Chapter 181 – Untitled
“Young Master, we’ve arrived.” The official spoke very politely. Pei Zi Yun was taken aback. The attitude of the official had changed abruptly after witnessing him play the flute with such fervor and efficiency.
‘After much exploration and experimentation with Dao arts, I’ve managed to learn a fair deal. Apart from learning great skills, I managed to pick up the mysteries of flute playing too.’
‘The ancient people were rumored to believe that happiness can cure ailments. Hence, I first started playing tunes of feelings to attract her attention. I then used the pain and suffering of a chaotic world to draw out her negative emotions, before playing war-tunes to kill the negativity within her body. Soon after I played the tunes of a peaceful and calm city, which was prospering to bring out feelings of happiness and calmness, which left her feeling peaceful and at ease.’
‘Even I myself became contented.’ Pei Zi Yun thought. When he got off the ox-cart, he saw the small and narrow alley appear before him, where the rows of tiny shops all around. He then retrieved his smile, wearing a severe look on his face as he entered Xiang Yun Wine Restaurant, where he walked straight to the second level.
The dishes had been ordered and Pei Zi Yun sat down. He picked up a cup and started pouring some wine. When he looked up, he saw a man dressed in neat and fresh robes climbing up the stairs to the second level.
This man had a tall and sturdy build, with lines of hardships etched across his mean looking face. When he was invited to the second floor, he was somewhat suspicious, and was very cautious. When he saw Pei Zi Yun, he sized him up.
This looked to be a young person, and he seemed foreign to this place. The contract worker for King Lu’s Palace thought. It’s just that, why would this young man be looking for him? Could it be that he wished to find out information regarding King Lu?
At this point he frowned and stepped forward, “This Young Master is…? I wonder why you’ve invited me here?”
Pei Zi Yun didn’t seem the least affected as he drained his cup of wine before replying him, “Whoever I am, you don’t need to know. It’s just that the man sitting down below doesn’t know how to behave, and offended a friend of mine. Hence, I have to punish him, and thus invited you up here.”
As Pei Zi Yun spoke, he pointed down below. The man followed the direction of his finger pointing and paused. He recognized the man, he was Ren Wei. This Ren Wei was a capable man, but seldom had dealings with himself. He then mumbled, “Young Master, I don’t really know him….”
Even before he could finish, Pei Zi Yun shook a fist to stop him, “I don’t want you to harm him as well. All you have to do is to find some trouble with him. The best thing you can do is to cause him to lose some face, and to be humiliated. That’s all I want.”
As he said that, he threw over a money pouch.
The contract worker picked up the purse and looked in to find a pair of five silver bars. These bars were a deep shade of silver, and glowed. Just by looking at it, he could tell that it was at least 98% pure. His heart started pounding in his chest.
“Will you do it? If you won’t, return the pouch to me. There will be someone who’s willing to do it.” Pei Zi Yun spoke irritably.
The man hurriedly replied, “I can do it. I can do it! I’ve always been upset at that man. I shall straighten him out by humiliating him!”
Or maybe it was because this person felt like he wanted to form a partnership with Pei Zi Yun, he hurriedly voiced his displeasure at Wei Ren.
‘Hm, I knew he would do it.’ Pei Zi Yun then thought, ‘They are all contract workers for King Lu, how could they not have conflicts among themselves? Especially if he’s talented and capable, there would definitely be people who are jealous of him. If I were to ask him to hurt or kill someone, he would definitely report the matter to the authorities. But since I asked him to merely insult and humiliate him, nothing will happen. He might even admire me for giving him such a job.’
‘And the amount of silver given to him cannot be too much. If I were to give him too much silver, he would be suspicious. This amount was just right.’ Pei Zi Yun nodded his head, “Since that’s the case, the dishes on this table are all for you to eat. Enjoy!”
As he spoke, he turned around to leave while waving his fan to appear more refined. This man spat on the floor, “Who doesn’t know that the “friend” who was offended is yourself. But Wei Ren, since you’ve offended someone who’s paid me to deal with you, I shall deal with you accordingly.”
He then used the chopsticks to pick up a piece of meat and devoured it hungrily, as if he was biting into Wei Ren’s flesh.
Once he left the establishment, Pei Zi Yun kept his smile. Feeling a certain calmness take over his body, he instructed, “To Sun Jing’s place.”
Sun Jing walked out of the government office and didn’t hail an ox-cart. He held an umbrella as he followed the narrow walkway back, occasionally looking up at the falling rain. He looked at the row of new houses along the streets and knew purchasing one would cost around 285 taels of silver. However he was just a seventh ranked official, with a year income of eighty taels of silver. Since his rank was too low, he had no share of the yearly bonuses distributed. If he were to save up for a house like this, he would need at least five years.
“Ai, it’s not that I don’t want to be an upright an honest official!” Officials must have poise and dignity in order for them to gain respect. That’s why most officials gritted their teeths and rented houses that were much more expensive than they can afford.
When he returned to his residences, someone delivered a note to him, “Your excellency, the master of my house wishes to meet.”
Sun Jing looked at the person standing across him. If this were in the past, he would chase the person away without second thought. At this point however, he’d already opened the slip of paper and looked into it. The words indicated an invitation to meet, and were written in a very scholarly manner.
Sun Jing then replied him, “Such good words. Where’s your master? Because the words are written so nicely I will accept the invitation.”
The man bowed before speaking, “Your excellency, please follow me.”
Sun Jing followed him cautiously and laughed coldly, “I wonder which renowned family does this Young Master come from. He probably has ambitions to become an official, since his writing shows his academic status.”
Feng Hong Restaurant
Sun Jing followed the man the entire journey before reaching the restaurant, and walked up to the third level together with him. They then reached the main private room as the man pushed open the door, but didn’t enter.
Sun Jing stood into the private chambers and noticed that a young man had already arrived and was seated. The minute Sun Jing saw this, he felt suspicious. He then observed the young man, and realized that he didn’t recognize him. He had a pair of alert, and intelligent eyes. When he looked at him closely and observed his demeanor, his heart sank. He then asked coldly, “Who are you? Why are you looking for me?”
When Sun Jing arrived, Pei Zi Yun didn’t seem to mind his gaze. He poured himself a cup of tea and replied, “Whoever I am, you don’t have to know. The reason I’ve called you here is to discuss a deal with you.”
When Sun Jing heard this, a look of disdain swept over his face, and he didn’t even bother with the cup of tea on the table. He then sniggered, “A deal?”
Although the dynasty doesn’t forbid officials from forging friendships with merchants, most officials discriminated against merchants because merchants often needed help from officials. Hearing these words, Sun Jing stood up and turned around to leave. Even before he could finish turning around, he heard Pei Zi Yun speak boldly, “I have something for you to see. Take a look at it first before deciding. Where did your sense of perception go?”
Pei Zi Yun then handed a piece of paper over to him.
This sense of perception meant the ability of most officials to think and to read situations well. It was one of the most important traits to being a good official, to be able to perceive situations well. Sun Jing felt threatened and thus didn’t leave immediately. He flashed an icy look at Pei Zi Yun before picking up the piece of paper and reading its contents.
Just after taking a glance at the paper, he inhaled a deep breath of cold air, as sweat beads started to form on his forehead. There were around ten sentences of words, and yet the words were clear. Most of them spoke of the wrongs and crimes he had committed from a position of authority. He had handled certain important affairs wrongly, and acted to his advantage. He had taken several bribes, and issued several bribes as well. There were even details of wrongdoings committed years ago, which included whoring as well. All these contents showed evidence and even the most minute details of his crimes.
Who could it be that wanted to frame him? Who had he offended?
Sun Jing felt a rush of blood to his head, as his eyes turned bloodshot. He glared at the young man in front of him, as his forehead was wet with perspiration. He then asked in a hoarse voice, “Which house do you represent? What do you want? Do you think that just because you’ve managed to accumulate these discriminating evidences against me, you own me and can control me? Keep dreaming!”
“Oh, is that so? If your excellency Sun is so prideful and unafraid, he would’ve just left. Why would he bother saying all these?” Pei Zi Yun laughed out.
Hearing these words, Sun Jing’s face turned pale as he gritted his teeth and glared at Pei Zi Yun, “What do you want me to do, speak out?”
Seeing Sun Jing act this way, Pei Zi Yun took a sip from his cup of hot tea and replied slowly, “Nothing. Just read on and you shall see.”
He then threw across a small rolled up scroll. Sun Jing looked wary as he picked it up and took a look, his body trembled before laughing out sinisterly, “Whose man are you? It’s impossible that this list should contain all my wrongdoings. You wish to do me in, and tear my family apart?”
From the exterior of the paper, it could be seen that this belonged to King Lu, and were for officials who had misconducted themselves. Sun Jing picked it up as if it were burning charcoal, and slowly peeled it open.
Pei Zi Yun had another sip before smiling out, “Read it first before speaking further. Why are you so anxious.”
Sun Jing paused before looking within the scroll. He realized there were words and thus started reading them. As he read on, his body relaxed. The crimes that were listed down weren’t the most severe of the lot. However, it indicated the wrong he had done unto King Lu and his men. He had clearly offended King Lu. Should King Lu win in this battle for the throne, there would be repercussions.
“Are you a man of the Crown Prince?” Sun Jing looked at Pei Zi Yun and asked icily, as though he could look through the motives of Pei Zi Yun just by glaring at him.
“I’m not asking for your confession.” Pei Zi Yun said plainly, “I heard that you and Zhou Ji are good friends and know each other. Zhou Ji is an upright man with good morals. All you have to do is to instigate his law abiding self and ensures that he cast his support for the Imperial Court, the Crown Prince and its rules, then everything shall be alright.”
As he said this, he slid a wad of notes over. Each note was worth a hundred taels. Just by the thickness of the notes, there looked to be at least a thousand tales worth.
“Do you belong to the Crown Prince?” Sun Jing glared at Pei Zi Yun, unwilling to back down from his persistent questions.
“Knowing too much can get you killed. All of you have to do is to answer yes or no!”
“You!” Having come under such verbal attack by Pei Zi Yun his entire body trembled and he couldn’t speak.
“Of course you won’t do it. If this piece of paper gets leaked, the person who would get into trouble is you, Sun Jing! I believe these crimes you’ve committed aren’t as serious as we deem them to be. For example, your visiting of whores isn’t a big deal and you’d get a minor punishment at most. However, you seemed to enjoy yourself so thoroughly with these prostitutes during the same month as the death of the Empress Dowager. If word gets out that you were enjoying yourself during a period of mourning, the punishments you’ll receive will be severe.”
As he approached the end of his sentence, Pei Zi Yun’s tone took a stricter and more severe turn. Sun Jing started perspiring, and even his back was wet from sweat. Seeing his reactions, Pei Zi Yun stood up and patted him on his back, “What are you afraid of? Nobody will hear of this scroll. Besides, all you have to do is to encourage Zhou Ji to cast his support and finish that matter. Believe me, once it’s done, all these will never come back to haunt you again!”
“Everyone knows that Zhou Ji is an upright and stubborn man. Nobody would ever suspect that he was persuaded by someone else. Besides, so what if people suspected? You won’t be so dumb as to take this scroll and admit your guilt right?”
“A gentleman can be gullible at times. If you choose to come from a resentful point of view, who knows, you could turn him around easily. Besides, you are the consensus official, and giving your opinion is part of your job. Even King Lu and the Emperor will see it as perfectly normal if you spoke the truths about your opinion, as long as you didn’t come off too aggressively. What are you afraid of? Nothing bad will happen to you.”
“I will do it then.” Sun Jing looked down and composed himself as he gritted his teeth. He didn’t expect today to be the day which he would sell out his good friend, and force him to turn sides.
“That’s more like it. Keep these silver, it’s not a small amount.” Pei Zi Yun then walked out, as he patted Sun Jing on the back, “I’ve already ordered a small feast and paid for it. Enjoy yourself.”
Sun Jing slumped in his seat, and his expression looked distressed, as if he had just been taken advantage of. After hearing the door slam shut, he stood up agitatedly and smashed the jug of tea on the table.
Fragments from the jug and tea splashed everywhere. Sun Jing bit down hard on his lips, causing blood to flow out. Before long, he eventually sat down and held his face in his hands.
“Young Master, the dishes are here.” The waiter brought the food up to the room. At this moment Sun Jing wiped his face and regained his composure before speaking quietly, “The tea cup dropped to the floor, please clean it up.”
The waiter cleared up the mess before closing the door behind him. Sun Jing then picked up a new jug of wine and took a big gulp. He felt the fiery wine burn his throat as if a fire had been ignited within his mouth.
Pei Zi Yun walked out and noticed that an ox-cart was waiting for him. Official Bai was waiting for him. The minute he saw Pei Zi Yun, he asked, “Young Master, how’s everything?”
Pei Zi Yun let out a chuckle, “It’s already half done. The rest of it would be dependent on whether the heaven wishes to support us.”
As he spoke, he pulled apart the curtain of the carriage and gazed outside, wordlessly.