Deng Jinghe also heard Qian Manguan’s emotional sentence. His eyes flashed, but he didn’t answer.
The woman from the brothel who had poisoned Deng Qian had run away and had not yet been found. Even if Deng Qian was unaware of danger, Qian Manguan knew him. He was an extremely cautious person, otherwise, it would be impossible for this man who was causing trouble everywhere to live in peace until now. If there was no help or instructions behind the brothel woman, it was absolutely impossible for Deng Qian to be caught in a trap. And after this woman had done this, she could still run away immediately and couldn’t be found.
On the surface, there seemed to be nothing wrong with the Deng family’s business at present, but Qian Manguan knew that Deng Qian was quite dictatorial in business, and the entire Deng family was his monopoly. Although his son from the main wife was cultivated by him as an heir, the pulse of the Deng family’s business was still tightly held in Deng Qian’s hands. He consciously felt that he was in his prime, and he was a bit conceited, so no one else could interfere.
Now that this man had fallen, it meant that the backbone was suddenly gone. Over time, the overall blow to the Deng family would be no less than that to the Qian family.
“I said this to Uncle Qian because I trust Uncle Qian,” Deng Jinghe sighed. “Other people don’t know yet and there’s no need for me to say more about what’s at stake, right?”
When Qian Manguan heard this, his anger dissipated quickly. He looked worried, sighed, and said, “Both of our families have suffered from this disaster, what can we do? How could I know that Fu Zhiyu who seemed so inconspicuous suddenly could do so many things? You say, if the two of us go to him together, can he let us go?”
Deng Jinghe didn’t answer. He thought for a while and asked another question: “Who came up with the original idea?”
“Hey,” Qian Manguan was a little embarrassed to mention this matter now, “No one came up first… that is, it just clicked.”
The power in the hands of the King of Jiangnan could be described as a gold mine, but he did nothing, making people jealous when they looked at it.
Naturally, the Yuan family among the four great merchants would definitely not join them, but if the remaining three families united their forces, they could cover the sky with one hand in Jiangnan. At that time, they thought that after such a big pressure there was no way Fu Zhiyu wouldn’t be softened.
“The Lin family refused to join in, and the talks collapsed. Alas, you also know your Uncle Lin, who is very old-fashioned,” Qian Manguan said. “In the end, there were only two of us left. Look, did we do something big? It was just a test first, and it didn’t kill him. What’s more, nothing even happened in the end. Why should he rush to kill us like this?”
Qian Manguan couldn’t help being a little angry when he said this, but Deng Jinghe lowered his head and smiled, saying, “One shouldn’t have thought of this in the first place. Now we are counterattacked by others and blame others for being too much. Uncle Qian, this doesn’t make sense.”
“Ugh!” Qian Manguan became even more angry when he heard this, “Which side are you taking?”
Deng Jinghe waved his hand, motioned to him to take it easy, and said, “To be honest, didn’t Uncle Qian just come out of Wang Zhao’s mansion without getting anything? For one thing, he is still angry, and for another, maybe we really didn’t get to the point either.”
After Qian Manguan heard it, he thought for a while; it made a bit of sense, and he asked, “Does my virtuous nephew have some way?”
Qian Manguan actually rarely communicated with Deng Jinghe. He had long known that this man wasn’t favoured in the backyard of the Deng family; but now something happened and he looked the calmest. He didn’t panic at all, as if Deng Qian’s bad luck this time was exactly what he wanted.
“I don’t have any way. You see, my own family is in chaos,” Deng Jinghe smiled and said, “I remember, Uncle Qian is also considered to have some friendship with the Yuan family, right?”
Fu Zhiyu hadn’t figured out what was going on, and while he wouldn’t relent, the Qian family had turned to the Yuan family and begged them.
Although the four families competed with each other, they still maintained a superficial peace. Yuan Jiangwen was also embarrassed by this trouble, but it was Fu Zhiyu’s business, and he naturally couldn’t ask him to be forgiving.
But it wasn’t a good idea to keep excusing himself, and in the end it was Yuan Lu who went to see Qian Manguan instead of his father.
To put it into perspective, the four families had helped and favoured each other, and the fact that Yuan Jiangwen avoided seeing him was a clear indication of his attitude. He was looking to Fu Zhiyu and would certainly not help at this juncture.
Yuan Lu came and exchanged pleasantries with Qian Manguan, but in fact, he was a bit absent-minded.
Qian Manguan could see it, but there was nothing he could do about it.
Time passed day by day, and Chen was thousands of miles away. God knows what other accidents could happen. Qian Manguan didn’t care how much money he paid now, he just wanted to get his son back, so he racked his brains to get close to Yuan Lu.
“Dear nephew, look, the Deng family offended you some time ago, but my Qian family didn’t, right? We have always been friends. When you were a child, I hugged you. Your brother Mingchong bought you candy. You can’t just watch him die like this, right?”
Yuan Lu didn’t remember whether Qian Mingchong had bought him candy, but he knew the reason why his cousin didn’t want to see this man. The whole Yuan family knew about the incense burner incident on the day of the sacrifice.
He was happy to see the Deng and Qian family down on their luck, but when Yuan Lu finished dismissing Qian Manguan and turned back to Fu Zhiyu to hear what he meant, he didn’t see a happy look on Fu Zhiyu’s face.
“It wasn’t my doing,” Fu Zhiyu said, “nor is it under my control. In the short term, it seems to have taken the heat off of me, but on reflection, it is not that simple.”
Yuan Lu understood and asked him cautiously, “Does Cousin have any suspicions in mind?”
“Yes,” Fu Zhiyu was silent for a moment and added, “If the Qian family comes looking for you, just procrastinate, wait and see.”
The Qian family didn’t get the slightest assurance from Yuan Lu, and after a few days, something happened to the Deng family again.
“Yesterday, a shopkeeper of the Deng family in Yongzhou ran away with money,” Yuan Lu gossiped with Fu Zhiyu while nibbling on melon seeds. “He probably received the news that Deng Qian was unconscious. The funny thing is that the Deng family’s business is too big. There are several sets of accounts in the shop. Deng Qian is not there and the people left by the Deng family can’t even tell how much money the shopkeeper took away.”
Deng Qian’s accident could be concealed for a while but it couldn’t be concealed for a lifetime. The man used to hang out all day long, but now he hadn’t appeared for so many days in a row. If you talked about waiting out a storm, it had been for too long. After thinking about it a little bit, you could figure out that something was wrong.
The shopkeeper who ran away was like opening a floodgate. Such a big thing happened but Deng Qian hadn’t come. It was Deng Jinghe who came to clean up the mess. Any interested person would notice that.
The first thing Fu Zhiyu did was to deal with the governor of Luanzhou, and then the Deng and Qian families interfered, trying to persuade him to return the governor but didn’t succeed. Now the Deng and Qian families were down on their luck, and it was impossible not to connect it to Fu Zhiyu.
What was the origin of this King of Jiangnan?
Fu Zhiyu knew all kinds of speculation from the outside. He was still looking through the Luanzhou documents. The more he looked at it, the more he felt shocked, trying to learn more about Jiangnan, with Luanzhou as the centre.
Although this area of Jiangnan was known for its wealth, outsiders only saw the surface of the wealthy merchants throwing money around, but in reality, it was only a small group of people at the top who had money, while the people at the bottom were still living in misery.
Take the Qian family as an example; their silks, not to mention the top of the range, just the regular fabrics in the shop were for the ladies of the landlord families who had some money, and would be sold for ten taels of silver per bolt of cloth. But the weavers at the bottom, who worked day and night to make this kind of cloth, could only earn fifty wen, and the money in the middle was earned by the wealthy merchants.
In fact, the family that could make money by their own craftsmanship was already pretty good. The women in the family were diligent and could make one bolt of cloth in five days. Earning fifty wen could allow a family of three to eat for ten days. But there were more people in Jiangnan who were struggling for food in the fields, suffering rent from the landlords and, depending on the will of Heaven, if a bad year came, starving to death was nothing unusual.
Generally speaking, Jiangnan was indeed much better than other places. After all, it was a fertile land, a famous land of fish and rice. But it was a fact that the gap between the rich and the poor was serious. What was hidden under the surface of prosperity was indeed shocking.
Fu Zhiyu didn’t know what to say. He didn’t mean to drag out the matters of the Deng and Qian families. In fact, seeing these two families like this, most of the anger in his heart had subsided. He wasn’t a vindictive person. Now his anger was replaced by another mood.
For him, was it really right to leave things alone?
He began to feel confused; sometimes holding the document in his hand, he couldn’t help but stare at it for a long time.
After Fu Yanran became the emperor, he actually did a very good job. Although many people at court knew that he was actually the puppet emperor of the Xie family, the Xie family wasn’t incompetent, nor did it act in a domineering manner.
Fu Yanran, Xie Lin, and Shen Yang, who took office as Prime Minister, were all three extremely sober people, and they all had ambitions. What’s more, Shen Yang was reborn, and he knew what he was doing.
Taking advantage of this big change, Jilin’s officialdom had also undergone a lot of changes. Corrupt appointments were replaced, the victims of oppression and those with meritorious deeds rose, and taxes were lowered one after another. Fu Zhiyu could see the situation getting better and better. In the past three years, he had always felt that he was free from the outside world, content to feel that none of this had anything to do with him.
But now that the wealthy merchants made a move on him, he woke up.
Yes, now the Deng and Qian families had suffered inexplicably. If he let go now, the barbarians and Chen would let go too; after all, it was very likely that they were doing this at the behest of that person.
After this incident, no one in Jiangnan would dare to touch him. Fu Zhiyu could live a carefree life after establishing his authority, as he had planned before. With this lesson from the past, no one would dare to disturb him again for at least a few years.
But… after reading these documents, could he really care about nothing?
Fu Zhiyu originally just wanted to get some understanding first. After all, he drove the former governor out of office; he was going to learn about the situation in Luanzhou and Jiangnan and find someone he could trust to be the governor, keeping an eye on him from time to time, considering himself responsible for the consequences.
But now he looked at these things and couldn’t help but think more and more.