Chapter 49: Murder
Translator: Translation Nation/chuchutrain Editor: - -
It was late in the night, darkness enveloped the entire land. Lightning randomly shot through the dense clouds, momentarily illuminating the sky, causing the river to reflect light brightly. The shadow of a person could be seen as he jumped off the ship, onto the pier. It was dark once again.
Raindrops fell unrelentingly. On both sides of the pier were irrigated paddy fields, with lush golden rice crops swaying in the wind. Based on the size of these crops, they were almost ripe for harvesting. Pei Zi Yun touched the blade of his sword, 'According to the captain, the river currents flow in this direction and thus, would be significantly faster. It seems like I'm here at the crossing already.'
'This road before me leads to Cross Town. Usually, there would be swarms of people around here. However at this hour, everyone is asleep. However there are still several lanterns lighted inside the houses, giving off a faint light on the streets.'
'The only problem was that there would be the sound of dogs barking at night.'
That's how it was, living in a town. As long as a dog sees a movement in the bushes, it would start barking. The moment a single dog started barking, all the dogs in the town would follow its lead and start barking as well. Their incessant barkings would inevitably scare away many potential bandits and thieves as it would be sure to rouse the villagers awake.
Pei Zi Yun hid under the cover of darkness and felt a cold wind blow across. There would always be a symphony of cicadas singing in the night. However since it was winter, their sounds were mournful and desolate.
"I remember that there was a monastery, and beside the monastery was a mansion. That was where Li Wen Jing lives. But this was just based on hearsay, I've got to search it out myself."
He walked along the stone pavements until he saw the monastery. Indeed there was a mansion nearby. It was enveloped by the surrounding trees, concealing it from unwanted eyes. On the ledge nearby the entrance were two lion statues. Pei Zi Yun approached closer and a sign indicating "Li Mansion" could be seen. Pei Zi Yun was elated. This was indeed where Li Wen Jing lived.
Pei Zi Yun was just about to climb over the hall when he felt the Plum Blossom quiver. His heart nearly jumped out. It seems like this Li Wen Jing had placed some protective Dao spells along these walls to prevent any intruders. This was going to be hard.
'With the establishment of the new dynasty, the Imperial Qi is flourishing and law is being enforced. Apart from the officially approved monasteries, which have an official presiding over, the practice of Dao arts is being suppressed everywhere else.'
'This was a huge pier and based on the original owner's memories, Li Wen Jing did not possess any Dao arts. He most certainly would not be able to cover the entire mansion with protective spells.'
Pei Zi Yun was thinking about this point as he circled the mansion, looking for a weak spot he could exploit. Just as he was walking, the Plum Blossom on his forehead went dim. 'This spot has no protective enchantments!' Pei Zi Yun was overjoyed. He then swung himself over the wall at that spot.
He was wondering if Li Wen Jing would be home tonight. If he was, he would be slaughtered tonight. And Zhang Jie Yu would have to deal with a broken wing.
When he got near the yard, he noticed that wild flowers and grass covered it and there were many strange rocks around. There was also a small pond within the yard. He was approaching the main block when a ferocious dog sprang up on him. Just as it was about to bark, there was a flash of a sword and the point of the sword stabbed into the skull of the dog. It died almost immediately. It's carcass lying motionlessly on the ground.
Pei Zi Yun picked up the carcass of the dog and hid it behind a large rock before starting to feel his way around in the darkness, heading for the house. He was unsure if Li Wen Jing was in at this point since there weren't any patrolling guards around, however, he was glad that there wasn't any guard.
Pei Zi Yun advanced cautiously. Once there was a glimmer in the Plum Blossom, he knew that it was a warning and crept behind a pillar to hide. It was quiet and serene in the yard and Pei Zi Yun knew that he wasn't here. He proceed along the corridor when he suddenly heard the sound of women laughing, as if she was playing around, carrying a mischievous air.
Pei Zi Yun headed towards the direction of the sound and before long, he could smell the fragrance of a woman's perfume. There were the smells of osmanthus, roses and rouge. The mixture of these scents wafted through the yard.
Pei Zi Yun followed the sounds and the scent until he heard the sound of a man. It sounded like he was teasing the girl. Pei Zi Yun was excited after hearing his voice. This was really the will of the heavens. This Li Wen Jing's fate was turning bad, and his life was going to be cut short, simply by being at home tonight.
Pei Zi Yun crept up and carefully pushed the window open, creating a small gap. Hot air immediately gushed out. There were several women inside. It was a cold spring night outside, yet it was warm inside due to the heat from the fireplace.
Upon closer inspection, the women were all wearing nightgowns, but the man was nowhere to be seen. Pei Zi Yun felt strange. 'Could Li Wen Jing not be home tonight?'
Pei Zi Yun shifted his glance to one of the women who was lying on her back. There was some movement within her gown as a man's head emerged from beneath the gown. He then crawled on top of her and whispered words into her ears. Before having intimate relations with her.
The room was filled with lust. After some time, the man did not seem to be satisfied and he picked another woman up by his hands and started caressing her. Once again, lust permeated the entire room.
Pei Zi Yun took a closer look at this man, and ascertained that he was indeed Li Wen Jing. He had seen his images in the original owner's memory and could match his features with memories.
Another crazy party?
Pei Zi Yun could not help but smile coldly to himself, 'Although this man is crafty and scheming, he could not thread along the Dao, and thus has no Dao arts. I'll have to be patient and wait for the opportune time to strike. Getting to see him tonight is a gift from the heavens, for me to kill.'
Pei Zi Yun would wait for him to finish having his fun. Naturally he would be drained and exhausted from all the sexual relations. Even if he had some rudimentary knowledge of Dao abilities, he would still be unable to replenish his energy right after sex. These girls clearly thought they would gain easier entry into Dao if they had relations with him.
Using these women to satisfy himself did have some implications. He would be drained of all energy, and thus would not be able to put up much of a fight.
The sounds of passion filled the entire room and each of these ladies were extremely beautiful in their own right. At this point, Li Wen Jing felt an unexplainable sense of uneasiness. He then paused for sometime, his eyes trying to locate the source of his discomfort.
'The protective enchantments were not tampered with. Where is my uneasiness coming from?'
Li Wen Jing stood up abruptly, leaving the girls feeling dissatisfied. Seeing their man walking away, they held him back and tried to make him stay. However, he was not wearing clothes and was sweating, making it hard to actually get a hold of him. Li Wen Jing trembled and walked out. The ladies had no choice but to sit there and wait for him, protesting against his actions in unison.
Li Wen Jing did not seem to care. He retrieved the sword from the wall, and walked towards the corridor. He looked around but could not find anything out of the ordinary. Since he was having a fun time, he had sent his patrolling men some distance away to give them privacy. He was just about to call for his men to come when he turned the corner and heard a "woosh" sound.
Instantaneously he felt a sharp pain in his chest. He looked down and saw the tip of the sword coming out from his left chest. Blood gushed out of the wound and dripped down on his body. His entire vision went black. Just as he was falling to the ground he opened his mouth to scream in pain.
"Shut up!" The person behind took a rag and stuffed it into his mouth to muffle the screams he might make in his dying moments. After some time, his thrashing and shaking eventually ceased as he laid there motionless, dead.
"That's the difference between someone with a heart, and someone without." He then left the dead man on the floor and exited through the yard. He saw a stable, and immediately went in search for a horse to ride.
"Who is it?" Pei Zi Yun was about to ride the horse away from this place. The stable boy had seen someone riding the horse. Since it seemed like he was doing it openly and without any element of stealth, he assumed it was nothing important and thus did not raise the alarm. It was dark and he could not see hence he asked again, "Who is it?"
Before any other words were uttered, a large rock fell upon his head and he everything went black before fell to the ground.
Pei Zi Yun pulled the the horse towards the stable boy and drew his sword. He was deciding if he should end his life. He hesitated, "This person did not see my face at all. I shall spare him!"
He then rode his horse towards the back door.
When he had reached the main road, kicked his saddles, and the horse ran faster into the darkness of the night.
The women in the room felt that something was amiss. Just as they were having fun with their master he left the room. Even if it was to deal with something important he should've been back by now. They then put on some clothes and walked out in search for him.
When the walked out of the door, they were greeted with the smell and sight of fresh blood on the ground. The blood on the ground had someone congealed. One of the women gave out a shriek and fainted, falling flat on her face.
The rest of the women followed the trail of the blood, and finally found the dead body of a man at the end of the corridor. A sword was still planted in his back, and came out through his chest.
One brave women went up to him and checked for any signs of life, but there wasn't any. His entire body had already turned cold. In intense fear she shouted with all her might, "Men! Your master has been killed. Your master has been killed! Come, men!"
Late at night
The rain was gradually receding as moonlight shone down brightly. The horse was running at breakneck speeds. It was clear, that this was no ordinary horse. However, after running for some distance, the horse was exhausted.
Pei Zi Yun turned back to look and all that he could see were the many bright stars flickering overhead. From afar, he could see the huge walls of the capital city, "Hey this horse has ran 50 kilometers in such a short time, it's really impressive. It must be worth at least 50 silver taels."
"It's such a shame that I'm unable to take you with me." Pei Zi Yun started reducing his speed and pulled the horse close to a nearby stream. The stream was gurgling as ripples formed all around.
Pei Zi Yun jumped off the horse, and with a swift strike, stabbed the horse right in the heart. The horse did not die immediately, but jumped up in shock and fell into the stream. Blood was starting to flow into the stream, as a small area was covered in red hot blood.
Pei Zi Yun stripped off his clothes. Although he had been very careful the entire time, there were bloodstains on his clothes. He then tossed them into the stream.
Pei Zi Yun looked at the wall surrounding the city. When in times of war, not only would there be people patrolling those walls, all the foliages and trees within a hundred metres would be cut down so enemies would be unable to hide. Since it was peacetime now, there was nobody patrolling, and the trees were able to act as a good cover for him. Using the nearby trees and fence, he climbed over into the city.
"Quick! The sun's almost up."
At this moment the streets were glistening from the previous night's rain. There was not a soul yet. The lanterns outside each shop had already been extinguished. Pei Zi Yun did not take the main road, and instead, turned into a small alley. He ran straight towards the inn. He went into the inn by the backdoor and managed to reach the back of his room without anyone seeing him. Since he had left his window open the previous night, he climbed back in and was safe in his room.
Going out in the middle of the night to kill someone was exhausting work. He pulled the quilts to reveal a soft and comfortable bed. He jumped in and was in dreamland before long.
Capital City. Academic Institution
The Room Examiner had finished reading the first batch of answer scripts. For the capital examinations, the answer scripts had to first be assessed by Grading Examiners. The Grading Examiners' job was to identify mistakes, taboos or any possible infringement in the essays.
Those candidates who incorporated their own family statuses or indicated that they had high connections within their essays were immediately rejected. Doing so was an attempt to intimidate the examiners, and thus defeated the purpose of blurring out the candidate's name from the examination scripts in the first place.
"How many scripts have been rejected?" Asked Hu Ying Zhen.
"In this examinations there are 3000 scripts. After eliminating unworthy candidates, there are 561 scripts left." Someone reported.
"Don't these Elementary Scholars know that this imperial examination is very important? Yet there are so many mistakes being made." Another examiner exclaimed.
"The pressure and stress faced by these candidates while taking the examination is considerable. Even if we were to take the examination now, we might even make the same mistakes." Replied another examiner.
"Have scripts been segregated according to standards" Hu Ying Zhen asked.
"Sir, 300 scripts are in the first band. And 200 scripts are in the next band." He replied.
The Grading Examiners have an important job to do within their rooms. Within their hands, they have the power to alter the fates of these candidates. With just a wave of their hand, they can either condemn a script, or promote it.
There are many officials from the Ministry whose only job were to check the examination scripts that had been marked. They were to check for any scripts whose ideas do not conform to orthodoxy, and yet had been approved. When such a script has been found, the Grading Examiners and Room Examiners would be liable for punishment. They will be removed from their posts and have their titles cancelled out as well.
The Grading Examiners were all trembling with fear, and were extremely particular about the scripts that they handle. They have to be meticulous as any blunder could potentially cause them their jobs and titles. Now that this part has been done, they all heaved a sigh of relief. What comes next is beyond their scope of authority. The next step is the business of the Room Examiners.
The Room Examiners would then reread the remaining 500 scripts before grading them and handing them over to the Chief Examiner.
"This script is good when compared to the other scripts, and is in a league on its on." The Room Examiner drank a cup of tea and continued reading. He picked up another script and read the first line. He immediately straightened up and reread the first line again, "This is the most elegant script I've ever read. This can be used for a model answer!"
"Reading it seems to give off a sense that this candidate has received training from Han Ling Academy."
"This is astonishing. Even actual High Scholars would not be able to write something of this standard, much less a mere Elementary Scholar. This candidate must've been trained from Han Ling academy." The Room Examiner read it through once more and was impressed all over again, "This has to be one of the best scripts."
As he said this, he drew a circle on the script and indicated that it was quality work.