Chapter 86: Turning Misfortune to Fortune
Translator: Translation Nation Editor: - -
When Shen Zhi walked in, Ji Bei Hou was still fuming in anger, found it hard to contain, "Shen Zhi, you've always said that my third son was intelligent as a child. Look how he has grown up and refuses to cooperate with me. Worse, he refuses to spare a thought for the Hou Mansion. Infuriating."
"Master Hou, Third Young Master is still hazy about the details but he will eventually come through for us. Give him a couple of days to get his thoughts sorted out." Shen Zhi encouraged. Seeing the cup being smashed on the ground, he shouted, "Men, come and clear this mess."
Several servants entered the room and removed the shards from the floor wordlessly, and left without a sound as soon as the place was clean.
At this moment, someone called out, "Master Hou, Daoist Leader Li is here."
Ji Bei Hou and Shen Zhi glanced across at each other before Ji Bei Hou said, "Let him in!"
Ji Bei Hou then regained his usual composure and demeanor and started sipping his tea. A Daoist man entered the room and bowed, "Master Hou, Mister Shen, this Daoist extends his regards."
Shen Zhi glanced at the Daoist, who was dressed in his Daoist robes and looked very neat. He had grown a long beard and looked extremely otherworldly. For some strange reason, Shen Zhi felt repulsed by him and asked coldly, "Why isn't Daoist cultivating within the mountains, and instead has come to Hou Mansion?"
The Daoist bowed and replied plainly, "This Daoist has come to preach."
Shen Zhi did not expect the Daoist to be this forthright, and laughed, "Preaching isn't solely about speech. I wonder if this Daoist has any other abilities?"
The Daoist scrutinized Shen Zhi before saying, "You're right, there are hundreds of Daoist sects under the heavens and we do not even need to speak to gain believers. But today, I shall use only speech. You are a very talented man, in fact, you were a prodigy as a kid. It's a shame you took the wrong route."
Shen Zhi smiled coldly, "Tell me more."
The Daoist man continued, "Aside from reading your fortune based on your features, and aside from your destiny, I can tell you were a prodigy. At the age of six you started reading books, at nine you started writing essays. By ten, everyone could tell you were a child prodigy. You had good literary skills and yet you could only attain Elementary Scholar because you incurred the envy of some officials. You have a strong and stubborn personality but you often doubt your own skills, and wonder how you would fare against Pei Zi Yun?"
Shen Zhi's smile remained etched across his face. The Daoist then sighed and continued, "Aside from mastering the 4 Books and 5 Classics, you understand a great deal about paintings and music. Third Young Master can paint very well, I assume he learnt it all from you?"
"It's a pity that all these, won't help with your life or destiny in any way."
These words cut like a knife. The Daoist man started pacing around the room as he laughed, "One might wish to alter one's destiny, one's political career, one's cultivation, military career or to become rich and prosperous."
"You were born in hardships and poverty. With such talents, if you had remained quiet and low profile, you might have been able to become a High Scholar. And yet you searched for fame when you were younger, and shocked the entire county and region with your great works. You incurred the jealousy and envy of many officials around you, and thus turned them against you. In order to stand out, one would need to keep the lid over a heating pot until it starts to boil. Only then would people have nothing to say. Without honing your literary skills to perfection before taking the examinations, how were you going to become a High Scholar, how were you going to alter your fate?"
"Thirty years later, your fate has settled, and you have to rely on someone else in order to succeed. An example would be a housefly, which would only travel a few meters after flying for a long time. And yet all it has to do was to land on the tail of the horse in order to travel a thousand miles."
The meaning of this was that all these skills that Shen Zhi had acquired, including painting and making music, were not talents that one could develop into something useful. Furthermore his education didn't have the best track record, and thus the best he could for himself was to rely on the success of someone else.
Ji Bei Hou looked at Shen Zhi and realized that he was stumped, and his face was pale. He then laughed and said, "What about me? I do not wish to hear the good. I only wish to hear what's useful to me, and what would threaten me. Please speak."
The Daoist laughed, "Master Hou breath of life goes like this. Master Hou came from a very noble background and was bound to be very successful. However, your cloud of success has already passed. There was actually a chance to turn this all around, about a month ago. Then, Master Hou's fortunes were at a turning point, and looked extremely optimistic, whereas the Governor's fortunes looked extremely bleak. However, after a turn of events, your fortunes are now opposites of what they used to be."
"Not only would Master Hou find it hard to move, there's even a deathly aura above you."
Ji Bei Hou looked extremely displeased, and he looked as if he could kill anyone before him, and yet the Daoist man was calm and collected. The Daoist man glaced at Ji Bei Hou, and he snapped back to reality. Ji Bei Hou knew that this Daoist man was speaking the truth and not a con artist. In fact, he had Holy Jail Sect supporting him. He then turned around and smiled, "Daoist leader, you know why I've invited you here."
"I know, Master Hou wishes to deal with the Governor but Free Cloud Sect refuses to take action. Seeing that he was left with no other options, Master Hou decided to seek us out." The Daoist man said matter of factly.
Ji Bei Hou maintained his composure and smiled, "It's good that Daoist knows this."
The Daoist turned around and looked at Shen Zhi, "Mister Shen, I've told you to convince Master Hou to turn his back on Free Cloud Sect. Our sect thinks very well of the Hou family."
He then looked at Ji Bei Hou, "Master Hou, the pirates were part of our doing in assisting Master Hou in his plan. I believe Master Hou is aware of Holy Jail Sect's sincerity in helping you. It's a shame that Master Hou chose to take the side of Free Cloud Sect. At least now you know that they are not reliable. It's still not too late for Master Hou."
"Destiny is somewhat fixed, although it can be altered by the course of actions taken. Now is not the time for Master Hou to give up."
Ji Bei Hou reached for a new cup of tea and started sipping. He then said, "Daoist leader, since you are already here, let's discuss what you are here for."
"Yes, Master Hou." The Daoist man bowed and said, "Naturally we shall discuss the topic that I'm here for. However, I have to bring something up. If Master Hou wishes to gain to help from Holy Jail Sect, he has give us a show of his sincerity."
"Oh? What sort of sincerity does the Dao leader expect of me?" Asked Shen Zi, seeing Ji Bei Hou's face turn sour and it was clear that he wasn't too pleased.
The Daoist did not change his expression, "Sincerity, can be shown over time, after we've taken some time to earn each other's trust. Master Hou wishes to kill off Pei Zi Yun, we can be of service."
"This person has opposed us too many times, and caused us grave losses. He even ruined things for Hou Mansion. I think nobody here will object to kill him right?"
"Naturally not. We can help Daoist leader by providing men who are all specially trained for such covert missions. We can even assign several men to you right now. The question is whether you will be able to catch hold of him?" Shen Zhi asked.
"You do not have to worry about that. I already have people handling that issue." The Daoist man smiled widely.
"Speak clearly!" Ji Bei Hou said gruffly, "Have you seen the policy on Exterminating Pirates? How do you intend to deal with the policy?"
The Daoist men then kept his smile, and maintained a serious expression, "Look, with regards to the Japanese pirates, my sect has some information. Let's first speak of their origins. The pirates come from Japan, and used to be warlords belonging to the previous Japanese Emperor. After engaging in countless of battles, they were defeated by the current reigning Emperor of Japan. These warlords suffered tremendous losses, and now became outlaws of the nation. With nowhere else to go, they decided to start building rafters and boats to plunder the seas."
"Fifty years later, Japan already has a new batch of advisors and warlords. Naturally, the number of pirates still in existence were reduced significantly. However, there were still many pirates who had tasted the sweet profits of plundering and robbing, and would not rest. Most importantly was the fact that the previous dynasty had banned sea trading routes. This meant that goods such as cows, horses, military weapons, metal goods and silk could be sold at a much higher price back in Japan due to lack of supply."
"At first, they started acting illegally, then it became robbing and plundering. That was how they started becoming pirates."
"As for the policy of Exterminating Pirates, there's this line which was extremely critical. That when the marketplace is open, pirates will become merchants. Likewise when there's a ban on sea trading, and the marketplace is closed, the merchants will become pirates. This is very true."
Shen Zhi realized that Ji Bei Hou looked angrier as he retorted, "This Daoist isn't here to praise our enemy in front of us right?"
The Daoist man nodded, "Of course not. What I mean is that the policy was extremely accurate and sly. There's nothing bad to say about it."
"However, the implementation of this policy might bring about a loophole that we can manipulate."
"Speak up." Ji Bei Hou said calmly.
"This policy of removing the bandits might be a bad thing for us. But it can be a good thing as well. Japan requires many goods from our motherland. Firstly, silk."
"The policy spoke about ridding of the pirates in order to start opening ports for trade. Why can't we take advantage of these ports to earn a huge sum of money?"
"You are Ji Bei Hou, you have money and you have boats. As long as you are willing enter the market, you will be able to make huge profits."
Shen Zhi and Ji Bei Hou sighed at the same time, as if reaching an understanding.
"Silk would be highest in demand, followed by pots, porcelain, paint and medicinal herbs. On the other end, Japan will produce the silver. As long as we can establish a foothold and monopoly on these ports, a few hundred thousand taels of silver in profits is not an issue."
"Master Hou has enough silver in his pockets, what can be difficult?"
"Furthermore should the Governor open up many ports, we can capitalize and profit from all these ports. With a monopoly of the market, we can control the supply to our whim and fancy. Additionally, we can also send people to harass the ports regularly, and even be able to control the price of rice."
"There have been many so called upright officials who have been jumping and scolding the Governor for opening up sea trade."
"Master Hou, the next few years will be very important. As long as the pirates are still around to ensure some chaos, the imperial court will not dare to dispense you. The Emperor's health is not good, once he dies, the Crown Prince will lead us to a new era."
"When that happens, we can move forward or backward as we deem fit."
When Ji Bei Hou heard this, he took in a deep breath and exhaled, "There are many heroes under the heavens. You seem to be able to find a silver lining in every bad situation."
Shen Zhi had muttered something about the Daoist being over excessive, and yet now he was completely silent, just listening attentively. He then cleared his throat, his expression was friendly and warm, "What Daoist leader is saying, is that regardless of how strong the resistance against us is, we should turn it around and make something good out of it."
"Master Hou, this plan sounds good, we can proceed."
"Oh?" Ji Bei Hou was stunned. He paced back and forth in deliberation, "Daoist leader, this is a big matter, and I have to consider. You can leave now."
"Shen Zhi, escort the Dao leader out."
After escorting the Daoist leader out, Shen Zhi went back to the study room and paused for sometime before saying, "Master Hou, these Holy Jail Sect Daoists are very vile. You have to be on your guard."
Ji Bei Hou laughed coldly, "They are vile, but it doesn't matter to me. As long as it helps, I will bear with it."
"But....." Before Shen Zhi could finish his sentence, Ji Bei Hou waved a hand up to stop him, "There's no need to say all these anymore. In order to retain my foundations, this is necessary."
"Ai!" Shen Zhi sighed and didn't comment further on that matter. He then said, "This Daoist reminded me. I did have an idea."
"Oh, speak your mind." Ji Bei Hou's eyes sparkled in anticipation.
"It's still the same words. Regardless of how strong the opposition against us is, we can turn it around into victory. But I didn't complete my sentence then, how should we turn it around to become an advantageous situation for us?"
"The imperial court wishes to revoke your military authority. Since that's the case, let's go with that and follow their orders. Openly accept the order, and get your soldiers to return home, to their farms and agriculture. Then, we can keep those effective and loyal soldiers and transform them to sea merchants."
"Doing this, we would be able to make money, and we will be able to keep your roots. When the time is right, we can advance and make a move. If the time isn't right, we'll just keep earning money until the time is right."
"We can put up a show for the imperial court, and play the part of loyal and respectful subject. Doing this would mean they have no way of guessing what we are up to."
"Ai?" Ji Bei Hou stood up, and immediately replied, "Great, great. Mister is indeed a genius."