Plundering the Dao of the Immortal Journey Chapter 104
Pei Zi Yun retrieved the sword that had been hanging on his wall, and a strange feeling welled up within him. It was almost as if he had become extremely familiar with this sword all of a sudden. He felt as though the sword was a perfect extension of his arm, as it sat comfortably within his palms. He had managed to acquire all the sword techniques from this Evergreen Daoist.
Holding his sword, he pushed past the gate and entered the courtyard. Standing on the limestone pavement, he swung his sword and felt it come alive. It was almost as if the sword had a life and a mind of its own, and yet it was completely aligned with Pei Zi Yun. He tested it out and determined its strengths. With a flash of the sword, he hacked, jabbed, stabbed, parried, slashed and raised his sword. With each move, he felt at the peak of his sword techniques.
The control he achieved with the sword, was almost as if he was playing chess, perfectly in control.
"Not only can the Plum Blossom obtain memories, it's also able to obtain spiritual energy. It's no wonder Young Master Xie was able to gain the powers of heaven and earth and use them to his advantage on his route to become a True Sovereign."
"And yet although I've acquired this sword technique, I'm unable to fully digest every step. This is normal considering how this Evergreen Daoist devoted his entire life into developing and refining his sword techniques and I absorbed all of it in a matter of hours."
"This Evergreen Daoist could be called a Sword Sage with his extraordinary skills. It's a pity that he ended up joining an ordinary sect. Once he had reached his peak, there was no where else for him to go. Although he was able to pave a completely new path by redeveloping and refining his sword techniques, his blood and sweat were in vain. At last, he died at the age of sixty-one."
"It was even more of a pity that he was unable to pass this sword technique to anyone suitable. Had he managed to pass it on, the disciple could follow the path in which he created. By making more improvements to the sword technique and cultivating Dao arts along the way, he would've been able to push the boundaries of unexplored territories. Should he persevere in this direction, he would've eventually reach the stage of proficiency in which he was able to open the heavens and become a Yin Master. Then, he would've been able to turn it into a Dao Sect."
"The sect should then strive to constantly redefine and improve its techniques and cultivation methods. The sect would eventually reach the pinnacle of Yin Masters. With a little luck, they might even be able to discover their own Paradise. Then, it would be similar to Free Cloud Sect, where they can achieve legitimacy through recognition by the Imperial Court. It would then even be possible for them to be conferred a title based on their outstanding sword techniques."
"This was how Dao Sects were formed. And yet, for these Rogue Cultivators who threaded unknown paths to push the boundaries of Dao Cultivation, it was extremely difficult to acquire disciples. To acquire worthy disciples would take quite a fair bit of luck. How then, would they be able to recruit worthy and capable disciples every generation?"
"This Evergreen Daoist was not able to even have a successor to form his second generation, much less have third and fourth generations of disciples. In the end, his efforts were all wasted. Thankfully I acquired them. I still have some time before the Imperial Court get back to me on the confirmation of title. I can use this time to properly digest the new technique I've acquired." Pei Zi Yun thought to himself.
Ever since the Lantern Festival, the Grand Princess had yet to summon Pei Zi Yun. Time passed by slowly as it started getting warm. The naked branches of the peach trees had started growing leaves and flower buds.
The spring rain was unabating. Faint lights from lanterns were flickering in the darkness. The Pei Mansion was extremely clean and tidy. There wasn't even a speck of mud on the limestone pavement. Since it was after sunset, the entire Mansion was somewhat dark. A gust of wind blew through the mansion, taking along with it raindrops. The kitchen maid was dressed in her old garbs and smiled, "It's starting to rain again? I should've bought the ingredients earlier."
The young serving maid who had been with her all this while had gradually regained her healthy glow after only half a month. She was nothing like the scrawny, yellow skinned girl. Instead, she had a healthy and robust glow on her cheeks. Hearing her mother's words she reached out for a bowl, and laughed, "Mother is indeed correct about it raining today. What shall we eat then?"
The kitchen maid then retrieved the warmed-up food. It included hard boiled eggs, spring rolls, chicken soup and a plate of chicken cubes. She poked her daughter's forehead with her finger, "You can have a boiled egg for now. I've cooked an extra bowl. We'll wait for the Young Master to finish eating. There will be leftovers for us after he's done. Our lives are so much better compared to what we've been through the past couple of years!"
"Hehe I know." She then scooped up an egg before placing it in her mouth. The young girl's eyes sparkled with contentment.
A single joss stick was burning within the incense burner. A small red glow could be seen at the tip of the joss stick. This technique had been obtained from his memories. Seeing the smoke rising up from the burning incense, Pei Zi Yun pulled out his sword in a swift motion. With a flash of the sword, the incense was severed at the tip, yet the stream of smoke wasn't disrupted one bit, as it wafted in a continuous thread. He then stood up, "The level of proficiency with my sword is at the same level as the Evergreen Daoist when he was thirty years old."
He then came out of the room and was greeted immediately by the kitchen maid, "Does Young Master wish to eat now?"
Pei Zi Yun sniffed the decadent aroma coming from the food and laughed, "With you cooking everyday I'm going to get fat."
The serving maid laughed, "Young Master provided a stable life for us mother and daughter. It's only right that we serve and wait on you…."
Indeed the pair had just been released from service by a noble family, and yet they weren't allowed the level of autonomy and freedom granted by Pei Zi Yun. Just as Pei Zi Yun was about to speak further, he heard a knock on the door and someone was calling out, "Young Master Pei, we've received orders from the Grand Princess to accompany you to the Grand Princess's Mansion."
"Oh? It's finally here. It must be that the examination are over and I'm cleared of any suspicious activity." Pei Zi Yun walked out of the room and through the courtyard where he saw the Imperial Guards at the door. Behind them sat a horse carriage. Pei Zi Yun boarded it before heading off.
Grand Princess Mansion
Pei Zi Yun got off the carriage and followed the Imperial Guard inside the mansion. This time, he went in further than ever. The sky was clear as they walked past an open walkway lined with pebbles on both sides. Soon after, they walked through a dense garden, filled with many trees and plants. It was a huge mansion, with plenty of greenery and white washed walls around. A pavilion was hidden in the middle of the thick vegetation.
The entire walk to the pavilion was filled with the rustling of leaves and birds chirping. Flowers were starting to bloom, it was indeed a beautiful sight. Pei Zi Yun sighed in his heart, "The Grand Princess's Mansion is far from modest. Even if someone was to study hard for decades and bring glory to their ancestors with excellent results, they would not be able to afford such a luxurious life."
As he was deep in his own thoughts, he arrived at the entrance. There were two fully armored guards standing on each side of the door. The Imperial Guard who had been escorting him fished out an Imperial Tile. The armed guards then started conducting a thorough search. Only after retrieving Pei Zi Yun's weapons was he permitted to enter.
The Imperial Guard then whispered softly, "Young Master Pei, this strict checks are for the safety of the royal family. I seek your understanding."
Pei Zi Yun nodded his head in acknowledgement and yet was surprised, "Even for the Grand Princess, the security this time was heightened quite considerably. The armed guard almost shook me out entirely."
Still deep in thought, he followed the Imperial Guard as they stepped in. He then felt something strange and different about this place. The walls were high and the temperature within the walls was slightly warmer. Within the yard, peach blossoms were in full bloom and many bees and butterflies were dancing around the peach blossoms. It was quite a lively sight. He then thought to himself, "There must be a hot spring here within this yard."
After walking a few steps, he felt that something was not quite right. An immense pressure had been exerted over his entire body. Pei Zi Yun's face fell. In such a natural environment where life thrives, Pei Zi Yun felt like a fish stranded in mud. Each step he took was heavy and difficult. He felt as though his entire body had been chained up, restricting his movements. The feeling of pressure exerted over his body was becoming more intense. He could not even release a thread of Dao Arts. He then understood, "This place had been subjected to Dao restricting charms. And yet the Grand Princess wouldn't have such strict security in place. Could it be…?"
The Imperial Guard continued walking before making a turn. A young lady was seated on a swing beneath a huge tree. With every swing, several flowers descended from the tree.
The Imperial Guard walked through, keeping his eyes straight. He did not turn to look at anything else, but was only concerned with leading Pei Zi Yun through. When they walked past the young lady, Pei Zi Yun could hear her whisper softly, "Uncle Emperor said it's a waste that this man had already joined a Dao Sect."
Pei Zi Yun had already walked past the young lady and heard the whisper from behind him. He then paused and turned around to look at her. She was dressed in silk robes with golden threads around. She wore an elegant hairpin on her hair, and had a royal and noble poise about her. The young lady raised her head too, and had large eyes. When she looked at Pei Zi Yun, she smiled as if she had known him from earlier.
The both of them didn't speak as they continued walking. Pei Zi Yun felt that this lady was somewhat familiar, and yet could not recall where he had met her. The Imperial Guard urged him to keep up, as he increased the pace of his steps.
The Imperial Guard led Pei Zi Yun through the limestone tiles. The scenery then changed, as a huge hall appeared before him. There were armed guards lined up all around the outside of the hall.
Within the interior of the hall were several tables. Many officials were seated on the tables, and there were plenty of food and wine. The banquet had not started. Pei Zi Yun took a glance and realized that all these officials were of the fifth and sixth ranks. They all wore their official robes.
"Ai, indeed it's not just the Grand Princess who had invited people." The Imperial Guard led Pei Zi Yun into the hall.
Pei Zi Yun sat at at a designated seat. A slightly round and plump official edged close to him and asked softly, "Which royal house does this Young Master hail from? Or are you from Hou Mansion?"
Seeing Pei Zi Yun dressed in normal civilian robes, the surrounding officials were curious as well and all leaned in to listen.
Pei Zi Yun's face was blank as he replied softly, "Your excellency, what is this banquet? I've been invited here by the Grand Princess. I wonder why she chose this venue to meet."
When the official heard that Pei Zi Yun had been invited by the Grand Princess, he too was stumped.
Ever since the Grand Princess's husband died in war, her character started taking a weird turn. It was not surprising that she had invited a random person to this place and left him to mix with these officials. This was not the strangest or preposterous thing she has done by a long shot.
And yet to be personally invited by the Grand Princess, it would mean that Pei Zi Yun's status was anything but ordinary. Although nobody said this, it was perfectly appropriate for someone to be invited by the Grand Princess herself to mix with these officials. The plump official then spoke softly, his cheeks were quivering with every word, "This is the Spring Banquet that's hosted every year after the Lantern Festival. His Majesty would gather all his advisors and officials and host a lavish banquet. This was done in order to show appreciation for the work we've done in the past year. It was also for the Emperor to shower his blessings on his subjects."
After hearing this sixth ranked official speak in hushed tones, Pei Zi Yun then understood. So this was the Spring Banquet. He had heard about this Spring Banquet before, and yet the original owner never had the chance to come close to one. Hence it was perfectly normal that he had no idea of what was to happen. It was rather strange that the protective and restricting enchantments would be placed within the yard outside. This must mean that the Emperor was here himself, within this hall.
Pei Zi Yun was not worried. To be at a banquet invited by the Grand Princess and seated among officials, he started thinking about what the purpose of this invite was. He then thought about how the person who had organized this banquet might not be the Grand Princess after all. He then paused, his chest was filled with hot excitement. Could this hall be the place in which he was to receive the title conferred by the Emperor?
Pei Zi Yun observed his surroundings and noticed that the hall he was in was huge and wide. It was very neat and clean. It was clear that nobody could enter this hall without being noticed. He noticed that there was an entrance which led to the main hall. This must be the outer hall. Pei Zi Yun could then hear the faint sound of a flute making music from within the hall.
Although Pei Zi Yun has never been into the main hall, he had acquired the memories of several Grand Scholars who had entered the hall before. The melody playing within the hall was the Emperor's Melody, and it was a normal tune to hear in the presence of the Emperor.
"According to rites and customs, Princes, Canton Princes and the Emperor's own son-in-laws were considered inner chamber members and were thus closest to the Emperor."
"Imperial officials and several chosen high ranking officials themselves are occasionally close to the Emperor and get to see him during festive occasions."
"The Emperor's uncles and other male members of his family along with third rank officials could be in the presence of the Emperor too."
"An official who was higher than the fourth rank would be permitted to seat by the corner of the main hall. The banquet within the outer hall was thus meant for the lower ranking officials. The rules and security within the outer hall was thus much looser, and a fifth rank official could seat anywhere within the outer hall. And yet the lowest ranking officials who were permitted to attend this banquet had to be at least of the sixth rank. Any lower and they would not have the necessary credentials to be present."
"The reason I'm able to be here was due to the personal invitation by the Grand Princess, and yet it's not such a big deal as well. In order to display interaction between the Imperial Court and the common folk, there were several invitations extended to "citizens". Clearly these "citizens" had to have special accomplishments or reasons to be present. The minimum requirement for ordinary folks was to have at least an Elementary Scholar status. Since I'm a High Scholar, I only just made the requirements."
"And yet this is the Spring Banquet. It's not going to be a simple affair. Since I've already joined a Dao Sect, they would not ask me to attend this banquet to share my political views and recite a political essay. It must be because of my poetry skills. I have to start preparing now, just in case."
At this point, the current program within the main hall was just done. It seemed like the banquet was about to begin.
Pei Zi Yun glanced around his surroundings and noticed several people were getting busy. The plump official then started eating with his chopsticks, "Young Master, the food prepared for the Spring Banquet is excellent. Especially with the Grand Princess here, the food are all delicacies and are extremely rare dishes. If you notice, several people came here on empty stomachs, waiting to eat as much as they can."
When Pei Zi Yun heard this, he then understood. Seeing several officials, he realized that they were starving. The minute the banquet started they started eating and drinking away. They were making a lively din and were talking animatedly.
He then laughed, "The senior advisors and officials are no exceptions!"
Pei Zi Yun then though to himself, "The senior advisors and officials should at least be of the third rank or higher. This place was thus filled with junior advisors, or maybe middle-tier advisors?"
When he looked down, he saw that a noodle dish had been served up. It was garnished with leek and spring onions and had several cubes of meat which were sparkling and clear, like crystal. The plump official used his chopsticks to pick up the meat and stuffed them into his mouth. He ate furiously before sighing, "This crystal meat is of the highest grade, there's none like it."
Realizing that this world had such good food too, Pei Zi Yun laughed and picked up his chopsticks. There were several jugs of wine on the table, and yet none of the officials drank any wine. He felt that it was rather strange. All of a sudden, he heard the shrill voice of the eunuch, "The Emperor has an order, sixth ranked Governor Chen Zhi, you may enter and offer your presence to his Majesty."