Chapter 177 – A Full Account
Two kilometers outside of the city, the river could be seen just after stepping out through the door. Peach blossoms were in bloom. A small creek was nearby, where many tiny fishes were weaving in and out of the weeds beneath the water.
Several geese were floating atop the river, and would plunge their heads deep underwater from time to time to catch some fishes. A small house was situated beside the creek, the windows of the house were wide open.
Pei Zi Yun sat by the window, the quill in his hands waved back and forth. He looked somewhat tired and drained. He then placed his materials aside, his neck and back looked to be sore. He then stood up and stretched gingerly, relieving the strain upon his back, allowing his blood and energy to flow. He then exhaled deeply, before looking at the papers once more. He bent over to stretch his waist before mumbling, “I’ve finished writing at last. That was tiring. Even though I’m already a Yin Master, writing for long hours still place a strain on my back.”
He stood up and turned around to admire the colors of spring. It was a sight to behold, the towering trees and colorful plants obscuring the buildings in the city.
‘This time, I’ve followed the Crown Prince’s official to secretly enter the capital city without anyone knowing. Since I’ve already used up the information from the original owner’s memories, I would need to borrow the influence and authority of the Crown Prince if I hope to defeat Xie Cheng Dong. I also wish to know whether the Crown Prince is truly capable.’ Pei Zi Yun thought. At this point the official arrived at his door, and knocked gently, “Is Young Master in? My house’s Master invites you to a banquet.”
Pei Zi Yun arrived at the capital city a few days before, but hadn’t had the chance to meet with the Crown Prince.
When he opened the door to leave, he saw the official, who was dressed in plain white robes. This official was the only person of contact that knew he was here. Seeing that Pei Zi Yun was approaching him, he stepped forward to greet him and whispered, “Young Master, there’s a big banquet arranged for today. Halfway through the journey there, he will sneak out to meet you.”
Hearing these words, Pei Zi Yun replied politely, “Please lead the way.”
The official noted that Pei Zi Yun was very courteous, and returned the politeness, “Young Master is too polite. Please follow me.”
Pei Zi Yun boarded an ox-cart as it entered the capital city, passing through the gates without incident. It then followed a series of alleys and bumpy roads. After some time, he could see from afar an entire bunch of ox-carts which were parked outside a mansion.
The ox-cart pulled to a stop at a side entrance of the mansion where a pair of guards stood still. The official then showed the tile of the Crown Prince, and they allowed them to pass wordlessly.
They then got off the cart and walked into a room. It was very quiet and still here, a world of difference from the activities surrounding the main gate. Within this room, there was a bookshelf and a table. A jug of wine was placed on the table, and a plate of peanuts accompanied it. The official then led Pei Zi Yun in before speaking, “Young Master, please wait.”
Pei Zi Yun nodded his head.
The Crown Prince’s banquet saw many distinguished guests present, with many of them being nobles and royalty. The Crown Prince shuffled from taking a seat in his lead chair, and welcoming his guests. At this point he was talking to a Count.
A serving maid stepped forward with a tray as she whispered to the Crown Prince.
The Crown Prince then swept a glance at the crowd. He just received information that Pei Zi Yun had arrived. He had long heard of Pei Zi Yun’s talents, and was especially convinced after seeing the documents being handed to him. He needed to meet with him urgently.
The Crown Prince waited for some time after the serving maid left before he whispered to the eunuch, “Follow me, for a change of clothes.”
The change of clothes was a sort of message that he needed to use the bathroom. The eunuch then followed the Crown Prince out, and the Count who sat beside the Crown Prince didn’t think much of it. He then turned around to speak to another Count.
At this point, noble guests were swarming in. The Crown Prince walked through the door and started increasing his pace, as he strolled through the series of passageways until he reached a room. The eunuch then automatically stood by the side of the door as the Prince entered.
When the Crown Prince walked in, Pei Zi Yun had been waiting for some time. He then hurriedly stood up and bowed deeply, “This small subject pays his respects to the Crown Prince.”
The Crown Prince looked upon the features of Pei Zi Yun and mused to himself, ‘He’s so young.’
The Crown Prince then stepped forward, “At ease!”
The both of them sat at the table, according to their statuses, the head and the subject. Although the atmosphere was unusually tense, the eunuch stepped forward to serve tea. The Crown Prince took a small sip before speaking, “I’ve already read the document you wrote for me titled –Peace Document–, and found joy in reading it. It included a very comprehensive and sound plan. After reading it several times over, I just wished to ask, do you have anything else you wish to add to it, and anything to emphasize?”
Pei Zi Yun then widened his eyes and looked at the Crown Prince. He noticed that the Crown Prince had a very scholarly and refined look to him, but was somewhat too soft and gentle. He then thought to himself, ‘No wonder the Crown Prince lost the throne to King Lu in the original owner’s lifetime. He was excessive in femininity and lacking in masculinity. But it also could be that he hid his talents behind this mask in order to survive.’
Hearing the Crown Prince’s questions, he then answered, “The plan written within the document could work. Crown Prince can make it work. It’s just that you have to act extremely slowly, and not act immediately. If not, everything could backfire.”
“Oh?” The Crown Prince paused and asked, “Why is that so?”
He seemed extremely anxious.
Seeing the Crown Prince this way, Pei Zi Yun was somewhat taken aback, and was somewhat worried. He hid all of this well however. He then replied, “Crown Prince, after I handed the document over, I realized there were certain aspects which I failed to fully consider. Since the Crown Prince has an heir, which is the grandson to the Emperor, you’ve already established the foundation of your claim.”
“The nature of the Crown Prince has always been refined, composed and elegant. Naturally, fighting and combat won’t suit your demeanor. The Emperor knows this, and all the subjects in court knows this as well. If you have such a rapid change in your temperament, what would the rest of the Imperial Court think?”
“Would they feel that, after getting an heir, you cannot wait to ascend the throne, and finally reveal your true colors?”
“I’m afraid the Emperor would not take this too well. Even your subjects might be worried that you’ve been pretending to be someone else all this while, waiting for the opportune moment. King Lu is very opportunistic, and will definitely take advantage of this.”
“If you wish to proceed with the plan stated in the document, we have to do it slowly, and paint a perfect picture of yourself. You will then start making gradual changes, one step at a time until you finally accomplish your mission. If you don’t take this step by step, and rush forward with it, it might not be beneficial for you, instead, it might cause damage.”
Pei Zi Yun spoke these words, yet hid the true problem with the Crown Prince. The problem was that the Crown Prince was supposed to be the next monarch, he needed to be able to have a mind of his own.
Just a simple document produced was enough to sway the Crown Prince. To say it nicely, the Crown Prince was very impressionable. To put it bluntly, he had no mind of his own and was easily influenced. This was the biggest problem which might threaten his ascension.
Hearing these words, the Crown Prince’s expression changed. He seemed to be negotiating with himself, but seemed confused as well. He took several steps before breathing deeply, “You are correct. As for whatever you said, I was too impatient and anxious to proceed with it.”
“If you still have anything left to say, please speak.” The Crown Prince retrieved a fan and fanned himself.
Pei Zi Yun stood up and bowed once more, “The Crown Prince is all seeing, this humble subject has nothing more to say that you don’t already know.”
The Crown Prince then smiled and resumed his seat. He looked at Pei Zi Yun before speaking, “I’m certain that your plan will succeed, and I admire you. If it does succeed, I will reward you accordingly. However if you’re unable to follow through, I will have to punish you. Do you have any requests to make?”
Pei Zi Yun pondered the best way to reply him. If his requests were too many, or were overboard, it wouldn’t be good. Likewise, as a subject, he must never reject the monarch, for there would be consequences. Striking a deal with a member of the royal family was this troublesome.
He then thought about the father of the original owner, who was deceased. At this point, filial piety overwhelmed him, and he knew that the Imperial Court admired people who were filial. He then fell to his knees, “Crown Prince, this small subject is a Daoist, and would make a small request.”
“Many years ago, my father died under the hands of rebels in order to bring peace to the land. My mother then carried myself to a small village. I dare not speak of the hardships she’d been through. Soon after, the dynasty restored peace to the land, and the nation soon prospered. This humble subject has been put through a great deal of suffering as well. I just wish that when the Crown Prince ascends to his throne, he shall ensure prosperity.”
“I’ve been the subject of the Crown Prince’s grace and favor. My father was promoted to an official after his death recently by the Crown Prince, and received peace in the underworld. My mother was also conferred a title. At this point the only thing I could think of to repay you, was to write the document and help with your plans. However, at this point, I’m a wanted criminal, whose punishment is death. I ask for your grace, to lift this status from me.”
The Crown Prince pondered, he didn’t expect Pei Zi Yun to make such a request. At this point, he was moved by Pei Zi Yun’s speech. The Crown Prince then thought of his mother, and his deep affections for her.
The Crown Prince then replied him, “You seem to have a pure heart and a keen mind, and acted selflessly for me. What crime are you accused of?”
The Crown Prince paused for some time to think, before finally understanding. He then spoke out in a different tone, as if he was suspicious, “I’ve heard about how you went on a wild slaughter. Could it be that you had a legitimate reason for doing so?”
“Crown Prince, we are all having peace times now. The only reason I would be so bold and to kill people intentionally was because there’s an unknown story to it.” Pei Zi Yun then sighed, “Dark Altar Sect supports King Lu, and they have the intention to swallow and annex all the other Dao sects under the heaven, to become the strongest sect. I have thus been marked out as a target for assassination, since I was in their way. Hence, I’ve defended myself successfully against their attempts. When I explored in the Southern Kingdoms, I came under attack as well. I managed to force out a confession, and found out that Dark Altar Sect was behind this, and they had people planted everywhere, and were trying to kill me. It’s a pity I only managed to find out three locations which contained their people. Liang, Ying and Yong Prefecture. That’s why this humble subject had to kill them all.”
“You did well by killing them.” The Crown Prince clapped his hands in approval, “Dark Altar Sect had the audacity to attempt to wrest control of the nation. No wonder my second brother has such a wide reach throughout the entire nation, so that’s the reason behind it.”
The Crown Prince paused for some time before speaking coldly, “Since that’s the case, I shall command Zhang Qian Hu to protect you, and stick with you throughout your travels.”
The Crown Prince turned around to laugh, “I have a question for you. With your kind of talents, why did you choose to become a Daoist?”
Pei Zi Yun then replied, “My father died to those rebels all those years ago. Since he was an official, dying for his country is very normal.”
“However, after his demise, he was blamed wrongfully by his superiors for being a traitor, and joining the side of the rebels. His name was thus besmirched.”
“Since that happened during the period of chaos, there wasn’t much discussion to clear his name. However, when news reached the county that my father was a traitor, the entire clan had to flee as they would be branded as traitors as well.”
“My mother then took my father’s memorial tablet, and carried me to flee, where we settled down in Slow River County’s Snail Village.”
“At that point in time, a Daoist said that this incident ruined my family’s reputation. Hence, for the next eighteen years, his ancestral tablet must always be covered by cloth, so that it would never see the light of day, ”
“Other people could receive yearly prayers dedicated to them, and yet my mother and I could only pay our respects through the cloth. We were afraid that if the memorial tablet was revealed, my father’s soul would be diminished. When I was younger, I couldn’t understand. When I was older, I found it unbearable. Also, I was young when I became a Daoist, and didn’t know that all it took was for the Imperial Court to issue a title to my father, and he would be rescued instantly.”
“So when I was younger, I entered a monastery and prayed for protection for my father, and vowed to become a Daoist in repayment.”
Pei Zi Yun then choked with emotions, “Hence, even after becoming a High Scholar, I couldn’t go back on my words to the deities, and had to become a Daoist.”
“Now that the Crown Prince conferred a title upon my father, and his soul is contented, I am more than grateful.”
The Crown Prince actually asked very casually as he waved his fan. He didn’t expect the reason to be so emotional and serious. He nodded constantly as if to grant him reassurances, “So that’s the reason. You were young and didn’t know better, and vowed on behalf of your father, hence you fulfilled your vows and became a Daoist. I am relieved for you, and yet find it a shame.”
“Sometimes, when I’m engaged in casual discussion, you come up regularly. I’ve even done my research on you. Your story is exactly what I found out.” The Crown Prince spoke softly, “It’s just that with the stabilization of the dynasty, you’ve killed numerous people, and would thus be due for punishment for breaking peace.”
“However, your efforts shall be remembered as well!” The Crown Prince laughed, “Good talk today. We will have another chance to speak again in future.”
The Crown Prince then stood up to leave. His excuse for leaving the banquet was to head to the bathroom, and now time passed so quickly, he needed to leave.
Pei Zi Yun hurriedly paid his respects to the Crown Prince before leaving, and shaked his head.
‘Even after giving him a strategy, I wonder if I’m spurring him in the right direction, or enabling his weakness of not having his own mind.’
‘It’s just that I have to use his power in order to stop King Lu from ascending the throne.’
‘Many people assumed that with just raw talents and contributions, they would able to rise quickly in ranks. Ha! Out of ten people, eight or nine of them would die. At this point, I was sincere and acted genuinely. Hopefully, I am able to neutralize his weaknesses, and see him come out on top.’
‘That was the reason why I gave a full account of my story, so as to win his heart over.’ Just as he was in thought, the official stepped forward and bowed. Without speaking a word, he led Pei Zi Yun out.