At the border of the central and northern portions of the Jin Empire laid a region that was ranked among the smallest in land of the thirty-six regions of the empire but was also ranked the top five in terms of wealth. There were many fields and rivers amassing a great amount of wealth and there were many large regions of spirit mountains as well. Mortals on those mountains would even commonly see Immortals dressed in Daoist and Buddhist robes fly off into the horizon. Needless to say, Daoism and Buddhism were prevalent in the region and their temples were profusely found throughout. Regardless of one’s standing or wealth, they would always pay great respect to either of these schools.
But in addition to these two prevalent schools, one could see the influence of many Confucian schools in the many cities and towns in the area.
There were thirty-nine of these Confucian schools with one of the largest of these schools consisting of experts of Confucian teachings with many government officials in their ranks. On the other hand, the smallest of these schools only had ordinary Confucian instructors that could only explain the most basic aspects of Confucianism. If they felt that any of their disciples were outstanding, they would be recommended to a higher school, granting poorer disciples a good opportunity to advance.
After all, Confucian scholars that graduate from a high-grade Confucian School were welcomed to the higher echelon of the Jin Empire. Confucian scholars that stem from the highest schools are even heavily recruited by nobility of all ranks.
The Taichang Prefecture’s capital city, Taichang City, was the location of one such of these prestigious Confucian academies.
Although the city wasn’t ranked amongst the best in the empire, it was one of the centers of commerce in the Nan Province and was where the rich and powerful took residence. There were four families titled as nobility that resided in the city as well as countless people of every trade.
In the Taichang City’s west side resided the Gan Clan, a clan of particularly wealthy merchants. They possessed over twenty restaurants in their prefecture’s cities. In smaller cities, they were hegemony of wealth, but in Taichang City, there were simply among the many elites that resided there.
But even among the elite, the Gan Clan did own a particularly large estate in the district where the wealthy resided and had over forty servants in their employment.
One day as the sun blazed at noon, a youth in Confucian robes slowly walked down a street. The young man appeared in his early twenties and wore a package on his back that was thickly wrapped in grey cloth and covered in dust.
As he walked down the street, he repeatedly looked around and soon spotted the Gan Clan’s glossy gate. When he read the words “Gan Estate”, he unconsciously smiled.
When he approached the gate, he examined it for a moment before pounding the iron door.
Thud. Thud. Hurried footsteps arrived from the other side of the gate.
The gate cracked open to a middle-aged man wearing servant robes who had a respectful expression on his face.
When the servant saw the youth, his respectful expression suddenly froze before quickly fading away. He stood up straight and asked with a doubtful tone, “Who is your esteemed self looking for?” He then examined the youth as if trying to make out his origins.
The youth cupped his hands in a salute and smiled. “Is this Uncle Gan Chi’s residence?”
After examining the quality of the youth’s clothes, his original display of contempt had disappeared. Instead, he was now greatly alarmed after hearing Han Li speak and he respectfully said, “Uncle Gan Chi? Gan Chi is the esteemed name of my master. Then young sir must be...”
“I am Han Li. Uncle Gan Chi is a distant relative of mine. I have made this trip to pay my respects to him.” Han Li continued to smile as he spoke.
It was now a year after he had cultivated in whole-hearted seclusion. During this time, he drawn the aid of the Heavenly Corpse Pearl and the vajra relic to refine the first layer of the Brightjade Arts. With that done, the roiling baleful Qi was mostly calmed, much to Han Li’s delight, but it still remained a priority for him to deal with. As such, he had hurried over to the Gan Clan for the next step in his plan to rid himself of the baleful Qi.
After a moment of hesitation, the middle-aged servant said, “So it was Young Sir Han. Unfortunately, the Master had left in the morning to meet with his colleagues. Currently, the Eldest Young Master is in charge of the residence. Shall I make a report to him?”
“Please, I must thank you for the trouble,” Han Li calmly replied.
“Please wait a moment, Young Sir. I will immediately make the report.” The middle-aged man bowed and closed the gate before heading back.
Han Li idly stood in front of the gate and examined the surroundings of the huge estate, occasionally catching sight of a few carriages that passed by.
Although he hadn’t swept his spiritual sense past the city, it was clear there were a large number of cultivators in it. Furthermore, there were many areas that housed many high-grade cultivators. This was rather odd to him as he couldn’t fathom why these cultivators would have such a high interest in the mortal world.
After the time it took to finish a cup of tea, the door creaked open to reveal an embroidered-robed youth with a refined appearance. Standing behind him was the servant from before.
After the youth gave Han Li an appraising look, he courteously said, “You must be Sir Han. I am Gan Yu. I heard that you were a distant relative of the Gan Clan. Although I’ve never heard of this before, I cannot forget my manners. If you’d like, will Sir Han like to follow me to the living room?”
“So you’re the Son of Uncle Gan. Since you’ve given me the invitation, I will not refuse it.” Without another thought, Han Li promptly agreed.
With a faint smile, Gan Yu stepped to the side and welcome Han Li inside. Then, the black gates silently closed.
Two hours later, the Gan Clan Master, a plump fifty-year-old man wearing blue noble robes named Gan Chi, returned to the Gan Estate by carriage.
Gan Chi looked at the gatekeeper below the carriage and asked, “Has anything happened while I was away?”
The middle-aged gatekeeper sincerely replied, “Lord, there is a young man surnamed Han that had arrived. He claims that he is your nephew and is waiting in the living room with the young lord. They seem to be having an excited conversation.”
Just as Gan Chi stepped off the carriage and approached the estate gate, he paused and muttered, “A nephew? Surnamed Han?” A trace of doubt could be heard from his voice.
“What? Is this person a fraud?” In his alarm, the gatekeeper hastily suggested, “Shall I call for the guards?”
“It’s hard to say if he’s truly a fraud. I do think I have such a relative, but it has been quite some time so my memory fails me. Continue to guard the gate. There is no need to involve yourself over the matter!” Gan Chi recovered his calm and rebuked the gatekeeper before hurrying into the estate. Without even taking the time to change his clothes, he rushed into the main hall.
Just as he entered the entrance of the main hall, he heard a cheerful and familiar voice speak, “I admire Brother Han’s deep understanding of the Confucian teachings. But with regards to those great words, my understanding is that...” The voice clearly belonged to his eldest son and he seemed to be excitedly conversing with the guest.
When the old man heard this, his expression grew somewhat sullen and a trace of unease was betrayed from his eyes. But a short moment later, he gritted his teeth and walked into the hall.
“Lord Father, this is Sir Han.” When Gan Yu saw his father walked in, he immediately stood up and saluted him.
“Yes. I’ve already heard from the gatekeeper,” Gan Chi waved his arm at his son and then stared at Han Li, asking, “Then your esteemed self must be the one who claims to be my distant relative. Do you have a letter or a keepsake perhaps?”
At that moment, Han Li stood up and couldn’t help but smile when he heard that question. Then without another word, he handed over a sparkling white jade pendant.
When Gan Chi saw this jade pendant, his expression became moved.
He solemnly took the jade pendant and closely examined it once through before saying, “So you must be the young descendant, Brother Han. Please follow me to my study. I wish to ask about a matter pertaining to my deceased aunt.” Gan Chi grabbed Han Li’s wrist with great excitement and pulled him out from the hall.
Remaining behind in the hall, Gan Yu stood up in shock and muttered, “Your aunt? Was there such a relative in the Gan Clan?”
After they entered the study, Gan Chi carefully closed the door of the study and deeply saluted, saying, “I pay my respects, Sir Han!”
“Stand up,” Han Li said. Then with a wave of his sleeve, he shook Gan Chi’s body straight with a gust of blue light before continuing, “There is no need for you to ask about my origins. You only need to know from today on that I was sent here by the people in charge of you.”
Gan Chi’s doubts were washed away by Han Li’s display of magic power and he respectfully replied, “Yes! So you are close to the two sirs that were related to the Gan Clan... but they disappeared since twenty years ago. Young Master Han couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Han Li nodded and then said in a commanding tone, “I’ve only arrived at your Gan Clan in passing. I have more important affairs to attend to, but I will require assistance from your connections to the mortal world.”