Chapter 31: Tang Zhen
Translator: Translation Nation/chuchutrain Editor: - -
"I can get started on the ancestral shrine and land now. Looks like I would need to work hard from here on."
"So what if my karmic luck is thin and not substantial. With my plum blossom, I still turned out successful."
"Ye Su'er is destined for good fortune and would eventually be a member of the three Ye's and two Guo's. However based on the original owner's memory, the person who actually succeeded was Xie Cheng Dong and none out of the five of them.
He had relied on the plum blossom to attain success.
With regards to the plum blossom, the original owner had felt confused, regret and bewilderment. Pei Zi Yun however would not allow these feelings to interfere with him and would just pursue his ambitions without inhibitions. At this point, he raised his head and realized he had already reached home. He then shouted "Mother, I have something to discuss with you."
The heat of the afternoon sun was unrelenting and harsh. Pei Qian Shi was adorned with a flowing satin robe and a silver hair tie, and she had recovered her noble demeanor from before as she replied "What do you wish to discuss?"
"Mother you mentioned some time ago that you wanted to purchase some land. I think the time is right for that." Pei Zhi Yun was wise and would never think poorly of his own mother regardless of the situation. Some people had considered themselves worthy and offered themselves to him in marriage. Seeing that there were better prospects for her son, his mother hesitated at her son's choice. Frankly speaking, this was all normal human behavior, and his mother could not blamed for their previous interaction.
The maiden that he had met earlier seemed very courteous, when it actual fact she was no different from the monks. Finding a reason to manipulate and confuse others in order to achieve her desired outcome. What has this got to do with Pei Qian Shi though?
"We had initially owned 10 mu of arable paddy fields and 5 mu of non farming land but sold it to the Li family. Now, they had returned all of it back to us." Pei Qian Shi heard this and replied "Ho ho ho! You achieved Elementary Scholar status at such a young age, and have created a reputation for yourself in the county. The 5 mu of land that was rewarded to you for attaining Elementary Scholar status is arable land that is connected to our existing lands. We are now a rich household in Snail village!"
Pei Qian Shi laughed heartily and continued "Even if we wish to purchase more land, there is no more land for us to buy in this village."
"Mother, ever since the previous dynasty, the officials have realized that allowing landlords to own vast amount of lands was undesirable. Therefore there was a decree passed enabling the officials to split up the great households as they deem fit, to ensure nobody becomes too powerful." Pei Qian Shi smiled. It was true that the previous dynasty enforced these rules and all the landlords owned no more than 10s of mu of lands.
"However, I am an Elementary Scholar and thus am able to purchase lands nearby my own village. If I were to become a High Scholar, I could buy lands from anywhere within the county."
"Mother, now that you have some money, you can start looking for prospective sellers to buy from. Purchasing 300 hundred mu of land could be a bit of stretch for my current status, but once i attain High Scholar status it would be perfectly normal."
"As for the ancestral shrine, I feel that now is a good time to start erecting it. Then we can put father's shrine up too. From there we can start rebuilding our Pei clan from within this county."
Pei Qian Shi nodded her head in agreement and smiled "My son has considered all the possibilities. However, as for the matter regarding the shrines it is better for you men to handle it. I am a woman from another family and it would not be appropriate."
"Mother, you can start looking for my Pei clansmen and discuss it with them. You can pay them while they work for us."
"Sure. Since you wish to become a High Scholar, the spring examinations are in two to three months time and thus you'll need to start working hard. Leave these matters to mother." Pei Qian Shi exuded a graceful and capable demeanor. Having had a good upbringing, coupled with all the hardships she had been through, nothing was too difficult for her.
Dong An City, Zhang Household
The walkway was ornamented with decorative pebbles which led to a magnificent primary building. The rooms within were spectacularly extravagant and the library was adorned with numerous jewels. Zhang Jie Yu took a sip of soup from a bowl and was currently making his move in a game of chess with Li Wen Jing. They were in the middle of play when someone hurriedly entered the room and handed Zhang Jie Yu a letter. "Young master, there's urgent news from Slow River county."
"The patrol officers from Slow River county have exterminated in entirety the Black Wind sect and order has been restored to the county!"
"What?" Zhang Jie Yu's expression changed as he received the letter and ripped it open in evident rage. He looked at Li Wen Jing and said "Slow River County's patrol officer and Pei Zi Yun dare to make a move against my Black Wind sect, we should act in revenge."
Li Wen Jing considered for some time before eventually replying "He could be a member of Free Cloud sect, and is now an Elementary Scholar. Since he had worked together with the patrol officer, his existence is now known to the county officials. Besides the patrol officer is an official..."
"Merely an Elementary Scholar and a ninth rank official, so what? Besides, can we really tolerate such an insult?"
"If others were to see us tolerating this, they would think us weak, and that won't do."
"Young master has a point. But to make a direct move against his life would have huge repercussions. Let's plan to destroy him in other ways." Li Wen Jing maintained a stoic expression after speaking as he sank deep in thought.
"What plans do you have in mind?" Zhang Jie Yu straightened up.
"The patrol officer is an official by status, however small his rank is, and thus have to act accordingly. We can plan an elaborate ruse to entice, mislead and corrupt him until he has reached his predestined fate and lost his reputation and official standing."
Li Wen Jing glanced at the window, a gleam appearing in his eyes before speaking. "We are Daoists and have a thousand methods under our sleeves. In one simple move we can alter a man's entire fate.
"Indeed we shall plot and act accordingly when the time is ripe."
Zhang Jie Yu laughed and said "Plans like these are boring. What shall we do about Pei Zi Yun?"
"I've checked up on Pei Zi Yun. His ancestors did hold positions in the imperial court. However the highest ranking among them was only a seventh rank official. And his own father was a convict in the previous dynasty. He has no ties to anyone in court now.
"All he has to fall back on is his mere Elementary Scholar status."
"Then we have to take drastic measures to take away everything he has. We have to think of a way to make him appear immoral to the Mentor. Although the Mentor is unable to directly remove his status, he has the authority to advise the relevant officials to discharge him of his Elementary Scholar status. After that is done, he will just be any ordinary person. We will kidnap his family members in the dead of the night. Then, young master could do whatever he wants with him, kill or humiliate or both. Li Wen Jing opened his fan and spoke, expressionless.
"The Mentor is an upright man and does not belong to us. How can we persuade him to get rid of this Pei guy's Elementary Scholar title?"
"It is precisely because he is upright that he will not be able to stand a speck of dust in his eyes. We can use this to our advantage."
"As for Free Cloud sect, it is the link between Zhao Ning and Pei Zi Yun. But as long as he has not cultivated, he cannot be considered a member of their sect. Even if we plot to kill him and eventually succeed, who would stand up for him?"
"Li Wen Jing lowered his voice at the last sentence so that only Zhang Jie Yu could hear. He listened attentively before springing up in excitement. "Fantastic! Mister Li really isn't ashamed of his ingenuity"
As he said it there was a "smack!" as he killed a mosquito on his leg before calling for someone "Li Kui, Li Kui!"
Just after he had exhaled, there was a knock on the door and a tall man entered. Without a word, he stood by the side with his hands to his back, listening.
"Li Kui, call Tang Zhen in. He has been living off me for quite some now and should be assigned some tasks. I have something for him to do now."
"Yes young master!"
Dong An City, Bright Autumn Park
A small building stood where flowers and trees enveloped its surroundings. There was a huge bed inside the building, and the quilt was being tossed and flipped around. There were several ladies cheering "Young master is so good, young master is really good. Please spare this slave of yours."
An exasperated "Aiyah!" resounded before the sound was muffled as the rest of the girls burst into laughter. At this point there was a knock on the door.
Tang Zhen was in the middle of all the fun and was interrupted. He screamed out in anger "Who is it?"
"It is me!" Just as the voice sounded, Tang Zhen recognized the familiarity of it. It was the bodyguard of Zhang Jie Yu, Li Kui and was extremely important to him. If he had came now, it was definitely something big. He pushed the quilt aside and prepared to leave the bed.
After a few disapproving jeers made by the girls, the quilt came off to reveal several young ladies with pale and smooth skins and were entwined with Tang Zhen. As the quilts revealed them, they turned red with embarrassment and were ashamed.
Tang Zhen followed Li Kui into the room and walked through an underground passage. When they emerged, they were already at the Zhang household. After making another turn, he laid his eyes on Zhang Jie Yu and Li Wen Jing who were playing chess.
Tang Zhen entered the room as Li Kui left.
With a slam, the door closed shut. Through the windows, sunlight shone in. Zhang Jie Yu began to speak slowly. "Brother Tang, how are you enjoying this village of intimacy?"
Tang Zhen was stumped and Zhang Jie Yu continued "As for normal girls, once you've tried them, you will forget them. There is plenty of such fun to be had at the brothel."
"But someone like you, who have been going for the beautiful ladies of prominent households, the feeling of taking someone else's woman must feel really good to you!"
Tang Zhen's face blushed a deep red and he remain there wordless. If it didn't feel good, why would be have been caught before in just such such a situation?
Just as the room grew more tense, Zhang Jie Yu's face broke into a cold smile as his eyes gleamed. "Since you've had your fun, it is time to do something for us. I've heard that you too were from Slow River county, and are in fact close friends with Pei ZI Yun. I have an instruction for you."
He then instructed Tang Zhen on how to deal with Pei Zi Yun.
Tang Zhen listened, his face contorting into an ugly expression. This plan involved him being heartless and ungrateful.
Zhang Jie Yu looked up as he finished speaking and saw that Tang Zhen's expression was uncertain and unwilling. He cleared his throat and said in a mocking expression "You refuse to go?"
Upon those words, Tang Zhen trembled and thought for some time before replying. "No, I have joined Holy Jail sect and thus will obey the orders of the sect and complete senior brother's missions and orders."
"That is more like it. Zhang Jie Yu smiled and immediately retracted his cold demeanor and replaced it with a caring one. "And, although the Intimate Village is fun, you should not overdo all these pleasures. Seeing your pale face, I think you have to slow down on the alcohol and girls."
"Our sect has a good reputation that just being a member would allow you to get all the ladies you want. However, vitality does not come about without cultivation. There have been many outer sect disciples who have died on the bellies of women. If you wish to play around, that's fine. But if you really wish to be somebody you have to take control of yourself."
As he said this, he handed over a piece of paper and spoke once more:. "This is the report. All the matters that need to be done are on it. Since you've been in the city for long enough, it's time for your return."
Tang Zhen had some unknown feeling welling up within him as he returned through the secret underground passage. Once he had emerged he headed towards a nearby stream. Bending over, he stared at himself in the reflection of the water and noticed that his face did seem pale and he had lost some weight."
"To be playing day and night, of course I would look this bad." Tang Zhen thought out loud. He was not unwise. "If my fellow brothers did not restrict me, would I eventually be rid of this phase and return to the way I once was?"
Ah, the emperor of the previous dynasty had removed the corrupted officials, restored order to a chaotic country and established a lawful nation upon coronation. But alas, he died due to excessive womanizing and drinking. Within a year of taking the throne his body had weakened tremendously and his death came.
"I think I would end up like that too. To think I was one of the top few scholars. Somehow I have fallen prey to these vices and was unable to pick myself back up."
"But there is definitely a limit to that. The other ten Elementary Scholars, apart from Pei Zi Yun, have not been dragged into this mess." Thinking of this, Tang Zhen took out the document.
"It is the history of brother Pei.... His ancestors were government officials, no wonder he has achieved Elementary Scholar status so easily and at such a young age."
"Oh, there are only seven or eight households belonging to the Pei clan in Slow River county. Which means he doesn't have much ties here."
"Ai, it says here the patrol officer had killed off the Black Wind sect in one fell swoop. They only suffered one casualty whereas they managed to kill off thirty seven Black Wind sect members.
Tang Zhen inhaled a breath of cold air. It was precisely because he is local to Slow River county that he knew to achieve such a feat was not easy. He forced a laugh and said to himself "Ai, it is hard to believe that I, Tang Zhen have become such an evil person. I have planned to harm someone as good as brother Pei!"