Editor: Areth Kyntaul
Hmm~ Something’s Strange
They refused to speak, at first. However, after three of them turned into puff pastry and another four turned into Indian naan bread, I began searching for a wooden rod to prepare to make chrysanthemum lamb skewers. Finally, they submitted.
It turned out that they were just a band of thugs that were bullying people in the Capital. In particular here in Bright.
I can’t say that there was no evil they didn’t commit, but they scammed people, and merchants, every day and bullied the simple people.
After doing it for a long time, they became a famous band of thugs in this place, known as the Contribution Gang. However, the name was too hard to pronounce, so they called them the Salted Fish Gang.
I demanded that they removed the black cloth covering their faces.
All of them were pale and thin. It was as though they lived from meal to meal. I also discerned that their internal energy was very poor early on. They were virtually the same as the average man.
It appears they were just ordinary thugs.
It’s too conspicuous with this many of them, so I arrested just their leader and had the rest of them run along.
I sat in front of the building they had hidden in before and made their leader my leg rest, like a big boss. Owing to my legs being relatively long and heavy, the fatty’s head kept dropping down after I put my legs up.
It wasn’t very long before his face went red since he couldn’t handle it.
“I ask one question; you reply with one sentence. What’s your name?”
“My surname is Yan. My family used to sell vegetables at a stall. I studied for two years, and the teacher gave me my name Xianyu.”
“Your name is Pickled Salted Fish?!”
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” The fatty was elated, “That was my name. My family used to sell salted fish!”
Only now did I finally scan this guy properly. His voice sounded like he was a forty or fifty-year-old man, when I last heard it. However, now that I’ve seen him, he looks like he’s in his mid-thirties. He’s fat, but not the type of rich fatty who ate his way to a white plump body. This guy is relatively more similar to the type of fatty butchering pork in the markets. It makes sense, for a fatty like him to be the leader of an underground gang.
‘I’m just surprised that you dare to play gangster when your name is so tragic. No wonder why you’re still a small-time gang.’
He titled his thick neck and laughed, “Sir, Sir, place it well. Please do not kick me. I am fine with being hurt, but it would be bad if you got tired.”
“I won’t kick you or turn you into a chrysanthemum lamb skewer, as long as you answer my questions properly.” I then narrowed my eyes and supported my chin with one hand. I put on the terrifying face of an antagonist and asked, “Who order you to come after me?”
“Oh, man. It angers me whenever I think about it!” Pickled Salted Fish almost leapt up when I mentioned it, but since my legs were on his head, he couldn’t do so much as budge. He revealed an even more frightened look.
He gulped his saliva and explained, “Somebody came to me last night and gave me ten silver ingots. He said he wanted my gang to go and capture someone for him, and that he would pay over ten times the amount if we succeeded. I thought that we’d be able to find the target for sure, because we know Bright Lane best. Hence, I accepted the job. But I never expected I’d be capturing you! If I had known you were a hero, I wouldn’t have done it even if he paid ten times the amount!”
“Piss off! That’s because you can’t beat me!”
‘If there really was a hundred times the original amount to make, I’d just cooperate with you and then we’d split among ourselves after.’
He sobbed as he said, “We were just doing what we were paid to do. We never planned to harm you. Look at us, Sir; none of us were armed. We all came empty-handed.”
That was true. The gang was so poor that they couldn’t afford food, so, naturally, they couldn’t afford weapons. But…
“You think I didn’t see you holding bricks?!” I gave him a kick.
He cried out loudly in pain. I then asked, “Do you know who he was or his background?”
“No!” After having his head kicked, he shouted as if he was wronged, “Hero, if I knew who he was, I’d gather my men and go settle this score with him! The man played me. Ten silver ingots to die?!”
I could understand that…
I kept asking, but I couldn’t get any clues. The person who gave him the job was very careful and didn’t leave any clues which would expose him. I couldn’t find any clues.
After some careful deliberation, I thought of one more question worth asking.
“Oh, right, have you seen this thing?”
I took out the painting of Lord San Shen I took from the book before.
The fatty got frightened. He shouted as if he was butchering pork, “Motherfucker! Is that Zhong Kui thrown into a small oven?!”
‘Fuck… He wouldn’t be that dark, would he?!!’
“Think carefully. Have you seen this before?”
“No! Honestly, no! Oh, there seems to be somebody selling paintings recently, but people like us… You get it… Hehe, porn, yes, but we’re not interested in these.”
I believe that. After all, I was far more interested in the porn than these tattered sheets of paper.
“Oh, there is something!”
“What?! Hurry and tell me!”
“Ow, ow, ow! Sir, stop! Stop. I will tell you. Aside from us, he also enlisted the services of many other local gangs. He wanted us to capture you but gave a special condition. He said that we were not to take action, as long as you were with the pretty girl from before.”
‘That makes sense. You think you stinking shrimps could touch a hair on the princess?’
Not to be a chatterbox, but Princess Hongzhuang can be considered above the average skilled female fighters. Abbess Bailou didn’t hold back, teaching her diligently to mould her into such an outstanding fighter. Abbess Bailou has already passed on to her seventy or eighty percent of her skills. As a matter of fact, I’m afraid that she’s stronger than Tang Ye. There shouldn’t be many in the Seventeen Hidden Dragons that could defeat her.
The next thing he said, however, concerned me.
“But then he said that if you two never separated, then have a gang go after the girl and lead her away.”
‘He said that?’
“Come with me. Stay quiet.” I grabbed Pickled Salted Fish, as soon as the thought came to mind.
Like a gust of wind, I ran in the direction Princess Hongzhuang had gone. Nobody here recognises me, so I don’t need to be concerned about them seeing me take off.
Pickled Salted Fish seemed as though he’d never seen Qinggong like this, shocking his soul out of his body.
The path the Princess took led to another dead end in an alley. I changed directions, but then we ran into another dead end in an alley.
I went deep into the alley where light didn’t reach, but still didn’t find her…
‘Don’t tell me…’ I checked my surroundings.
A light was suddenly emitted in front of my eyes. I noticed a red bead that resembled a piece of glass overhead. The bead was the one on the Princess’s clothes! I carefully checked to find that a fight did take place here and it was a one-sided victory.
‘How can that be possible?! How could she have lost to these small-time thugs with her skills?’
“Oh my, there was a fight here. It looks like it was intense, too. Fufufu, those thugs are famous for not knowing how to cherish a beauty. If they’ve captured her, she may already…”
I lifted him up and aggressively exclaimed, “Do you know which gang was in charge of going after her?”
“I-It was the Evil Bandits Gang.”
“Hurry up and take me to them!”
I suddenly noticed a number of eyes on me, as I began to move.
‘Enemy attack? ‘
I didn’t engage them, but they didn’t seem to take any action. I pressed my hand onto Pickled Salted Fish and moulded energy to enhance my hearing.
I heard one behind the roof, three at the corner and one behind a house. There was a total of five of them and they all possessed profound internal energy.
The five of them were watching, but they had no killing intent. Rather than say they were preparing to attack me, it was more like they were keeping surveillance on me.
I hissed, “Something’s strange!”
I suddenly felt that the entire incident was very odd.
First, we found those weird paintings of Lord San Shen. Then the paintings of Ximen Chuideng showed up in the world, out of the blue. Then there was the mysterious Lord San Shen X Ximen Chuideng… And then there was the person hiring gangs to come after me and capture the Princess and the people keeping surveillance on me.
There seems to be more than just one team behind the scenes.
I calmed myself down and threw Pickled Salted Fish onto the ground. I then took out the book of paintings in my shirt. I looked over the drawings in detail. Thin slanted lines and evenly distributed ink. That’s very similar to someone… I compared it to Ximen Chuideng’s painting. It was evident that the two painting styles were different.
Ximen Chuideng’s painting, Lord San Shen’s strange painting and the people after me, including the Salted Fish Gang…
I slowly shut the book. Things aren’t as simple as they appear to be on the surface.
Inside and outside the courtyard of a large and extremely luxurious manor in the capital.
The new master of the Gold and Silver Sect, Jin Wangsun sat quietly at the study table inside the hall. With a pen in his hand, he was trying to calm himself down as he painted.
The highest ranking servant in his clan was currently reporting to him. His tone sounded malicious, which was completely unlike Jin Wangsun.
“Young Master, that punk is extremely arrogant to go out of the palace with the Princess in private. We have hired a few people. He will die, sooner or later, when they go after him one by one.”
“Are you so sure?”
He applied lip makeup as he spoke, not even sparing the servant a look. Jin Wangsun was dressed as a bright scholar today. His look for today was high spirits and radiance, which was totally unlike the look he had on the day he was in the palace.
People knew that the man referred to as Jiangnan’s King of Sabres, was a highly-skilled martial artist, but they didn’t know that he was good at painting. He was brilliant at painting, as well as martial arts.
Jin Wangsun never shifted his gaze away from the sheet of paper for a second. The way he used the brush in his hand was akin to wielding a supreme precious sabre in his hands. His made countless strokes, but they were amazing.
Jin Wangsun was a famous refined young master in Jiangnan. He was skilled in music, chess, literacy and drawing. If it wasn’t for his fame with the sabre being too overwhelming, he would be renowned for his penmanship in Jiangnan.
“I heard that the punk’s martial arts are negligible, and he only gets favoured at Liu Shan Men thanks to his background. Those gangsters may lack skills, but they have numbers. A strong man cannot overcome numbers, just as a tiger cannot defeat a pack of wolves. Further, they are all willing to work for money, so they will not expose you.”
“Uhm. Not bad. You’ve improved a little.”
Jin Wangsun didn’t stop moving the brush, as he spoke.
“I have found the most famous, Evil Bandit Gang. They are the most skilled.”
“What did you do about the Princess?”
The servant suddenly felt worried after he finished reporting. Jin Wangsun’s gaze, which was as sharp as a blade, swept over, causing him to feel suffocated.
“You said you got somebody to go after the Princess? I didn’t mishear you, did I?”
“Y-Young Master, please calm down! Although I do not know the gang well, I have done my research. Her Highness is extremely skilled. In the pugilistic world, they refer to her with the honoured title ‘Blood-Stained Glass’. Those gangsters would only be able to stall her for a while. There is no way they can hurt Her Highness.”
“Hmph! That best be the case! If the Princess suffers any harm, you wouldn’t be able to compensate with your entire family’s life!”
“Yes! Yes! I hope so!”
Jin Wangsun turned back to look at his painting.
“However, that punk asked the Princess out on a date and dared to compete with me for the Fuma seat… Indeed, he cannot be spared.”
He frowned with anger and then shook his brush. The white sheet of paper emitted a distinct murderous intent.
“Pass on my orders, hire another ten people. Make sure he can’t make it home. If he does, make sure he can’t stand up!”
*Contribution Gang and Salty Fish, what’s going on here?
It’s homophones at play again. 献余 is his name, 咸鱼 means salty fish. They’re pronounced the exact same way. So that’s that. Now Pickled Salted Fish. His last name is 言 meaning word/speak, which sounds the exact same as 腌 which means “pickled”, and hence MFZ understands 言献余 as 腌咸鱼.
I have no idea how to replicate that into English.
**Zhong Kui: a figure of Chinese mythology. Traditionally regarded as a vanquisher of ghosts and evil beings, and reputedly able to command 80,000 demons.
Editor’s note; He’s also ugly as hell. No, seriously. Go look it up. And, in case you still miss the joke, the painting was done in charcoal; hence the small oven. If you don’t get it by now, I can’t help and I doubt Wu Jizun can either… Good luck.