This chapter has been brought to you by me, and larkspur.
Chapter 32: Gamble
Slowly, the red sun rose.
In an official residence without many buildings, which could be described as unpresentable, a middle-aged official with a beautiful beard, dressed in blue official robes was gazing at the sun.
A long time later, he finally made a decision. He spoke to his advisor who was waiting at the side. “Send my box of whale jade gel to the youth of the Falling Parasol wine shop.”
Like all advisors making a living in Changling, though this thin advisor seemed as if a gust of wind could knock him over, his bearing was steady and his eyes shone with intelligence.
This advisor was shocked at the words. He could not maintain his calm. “Sir Sikong, would this not be too valuable?”
The bearded middle-aged man smiled ironically and said, “I know what you are thinking … this Ding Ning’s cultivation has progressed quickly, but the state of each realm is different. Some people may advance quickly in the earlier realms but vanish in the group when they reach realm four or five. Ever since the Holy One ascended the throne, the most famous example is Guo Shang of Changshan Commandery.1 For the first four realms, his cultivation speed was about the same as the best cultivators in history. But after he reached realm four, he stopped advancing. He lost his confidence, abandoned himself to despair and is now a sickly person. It is too early to judge someone by the first three realms.”
“I understand the reasoning. Those important people of far higher status than I naturally understand. So even if they know his name like I do, they just know of him. They will not pay too much attention to him, or show any goodwill to him because he is not qualified unless he also performs like this in realms four and five. For those important people, only cultivators above realm six are worthy of them expending the effort.”
After a pause, the bearded middle-aged official looked at the puzzled advisor and said, “Right now, only those important people who do not hold a status high enough will extend their goodwill towards him. This is because the youth is not qualified. So even if they are to express their goodwill, they will not send very valuable items. But I want to gamble.”
The bearded middle-aged official looked at the advisor who had stopped frowning and seriously said, “While the Bureau Chief manages the imperial temples and ceremonies, and is the head of all the bureaus, in reality, the position has no power. At most, we can just talk with the Holy One and the empress. I, Sikong Lian, do not have less power as the bureau chief than a commander of the Warden’s Office.”
“Because I feel there are no good avenues ahead of me, and my hopes of getting revenge is decreasing- I want to gamble.” His eyes flashed with complicated expressions. “In reality, I am not a drowning man grasping at straws. Unlike others, I have met Xue Wangxu a few times. I know that he is a kind of person who can forebear anything. There are many in Changling who can forbear, but there are not many who have reached realm seven and can still bear so much. Since a person like him would do many things that do not agree with his personality, that youth is really worthy for me to gamble. At least, in cultivation and talent, Xue Wangxu sees more clearly than me. We will also send gifts, but I will send the most important one. That youth started late, and he is sickly. He lacks overseas spirit medicines like the whale jade gel. I have closely inquired about his performance in the sword trial festival. I believe this boy is someone who knows to repay favors.”
Hearing the innermost thoughts of the person he followed, the thin advisor felt some admiration. He knew the other must have done his homework before making a decision. But this thin advisor couldn’t help but sigh when he thought of revenge and saw the wrinkles on the corners of the other’s eyes.
Falling Parasol suddenly became lively.
This liveliness was not the ordinary liveliness of the new year, but due to the many grand carriages that appeared.
Over the course of several years, hair ornaments of women, rouge and powder, paperweights, incense pots, and jade playthings had become symbols of status and identity.
In the previous decades, the carriages had never had cabins. It was only when the style turned to sealed carriages and people could not see inside, did carriages turn from relatively stable and comfortable travelling vehicles for rich families to one of the most important items that the nobility in Changling used in their daily lives for secret meetings and other uses. Over time, the carriages gradually turned refined and beautiful. From the materials used and the adornments, it was possible to gauge the status of the owner in Changling. The best carriage drivers would even be able to tell whence the carriage came.
A carriage clearly weighed down by metal boards in the cabin that could block arrows was travelling down the alley. The carriage driver sitting at the front straight as a spear looked and frowned.
A carriage that did not look very special, just made from ordinary sandalwood, came into the alley from the other end.
“What is it?”
The cabin behind the driver felt the carriage stop. A soft question sounded.
“It is the carriage of the Fang Marquessate Establishment’s Fang Yong,” the carriage driver softly answered.
The important person in the cabin behind him was silent and waited patiently.
Fang Yong was a bastard son, but he had military service. He was the third most important person in the Fang Marquessate Establishment after Fang Xiang and Fang Xiumu. A person like this naturally had a much higher status than him.
At this time, the carriage driver stilled again.
He saw a very square carriage. The carriage had no extravagant adornments. However, each part of the carriage was extremely orthodox and seemed to fit perfectly with the standard and did not contain any personal preferences.
“The vice bureau chief of the Bureau Chief … even Official Sikong sent someone.” This carriage driver made sure he had not seen incorrectly and turned towards the cabin to report.
Carriages came and went in front of the little courtyard Xue Wangxu had rented. Just as one left, another would stop at the gates.
Seeing the gifts had almost filled half of the storage room, Xue Wangxu couldn’t help but grin under his weasel-skin hat.
Wasn’t this a kind of glory?
“Little … Little Sect Brother …”
At this time, Zhang Yi, who had been recording the gifts to send back other gifts in the future, stammered in exclamation.
Xue Wangxu slapped the copper hot-water bottle he was warming his hands on and shouted. “What is it?”
“Official Fang Yong of the Fang Marquessate Establishment has sent a gold thread robe.” Zhang Yi said softly. Ashamed of his jumpiness, he bashfully walked out of the storage room.
Xue Wangxu immediately stilled.
The gold thread robe as naturally not made from ordinary gold thread. If so, it would not be valuable for cultivators. The gold thread robe in the cultivation world was made from a kind of strange flower called gold thread flower. It was beneficial for Vital Energy Realm cultivators to condense their energies so when cultivator used up their vital energy and were absorbing the primal energies of the universe to replenish themselves, they could replace their vital energy faster. This was a great gift, and because the gold thread flowers were rare, this was a priceless great gift.
“Even if it is a gold thread robe, do not make such a fuss.” Xue Wangxu reprimanded the slightly embarrassed Zhang Yi.
Zhang Yi hung his head in even more shame and explained softly. “I know … but the Bureau of Ceremonies’s Official Sikong sent an even more valuable gift, an even greater gift. He sent a box of whale jade gel that is enough to use until spring next year.”
Xue Wangxu was completely stunned this time.
Official Sikong of the Bureau of Ceremonies could only be the vice bureau chief, Sikong Lian.
While Ding Ning had performed well, Xue Wangxu naturally knew that Ding Ning, a youth, was not qualified in the eyes of the true nobility. People from the Fang Marquessate Establishment came because Ding Ning had some connection to the Fang Marquessate Establishment previously. Li Lingjun was known as the most meticulous person who always took care of matters now. He acted the way he did only because of the rejection and humiliation at the hands of Ding Ning.
He found it incredible that an influential official like Sikong Lian would pay attention to Ding Ning and send a small gift, much less a whale jade gel..
The whale jade gel was one of the most useful medicinal items that the Qin Dynasty had found in the last century in their quest for overseas medicines.
It was made from a kind of gel-like seagrass called whale jade grass found in the deep of the sea. Large numbers of black serpents lived near those grasses. For many cultivators, dealing with a serpent in ordinary shallow water was not especially dangerous. However, no one knew the price of facing a swarm of serpents in the deep sea to harvest such sea grasses. So the whale jade gel was extremely valuable, and even these marquessate establishments were rarely able to obtain it.
Also, this kind of gel medicine was useful. If put on the body after a bath, the medicinal power would sink into the skin and bones and greatly stimulate the vital energy in changing the blood and marrow. It would strengthen the sinews, and make a person healthier. At the same time, it would cause one’s strength to grow, and save the cultivator a lot of time in cultivating.
So this kind of medicine was called “base building gel” in the dynasties as it reinforced the foundations of a cultivator. Naturally, an amount enough to use to next spring was not a small box, but a large one.
This was truly a shockingly great gift. No wonder Zhang Yi couldn’t remain calm.
“Even a gift as valuable as this was delivered.” Xue Wangxu coughed repeatedly and then said emotionally, “Sikong Lian, what matters do you have … in a place like this, even people like you have many matters and are so helpless to resolve that you have to act like this?”
Ordinary people had their own troubles and grudges, and the people high up had their own troubles and grudges.
Xue Wangxu was lamenting not because he just understood this principle, but because he thought if this was true even when one had climbed to a high place, what was the meaning in climbing higher?
But not every person would think so.
The majority of people may only look back at their entire life when they reached their end. They would then reflect on whether they had acted correctly and meaningfully. Perhaps they would realize what they had missed, and what they wanted the most.
In a beautiful study, Li Lingjun looked at the scrolls in front of him. The white hair at his temples had increased. Footsteps interrupted his deep thoughts and the ambient peace. The malodour of horse manure incongruously invaded this study filled with aromatic incense.
Li Lingjun suddenly frowned. His usually amiable face showed rare murderousness.
He looked up and saw the person in his sight. “The greatest rudeness is to come without invitation. You are a member of my establishment and ignoring the rules of this establishment is not just rudeness,” he said, in a slightly cold voice.
Su Qin, in ordinary robes emanating the stench of horse dung, bowed and said, “I am rude, but I can resolve your worries for you.”
- Sword Dynasty Volume Five Chapter 13 “What Should Happen”
- Sword Dynasty Volume Five Chapter 12 “Fear of Defeat”
- Sword Dynasty Volume Five Chapter 11 “Yin River Fire”
- Sword Dynasty Volume Five Chapter 10 “Splashes”
- Sword Dynasty Volume Five Chapter 9 “The Path Forward”
- This commandery is located near the present Shijiazhuang in Hebei Province of China. As far as I can tell, the area was technically called Hengshan Commandery in the Qin and was renamed as Hengshan Commandery in the Han Dynasty. ↩