Plundering the Dao of the Immortal Journey Chapter 62
The bright moonlight revealed a slightly scarlet hue in the depths of the sky. Pei Zi Yun was able to smell the stench of blood on himself. He pulled the reigns of the horse, urging it to go faster, as it ran in the direction of the County City.
There was a fork road along the streets. To the left was Peach Flower Origins Monastery. It was still hard to imagine that the Monastery Chief could do something like separating Ye Su'er from him. But now was not the time to worry about this. He directed the horse to take the path on the right, towards the county.
In the county, Tang Zhen had just been kicked out of a sketchy looking restaurant. There was an ox-cart right outside, the ox-cart driver and his boy servant were waiting for him.
Seeing his master staggering out of the restaurant in apparent drunkenness, the boy servant felt an aching in his heart. Ever since his master had made a fool of himself at the literary event, his title of Elementary Scholar had been cancelled by the Mentor. He had been wasting his life away, drinking and philandering. Old master didn't care about him anymore, and mistress's heart ached with grief seeing him this way, and constantly counseled him to mend his ways.
The ox-cart proceeded along the roads of the county noisily.
The ox-cart stopped outside the entrance of Tang Zhen's home and the boy servant stepped off the cart and knocked on the door. Someone answered from within, "Who is it?"
"Master has returned. Open the door," answered the boy servant.
"Master, which master?" The gatekeeper turned his head to get a glimpse of who was on the outside.
"Of course it's Master Tang Zhen. Master Tang Zhen is already outside, hurry up and open the door." The boy servant shouted once more.
"Old master had already said that Tang Zhen had behaved immorally and got his title cancelled. He has disgraced the name of the Tang family, and he still has the cheek to come back home? He should dig a hole and crawl into it." The gatekeeper said as he yawned and returned to sleep, ignoring the incessant knocking of the door.
"Big brother Hu, sorry to trouble you, but please take us to the back door. I will shout for grandmother Hu to open the door." The boy servant said to the ox-cart driver. Once they reached the back door, the boy servant pulled apart the curtains of the cart and shouted, "Master, Master?"
Tang Zhen was still in the ox-cart sleeping, his face was pale, it was evident that he had drank too much. He would occasionally stir in his sleep and speak drunken gibberish, "Don't catch me, I was framed. It wasn't my fault."
While in drunken stupor, his brows were creased, as if he was truly bothered.
"Naturally disasters can be withstood, but disasters done unto oneself are hard to cope with." This boy servant was also fifteen or sixteen years old already, and had studied many books together with Tang Zhen. As he said this, he felt a sense of despair and sadness in his heart.
To see the splendor and honor his master had brought to their house just a few months ago, be reduced to this extent in such a short period of time was very disheartening and caused the boy servant to shed some tears. He released his hold on the curtains and allowed it to fall back down. He then knocked on the back door, "Grandmother Hu, open the door!"
After sometime, the old woman replied, "I'm coming, who's it, it's 3 in the morning and you're knocking."
"Grandmother Hu, its' me. Master has drank himself drunk, so I got an ox-cart to fetch him back. Can grandmother Hu open the door, please."
"So it seems that Young Master is finally back. I will open the door, give me a minute." The fifty something year-old woman opened the door. The moonlight shone down, allowing her to see the ox-cart waiting outside, with the boy servant beside it.
Grandmother Hu then asked, "Where is Young Master? Hurry bring Young Master to his room. When Old Master didn't see Young Master this evening, he flew into a rage again!"
This old woman was called grandmother Hu.
"Yes, and Old Master even told the doorkeeper not to let us in. That's why I had to knock on the back door." The boy servant was upset. Those were clearly words spoken in anger, and yet everyone took his words literally.
At this point, he looked up at the ox-cart driver, "Big brother Hu, can I trouble you to help me carry Young Master. I am young, and unable to carry him by myself."
The ox-cart driver sighed, and jumped off the cart. He then slung Tang Zhen's arm over his shoulders and dragged him carefully into the house and placed his gently down on the bed for him to rest.
It was late at night and Pei Zi Yun had passed through the wall and entered the County City. The county was rather quiet at this time of the night. Most households had extinguished their torches and lanterns, although there were several exceptions. The few lanterns that were still lit shone brightly across the dark streets. Occasionally the night watchman holding a lantern would hit his drums and break the silence of the night. There were patrolling bailiffs around as well, looking out for any thieves or bandits.
Pei Zi Yun continued walking along the small roads and would occasionally stumble upon dogs that would bark at him ferociously. However, nobody would come out and check since they assumed that the dogs were barking at the night watchmen.
Before his eyes was the Tang household. Although Tang Zhen's ancestral home was in the village, his current residence was here in the county. When their first examinations had ended, Tang Zhen had invited Pei Zi Yun over to have some tea, and thus Pei Zi Yun knew where he lived.
In this particular alley of the county, the roads were paved with limestone and countless of huge gravels. Walking over it caused some pain as the large pebbles could be felt at the soles of a person. Every step caused some sound due to the shuffling of the pebbles.
Since the moonlight was very bright, Pei Zi Yun was not worried about losing his way around. Just as he was about to exit the alley, he saw an ox-cart passing by him slowly. Pei Zi Yun crouched and hid under the shadows before observing his surroundings. From afar, there was a lantern being lit.
That's strange. It's the middle of the night and there's an ox-cart travelling?
Once the ox-cart had passed, and the footsteps of the patrolling bailiffs were far enough, Pei Zi Yun stealthily walked over to the backyard of the Tang's household.
The backyard was quiet and still, and the moon created shadows of the rocks in his backyard. The shadows bore resemblance to mountains, and Pei Zi Yun sniggered at himself. He continued walking down the backyard when he saw a boy servant walking out from the kitchen. He was holding something as he sighed, "Young master's title had been cancelled, and he has been living like a degenerate ever since. Even Old Master doesn't even want to see him."
When Pei Zi Yun listened in while the boy servant grumbled to himself. It seems like this boy servant knew where Tang Zhen was. He thus followed behind him. Before long, Pei Zi Yun saw a room with lights. The boy servant entered the room.
Pei Zi Yun followed behind, and took a peep into the window. He saw a man in a drunken stupor, speaking gibberish.
When the boy servant entered, he served up a bowl of soup meant to dispel the effects of alcohol. Tang Zhen was still rambling, and the boy servant wanted to feed him. Tang Zhen suddenly swung his arms and swept it off the hands of the servant boy. The bowl landed on the ground and shattered on the floor and the soup spilt all over the servant boy, drenching him.
When the bowl had shattered into tiny fragments on the ground, the servant sighed deeply, and went off to get a change of clothes. The minute he walked out, someone grabbed him from behind and choked him. He passed out in a few minutes.
Pei Zi Yun then gently pulled him over to a quiet corner. The minute he turned around, he got shocked.
From within the room was a voice, who cleared his throat before speaking, "Brother Pei, I see you've brought your sword with you tonight. You must be here to kill me? Some time back I've plotted to frame you. Damn it. Brother Pei, if you really want my life, you can take it. Just don't implicate anyone else. Anyway, even if I don't die at your hands, I will not be able to live much longer."
Tang Zhen sat up, his eyes bore evidence as to how much he had been drinking of late. The whites of his eyes were turning green and his eyes were hollowed out. His hair was a mess, since he hadn't combed it in a long time. His white robes had many dirt stains all over.
Tang Zhen had been a noble student with an elegant demeanor and always had a calm and composed air around him. He was currently nothing like that. Now, he sat up straight and craned his neck, eyes closed, as if ready to be killed.
Seeing Tang Zhen this way, Pei Zi Yun asked, "You are not a stupid person. The way you've been acting the past few months, you knew that if you don't change your ways, you won't have much longer to live?"
Tang Zhen was dumbfounded and Pei Zi Yun was not happy about this as well. Pei Zi Yun poured himself a cup of tea, yet did not drink it. He sniffed the contents before saying, "It's just that you are wrong. If I wanted to kill you, I would've done so, much earlier."
"The reason I'm here tonight, is not for bullshit talk. I wish to ask you a question. Do you want your title back?"
Hearing these words, Tang Zhen's up brightened up, before sitting up. All of a sudden his drunken demeanor had vanished and replaced by that of an alert person. He poured himself a cup of tea as well.
The tea was cold, coarse and bitter, but he still drank it, crinkling his eyebrows. When he had drained the cup, he laughed before saying, "I do, of course I do. These days of drinking are driving me insane."
"But how do I get it back? Everyone had seen for themselves what I did, and the Mentor himself had witnessed it as well. How should I change that? Committing an offense the way I did put me on a road of no return." Tang Zhen's eyes bore a look of despair, "Zhang Jie Yu refuses to release me from his shackles as well. Maybe before long, I will somehow fall into a river and drown as well."
Pei Zi Yun placed his hands on the table and leaned in closer to Tang Zhen before saying, "Brother Tang, now you know the extent of your mistakes. Had I been the one to fall prey to your ploy, I would be in much worse shape than you are right now."
"The Tang family is considered noble and are wealthy. Even if you had drowned, it wouldn't matter much to the Tang family, since you have a brother. If something were to happen to me, what do you think will happen to my Pei family? What will happen to my mother?"
Tang Zhen paused for a long while, deep in thought. He raised his head, his eyes showed clarity and a sense of alertness not seen in a long time, "Brother Pei, has something big happened?"
"You're right. Last night Zhang Jie Yu led a group of monks from Silver Dragon Temple and Luo gang from the Hu River to murder me. I have dispatched them all to the underworld." Pei Zi Yun said coldly, "And now Holy Jail Sect does not have a leader within Dong An Prefecture. I have a plan. Although it's not guaranteed to bring your title back, at the very least you will be allowed to take the examinations again. Will you do it?"
Tang Zhen looked at Pei Zi Yun, who had dust and blood stains on his clothes. The stench of blood permeated in the entire room. Tang Zhen hesitated for sometime before standing up, and pacing back and forth several steps. When he finally made up his mind, he bit down hard on his teeth and said, "I shall do it. Brother Pei tell me what to do and consider it done."
Pei Zi Yun leaned into Tang Zhen's side and whispered into his ears. Tang Zhen was nodding, as a look of determination and life appeared in his eyes once more.
It was early in the morning, and several birds were chirping merrily, perched atop trees. An old man was sweeping the roads. Several soldiers were standing guard at the entrance of the County City. One of them yawned as throes of people walked in and out.
All of a sudden, one of the soldiers straightened up and asked, "Do you hear mourning music?"
"What rubbish. If someone had died and need to cross the city entrance, they would inform us. If they didn't inform us in advance, will they not be worried we will ruin their luck and refuse them entry?"
The other soldier replied in irritably. Just as this second, his mouth gaped wide open, and his face froze as he looked far ahead at the road before him.
From afar, an entire procession of people were marching towards the gate, beating drums and playing mourning tunes on a flute. They were all wearing white robes and approaching the city.
"Who would be this inauspicious? And it's not leaving the city but rather entering it." The first guard said this in anger. He drew his sword as it continued staring into the distance. He grinded his teeth continuously.
There were 80 to 90 people walking towards the County City, carrying coffins. The people walking in front were women, all wearing white mourner's' clothes. They were wailing while walking, and were tossing paper money as they walked.
(TN: Paper money was not actual money, but pieces of paper meant to be used as currency for souls in the underworld. This is a custom for chinese during funerals.)
The dynasty had been stabilized and a sight such as this was very rare. Seeing this scene unfold before them, a brave soul approached the procession and asked, "Where are you people from, to have the audacity to barge into the County City in this manner. Aren't you afraid that the County Magistrate might charge you in the courts?"
Just then, a sharp-eyed bailiff walked out and saw the group of people. Cao San and a few bowmen were wearing a white headscarf as well, and were dressed up in mourner's attires. They carried a bamboo stick across their shoulders with a basket on each end. The people behind them were all carrying coffins on their shoulders. In fact, there were also a few men in black being chained up. When the bailiff saw this, he was shocked. Just as he was about to step forward and refuse them entrance, Cao San shouted loudly, "Get out of my way. Can't you see the Chief Patrol Officer is in the coffin, and that Master Top Scorer is leading the procession?"
This bailiff recognized Cao San but did not recognize the Top Scorer. Just as these words were spoken, he looked on at the person leading the procession and realized he was wearing the robes of a High Scholar. It was clear that something big had just happened. He did not dare to obstruct them further. Turning around, he ran back into the city to inform the relevant authorities of what had just happened.