Plundering the Dao of the Immortal Journey Chapter 22
The door opened as two lanterns flanked it. The huge door was made up of bricks as two armed guards stood beside it, looking fearsome.
Thirty three Elementary Scholars walked through, beaming from ear to ear. Some were solemn as they passed through, others looked deep in thought. Pei Zi Yun looked around as he too walked through the door, "Ma Ji was ranked third in the first band."
"Coming in second place was the same person who took the second spot at the dinner banquet. His name was Chen Nan."
This youth had a graceful and elegant demeanor about him. Pei Zi Yun thought: I do not have any Dao Powers, and I'm unable to tell if he's righteous or evil. However, I am able to tell that he comes from a rich background.
The person who topped the examinations was a thirty year old Scholars, who looked unfamiliar. Pei Zi Yun looked across and saw Zhang Jia Yu being placed third in the second band.
Being a member of a sect, he had been removed from the blessings of the Imperial Qi. Having the ability to write an essay that could impress the examiners, without the Imperial Qi was admittedly, quite a feat.
The Imperial Qi was very sensitive. Before entering a sect, the Imperial Qi was still intact and thus achieving Elementary Scholar status or High Scholar status was possible. However, once someone enters a sect, he will be excluded from the blessings of Imperial Qi. When this happens, it'll be difficult to become an Elementary Scholar, and almost impossible to become a High Scholar. Pei Zi Yun looked down and saw a huge hall before him.
Of the first band, there were two people standing right in front. The second band arranged themselves in three rows of three people.
A high pitched voice screamed out, "The standards of this current examination is very high. The new group of Elementary Scholars shall now pay their respects to the magistrate and officials.
Following the lead of the person in front, all the Elementary Scholars behind knelt down and prostrated themselves as a sign of respect. This was done to thank the country for the opportunity given to them, and also to establish the teacher-students dynamics. These were all rules and traditions.
"Pay your respects to the Minister of education!"
The group of Scholars touched their head to the floor once more.
"Pay your respects to your respective teachers!"
After the third time they had touched their foreheads to the ground, they stood up. The chief official was smiling as he gave a speech to the Scholars.. The speech involved telling the Scholars to continue their good work and remain conscientious.
The speech given by the chief official was fairly simple and customary. Next was a speech given by the Minister of education, which was very simple as well. After the speech had ended, music was played as the Elementary Scholars were led into a banquet. The processions all followed customary practices and thus was expected by all.
When the banquet had begun, the chief official did not say anything as everyone took turns to meet the Minister of education.
For the first three Elementary Scholars, the Minister had words of encouragement to give. The same was said about the next few, who received slightly more critiques about their work.
When Pei Zi Yun step forward, he noticed the Minister, Chief official and room invigilators were all staring at him very intently. The Minister asked several questions which Pei Zi Yun answered accurately and promptly. He seemed satisfied before asking, "You are only fifteen this year?"
The Minister then said, "It was hard to tell. From your essay, I had assumed you were an old Elementary Scholar…."
It was clear that he had more to say, but stopped mid sentence. He took looked at Pei Zi Yun as if to scrutinize him as Pei Zi Yun's heart fluttered about his chest. He then forced a laugh and said, "I came from a poor family, and thus learnt from the Elementary Scholars in my village. However, I have not learnt enough, and I seek your kind understanding."
The Minister then replied in a warm tone, "Hey, you managed to secure tenth placing in this examination, which was no easy feat. I have seen your essays myself, and it was good. Since you've attain Elementary Scholar status, you should start developing gracefulness and character (in writing)."
"Thank you for your guidance sir, this student will strive for excellence." Pei Zi Yun expressed his gratitude and laughed. It was clear that the Minister felt a sense of ominousity and regret in his writing, which was why he had asked Pei ZI Yun to develop gracefulness.
It seems like although the old Elementary Scholar had good writing skills, he bore a sense of negativity and regret in his writing style, which did not settle too well with the examiners. Pei Zi Yun was thankful that he had managed to become an Elementary Scholar.
The rest of the time was spent without much words as the Elementary Scholars bade farewell to each other before returning to their respective villages. There were some who continued staying in the city for other reasons. Pei Zi Yun decided to return to his village.
Slow River County
Pei Zi Yun went back to the inn for a short rest before accompanying Tang Zhen to visit the county's magistrate and teacher. At the end of their visit, the county's magistrate said to them, "Students of the county, our future depends on you. Although our county is not the most advanced, we still have some influence. Being an Elementary Scholar entitles you to five mu of land. And you are not liable for taxes up to ten mu of land."
(TL: Mu represents unit of measurement for land. One mu is the equivalent of 1/15 a hectare)
Pei Zi Yun thanked him, as Tang Zhen smiled and said nothing except for a, "yes". This was because Tang Zhen was well to do, and his family owns hundreds of mu in land. He thus could not be bothered about these small amounts of land that became the entitlement of Elementary Scholars.
As they stepped out of the county magistrate's office, it had started drizzling, and the wind was cold. Tang Zhen laughed and said, "Brother Pei, are you going to stay for a few days in the county?"
Pei Zi Yun paused before replying, "No, brother Tang you carry on. I have some matters to handle here before going back to the village."
Tang Zhen did not insist and called for an oxcart and left as soon as the oxcart came around.
Pei Zi Yun himself called for an oxcart and said, "To the patrol office!"
The oxcart driver was surprised, seeing Pei Zi Yun dressed in his Elementary Scholar's attire but concealed it and acknowledged his request. The drizzle remained small as the driver decided to take a less crowded road to avoid the crowds. The sound of the cart sloshing through mud could be heard.
After some time, the oxcart stopped as the driver announced, "We're here!"
Pei Zi Yun got off the cart and scanned his surroundings. It looked like a small scale government office. He paid the fare and proceeded towards to building.
There were no guards outside the patrol office as Pei Zi Yun proceeded towards the door. There was a huge sign on the door that read, "Bullying people is like bullying heaven and earth. Taking advantage of citizens is like taking advantage of the entire country."
With nobody to show him which room to proceed to, he walked straight and ended up in the middle of a hall.
As soon as he passed through the door, he saw several case files on the table and an officer reading those files intently. This Patrol Officer was rank nine and had a sword hanging from his uniform.
As soon as he walked into the room, a bailiff made a sound, before saying, "Please take a seat and wait."
In front of the table which the officer was working on, were two guest chairs, and a tea table in the middle. As Pei Zi Yun sat down, they offered him some tea before walking away.
Pei Zi Yun took a look at the Patrol Officer's face and observed his features. He saw that he had thick eyebrows, huge eyes and looked fearsome. When he was sitting, his body was as straight as a pen and he wrote with exaggerated movements, almost as if he were wielding a knife.
When he had finished with his files and raised his head, Pei Zi Yun approached him, "Student pays his respects."
The Patrol Officer looked at Pei Zi Yun and laughed, "Looks like it is Elementary Scholar Pei. I wonder what brings Elementary Scholar Pei here to visit me today."
The Patrol Officer position has been around for a few hundred years. The main purpose was to arrest bandits and robbers. When the patrol post was first started dynasties ago, it was not properly recognized. However, just before the formal establishment of the current dynasty, the would-be emperor took control of all the patrol posts, showing the value and importance of it.
After the emperor had been crowned, the entire country was filled with more of these posts and Patrol Officers to manage law and order, command archery troops and manage conflicts. The officer in charge was then given rank nine.
Although the Patrol Officer's rank was not very high, he holds an important position in the county. Being the chief of many troops, he protects the entire county against bandits and ensures that citizens were able to rest well at night.
The reason Pei Zi Yun visited today was because of the bandits that had attacked his village. He then said, "Your excellency, just before this Scholar left for his exams, there were some Black Wind bandits that threatened and attacked my village. They ruined the peace that used to govern my village. Now that I've attained Elementary Scholar status, and wish to return to my village, I am uneasy and wish to request for some protection."
The Patrol Officer heard this, and understood, as he sank deep into thought.
Although the crime rate had been considerably reduced ever since the establishment of the new dynasty, there were still some bandits in the county that the patrol office had to deal with. However, it would take time and effort to completely wipe out these bandits. In order to ensure bandits did not enter a village, some archer troops would have to be deployed. Since Snail Village was far away, no troops had been sent and thus were vulnerable to attacks.
Since Pei Zi Yun had attained Elementary Scholar status, it would be good to sell him a favour and send some troops to guard their village for some time. He then said, "Since Elementary Scholar Pei came here for this, I shall agree to help. The troops are all centered in the capital, leaving none for the protection of the outer villages, and became vulnerable targets for the bandits. I am deeply concerned."
He paused and continued again, "Since Elementary Scholar Pei's village is in danger, I shall send some patrolling troops. However, the number will not be many."
"Of course. Since these are trained troops of the patrol posts, although they will not be many, it will prevent the bandits from attacking the village. I am sure in the meantime, Sir Patrol Officer will devise a plan and annihilate the bandits, returning the county to its initial peace."
Pei Zi Yun was overjoyed. He was just a mere Elementary Scholar but the Patrol Officer accepted his request and was willing to spare a few troops. It was probably because he wanted to save some dignity for Pei Zi Yun, since he had already asked for a favour. Or it could be because Pei Zi Yun was young, and could probably achieve High Scholar status in the future.
It was clear that this Patrol Officer came from a military career, for he was decisive in his actions. He immediately called the bailiff over and ordered him to inform the troop leader of his decision. Before long, someone did, indeed arrive.
Pei Zi Yun looked at the troop leader and observed him. He was tall and sturdy with a cold and emotionless face. He had a long scar across his face, caused by a knife wound and carried a menacing look with him.
The Patrol Officer looked at the troop leader and ordered, "Cao San, this is Elementary Scholar Pei. Take a team and head over to Snail Village. When you have arrived, gather the young men and form a patrol team around the village."
"Yes sir!" With his loud booming voice, Pei Zi Yun thought that Cao San also seemed to have a military background.
Cao San and Pei Zi Yun walked out as Cao San said, "Elementary Scholar Pei, since we are going to Snail Village, and we have to prepare our luggage and weapons, it will be some time. You head back to the inn first, we will set out first light tomorrow."
"Naturally!" Pei Zi Yun said as he watched Cao San turn around and disappeared, leaving his shadow behind. He was secretly happy and revealed a wide smile.
Peace shall come at last. Soldiers are like wolves and tigers. If heaven should decree, peace should exist for thirty years, who would dare to defy it and wreak chaos?
But for now, he had to learn to become like wolves or tigers.
"Zhang Jie Yu, disciple of Holy Jail Sect. It is clear to me now, upon further reflection that the matter at Silver Dragon Temple was all devised by you. It was your plan to turn these ten Elementary Scholars into Holy Jail Sect's outside circle disciples."
"Outside circle disciples are like claws and teeth, to seize assets for the sect, and to lose blood for the sect."
"Only those who are gifted and are able to cultivate Dao Ways will be able to enter the inner circle."
"Although this has nothing to do with me, I was implicated in the process. And these ladies were treated with with such dangerous recklessness. This sect has to go."
"But that is a task for the future. For now, I have to put all my mind and body into getting rid of Black Wind Sect."
"The original owner had heard a sound, and said that Black Wind Sect was a product of his doing in the past and they had gotten way too dangerous. They have to be annihilated."
"The most important thing is that, rumours have surfaced that Black Wind Sect has a rogue cultivator amongst them and the original owner knows who. Looks like I have to find it in his memories."
"Zhang Jie Yu, since your plan implicated me, I shall have my revenge on you!"
As he said this, a small white Plum Blossom appeared before his eyes and got bigger rapidly. It then transformed into a semi transparent information interface, which bore faint light perception and a mission appeared:
Mission 1 : Rescue Ye Su'er (Completed)
Mission 2 : Obtain Elementary Scholar Status (Pending Completion)
Mission 3 : Attain a Daoist Cultivator's Legacy (Incomplete)