On the same night, Steward Qin came with the good news, and the elders were so delighted that Tang Jie had been selected that they went the entire night without sleep.
The next morning, someone from the Wei Estate came to lead Tang Jie to the estate.
Tang Jie did not get another meeting with the lady. Rather, an old man with the surnameNiu led Tang Jie into the estate.
Passing through peaceful ponds and pavilions, walking along shady little avenues, winding around magnificent fake mountains, and stepping across bridges of sandalwood, the two of them arrived at the Meditation Garden. As he looked at that bright red and willowy green flowerbed, Tang Jie knew that this would be where he worked.
Elder Niu began to instruct Tang Jie in how to care for these flowers and how to prune them. Tang Jie had brought a small notebook, and wrote down the pointers as he listened—a sight which the old man was rather satisfied to see.
Those boys who came to work as servants in the Wei Clan were generally after the opportunity to become servant students. Thus, they often had little interest in the proper path, and their attention was not on how to do their job properly.
Seeing Tang Jie so focused, at least able to differentiate between his actual duties and extraneous pursuits, the elder had a good impression of Tang Jie.
Once he was done explaining the basic care instructions, Elder Niu said, “Raising flowers isnt actually that difficult. You just need to follow the rules. The key here is your diligence. Youre new here, so if theres something you dont understand, just ask me. I live in that little house on the side, over there. But if you keep asking me questions every day after a month, I wont be bothered to answer.”
“Yes, this little one understands,” Tang Jie respectfully replied.
The old man nodded in satisfaction and then began to tell Tang Jie about the situation in the Meditation Garden.
Since he was going to work, he had to at least know the people that lived here.
There werent actually many people living in the Meditation Garden. Other than the younger son, Wei Tianchong, there were six boy servants, two guards, and one old nurse. The guards were adult martial artists who normally didnt appear in the Meditation Garden, so there was no need to worry about them, and there was certainly no need to worry about the nurse.
Of the six boy servants, the one with the highest status was Wen Qing. He was the head of the servants of the Meditation Garden and was responsible for the young masters daily schedule, personnel, and finances. He was the oldest, sixteen this year, and so he had no hope of being a servant student. Thus, this actually made him the least threatening.
After him were Shi Mo (‘Ink Attendant) and Shi Meng (‘Dream Attendant). The lady had personally given them these names. Those who had been given names were normally those who had been sold into servitude. People like Tang Jie were classified as laborers and werent considered to have sold themselves into servitude, so there was no need for them to be granted names.
The greatest advantage of being sold into servitude over not was that being sold meant that one could directly become a close servant, and this was exactly how Shi Mo and Shi Meng had attained their current status.
Shi Mo was the reading partner, responsible for accompanying the young master in his studies and preparing his ink and brushes. Shi Meng primarily cleaned the young masters room, tidied his bed, and served him tea and water.
These two were the closest of the young masters servants and could be considered the strongest competitors for the status of servant student.
In truth, regardless of the clan, most servant students came from these two positions. Wu Qin had been Wei Tianzhis reading partner, but he had replaced the original reading partner, so he had not been given a name.
Besides these two, there were three other boy servants responsible for miscellaneous tasks and running errands. Adding on the flower boy Tang Jie, there were seven boy servants in all.
As for food and clothes, these were taken care of by servants of the main house. There was no need for the boy servants to worry themselves over such things. Thus, these boy servants actually had a rather easy time of it. They just needed to stick around the young master and do whatever he ordered.
But in reality, none of the boy servants except Shi Mo and Shi Meng were permitted to get close to the young master.
The young master was on the verge of going to school, and his mindset would play a large part in determining who his future servant students would be. Thus, Shi Mo and Shi Meng kept a close eye on him, barely giving the other boy servants a chance. Even when they did get a chance to interact with the young master, that pair would closely cling to him.
The twelve- or thirteen-year-old children of other families might have still been in their naughty and mischievous phases, but the boy servants of the big clans had already begun to fight for their futures.
As they were speaking, a group ofsoldiers rushed out from the other side. Their leader was a slightly chubby little boy wearing a fiery generals suit of armor, holding a bamboo lash in his hand and mounted on another boy. Behind him were four boy servants, all of them dressed like soldiers and holding sharp wooden stakes, hollering as they ran out.
Tang Jie was startled by this display, while Elder Niu bowed and said, “Young Master!”
Tang Jie realized that this was his master, and immediately dropped his head and offered greetings. He peeked at the young masters armor and inwardly grumbled, How could he be wearing such a heavy suit of armor
There was a gust of wind, and the armor fluttered a little. It seemed to be made of paper, and Tang Jie mentally chuckled.
The little fatty went up to the two, dismounted from the neck of that boy servant, and grunted. The group came to a halt, and the little fatty said to Elder Niu, “Old Niu, why did you come”
The old man smiled. “Theres a new gardener in the estate. The lady instructed me to show him around.”
A narrow-eyed boy standing on the side whispered a few words into the little fattys ears, upon which the little fatty glanced at Tang Jie. “Youre the gardener boy that my family is paying three strings of cash for”
Tang Jie lowered his head. “Yes, Young Master. Tang Jie greets the Young Master.”
The little fatty grunted. “You dont look like much.”
The other boy servants giggled. Boys didnt know how to hide their emotions, and it was clear that they were delighting in his plight.
These servants were already hostile to each other as they vied for the spot of servant student, and now, there was a newcomer that was being paid three strings of cash per month, much more than they were getting. They immediately developed a dislike for this individual, so they mocked him as soon as they could.
Tang Jie was unashamed, lightly saying, “This little one knows that he is not any much, but as I have received the ladys favor, I will do my utmost to carry out my duty.”
His words instantly caused the laughter to stop.
He had been selected by the lady, so if they kept laughing, they would be laughing at the lady for not being able to see properly.
The boy servants might have still had some things they didnt understand, but this was definitely not one of them.
Even the young master did not dare to say that his mother was incorrect. After taking one last look at Tang Jie, he grunted, “Lets go!”
He remounted hiswarhorse and left.
Tang Jie was still rather surprised as he watched the group leave. He asked Elder Niu, “Why is the young master dressed like that”
Elder Niu sighed. “The young master doesnt have much interest in cultivation. All he wants to do is mount a horse and be a general, saying that he doesnt want to cultivate. Every day, when he has nothing else to do, he likes to play-fight, and the master and lady are both very concerned…”
Tang Jie smiled. “I see now. But its hard to blame him for that. Cultivation emphasizes pursuit of the Heavenly Dao, a free and unfettered life above physical objects. It cannot compare to the luxuries of the secular world.”
“But human life is short, a hundred years going by in the blink of an eye.”
“But the pursuit of immortality requires asceticism, and how is that different from being a grass or stone It would be much better to have an exciting life.”
Elder Niu looked in shock at Tang Jie, not having expected him to say such things.
Tang Jie chuckled. “Im just speaking from his perspective. For a child, old age and death are distant affairs, and a rich life full of excitement is far more important. He wants to be a general not because of the position, but because of the power and majesty. In truth, the cultivation world also has many exciting things, but hes probably been scared off by the bitter cultivation the Spirit Masters of the clan undergo every day. This disgust and the pressure of the clan might have pushed him in the opposite direction, which isnt strange. But if he actually understood the advantages of cultivation, his mind might change…”
Elder Niu had never heard something like this. In shock, he said, “But youre also a child.”
“A child who has experienced death,” Tang Jie lightly replied. “Maturity has to do with age, but even more with experience.”
He was referring to Little River Village and Xu Muyangs death, but the old man thought that he was talking about how he had almost frozen to death in front of the Wu familys gate. Letting out an emotional sigh, he said no more.
From this day onward, Tang Jie officially began to work in the Wei Clan.
Being a gardener boy in the Wei Clan was a rather easy job. Every day, he just needed to water the plants, get rid of the bugs, and prune the leaves. The youngest son of the Wei Clan was a boy and had no interest in flowers. Normally, he would just come over and take a look, unable to tell if Tang Jie was doing a good job. Moreover, Shi Mo and Shi Meng kept a tight leash on him, and other than the first day, he didnt even call out to Tang Jie once.
Tang Jie was happy to have this free time. Once he was done with his job, he would go to the room the Wei Estate had assigned to him to research Xu Muyangs Dao of Formations. This was the primary focus of his efforts as of late.
This wasnt because he had changed his mind and decided to pursue Xu Muyang. It was just that he had yet to officially begin to cultivate, and the Visceral Manifestation Classic did not permit unrestricted cultivation. He had no other place to focus his free time. Considering that he would need to open the Nine Executions Immortal Formation in the future, he would have to learn the Dao of Formations anyway. And once he got into the academy, he wouldnt have the time to study this. Thus, he needed to make good use of this time.
As for the matter of Young Master Wei, he was in no rush.
There was still three years until he would enter the academy, time enough.
Besides, trying to get closer to the young master without understanding his situation was not necessarily a good thing. It would be better to first observe from the sides and understand the young masters preferences, like his favorite foods, his favorite clothes, and his current mood. Once he understood the young master, he could minimize his mistakes once he started to get close to him.
Succeeding in a single try would always be more effective than failing ten times in a row.
In his view, the young master didnt have a bad personality, and the lady taught him rather severely. With all those boy servants flattering him every day, it was inevitable that he became a little proud, but his nature was still rather good. Otherwise, in his conversation with Tang Jie on the first day, a brutal and cruel young master might have given him a good lashing if he had been feeling displeased.
Perhaps because they regarded Tang Jie as obedient and knowing his place, the other boy servants didnt try to cause any trouble for Tang Jie.
But Elder Niu had relayed Tang Jies words to Lady Wei.
Lady Wei was a wise woman, and she comprehended these words. A few days later, she invited a peak Spirit Master who had wandered about for many years and the garrison general of Canglong Prefecture as guests to the house. At the banquet, the garrison general was extremely respectful to the Spirit Master, addressing him asImmortal Elder. That Immortal Elder, having received the gifts of the Wei Clan, began to relate his many years of experience. When he got to the exciting points, the young master became overjoyed and wanted nothing more than to become an Immortal and wander the world. And the garrison general, having also received his order, began to bitterly complain about the hardships of being a soldier, expressing envy over the freedom that cultivators enjoyed.
The Wei Clans Spirit Masters were all people who had barely entered the Mortal Shedding Realm and achieved nothing after that, belonging to the class of people in the cultivation world with the least potential. Those with any actual potential would never deign to be hired by asmall clan like the Wei Clan.
This time, though, the Wei Clan had invited a true member of the cultivation world, and the young master had his mind opened. Seeing how humble that general had been, he gradually came to understand that generals had an extremely low status in this world, and so he gradually dispelled any idea of being a general from his mind.
While he would still play around every day, he stopped playing war games. On occasion, he would put on a Daoist robe and pretend to use spells.
He would point his wooden sword, and a boy servant wouldvomit blood and fall to the ground,dead. The young master would heartily laugh, believing himself to already be an Immortal who had attained the Dao.
This matter increased Lady Weis good impression of Tang Jie. She found this child to be mature and understanding, so she began to have thoughts about moving Tang Jie to the young masters side to supervise his studies. But considering that Tang Jie had only been around for a short while, she decided to wait and see.
However, casual comments were passed on by the maid Yanzhi to Shi Mo, that narrow-eyed boy from the other day.
On this day, Tang Jie was diligently pruning the garden. His work was done, and the garden was neat and orderly. His skills had greatly improved, and he couldnt help but be a little proud. But when he thought about how Young Master Wei had no eye for such things and that he was essentially casting pearls before swine, he couldnt help but feel that it was a pity.
At this moment, Young Master Wei charged out, clothed in a Daoist robe and holding a wooden sword in hand. He pointed at Tang Jie and shouted, “Witness my supreme Immortal arts! Fall!”
Tang Jie was taken aback, and before he could react, he heard an angry roar of, “Why havent you fallen yet!”
Shi Mo lunged forward, grabbing him and bringing him down into the flowerbed, where they rolled around, crushing the flowers and sending petals drifting into the air…