After clothing and food were equalized, no one could tell the status difference and all the students got along more naturally and casually, but there were still rumors about some student or another with a deep background, very, very deep. When people asked, “How deep?” that rumormonger would just shake their finger and reply mysteriously, “I can’t say.”
Feng Zhiwei listened to Yan Huaishi introduce the academy as they walked, and if one just judged by his familiarity with the academy, no one would say that he had just walked through the gates. He must have studied here for three or four years!
“How do you know so much?” Feng Zhiwei asked.
Servant Yan chuckled and rubbed his fingers together – the power of silver.
“The Yan Family is rich and powerful on the seas. Why do you people have to run over to Dijing and become doormats to others?”
“The Imperial Court supports agriculture and restrains commerce. No matter how rich a family is, they still bow to the local officials.” Yan Huaishi looked up at Qing Ming Academy’s upturned eaves and his playful look sank a little. “Dijing. It is a city of opportunity.”
Feng Zhiwei smiled. Big families always had many juniors, and the competition for head was always very intense. This young man from South Sea must have either been banished because of some failed internal struggle, or he had come with the insight and hope of using resources from Dijing to help him fight for the position of family head. If his actions were any judge, he was probably the latter.
The old man led them to a yard and handed them over to a middle-aged scholar with a whisper. The scholar’s eyes widened slightly and smiled at Feng Zhiwei. When he asked for her name and her background, Feng Zhiwei told him a fake story she’d prepared – she was Wei Zhi, born to a peasant family in Shan Nan province , and now an orphan relying on his elders in Dijing.
The man also asked careful questions about her servants. Obviously, the academy was relaxed on the outside and strict on the inside. It was very serious about safety, and many people here walked around with light steps, with Kong Fu under their belts. Yan Huaishi was a clever young man with a nimble mind, and he didn’t need Feng Zhiwei’s help to create a trustworthy background that even included Gu Nanyi.
As for the jade statue, he stood quietly next to Feng Zhiwei, his cuffs hanging straight, without a word or a movement. His eyes fell only on the ground in front of his feet, and his delicate jade chin could only be spotted with the occasional breeze that fluttered his veil.
People were coming and going, and they would all take an extra glance at him, attracted by his stillness and his beauty, but they all turned away quickly. They could tell that he was a very capable Kong Fu master; only these experts acted so abnormally and mysteriously.
Only Feng Zhiwei believed that he was just stupid.
After registration, Feng Zhiwei walked out to the back yard with a seal hanging from her waist. She looked at the dorms, and with a small smile she said, “Everyone always talks about how difficult it is to enter Qing Ming Academy, but it looks like it’s quite easy.”
Yan Huaishi rolled his eyes and secretly glanced at her in disdain, thinking his heart stop faking!
Feng Zhiwei had only walked a few steps when she heard an outburst nearby. Everyone on the street orderly made way, and before Feng Zhiwei could react a human figure flashed by her eyes, and a familiar smell filled her nose as soft clothes gently brushed her face.
Gu Nanyi lifted his hand and his fingers flew out in a blur, but that figure swept by Feng Zhiwei like a swimming fish. Feng Zhiwei turned her head in shock, and she saw what she thought was two men, the one dragging the other with his feet in the air, twisting by like a hurricane. All the while, he was crying out chaotically, “Ah, excuse me!! Ah, sorry! I hope I didn’t bump you! Ahh, storm incoming!! Make way, make way!”
All the bystanders made way as if with tacit understand, and even Yan Huaishi jumped to the side. Only Feng Zhiwei and Gu Nanyi stood where they were, still.
Feng Zhiwei thought, hadn’t he already passed? Why give way?
But she soon found her answer.
“Don’t run !!!!!”
A sharp scream followed tightly in the fleeing man’s footsteps, piercing the ears, quickly followed by bouquets of flowers and piles of brocades. Six or seven women with rolled up sleeves came running by with chopping blocks in their hands ran by in a raucous.
A pungent cloud of thick rouge choked her. Feng Zhiwei immediately recognized the cheap product – Ye Lai Xiang1
“What… what is this?” Even Feng Zhiwei was baffled by the sight of countrywomen rushing forward valiantly like a winning army chasing a routed foe.
If she didn’t know that she was in the great and outstanding Qing Ming Academy she would have thought that she was in a countryside day market.
“Oh.” Yan Huashi replied calmly, delighting in another’s misfortune. “This is normal. You’ll see this two or three times every day; you’ll get used to it. It’s pretty late, so let’s go get something to eat and a place to sleep. Big Brother, you’ll need to choose a Hall tomorrow and decide whether you’ll study Politics and History or Warfare.
Feng Zhiwei smiled and the trio headed for the dining hall. Dinner was hand pulled noodels with pork. They served a large porcelain bowl of noodles filled with soup, topped with seven or eight pieces of shiny, oily pork praised in brown sauce – and refillable. The taste was simple but fragrant, and the hall filled with students holding large bowls and gulping down their noodles gave off an earthy, countryside feel.
Yan Huaishi fit in perfectly, and he wandered around with a bowl in hand, taking giant bites from time to time, mingling already. He showed no sign of discomfort in the poor conditions. After a moment to take in the whole strange sight, Feng Zhiwei decided to just go along with it. As she shoveled the noodles into her mouth she thought that this Qing Ming Academy really didn’t have the feel of the Number One Academy Under Heaven. It looked more like a peasant house out in the Dijing countryside.
After eating for a bit, Feng Zhiwei suddenly realized that the air was a little strange around her. She looked around. Gu Nanyi was sitting beside her, one hand holding his bowl, another lifting his veil slightly, revealing half of his delicate face that made people inhale without thinking. Everyone had put down their bowls to look at him, and he just stared into the bowl obliviously.
Feng Zhiwei’s mouth twitched, and she smiled thinly – young master, are you going to eat? Young master, are you eating or selling your face?
And then she heard Gu Nanyi murmur: “One, two, three … seven!”
In the moment before she understood, Gu Nanyi slammed his bowl down, splashing soup everywhere. Feng Zhiwei dodged quickly and everyone around them jumped a little.
Seven pieces? Seven pieces of what? Feng Zhiwei turned back to him and he was still staring into his bowl. Was he counting his meat ? She leaned in and counted – seven pieces of meat.