Chapter 13 “The mysterious Events of the Rowling Ancestral Residence”
The Rowling family’s home inherited from his ancestors were located on southwestern reaches of the Rowling Prairie. A tributary of the Rowling River passed through this place. The land was fertile and several farm villages and even towns were established in these parts.
This was the origin of the Rowling family. A few hundred years back when their ancestors were but a small noble with a plot of land, this here was the spot where their bloodline began.
The carriage crossed a forest of black trees, the greenery lush and the air fresh. Following an even path, one can see a little hill on the left and a high tower on the right. That was the Rowling’s manor.
After several hundred years of glory, the small village no longer existed. The manor was also reconstructed countless times and its size grew considerably, a red stone wall embracing a castle. The castle was built using white colored stones mined from the hill. It was said that there once stood a small mountain to the left, but after several hundred years of mining, that small mountain now became nothing but a hill.
The arrival of the eldest son of the chief of the family naturally received much attention. The Rowling family’s private army, three hundred soldiers, who guarded the castle put on their shiny equipment and waited under the red wall in tight formation. The arched entrance gave Du Wei a feeling of vigor, and he could see this wall becoming a solid defense when needed.
The three hundred soldiers demonstrated qualities of abundant training. Riding on their horses with a straight back, they showed adept riding skills. Their equipment was also of fine quality. What Du Wei didn’t know was that these soldiers were selected from the various private armies throughout the Rowling Prairie and only the most elite would be chosen. They were well trained and could even rival the local garrison of the empire.
The black forest outside the castle was a natural hunting ground. Hunting events were held annually, which was also a type of training for the soldiers.
The castle’s main body consisted of two towers, one taller than the other. It’s even taller than that hill. Du Wei knew from learning his family’s history that there was once a weird chief of the Rowling family. Even though he’s a general, he was especially interested in Star Reading Techniques for he even married a famous astrologer at the time. That taller tower was built for his wife so she could better observe the sky.
Red carpet spanned from the door of the castle to Du Wei’s carriage. When Du Wei was about to get off his carriage, a silver haired elderly man came up to address him. The old man had a slender build, dressed in a charcoal formal suit, acted old fashioned and serious.
As Du Wei stepped on the ground, the old man bowed deeply and spoke with a deep slow voice, “Young master, I am the butler, Hill Rowling. I received news about your coming three days prior. Everyone in this castle had made preparations to welcome you. Please follow me.”
Then the old butler led Du Wei up the stairs. His etiquettes were flawless, humble yet not flattering. While Du Wei was walking on the red carpet, this old butler carefully walked along the side to let Du Wei be the sole benefactor of this grandiose experience.
The first impression inside the castle was the big flag hanging on the wall. The flag was about eight by six meters, almost enough to cover the entire wall. This was a flag of the family’s emblem. The flag gave this castle a solemn feel to it.
All the servants and maids were standing on the sides of the lobby in uniforms to welcome him. Though Du Wei weren’t interested in this weird “inspectionary” routine, he nodded casually and said to the butler in a low voice, “Mr. Butler, will you lead me to my reading room now? And everyone else, please go back to your work.”
Butler Hill followed Du Wei’s order precisely. Soon enough, Du Wei was led to a reading room. Well, Du Wei was more willing to call this place a library then a room, its ginormous.
The room was circular by design – even the ceiling was rounded – and decorative carvings were etched along the wall. On the sides were statues, most of them were ancestors who expressed excellence in their life. Surrounding the room were huge shelves. These shelves were two stories tall and filled with books. Du Wei roughly calculated the number of books, should be no less than tens of thousands. There were also many metallic cabinets used to store important stuff, such as the family tree or important files.
As a family that gained their power through battle merits, even the reading room gave off the scent of a warrior. A two handed sword and a huge axe hung on the wall across the entrance. One side of the wall had shelves displaying various weapons, though most of them archaic.
Du Wei was attracted by these weapons. He could see these antiques were maintained very well.
“These were the weapons of the family’s ancestors.” The butler’s voice came from behind. “These weapons are a record of their glory.”
Du Wei touched the desk softly and looked around. He could see everything was carefully cleaned and maintained, yet traces of age were obvious. Even the desk under his hand was probably older than the butler.
“This room used to be the center of the family’s politics where the chiefs of the family ruminated and made decisions. Every piece here carried the traces of those glorious days. Although the decision making room had since moved to the imperial capital, according to family tradition, every chief that comes back to this castle must spend their first night in this room so he wouldn’t forget the family’s glorious history and his responsibility.”
The butler looked at Du Wei then lowered his head, “You are the eldest son of the current chief. You came here for inspection on his behalf. Then will you…”
Du Wei nodded his head cooperatively, “Traditions are traditions and must be followed. I am no exception. Even though I am not the chief, but as his eldest son and coming here on his behalf, I will follow the tradition and spend the night here.”
The butler’s expression and voice softened, “I will have the servants prepare. Well then… I know you are here to inspect on the businesses in the territory. Where do you wish to begin your work? I already have the income and expense accounts prepared. When will you start reading these? Or do you want to wait…”
Du Wei interrupted him with a smile. Casually walking past the desk, he sat down behind it and said, “Mr. Butler, I am feeling hungry after the long journey. Please prepare me some food. Then I will start looking through the things you prepared.”
Soon enough, Du Wei enjoyed a very traditional afternoon tea. Just as he was finishing up a pumpkin pie, butler Hill directed two strong servants into the room. The servants were pushing a cart with a mountain load of books.
“These are all this year’s accounts?” Du Wei frowned, suspicious that the butler was messing with him.
“Young master, indeed they are.” The butler said seriously. “These data included the land size of the family territory, size of farmable land, the accounts of six towns, military expenses of three private armies stationed across the territory, harvests, construction budgets, and even some budgeting I done for the next year.”
Du Wei touched his nose and looked at this mountain of books, “… are they all here?”
“This is only part of them, and the rest…” The butler sounded a little less serious for once. “I think you will need a week for the rest.
Du Wei frowned and silently inspected the butler.
This old butler doesn’t seem to be joking. Was he really that naive to think a thirteen year old boy like him can understand all these accounts? Does he think a boy can be responsible for all the family’s businesses? Then he must know I was sent here as banishment. So what was his purpose for doing this? Was he dissatisfied with me, afraid that I would take away his authority in this castle? Or did he cheat from the family’s businesses and wanted to slip away by fooling me?
Everything seems like a possibility.
Du Wei didn’t say anything, nor bring up any of his doubts. He took an accounts book from the top and started rummaging through it.
After a while, he raised his head and saw the butler was still at the side.
“Oh, Mr. Butler do you still have something to say to me?” Du Wei acted carelessly and spoke with a mild tone, “I don’t like people at my side when I’m reading.”
“Yes, master.” Butler Hill showed a hint of surprise. He opened his mouth as though to say something, but then turned around and left with the servants.
After the door to the reading room was shut, Du Wei places the book down and walked a few steps around the room. Muttering to himself with a smile, “Perhaps, there’s really something worth expecting here.”
For the rest of the day, the butler came over twice. Once to refill Du Wei’s tea and the second to bring him candles after nightfall. To butler Hill’s surprise, this young master was really reading those accounts. And it’s not acting but for real! After the old butler lit the candles, Du Wei casually asked some questions about the accounts, and those questions really got to the point. This proved the young master wasn’t fooling around.
Is… is this really the retarded young master mentioned in the letter from the imperial capital?
Even though the butler tried to hide his expression, Du Wei still caught wind of that surprise. After the butler left the room, he finished the last page in his hand.
These accounts were interesting.
Du Wei spent a whole evening on these accounts, but he didn’t really look at those numbers, nor was he interested in seeing whether these accounts were real or fake. After all, he’s not a genius and it wasn’t possible for someone who had no knowledge of businesses to see anything wrong.
Perhaps no one would ever know that Du Wei was reading the accounts with a different method.
Who said that accounts could only record financial expenditures? At least Du Wei learned a lot from them! And these things were not recorded in the family’s history.
Through the contents in these accounts, Du Wei got a grasp of how much the Rowling family had control over their territory. The Rowling family had their own ruling system and even a fair amount of freedom from the empire. They had the power to decide on the final taxes and nominate local officials. Even though the empire’s tax rates were fixed, they had their means of manipulating it by submitting a proportion of their taxes to the empire’s financial center annually.
And in military power, you could see from the military expenditures in the accounts that the empire only had a small army garrisoned on this land. Two military reserves were garrisoned on the edge of the land, and more importantly, their supplies and gears were provided by the Rowling family. The Rowling’s private army maintained law and order in most part of the land here.
Du Wei easily got a hold of the family’s current situation in economics, politics, and military through these books. Perhaps if the butler were to see that he could understand these accounts his eyes would widen in disbelief.
Du Wei confirmed two points: First, through taxation, the family had total control over this place; second, it was also true in the military aspects.
From what Du Wei learned from the other world, there’s an important fact: a country’s control over its territory was reflected upon taxation and military. And these were controlled by the Rowling family! What did this signify?
That the empire had lost control of this territory, half of the Kurt Province. This place had almost become an independent kingdom within the empire.
Du Wei leaned on the sofa and ruminated, he’s surprised by the current situation. Because when a country’s political power was losing authority, it’s usually the prelude of war.
Du Wei just sat there for a while. The room was silent with the occasional crackling sound from the candles. Then he stood up abruptly. Turning around, he stared at the wall behind him. By the wall were shelves filled with books, nothing seemed special.
Yet Du Wei felt there was something oddly special about that area… He’s not wrong; he felt something a moment ago.
Because Du Wei had a higher magic pool and spiritual power than the average person, he’s more sensitive to his surroundings. And just a moment ago, he felt that someone was secretly looking at him. As if a line of vision came from an unknown and hidden corner, the foe was silently staring at him.c
There’s nothing wrong with the shelves. Du Wei moved his eyes up higher. Above the shelves were portraits. These portraits lined across the top. Their age varied from many decades ago to the most recent. They were the portraits of all the chiefs in the Rowling family’s history.
The first one on the left seemed to age the most. The person was in an army uniform. He was that marshal whom won the war for the empire and won the Rowling Prairie. He looked vigorous, and those eyes had the same grimness and firmness similar to Earl Raymond. It seemed as if those eyes were looking at Du Wei.
Du Wei took a few steps backward. Then walking left and right while staring at that portrait, he laughed and sighed before muttering to himself, “Perhaps I am too sensitive… It’s just a portrait.”
Turning around to pick up another account book, it was then the portrait of that marshal behind him blinked!
Yes, a person in a portrait blinked, those eyes that kept staring at Du Wei blinked! The still eyes that originally belonged to a portrait acted as they were given life. They looked at Du Wei with a sense of curiosity.
At the same moment, Du Wei turned around abruptly. Staring at the portrait, the path of their sights crossed.
“Stop trying to hide. I know you are looking at me.” Du Wei raised his hand. He was holding a silver spoon, the one that he used for the pumpkin pie. The spoon shined just like a mirror!
“You were looking at me, and I was looking at you through this. You don’t have to camouflage anymore. Don’t you know it’s rude to peep behind someone?”
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