Translator: Translation Nation Editor: Translation Nation
It was late spring, and the monastery was surrounded by an abundance of beautiful flowers. They were in full bloom now. Although the small rain hampered the atmosphere, there were still many tourists visiting the monastery atop the mountain, as they paid their respects by burning incense. There were many believers present as well, as they lined up to enter the monastery. An old woman linked arms with a young girl, and an older girl followed close behind. It was a lively scene. Pei Zi Yun wanted to enter the monastery as well, but stopped walking suddenly, and turned to the other hall, which had less people in it.
As he walked in, he decided that the atmosphere in this hall wasn’t as exciting as in the main hall. He then turned around to leave, but saw Official Zhao in front of him. He signalled to Pei Zi Yun, and they moved aside to talk. Official Zhao then spoke, "Young Master, the thing you’ve asked me to get. I’ve managed to obtain some information!"
Pei Zi Yun then stepped forward and received the note. When he opened it, he saw an entire list of names, which even had annotations beside each of them. This was a very conscientious effort. Pei Zi Yun folded the note before speaking, "I shall hold onto this first. I have something else I need. I shall tell you more about it later."
The official then replied, "Yes. The Crown Prince mentioned to help Young Master to the best of my abilities. So, just instruct me accordingly, and see it done."
"Good. If there’s anything I will look for you." Pei Zi Yun then turned around. All of sudden, he seemed to recall something and looked at the official once again, "I heard that the Canton Princess isn’t feeling well. Is that true?"
The official then took a moment to recall the rumor before replying, "It’s been said that she’s come down with the flu."
"What?" Pei Zi Yun exhaled silently. "Arrange an ox-cart for me. I will go back to the corner of the Grand Princess’s Mansion."
The official opened his mouth, as if to protest against the idea, but swallowed his thoughts and walked off to arrange for an ox-cart. Pei Zi Yun sat within the ox-cart, where he heard the shout of the driver spurring the ox forward, as the cart started moving into the capital city. When they reached an alley within the capital city, the muddy splashes of the ox’s footsteps were audible. The raindrops would fall upon the ox-cart’s roof with inconsistent splashes, sometimes heavy and other times light. Pei Zi Yun then opened the list once again and started looking through the names.
The first few names on the list were extremely high ranking officials. For these men, only the Crown Prince himself was in position to speak to them and ask them to join his side. However, he could try to get to know them, and maybe use their friendship to borrow their authority. At the end of the day, making friends with them brought no harm.
He continued reading the list as the ox-cart moved on. Chen Ping this official cannot be used, as his rank was too low.
He Meng seems like a suitable candidate, but this person was vigilant and meticulous. Getting to him would be hard, and thus might not be a good idea. Throughout the entire journey he was reading the names and their annotations. When he reached the bottom of the list, he saw a name, Zhou Ji.
Zhou Ji was a sixth ranked official, with an honest and upright character, and shunned evil like the plague. However, Pei Zi Yun had a memory of this person. His rank wasn’t considered high, but in the original owner’s life, he was the only person who opposed King Lu’s ascension to the throne and almost died in the throne hall.
But this person didn’t belong to the Crown Prince, and everything he did was on his own accord. This person could be used.
He then flipped the list over, and looked at the name list of officials working for King Lu. Looking at the name list, Pei Zi Yun smiled, 'Looks like all is not lost for the Crown Prince, now that I have these information and can use it to our advantage.'
He looked at the name list of people being employed by King Lu and didn’t see any Ren Wei, and felt it was somewhat strange. He followed the order of names, and looked through one by one. Could it be that King Lu hasn’t discovered him?
When he turned the list over, he then saw the name he was looking for. Looks like it’s true that Ren Wei truly does have talent, as King Lu kept people who were of use to him. When then would this person make an appearance?
But out of all these people, just mere annotations couldn’t be trusted. He decided that only by meeting them would he gain a clear assessment of their uses.
Xiang Yun Wine Restaurant
It was in the afternoon, and the rows of shops were so close together they were like the scales on a fish. Behind an alley, there was a restaurant which had a huge signboard overhead. Several patrons walked in and out of the shop, and others remained drinking wine within.
The restaurant didn't look too big, but had two levels. There were six tables spread out in the first floor, and the second floor was a place of residence for the owner. Since it was raining, they had to ignite candles. There were seven or eight people drinking and casually talking.
The storekeeper was tallying the figures of the day, and counting the silver collected thus far. Just then, a man wearing white robes walked in.
A waiter looked up at him and greeted him, "Old Ren, you seem to be in high spirits today. I wonder what happened? Are you going to have your usual meal today? Or would you like a change?"
This man was Ren Wei. He then laughed and replied, "What a sharp lad. You're right. It seems like I have a chance at the job after all."
He then thought for sometime, with a struggle apparent on his face before he replied slowly, "I would like to order the same. Rice, vegetables and tofu would do."
"Coming right up!" The waiter was about to go when Ren Wei shouted out, "Add a chicken thigh for me today."
When the waiter heard this, he wrote it down before turning to the kitchen.
Pei Zi Yun had altered his appearances and made himself look much younger. He dressed well and followed Ren Wei to the restaurant. Looking at Ren Wei, Pei Zi Yun thought that he might be difficult to speak to. Hence he sat some distance away and didn't approach him.
"Guest, what would you like to order? Here at Xiang Yun Wine Restaurant we have several signature dishes. Our steamed chicken, fried chicken, duck soup, red steam fish and sliced beef are favorites. We also have melons. What would you like to eat?"
Just hearing the waiter mention all the food made Pei Zi Yun hungry. He then pondered before answering, "Get me some chicken and a jug of wine. Fry some vegetables for me too."
"Coming right up guest!" The waiter then turned around and came back later with the dishes. He had a small hammer on his hands as well, which he used to crack open the solidified mud wrapped around the chicken as steam rose from it, smelling extremely delicious.
Just as the waiter was about to leave, Pei Zi Yun held him back and asked, looking at Ren Wei, "That man over there looks like a High Scholar. I've heard that he's a regular at your restaurant. Why do I get a feeling like he's having a bad day? Even just eating the chicken he's so deep in thought."
The waiter who was about to leave, turned to look at old Ren after listening to Pei Zi Yun. "Heh, guest you don’t know him. He isn’t a High Scholar, but only a Elementary Scholar. It’s been said that he’s failed the examinations for several years now. That’s why he had no choice but to apply for a low ranking post with King Lu."
"You’re saying that in such a situation, when he eats plain vegetables and tofu everyday, he can one day succeed in life?"
"Apparently the competition is intense. Old Ren wouldn’t be qualified enough to take up a high position, and hence had to take up a contractual job. He idles his life away, and only knows how to boast to us everyday that he was going to personally run errands for King Lu himself. But we’ve never seen him accomplish anything for him. All the jobs he got were low paying errands for King Lu’s palace, which nobody wanted to take up since they were tough and paid very little."
Hearing these words, Pei Zi Yun’s heart stirred. Ren Wei’s life seemed very miserable. If Pei Zi Yun played his cards well, this mission would succeed easily. He then continued to ask, "Even the small jobs offered at King Lu’s palace pay well right? Even if he took on a contract job, the rewards should be good. How could you say that his job was low paying and tough?"
"Young Master sounds like he’s not from the capital right?" The waiter looked at Pei Zi Yun and asked. When Pei Zi Yun didn’t reply, he continued speaking, "Young Master, you have to know that living within the capital is very expensive. Food and lodging are all expensive. There are many contract jobs offered at King Lu’s Palace. And this man likes to buy books. Do you know how expensive books are? Besides, this King Lu’s palace isn’t a mountain of gold and silver as well. As for contract jobs there are different tiers, and this man belongs to one of the lowest tiers."
"King Lu runs his palace like a military camp. If you do well, you will be rewarded. Do something wrong and you will be punished. Old Ren is probably the lowest ranked among all the contractual job workers, and so he doesn’t have to work very much. All he does everyday is to flatter his superiors, how can he earn money this way? He earns at most three or four silver taels a month by doing odd jobs for the palace. As of now, he rents a small room upstairs. Every afternoon he will have a free meal in the palace, and at night he will come back to the shop and order some vegetables and tofu."
"Waiter, take my order."
Someone then shouted, and the waiter turned around to do his job. Pei Zi Yun looked at Ren Wei from afar, 'Looks like it’s going to be easy. This person’s days are tough. All I need is to strike a match and it will all fall into place.'
Pei Zi Yun then ate slowly, before standing up and leaving. He then told the ox-cart driver, "To the small lake beside the Grand Princess’s Mansion."
Before long, the ox-cart reached the exact location. This was bigger than a lake, but smaller than a river. There were several willow trees planted next to the lake. He looked at the scenery and took out his flute.
At this point it was already dark, and it was drizzling slightly. The Grand Princess was holding onto a lamp. Looking at her daughter, the Canton Princess, she noticed that her daughter had lost some weight. The serving maid was feeding her some medication, when all of a sudden the sound of a flute playing could be heard. Immediately, her face lit up, as she listened attentively.
The sound of the flute was very mild and subtle, and could be described as shrill yet melodic. At times it was loud, and others it was soft, like lovers whispering to each other. The melody pierced through the night and touched the hearts of everyone listening.
The Canton Princess thought that it was over and asked, "That was very good. Who’s playing the flute?"
"Hm, who’s playing it?" At the same time, the Grand Princess asked the maids. Someone then replied, "It’s not anyone from within the mansion. It’s someone from outside. The rain caused some fog, and also because it’s late, it’s hard to tell. It looks to me like it’s a young man."
Even before the maid completed her sentence, the Grand Princess waved a hand and laughed, "Young men these days are becoming more bold, to think of doing something like this?"
Before anyone of them realized it, the flute started playing once more. This time, the tune was fast paced and exciting, as if it was describing a war scene, where horses were running and their riders were killing people down below. The tune of the flute changed one more, and sounded like someone crying. It sounded like a father crying for his son, and a mother crying for her daughter. The elders crying for their infants. The flute melody seemed to have a special sort of power, to enable people to sympathize with the person playing it, and brought misery and happiness as he deemed fit.
The Canton Princess’s face turned red before turning pale. She wanted to stand up, but her weakness forced her back to a sitting position. She looked as if she wanted to vomit.
The smile on the face of the Grand Princess vanished, seeing her daughter this way. "Hurry, stop him. The melody of the flute is too sad, and might hurt a person’s body. Your Canton Princess cannot take this sadness in such a weak state."
Soon after, the flutes sound emitted sound like the sound of drums, of footsteps, horse’s hooves clattering, of people cheering and of swords clashing against each other. Both sides of the army shouted out, and the rivers turned to waters of blood. At the end, a note lingered for a long time, as if to symbolize regret and sorrow. It then transformed into a high pitched sound, before transforming into a flat note.
A maid who paused in shock snapped back, "Yes, I will chase him right away."
"Don't!" The Grand Princes seemed to have her reservations, "Wait for a little while more."
The sounds of the flute then transformed once more, and seemed to be describing the melting of winter snows, and the budding of life forms, all types of flowers. Upon closer listening, it sounded like the melody was describing farmers ploughing the land, and merchants selling their wares.
Gradually, a new image of a busy city, and farmers were reaping their harvests, merchants were earning profits, and the officials were upright and honests. The monarch was wise and benevolent. The tune was bubbly and happy, and lasted for quite some time.
The melody seemed to describe a time of peace, and the commoners were happy and satisfied. Once again, it brought an indescribable feeling of calmness and exuberrance.
That was the voice of millions of civilians. As they craved for success, prosperity, peace and a time of no worries.
The tune became bland and plain, until it finally faded out. The Canton Princess opened her eyes, her eyelashes was stained wet with tears, as a single tear rolled down her cheeks. She suddenly felt like the veil over her heart was finally lifted, and she could see clearly. She felt light and easy.
"Crown Prince?" At this point an ox-cart was listening nearby. The person within the ox-cart thought for a long time, "What a good flute, and even better tunes. The melody of the flute represented the hearts of the people. To think I actually had doubts about him. It seems like he truly wished for peace and prosperity for the people!"
"Ask what this melody is called?"
"Yes!" This person hurriedly left instructed an official to find out the name of this melody. The official then asked the person playing the flute. He then returned to the ox-cart, "Crown Prince, the tune is called Peace and Prosperity."
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