He said lightly, “There is no place that is not part of the kingdom, they are the children of Great Liang, serving the country and the people. Even if it were to ruin their property, is it not a part of their duty? What other profit would they hope to seek from me? Would that not be the same as buying and selling positions? Where would dignity be!”

Chang Geng was very good at observing words and expressions, meeting Li Feng’s eyes lightly. He immediately understood where the Emperor’s unprovoked indifference came from. Although he was sneering in his heart, his face was shocked and puzzled with no hint of pretense: “Royal…”

Li Feng interrupted him impatiently: “All right! How to reward the understanding righteous folk businessmen, return to the Ministry of Housing and the Ministry of Rites to work out a proper measure, only within the limit, we cannot award and spoil them too much.”

Chang Geng put on a ‘depressed’ face for a while before reluctantly saying “Yes”.

Li Feng looked at him and suddenly, seemed to had unintentionally or intentionally said, “The Ministry of Administration Wei Shu was already of old age. As it happened to rain last night, when he got up early and rushed to court, without paying attention, he had fallen and broke his leg in his home. He was already being seen by the doctor, it seemed to not be very good. His family had brought forth the retirement request to me … in this way, the Minister of Administration will have to be vacant. You are in charge of the Grand Council, A Min, do you have someone to recommend?”

This sentence was a not so clever test, but not clever did not mean ineffective.

For a doubtful person like Li Feng, whether Chang Geng pushed his boat along the river flow, to recommend someone on his side to the position, or if he answered too carefully, both were not what Li Feng hoped to see. The former showed that he was too ambitious, and the latter showed that he was too preoccupied with calculations.

Chang Geng was stunned at first then instinctively blurted out, “What? Something had happened to Master Wei?”

He appeared as if he truly was unaware of this matter.

After blurting out this sentence, Chang Geng seemed to have ‘just returned to his senses’ and found himself answering the wrong questions. He frowned and pondered for a long time and sighed anxiously to Emperor Long An: “This… Royal Brother forgive me, Your subject had been running around for bits of gold and silver these days, I truly had no time to pay attention to anything else. I may not have read the request of the Minister yet. This… the position of a Minister is very important, your subject momentarily could not think of any candidate…”

Li Feng suspected that he intended to stall: “It’s alright, go on.”

Chang Geng stretched out his hand and pressed his furrowed brows. He paused and answered, “In this way, isn’t it better for Royal Brother to publicly appraise in the court, seeking the talented individual?”

Li Feng: “…”

The answer was really unexpected. Li Feng was frightened by Yan Wang‘s unusual means of doing things and was almost led by him. He blurted out, “How should the evaluation be?”

“For example, the official’s resume, his achievements, his merits over the years and so on are all recorded,” Chang Geng paused, changing his voice. “It can also be added whether this person has the criteria of responsibility and righteousness, such as whether they had purchased the Feng Huo ticket or not. Speaking of this, Your subject suddenly was reminded of one thing: in the future, in order for the tickets to work smoothly, would Royal Brother include how much tickets one possessed in the evaluation criteria? This does not count as buying and selling positions, does it?”

Li Feng: “…”

Speaking for half a day, he was led back here again by this kid. Li Feng felt that if he prized off the beautiful head of Yan Wang at this time, the brain inside must have formed into the shape of a gold ingot.

Emperor Long An did not know whether to cry or laugh: “You… such outrageous words!”

Chang Geng could not afford to press on this time, he lowered his voice to apologize, his face dyed with a hint of sorrow unable to be concealed.

After a few sentences of conversation that did not quite meet, Li Feng’s gloomy doubts in his heart were already scattered for the most part, and it seemed that Yan Wang’s aim truly was not in the Minister of Administration.

“Either way,” Li Feng thought, “It could be said that he had done his best.”

Just as this thought came out, his attitude also eased up, he waved to Chang Geng and said, “Alright, you go back first to rest, let me think about it again.”

Chang Geng answered, paid his courtesy and retreated, knowing in his heart that he had overcome this test.

However, just as he was about to exit the pavilion, Li Feng suddenly stopped him.

“Wait a minute, A Min, there’s one more thing,” Li Feng said with a gentle expression, speaking in the tone of discussing family matters:  “Now you’re no longer little, it is not good to be alone all the time. After all, it is time to start a family.”

Chang Geng’s heart jumped.

Li Feng said pleasantly, “The eldest granddaughter of Grand Scholar Fang is seventeen years old. She is waiting to be wed. I heard that this lady has long had a good name. She is a girl of a scholarly family, She must be well educated. Her origin would not be a disgrace to you either, it could be said that you both will make a good couple. Your elder sister-in-law heard about this, she would love to help you more or less take care of this matter. I took it upon myself to ask you this question. If you like it, Royal Brother will initiate for you, how about it?”

This marriage was not only good, but very good — although Fang Hong was a scholar who had been in office for many years, most of the important members of the court still wished to worship him as a teacher. He had three sons in total, each of whom had good foundations, one of them had just taken up the position of the Minister of Housing. Since the years of Yuan He, the noble families had somewhat considered the Fang family to be their lead.

Yet Chang Geng’s expression turned unsightly in an instant.

Li Feng raised his eyebrows, asking: “What’s the matter?”

Chang Geng lifted his robes and knelt down. His face was tense, but he said nothing.

Li Feng asked in surprise: “What are you doing?”

Chang Geng continued to kneel in silence.

No matter how friendly and caring Li Feng could be, he was also the Emperor. When he saw him like this, his face had also changed for the worse. “If there is any dislike about their lady, you can say it, you are Yan Wang, who would be able to force you to get married? Who are you displaying such an expression for?”

“Your subject does not want to,” Chang Geng performed a grand courtesy, his voice also became different: “Elder sister-in-law is like a mother, Her Highness the Empress’s care was wasted on me. My brother should punish me.”

Li Feng frowned and said, “What is the reason? Did you hear that there is something not good about that lady, or did you have another person in your heart? There are no outsiders here, don’t shy away from anyone, you can say it.”

Chang Geng’s eyes swept around the pavilion, stubbornly refusing to squeak, his eyes were slightly red.

Of course, Li Feng was not trying to find a good marriage for Chang Geng, he would never want to watch the Fang and Yan Wang become a family. Mentioning this matter with ingenuity, in truth, it was because he was not finished with his test, but he did not expect to arouse such a fierce emotion from Yan Wang either. At the moment, he had also become quite curious. He signaled for the servants inside to withdraw to the outside and await further command.

There were only the two brothers left in the Pavilion. Li Feng said, “Can you speak now?”

Chang Geng offered him a deep bow, but without saying a word, he slowly opened the collar of the court attire.

Li Feng was surprised, standing up abruptly: “This…”

The young Yan Wang‘s chest was covered with old scars. The most striking and frightening one was a burnt wound, placed very close to his throat, it was quite thin, seeming to have been created by being whipped with a hot fire stick.

“Royal Brother, please forgive my impoliteness.” Chang Geng whispered, his voice carried a tremor that was difficult to detect.

As the shock passed, Li Feng immediately came to a realization. After a moment of being puzzled, he softened his voice and asked: “Was it… the barbarian woman that time?”

Chang Geng’s complexion was pale, he slowly pulled his clothes together again.

The fingers that had drawn the bow and shot an arrow through the head of the Dong Ying’s spy trembled violently. He lowered his eyes and whispered, “Although it is the behavior of a coward to disdain the world for one person’s fault, but…”

He gritted his teeth, his voice breaking involuntarily, bowing to the ground: “Fang family’s lady is gracious and prestigious, deserving of someone who could be a life-long support. Your brother has strange temperament, I truly do not like to be close to another. The matter of marriage… Royal Brother, please never mention it again.”

Li Feng said in astonishment, “What are you saying? You are a prince, how could there be such a thing as never getting married in your whole life?”

Chang Geng said expressionlessly, “Then Your Majesty might as well take back my royal status and let me wander the pugilist world with the monks?”

Li Feng: “…”

Although Yan Wang appeared bright, big-hearted, knowledgeable, and reasonable, but in truth, he could have a lot of petty temper. Moreover, when throwing a fit, he did not cook up a storm either, he had but one sentence: “I am abandoning my duty, find whoever else as you please.”

Li Feng was powerless with him, instantly growing furious and ordering Yan Wang to get out. Yan Wang did not say more either, immediately and obediently getting away.

A keen servant slowly ran up to him and asked, “Your Highness, do you want to go back to the Grand Council?”

Yan Wang did not necessarily go home for ten days to half a month. He almost lived in the Grand Council.

Chang Geng stopped for a moment, his focus scattered, seemingly standing in a daze in one place. The servant did not dare to disturb him, staying on one side silently.

“… No,” Chang Geng whispered. “Go home.”

The old scars on Chang Geng’s body, even Gu Yun had never seen them, he thought it would be a period of time that could not be touched. But unexpectedly today, it had turned to be a tool for him to stall with Li Feng.

The carriage rumbled across the broad and all-rounded bluestone road of the capital. Chang Geng, who closed his eyes to rest, suddenly opened them.

One day, these things would come to a point of being irremediable.

Someday he would use any means, even more than he did now.

But he always felt his heart was not uncomfortable, because each step he took was his own decision, he had long thought about it carefully, there was no regret.

All the way back to the cold and quiet Marquis’s manor, he did not disturb anyone, nor did he eat anything, going directly to Gu Yun’s incomparably clean and simple bedroom to lie down, closed his eyes, as if the light medicinal fragrance were still lingering on the blanket.

More than half a month later, after numerous wrangling arguments in the court, Emperor Long An finally rejected the absurd proposal of Yan Wang that the first people who bought the beacon tickets should have official positions and ranks according to the amount of money they spent.

He only promised to the trading group that once the situation would be stable in the future,  they would open commercial roads escorted by the military, to protect them from thieves and bandits. At this time, the people who bought the Feng Huo tickets could obtain the right to join. No fee was required to qualify for membership.

And more than a month later, a law shocking the government and the countryside came into effect from top to bottom — the Feng Huo ticket was declared an important indicator for the examination of officials.

The blade of a knife, which no one could see at this time, slowly formed into shape.

As soon as this decree came out, the whole world was shocked. The Great Liang court did not treat officials unfairly, salaries were not low. However, the human relations and expenses in the official circles were also high. Especially under Yuan He regency, the national power had been unprecedentedly strong under the iron blood of Emperor Wu, and the extravagant display had somewhat become a trend. At this time, officials were encouraged to buy Feng Huo tickets to reinforce their future.

Would this not be the same as encouraging corruption and fraud?

It had only been a few days, the frontier had caught wind of this.

“Zi Xi!” Shen Yi threw the reins into a personal guard’s hands and charged into the handsome tent. He was about to speak, but as he saw Gu Yun had a platinum glass mirror on his nose, he knew that he had not taken any medicine,  He swallowed the following words back.

Regarding Gu Yun recently, he did not know what had happened. As long as there was no need to see outsiders, he would take the medicine less and less, as if he intended to be a blind and deaf man with a peaceful state of mind.

Shen Yi raised his hand.

Gu Yun instantly said, “No need, you can say it, I also need to practice lip reading.”

Shen Yi sighed: “… Have you heard about the reform of official administration?”

Gu Yun did know lip reading, but these years, he had been relying on drugs, people around him were also considerate of him and used sign language instead, thus he was not so familiar and have to slowly getting accustomed to it. It took a while for him to understand what Shen Yi meant, Gu Yun’s eyebrows slowly wrinkled up, he slowly nodded.

“What is the matter with His Highness Yan Wang? Is he not afraid people will say he is a corrupted official? Even if we can solve the urgent problem for a while, what will we do in the future? Well-known families with money to spare is one thing, will the disciples and students in the country not want to pierce his backbone? You see, he was in charge of the Grand Council alone, already being a large tree easily catching the wind of jealousy, I really…”

Shen Yi’s words were full of worries, as soon as he was worried, his mouth was as fast as a chicken pecking rice, causing Gu Yun to be dizzy looking at him. He could not able to ‘listen’ to more than half of the words, but he understood the last sentence.

Shen Yi: “How is he going to end this in the future?”

Gu Yun was silent.

Shen Yi: “Zi Xi, say something.”

“No more fighting.” Gu Yun made a completely off-base answer.

Shen Yi: “…”

He sighed heavily and suspected that Gu Yun had not ‘heard’ what he had said at all. He thought to himself, “Practice lip language my ass, more like training my lip muscles.”

As Shen Yi was planning to change communication methods, Gu Yun spoke up : “I was a little too impatient and rushed in before, served me right being exploded by them. Fortunately, there is no real danger here, I have been thinking a lot these days… Jia Lai is not a bunch of scraps like those on the West side. I’m afraid there will be several fierce battles on that side. But as we are right now, we do not have enough money to serve as an inspiration — we need to make a more thorough discussion.”

Shen Yi was stunned: “You are planning to…”

“Our side had dragged the court spinning around,” Gu Yun whispered. “It is time to rest and recuperate.”

To be Continued…

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