AIP - Chapter 44: An End to the First Stage
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Every spring, the rivers would thaw. This was the time when the trade routes began to flow again, and it was Canglong Prefecture's busiest period. Caravans from all around moved through this place, circulating all kinds of goods throughout the country.
Besides commercial movement, there was another kind of movement that also started at this time: student movement.
Although Basking Moon Academy only started in the summer, the land was vast. Afraid of delays on the journey, many students began their preparations for their journey far in advance.
This year, Tang Jie was sixteen, Shi Meng was fifteen, and the third young master was fifteen and a half. Once-ignorant and -immature brats had grown up into handsome young men, tall enough that they could almost match adults. They had also become much more mature and tactful.
Today, the Wu home was very lively.
As soon as Tang Jie came in, he saw the Wu couple carrying out various bundles from the house: cotton blankets, clothes, and shoes were being piled up.
Tang Jie was astonished. "Dad, Mom, what are you doing?"
"Hey, aren't you headed off to school tomorrow? We have to prepare your winter clothes," Granny Wu answered as she continued to move things around.
"But the winter just passed, didn't it?"
"But you still have to go through next year's winter, right? And the year after that, yes?" Granny Wu rolled her eyes at her son.
Tang Jie helplessly said, "We can talk about that next year. If it's really no good, I can just buy some clothes."
"You think that will work? Things in the capital are expensive! The clothes in our home are perfectly serviceable, and it will be a great pity if there's no one to wear them," Granny Wu said as she waved around the small lined jacket in her hand.
Old Wu couldn't watch anymore. "My dear wife, Xing'er wore that when he was little, so it's best not to give him that. Young people these days don't wear old clothes."
"It's still rather new! It's a pity that no one's going to wear it," the old lady muttered. But she still put the jacket down and took out several more for Tang Jie.
A small package appeared in her hand, and she stuffed it into Tang Jie's grip. Holding Tang Jie's hand, she said, "There are 23 taels of silver and four strings of cash in here. Put it in a good place so that you have some money to spend in the capital."
Tang Jie drew back his hand. "Mom, what are you doing? I don't lack for money, and the Wei Estate pays a monthly stipend."
After becoming servant students, both Tang Jie and Shi Meng had experienced a change in status. Each month, they received ten taels of silver, the equivalent of ten thousand yuan every month—the salary of a minor white-collar worker. And this wasn't even considering that the Wei Clan was paying for all their basic school expenses.
"Aiya, what's the use of that monthly stipend? Don't think your mother doesn't know how expensive those cultivator academies are! All the young scions of big clans complain about lacking money. Xing'er even sent us a letter about it!"
"Brother Xing sent a letter saying that he lacked money?" Tang Jie sensed that something was wrong.
Granny Wu's face froze, and then she dryly laughed. "He sent a letter not too long ago. He said that he needed to buy Immortal medicine but didn't have the money…"
"How much did he want?"
"Five hundred taels, but we didn't have that much, so we gave him one hundred."
"One hundred taels? You've given him a lot of money over the last few years, so where did you get one hundred taels?" Tang Jie was dumbfounded, but then he suddenly realized, shouting, "Did you give him the money I've been giving you over the last few years?"
The two elders lowered their heads in embarrassment.
Tang Jie's heart burned with rage. "Why did you hide it from me? That money was for you to buy medicine!"
Over the last few years, as he had spent most of his time in the Wei Estate, Tang Jie would only occasionally pay a visit. Thus, while he would occasionally go out to buy the medicine himself when he got the money, he mostly handed over the silver to the couple so that they could buy medicine for themselves.
But it was now apparent that they had spent not a single coin of the money Tang Jie had given them on themselves.
"Aiya, it's nothing." Old Wu hastily grabbed Tang Jie and said, "We've already lived a fairly long time, and living a few days more or less doesn't matter much. Besides, look at us! We're doing fine."
He thumped his chest a few times, but he put in a little too much power and broke out in a coughing fit. The old man waved his hand and said, "I'm fine, fine. I've just been a little wheezy as of late…"
Granny Wu came forward and placed the package in Tang Jie's hand, awkwardly saying, "That silver was left for the two of you. We just kept it secret and saved it away, intending to give it to you when you entered school. We didn't expect Xing'er to ask for money, so we ended up giving it to him. In doing this, we wronged you, so we gathered this up…"
"That's not what I'm angry about!" Tang Jie shook his head. "Wu Xing has his own hands and feet, so he should make that money himself! One hundred taels of silver is useless at school, not enough to buy even one truly authentic spirit medicine, but it would be enough to keep yourselves healthy into old age. Yet you…"
He wanted to rage, but he couldn't get angry at the old couple. Stomping his feet, he mentally cursed Wu Xing's ignorance.
The elders embarrassedly said, "It should be able to help a little."
Tang Jie saw that the couple was in a difficult spot, and his anger immediately dissipated, his eyes becoming a little moist.
After a while, he said, "Forget it. Even if you didn't give it to me, I imagine that you wouldn't spend it on medicine. Give it here. I just hope that he won't fail to live up to your expectations."
Hearing this, the couple sighed in relief. Granny Wu insisted on giving this silver to Tang Jie, and Tang Jie knew that if he didn't take it, the old couple would feel even worse. He could only take the money and try once at school to get some spirit medicine to send to the old couple.
Tang Jie didn't let the old couple keep working today. He packed up everything by himself and then attended upon the couple until bedtime.
Lying in bed, Tang Jie realized that it would probably be some time until he saw the old couple again.
Over the last three years, the couple had begun to treat him as their own son, and he couldn't help but treat them as his birth parents.
He was now about to travel abroad for a long time, and his heart throbbed in sorrow.
The next morning, Tang Jie arrived at the Wei Estate with a large bundle of clothes and other items. The Meditation Garden was packed, countless servants packing the third young master's luggage. Rather than going out to school, it seemed more like he was moving.
Although only three people were entering school, ten-some servants would be going with them to Wanquan City, and even a Spirit Master would be coming along to ensure their safety. Even when they were at Wanquan City, there would still be some servants outside of Basking Moon Academy. The servant students entering school were merely responsible for school life.
Tang Jie detoured around the crowd and returned to his own little hut in the Wei Estate, and he discovered that Steward Qin was waiting for him there.
"Uncle Qin!" Tang Jie shouted.
Steward Qin smiled at Tang Jie. "You're setting off today. Have you packed everything?"
"Mm, I just need to pack up my things in this room and I'll be done," Tang Jie answered.
The two of them entered his room, and Tang Jie packed up his brush, inkstone, paper, and some casual clothes. He also grabbed the two potted plants on the table.
Steward Qin was surprised. "You're even taking these two potted flowers?"
Tang Jie smiled. "After all this time in the Wei Estate, all I learned was how to plant flowers. I've been taking care of these two flowers for a rather long time, and when I see them, I think about my time here. So I've decided to take them with me as a memento."
Steward looked at the little white flower, that thick and crude root carving, and also the unsightly pots that Tang Jie had fired himself, and he shook his head. "Sure enough, talented people have their eccentricities. Forget it. It's all your concern, so it's fine if you like it."
Saying this, Steward Qin added, "Right, take this silver for once you enter school."
Steward Qin took out a bag of silver and passed it to Tang Jie.
"Take it." Steward Qin smiled. "I know that the Wu couple must have given you some silver, but you can never have enough money. Basking Moon Academy isn't the Wei Clan, and I can't help you if you need anything. You'll have to rely on yourself."
"That's not for certain. In truth, there is something Steward Qin can help me with."
"Oh? And what can I help you with?" Steward Qin asked with a laugh.
"It's nothing. I just need Uncle Qin to write a few letters for me…"
As he came back to the Meditation Garden with the two potted plants, everyone truly did click their tongues in bemusement.
But Tang Jie was a celebrity in the Wei Estate. Not only did the lady favor him, she had even given him the clan discipline stick. His future prospects alone made it so that no servant dared to tease him.
The convoy heading to school consisted of seven carriages. The young master's luggage alone took up three carriages. As for the remaining four, one was for the young master to eat and rest in, one was for the Spirit Master, one was for the servants, and the last was for Shi Meng and Tang Jie.
As the young master needed an attendant, Shi Meng and Tang Jie took turns going over. But Tang Jie hadn't attended on the young master much, so this was primarily Shi Meng's responsibility. Tang Jie's primary responsibility was to supervise the young master's cultivation and restrain his actions so that he wouldn't cause trouble.
Thus, on this journey, Tang Jie was bound to have an easier time than Shi Meng.
At noon, the packing was finally done. After lunch, the convoy set off. Zheng Shufeng reluctantly watched as her son left, and after repeatedly imploring Tang Jie to take good care of her son, she finally succumbed to everyone else's exhortations and left the convoy, her face covered in tears.
Once the convoy was on its way, Shi Meng went to attend to the young master, leaving Tang Jie alone in the carriage. Through the window, he could see the scenery outside.
The scenery outside slowly fell back, gradually fading into the distance. The crowd that had gone to see them off became little black dots that dwindled into nothing. "Heheh!" A soft giggle came from behind his head.
Little Yiyi crawled up to Tang Jie's shoulder. There was now only that strange root carving still in its pot, standing all alone.
Yiyi was much bigger than when Tang Jie had first met her.
The little girl that had been the size of a thumb was now twenty-some centimeters tall. Although she was still delicate as before, it wasn't so bad that one constantly had to worry about crushing her to death by accident.
Lying on Tang Jie's body like a squirrel, Yiyi curiously looked out the window. "Big Brother, are we finally leaving this place?"
"Yes, we're leaving," Tang Jie mechanically answered. He suddenly thought about the timidity about leaving home he had talked about with the fourth young lady.
Yes, there were always those people that one was unwilling to part with!
In contrast, this little thing had been with him practically from the moment she was born, never interacting with others. Without any sort of lingering affections, she only felt traveling to be curious and refreshing.
She giggled and asked Tang Jie, "Is the world outside exciting?"
"Is the world outside pretty?"
"Then can I go out and play on my own in the future?"
"No, at least not now."
Little Yiyi's excitement immediately plunged.
She muttered, "I hate you! Hate you! Hate you!"
Her childish voice somewhat alleviated Tang Jie's sorrow. Patting her on the head, he said, "Alright, stop messing around. Oh, a little reward. Is that good enough?"
Tang Jie offered his finger.
But to his surprise, she looked away and said, "Don't want!"
"Because Big Brother's blood is getting harder and harder to drink."
"Harder to drink?" Tang Jie was astonished. "That shouldn't be. It's still the same mix and still the same taste."
"That's not what I mean!" She jumped up and down on Tang Jie's shoulder. "It's not that it tastes bad. It's just hard… hard… just… drinking it… is very difficult!"
Yiyi gestured with her hands and feet, trying to explain what she meant.
Tang Jie finally got it. Recently, little Yiyi had been finding it harder and harder to drink his blood, needing a long time to suck out only a little.
In shock, Tang Jie looked down at his hand. The skin was like smooth white jade, not at all like the hand of a laborer, and finally gleamed with spiritual light. Tang Jie bit down on his hand, but he found that he couldn't break the skin. Biting down harder, he finally managed to draw a bead of blood, but it oozed back and forth across his fingertip, refusing to drop down.
"My blood's practically like paste!" Tang Jie yelped in surprise.