Chapter 91 – Dao Amulet
Dark and dense clouds covered the sky. The wind was blowing fiercely and strongly, causing snow to fall with the wind. Pei Zi Yun was riding on the horse towards West Hall County. He had ridden for 30 kilometers and had entered the county city.
It was around noon and the snow was heavy and unrelenting. There were very few people out on the roads. Pei Zi Yun rode straight for the county magistrate’s office and saw that the door was closed. A thick layer of snow covered the steps leading up the office.
Pei Zi Yun leapt off the horse and saw a drum within the courtyard. He pushed open the door and started hitting the drums ferociously, “Dong, dong dong”, the sound of the drums rang out and was heard across most parts of the county.
It was fast approaching the new year and the county’s magistrate was discussing with several merchants how to receive the new year with a blast. They had been drinking earlier and the magistrate had just returned to his office to rest. Before he received ample rest, the sound of the drums could be heard, entwined with the sound of rain. Hearing the drums, he walked out, feeling extremely displeased. He was muttering under his breath, “Who dares to hit the drum for no reason. If it’s not anything deserving of my time I shall make sure he get’s punished by beating him with a paddle.”
Just then, someone opened the door and started shouting, “The snow is so cold, why will anyone report a case at such a time?”
“I am this year’s Top Scorer from Ying Prefecture. I’ve been sent by the Governor to the imperial court to deliver documents, and was ambushed by bandits on the way here. An official was accompanying me on this trip and he had been killed I’ve come to report this case.” Pei Zi Yun said coldly.
“What? An official has been killed?” The bailiff who had opened the door asked in shock. He then hurriedly turned around to report the case. He led Pei Zi Yun indoors and brought him into the office.
West Hall County’s magistrate was sitting atop the high chair in the main hall, and was rubbing his hands and feet. His nose was red, “Pei Zi Yun, you are in my court, explain whatever happened in detail.”
Pei Zi Yun then handed over the documents and explained everything that had happened. The minute the magistrate heard that more than twenty people were killed, his face showed an intense fear. Everyone else within the court panicked. This was a huge case.
“Top Scorer, may I trouble you to take us to the scene. This spells trouble!” The county magistrate said in fear.
The magistrate, several constables and more than ten bailiffs set off and made their way to the crossing.
When they reached the reeds, they saw the corpses scattered all over the white snow covered ground and were all filled with fear. The magistrate was almost 50 years old this year and had always been composed and dignified. Seeing the scene before him however, his expression was one of terror, “Check up on the identities of these bodies and record their description and how they died down.”
Pei Zi Yun realized on the way there that the bodies of the six horses and six warriors had disappeared. He then knew that there was someone powerful behind them, cleaning up after their failed attempt to kill him. Thankfully he had gotten out of there quickly, for he might’ve met another group of people. Now that he was back at the scene with an entire entourage of officials, he felt slightly safer.
“Forgive me, but I would like to invite Top Scorer to stay with me for the next few days!” The magistrate forced a laugh. For something like that to happen, it was a disaster sent by the heavens, and it had to happen in a place where he was in charge of. Even if he wished to dismiss such a heavy burden, he could not.
And yet the person before him was a Top Scorer. If it was any other ordinary citizen, or even a High Scholar, he might’ve found a way to cover it up.
“I should probably do that!” Pei Zi Yun smiled as he accompanied the magistrate into the city. At this point the sky was already turning dark as it was getting late.
The county magistrate had been an official for a long time. After awhile, he finally regained his composure and regular confident demeanor. He laughed, “Master Top Scorer, your reputation has spread far and wide. Today I have the pleasure of finally meeting you. I ask that you will let me play the good host.”
The county magistrate understood that with such a matter like that, it was not Pei Zi Yun’s fault, and yet it arose because of him. Since it can’t be helped, why should he be upset with Pei Zi Yun and make an enemy out of him?
Instead, they should be on cordial terms. Hence, he invited him to the dining hall.
Within the dining hall was a mini banquet. A fire was heating up over the stove, boiling a pot as it steamed and smoked. Pei Zi Yun could not help but laugh, “So we’re having ancient soup. With such a cold weather, this is the best thing to have.”
A steamboat was referred to as in the olden days as antique soup as well, and was common during wartimes. Having steamboat during cold weather was something seen often within the normal citizens as they added meat and vegetables to make a delicious hot broth.
(TN : Steamboat was an asian term for a metal pot of hot soup.)
It was the same in this world as with Pei Zi Yun’s own world. The steamboat was extremely convenient and nutritious.
The county magistrate smiled, “It’s precisely because the weather’s so cold, and we do not have ample time to whip up a feast. Furthermore whatever we prepare will turn cold very quickly, hence we served up this hot pot.”
As he spoke, a serving maid entered and brought condiments before pouring some oil into the hot pot. Soon after, she placed some meat and greens into the hot pot as it started rumbling and emitting a delicious aroma.
“Thank you for the consideration your excellency. It’s more than enough to have a sumptuous meal beneath warm shelter with wine in my cup.” Pei Zi Yun laughed.
As he spoke, he picked up the pot of wine of the table and poured a cup for the magistrate. He then sniffed the wine, “It smells delicious!”
“This wine was personally fermented by me.” Having won the praise of Pei Zi Yun, the magistrate declared proudly, “Let’s start eating and drinking together!”
Pei Zi Yun was ravenous. He devoured the food before him hungrily. The magistrate played the part of good host well, and kept refilling his plate with food and pouring more wine for him, “Does master Top Scorer have any new works? Why not recite some poems to go along with the food and good wine?”
“I’ve already expanded most of my knowledge on the book I’ve just written. As of now, I have no proses to recite. And yet I do still have one poem, it was a poem I recited as I was crossing the river.”
Pei Zi Yun laughed. He had just been reciting a poem after slaughtering all those men, and yet didn’t dare to recite a single word from that poem here. He then swayed his head and started reciting.
“A thousand mountains, yet not a single bird was in sight. Ten thousand miles, and not a single man.”
“A lonely old man with a straw hat sitting alone on his boat. Fishing in the deep cold ocean.”
This poem had been composed by Liu Zong Yuan and was called The Mountain Poem. The reason he recited this poem was to show how alone and devastated he was to have been subjected to wave after wave of assault. In just four lines, it was able to depict the loneliness felt by that man. After hearing the poem, everyone felt the cold of winter pierce through their bones.
The magistrate listened attentively and was forced to recall the numerous corpses strewn all over the ground. He thought to himself, ‘What an eye opening poem. And after all that this man has been through.’
His heart was trembling in fear, “What a good poem. Listening to a work of this quality makes me feel as if I could drink a thousand cups and not be drunk. Come, bottoms up!”
After their meal was over, the magistrate commanded his men to clear out and tidy up a room for Pei Zi Yun to spend the night in.
The room was actually very cozy. The house was warm, the blankets were soft and he was dressed in comfortable clothings. Pei Zi Yun was dead tired, and yet he could not fall asleep. He was thinking….
‘The people who tried to kill me…The first wave were ordinary citizens who knew martial arts. The next wave were soldiers.’
‘That’s strange. Although it was not a secret that I was undertaking this journey, the details of my journey was kept a secret. Nobody knew when I was leaving, or the route I was taking. I intentionally left quietly so nobody would know. Furthermore there are no bright stars here, hence nobody could inform anyone where my exact position was. Who could react this fast to stand in my way?’
Truth be told, the answer wasn’t hard to guess. Pei Zi Yun sighed as he took off his clothes and warmed his feet beneath the warm blankets. The fire was burning by the fireplace causing warmth to course throughout the room. Without further hesitation, he started checking his inventory.
“Leather armor, intact.”
“Magical sword, intact.”
“This is….” Pei Zi Yun emptied his back and touched something foreign. He picked it up and looked at it, and could not remember packing this in before he left. It took him several seconds to identify it, as his face turned pale. It was a Dao Amulet.
Pei Zi Yun’s eyes gave off a look of anger, as if he was ready to kill whoever stood before him. He would never have imagined that someone would plant and hide a Dao amulet on him. This particular amulet was a Tracing Amulet and Pei Zi Yun recognized it. He flew into a rage.
“Who made a move against me?”
“Could it be?” Pei Zi Yun thought hard about where this amulet might originate from. His expression was still one of fury, and all of a sudden he broke into a smile, “Forget it. Who else could it be. It must be you, Song Zhi.”
“Hey, looking at this amulet, it can only be kept for 10 days?”
“Then even if I wished to take this back, I would not be able to. Anyway I can’t turn back now.”
“It seems like I’m being the victim here, and have no way of retaliating? Let me think, how should I retaliate?”
“Oh, I shall stay in this county for 3 days, and let you catch up. At the same time I shall make preparations and surprise you when you get here.”
Thinking this way, Pei Zi Yun revealed a sly smile.
That night, he went to bed, not saying anymore. On the third day, Pei Zi Yun decided to set off from the county, and took his documents with him. He bade farewell to the magistrate, and told him that they will meet again over the next few days. The magistrate was so impressed by Pei Zi Yun’s literary skills that he even gave him 20 taels of silver as a token of good luck.
Mountain Deity Temple
Up on the mountains, there was a plot of land. It was all mud and rocks, and few trees around. Right on this plot of land sat a dilapidated temple.
The temple looked like it had not been upkept for sometime. Many cracks showed up on the walls of the temple, as a cold gust of wind blew through. A signboard was perched atop the entrance, and it read “Mountain Deity Temple.”
Pei Zi Yun approached the altar and lit an incense before placing it in the burner. He closed his eyes and felt for the presence of the Deity, before sighing a sigh of relief, “I can’t feel the Deity’s Spirit in here, if not, I would not be able to use this place for my own benefit.”
Deities existed in this world and it was clear that the spirit of a Deity had occupied this temple before, although it no longer did. Pei Zi Yun decided that this was a good place as he took a glance around the four corners of the temple. The temple faced the open land, and its back was against the mountains. This was indeed a good place to lay an ambush, for he can observe the oncoming enemies from the front, and could escape from the back. If they do not show up, that’s fine. But if they do, he was going to make them pay. Thinking this way, he sniggered to himself. Ever since he found the Dao Amulet, he hatched this plan. He then walked over and started lighting the torches.
Having been the victim of such a ploy, how could he not have his revenge? Since the Dao Amulet would reveal his location to the mastermind, how could he not lay an ambush here? Tonight he shall wait and see if any villains show up. When they do, he will kill them off to give himself a peace of mind.
He smiled and went to his horse, where he retrieved a huge water pouch. This water pouch was very heavy and the magistrate had asked him about it. Pei Zi Yun smiled and replied, “This is used to store my wine. For the weather is very cold and I would need some wine to warm me up.”
The magistrate believed him.
Pei Zi Yun then started pouring out the contents of the water pouch over the logs, doors and any object that could catch fire easily. He then laughed to himself, “This kerosene has been tumbling around for many days. This kerosene that I’ve stolen is quality stuff.”
“He then used a little bit of Dao Energy to strike a spark, to ensure that it would indeed ignite and burst into flames. Seeing that it was successful and ready, he extinguished the small flame.”
After his preparation was completed, Pei Zi Yun then kept his smile and showed an expression that was full of dread and fear. He thought about how he had been careless the previous time by the reeds. Who would’ve thought that these people were so bold. They even managed to convince these gangsters, who had a feud with the pirates, that the official was behind it all.
“Sigh, thankfully their attacks were not very professional. If the woman from back at the relay station managed managed to link up both waves of attacks fluidly, I might have not been able to escape.” Just thinking about this alone gave Pei Zi Yun the chills.
At this point his sword was resting on the table beside him. He waited silently and patiently. After a long time, he heard a commotion stir up outside.
Pei Zi Yun was alerted and hurriedly ran to the front door. He peeped out and saw ten shadows walking across stealthily. He then thought to himself, “These thugs had indeed learnt their lesson.”
“The first group of gangsters that I had to fight were a mob, without any military strategy or planning. The second group however, were skilled soldiers, and yet they had too little in number. Both groups were broken and defeated by me.”
“In this particular situation, there were around thirty people. And based on my observations, they are all particular skilled at killing and fighting. It’s clear that they’ve done their preparations and are here to kill me.”
“In any other circumstance, I would probably die to this group of people in spite of my Dao Arts and martial arts skills. Thankfully I planned for this to happen and am in control of the situation.”
He celebrated silently before retrieving something from his clothes. He then planted it into the incense burner before turning around and walking to the back. Seeing that the group of assailants had yet to get close, he jumped off from the back. He then watched from afar, behind a huge boulder.