Chapter 32: Invitation
Translator: Translation Nation/chuchutrain Editor: - -
Snail Village - Pei Household
Raindrops trickled down from the edges of the roof. The left and right wings of the house had been rebuilt. There were several bamboo trees planted along the recently built walkway. Several orchids could be seen beneath the window, freshly planted as well.
Pei Zi Yun raised his pen and started writing when he heard some people entering his courtyard. He paused for a moment before continuing to write. After writing several words, he put his pen down and left the study.
"Young master!" There were several men waiting outside in anticipation. Upon seeing Pei Zi Yun they immediately rose to their feet.
Pei Zi Yun hurriedly said, "We are all part of the same clan, don't stand on ceremony. We should all erect a shrine for our ancestors, what do you guys think?"
An old man stood up and spoke, "Young Master, this is definitely a good idea. We can earn our keep from this since you are the one paying for the expenses. We can get started once we've bought several planks of wood. The plot of land for the shrine would be around fifteen mu, of which we can use some for a school." Among the men, he was the most aged, and it was evident that he was wise. It looks like he was the former leader of this clan.
Everyone's surname was Pei, it was clear that they were all related to a certain extent, although it could be distant. However, since they shared blood ties, and were in a foreign land together without many connections, they decided to stick together.
Pei Zi Yun picked up the map and took a closer look, it was a simple illustration of the village. He asked, "Third uncle, which location have you chosen to start building?"
"To the north of the village sits the Zhang clan, and they've already built their own temples. I'm afraid we are unable to occupy that area, besides, it's not suitable." Third uncle Pei continued as Pei Zi Yun nodded his head in agreement, "The south of the village isn't bad, there's arable land there that we can use. Most of our families live here anyway and it is close to the river."
Pei Zi Yun nodded his head, "If we wish to build it south of the village, how much would it cost?"
"These plot of land costs about 5 taels of silver per mu of land. We can approach the Li family to buy it over. 15 mu of land would cost 75 taels of silver. We can build three shrines and it wouldn't cost too much. We just need some money for the workers salaries and the materials cost and we can start working." This was close to two hundred taels of silver. Third uncle Pei turned his head to look at Pei Zi Yun.
Pei Zi Yun smiled and waited for some time before asking, "Mother, the clan genealogy that you and third uncle have traced, did you miss anyone out?"
Pei Qian Shi replied, "We've gone through it several times, and we haven't forgotten anyone."
As soon as the words went out, several families from his clan approached him, which wasn't an issue since they were all related in one way or another, and everyone present looked at him expectantly.
After the ancestral shrine is built, they can offer incense to their deceased ancestors.
By joining their families to this clan, they can take advantage of the fact that there's an Elementary Scholar in their midst. Not mentioning other benefits, just the fact that they can get additional food by "kicking grains" would be the deciding factor for them.
"Kicking grains" was the unspoken rule of grain collection. When the officials come to claim their harvests, the farmers have to gather all the grains and put them in a huge knapsack for measurements.
These sacks will be filled to the brim. The farmers are then allowed to kick the sack and collect all the grains that have spilled to the ground. This is a way of compensating them for all the hard work and to give to the masses since food and warmth are what they are the most worried about.
Furthermore, contributing to the clan's lands would ensure that their children are able to attend the school built there. This is definitely a huge blessing for them.
Realizing that everyone was looking at him, Pei Zi Yun said, "Then this is how we shall do it. Mother, you will purchase the land. Third uncle, you can start preparing the bricks for building."
"All the money will be provided by my family."
As he said this, everyone became overjoyed. At this point someone said, "I am a mason. As long as there's food provided, I will contribute."
"I will help too! I will go up to the mountains to cut down some trees for wood."
Soon, everyone was voicing out how they would contribute. The original Pei ancestral shrine had been destroyed during the previous dynasty. Seeing the clan being reunited once more, this time with an Elementary Scholar among them who's willing to pay for all the expenses, everyone decided to contribute and do their part.
They even agreed to stay for lunch while the discussion continued till the afternoon, before they happily dispersed. As they returned home, some of them shouted, "Don't worry, we will be able to finish building it within a month."
Seeing them leave, Pei Zi Yun couldn't help but smile proudly.
It was said that there was strength in unity. As far as the authorities are concerned, the weaker the clans are, the better. But for a person and his clan, the stronger the bonds between each other, the stronger they are. This was similar to the world he was originally from. In order to get a job, the more connections he had, the higher his chances of success were. Then all he had to do was to pick up the phone and make a call to get whatever he wanted.
If someone was an orphan, even if they were to beg for help from their mother or father, no one would come.
The situation can't be more different here. As an intelligent individual, Pei Zi Yun sat upright and felt that people of the same clan should gather together. A person was prone to ups and downs in his lifetime, who could guarantee that all his offsprings would prosper and become officials? However with a clan, the hardships couldn't be tougher than the hardships faced alone.
"Brother Pei!" Just as he was lost in thought, a cheerful voice rang out. Pei Zi Yun smiled and stood up to open the door. Once the door opened, the wind brought in the rain that started pouring a while ago.
"So it turns out to be brother Tang!" He exclaimed as Tang Zhen walked through the door.
Pei Zi Yun and Tang Zhen could be considered of the same rank and thus got along relatively well. The both of them greeted each other with a salute as Pei Zi Yun brought Tang Zhen into his house and offered him a seat.
Tang Zhen laughed and spoke cheerfully, "It's been a long time since we've last met. Ever since Brother Pei has returned home, he had many accomplishments. He even annihilated Black Cloud Sect with a flick of his sleeve!"
Pei Zi Yun looked at Tang Zhen and exclaimed, "That is embellished. I am a student, how could I claim the lives of such infamous bandits? It's just that we've been threatened one time too many by them, and so I approached the Chief Patrol Officer for help. The Patrol Officer is a just man, and immediately acted in a decisive manner to wipe out the entire sect. That is the might of the Imperial Court and his excellency, the Patrol Officer. How would I dare to claim credit for that?"
These words were indisputable and didn't cause Tang Zhen to suspect otherwise, "Regardless, it was brother Pei who convinced the Patrol Officer to act, and thus, achieved the desired outcome."
After pausing for some time, he continued, "But after the matter has concluded, Brother Pei started staying at home and hasn't left his house. I wonder what's the matter?"
Pei Zi Yun pointed at the ink and paper and replied, "Brother Tang is aware of my heritage and knows that I used to have relatives in court. However, my family met with some difficulties and moved here, in Slow River county, where our connections run thin."
"I was extremely fortunate, as well as astonished, to achieve Elementary Scholar status. However, my mother has been urging me to attempt for High Scholar status. Only then will my Pei household be stable in the county. Since my mother requested me to attempt it, I dare not refuse her. Which is why I've been preparing myself for the examinations, and reading more to ready myself for this year's spring examinations.
Seeing Pei Zi Yun's sincere demeanor, Tang Zhen couldn't help but admire and respect him for that. He replied, "Ever since the release of brother Pei's examination papers, many scholars have praised your works. They said that brother Pei's essays are reaching its peak in maturity. If you continue like that, the upcoming exams will be too easy for you.
Pei Zi Yun shook his head, "In the upcoming Spring Examinations, there will be three thousand Elementary Scholars participating and only thirty three will be successful. There are plenty of heroes under the heavens, how could my talents in literature compare? All I can rely on is fate."
"Brother Pei is such a forthright person!" Upon hearing his words, Tang Zhen was moved. He didn't think that Pei Zi Yun was being overtly modest, in fact he knew that he was being sincere. He too had seen Pei Zi Yun's essay and agreed with the masses that he was indeed talented. Although for him to rise at the top of the entire country, he still had work to do.
Clearly, he did have a good chance of succeeding in the Spring Examinations. However, there were many capable candidates. Every three years, only thirty three candidates would succeed. Evidently fate and luck played a crucial role as well.
Tang Zhen didn't voice his thoughts and changed the topic. They spoke about famous students, especially those who had humble beginnings from Slow River county.
As Pei Zi Yun listened on, he felt a sense of indescribable happiness and said, "I returned to the county to pay respects to the elder generation of my village. If it weren't for the fact that I was preoccupied with family matters, I would welcome more of your visits."
Tang Zhen then replied, "Ai, I know that brother Pei is busy lately. But going out and have some fun occasionally can be good for you. Not only do you get a good opportunity to let off some steam, you can exchange knowledge with other people and make more friends."
"I've heard that there was going to be an upcoming literary event, and I think brother Pei should attend." He retrieved an invitation and handed it over to Pei Zi Yun, who paused momentarily before taking it and reading its contents.
"It seems like there is an event organized by the county's Elementary Scholars, and they invited all worthy students to participate and have fun. This was a tradition upheld by the Elementary Scholars of the county." Pei Zi Yun wanted to accept the invitation but glanced over at Tang Zhen who was smiling. A wave of uneasiness crept over him as his heart seemed to flutter. He thought to himself, 'If this were any other normal literary event, it would be fine. But after the commotion at the Silver Dragon Temple, and if rumors could be trusted, Tang Zhen is now an outer disciple under Zhang Jie Yu. I'm afraid Tang Zhen isn't the simple scholar he once was.'
With suspicion in his heart, he looked at Tang Zhen once more, 'He looks pale and his eyes give off a strange look. It seemed like he's been drinking more than he should be, and had recently been rescued from his alcoholic tendencies. In the short span of time that we've drifted apart, he's returned with an invitation. Is there something up his sleeve?'
With these thoughts in mind, another thought from the original owner entered his brain as well.
The original owner had wasted five years of his life before barely reaching Elementary Scholar status. Since the original owner had taken a longer time to become an Elementary Scholar, he had missed this particular event altogether. No wonder he had no recollection of this event happening.
In the county, there was a youth of the Jin household, whose name was Ji Xing. Although he was still young now, he would become an Elementary Scholar in three years time after which he would meet Zhang Jie Yu. Apparently he would go on to compose many great poems.
Jin Ji Xing would go on to participate in the Elementary Scholar literary event but for some reason would offend the Mentor and cause his Elementary Scholar status to be cancelled out. A few months later, he would be found, drowned.
As these thoughts flooded his mind, Pei Zi Yun smiled and nodded his head, "May I ask how many people will be present at the event?
Tang Zhen paused, before rattling out a few names. It seemed that they were all names of popular students. Pei Zi Yun was apprehensive, 'This event turns out to be rather lively. Looks like the original owner did have some impression of the event despite not being there. The people mentioned by Tang Zhen showed up in the original owner's time and will show up here as well!'
'What is he trying to do?'
According to the diary and the original owner's memory, Zhang Jie Yu was a cultivator of Holy Jail Sect. There had been clear proof connecting the sect to the bandits. Furthermore the commotion at the temple cause some trouble. Could this be a ploy for revenge?
If he declined, another malicious plan might hatched, and quite possible one that he couldn't thwart and he would lose the upper hand. He smiled and said, "Since everyone's going to be there, how can I miss it?"
"Fantastic!" Tang Zhen was all smiles, "Brother Pei is such a spontaneous person!"
"Then it's settled." As he said that, Tang Zhen said his goodbyes. Pei Zi Yun nodded his head, stood up and saw him out.
After he left, Pei Zi Yun's expression turned cold. The rain was gradually receding but the sky was still overcast. He retrieved the sword hanging on the wall before leaving his house.
Elementary Scholars were permitted to carry a sword with them, therefore he kept his sword in its sheath unconcealed, as a proof that he was armed. Most of the Elementary Scholars carried it for show, and weren't proficient with it, but Pei Zi Yun was different.
Pei Zi Yun had been reciting the mantras from the manuals. Although he didn't have any spiritual abilities and thus was unable to enter the Dao, he was physically strong. The sword techniques in the manual were designed for entry into the Dao Sect. But as a form of martial arts, it has increased his skills by leaps and bounds.
In the light drizzle, Tang Zhen got onto an oxcart as it hurriedly departed.
Pei Zi Yun followed closely behind, with a sigh in his heart. Thankfully it was just an oxcart, if he had rode a horse instead, there would have been no way to catch up with him. It seems like this Tang Zhen does indeed have a guilty conscious. He was very cautious and edgey, sticking his head out of the carriage regularly to see if anyone had been following him. Only after he felt safe did he order the carriage to proceed.
The first time Tang Zhen looked back, Pei Zi Yun was caught off guard and thus was almost discovered. With this as a warning, Pei Zi Yun didn't dare to go too close and hung back far behind.
His heart was growing increasingly suspicious.