Chapter 29 – Opposing

In front of Zhou Prefecture, there were two stone lions. The big red lanterns were hung high on the door, making everything around it red.

The gate was tightly locked. Fang Yun walked up to the gate and knocked on the bronze ring three times.

“Wait a moment.” A voice came from inside, and then the door opened, revealing a middle-aged man in his forties.

Fang Yun handed over the letter and said, “I am Fang Yun. This is a letter from Cai He, the magistrate of Ji County, entrusted to me to deliver to Zhou Zhubu. I should have come a few days ago, but something came up, so I only arrived today.”

The gatekeeper saw Fang Yun wearing the clothes of a Child Scholar and immediately respectfully took the letter with both hands and said, “Please wait, I will immediately deliver it to the master.”

The gatekeeper was about to close the door, but hesitated for a moment and did not close it. Instead, he hurriedly ran inside.

Fang Yun heard him whispering as he walked, “Fang Yun? It seems that the master has mentioned him before.”

After a while, a loud shout came from inside, “Fang Shuangjia has come? This is outrageous!”

Fang Yun knew something was wrong. The man’s anger was so strong. Could it be that he had a bad relationship with Cai He or something had happened?

Fang Yun pinched the thick manuscript in his hand, hesitated for a moment, and stood still.

Through the half-closed door, Fang Yun saw a middle-aged man in casual clothes walking towards him.

When the man saw Fang Yun, his expression changed, and he cried and laughed, “You, Fang Shuangjia, have caused chaos in the court. How can you be so calm?”

Fang Yun looked confused. The court? The hall where the king summoned his officials? The officials were in chaos because of him? Was it fake?

Seeing Fang Yun’s confused look, the man was amused and said, “Don’t stand there. Come in and talk. You!” He shook his head.

Fang Yun saluted and said, “Student Fang Yun pays respects to Zhou Daren.”

This powerful sixth-rank official had no official authority and was like an elder meeting a younger one. He patted Fang Yun’s shoulder and smiled, “Since you are recommended by Cai He, then we are family. Don’t be polite. Come in and talk.”

Fang Yun knew that such a powerful official would not be so enthusiastic about someone he met for the first time. Something must have happened. So he thanked him and said as he walked, “Zhou Daren, I have been busy these days and have not had any contact with the outside world. What happened?”

Zhou Zhubu smiled and said, “What else could it be? It’s your poetry. After Cai He received your poem, he immediately sent a letter to the Holy Academy, and after the Academy’s leader saw it, he was amazed and sent it to the Ministry of Literature. But the leader immediately regretted it and thought it should have been sent later.”

“Then what happened?””On the day when the wind was calm and the waves were quiet, something happened during the morning court the next day. The Grand Academician of the Imperial Academy requested a title for you in front of the court, saying that you were not only the first Double Armor Child Scholar in Jing Kingdom, but also the first Child Scholar in Jing Kingdom to publish in ‘The Path of the Saints’. You were also the first to compose poems in Dafu, Mingzhou, and Zhengu as a Child Scholar in the Ten Kingdoms, and the only talented scholar who made the Grand Academician tremble with anger despite being a Child Scholar. You have made great contributions to both Jing Kingdom and the human race, and you should be granted the title of County Earl for nine generations.”

Fang Yun was surprised. Although the titles and ranks were different in the Holy Origin Mainland, there was still a corresponding relationship. The lowest rank of a township man was equivalent to the ninth rank, and the highest rank of a prince was equivalent to the first rank. A County Earl was equivalent to the sixth rank, which meant that if he was granted the title of County Earl, the county magistrate would have to bow to him.

If he really could be granted the title of County Earl, Fang Yun would no longer have to be afraid of anything, and his life would be much better. He would not even have to drag his family into opening a bookstore.

A County Earl could be inherited by his descendants for nine generations, which was extremely prestigious within a prefecture.

“But things are not going smoothly?” Fang Yun asked.

“The Left Chancellor’s people are against it. To grant a title, the Ministry of War and the Ministry of Personnel must recommend it, and then it is decided by the Cabinet and the monarch. However, nine-tenths of the Ministry of Personnel are the Left Chancellor’s people, and the Deputy Minister of War is also the Left Chancellor’s person, and the matter of granting titles happens to be under his jurisdiction. Therefore, if the Left Chancellor does not agree, no one can grant you a title unless the Empress Dowager overrides the objections,” Zhou Zhubu explained.

“Why is the Left Chancellor opposing me?” Fang Yun asked as they walked into the main hall and sat on opposite sides of a table.

Zhou Zhubu glanced at Fang Yun and said, “The Left Chancellor will not come out in person, but the Deputy Minister of War, Hong, is speaking on his behalf. His excuse is your poem ‘End of the Year,’ saying that you wrote this poem before becoming a Child Scholar, and that you had no experience to make political comments at such a young age, and that you would be of little use in the future.”

“Has no one refuted this ridiculous reason?”

“Of course, someone has refuted it, saying that you only wrote half of it in the exam and finished the poem after obtaining your literary position. You understand propriety and rules and should be highly valued. But neither side can convince the other. Some people praised your poetry, but the Left Chancellor’s faction said that poetry was insignificant. Some people said that you made the Grand Academician of an enemy state tremble with anger, but they said there was no evidence. Some people said that you must be rewarded for your three poems, but the Left Chancellor’s people said that you were too young and should be tempered heavily. Only then would you understand how to serve the country in the future.”

Fang Yun sneered and asked, “Have you heard any rumors? In my opinion, the Left Chancellor has no reason to target me for just one poem.”

Zhou Zhubu pondered for a moment and said, “Then I’ll tell you the truth. The Left Chancellor won’t just target you for one poem, but if you were the first to be accused in the Double Armor Case appointed by County Magistrate Cai, and Cai is a student of the Left Chancellor, and you are likely to become a Grand Academician or even a Great Scholar, then he has enough reason to target you. Moreover, you have offended the prestigious Liu family? I heard from the capital that Liu Zhi, the son of the Liu family, seems to have some criticisms of you and has said some almost defamatory words.””What did he say?”

“He said you’re lazy and rely on women to support you. Something along those lines. In any case, your reputation in the capital is not good,” Zhou Zhubu didn’t elaborate.

Fang Yun’s face turned livid. “So just because he was born into a wealthy family, he can slander us poor scholars?”

“Ah, there’s nothing we can do. The Left Chancellor is too powerful now, and no one dares to offend the Liu family. I suspect someone deliberately linked ‘Suimu’ with him in front of the Left Chancellor, which is why he won’t directly target you. But by not speaking out, he’s tacitly allowing the attacks against you,” Zhou Zhubu explained.

“What was the Empress’s reaction?” Fang Yun asked.

“Of course, the Empress wants to grant you a title, but with the Left Chancellor’s influence, she can’t risk angering the public. However, your accomplishments can’t be ignored, so both sides will come to a mutually acceptable outcome,” Zhou Zhubu replied.

“Having been in the official circles for so long, can you guess the outcome?” Fang Yun inquired.

“Ah, many people can guess. This kind of thing has happened before,” Zhou Zhubu said.

“Tell me,” Fang Yun requested.

“First, they’ll give you some gold, silver, antiques, or silk. Second, they’ll posthumously honor your parents. Third, they’ll turn your military achievements into literary achievements. Once you pass the Presented Scholar or Imperial Scholar exams and become an official, your rank can be directly promoted. But if you don’t become an official, your literary achievements will be worthless,” Zhou Zhubu explained.

“Are you saying that the Left Chancellor and others aren’t afraid that I’ll keep getting promoted once I become an official?” Fang Yun asked.

“If you’re granted a title, unless you commit major crimes like treason, the Left Chancellor can’t punish you. But if you’re just a literary official, he has countless ways to target you. Even if you become an Imperial Scholar and a fifth-rank official, what does that matter? The Ministry of Personnel is under the Left Chancellor’s control, and he can easily send you to a remote office. And when will you become an Imperial Scholar? Ten years or twenty years?” Zhou Zhubu said.

Fang Yun didn’t understand the official circles of Jing Kingdom, but after Zhou Zhubu’s explanation, he realized the Left Chancellor’s sinister intentions. He remained silent, lost in thought. He couldn’t fight against the Left Chancellor with literary achievements alone. But as long as he remained a literary official, he didn’t have to fear him. He could focus on building a good reputation and uniting with those who opposed the Left Chancellor.

After a while, Fang Yun looked up and said, “Can you write a petition for me to express my thoughts to the Emperor and Empress, Zhou-daren?”

“Of course,” Zhou Zhubu replied curiously.

Fang Yun spoke righteously, “As a citizen of Jing Kingdom, I understand the difficulties of the court officials. I voluntarily request to turn my military achievements into literary achievements to avoid causing internal strife. I am deeply grateful to the officials who petitioned for my title, and I will repay them if given the chance. But I am even more grateful to those who prevented my title, as they truly serve the country and the people. I will repay them tenfold if given the chance!”Zhou Zhubu was secretly surprised. He couldn’t believe that a child scholar’s words could be so powerful. He was amazed by Fang Yun’s decisiveness and choices. Since he knew he couldn’t be granted a title, he took the initiative to step back and leave a good reputation for understanding the overall situation. At the same time, he mocked the people who were fighting internally at this time, including the Left Chancellor.

“Isn’t this wording too direct?” Zhou Zhubu naturally knew how Fang Yun would express himself and said, “I will reward you a hundred times over for it.”

“But I can’t just say that Fang Yun will take back what belongs to him at a speed they can’t even dream of, and make them regret opposing me!” Fang Yun said with a hint of anger.

Zhou Zhubu sighed lightly and said, “You are still a young man who has made a name for himself. You have suffered such a great humiliation and it is only natural to seek revenge. If you remain calm, that would be strange. Alright, I will write a memorial according to your original intention, but I will change the wording slightly. Of course, it won’t ruin your momentum, after all, you have done nothing wrong.”

Fang Yun took a deep breath and said, “Thank you, Zhou Zhubu. By the way, since I have written so many good poems, will the State Academy of Literature give me some rewards? How about one thousand two hundred taels of silver?”

Zhou Zhubu laughed and said, “Do you want double the reward?”

Fang Yun immediately said, “If the Academy of Literature is having difficulties, then I won’t insist. I have written two short stories recently and want to sell them to earn a living, but they need to be approved by the Academy of Literature before being published. So, I would like to ask you for a favor. Also, if you like, could you write a preface for my stories?”

Zhou Zhubu was thinking that Fang Yun was indeed smart. He had come to ask for an early approval, but first asked for rewards from the State Academy of Literature. Then, he lowered his request to ask for a favor. Zhou Zhubu couldn’t refuse. When he heard about writing a preface, he was about to refuse, but then he had a thought.

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