Chapter 24: Chapter 24
Feng Zhiwei smiled. “Headmaster Xin has a really kind heart.”
“Of course!” The young man exclaimed. “Headmaster Xin is virtuous, kind, helps the old and the poor alike, is immune to feminine charm, is serious and cautious, and refuses the influence of evil…”
He chattered on about the greatness of Headmaster Xin and Feng Zhiwei listened with a smile, secretly wondering whether he was still talking about a human being. His voice was conspicuous, as if he was hoping that that old man or Headmaster Xin would come and listen.
Suddenly he sighed and continued in a whisper. “I came from South Sea and I didn’t know the rules beforehand, so I dressed too well. When I tried to buy some clothes from the poor families at the foot of the mountain, I realized that they had all gotten rich by selling their old clothes and now they were even better dressed than I am…” He sighed and looked miserable.
Feng Zhiwei listened to the prelude and had a premonition about what the rest of the song would be about. “Brother, are you interested in my clothes?”
“Yes!” The young man clapped. “Brother, you are straightforward! I will pay you one hundred catties of silver for your coat, and you can have my South Sea Light Silk coat!”
“Ok, deal!” Feng Zhiwei agreed eagerly, taking off her clothes immediately (1) – a hundred catties of silver to trade a footboy’s coat for an expensive light silk coat was a bargain only fools would refuse.
As she was taking off her clothes, she heard a clear “ding” as a small object fell from the inner layer of her sleeve. Before she could see it clearly, the young man had already picked it up and was carefully examining it. He gasped.
He held a yellow stone seal and turned it over and over in his hands, his eyes suddenly narrowed like a hunting wolf’s.
Feng Zhiwei looked at him with surprise and doubted herself for a second. A seemingly rich young man like him couldn’t be greedy for a piece of field-yellow stone?
The young man held the yellow stone in both hands and said happily, “With this, why do you still…” When he lifted his head and saw Feng Zhiwei’s astonished expression, he stopped and leaned in closer, poking Zhiwei with his elbow. “Big brother, can we discuss something?”
Feng Zhiwei was a little thrown off by the young man’s familiar gesture, but she still asked, “What?”
“You also want to enter the academy, right?” The young man chuckled. “Little brother can make sure you get in, but I have a small request. When you join, can you tell them that I am your servant? The academy lets every student bring two servants. Oh! And I haven’t fully introduced myself. My name is Yan; I’m from the Yan Family from South Sea.”
Feng Zhiwei’s eyes flashed. The Yan Family from South Sea was one of the three lowkey families together with Tian Zhan and Xuan Yuan. They had been the imperial families before Da Cheng, and with the new dynasty had gradually shifted to the backstage and stepped away from the court, but among the common people they were still very powerful. The Tian Zhan Family controlled Jianghu; Xuan Yuan controlled much of business, and had their hand in medicine, forging, textiles etc., and the Yan Family dominated the seas, and owned the largest ship workshops. On the Ming Sea, far from Dijing, the Yan Family flag blotted out the sky and covered up the sun.
Wealthy business families were rich and powerful, and even though Dijing was outside of their power, it was still worthwhile to befriend a Yan family junior.
“How could I dare to make you my servant?” Feng Zhiwei had already guessed that the yellow stone was key, but she played coy and refused his offer.
The young man grew agitated and said quickly, “Three thousand teal of fine silver every month, for big brother to use!”
“There’s no gain without suffering, hehe…”
“Ten thousand tael!”
“Money is just external, hehe…”
“Little brother’s servants and subordinates in Dijing are free for big brother to use whenever he needs them!”
Feng Zhiwei stopped “hehe”ing and turned around with a slight smile and stared at the young man. He lifted his neck and raised his hand, “I swear by our Yan Family’s first imperial ancestor’s spirit tablet!”
It must be quite unfortunate to be this youth’s ancestor, trotted out for an occasional oath here and there…
Feng Zhiwei smiled and patted the youth’s shoulder.
“The two of us, helping each other out… hehe!”
The Yan Family youth went up and knocked, and as expected, this time was different from the last. The old man quickly turned deferential and came out personally to welcome them, and under the envious gazes of the surrounding people, the trio entered the “most difficult gate” of the Qing Ming Academy.
The jade statue was obviously among the trio; it was as if his whole world at this point was just following Feng Zhiwei. It was to the point that she even suspected that he would probably follow her into a restroom. On the other side, the Yan Family junior was so happy that an outsider might guess that he was entering the gate to take on the position of headmaster rather than servant.
Feng Zhiwei’s indifference showed on her face. She had nowhere else to be, and the brothel wasn’t the best place, especially after the Li Gong Zi balls incident. Her only regret was the robed man; it was always very comfortable to cook herbs for him, and now she could no longer enjoy those days.
She touched her chest and the notebook that the robed man had lent her. She planned to just keep it, after all, how many people remembered to return borrowed books?
The Yan Family junior followed along happily. “Little brother’s name is Yan Huaishi (2), what is big brother’s name?”
Huaishi? The brat could even squeeze oil of stone; this name really didn’t fit him. It fit Jade Statue more; Feng Zhiwei smiled. “My name is Wei Zhi (3).”
Yan Huaishi replied with a long “ooh,” and it was very clear that he didn’t believe her.
But Feng Zhiwei didn’t care what he thought and turned to the Jade Statue and asked warmly, “Name?”
She had discovered that the simpler the better with this man, and complicated questions were likely to be ignored.
And as expected, the Jade Statue answered, “Gu Nanyi.”
“Good name.” Feng Zhiwei praised insincerely, secretly thinking that it was a waste of a good name.
Qing Ming Academy was huge, and spanned over 100 Li. Every student had to wear white clothes and eat the same food and live in similar conditions. Of course, this was Headmaster Xin’s rule. The Imperial Court had disagreed at first, claiming that it was not safe for the juniors of nobility and that it suppressed the dignity of the aristocracy. Xin Ziyan’s response was very interesting. He didn’t fight the imperial court, but had instead put up a notice at the entrance of the academy: “Our Academy has prepared the same uniform and food for our students, but students can bring their own as well to show their status. Our Academy only recognizes the uniform, and so whoever wears silk and eats their own food must take an extra exam at the end of the year and the grade must be no lower than Good; whoever wears satin must take two extra exams and their grade can be no lower than Excellent …”
After the rule was posted, there was no more stain in the academy. All the young masters had changed into the cyan uniform, and no one could force them to wear anything else.