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 Chapter 96: An Idea

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Li Mansion

A signboard hung high above the big red doors. Pei Zi Yun asked, "Is this Li Mansion? The residence of the Assistant Minister of Revenue?"

The candy seller laughed, "High Scholar, you're an outsider here, and you do not understand the rules of the capital."

"What do you mean?" Pei Zi Yun smiled and asked.

"All capital officials, apart from the noble houses, all live in rented houses and are not fixed. You might ask why must they live in rented houses?"

"Unless you are an old capital official who won't be promoted any longer, most capital officials do not remain so for long."

"Not only do capital officials not remain so for long, they will be promoted really quickly. And every time they get promoted they will have to shift house!"

"I know of his excellency Li. He used to live in Heaven Tree Alley, where he rented a four room house. He then shifted to Little Alley before moving to Little Cotton Lane, and now he lives here. His house has 28 rooms and a huge garden."

"When an official gets promoted, he has more people under his payroll, and he has to appear more lavish and prosperous. How could he not shift? Besides, it's not worth it to keep buying houses. It's true that for capital officials remaining in one house, it was a sign that they had no chance of promotion."

Pei Zi Yun was extremely interested in what he had to say, "Very interesting. Here's some money for you. Stay here and wait for me. I shall go in for a little while. When I come out, I need you to show me more places and I will pay you for it."

As he said this, he tossed over a piece of silver. The candy seller scrutinized the silver and realized that this piece came from a bigger block of silver. This means that this person was clearly rich and well to do. The piece of silver was worth a tael at least. He then forced a laugh, "Okay Young Master. Please go in. I will wait here for you."

Pei Zi Yun then approached the door and knocked before a servant opened it. Pei Zi Yun then handed a letter explaining his purpose of visit.

The Governor had instructed him on this matter earlier. Assistant Minister Li from the department of Revenue was his cousin. Although they weren't direct cousins, their ages were very close and thus had spent most of their childhood together. They were thus, close to each other. The Governor knew that Li Ben Han was in a good position to help Pei Zi Yun and thus recommended Pei Zi Yun to drop by.

All these matters were supposed to be taken care of by Liao Ge. Since his demise was in the way, Pei Zi Yun had no choice but handle it himself.

After some time, the servant then walked into the waiting room. He then led Pei Zi Yun through the corridors into the courtyard. He then stopped walking and turned around, "Old master is waiting just further up."

Pei Zi Yun was stumped and didn't know what to say. The Li Mansion looked simple and plain from the outside and yet had a magnificent interior. Once he passed through the door and entered the courtyard, he saw a man seated on the cane chair. He had an entire head of white hair and was slightly plump. He was dressed in traditional robes and was gazing at the flowers which had grown over the wall before him. It was clear that he hadn't noticed Pei Zi Yun's presence.

Pei Zi Yun walked up to him and bowed, "High Scholar Pei Zi Yun pays his respects to his Excellency Li."

Pei Zi Yun observed that his house had a very countryside ambience to it. Within the yard there was a rattan frame, where several flowers and vines grew over. There were floral prints imprinted all over the table. Hearing Pei Zi Yun speak, Li Ben Han stopped looking at the red flowers before him and looked. He was still holding onto a red cup and finally realized that Pei Zi Yun had arrived.

Minister Li then slowly placed his cup down and looked at Pei Zi Yun, "Oh, you are the person who's holding onto the letter written by my older brother? Since you've been recommended by my older brother, we are all family. You do not have to stand on ceremony."

Pei Zi Yun hurriedly replied, "Many thanks your excellency."

As he said this, he reached into his sleeves and pulled out the documents. He then handed it over with both hands respectfully, "The documents are here for your excellency to examine."

Minister Li hastily retrieved the letter and said, "So this is about Free Cloud Sect's title bestowal. This matter is not very big, and yet not small either. Since my older brother recommended you to me, it means that he thinks very highly of you... Eh? Why is there only you, where is the other person?"

Minister Li looked through the documents before pausing. With the exchange of such important documents, there would usually be an official present to facilitate. Although a High Scholar could be considered as half an official, it was not proper without the presence of an official. Furthermore the document itself indicated that an official was accompanying Pei Zi Yun.

Pei Zi Yun was silently worried, but managed to force a laugh, "Your excellency, I shall not hide any details from you. We initially set off as a team of four men. However we did not expect to be ambushed by a bunch of crazy bandits, to have the audacity to attack an official of the imperial court. His excellency Liao Ge and the two soldiers were murdered. Only this student had the fortune of escaping. News pertaining to this attack would surely start spreading and an official document detailing the ambush would be delivered to the capital over the next few days."

Pei Zi Yun sighed as he recounted the incident. Who would've thought that a pleasant and exciting journey to the capital would turn into a cold blooded massacre.

Minister Li was visibly shocked, as he placed the cup down on the table, "Such a thing really happened?"

Pei Zi Yun exhaled loudly, "Absolutely."

Minister Li's face sank, as he slapped the table in anger, "These traitorous bandits have the audacity to attack an official."

"Pei Zi Yun, Pei Zi Yun...." Li Ben Han repeated his names several times softly, as though he was trying to recall something, "Are you that person who composed , that same Pei Zi Yun, Top Scorer Pei?"

Listening to this, Pei Zi Yun clasped his hands, "This student is who you're speaking of."

Hearing Pei Zi Yun confirm his identity, Li Ben Han's expression changed and he laughed, "So you are the famous Pei Zi Yun. When I first saw you, I thought that you looked extraordinarily bright. It seems like your reputation does indeed compliment the way your look ."

Minister Li scrutinized Pei Zi Yun and it was clear that the Minister admired and respected him. Pei Zi Yun used to be lanky and scrawny, and now he looked handsome and wealthy. He indeed looked anything but ordinary.

The Minister started warming up to Pei Zi Yun, as he clasped his hands in salute, "Your excellency heaped praises on me, this student does not dare to accept them."

Minister Li then slapped the documents on the table, "Since you got here first, it's standard procedure that this documents get delivered to the Minister of Rites. I say we deliver it to him as soon as possible, what do you think?"

Pei Zi Yun beamed with happiness, "Many thanks to your excellency for suggesting this."

Li Ben Han then continued, "Having seen this document, I can say that there are no issues with it. However, you have to understand that although you have the recommendation of the Governor, whether the bestowal is successful ultimately depends on the Emperor himself. As for that...."

Seeing Minister Li's expression, Pei Zi Yun was somewhat taken aback. With some hesitation, he asked, "Please explain further your excellency."

Minister Li laughed as he retrieved his cup and took a sip, "The Grand Princess is birthed from the same mother as the current Emperor. His Majesty had always given her the same amount of respect he would give to his own mother. And to plant a golden word in your favor to the Grand Princess is very easy in my position."

Minister Li emphasized heavily when he said the word "gold" and paused for sometime before continuing with his sentence. And yet Pei Zi Yun did not fully grasp his meaning. He stepped forward and bowed, "Many thanks your excellency. This student has learnt something. I urge his excellency to push his recommendation forward."

Minister Li then laughed, "Naturally."

Seeing Minister Li say this, Pei Zi Yun retreated respectfully.

Once he was out of the door, he met with the candy seller as they went off in search for an inn.

The walk to the inn made Pei Zi Yun realize the entire street was bustling with people. There were merchants, servants, people were riding on ox-carts and donkeys.

Before long, they managed to locate an inn. The candy seller then said, "This inn is called Shen Jia Inn and it has a reputation for being clean and comfortable."

The price was somewhat steep, but Pei Zi Yun didn't mind it at all. When they were given a room, Pei Zi Yun then asked the candy seller about the conversation he had with the Minister. Only then did he finally understand.

Being a capital official is not easy, and they're not allowed to mingle with the common folks. This was to ensure a level of respect and dignity among officials. Furthermore the cost of renting a house within the capital is extremely costly. The cheapest house would cost about 20 taels of silver a year. Some houses would even cost 80 taels.

Furthermore for an official to be corrupted, he first had to wield sufficient authority. Although it was known that in three years, a Prefecture had access to tens of thousands of silver. However, to gain access to that sum of money required a great deal of authority, something that most capital officials lack. According to the candy seller, several high ranking officials openly bought seven whole boxes of clothes in order to maintain prestige and face. However, the jewels they wear on their caps were fake jewels.

After paying his fees, the candy seller then left. Pei Zi Yun fell deep in thought. Looks like in order for Pei Zi Yun to proceed with the next step he would have to give a "gift". Be it to the Minister or to the Grand Princess.

This was quite an unusual step for anyone to take. Not just anyone would be able to give out money and expect their wishes to be granted. A person needed to be presented with the opportunity to offer a "gift". Without such an opportunity, regardless of how much money a person offered, it would not be possible to achieve. Now that Pei Zi Yun had a door opened to him in the form of the Minister, the next step would be finding the money.

How should he raise such a huge amount of money. On his own, he had about 900 taels of silver in notes. He then started thinking hard.

Pei Zi Yun had never felt that he was short on money. Since he neither gambled, nor womanized, neither did he chase after worthless goods, these 900 taels of silver could last him many years.

And now he needed to find a way to raise a huge sum of money.

Business? No that won't do. He only had a couple of hundreds and that is far from enough. Besides with the little that he had, he would not be able to raise enough. Even if he did, with such insignificant capital, raising such a huge sum in a short span of time would inevitably attract unwanted attention. That would bring more trouble to the situation.

He sighed, unsure of what to do. Unless he had to resort to unscrupulous methods and become a thief? Just as Pei Zi Yun was deep in thought and hesitated, he heard a knock on the door.

"Is your master in? The dishes that you've ordered are ready. I'm here to deliver them to you." Pei Zi Yun answered the door hurriedly as the serving staff placed the tray of dishes on the table. He then noticed a plate of golden pastry and said, "I do not remember ordering this dish."

The serving staff smiled and replied, "Young Master, we've just entered into the new year. To celebrate the festive occasion, we've specially made and delivered this pastry to every guest in the inn. This is our way of wishing our guests all the fortune and luck for the rest of the year."

Hearing the serving staff explain the reason for the golden pastry, he had a flashback. Recalling the original owner's memories, there was a huge stash of treasure somewhere, and had been distributed to many people all over the nation.

Pei Zi Yun then had an idea come to him. Smiling, he replied, "Not bad, not bad at all. Here's a tael of silver for you to wish you good luck in your endeavors. I hope you'll be happier after this!"

Pei Zi Yun then tossed him a tael of silver.

Seeing the silver, the serving staff beamed with happiness, "Many thanks to Young Master for this. Young Master must be taking the imperial examination, I shall wish you all the best for it, and that you will achieve top grades."

"And, should you need anything, please do not hesitate to call for me. I ensure you I shall do better than that candy seller."

Hearing these words, Pei Zi Yun was glad too, "You can leave now. I have nothing more for you to do."

When the serving staff left, Pei Zi Yun searched his memories thoroughly. Apart from all those jewelleries he found in the statue, there were plenty of other ways to obtain money. However, this society was not one which believed in ill gotten gains. Only when someone had status could they have money. Without any status, not only was it hard for a person to hold on to that money, it would also lead him to an early grave.

With Pei Zi Yun's status, and a thousand mu of land under his name, the maximum amount of money he can have would be ten thousand. Any more might cause misfortunes. It was precisely because of this that Pei Zi Yun did not spend much thought on this.

At this point, while he was searching his memories, he felt a tinge of regret.

'This was a good idea, and yet the distance I have to travel is too far. I would be unable to make it in time.'

'This other idea is within reach, and yet ,to retrieve this money would cause plenty of problems and it would be extremely troublesome. The largest sum of money would be the lost gold from the previous empire. It was rumoured that there was at least 500,000 taels of gold, and were all in gold bars. However, to gain this sum of money would require me to get on a boat and travel out of here. I do not have the time to do something like that. Besides, that would attract plenty of attention.'

'I got it. The original owner had a vague memory of this. Someone headed to the capital to take the imperial examination and managed to unearth a huge amount of gold in the mansion he rented. He managed to find more than 10,000 taels of gold. When the situation was revealed, the landlord of the mansion took this case to the imperial court for resolution.'

'Even though he was a High Scholar, he had to fork out half the amount to pay the officials. In the end he was only left with a quarter of the original amount.' Pei Zi Yun had an idea in his head, 'Heh heh, it looks like I would need a new outlook for the new year. May riches follow me this year and everything I do succeed.'

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