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 Chapter 23: Sacrifice

Translator: Translation Nation/chuchutrain Editor: - -

- Snail Village

"Congratulations to Slow River County's young master Pei Zi Yun for attaining tenth position in his Elementary Scholar class and bestowing honour upon Slow River County. The days ahead will be filled with good news...."

There had been a bailiff informing the entire county of Pei Zi Yun's success in the examinations. The entire village was full of pride and admiration for their fellow villager. However, those feelings only came about a few days ago. Previously all they knew about him was that he was an outsider who had moved in years ago, and they had no expectations of him. Who would have expected him to excel in the examinations.

It did not matter that he was not a "Zhang", he was still an Elementary Scholar belonging to the village and there would be many advantages of having an Elementary Scholar around. The past few days have been overflowing with gossips and anticipation. The village chief had arranged for the preparation of some dried fruits and desserts. A fat boar had been selected and chained to the kitchen ready for slaughter and was making grunting sounds. There were ducks and chickens being locked up as part of the preparations for the feast as well.

Since refrigerators had not been invented then, the meat would turn bad easily and rapidly. That was why they had not slaughtered the pig, and instead had to wait for his arrival before they could kill it. However, all the necessary preparations had been done.

As for the Pei household, there had been many ladies coming over to the house to help Pei Qian Shi with the errands and saying, "Young master Pei is now an Elementary Scholar, your life from here on will be easy and blessed."

All the work had been done by the other women in the village, and they would not let Pei Qian Shi do any chores.

Since Pei Zi Yun dearly missed his mother and Ye Su'er, he departed the very next day and took the oxcart back to the village. Cao San and Pei Zi Yun were on it, with their belongings behind them and four soldiers following behind.

The ride back was naturally safe from attacks. Way before they even reached the village, people could be seen awaiting their arrival.

"Stop the cart!" Cao San felt something was amissed and ordered. He then jumped out and took a few steps forward before a "woosh" sound was heard as he drew his blade and observed the surroundings intently.

The four soldiers behind, although were archers, drew their knives as well. They were all alert and poised to strike, a fearsome look etched on their faces.

There were a few people in front of them and as they approached, Pei Zi Yun recognized them as fellow villagers. Pei Zi Yun hurriedly explained, "Leader Cao, these are people of my village. It seems like they are here to welcome us home."

As soon as this was said, Cao San took another look before retrieving his blade, the four soldiers imitating him.

The country is indeed developing fast, even the archers are this alert and proficient. Pei Zi Yun looked on at the approaching villagers and was secretly overjoyed. As soon as they realized it was indeed him, they started cheering with happiness. "Er Tiao, hurry run back to the village and report the news. Tell them that master Pei has returned and that they should kill the boar now." "I will go now!" Er Tiao was a young teenager, who looked at Pei Zi Yun with envy and began his return to the village.

The oxcart moved at a gradual pace all the way till the village. They were greeted by the sight of the village chief and villagers elders along with the ordinary citizens all at the mud wall welcoming them. As soon as they saw the new Elementary Scholar approaching they shouted, "Release the fire crackers!"

The racket of the fire crackers were unrelenting and created a loud background noise. Many infants and young children clutched at their mother's chest in fear, sticking out their tiny heads with eyes wide open. There were several older children who tried their hardest to squeeze their way in front to greet the Elementary Scholar, but were yanked by their ears by their mother to return back home.

Amidst the clamour, a village elder took Pei Zi Yun by the hand and showered him with praises. He told Pei Zi Yun that years ago, when his mother and himself had arrived at the village, this elder saw them and knew that they were special, he then casted his vote in favour of allowing them to stay.

With all the noise outside, Pei Zi Yun wanted to go home. He saw the village chief give the order for the slaughter of the boar. The boar, realizing that its final moments were near, gave a last struggle before it was killed. The aunts of the village then gathered all the poultry and fishes and started their preparations.

Not long after, the slaughter of fishes and chickens along with the cooking of meat filled the entire village with a delicious aroma. Someone then asked the village chief, "Third uncle, is it worth it to sacrifice and prepare such a feast for this Elementary Scholar?"

"Asshole, the son of this Pei household is only fifteen years old and might become a High Scholar in future, who would dare to offend him?"

"Besides, even with a mere Elementary Scholar status, our village stands to gain in many areas."

"How do we stand to gain, the tax evasions are only applicable to him. The Pei household are outsiders, and in recent years more people surnamed Pei have moved to our village too. Why would they share their benefits with us!"

"I told you that you're an idiot, but you refuse to believe me. The county sends down a tax collector periodically and exploited the fact that we do not have an academic in our midst. Now that our village has an Elementary Scholar, we can save a great deal."

"We now have access to additional labour when he requests for it to the imperial courts, conflict resolution and are able to lodge complaints, yet you choose to fret over the small expenses!"

"And look, upon returning to the village the Elementary Scholar has even brought home patrolling soldiers!" The village chief then turned his attention to the person who had just walked through the door, "You over there, where is the Elementary Scholar now?"

"He has gone home."

Although the background noise produced was loud, the village did not have the means to hire a band to make music. Pei Qian Shi had known of her son's arrival long ago, and rushed out to meet him.

Seeing her son who had lost some weight, she felt a stab in her heart as tears rolled down her face.

Upon finally seeing his mother, he thought of the hardships his mother warned him about before he left. Knowing that his mother was looking forward to hearing the good news about obtaining the Elementary Scholar status from himself, he whipped out a document from within his inner shirt.

"Mother, take a look!"

Pei Qian Shi received the document with trembling hands as she read the words. Flipping it over to the next page, it was the official document indicating that Pei Zi Yun had obtained Elementary Scholar status. There was a huge stamp of the capital and the ministry of education. There was even the stamp of the county acknowledging its legitimacy. Pei Qian Shi smiled and blushed as she said, "My son, my son... I have waited many years for this, and the day has finally arrived."

"Follow me to our house as we thank our ancestors!" Pei Qian Shi said before hastily rushing home. Someone wanted to follow them in as well but he got restrained by the crowd, "They wish to thank their ancestors, you wish to follow them in?"

Pei Zi Yun went in and saw his mother staring at their altar without uttering a sound. She then said, "Husband, can you see this? Our son has finally made it."

She shed tears like raindrops, as if to cry out all the hardships she had been through these decades.

Seeing his usually collected and strong headed mother cry, he felt a myriad of emotions in his heart. The original owner had never managed to reach Elementary Scholar rank the entire time his mother was alive, and only finally attained Elementary Scholar status a year after she had passed away. He was filled with regrets.

Pei Qian Shi then recomposed herself as she walked forward and retrieved a memorial tablet beneath many layers of cloth. Seeing the words written, "Pei Yuan Shen's Memorial Tablet", she broke down in tears all over again.

"My son, your father has been viciously murdered by the bandits and I was unable to take neither ashes nor bones of him. All I have left of him is this memorial tablet as I made my way to this village."

"On the way here I met a Daoist who knew of what had happened. He said, "Madam, your husband was an official and died while defending his country, yet was unable to redress his grievances. I hate to see a hero being given such dishonour, yet I am helpless. All I can do is give you an amulet to keep with the memorial tablet. You should pray to it during special occasions, but it should not be exposed to light."

"In future, when your little one has achieved Elementary Scholar status and is able to protect you, only then can you take out this amulet. If you take it out anytime before, your deceased husband will meet with unfortunate events in his afterlife."

"When I first heard this, I half believed it, yet was doubtful. However, I had a spiritual encounter that night. Your father entered my dreams. All these years I've never mentioned any of this, but now I can finally take it out and display it."

At this point, Pei Qian Shi recalled the unfortunate events that had befallen her and cried out, "Husband, you have not seen light for fifteen years. Today, you can finally lay eyes on your son again."

"My son, why aren't you kowtowing to your father?"

(TN: A kowtow is a traditional greeting to a superior which involves kneeling and pressing your head to the floor)

He then remembered how they used to pray to their deceased ancestors every year, and always towards the cloth-concealed tablet. When he was younger, he had tried to unwrap the tablet many times only to receive a beating from his mother. This time, he obediently knelt and paid his respects.

Just as his head was reaching the floor, he saw something float towards his vision from the corner of his eyes, but disappeared in a second. It looked like a sort of white energy. After he had finished with the ritual, a small white Plum Blossom floated into his vision as it rapidly grew bigger. It became a semi transparent information interface as the mission appeared before him.

Mission 2 : Obtain Elementary Scholar status complete. Please Extract!

Looks like the main point of the mission was to appease his family. He had already gotten the Elementary Scholar status days ago yet it was only now that he could complete the mission. Pei Zi Yun looked at it in passing and extracted it.

"Woosh!" The Plum Blossom petal that was transparent on his forehead had become faint yet was slightly visible. Just as he tried to use his hands to conceal the Plum Blossom petal, it gradually disappeared.

Thankfully the Plum Blossom can be hidden. If not, it would be sure to attract plenty of attention. Pei Zi Yun reached a sudden understanding and thought: The first petal of the Plum Blossom enabled me to obtain wisdom, but not wisdom that surpasses my own level by too much. Now that the Plum Blossom has evolved from transparent to faint, I can absorb essays written by High Scholars and Grand Scholars.

It seems like when the Plum Blossom petal was still transparent, I could obtain only a maximum of High Scholar's knowledge. Thankfully I did not find a higher level piece of knowledge to absorb, if not there would have been no effect.

The next mission is to solve the issue of spiritual roots.

As for the white energy that I have seen earlier, it wasn't a problem with my eyesight. Rather, it was my Qi energy. It was probably due to me becoming an Elementary Scholar. I do not know the outcome of using it this way, but since I have been given this body, even if I were to use some energy it wouldn't matter.

After paying his respects to his ancestors, they came out to a few women congratulating them, "Your son has become an Elementary Scholar, it is a cause for celebration. You should be very happy."

With the encouragement and praise from the crowd, Pei Qian Shi stopped crying and said, "Yes I shall not cry, I shall not cry. In fact, I am overjoyed, really happy."

She slapped her head and laughed, "Oh I forgot something. Come, time to give out Red Packets !"

(TN: Red packets were red envelopes containing money people gave out to others during festive occasions.)

The crowd laughed and cheered as Pei Qian Shi went into her house, retrieved some coins and came out, throwing the money in the direction of the crowd. The kids squealed in excitement as they caught the money. Although it was just one or two pieces of copper, it was auspicious money. When they had received it, their parents told them to keep it, "This is young master's auspicious money, who knows it might bring us good luck!"

With all the noise and clamour, some people were trying to indicate that the feast was ready.

"Leader Cao San, everyone else, please join me."

Cao San and a few of his soldiers were initially not really happy about coming to such a remote and faraway village. However, seeing the presence of meat and wine, they smiled and headed towards to feast.

The villagers were all lively with excitement, just like it was new year's day. Pei Zi Yun was asked to sit, and Pei Qian Shi beside him. At this moment Pei Zi Yun stood up and said, "Leader Cao San and men, please enter."

The villagers casted unsure looks full of doubts. Pei Zi Yun then explained, "This morning, I visited the patrol officer and told him about the Black Wind Sect and what had happened. Patrol officer was furious and so he sent leader Cao San and a few of his brothers to help defend the village, set up patrols and form up groups with the men of the village. From today onwards, the village shall be looked after by the courts."

"If that's so, how can we not invite them to join us in the feast?

The village chief poured a glass of wine, and spilled all over accidentally. He then shouted, "It is so, it is so!"

The smiles in the village all became warm.

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