Chapter 75 – Pirates
Wei Ang gasped as he took a deep breath. The higher a person’s education, the more they’d be impress with this work. Wei Ang stood there unmoving for a long time. He then said, “Brother Pei, since you wish to write a book. Do you want my help? All I ask in return is for the first copy, for me to read.”
Pei Zi Yun thought about this, “I extend my appreciation to brother Wei. I do indeed need someone to help in this regard. This book is about The Great Learning, and is not completed to perfection yet. In order to perfect it, I would need a book written by a literary expert, for me to read and thus improve my work.”
“As for copies and duplicates of these books, they can be found easily in the library. It’s just that I require a book written personally by a renowned literary expert. From his writing, I am able to learn his thought process and gain a clearer understanding.”
When Wei Ang heard this, he nodded his head profusely. “Genius brother Pei, for your work and reputation to soar above the heavens, I shall be eagerly waiting.”
“Since you have such a request, I will handle it. Do not worry!”
After some time, the rain outside had ceased. Everyone from within the temple started making their way out, jostling with everyone else. Wei Ang said his goodbyes to Pei Zi Yun and hurriedly returned to Hou Mansion. When he had reached Hou Mansion, the guards outside welcomed him home by greeting him. “Young master!”
Wei Ang gave a subtle nod to acknowledge him, before walking into the courtyard. A maidservant held an umbrella over his head and sheltered him indoors. “Ai, Young Master, you’re finally back. I was worried the rain wouldn’t stop, and was getting ready to find you at the Academic Institution. Thankfully you’re back now.”
“Your Young Master is already an adult, and you’re still worried about me? I’m fine, do not worry. Later, could you help me call on Mister Shen. Tell me him visit me in my yard, I have something to ask of him.” Wei Ang then sat down in his chair, and started drinking his tea.
“Yes, Master. I shall fetch him right away.” The maidservant then turned around to leave. Mister Shen could always be found in his study room, handling important affairs. It wouldn’t be difficult to locate him at all.
When Wei Ang noticed the maidservant had left, he then took out his inkstone and started grinding it. Before long, the sound of footsteps could be heard. Before the door stood the maidservant who shouted in a high pitched voice. “Master, Mister Shen is here.”
“Please come in!” Wei Ang said as he continued grinding the inkstone.
The door pushed open, as the maidservant led Mister Shen into the room. Wei Ang looked up, and saw Mister Shen by his door. He then addressed the maidservant, “Please leave us. I have something to discuss with Mister Shen.”
“Yes, Master.” The serving girl answered obediently, as she turned around to leave, closing the door behind her.
Wei Ang then asked casually, “Mister Shen, what have you been busy with?”
Shen Zhi didn’t answer his question. Instead he laughed and replied, “Young Master has finally thought it through. Is he finally thinking of becoming an official and handling affairs of the state?”
Wei Ang hurriedly replied him, “I am still studying my books, and still joining my Dao sect. Please do not get overly excited for nothing Mister. I have a favour to ask, and thus called you over. I was with Pei Zi Yun at the institution library today. He had written a book, and although it was written on scrap paper that had been binded, I took a look anyway. When I started reading, I was awestruck by it. This book detailed his crucial points in a very decisive manner and could open an entirely new thought process never before seen. Here let me write it down for you.”
“Young master, if you’re speaking of poems I would believe you wholeheartedly. But now that you’re saying he wishes to write a book, I find it hard to believe that he would succeed. In order to be successful in writing a book, he has to have a wealth of information, knowledge and experience. Lacking in either of these would mean he’s doomed to fail. Pei Zi Yun is only 15 years old. And although he had composed a brilliant poem, writing a book is way too difficult to imagine. Shen Zhi said after hearing Wei Ang speak.
Wei Ang smiled, “Mister let me explain. You know know how I’ve always been intelligent since I was young. Whatever I saw, I could never forget. Many essays I’ve seen, all I needed was one look to remember it for a lifetime.”
“The book written by him was extremely deep and meaningful. Since I couldn’t get to see the entire book, I can only recall whatever I’ve seen. Let me write it out for you. Then you can see for yourself. “Wei Ang started grinding his inkstone before picking up his dragon imprinted quill and started writing.
Wei Ang used a very fine quill to write on the piece of paper and thus wrote it down very quickly. When he was done, he blew onto the ink to dry it faster and sighed, “Every word in this essay was intentional and purposeful. Come Mister Shen, take a look for yourself.”
Shen Zhi took the paper over and sighed too, “Young Master’s writing has improved. Even without looking at the contents, just the way the words are written, is pleasant to the eye.”
After saying that, he started reading the contents. At first, he was confident that this essay would not be as fantastic as described by Wei Ang. But as he started reading on, his face took a very serious look.
Shen Zhi exhaled deeply, before re-reading the entire thing once more. He exhaled again, and didn’t speak, before reading it another time. After reading the entire essay three times, he then placed it down, his face was extremely severe.
“Third Young Master. You haven’t even begun to understand the intensity and brilliance of this piece!”
“Although this piece is incomplete, but based on the structure of the excerpt, it would be a remarkable piece when completed. It’s even possible that in future, all Grand Scholars would have to study his work. It seems like I’ve underestimated his brilliance. Pei Zi Yun is indeed a prodigy and a genius.”
“I strongly encourage Young Master to hang around this person, as you will learn plenty.” Shen Zhi said as he clasped his hands in salute.
“Ha ha, Mister Shen, I was just thinking the same thing. It’s just that brother Pei requested for me to help him find the works written by famous literary experts in order for him to rectify and enhance his current works. The works have to be original copies so that he can study the thought process involved in the writing. I do not handle affairs like this regularly, and would not be able to do it. Hence, I’ve come to Mister Shen to help me out.” Wei Ang said.
“So this is the reason you’re looking for me. I would not let young master down.” Shen Zhi said with sincerity in his eyes.
When Shen Zhi left, he wiped the smile off his face. He then ordered a servant to come, before walking out. He kept walking straight until he saw a corridor which led to three rooms. This block was on the western side of the Hou mansion. The minute he stepped in, he saw drawers everywhere, with numerous documents in them. Each file drawer was labelled with various tags.
Shen Zhi pulled open a drawer and retrieved a file from within. The file was tagged “Pei Zi Yun” and he glared at it intently.
Before long, a guard knocked on the door. He had ordered someone to go into the city and fetch a book merchant here. When the book merchant walked into the room, his face was pale as sheet.
Shen Zhi opened his fan with one hand, and started fanning himself, “You do not have to be afraid. The young master from my house is looking for original works done by literary experts. After thinking for some time, I concluded that you would be able to find it for me. Which is why I’ve asked my men to bring you here. If you do this task well, you shall be duly rewarded.”
The book merchant raised his head to see Shen Zhi smiling, carrying a scholarly look.
Shen Zhi waved his hand, and a servant carrying silver walked up to him. Shen Zhi then pointed at the silver and said, “Hou Mansion rewards and punishes fairly. This is 10 ingots, worth 100 taels of silver. Take this as a deposit. If you’re able to find the relevant books, and my young master is satisfied, I will not short change you.”
The book merchant gazed longingly at the 10 ingots of silvers, his face was beaming with excitement. So it seems nothing bode ill for him by being summoned to Hou Mansion. In fact, Hou Mansion had wanted to do business with the book merchant. He was relieved and happy.
Just a few moments before, the book merchant was in his shop dealing with customers when all of a sudden he was summoned to Hou Mansion. He was wondering what could he possibly have done to offend the very powerful house and was trembling violently with fright. Who would’ve expected them to ask him to search for books. He then smiled, “Thank you sir, I will find those books for you.”
Shen Zhi nodded his head and was satisfied with his response. “Once you’ve found it, hurry and bring it over to Hou Mansion.”
“Yes Sir.” The book merchant replied enthusiastically as he backed away.
The main entrance of Hou Mansion was suddenly brimming with activity. The guards hurriedly formed two straight lines before the entrance. A horse-cart then pulled over in front of the guards. After ensuring that it was safe to disembark, Ji Bei Hou got off the carriage.
A servant was just leading the book merchant out when he heard the activity outside. He knew that Master Hou had returned home. The servant then pulled the book merchant to the side but not in time. As the guard leader had walked in, escorting Master Hou. The book merchant then knelt along the sidewalk.
The guard leader, Master Hou and several guards then walked past.
The merchant looked up and saw a middle-aged man dressed in rich robes being surrounded and escorted by several guards. They walked past calmly as the guard closest to him glared at him. Feeling cold sweat running down his forehead, he hurriedly looked down.
After some time, when everyone had walked past, the servant then got up and waved his hands frantically. “Hurry get up, Master Hou has already walked past. Let me see you out.”
The book merchant then wiped the sweat off his forehead. Just as he was about to leave, he saw several high ranking soldiers walk past, their faces were full of suspicion. They carried an intimidating aura about them, and their gazes alone were enough to terrify the life out of the book merchant. Without daring even to breath too hard, he followed the servant out.
The minute Master Hou returned to the mansion, he strode into the main hall and sat down in his own chair, at the head of the table. With a calm expression he said to the guard leader, “Get me Mister Shen.”
“Right away”. The guard then walked out briskly.
Before long, more than ten deputy generals walked in and fell to their knees upon seeing Master Hou. “Respects to our great teacher!”
Their armor made a rattling sound as they fell to their knees.
“Rise.” Master Hou looked at his surrounding, with a grave expression. Seeing these deputy generals surrounding him with sincere and respectful looks, he then softened his gaze.
This was the Hou Mansion and not an army camp. Before long, a maidservant brought in some tea for Master Hou and these deputy generals.
The entire hall was silent, and nobody dared to speak. The maidservant raised her head and saw the expressionless face of Master Hou. She noticed that all these deputy soldiers had intimidating and fearsome looks on their faces and looked down once again, not daring to gaze into their eyes. She had heard that the previous maidservant had spilt tea all over Master Hou, and was dragged outside, where she was beaten to death. Thinking about this alone gave her shivers.
When the teacups were placed nicely on the table, Master Hou waved a hand and all the maidservants left them. He then signalled to the guards around, and they too stood down, leaving the hall to guard the perimeters.
A long bearded deputy general took a step forward, “Master Hou, as for today’s matter, it is clear that the Commander-in-Chief is trying to suppress us and strip us of our military might. He managed to persuade the imperial court to send the governor down. These people have forgotten what Master Hou has done for them. Now they have turned around and are biting us. This must not go on.”
Another deputy general took a step forward and smiled, “Master Hou, we must not tolerate this and think of a way to retaliate. If we do not act, Master Hou’s authority will diminish rapidly. Who knows what will happen then?”
All these men spoke with fearful voices. Ji Bei Hou had originally been placed in charge of An Prefecture. However, he had been asked to surrender his authority of the prefecture, and now his power was dwindling.
A strategist who was highly regarded by Ji Bei Hou stepped forward as well, “Master Hou, we are currently in time of peace, and the dynasty has been established. Military might is not the focal point of the imperial court anymore. They are turning their resources and attention to literature and education. We are not the only one who had been asked to surrender their authority. We should not contend with this and conform accordingly. In future, we will be able to pick up whatever we’ve lost.”
A deputy general snarled at him and stepped forward before scolding him harshly, “Upright idiot, by doing this, where do you think Master Hou will end up?”
The atmosphere was tense and the people were divided into two different camps, with different thoughts. One side could not tolerate the insult, and the other wanted to maintain peace. Master Hou’s facial expression started to turn sour. Listening to his men still squabbling among themselves, he raged in a fiery anger. “All of you, back down. Now! Nobody is to utter another word.”
Everyone’s face fell, and none of them dared to speak. The entire hall was silent. After sometime, someone stepped forward. “Master Hou, the Japanese pirates have been going on a rampage as of late. Several places owned by Master Hou have been affected as well.”
The entire hall started brimming with discussion, all of them were frowning, their brows furrowed. After another half an hour of discussion, it ended abruptly. The generals were all asked to leave as they exited the hall one by one.
A guard then reported to Master Hou, who let out a wide grin before replying, “Let Mister Shen enter!”
With an empty hall, the guard then turned around to the dining room. Mister Shen was drinking tea and reading a book. The guard approached him, “Mister Shen, Master Hou has just ended his meeting. He invited you in.”
Shen Zhi then placed his cup down. “I will go immediately.”
He stood up and walked straight to the hall. Seeing Shen Zhi walking over, Master Hou then said, “Shen Zhi, the matter today. Ai..”
Shen Zhi then said in a hushed voice, “Why should Master Hou be angry? These men were specially handpicked by Master Hou to be your trusted deputy generals. They too want the best out of this situation, it’s normal.”
Master Hou recollected for sometime before asking, “How’s the task I’ve asked you to do?”