Translator: TransN Editor: TransN
At the same time as the day before, a similar heavy spring rain hit Chang’an. As the raindrops hit the thick surface of the big black umbrella, dull pitter-patter sounds were produced, as though the raindrops had fallen into a bed of dust. Not a single raindrop could penetrate the surface of the umbrella and the area of the big black umbrella was large enough to shield an entire polo team from the wind and the heavy rain. Despite that, Ning Que and Sangsang, who were sheltered by the umbrella, still felt as though they were drenched from the cold rain. Their hearts felt cold and their bodies were freezing to the extent that they could turn into ice statues in a few minutes.
“Let’s look for a place for shelter,” he said with a hoarse voice. Then he recalled about the weird incident that happened yesterday and added, “Don’t go to Vermilion Bird Avenue anymore.”
As a result, both the young master and the handmaiden strolled aimlessly by the stretch of trees along the street for a distance, before they stood under a shelter on a quiet deserted street in the northern city of Chang’an. They kept the black umbrella, and both of them remained silent for a long period, as they watched the drizzle in front of them.
“This honorable Tang Empire…” The moment when Ning Que said the phrase “honorable Tang Empire”, he no longer sounded as proud and confident as before. He continued, “… It would need to depend on education for profits. This is such a shame. Even if you’re not providing lodging and food for free, can’t you provide them at a more affordable rate? You must know that I’m someone who rescued your princess, and in the end, all she did was just pass a message? Can’t she just reward me with some 1,000 taels of silver to use? What a selfish princess!”
As compared to someone who only indulged in empty talk and blamed it all on the government as well as going against Her Highness’ generosity, Sangsang was obviously more concerned about practical issues. She frowned, lowered her head and stared at the puddle of water on the granite pavement. She then used her fingers to calculate and said, “We don’t have enough money to stay at the inn for more than a month. Young master, if you insist on studying in the academy, it’d be meaningless for us to even stay in an old and torn down temple. This is because we have less than 200 taels of silver now, and we’ll just need to spend it every day. So our problem now is not on how to save money, but on how to earn more money.”
“How to earn?” The lad used the umbrella as a crutch, heaved a sigh like an old man and added, “That’s the problem.”
The spring rain continued to fall as both of them stood along the street under the shelter to hide from the rain, while they were worried about their livelihood issue.
Hunting was certainly out. Putting aside the consideration on whether selling those hunted animals would earn them 30 taels of silver every month, but the main problem was that there were no hunting areas near Chang’an. Ning Que had already noticed this when he was in the City of Wei. The mountains and forests surrounding Chang’an belonged to the emperor, so needless to say, that prey belonged to the emperor as well. If he were to clear out that prey within the next two months, he would probably end up with a terrifying charge like the Royal Garden Thief.
Sangsang lifted her tiny face and timidly said, “Needlework is not possible. I went to take a look at the peddlers’ stores along the street that night. The workmanship in Chang’an is much better than mine. There are all kinds of designs that I’ve never seen before, and I can’t understand their needlework no matter what.”
Ning Que stared at the drizzle in front of him and sighed as he commented. “Too bad there were no Horse Gangs or Mountain Thieves around Chang’an, or I’d have taken the opportunity to get rid of some hives and earn some taels of silver. Come to think of it, I was young when I first arrived in the City of Wei, and I did many dumb things. The money I obtained from killing the Horse Gangs was submitted honestly to the government without keeping some for myself. Later, I finally understood the main reason behind killing those Horse Gangs, but the Horse Gangs by Shubi Lake had become poor.”
Sangsang spoke softly while blaming him. “At that time I had told you that you were too violent. In the end, the Horse Gangs by Shubi Lake sent someone to watch over City of Wei every day. As soon as they knew that you were leading the troops into the grassland, they’d immediately pack their gold and escape. How are you able to snatch their money this way? It ended up that no money was accounted for the whole of last year.”
“I was young and inexperienced at that time,”
Ning Que explained embarrassedly. He suddenly raised his eyebrows and said, “How about being a gangster? I can’t possibly borrow money directly from Blackie, but I can request to join the gangs through his help and I’ll try to climb up the positions within ten days. By then, I’ll do money laundering. How about it?”
“You mentioned that the Academy considered the students’ virtues. If the academy found out that you were in the gangs and bullied the kind people, you probably would be removed from the list. By then, you won’t even need to earn that sum of money anymore.” Sangsang reminded him.
Ning Que hated it that his handmaiden always appeared to be lazy and clumsy when he needed her memory, but yet became intelligent and reliable when he did not require her to remember. He was cross and he said, “Then how about you tell me what we should do? To earn money without letting the academy know, I guess the only way is to be a killer!
“The problem is, where to find organizations for killers? I can’t possibly search along the Chang’an streets for men in black, go forward and ask them, “‘Excuse me, I’d like to know the best organization for killers in Tang Empire. Could you guide me in the right direction?’”
Sangsang was not afraid of his anger, and replied seriously, “Young master, I know that you feel ashamed of our current situation, but no matter what, we need to think of a way to earn money. If not, I guess it’s better for us to return to City of Wei.”
“I’ve said this before. Unless I’m successful, I’ll never return,” Ning Que said firmly.
On the grassland in City of Wei at Min Mountain, no matter how difficult and poor the situations were, he and Sangsang could overcome them. Yet now in this prosperous and rich land of Chang’an, their livelihood became a serious, major issue. A penny which could cause troubles to the heroes could also cause problems to both the young master and the handmaiden.
Suddenly, Ning Que’s eyes brightened as he exclaimed, “I know! We can sell century eggs! No, or should I say, Song Hua eggs (Another name for century eggs)!”
Sangsang frowned and repeated. “Century eggs?”
He grinned and said, “No doubt, the century eggs I make will be the most delicious in the whole of the Tang!”
Sangsang stared at him and said sternly, “However, no one likes them in the whole City of Wei, neither do I. They’re too bitter.”
Ning Que withdrew his smile and looked at the flustered pedestrians in the rain. He did his best to remain calm and commented. “I was just kidding actually.”
Sangsang raised her head and looked at his chin. She hesitated for a long time before she gathered her courage and said, “Young master, actually there’s an easy way to earn money, but I’m not sure if you’re willing to do it.”
Ning Que turned his head and faced her. For that moment, he instantly felt that his little handmaiden’s dark-toned face had become much prettier and better looking than before, and he gently said, “Now that we’re in this situation, as long as we can earn money, I’m more than willing to do anything.”
Sangsang then replied, “Young master, your writings are beautiful. We can sell your writings.”
Ning Que’s expression suddenly froze. He stared at her and said in a serious tone, “Sangsang, you become uglier.”
“Eh?” Sangsang was lost.
Ning Que was pissed as he lectured her. “What do you mean by selling writings? That’s calligraphy! Do you know what calligraphy is? Only scholars write and appreciate them, so how can we sell such precious things! I’d rather sell my body than sell my calligraphy!”
Sangsang was mad and shouted, “Young master, you’re not a scholar! You’re just a woodman. Didn’t you always say that you’re better at writing words than killing people? If you’re willing to kill people for money, I don’t see why you can’t write for money!”
Ning Que was speechless with her argument, so he only weakly rebutted. “That isn’t writing words. It’s calligraphy.”
He then lowered his head and stared at his boots, which were already drenched by the rainwater. He then glanced at the words beside his feet which he had just written using the rain water with the tip of the black umbrella. He knew his handmaiden had once again defeated him.
The sentences of words that were written on the ground with the rainwater were: “Don’t worry about poverty, but worry about having a fierce handmaiden at home.”
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