Chapter 99: Dance of the Dragon and Fish
Translator: Translation Nation Editor: - -
It was clear that nobody thought that Pei Zi Yun represented himself. They thought that he was doing this on someone's instructions. However, buying an official or asking for an examination question would not be worth all this money.
The Grand Princess extended a finger as she knocked the surface of the table, doubts swimming in her head. If it turned out to be a small and meaningless matter, she could do it easily. However if it involved the imperial courts or certain policies and if she did it without first consulting the Emperor, even she would not be exempted from his fury.
The Emperor's favor upon her was her main strength and source of power. Unlike the grandson of the Emperor, who was given the position of a smaller King over other lands. Although to say that he was struggling to survive would be an exaggeration, he was not doing very well without the Emperor's favor.
"Mother, when are we going to the lantern festival? Last year you said that you would accompany me this year. But when you left for the palace you didn't bring me to the festival. This year you're not going to trick me." The voice of a teenage girl rang out, followed by a fifteen years old girl entering, she started pulling on the sleeves of the Grand Princess.
The Grand Princess looked at her young daughter, and found her to be extremely adorable. She then laughed out, "My good daughter, the only reason I've been going to the palace was because of you. If I didn't have the adoration and favor of the Emperor, how could I afford to buy you nice clothes and anything you like?"
"I don't care, I don't care. This year you're definitely coming with me. You have to come with me this year." The girl started saying coyly once more. Seeing her adorable daughter this way, the Grand Princess promised, "Alright alright, I shall go along with you."
The young lady then ran forward to plant a kiss on her mother's cheek, "Thank you mother."
The Grand Princess then extended a finger and pressed it to her daughter's forehead gently, "You playful thing."
She then fell deep in thought before instructing the butler, "Prepare a reply slip and send it to Pei Zi Yun. Tell him to attend the lantern festival together with us. He can help me relieve my daughter's boredom."
"Yes!" The butler acknowledged and was clear on the instructions.
When Pei Zi Yun left the Grand Princess's Mansion, he didn't head straight back home. Instead, he went to a bank. From outside, the bank looked small with its tiny door, and yet the minute he entered, he saw a huge courtyard. Once he entered the bank, he approached a teller and said, "I have gold that I wish to convert into silver banknotes."
The teller stuck his head out through a counter and said, "Show me what you've got."
"This is it." Pei Zi Yun slid across a single gold bar. When the teller received it, he scrutinized it several times before replying, "According to the rules, I have to cut it open before I can authorize the transaction."
"Then cut it!"
When it had been cut open and checked, the teller said, "97% purity, 10 taels."
"I know that it's 98%, but deducting a point is a policy of this bank." The teller then raised his head and looked up, "You are a High Scholar, and it's the same everywhere. I'm not trying to cheat you."
"Fine then, I wish to change it to banknotes in silver."
"You wish to convert a 98% purity gold bar to 110 taels of silver in banknotes, done."
Pei Zi Yun then decided to test the rates by heading to other banks. This took the most part of the afternoon before he had a clear indication of the average rates across the capital.
After getting something to eat, it was already evening. When he reached home, he saw a servant bearing a slip for him. The minute he saw Pei Zi Yun approaching, he walked forward, "Young master, this is a slip inviting you to the lantern festival."
This servant was dressed in immaculate and wealthy-looking robes. He looked extremely respectable and polite, and even bore a scholarly look. Pei Zi Yun received the note, and looked at it. It was a pretty piece of paper.
When Pei Zi Yun saw it, he fell deep in thought. To invite him to a lantern festival, was it to enquire about his purpose?
The lantern festival was to be held on the 15th day of every full moon, and was one of the most important festivals around. Everywhere within the capital, there were lanterns hung all over, adding a very unique glow to the city. People from the imperial court, official courts and even the ordinary citizens contributed fundings to build a lighthouse and many other decorative ornaments to the festival.
Apart from the traditional lantern guessing games, merchants would also provide dragon lanterns, lion dances, ghost games and many other festivities to add to the atmosphere.
It's also been said that the Emperor would bring along all his concubines and sit and watch the festivities happening from above. All these came from the original owner's memories.
Since he was to attend the lantern festival, he had to make preparations. He then got off the oxcart and shifted the wooden boxes around for his convenience. He then ignited a candle and started thinking. Fighting competitions were not an option, maybe he could participate in a poem reciting competition.
Just as he was pondering on his options, he heard some movement outside. He frowned, could it be that someone was here to kill him? He retrieved his sword and headed towards the direction of the sound.
Pei Zi Yun then saw a suspicious looking person trying to scale the walls to his house. Pei Zi Yun took a deep breath and watched him from afar. This person was carefully trying to climb over the walls and was almost halfway there. Seeing that a light had been ignited within the house, he moved cautiously and slowly.
"A thief?" This thief then started heading towards a room, as he felt his way across the dark corridors. When he was finally at his first room, he used his fingers to gently pry open the door and walked in. Pei Zi Yun wanted to see what this thief was up to and followed behind quietly. He then pushed open the door to reveal the thief standing in the middle of the room.
It was Zhang Cheng. Pei Zi Yun laughed heartily, "You were refused entry in the day, at night you decided to trespass on the property of a High Scholar. Do you know that this is a big crime? You've sold the house for 450 taels of silver. All I have to do is lodge a complain and you will be doomed. Do you believe me?"
Hearing Pei Zi Yun's words, Zhang Cheng was still unhappy and shouted loudly, "Based on what? This is my house."
This was the first time Pei Zi Yun had encountered such an obstinate rascal. He was afraid deep down, 'I'm extremely lucky that he decided to show up now. If he'd came while I was out, he would've found out about the gold. I would have plenty of unnecessary troubles then.'
'A rascal like this has to be dealt with harshly.'
As he thought hard, he decided to get someone to report it to an official. He managed to find a random passersby, and handed him a High Scholar card. Before long, a constable arrived.
Seeing the constable, Zhang Cheng was terrified. Whenever something happens, it would usually be a bailiff that shows up. Zhang Cheng had several friends that he drank wine and they were bailiffs. Hence when Pei Zi Yun decided to report the matter, he wasn't very worried. However he didn't expect a constable to come instead.
Pei Zi Yun then recounted the incident to the constable. He then said fiercely, "A rascal like this deserves to be punished harshly. At the very least you have to ensure he does not trespass on my property again."
As he spoke, he threw five taels of silver to the constable. After the constable heard that this man had already sold his house for a couple of hundred silver taels, and seeing the five taels in his hands, he smiled craftily, "Do not worry High Scholar, I will take care of him."
The constable then dragged Zhang Cheng away. At this point, Zhang Cheng was aware that he was in trouble and started screaming in fear. Hearing his screams, the constable was annoyed and retrieved his baton and hit him once hard across his face.
"Ah!" Zhang Cheng screamed out in pain as his face swelled up almost immediately.
Watching a scene like this unfold before him, Pei Zi Yun gave a cold laugh. This Zhang Cheng needed to learn how to deal with some hardships in his life. He had a few hundred silver taels on him right now. If he had it lucky, he could give some to the constables who would free him. If he didn't get it good, he might get beaten to death. The money will then be split between the constables and bailiffs.
It was in such a society that if a person's wealth exceeded his status, this was how he would end up.
If he hadn't been greedy, he would've been alright. Now he might even lose his life.
When Pei Zi Yun returned to his room, he checked to see if the gold was still there. If this man had come during the day, he would've seen the 2,000 taels of gold. Now that Pei Zi Yun was changing gold to banknotes, the Grand Princess might've found out about this. Pei Zi Yun thus decided to wait and see. However he would keep this gold hidden in the meantime.
In the blink of an eye, a few days had past and it was time for the lantern festival. Pei Zi Yun heard the sound of firecrackers going off outside. Ever since he had handed Zhang Cheng over to the authorities everything had been peaceful and quiet.
Someone knocked on the door. Pei Zi Yun walked out and saw an Imperial Guard standing outside, wearing a mask of a wolf, "Young master, you have to wear a mask and attend the event."
Pei Zi Yun was feeling quite suspicious. He then took the note that the Imperial Bodyguard offered. It note had the same prints and writings as the previous note, so he knew that it was indeed authentic. The Imperial Guard then handed him a mask of a pig to wear.
The mask of a pig was not anything derogatory but rather had very graceful look to it. It looked like it had been designed by a girl. Pei Zi Yun laughed and received the mask.
The firecrackers were still going off outside. Every single household had a lantern hanging outside their doors and were carrying lanterns and walking towards the festival.
The Imperial Guard walked in front and Pei Zi Yun followed closely behind as they followed the crowd towards their destination.
Most people going to the festival had masks on, regardless of whether they were men or women. Many lanterns were hanging on the sidewalk as they headed to the festival. Students were playing the lantern guessing game as several merchants were selling lights and lanterns. It was a very lively scene.
The Imperial Guard wearing the wolf mask continued walking straight. Before long, they met with a group of people. In the middle, there was a woman and a young lady. They wore the masks of Chang E¹ and of an adorable fairy. They were guessing the riddle which had been written on an extremely pretty lantern.
Pei Zi Yun noticed that they were surrounded by wolf masks. It seemed all the Imperial Guards were wearing wolf masks. Even when these royal members wanted to come out and play, they needed tight security. Being in the middle of it all made Pei Zi Yun's heart flutter.
The Imperial Guard beside him then approached another wolf mask Imperial Guard as they exchanged several words. The second Imperial Guard then walked over to the lady and spoke to her. After sometime he approached Pei Zi Yun, "Young Master Pei, please step forward, my mistress wishes to speak to you."
Pei ZI Yun heard and understood. His mistress was the Grand Princess and he approached, "This humble subject is Top Scorer Pei Zi Yun from Ying Prefecture. My respects to.... Mistress."
The Chang E mask was exceptionally well drawn and looked very real. Pei Zi Yun was almost sure that it had been drawn by a famous artist. As Pei Zi Yun approached, she raised her mask slightly to enable her to speak, but not revealing her entire face, "I am unable to guess this riddle correctly, why don't you help me with this."
'This is not unusual for someone of her status, to make demands the minute she meets someone.' Pei Zi Yun thought to himself. He then watched as the Grand Princess pointed to a particular riddle on the lantern. On it was written: "Half-awake and half-asleep in the middle of the night."
When Pei Zi Yun looked at the riddle, he knew the answer immediately, having been under the tutelage of several Grand Scholars. He then answered the riddle, "To think hard, and think twice, all problems will be solved."
An old man appeared smiling, "Congratulations to young master, this lantern is yours."
As he spoke, he then handed the lantern over to Pei Zi Yun. The mistress celebrated with a soft squeal. She then took the lantern happily.
The woman behind the Chang E mask was clearly happy, even though her expression remained concealed. She then said, "Top Scorer Pei, you are indeed talented. It's just that your introductory gift was so high in value. I wonder what could it possibly be that you want."
The woman behind the Chang E mask then lit up the remaining candles within the lantern as she asked.
Hearing these words, Pei Zi Yun then understood. The Grand Princess had been worried about this matter. It must be that he had given too much gold the first time round. The Grand Princess was thus worried that the request must be proportionate to the sum of money offered.
However, it was only that he was inexperienced in such matters and could not decide on the appropriate amount of money to open with. Pei Zi Yun had heard Minister Li mention something about a great amount of gold. Hence Pei Zi Yun gave 1,000 taels of gold as an introduction before commencing talks. This worried the Grand Princess, who assumed that his offer was politically motivated.
After thinking for sometime, Pei Zi Yun burst out in smiles, "Mistress, my request is not big at all. I do not wish to take the examinations, neither do I wish to become an official. I've joined the Dao and thus would like push for an additional bestowal of title for my sect. My sect now holds the title of Dao Master, and I wish for it to become True Sovereign. The Governor and Minister Li have expressed their consent, and I humbly ask that mistress is able to assist on this matter."
Hearing Pei Zi Yun speak, the Grand Princess laughed. So this is what the entire matter was about, a title bestowal. If this discussion was about a title conferred to someone, be it alive or dead, it would be impossible of her to make this request to the Emperor. However with regards to the sect and spiritual realm, it was a simple affair and yet could be messy as well. However, as long as everything was in order, and with the approval of the necessary officials and her own voice, it should not be too difficult. Actually, this could be done for 600 taels of gold.
The Grand Princess was deep in thought before smiling, "I can consider this, but I cannot give you a clear answer now. I've heard that you are talented and recite good poems. If you can compose a good poem to impress me, I will ensure that this matter is a small matter and shall be granted."
Hearing her speak this way, Pei Zi Yun laughed too. At this point in time, there were people performing a dragon dance. This dragon was red and was surrounded by several lanterns, illuminating its body.
There were several torches of fire around as well, adding to the magnificence of the dragon. Not far away, there were several ladies wearing the masks of fairies, they were about to join the dragon and participate in the dance as well.
Pei Zi Yun then pointed at the dragon and said, "That's not difficult. I shall finish the poem in three steps."
He then took three strides forward and started reciting, "The east wind of the night adorns a tree with a thousand flowers, and blows down stars in a shower. Fine steeds and carved carts fill the air with a unique scent. Music vibrates from the flute as the moon sheds its full light, while fish and dragon lanterns dance all night."
"In a golden dress ornamented with moths and willow. Giggling, she melded into the crowed with her fragrant scent. Hundreds of thousands of times I searched for her amidst the chaos. When I looked back, there she was, standing under the lights."
When Pei Zi Yun finished, he pointed at the light between the fairies and the Grand Princess. The Grand Princess behind the Chang E mask exhaled silently, as though she was stunned by the brilliance of this poem. She remained silent, and looked right at him, as though her deceased husband was staring right back at her. Before long, she said, "In three steps you composed such a beautiful peace. You are really a genius among men."
"Take off your mask. Let me remember your face." The Grand Princess said.
Pei Zi Yun hesitated for some time before removing the mask. Fire torches and fireworks were all around, illuminating the land on which he stood. Pei Zi Yun's face was confident. When the mask came off, the young lady with a fairy mask standing beside the Grand Princess blushed, her ears turning in a deep shade of red.
[1 - Chinese Goddess of the Moon]