This chapter has been brought to you by me, and larkspur.
Chapter 58: Mission As Life
“Senior Sect Brother, what are you searching for?”
Shen Yi couldn’t help but ask softly as he looked at Ding Ning who had bent down to closely look at the marks of the broken tiles and even scenting them.
Ever since the Zhou Garden, he knew that his senior sect brother who came from the commoners could not be judged ordinarily. Maybe, at the start, he had entered Li Lingjun’s establishment to search for clues connected to cultivation. With the Min Mountain Sword Trials close at hand, everything Ding Ning did, in his view, was for the Min Mountain Sword Trials.
Yet, after coming to Li Lingjun’s establishment multiple times in these days, and staying for a long time each day, Shen Yi increasingly felt that what Ding Ning was doing had nothing to do with cultivation. Ding Ning’s actions at this moment seemed more like an investigation.
Ding Ning frowned deeply. He did not immediately respond to Shen Yi’s question. He had some powder stuck on his fingers that he carefully rubbed. Then he stood up among the broken tiles. He looked at Shen Yi and said, “You are from a wealthy family in Guanzhong and should know more about the expenses of a mansion like this better than I do. In these days, you have followed me and seen Li Lingjun’s establishment multiple times. How much do you think a place like this, with all its retainers, will cost each day?”
Shen Yi stilled and responded, “Based on the construction of this building and so many people, the expenses are so great I have to carefully calculate. Senior Sect Brother, why are you asking this?”
Ding Ning still did not answer his question and said, “Li Lingjun came to Changling in the third year of Yuanwu as a hostage from the Chu. While this establishment continued to expand and build in the last nine years, it formed something like this.”
“Senior Sect Brother, you mean that Li Lingjun’s wealth is too bizarre?” Shen Yi finally realized.
There were more luxurious and large compounds than Li Lingjun’s establishment in Changling. However, those compounds had accumulated through many years, or the people who had built their compounds had been in Changling before starting construction. Yet, if they exchanged the previous Li Lingjun Establishment into gold and silver, the gold and silver were a matter of years.
Thinking of the items he had seen in these last days that were not especially beautiful but made from valuable materials, Shen Yi couldn’t help but think how big of a gold and silver mountain would be created if it was exchanged for the compound.
“Previously, not many were able to enter this Chu hostage’s compound. Even if they did, they could not come deep. But now, I see clearly. Some wealthy families will fake it, spending easily in public to obtain their reputation of wealth. However, they would be extremely frugal at home. The places in plain view would be new, but those hidden would be saved as much as possible.” Ding Ning glanced at Shen Yi and said, “Li Lingjun was famed for being wealthy and treating his retainers well. But you and I have moved through this establishment for many days, and seen that he is the same in private as in public. Simply said, he really has money.”
“The emperor of Chu could not have given him so much wealth to take along. If he would have beared to do such a thing, the emperor of Chu would not have let him be a hostage.” Pausing, Ding Ning looked at Shen Yi and deepened his voice, “If he received the help of a wealthy family … no family would be able to endure taking out such a huge sum at once.”
Shen Yi took a deep breath, he was shocked. He said, “Yes, even the Xie Family could not take out such a large sum over many years. Unless they touch their ancestral wealth. But if it were not a year of calamity and one were unsustainable, who would touch one’s ancestral wealth?”
Ding Ning said, “There is a kind of person who would use their ancestral wealth. For example, if they suffered great calamity and their family no longer exists.”
“Suffered a great calamity and their family no longer exists?” Shen Yi’s eyes unconsciously widened. “You refer to the old aristocracy?”
Ding Ning nodded.
Shen Yi looked at him in shock. “Which family can take out such a huge sum?”
Ding Ning reached out in front of him, his thumb and forefinger apart and facing up.
Under the sunlight, Shen Yi could see a faint layer of fluorescence on the fingerpads. Ordinary people could not see what kind of light this was, but Shen Yi knew.
This was the light of pearls.
Gold and silver took up too much room and they were too heavy. If they were transported by wagons, they could easily be distinguished. So, the wealthy of Qin liked to change their gold and silver into pearls and precious stones.
A first-class pearl would be worth ten thousand gold and it would be insignificant in weight. The Changling noblewomen liked to crush the pearls into powder to maintain their beauty while the cultivators valued the powder for its nourishing effect.
So the powers of Changling especially liked pearls.
The families who were so wealthy they could rival countries would not have gold and silver piled up in their family treasuries, but pearls. Only pearls, when they reached a certain amount and rubbed against each other as they were moved, would leave fine powder behind on other objects and the ground when they were being transported.
“The Lu Family!”
Shen Yi learned the answer and looked in shock at Ding Ning.
Among the old powers of Changling, only the Lu Family had such astounding wealth.
“When the Lu Family was seized, they confiscated astounding wealth, but the legendary ancestral treasury did not appear.” Ding Ning looked at Shen Yi and nodded.
Shen Yi struggled to swallow and murmured, “So it was because of the Lu Family’s support … Senior Sect Brother, you spent so much energy just to find Li Lingjun’s secret supporter?”
Ding Ning was silent for a moment. Then he said, “This will be of great importance in the future.”
Shen Yi could not understand. In his view, even if the Lu Family and Li Lingjun were in cahoots, Li Lingjun had returned to the Chu Dynasty. In the future, Li Lingjun would become the emperor of the Chu. Even if there was any importance, it would be of importance to the Holy One and the marquises. What did it have to do with Ding Ning?
“Someone is coming.”
Ding Ning did not explain but turned and looked behind him.
Shen Yi originally did not care. Li Lingjun’s establishment had become a place for the numerous surrounding families to take materials. There were an unknown amount of people who came and left each day. He could imagine that in the future, many of Changling’s houses and even walls would have the wood and stone materials from Li Lingjun’s establishment.
Yet, when his gaze followed Ding Ning’s gaze, his body instinctively shook.
He saw a young person. This young person’s robes and body looked unusually clean, but felt exceptionally dusty. Also, he was certain that this young person was a cultivator, and a cultivator who was many times stronger than him and Ding Ning. This young person’s demeanour was especially calm and solemn.
Seeing Ding Ning and Shen Yi looking at him, this young person bowed deeply to Ding Ning but did not speak.
Ding Ning’s eyebrows rose slightly. He had seen many solemn expressions like his, so he immediately sensed the special meaning from this young person.
“You recognize me?” he asked, looking at this young person.
The young person slowly stood up and said respectfully, “White Goat Cave’s Ding Ning.”
Ding Ning looked at him and asked, “Why have you come to find me?”
The young person said, still respectful, “I was asked by someone. Could I talk to you alone?”
Ding Ning frowned slightly but did not say anything. He nodded simply and said, “Alright.”
Then he walked towards a secluded damaged building.
This young person was Li Yunrui. Seeing Ding Ning’s presence, his gaze flashed with an unusual light. As he followed Ding Ning into the deserted building, he took something out of his sleeve and handed it to Ding Ning.
Ding Ning’s frown deepened further.
He looked at the cube-shaped object in Li Yunrui’s hand that was wrapped up in ordinary rough cloth. He said, “What is this?”
Li Yunrui looked at this Changling common youth’s clean and serious brows. He shook his head and said, “I do not know what this is. I just have to give this item to you… Also, only you and I know of this in the world. Only I know that this item has reached your hands.”
Ding Ning thought for a moment. He did not immediately accept the object from Li Yunrui’s hand. His perception gently permeated into the cloth and onto what was inside.
In the next moment, his gaze became extremely serious.
“You do not know what is inside?” Looking up at Li Yunrui, he asked seriously.
Li Yunrui shook his head.
Ding Ning nodded. He accepted the clothed parcel and held it in his hand.
Li Yunrui made a deep bow and turned to leave without a word.
Ding Ning looked at the back of this young man, genuine respect suffusing his eyes.
He knew this young person came from the Chu.
He knew that in the future, it would be difficult to see this young person from the Chu.
After leaving Li Lingjun’s establishment, Li Yunrui slowly walked towards the Wei River along the quiet streets. On the shore of the Wei River, he looked in the direction of Deer Mountain and Chu. Then he calmly stepped into the slightly cold water.
When the river water drowned his body, he released all of the vital energy and primal energies of the universe gently out of his body. Then, he thought of the flowers blooming on the streets of the Chu capital as he closed his eyes and threw himself into darkness.
Translator Ramblings: I’m very conflicted on how to call these “old powers.” I think I’ve used aristocracy and powers interchangeably because I’m not sure these “old aristocracy” had any titles. Also, “powers” imply a more general class of people than the aristocracy.