Chapter 388: A Visit from Friends
Nobody in the Ling family cared about what kind of speculations people were making. All their efforts were concentrated on the preparations for Ling Zhang’s wedding.
Everybody was taken aback when they learned that Ji Yin planned to include some manuals of long-lost skills of the Millennium Pavilion as part of Ling Zhang’s trousseaus.
“Grandfather, these things belong to the Millennium Pavilion, don’t they? Would the Clan Leader and the other clansmen be okay with you giving them to me? They’d probably be angry with you, wouldn’t they? You should take them back right now.” Ling Zhang hastened to decline the offer.
But Ji Yin replied, “The Clan Leader has given his consent to this. Otherwise I wouldn’t have taken them out. These are for you, and you should take them without any misgivings. The Clan Leader said you may take these as a wedding gift from the Millennium Pavilion.”
Ling Zhang was astonished. “They’re really meant for me?”
“Of course. Nobody’s going to ask for them back,” responded Ji Yin.
Ling Zhang was really amazed that Ji Yanlai had agreed to give him some manuals of long-lost skills to be his trousseaus. Now that these things had been given to him, what to do with them was completely at his discretion. Such generosity surprised Ling Zhang greatly.
“Yuwen Tong is a master of military strategy and tactics. For him, these manuals of warcraft would be like the frosting on the cake. It’s no big deal. Those diagrams are for you to learn in the future. There are also some fairly good manuals of internal energy, which you may use to lick your subordinates into shape. Just take them.”
Half of these manuals were about warcraft, and the others half various formations. According to Ji Yin, if he didn’t give these things to Ling Zhang, they would only end up being buried in dust in the book chamber of the Millennium Pavilion. Needless to say, the beneficiary of the manuals of warcraft would be Yuwen Tong, though they’d been given to Ling Zhang. He had learned quite some formations, but the diagrams Ji Yin was offering to him at this moment were about relatively advanced formations, which Ling Zhang was not yet ready to start learning. There were also a few manuals of internal energy, which were actually of little use to Ling Zhang himself, but he could use them to train his subordinates.
“Thank you, Grandfather, and I’ll have to thank the Clan Leader as well,” said Ling Zhang.
Ji Yin beamed, “After you marry Yuwen Tong, I’ll go back to the Millennium Pavilion with the Clan Leader to make preparations for our move. When everything’s done, I’ll come here to keep you company. That manor that I bought previously is meant for you, but it never crossed my mind that Yuwen Tong would act so quick. I’m afraid living in that manor is not an option for you for the moment. Come to think of it, I should’ve finished the preparatory work for the move by the time when you and Yuwen Tong are settled in the palace, and I’ll be able to have plenty of time to instruct you in formations.
I could see that recently you’ve been too busy to find enough time to clear your mind and focus on your cultivation of internal energy, which is why you still have a long way to go before you can make a breakthrough. After these things are handled, take a month out for closed-door cultivation. You should be able to reach the third layer successfully by the end of it.”
Ling Zhang listened to him attentively and then said, “I’ll carve out time for closed-door cultivation after the wedding ceremony.”
Ji Yin clapped him on the shoulder, “There’s no need to rush into anything. Haste does not bring success. Do it step by step.”
“I will,” promised Ling Zhang.
“Young Master, the trousseaus are ready, and the wedding robes have been delivered here from the palace too. The preparatory work here basically is finished. All that’s left is to determine the list of subordinates who are to go with you to the palace on the wedding day,” said Jiang Yu.
Because of Ling Zhang’s special identity, apart from the trousseaus, he was also supposed to bring some attendants with him on the wedding day. Presently Jiang Yu was his only subordinate aside from his twenty-four bodyguards.
It’d been only when Yuwen Tong had given Ling Zhang a reminder after the matter of Jiang Yu that Ling Zhang had come to realize the importance of having his own think tank. Although it was a little late, he would rather go without than make do with substandard substitutes. Also, he was unwilling to blindly recruit more advisors merely for the sake of pomp. Besides, because of Jiang Yu’s high level of competence, Ling Zhang would inevitably be a little picky about whom he recruited next, so it’d be harder for him to find someone taking his fancy.
“For the moment I’m the only one. Would you like to recruit some more before the wedding?” asked Jiang Yu.
Ling Zhang shook his head. “I would rather go without than have someone incompetent, and I don’t really need a large group of attendants to impress the guests. I’ll have Wang Dashan, Liu Yi and Yang Liuzi act as my attendants as a last resort.”
Jiang Yu had no different opinions on this matter. He’d always been a proud man and there weren’t many he’d deem worthy of being his associates. In his eyes, Ling Zhang’s decision was very wise.
“This is a minute wedding plan delivered here by a staff member of the Ministry of Rites. An official will come here in two days to guide you through the details of the parts of the ceremony requiring your cooperation,” said Jiang Yu, handing a pamphlet to Ling Zhang.
Ling Zhang took it and ran an eye over it. Officials of the Ministry of Rites had consulted with each other and omitted some unnecessary steps before making this outline wedding plan. They hadn’t made any major changes to the plan. After that, Ling Zhang carefully read it again. All these were what he needed to lodge firmly in mind. On the wedding day, Yuwen Tong would personally come to pick him up. What he had to remember was mainly the courtesy he was supposed to show when bidding farewell to his parents. As regards the other steps, there would be specially-assigned officials guiding him. After he walked out of the front gates of the Ling Mansion, he would be in sync with Yuwen Tong, with whom he was supposed to cooperate to finish the remainder of the ceremony. The Ministry of Rites would probably send someone to inform Yuwen Tong of it as well.
Ling Zhang gave it some thought and then put the pamphlet down. “I’ll need more time to look over it,” he said.
He planned to confer with Yuwen Tong after he came at night. If Yuwen Tong believed it was okay, they would make it final; if there were any changes to be made, he’d have Yuwen Tong inform the Ministry of Rites.
Jiang Yu gave a bob of his head and was just about to tell Ling Zhang some other specifics when someone walked inside and reported, “Young Master, Childe Ji, Childe Zhao and some others request an audience with you.”
Ling Zhang was somewhat surprised. They came to visit him at this hour?
“Let’s go and meet them together,” Ling Zhang said to Jiang Yu.
Jiang Yu nodded again, his face calm, giving no particular reaction to his upcoming meeting with Ji Feng and the others.
In the ante-room of the Ling Mansion.
Ji Feng, Zhao Jiusi, Zhao Turui, Xie Qing, Yuwen Jin and Tao Yi were all present. Clearly they had planned this visit together. Eyes of the six of them were appraising those servants of the Ling Mansion who were busting around making preparations for the approaching wedding ceremony, as well as the many newly made adjustments to the furnishings, their faces etched with curiosity.
“This looks pretty good. Some day, when I decide to marry someone, I’ll make my wedding a grand occasion as well,” said Yuwen Jin.
“Speaking of which, it’s about time you got married. Your parents still haven’t made any arrangements in this regard?” Ji Feng inquired of him.
“That’s right. All our parents have been making arrangements. We’ll probably all be married in a year or two. It’s high time you did something about it,” observed Zhao Turui.
Yuwen Jin’s face immediately changed somewhat at these words. “Don’t get me started. My parents did set me up with a couple of girls, but I’m not struck on any of them.”
The others exchanged looks and then Zhao Jiusi was the first to speak. “Why? Your status is now quite different than before. You’re His Majesty’s cousin, which makes you an extremely eligible man. Also, you’re the only single member in your family. Theoretically, all girls in this city are on your menu. You have no idea how jealous of you we all are. Given your excellent family background, the girls your parents set you up with were definitely the best of the best, yet you still think none of them is good enough for you?”
However, after hearing these words, Yuwen Jin had an even more peculiar expression on his face. Seeing this, the others were further bewildered, wondering why he was having that look.
“Well, that’s exactly where the problem lies,” muttered Yuwen Jin. “Alas, forget about it. I don’t know how to explain this to you guys. Today we’re here to visit Brother Zhang, so let’s just drop this. Those girls are taking a wait-and-see attitude, anyway. Nobody has promised anything. If I talk too much about it, their reputations might be compromised.”
“I think you’ve got a point,” said Tao Yi. “We’ll ask no more questions about it. Your elders probably have considered a lot about your future marriage, and they won’t rush into anything. If there’s anything you find tricky and could use our help with, you may find another time and arrange for another meeting. We’ll see what we can do.”
“You said that you’re not struck with any of the girls, but you’ve started worrying about their reputations already,” said Xie Qing with a smile.
Yuwen Jin replied, “That’s different. Just because I don’t have feelings for them doesn’t mean I could jeopardizing their reputations. I’ll invite you guys to my parents’ summer house and talk about it after Brother Zhang’s and my cousin’s wedding.”
“Talk about what?” asked Ling Zhang, who had just arrived at the doorway with Jiang Yu and heard Yuwen Jin’s words.
“Brother Zhang!” Yuwen Jin spun around, looking at him delightedly, but at the sight of Jiang Yu standing beside Ling Zhang, his smile disappeared instantly. “What’s he doing here?”
The others rose to their feet and greeted Ling Zhang. Though they didn’t react as dramatically as Yuwen Jin had when they saw Jiang Yu, their countenance also changed to a greater or lesser degree.
Ling Zhang cast a glance at Jiang Yu behind him, who appeared composed and quite collected beneath the appraising gaze from Yuwen Jin’s and the others’ eyes.
Ling Zhang turned his head around and said to Yuwen Jin, “Jiang Yu is now my adviser. He’s been quite helpful. Just now we were discussing something, so he came here with me.”
Jiang Yu’s decision to become Ling Zhang’s adviser had previously caused quite a sensation. Probably the whole city had come to know about it.
Yuwen Jin and the others naturally were fully aware of it and had psyched themselves up, but they still felt rather unaccustomed to it when they really clapped eyes on Jiang Yu standing beside Ling Zhang.
Yuwen Jin was the one who took it the least coolly. He had always been ill-disposed towards Jiang Yu. Though knowing that Jiang Yu was now Ling Zhang’s adviser, he still found it difficult to affect an air of friendliness when he met Jiang Yu at this point in time.
“Brother Zhang, you really trust him?” asked Yuwen Jin, frowning, staring at Jiang Yu with a piercing look in his eyes.
Ling Zhang responded, “Jiang Yu is my adviser now, so of course I trust him.”
Yuwen Jin still wanted to say something, but Xie Qing gave his sleeve a gentle pull.
Naturally, this small movement didn’t escape Ling Zhang’s notice. He said to Yuwen Jin, “I know you and Jiang Yu have history. Maybe you two should clear the air today. There will inevitably be occasions when you have to cooperate with each other. It’s best if you talk things over and get past it. What do you say?”
Glaring at Jiang Yu, Yuwen Jin said, “I’m okay with talking things over. I have nothing to hide, but someone might not have the balls!”
Ling Zhang turned around to look at Jiang Yu. “How about you? What do you think?”
Jiang Yu made a bow. “I’ll do what you tell me to, Young Master.”
A flicker flitted across the eyes of everyone else at the sight of this. Yuwen Jin also gazed at Jiang Yu.
Ling Zhang said, “Well, then, let’s find somewhere else to sit and talk. I think my courtyard house would be a good choice. Incidentally, is the matter you guys came here to see me about of urgency?”
Ji Feng answered, “Not really. We’re just here to see if there’s anything we could help with.”
Ling Zhang smiled, “Well, there’s indeed something. You guys have come at just the right time. Originally I was a little too embarrassed to ask you for help, but now that you’ve come here of your own accord, you’ve got to stay and give me a hand.”
These words of Ling Zhang’s dissolved the tension in the atmosphere considerably. Yuwen Jin wrenched his gaze from Jiang Yu and said, “Brother Zhang, if there’s anything you need my help with, all you have to do is ask.”
“Let’s go to my courtyard house and sit down first.”