The ocean breeze in March was exceptionally gentle in Danzhou. Spring was in the air; an unknown breed of yellow flowers littered the mountains, and every household was using the petals from this flower to brew tea. People can be seen chatting outside their houses while they enjoy the tea. A light, clear fragrance could be detected as one strolls along the streets of Danzhou. It was neither too faint nor too overwhelming, and it certainly cheered one’s mood.
But the rain came when night fell, penetrating the night along with the breeze and nourishing the earth soundlessly. Every ebony eave and bluestone road in Danzhou was covered with a misty film of water.
The tiny droplets of rain fell gently upon the tarpaulin of the grocery stall. There was not much sound from the impact and the rain merely washed off the thin layer of dust that was gathering, making the stall look much cleaner than before. However, the grocery stall was not open today. Fan Xian had informed the Old Madam beforehand and stole away secretly to the stall. He was scoffing down peanuts and enjoying wine with Five-Bamboo.
The servants from the Count’s Manor knew that he enjoy visiting the grocery stall, but they all presume it was because the young master was fond of the wine that was brewed by the blind man. While it was true that Fan Xian was really fond of good wine, Fan Xian also needed an excuse to meet Five-Bamboo. Although their interaction was not really a secret, it was better to be careful lest people find out the true reason for their meetings.
The vegetable knife was left on the chopping board. The chopping board was dry and the edge of the blade was also free from scraps of vegetables; it seems like it has not been used for a very long time now.
The cracking sound of the peanut shells echoed. Fan Xian popped one into his mouth and chewed slowly until it became a smooth and fragrant paste. He grabbed the small ceramic cup that was about three thumbs wide (Seriously, is there even a need to describe cups like that? ~MCM), placed it upon his lips and washed down everything in a gulp.
It was not rice wine today; it was tribute wine (No idea what this is though ~MCM) sent from the Capital. He was not in a hurry to ask questions. He knew that Uncle Five-Bamboo was a simple person and would not let him wait too long.
the concentration was slightly greater, Fan Xian got the same feeling as he did from drinking Wuliangye. (It’s a type of wine in China made of five different grains ~MCM)
Five-Bamboo did not sit directly opposite him. He was situated at a dark corner of the room with a bowl of rice wine in his hand. Eventually, he spoke faintly.
“The Mistress’ full name was Ye Qing Mei (I’ll be using the direct hanyu for this. I get that Ye could be Ip in Cantonese, but hey, I’m not Canton. ~MCM). I was a servant in her household. Many years ago, the Mistress and I left the house…”
“Ye Qing Mei…” Fan Xian felt an inexplicable warmth when he first heard his mother’s name. He smiled gently and drank another cup of wine and did not ask where home was. If Five-Bamboo was willing to, he will eventually tell him.
“We stayed in the Eastern Yi City for a few years. The Mistress was naturally gifted and was also a compassionate soul. When she was fifteen, she started a business in the Eastern Yi City. She was too young at that time, however. She could only let the shopkeeper pretend to be the owner while she worked behind the scenes.
Fan Xian stopped the wine cup in his hand in mid-drink, and could not help but ask, “What does starting businesses have to do with being compassionate?” He was not really curious about why his mother was such a genius or how she was able to start a business at a mere age of 15. All these years, he had already deduced that, when it comes to his mother, no logical explanation can be used on such a person.
Five-Bamboo coolly replied, “Because the Mistress was sympathetic towards people who were suffering, she would often do charity. When the Eastern Yi City was flooded, the one who opened the most soup kitchens was the Mistress. In order to do charity, you would need a lot of capital. That was why the Mistress decided to find a way to earn money.” (That is the most convoluted excuse to start a business I’ve ever heard ~MCM)
Fan Xian nodded and could not fault this logic.
“When the business began to prosper, there were eventually some who discovered that the person working behind the scenes was the Mistress and began to plot. Of course, these people were killed by me later on.” (Well that escalated quickly ~MCM)
Though the way Five-Bamboo put it was casual, Fan Xian knew that the situation at that time must have been rather dire. Since Uncle Five-Bamboo had said that the business was good, that must mean that it should be really prosperous. As the saying “wealth breeds misfortune” goes – a fifteen year old girl who possess such a large fortune must have attracted a lot of attention from the unpleasant scum of society. However, when he remembered that his mother had one of the most complete fighters in the world as a bodyguard, he relaxed. (The actual line, when hard-translated, goes “Fan Xian then allowed his inexplicably tensed heart to relax” which was kind of weird, but captures the finer points of the sentence since it mentions that his fears were unfounded. Just sayin’ ~MCM)
(Besides, his mum was a ball buster anyway. ~MCM)
He suddenly recalled something important and frowned. “Mum’s surname was Ye. Does that mean that the business that was open was the one that belonged to the Ye Family?”
“Wow, so it really was the Ye Family!” Fan Xian’s face was full of surprise, “I’ve heard of that name before. It was said that, ten years ago, the Ye Family was the largest corporation in the world. I wouldn’t have thought that that was the enterprise Mum set up.”
“I do not know the actual scale of the business the Ye Family set up.” Five-Bamboo said calmly, “That was not under my job scope. The Mistress felt that I had killed too many people and thus decided to end the business in the Eastern Yi City and came to the Qing Nation to start anew in the Capital.”
Fan Xian believed that the situation might not have been as simple as it seemed. There must have been a bigger reason behind liquidating all her assets in the Eastern Yi City and coming to the Qing Nation.
happening. That day, I was not at the Capital and the allies the Mistress could rely on were also held back…… the Five-Bamboo continued, “When the mistress arrived at the Capital, she started a new business and also did well. She then made acquaintance of a few people, including the Southernland Count. Everyone seemed to listen to her and followed her ideas to do and change certain things. Eventually she fell into a conflict of interest against the nobility and royalty of the Qing nation.
Five-Bamboo hesitated, before saying, “There was one time that the Qing Nation was having a war with the western nations. The Capital’s defenses were lacking and something big was happening and Mistress was assassinated by the people sent by the nobles and royalty. When I rushed back, it was too late and I could only rescue you. Afterwards, I carried you back to Danzhou.”
Fan Xian was very clear about this situation and also remembered clearly how the “villains” from ten years ago were massacred. The ones who exacted the vengeance must have been related to the cheap old fart and the Director of the EBI. (Empire’s Bureau of Investigation ~MCM)
In the long stretch of silence, the pitter patter of raindrops rang clearly from outside the grocery stall.
“Oh, that’s it?” Fan Xian frowned and asked. So was that all there is to know about his mother’s life? What about her business? What had she done to have incurred the ire of the royalty in the Qing nation? Why does the infamous EBI agent, Teacher Fei Jie always speak of his mother with such great respect?”
“The general details…… were all there”,(bruh can't he say anything else-BlackHammer) Five-Bamboo was careful with his words.
Fan Xian sighed when he realized that Uncle Five-Bamboo was not a good story-teller. He smiled bitterly and knew he had to do the asking himself.
“What business was my mother doing?”
“Luxury goods, ordinance, shipping, food related commodities – basically anything that made money.”
Even though Five-Bamboo was casual about it, Fan Xian was flabbergasted the moment he heard those words. Because he had two life-time worth of experience, he knew that usually, only those who have powerful allies can dabble in such businesses. It was horrifying to think that his mother, who was merely a little girl at that time, could raise her business to such a degree…
“And what happened to the business after mother died?” This was the question Fan Xian was most curious about. According to the law in the Qing Nation, he might be the sole claimant of such a large inheritance.
“I heard that the Ye Family’s business was all nationalized under the Qing Nation.” (That’s what I think they meant anyway ~MCM)
Fan Xian laughed bitterly and shook his head; so it all belonged to the Royal family now. Perishing the thought of settling his case in court for his inheritance, he smiled and said, “The name ‘Ye Qing Mei’ must have been quite the topic in those days. I heard that when Mum first arrived in the Capital, she gave the Capital’s garrison guard Captain a sound beating.”
The oil lamp in the room flickered. Five-Bamboo seemed to be lost in his thoughts when he heard Fan Xian’s words. After a while, the corners of his lips seemed to twitch, and he had a warm and gentle smile.
Fan Xian’s wrist stiffened and the small ceramic cup dropped onto the table. “He… he smiled!”