Chapter 93: Ji Ai Guo
Translator: Translation Nation Editor: - -
Snowflakes descended gracefully from the sky onto the town. Every now and then, a snowflake would fall onto a person, causing some pain whenever it touched a face. The strong winds had been bellowing the entire night as dark clouds gathered and rolled overhead. People on the streets were all covered up well, their hands still freezing and their noses were red.
The new year was fast approaching. Pei Zi Yun sat inside an inn as he gazed out into the white patch of snow. Far in the background were several mountains, which looked connected to one another. Pei Zi Yun could hear wailing sounds in the distance.
"Innkeeper, what's the matter?" The innkeeper had been pasting auspicious chinese characters all around his inn. There were very few guests in the inn today, and the innkeeper had announced happily that there were only eight guests today.
When he heard Pei Zi Yun's question, he sighed, "The cries are coming from a mother and daughter. They were travelling when the man in their family died. Now, they have no money to return home and are thus crying."
"Both mother and daughter are willing to sell their bodies in order to afford a coffin to bury him, and their wailing sounds has disturbed you."
Without another word, Pei Zi Yun walked out. A gust of wind blew some snowflakes onto Pei Zi Yun. He glanced out and noticed that the small lake nearby was completely frozen. The snowflakes on the frozen lake were almost dancing with the wind.
Pei Zi Yun then noticed two people squatting outside. Without approaching them, he called for the innkeeper, "Innkeeper, innkeeper!"
The innkeeper rushed out, "Young master, your food is almost ready, how can I help you?"
"Based on my memory, a regular coffin should cost about three taels of silver. And the cost of living in your inn is about two taels of silver. This should do it." Pei Zi Yun then took out two ingots of silver and handed it over to him.
The innkeeper received it and looked, there were two ingots, each worth five taels of silver. He looked at the deep shade of silver on the ingots and it was snow white at the side. He then bit hard on it and realized it was real, authentic silver. He then said, "Young master this is for..?"
"Give it to this mother and daughter. Let them stay in your inn and buy them a coffin. The rest can be used for them to travel back home."
Hearing this, the innkeeper's smile froze. He then spoke with sincerity, "Young master is very kind. However, I refuse to accept the cost for putting them up here. This inn has been handed down for five generations. Whenever someone dies here, I will not charge the party anything. Young master, do not worry. I will hand the money over to them."
Pei Zi Yun sat down and nodded his head. The serving staff then brought his food, "Young master, your food is here."
Pei Zi Yun nodded his head in acknowledgement. The serving staff placed the tray on the table before going downstairs.
Pei Zi Yun started eating as he gazed out into the falling snow. A few days ago he had just killed the Japanese pirates and burned the Dao Amulet. The journey since had been rather uneventful.
'Should I go back?'
Having been through so much, heading back would only mean his mission had failed. Then, the sect would replace him with someone else to complete the mission. Who then would benefit from this?
If Pei Zi Yun were to fail this time, he would lose his chance to become a core disciple. With regards to this matter, he cannot retreat and must advance forward.
Thinking about this made him worry as it showed on his face. He then drained a cup of wine and felt the spiciness burn his throat. He then started eating the dishes. Only after a few mouthfuls did he truly start feeling at ease again.
"Young master, I noticed from afar that you are troubled and worried, as if something is troubling you. Why not give me a cup of wine, and you can share your troubles with me." A voice said. Pei Zi Yun looked up and saw a Daoist man with a little Daoist. They stood in front of his table.
"It's strange that this Daoist would approach him here. Let's see what does he want." Thinking this way, he then said, "Please have a sit Daoist. Drink as much as you wish."
The Daoist then sat in front of Pei Zi Yun and dipped his chopsticks into the plate of peanuts. He then poured himself a cup of beer and drank happily.
Pei Zi Yun smiled and drank from his cup as well. Seeing the little Daoist with her neatly combed hair, she looked very intelligent. However, her face was red and rosy from the cold weather. She remained expressionless. Pei Zi Yun realized that she looked extremely familiar, and he frowned.
"Who's this girl Daoist, she looks extremely familiar. Based on her expression, she seems to be rather unhappy with me." Pei Zi Yun was rather suspicious, and hesitated for sometime, "Dao leader, you're here to steal my food and drinks huh? But it doesn't matter. I am indeed feeling rather troubled. Dao leader, please have as much food and drink as you can manage. It's snowy and windy outside, and the both of us will make for good drinking partners."
"Serving boy, bring me another bowl and more dishes. Prepare for these two guests." Pei Zi Yun turned around and shouted.
"Sure, please wait a moment I will be there shortly!" The serving boy responded. A short while later, he brought up another few empty bowls and more dishes. The little Daoist girl sat down as well and started using the chopsticks to eat. She did seem rather hungry.
The Daoist man reached out for the wine jug and poured himself another glass before tilting his head back and draining the cup, "This is pretty good wine. I saw you give the mother and daughter duo some money. You are rather kind-hearted."
"The new year is fast approaching, and everyone who is living in the inn is destitute to a certain degree. Since I have money, why should I be stingy with those in need?" Pei Zi Yun drained another cup. Seeing the Daoist man deep in thought, he laughed and said, "This is just me being sentimental and sensitive to the needs of others. Besides, when people are happy and satisfied, there will be more good people around. Likewise when people are hungry and poor, there will be more evil around. There're good and evil in people. How can we just label a person by a single action?"
"When people are happy, there will be more good people around. And when people are poor there will be more evil around. There are both good and evil, how can we label a person just by a single action." The Daoist man repeated after him and nodded, "Well said!"
"This world is a messy and chaotic place. People are fighting between themselves for food to survive. I cannot speak of being too kind myself, for I know what it's like to be poor."
"As of now, the world has been peaceful for seven years, and we are not in wartimes anymore. Young master, how long do you think this peacefulness will last?"
Pei Zi Yun took a gulp of wine and ate some dishes. Watching the snow fall gently onto the ground, he laughed, "Daoist, why do you want my opinion on this? If you really wish to know, for everything under the heavens, after sometime apart, they will be rejoined. Likewise after sometime being together, they will split apart. Thousands of years will pass according to this cycle and none of it matters, for everything will reach equilibrium either way."
"Haha!" The Daoist man laughed, "Young master has a sense of humor. It is true that everything will rejoin after time apart, and that everything will fall apart after a long time of being together. And yet to individuals like you and I, it does make a difference whether we are living in peacetime or wartime. In fact, it makes a world of difference."
"I was around for the fall of the previous empire, and saw the chaos that ensued. This year marks the end of the seventh year of peace and stability of the new dynasty. This peacefulness is really a blessing from the heavens to the populations."
Hearing these words, Pei Zi Yun laughed, "This world is far from being at peace."
He paused for sometime before continuing, "To men, three years of peace is considered a time of stability. To the ancient people, three years is only three years. It's too short a time to say for sure."
"And yet to an Emperor, only after thirty years of peace can it be deemed stable. The new dynasty has only seen seven years of stability. We have another twenty odd years more of peace to see before we can truly consider the dynasty stabilized."
When the Daoist heard this he smiled, "Young master is really wise and all-seeing. However, the Emperor's health is declining, and he's trying to clean up the mess for the Crown Prince to take over. There can be potential problems here with his ascent to the throne, and the climate will see a change. What does young master think of this?"
Pei Zi Yun paused for sometime where he took another gulp of wine, "Daoist leader has a sense of humor. Our dynasty has been established, and the 45th Emperor sits on the throne. He is looking at the spring and autumn years of his reign. The Emperor will look after his health, and rule for another twenty years without issues. Then, the dynasty shall be stabilized and at peace."
"Young master speaks words of fortune and there are truths to it as well. However, young master said earlier that the empire cannot be considered stabilized. And he also said that the Emperor shall rule for another twenty years. Is he saying that if the next twenty years are not peaceful years, we will see war and trouble once more?"
"If that was what he meant, young master's opinions are similar to mine. The winds of fortune are always changing. Looking at how young master is such a wise and intelligent man with foresight, he shall have many chances to be successful in future."
Pei Zi Yun cleared his throat, "Looking at how Daoist leader sees this situation, I wonder if he's trying anything funny or trying to incite something?"
Hearing these words, the Daoist man smiled without replying before standing up, "I've had my fill. Look, the mother and daughter are here to thank you."
As he spoke, the duo of them walked over. The mother looked at Pei Zi Yun in the eye, gratitude overwhelmed here.
"My husband went to the city to take the examinations and did not pass again. He didn't have the face to return to the village. When we heard the news, we rushed over to this inn and found him here."
"I've been sick my entire life and was eagerly waiting for his return, and yet could not get to see him before he passed. At least I got to see him for the last time."
"All the money we had on us, we've spent it all. Who would've expected young master to give us 10 taels of silver."
As she spoke, she started crying. Pei Zi Yun had to console her. He found out that she has another son back home, and had land at home too. With the silver he gave, they would be able to make safe passage back home. He then said, "No matter what happens, you should buy a coffin and head back home."
At this point, the innkeeper had to tell them to stop disturbing him.
Pei Zi Yun seemed like a rich and important guest, and thus the innkeeper felt the need to intervene. He then prepared a hot bath and delivered it to Pei Zi Yun's room. Submerging himself under the hot water, the innkeeper came up regularly to refill the hot water in his tub.
"Sorry for troubling you, boss."
"It's not trouble at all. This can't match the kindness you showed to the duo of them."
Pei Zi Yun suddenly became focused and asked, "How're the people living in village like?"
"They're alright. The law and order here is rather good, and we seldom have any problems. A few years ago, there were some killings and robbery. The entire town was filled with bandits. Although this inn had been handed down over to me for five generations, I was unable to open it due to the amount of crime rampant. Now that the dynasty has been established, it's much better."
"Do not think that this mother and daughter are pitiful. Several years ago, the number of dead people by the streets with nobody to bury were plenty." As he said this, his cheeks twitched, as though thinking about the past gave him chills.
"We are all subjects of peace and cannot understand the ways of criminals." Pei Zi Yun nodded his head and stood up. The innkeeper hurriedly retreated and said he would be back to clean up.
Pei Zi Yun laid under his blankets. Seeing that there was an old book of stories on the table beside him, he picked it up and started reading. After sometime, he fell asleep.
As the night gradually turned dark, the winds were still howling in the distance. All of a sudden, there was a bright light under the shelter of the inn. The light pierced through the windows and entered the room. The sound of Pei Zi Yun's astonished shout could be heard. It sounded like he was in pain. A second later, it was all still and quiet again.
It was quiet outside for sometime. Snow was still falling unrelentingly. After sometime, Pei Zi Yun's voice could be heard, "Dao leader, why don't you come inside?"
"Clap clap" The sound of someone clapping could be heard from outside. The Daoist man then appeared, "Master Top Scorer, you are always so alert and ready, it's difficult to attack. How can I ambush you then?"
Hearing these words, Pei Zi Yun opened the windows, "In the day, we discussed about our nation. In the night, you've come to kill me. I wonder who revealed my location? I ask Daoist brother to tell me the truth."
The Daoist man had pushed the little Daoist girl far away. Hearing the sound, he laughed and clasped his hands in salute, "Master Top Scorer, with your sword pointing at us, how should I inform you of who was it who marked you?"
"Dao leader, if you didn't intend to say, you could've just kept quiet."
"You are right. This is an obvious conspiracy and people are openly plotting against you. If you look carefully, you should be able to find out who planted the Dao Amulet on you." As the Daoist man spoke, he started walking away.
"Yes, there's a feud between Song Zhi and I, but why does he have to drag an outsider into this affair? This is clearly a conspiracy between us. It's a pity I've been the only one on the receiving end. But how can I tolerate constantly being harmed without exacting my revenge?"
Pei Zi Yun thought to himself. All of a sudden, there was a flash of light. The little Daoist girl who was following the Dao leader was the daughter of the gangsters he had killed. He had met the pair of them back at the relay station.
It's just that even then, she had looked familiar. Could it be that the original owner knew her?
He then shouted, "Dao leader wait up. Can you tell me the name of that little Dao girl?"
"Ji Ai Guo!" The Daoist man replied as he took a big stride and disappeared under the heavy snow.