Nightfall - Chapter 512

Published at 23rd of October 2018 05:40:06 AM

Chapter 512: Arrived in Qinghe County

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Going out of Qing Gorge, Ning Que finally reached the real south of the Tang Empire. On the plain there were paths crisscrossing the fields, trees with flowers in full blossom, and waters flowing south to the Great Lake.

Because of the mountains in the north and Qing Gorge, the Tang Empire did not put massive forces on the south plain, even though the military power of South Jin Kingdom was very strong, with its world renowned navy forces.

Thus, this abundant plain was less magnificent but more elegant when compared to the north, so were the houses on both sides of the road. These high and low houses mostly decorated with white walls and black eaves were partly hidden between trees and waterwheels, looking quite beautiful.

The black horse carriage kept going southward. The scenery along the way was getting quieter, and more and more rivers, clear pools, and stone bridges could been seen. While the farmlands became less, the secluded manors became much more present.

Gradually they arrived in Qinghe County.

There was a big city in Qinghe County called Yangguan, famous as the first city of the Tang Empire on the south plain. This city was not geographically dangerous, but was located in a very important line of communications. Although it was not strongly guarded by the court, its defense was under the direct administration of a certain department led by the Defender-general of the State Xu Shi.

Currently, the governor of Yangguan City was surnamed Zhong, and the largest surname in the city was also Zhong. The Zhongs basically controlled all walks of life in the city, but they were the least noticeable among all the Dominant Families in Qinghe County.

Those Dominant Families in the south of the Tang Empire were extremely rich, owning thousands of fertile farmlands. However, what made them lasting was that they attached great importance to education.

As they put much emphasis on the inheritance of education, they had fostered countless scholars within the last thousand years. Apart from officials of the Tang Dynasty, previous Empresses, and many Great Divine Priests of West Hill, there were many descendants from Qinghe County serving as Divine Priests in West Hill or cordially recruited as instructors by the Revelation Institute.

Official positions in Qinghe County at all levels were basically occupied by people from Dominant Families. As the law of the Tang Empire was very strict and the imperial court secretly suppressed those families for hundreds of years, they were relatively low-key now. Besides, since they wanted to gain respect from those families in Chang'an, the whole county was ruled with orderliness, so it was very prosperous and lively. With its unique literary as well as religious atmospheres that could be accepted by the Tang people, it had always been one of the top three places to visit for the Tang people.

There were numerous shops in Yangguan City, attracting thousands of visitors. As there were a total of 132 big and small lakes in Yangguan, it was also called the City of a Hundred Lakes. Among all, Thin Lake in the south of the city was the most famous one; although very small, it was close to the government. More importantly, the best whorehouse and inn of the south stood by the lake bank, and the most gorgeous flower boat was also on the lake.

The delegation heading to Lanke Temple rested in Yangguan for a few days and they lived in a relatively quiet mansion by the east of Thin Lake. That mansion belonged to the Songs, one of the seven Dominant Families in Qinghe County. They made room for the delegation without any hesitation when they heard that they would come a month ago, showing absolute respect for them.

About four blocks away from Thin Lake, there was a post office of the Tang Empire with a black horse carriage parked outside.

Ning Que appreciated the scenery through the window. When noticing those scholars bowing to one another, he could not help smiling, thinking of his previous classmate in the Academy, Zhong Dajun from Yangguan.

It was Zhong Dajun who had been vigorously fostered by the Zhongs in Yangguan, who had used to be hostile toward him, who had been beaten numerous times by him, who had been replaced by him, who had been detained for a long time by him, and who had not been thought of by him for a long time.

"It has all passed."

Recalling the time spent in the Academy, Ning Que could not help but give birth to a feeling of isolation. Since currently they lived totally different lives from each other, he could have such kind of feelings.

Because of Zhong Dajun whom he disliked so much, he was ill disposed towards the Zhongs as well as toward Yangguan. Although he could not pick up the slightest problem in this city, while sitting in the carriage along the road, he stubbornly thought that it was worse compared with Chang'an. As for what was worse, he would not bother to find out.

At this time, Sangsang went into the carriage.

Ning Que asked, "Have you sent the silver out?"

Sangsang nodded.

Ning Que asked, "Are you sure that you sent it by Court Document Joint Mail?"

Sangsang said, "Yes, as it can save five taels of silver, I won't forget to do so."

Ning Que said, "Well done."

Since leaving the City of Wei, or more accurately speaking, since Old Brush Pen Shop opened and started to earn lots of money, they two had been sending some silver to the people in the City of Wei on time. Although that wasn't much money, it was a token of their regard. Besides, according to Ning Que, they would eventually spend the money in casinos or wine shops, as there were a few places in the City of Wei where money needed to be spent. Why didn't they give loose rein to their bad habits?

The decoration and repair of the mansion by Yanming Lake almost took all of Ning Que's money, including the casino's bonus of the next year. However, this visit to Lanke Temple could be regarded as a business trip, thus he faked a command from the Headmaster of the Academy's as a matter of of course, swindling three thousand taels of silver from Professor Huang He and another one thousand from Xu Chongshan, becoming extremely rich as a result.

Although he and Sangsang were used to saving money, they naturally began to enjoy the happiness brought by money as they were rich now. However, if they slept in the wonderful horse carriage left by Master Yan Se, it would be too strange, thus he chose an inn which seemed to be the best by Thin Lake, ordering a deluxe room.

Bringing the Big Black Horse to the manservant, Ning Que told him not to feed it dry food like beans. The guy was quite shocked, thinking silently that he was really too rich to not feed the horse with cheap beans.

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Ning Que was not afraid that the horse would suffer from a bad stomach, but afraid that it would get angry because of bad food. Since it got used to eating fresh fruits and tonics like Sealwort and Ginseng, it would not eat beans any more, let alone grass.

After all, it was a good eater, and this year it was taught by the old yellow bull to pay attention to diet like the Headmaster of the Academy, giving its priority to food. If it was angry at the meals, even Ning Que was not sure whether he could pacify it or not.

After simply brushing up in the room, Ning Que took Sangsang to the dining hall of the inn, ordering a private room on the second floor to watch Thin Lake from the railing. They unsurprisingly ordered the most expensive food.

The southern dishes were really distinctive. Greasy food like the smoked duck meat with sweat-bean sauce could be mild tasting, a green bud put on the plate made the dishes elegant, and some light-taste food like tofu and green vegetables were cooked with thick sauce. Eating them with a few pots of fruit wine was really pleasing.

When the two were enjoying the food, they heard a noise from the lake bank downstairs. Someone was talking about something happening today, irritated and dissatisfied.

After quietly listening for a while, Ning Que asked the manager to get news from the manservant, and then he knew the details very clearly as he gave the manager an ingot of silver.

"The old Cui Taigong is celebrating his 100th birthday, which is a really big event; big enough that the Emperor also wrote a congratulatory letter and asked the assistant minister of the Ministry of Rites to bring it to him. Besides, the West-Hill Divine Palace also sent people to congratulate him. Even the Defender General of the West Xian Zhilang, a great general of the Tang Empire, rushed to visit the old Taigong at the Orange Garden by Fuliang River after entering Yangguan without taking any rest. However, the House of Red Sleeves dared to ignore him."

It could be clearly seen that the manager was really unhappy from his tone.

Ning Que just knew that the day after the next day was the 100th birthday of Old Cui Taigong of Qinghe County. It was probably that the Cui thought that House of Red Sleeves seldom went out of Chang'an and wanted to invite them to sing and dance at the birthday party, but failed to do so due to some problems.

The Dominant Families of Qinghe County had lasted for thousands of years and even longer than the Tang Empire, gaining lots of respect from the people. Except for the Zhongs, they all lived in the Fuliang River manor rather than inside Yangguan City. Famous gardens along the sides of Fuliang River silently proved the heritage and influence of those families.

It was universally acknowledged that those families were led by the Cui's.

The Cui's began their history in Ruyang.

A thousand years ago, at the beginning of the establishment of the Tang Empire, it was the Cui's who strongly supported Chang'an to let Qinghe County become a part of the Tang Empire. Although the Cuis made the decision out of the pressure from Taizu (Founder of the Tang Dynasty), it was proven as a correct move later. The Dominant Families of the Qinghe County all survived since then and gained the Emperor Taizu's goodwill, as well as lots of conveniences. The so-called big families who dared to ignore Taizu (Founder of the Tang Dynasty) eventually fell, coming to a grievous end.

Subsequently, the Cuis contributed a total of five Empresses to the Tang Empire. In other words, the current Emperor in the Imperial Palace shared the bloodline of the Cuis. Besides, what made people appreciate them more was that they contributed two Great Divine Priests to the West-Hill Divine Palace.

Today's Cuis were too powerful to be flattered. The old Cui Taigong was the first person under the deliberate suppression of the imperial family, as well as the civilian and military officials, to be the prime minister among civilian officials within three hundred years. From that, people could imagine how significant he was.

Years ago, the Old Cui Taigong retired from the court, to enjoy his old age. His second son, who used to be an assistant minister of the Ministry of Personnel was also retired by then, spending his spare time in the Fuliang River manor. Another man out of the Cuis still serving the court in Chang'an was the third generation grandchild of the Cui's, making the position of Dali Temple Shaoqing.

Thus, such person could afford the congratulatory letter from His Majesty and was worthy of the assistant minister of Ministry of Rites to paying him a personal visit. Even many officials in the court guessed that His Majesty would give him more awards if the implementation of the national policy was not considered.

Now, the House of Red Sleeves could have annoyed such a super Dominant Family.

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