“Get up,” Fu Zhiyu said, also looking at the man carefully, “You have good eyesight, how did you recognise me?”
After the man got up, he saw that Fu Zhiyu was very puzzled, so he took the initiative to explain: “Some time ago, during the sacrifice, this humble one went to join the fun and was fortunate enough to meet Wang Zhao. Wang Zhao was an unforgettable sight.”
Fu Zhiyu glanced at him suspiciously, only to feel that things didn’t seem that simple.
Just rely on the distant glance during the ritual?
“Of course, with this alone, I naturally wouldn’t be able to recognise Wang Zhao at a glance,” the man continued. He lowered his head very modestly and explained, “I was studying in the capital before, blessed to be the student of Grand Master Xu. In the Fengyue House, I have seen Wang Zhao many times, but Wang Zhao can’t remember this humble one.”
Grand Master Xu was Fu Zhiyu’s teacher. The students he accepted were not simple. Even if they couldn’t reach Shen Yang’s level, they were rare talents. How could the man end up here?
“Raise your head and show me.”
Fu Zhiyu had a good memory. He looked at that face. Although it had changed a lot with many vicissitudes of life, he did have some impression.
“You are…” Fu Zhiyu tried to recall the person’s name, but couldn’t get it for a while.
Before Fu Zhiyu remembered, the man reported his name: “Zhang Lin.”
When he said the name, Fu Zhiyu remembered.
He was not an ordinary student. He had been in the class of successful candidates for the imperial examination, in the same class as Shen Yang, ranking 35th. In his previous life Fu Zhiyu handled the imperial examination. When the list was released, he had written Zhang Lin’s name himself.
Although there were fraud cases on both occasions, they didn’t affect Zhang Lin. But Fu Zhiyu remembered that after the imperial examination, he followed Prime Minister Xue. Now everyone knew what happened to Prime Minister Xue. In short, Zhang Lin was on the wrong team.
There was also a reason why Fu Zhiyu didn’t remember him well. Although Zhang Lin followed Prime Minister Xue, he didn’t have time to do anything. He was still in the training stage when everything collapsed. Although the fire at the city gate affected the fish in the pool, it… wouldn’t be enough to make him fall into such a situation?
“Wang Zhao remembers?”
“Why are you here?” Fu Zhiyu looked at him up and down, wondering, “Is something wrong in the capital?”
Zhang Lin shook his head and said, “There is nothing wrong in the capital. In fact, when Prime Minister Xue had an accident, this humble one was not affected by it. Besides, the new emperor was kind and didn’t kill people, but after all, I had no backer. Because of the past, colleagues also ostracised me. Once a major incident happened, the guarded library accidentally caught fire, this humble one was easily pushed out to take the blame. Fortunately, Grand Master Xu still remembered the old feelings and begged for me, otherwise I wouldn’t even be able to keep my life.
After several transfers, I came to Jiangnan, and now I have opened a private school in this village to teach children to read and write, and I’m doing well.”
Although Zhang Lin said this, Fu Zhiyu took another look at him. According to his age, he was actually just a few years older than Fu Zhiyu, but at first glance, Fu Zhiyu subconsciously recognised him as a middle-aged man. The hardships of his life could be seen.
When Zhang Lin said this, he had already stepped forward a little more and asked Fu Zhiyu, “This place is remote and there are not many villagers, is Wang Zhao here for…?”
After all, Fu Zhiyu was not familiar with this man, and Zhang Lin was not an ordinary person. Fu Zhiyu couldn’t judge his character by the first look alone, so he didn’t explain the reason for his visit at first.
“Wang Zhao has a noble status, he can be recognised as different from ordinary people at a glance. The people here are already a bit wary of strangers, let alone someone like you. I’m afraid that they won’t dare to say a word, not to mention to strike up a conversation.” Zhang Lin added, “If you have any orders, please just say so.”
Fu Zhiyu still hesitated. After thinking for a while, he asked, “Can I go in and have a look?”
Zhang Lin’s house looked no different from that of ordinary people from the outside. There were chickens and ducks in the yard and farming tools in front of the house. But it was different when Fu Zhiyu entered the house. It still looked like a place where a scholar lived.
Although it was very simple, there were a lot of books on the small shelf on the other side of the bed, neatly arranged, and they seemed to be very cherished. The room was very small, but there was also a desk in the corner. The brush, ink, paper and inkstone were all together, and it looked like Zhang Lin wrote a lot.
But apart from these things, the rest was like a house of an ordinary family. Fu Zhiyu also took a look at the stove. The rice bowl was half filled, but there was hardly any meat. There was only a little salt for seasoning on the stove. Fu Zhiyu looked around and saw no oil.
Zhang Lin watched his movements and probably already guessed what Fu Zhiyu was here for. He had been an official and had seen private visits before.
He also took the initiative to explain: “The money is used to buy paper, brushes and books. I don’t care about food and drink, I kept everything simple. In fact, life in the village is not bad.”
After learning more, Fu Zhiyu realised that Zhang Lin’s private school didn’t charge any money; most of the villagers here didn’t have any extra money, let alone to pay for their children to study. The rice in the rice bowl was the reward for teaching children, and the people in the village took the initiative to give it.
As for the money for living, that was earned by Zhang Lin himself. He could write quite well, so he copied books for rich families and earned more than the usual farmers. As far as his shelf of books was concerned, ordinary people couldn’t afford it.
“This village is called Heshun Village. It has been farming for generations. It is a very ordinary village in Jiangnan,” Zhang Lin said. “You rely on the weather to eat, and you can’t save a few coins in a year. Before this humble one came here, the children here couldn’t touch books at all. In the long run, they were buried deep in the fields, illiterate. Poor families can’t produce noble children, so they have to go on like this from generation to generation. If Wang Zhao is interested, this humble one is willing to take you to see it.”
Fu Zhiyu finally nodded.
What Zhang Lin said before wasn’t a lie. If he went to the villagers by himself, the villagers wouldn’t dare to talk to him at all. They couldn’t wait to get as far away from him as possible. Looking at him was like looking at someone from another world.
Although the clothes that Steward Zhou found for him were really ordinary clothes, they were also new clothes, and they were a complete set. Average farmers usually had to work and were sweaty all over, so they wore the clothes that were available, not as neat as he was. Besides, Fu Zhiyu’s face and figure were also very different from ordinary people in common clothes.
But the villagers respected Zhang Lin very much. He was a “Master” and “Teacher”. Here, a person who had studied and could read was really precious. What’s more, he was teaching children to read practically for free, and he was almost worshipped by the villagers as an immortal.
Zhang Lin’s daily life was very simple. He copied books in the morning to make money, and started classes in the school in the afternoon. If the weather was really bad, he would take a day off. Fu Zhiyu also went to the school with him in the afternoon to take a look.
It was said to be a school, but it was actually a place vacated by the temple in the village. There were no extra houses in the village. There were a few tables, chairs and stools in it, but each one was polished and shiny. The children studied under the gaze of the statues in the temple. Not only did they learn to recognise words and learn poetry, Zhang Lin also taught practical arithmetic, and even practical classes to teach children some accounting.
Fu Zhiyu looked at these and commented: “You know a lot.”
“Not everyone is fit to be a scholar, but with these skills, it is better to be a bookkeeper than to dig in the ground,” Zhang Lin said, “That’s all I can do. It was just that I didn’t expect you to come. Wang Zhao can do more than I can.”
Fu Zhiyu didn’t know what to say.
He looked at this man’s hopeful gaze and only felt that the steps he had planned had to go ahead.
Heshun Village could already be considered a good village, after all, it was lucky to land a person like Zhang Lin. After he showed the way, Fu Zhiyu went to several other villages that were poorer than Heshun and farther away from Luanzhou. It took a while to get a basic look.
“There are huge differences across Jiangnan,” he said to Yuan Jiangxing after he came back. “Although change cannot be achieved in a day, I should always make a start.”
Where exactly to start, however, Fu Zhiyu was cautious.
He knew a lot of things, including what he had learned from the Lord God’s space, but after all, he hadn’t actually done anything yet, so for now, it was just a paper exercise.
He actually felt a bit helpless. After returning from various villages, Fu Zhiyu had nightmares for a long time.
It was the feeling of powerlessness he had in his previous life when he heard the officials below report on the situation of the victims that recurred over and over again, a scene that always reminded him that he had been a failure of a ruler.
Tonight he woke up from his dream in the middle of the night again, covered in sweat.
He couldn’t sleep for a while, so he got up and poured himself a glass of water.
The nightmare had always been there, and Fu Zhiyu had always hypnotised himself that it was over, and that if he didn’t touch it, he would be fine. In fact, he was not.
To truly make the nightmare go away, something new was needed to cover it.
Fu Zhiyu took a breath. After taking a sip of water, he calmed down a lot. At this time, he smelled a very faint fragrance.
The source of this fragrance was the incense burner in the room. Steward Zhou would usually order some soothing incense and the like. This smell was soothing incense, but it smelled different from the previous one. It seemed to be a little stronger, and the fragrance was also more elegant.
If it weren’t for Fu Zhiyu’s special physique and keen sensitivity, other people wouldn’t be able to feel this subtle difference.
He couldn’t wake the others up in the middle of the night, but the next morning he took the incense ash from the incense burner and showed it to Dr. Chen.
After taking a closer look at it, Dr. Chen said, “This is a soothing incense, but it is not quite the same as the one in your mansion.
Although the incense in your mansion is already the most expensive on the market, there are actually better ones, but the quantity is very small, and they are not sold in the market. Only the imperial palace has them. And even in the palace, there may be only two boxes, very precious. The effect of soothing the nerves is said to be very good. Aren’t you having trouble sleeping these days? It would be good to burn some of this.”
Fu Zhiyu rubbed his brow. Dr. Chen didn’t understand the situation; he thought the incense was sent by the Yuan family, and it wasn’t harmful, only beneficial. He didn’t say anything more about it; instead, he talked to Fu Zhiyu about the Deng family, as an explanation of the previous events.
“Deng Qian has already woken up, but now he is still not suitable for any big moves, and he is still recovering,” Dr. Chen said. “He is actually quite interesting. He doesn’t have any grudges about being ripped-off by the Qian family, at least on the surface. After waking up and understanding everything, the first time he went out, he went to Qian Manguan to thank him.”