Chapter 39: Revoking a Title
Translator: Translation Nation/chuchutrain Editor: - -
When the Mentor reached home, his wife welcomed him home with a bowl of clear soup to dissipate the effects of the alcohol and delivered it right to him. The Mentor was in a bad mood and brushed her aside, "I didn't drink wine today, and don't need the soup. I am busy, do not disturb me."
He went into his study room hurriedly, huffing and puffing. His wife stood there aghast, unsure of what could have put her husband in such a horrid mood.
As soon as the Mentor entered his room, he started looking for his writing materials to craft a letter. He had every intent to revoke the Elementary Scholar title belonging to Tang Zhen. With all that had happened today, he was certain that Slow River County's evaluation grade would plummet. But he had no choice. He then started writing.
Since the Dean didn't attend the event today, he didn't know what had happened. Someone hurriedly informed him of the events that had transpired on the boat earlier today. When he heard, he was appalled, "This is bad. I need to find the Mentor to discuss this matter."
As he said this, he hurriedly left.
Pei Zi Yun reached home and had his mother prepare a warm bowl of soup for him. It was a soup to sober him up. As he drank it, he felt a warmth spreading through his stomach. He finished the soup greedily and laughed, "Mother, the Spring Examinations will take place in about ten days. I have to go back to the capital soon."
Dong An Province, Zhang Manor
It was the middle of the day, a hot pot of tea was boiling on the stove, emitting steam. There was a chessboard on a large, but unoccupied, table. Zhang Jie Yu walked into the room, his rage was uncontrollable. He kicked the pot, and it fell on the ground, spilling tea all over the place. The tea had extinguished the fire, and a sizzling sound could be heard. Ashes and smoke rose and covered the area.
Zhang Jie Yu sat down, his heart still fuming in fury, then he abruptly stood up and swept the chessboard and all the pieces on to the ground with such force that the board shattered. "This kid must've seen through our plan and did that to mock me. I have to kill him."
Li Wen Jing was following closely behind and entered the room. He was deep in thought. Once he entered the room, he noticed that the chess board and all its pieces were strewn on the ground. He hurriedly said, "Jie Yu, the new dynasty has been established. Since he owns an Elementary Scholar title,we can only scheme and plan to hurt him from afar and cannot kill him directly. If we kill him directly, it would hurt our imperial Qi and we would be found out. Who knows, even our sect members might be implicated and suffer the consequences of our actions."
After hearing Li Wen Jing's advise, Zhang Jie Yu finally simmered down. In order to accomplish great things, one can never be too careful. However it was really hard for him to swallow this butter defeat, "Then we shall use mortal means to get rid of him. We are from Holy Jail Sect, apart from the Black Wind Sect who was under my command, I should have other options right?"
"You definitely do. Indeed we are from Holy Jail Sect. This entire Hu river is littered with my men."
"But he just a mere Elementary Scholar who had just passed the imperial examinations. Using mortal methods to attack him is fine. But if we kill him, it will be hard for us to evade the watchful eyes of the river spirits. Also, should there be an investigation launched by the capital, it will cause inconvenience to us."
Li Wen Jing looked at Zhang Jie Yu who was so angry he was about to implode. He then added, "But, if he were to fall into the river, or to fall ill, or to eat something that will upset his stomach, or to get beaten up by random thugs, that would be a small matter that could be overlooked."
"Regardless of whether the candidate is from the capital or the county, falling ill in the examination halls is very common."
"With his intellect, he will attempt to take this upcoming spring examinations. And if he fails this time, he will waste three years of his life before he can try again. To be an Elementary Scholar isn't a significant title. If we really want to kill him then Holy Jail Sect will kill him. It will come at a small price, but we have to get through this critical examination period before we can make an attempt on his life. Jie Yu is still angry. Fine, then we shall kill him."
In his anger, Zhang Jie Yu acknowledged, "Good. This is how we should do it. I shall leave it to you."
Li Wen Jing nodded his head and replied, "I shall instruct the Luo gang."
Cross Town, Li Manor
The Li manor wasn't within Dong An province and was about twenty kilometers away from the city. It was located in a town by the pier. The streets were bustling with activities. Just then, a group of people walked over, and everyone scrambled out of their way.
"Who are these people?"
"It is Yang Kun from the Luo gang. He has a fearsome reputation."
"Oh! What fearsome reputation. He is just an exiled gangster." Someone else replied.
As they got nearer the entrance, Yang Kun pointed out, "This is Li Manor. The few of you stay in this town, but find somewhere for us to spend the night. I shall go in to meet Master Li."
As he finished, Yang Kun entered the premises. This man was a thirty years old triad boss with a burly frame. He walked in carefully and saw Li Wen Jing concentrating on writing a letter. From afar, he shouted loudly, "I pay my respects to Master Li."
During the reign of the previous dynasty, where chaos was rampant, the Yang family helmed by Yang Tong Shou had formed a gang to protect themselves. When it first came to life, they had recruited many homeless beggars who stole and robbed. When the county officials got wind of these, they were infuriated. They then clamped down on the gang and ordered for their assets to be confiscated.
During the patrol officers' raid on the gang premises, many members of the gang had been killed and they took custody of Yang Tong Shou. They had decided to behead him as punishment. At the critical juncture, Holy Jail Sect extended a helping hand. As a result Yang Tong Shou escaped with 40 strokes of the cane. When he was released from prison, he hid in this city to recuperate. He then decided to change his methods. He started providing services and helping the rich and famous of the country including officials. He had a hand in everything from weddings to funerals. Yang Tong Shou even provided protection to merchants who were transporting goods. This was how it gradually became legal.
With time the climate changed. The government officials as good as handed the business of transportation and delivery to them. The officials would hand them goods such as salt, rice and cotton to the gang. They would then ensure delivery to the intended recipients. However, they would charge a protection fee and delivery fee. Gradually their influence became big.
Yang Kun was a second generation gang leader, yet had eternal gratitude to Holy Jail Sect.
"It's good that you're here, I have something for you to do!" Li Wen Jing shouted. He stood up and strolled over to the window as he stared at the flowers blooming.
"Master Li, as long as it's along the Hu river, please instruct away. Within a hundred meters, people around owe me favours. Even if it's to drown someone, it's a small matter." Said Yang Kun.
Li Wen Jing smiled gently, "That isn't necessary. But this matter isn't small as well. Send someone you trust to Slow River County, and monitor the pier."
"As long as it's an Elementary Scholar heading for the Spring Examinations, I want you to watch and observe him."
"This man is called Pei Zi Yun, I have a portrait of him."
"Master Li, do you want me to drown him?" Yang Kun asked.
"No, now is the critical period for these scholars. You mustn't kill him. Instead, cause him to fall into the water. We want him to catch a cold." Li Wen Jing said in a low voice and continued in his instructions, "The waters now might not be very good, but that doesn't matter. Once he drops into the water, splash this drug onto his body, and that'll do."
"He is guaranteed to fall ill."
"So it seems like such a small matter. Don't worry, consider it done. I will do it properly. Yang Kun said proudly as he thumped his chest."
Slow River County, The Mentor's House
When Pei Zi Yun saw the Mentor again, he looked displeased. He didn't know that just moments before, the Mentor was discussing the issue regarding Tang Zhen with the Dean. Pei Zi Yun just had to look down and be extra cautious today.
The Dean said, "You're so young, you're better off polishing your foundations. Only fifteen but already an Elementary Scholar. It's almost impossible for you not to accomplish your ambitions. And you're going to be off to the Provincial Examinations soon, how can that do!"
Pei Zi Yun looked at the Dean and wondered if he had offended this man?
The Mentor then said plainly, "Ambition is irrelevant with age. Looking at his essay again, it's clear that he is at the peak of his literary talents. Old friend, stop arguing."
The Dean cleared his throat, and turned to leave.
The Mentor then said, "I've asked you to come today for two reasons."
"First, it's a good thing that you've gotten rid of the pessimistic Yin energy from your essay. However, the Yang energy in your essay is rather excessive and the examiners could see it as a taboo."
"The other thing is to let you know that the Director of Examinations has been selected."
The Director of Examinations was actually the Chief Examiner of the High Scholar Examinations. They were often decided by the imperial court and will be dispatched from the capital. The Director will be the one who sets the examination questions.
In order to prevent cheating, they wouldn't announce who the person was before the examinations. However, the Magistrate of the province will know for sure, and everyone who's related to him will know for sure. Candidates without connections however, would only find out on the day of the examinations.
In an examination, there was no complete fairness. Knowing the name of the Director of Examinations was imperative to the success of the candidates. This was because they could analyze his essays, and know what he was particular about and make preparations for it. From this, it was clear that the Mentor was a very impartial man.
Since everyone was analyzing and preparing, and if Pei Zi Yun wasn't preparing in the same way, then he would be at a disadvantage.
Pei Zi Yun then asked, "I wonder who that person is?"
The Mentor lowered his voice and said softly, "It's the examiner from Hu Lu Prefecture."
"Hu Ying Zhen, his Excellency Hu?"
This man had become an Elementary Scholar at the age of fifteen and attained High Scholar status at the age of eighteen. By the time he was twenty two, he had already become a Grand Scholar. Now that he was thirty five, he's due to conduct his first examinations?
"Yes, the news has spread far and wide. Have you read his excellency's essays?" asked the Mentor.
Pei Zi Yun replied, "This disciple has seen a few, but unfortunately not all."
The Mentor nodded his head, "This is a volume of essays written by him. Analyze it intensely while you're on the way. Although the main point of his essays resides in the way he arranged his thoughts, he places a heavy emphasis on laws as well."
"I shall not keep you any longer, and it's getting late. Hurry, go, don't delay along the way."
"Yes!" Pei Zi Yun bowed and left.
After some time, the Dean came back and said, "You are very considerate with him. Why weren't you as magnanimous towards Tang Zhen?"
"A life of strenuous studies, all to be wiped out and his title will be revoked. He won't have a chance to sit in the examinations again. Will you reconsider?"
"Old friend, you don't need to say more. These are two different things." The Mentor waved his hand and continued, "Although he is young, he is a diamond in the rough and a genius delivered by the heavens. How could the wastrel Tang Zhen compare?"
Pei Zi Yun rushed to the docks. It was bustling with life, with all the merchants trading wares.
Although High Scholars and Elementary Scholars often appear to be dignified, most of them haggled with merchants for lower prices. The river was lined with boats, selling goods that included food, fruits, fans, straw mats, pillows and even medicines. When Pei Zi Yun reached the docks, he was sweating profusely.
Looking far across the river, he noticed about seven or eight boats docked on the other side.
However, only one of the boats was accepting passengers. He thus walked over to the board. Just then, the manager of the boat came out. Seeing a guest, he smiled and welcomed him, "Is this guest heading to the province city to take the examination?"
"How do you know?"
"One look at your clothes and I can tell, we already have several young masters who made reservations, and they too are sitting for the examinations. My boat is rather spacious, and I've prepared two huge bags of melons to serve on board. Passengers can request for them anytime to refresh yourself."
"The cost of transportation isn't expensive as well. There will be beds and quilts. The food on the journey will be fresh and delicious too. The room costs one piece of silver."
This price was in fact rather expensive. However, Pei Zi Yun had no interest in haggling over a couple of coins. He had 4000 taels of silver, of which he gave 3000 to his mother. He currently had 1000 taels of silver on him. Even if he were to use some for his expenditure, it wouldn't amount to more than 20 or 30 taels of silver. He then said, "I would like a room. Are we leaving soon?"
"Young master, we have to wait for more passengers to fill up the boat before we can leave."
"We will leave at noon today."
Pei Zi Yun could've left now, but he decided not to waste his time waiting for the boat to gather passengers. He then replied, "That's fine too. I shall head to the restaurant to have a meal. Shout for me when you are about to depart."
He was speaking of the restaurant across the pier, which was about fifty meters away. The manager of the boat nodded.