Chapter 43: Mistress Cloud
Translator: Translation Nation/chuchutrain Editor: - -
Pei Zi Yun was walking along an alley with restaurants, teahouses, small eateries, rice shops and even cloth shops lined on both sides. The cloth shop was just about to close for the day.
It was in the evening but there were still a lot of people on the streets, among them was a youth wearing spotless clothes, walking down the streets.
When he got to the pier, the four Elementary Scholars were still scared out of their wits from the encounter aboard the ship, and hurriedly left to find lodging. Pei Zi Yun had wanted to chat with them some more, but seeing that they were already so far away, he decided against shouting for them.
The alley was a straight road that continued for as long as the eyes can see. As it got darker, many stall keepers hung lanterns outside their shops, illuminating the path below. Porters walked past him continually, carrying poles with variety of goods and wares in bags hanging from each end. With every step that they took, the bags rocked left and right.
There was an Elementary Scholar who had just came out from a shop, carrying the goods that he had purchased. Pei Zi Yun approached the shop, there was a signboard hung above his head. Since it was dark and the visibility was poor, he had to walk nearer to read it. It read "Li Ji Products".
Due to the several lanterns burning within the shop, it was very bright inside. As he entered the shop, the shopkeeper emerged and welcomed them, "Does this young master wish to buy any goods as a gift for his excellency? I have a wide variety of goods for sale here, guaranteed to satisfy you."
Pei Zi Yun walked around the shop, examining its wares. The quality of the goods here were indeed pretty good. He picked up a fruit and started eating it. Nodding his head and waving his hand he said, "Not bad. I like this gift box. Wrap it up for me please."
He paused before adding, "Wrap it up in golden silk paper."
The shopkeeper acknowledged his request before instructing his assistant to wrap the gift up as he prepared a cup of tea. Pei Zi Yun drank a few sips as the assistant brought the wrapped up item over to him with clumsy hands.
After buying the gift, Pei Zi Yun enquired about the location of the Academic Institution. The shopkeeper walked out of his shop, and pointed to a high rise building and said, "Young master the Academic Institution is over there."
Pei Zi Yun raised his head and looked in the direction the shopkeeper was pointing in. The night sky was grey and misty, all that as visible was a silhouette of the building. He said thanks and headed in that direction. Before long, he could see the institution.
On both sides of the institution hung two lanterns, and there was a golden signboard above the entrance. There were two golden words inscribed on the signboard, "Academic Institution".
It was at night, and although the stars still flickered brightly in the night sky, the ground was still dark. Beneath the lantern stood two fearsome soldiers, armed with swords, guarding the entrance. Several Elementary Scholars moved a few steps closer to get a closer look, not daring to get any nearer.
"Just asking for directions."
Pei Zi Yun did not have any intention of barging in by strength. Since the establishment of dynasty, the institution in a county was called "Student Society", and the one in a prefecture was called "Student Institution". The term used when referring to one in a capital is "Academic Institution."
There are no guards assigned to the Student Society.
As for the Student Institutions, there are guards deployed there, but they are not armed.
This Academic Institution is a specialized location for the most prestigious scholars and thus there are armed guards being deployed to prevent any possible intrusions. Anyone trespassing the institution for minor crimes will be arrested. If anyone enters the institution with a more sinister intent, they will be killed. This prevented anyone from daring to go near without a valid reason.
"But my lodging is quite close to this Institution."
"The diary given to me by the Mentor contains a letter within. His instructions were to lodge with a friend of his, using this letter. The destination is not far from here and is rather convenient." Pei Zi Yun started looking for the place.
Indeed, Pei Zi Yun spotted a mansion not too far from it. Upon closer inspection, the mansion was not small at all. There was a signboard on top entrance that read "Fu Mansion". On both sides were auspicious characters, however, since the night was dark, it was difficult to see what the words were.
He stepped forward and knocked on the door. Before some time, the door opened and a servant came out, holding a lantern
Pei Zi Yun hurriedly told him of his intent. Hearing that Pei Zi Yun was a recommendation by the Mentor, he took the letter in his hands and said, "Please wait here, young master."
He then nimbly headed back in to report the situation to his master.
Before long, the servant came back and led Pei Zi Yun inside the mansion. Once he entered, he saw a yard that had a corridor leading to the main building. The servant led him further along the corridor before saying, "Watch your step young master, there's a staircase here."
As he finished speaking, he used the lantern to illuminate the path. A staircase appeared, leading to the main hall. There were many lamps scattered across the hall, causing the interior to glow brightly. The lamps had shades filled with numerous drawings of flowers. Thousands of books filled up the hall.
In the middle of the hall sat a middle-aged man of around 40 years old. He grew a beard and was wearing rich silk garments. He was slightly skinny, and was holding a book.
The servant spoke softly and respectfully, "Young master, the man before you is master Fu."
Pei Zi Yun immediately saluted the man with clasped fist, "My respects to master Fu."
He then handed over the letter, as the High Scholar Fu put down the book he was reading and received the letter. He swept a glance at it and said, "Looks like my old friend has recommended a student, and requests for me to welcome you. I shall arrange for you to live within these quarters."
He then said to the servant, "Instruct the maid to prepare a room for this young master to sleep in."
Pei Zi Yun heard his acknowledgement and looked up. Beneath the door on the left side of the hall, a little girl's face was revealed. She was about 11 or 12 years old and beauty was already evident on her face, although she was just a little girl now.
While Pei Zi Yun was lost in thought, the girl who was looking at him seemed shocked. She turned around and disappeared behind the door.
Behind that door, was a transparent window and several flowers were lined. A beautiful mistress was boiling some tea. Seeing the little miss being discovered while she was peeping, the mistress pushed a finger her forehead and said, "You little mischievous imp."
The beautiful mistress carried the pot of tea out and turned back to look at the little girl. She smiled and said, "No more playing around."
She then walked out to deliver the tea.
Pei Zi Yun was talking to High Scholar Fu, and the door was left open. The mistress who had braided her hair entered. This woman had perfect features, with skin as fair as milk. She was a beauty to behold. Serving up tea, she brushed past Pei Zi Yun as he caught her glancing in his direction.
Pei Zi Yun felt his eyes twitch, as he looked at this mistress. She looked extremely familiar, yet he was unable to recall when he had met her. The mistress poured the tea into cups and served them. Just then, the servant called out.
"Master, there are another four Elementary Scholars at our door. This is their visiting slip." He then handed over a piece of paper, stating their purpose for visit.
Master Fu read the contents of the slip of paper in his hands, thought for sometime and instructed the servant, "Please show these four Elementary Scholars in."
He turned over the slip of paper and placed it on the table before addressing the mistress, "Cloud Mistress, can I bother you to pour another 4 cups of tea."
"Yes, master." The beautiful mistress carried the tray and prepared another batch of tea. As she entered the room, the little girl approached her enthusiastically and asked, "Aunt, what is he like?"
The mistress extended her hand with beautifully long fingers and knocked gently on her head, "Little Xia, stop playing around. I shall tell you more when I'm less busy."
As soon as the mistress finished speaking, she started preparing the tea once more. The little girl used both hands to cover her head, her beady eyes looking on, her face filled with sadness.
Pei Zi Yun picked up the cup, and realized the tea was boiling hot. He blew onto the surface of the tea gently, before taking a sip. He felt a comfortable warmth permeating throughout his entire body as he thought to himself, "This is good tea."
After some time had passed, a servant led the Elementary Scholars into the hall. They were Yu Guang Mao and company. Seeing Pei Zi Yun drinking tea, he laughed and said, "It looks like brother Pei is here to pay a visit to master Fu."
He then paid his respect to master Fu.
The few of them then took their seats. Yu Guang Mao and Elementary Scholar Yi had gotten rather close with Pei Zi Yun over the few days on board the ship. Seeing them again today, they sat beside Pei Zi Yun.
Master Fu glanced around, his eyes beaming in a smile, "These few Elementary Scholars are all here because of recommendations by esteemed High Scholars. Please accept my hospitality and stay here while you prepare for the examinations."
As he spoke finish, he took a sip of the tea that had just been served by mistress Cloud.
Master Fu has a good reputation and is renowned for his capabilities. He regularly provides shelter for Elementary Scholars taking the examinations. As long as someone is recommended by a fellow scholar, he will agree to provide lodging to the candidates until the conclusion of the examinations.
Yu Guang Mao and High Scholar Yi were initially reluctant to use their recommendation letter for lodging. However the prices of the inns nearby had increased and were expensive. Since they had a limited budget, they were unable to put up in a reputable inn. Even if the four of them could pool enough money to stay in a dodgy inn, their reputation would surely be tainted as they would live amongst the dregs of society.
As the few of them were discussing, the door on the left of the hall opened again and Mistress Cloud started serving everyone another round of tea. She was indeed gorgeous. As she was pouring the tea, the Elementary Scholars blushed and looked down, not daring to stare too hard at her.
Only Yu Mao Guang remained calm, yet he averted his gaze away from her, not daring to look in her direction. As the mistress was pouring the tea, her gaze swept through each one of them but lingered for some time on Yu Mao Guang and Pei Zi Yun. When she looked at Elementary Scholar Yi, she had a look of pity on her face.
Until the beautiful mistress left, only then did the 3 Elementary Scholars dare to raise their head. Pei Zi Yun had been practicing the manual, and acquired keen sense of hearing. He could hear Elementary Scholar Yi muttering under his breath, "Do not look with lust, do not look with lust, do not look with lust."
Hearing him mutter under his breath, Pei Zi Yun raised his tea cup and took a sip. Just then, an image flash through his brain, "This beautiful mistress, I remember now. Isn't she Free Cloud Sect's Senior Aunt?"
"And that little girl, is she going to grow up to be Elder Sister Chu Xia?"
At the same time, he came to a realization, 'All these sects don't have a stronghold in this capital city. Is Senior Aunt Cloud looking through all these examination candidates to see who has a fate with Dao?'
As soon as the beautiful mistress opened the door and walked through, the little girl came around once again, "Aunt, you aren't busy anymore. You can tell me now. How're the people who've come today?"
Seeing the curiosity etched on the little girl's face, the mistress gently pinched her cheeks and said, "Silly."
She put the tray down, and held onto the little girl's hand and she pulled her past the corridor, into the yard. What was most eye-catching about the location was the pond, which had a little bridge over it. Several layers of mysterious rocks were clearly visible.
These mysterious rocks were intertwined with each other in a pile inside the pond, and had many curious and colourful plants surrounding it. The pond was gurgling and a deeper look into the pond revealed many little fishes swimming.
Across the bridge was the residential area, with buildings which were two stories high. Before the door were two red pillars which held the weight of the building. Several candles lined the walkway past the door, illuminating through a cloth screen, causing the entire yard to light up brightly. Lanterns were not needed to see clearly here.
They pushed past the door and went into an empty room. Checking her surroundings before speaking, the mistress said, "Little Xia, in future, do not speak of anything like this in front of outsider. If word gets out, there will be consequences."
Only after nagging at Little Xia for some time, did she finally start telling her of the people who had come today, and what they were like.
"There were several people who came today and most were mediocre." The beautiful mistress said before pausing. Seeing the look of intense curiosity written on Little Xia's face, she then continued, "Maybe there are two or three of them who are able to become High Scholars in this examinations."