Just about the same time as yesterday, spring rain poured on Chang An. The rain drops landed on the thick surface of the big black umbrella. As if they were turning into dust, not a single rain drop penetrated the surface of the umbrella. The umbrella was so big that it seemed as if it could protect an entire army from a storm. However, even under the umbrella, Ning Que and Sang Sang felt drenched. Their bodies were frozen like ice sculptures.
“Let’s find a place away from the rain,” Ning Que said. His voice shook with his memory of the weird event that happened yesterday. He then added, “Aside from Phoenix Street.”
The master and the maid walked along the trees lined along the sidewalk for a distance and then stopped at a distant street around Northern Chang An. They put away the black umbrella and kept silent for quite a while. They both stared at the falling of the raindrops from the sky and the landing of them on the earth.
“How can the mighty Empire of Tang……” Ning Que began to say but there was no pride in his tone, rather it contained a trace of resentment. He continued, “use education to make money. It is embarrassing. Can’t the fee be a little cheaper if I don’t eat and dorm there? Just letting you know, I saved your princess and all I get is an easier time obtaining permission for the entrance exam? Why can’t you reward me with a thousand silver coins? So stingy!”
Sang Sang wasn’t concentrating on the empire’s policy and the decision of the princess. Instead, she cared about more detailed things. She wrinkled her thin eyebrows and lowered her head to look at the raindrops falling onto the stone floor. She raised her fingers and calculated, “We can’t possibly live in the tavern for the entire month. We don’t have enough money. Master, if you really want to get into the Academy, then living in a ruined temple would be meaningless as well. We have altogether two hundred silver coins and we need to spend it everyday. Therefore our current problem cannot be solved by just saving money, rather we have to earn money.”
“How do we earn money?” The youngster used the umbrella as a crutch and pretended to be deeply troubled. “That is a question…” he pondered.
The spring rain continued to drizzle. The master and the maid were sheltered away from the rain as they worried about the money problem.
Obviously hunting wasn’t an option. Even if they could earn thirty silver coins a month from hunting, there were no hunting grounds around Chang An. Ning Que realized back in Wei City that the forests and mountains around Chang An belonged to the emperor and so the animals living in the wild also belonged to the emperor. If he killed the animals in the forest, he could be arrested for stealing from the Royal Territory.
Sang Sang raised her small head and spoke timidly, “Needlework is not an option either. That night I observed the stores around the street carefully and the needlework in Chang An is far superior to mine. I have never even seen some of the styles they use in their needlework much less understand these styles.”
Ning Que stared into the rain and sighed, “Too bad there are no bandits around Chang An or I could earn enough money from cleaning their nests. Speaking of which, I was young when I arrived Wei City and I was idiotic. I submitted all of the money I collected from killing bandits to the military. I never realized that I should’ve kept some for personal use. After realizing the actual purpose of killing the bandits and lumberjacking, the bandits around Shu Bi Lake became way too poor.”
Sang Sang lectured him softly, “I told you, you were killing too mercilessly. The bandits of Lu Bi Lake always send people to watch Wei City now. Right after they discovered that you were leading a troop of soldiers into the Great Plains, they immediately collected all of their belongings and ran away. How do you expect to make any money like that? For an entire year there was no income.”
“I was young and naive back then. I didn’t know what to do.”
Ning Que replied embarrassed. Suddenly he raised his eyebrows and said, “What about joining a mafia? I can’t borrow money from Little Black directly but I can use his connections to join a mafia and try to rank up and collect protection fees from others.”
“You said Academy will test for a student’s personality. If the Academy finds out that you joined a mafia and collected protection fees, it may remove your name from the roster immediately and then you will no longer need to collect the protection fees.” Sang Sang warned.
Ning Que disliked how his little maid appeared to be simple and honest when showing her strong memory, but appeared to be a genius when she didn’t need to show her memory. He said irritated, “Then you tell me what to do? If we have to earn money without letting the Academy know, the only way is to join a mafia!”
“The problem is, where is the mafia? I can’t just go on the street and ask whoever I see wearing black ‘excuse me, I want to know where the strongest mafia in Tang is. Can you please give me directions?’”
Sang Sang ignored Ning Que’s anger that stemmed from his embarrassment and said seriously, “Master, I understand that you feel really shameful, but we have to think of a way to make money. Otherwise let’s just go back to Wei City right now.”
“I said that if I don’t achieve something, I won’t go back, even on my life.” Ning Que replied.
At Mian Mountain, at Wei City, and at the Great Plains, no matter how hard the situation was, he and Sang Sang continued to live on. However, in this prosperous and developed Chang An, living became a serious problem to them. The lack of a penny could stump a hero, and it definitely gave the master and the maid headaches.
Ning Que’s eyes suddenly lit up, said, “I got an idea! Let’s sell salted eggs! No, actually Song flower eggs!”
Sang Sang frowned and repeated, “salted eggs?”
He smiled and said, “No doubt, the salted eggs I made were the most delicious at Tang.”
Sang Sang looked at him and spoke seriously, “The people in Wei City do not like to eat them and I also don’t like them. They are too bitter.”
Ning Que’s smile faded. He looked at the people walking under the rain and said with a pretentiously calm voice, “Actually, I am just joking.”
Sang Sang looked up at his lower jaw, hesitated for a long time, called up all of her courage and said, “Master, there is actually a really easy way to make money, but I am not sure if you want to do it.”
Ning Que turned his head and suddenly he felt that the maid’s little dark face became unprecedentedly beautiful. He said softly, “At this point, as long as we can make money, there is nothing I will not do.”
Sang Sang answered, “Master, you have such good handwriting. Let’s sell writings.”
Ning Que’s face suddenly stiffened, he looked at her and said seriously, “Sang Sang, you’ve become ugly.”
“What?” Sang Sang was confused.
Ning Que criticized angrily, “What do you mean sell my writing? It is called calligraphy! Do you understand calligraphy? How can one sell one’s scholarly things! I would rather sell my own body!”
Sang Sang shouted angrily, “Master, you are not a scholar, you are just a lumberjack. Don’t you often say that you are better at writing than killing? If you are willing to join the mafia, why can’t you just make money by selling words?”
Ning Que disputed weakly and diffidently, “I said it’s not called words, it is calligraphy.”
He looked down at his boots that were already dampened by the rains. He then looked at the words he just wrote using the black umbrella as a pen and the rain water as ink knowing that he had once again lost to his little maid.
The row of words he wrote using the rainwater was: Fear not of poverty, but of fierce maid.