Gaily Dressed Girl. Entering a Mystery.
After bidding Princess Jingan farewell, I exited the city; then found a secluded and quiet spot.
I wanted to finish the preparations for the fuma selection as soon as possible. There were only ten days left until the event. I was roughly seventy, eighty percent confident that I could triumph in the three contests that the Emperor had chosen. However, that didn’t mean that I could sit on my laurels and still win.
We weren’t told what the “to be determined” topic was, while the remaining two were peculiar. Although they were related to martial arts skills, as well, to be honest, defeating Jin Wangsun while hiding my skills in front of the Emperor was a tall order.
The first topic was ‘shining edge’. As the name suggests, it was a weaponry combat contest. Besides requiring us to demonstrate martial arts proficiency, we also needed a quality weapon. Jin Wangsun was lauded as Jiangnan’s Sabre King. Though his skills were far from qualifying as a Sabre King, he did possess genuine skills. Further, his family had a weaponry workshop; hence, he didn’t have just one blade on him.
I had considered stealing a few of his weapons. Tiger Fang, which was wielded by his broadsword expert, A Hu, was a quality blade that could didn’t pale in comparison to any of the supreme weapons. However, I scrapped the idea in the end, as all famous blades in the pugilistic world had their own origins. Hence, they couldn’t be faked. If nothing else, Tiger Fang had been mentioned in the Black and White Reflection on more than one occasion, meaning that it was a famous weapon.
Jin Wangsun had his own men; therefore, there was the off chance that Gold and Silver Sect might’ve marked their weapons with their unique symbol to avoid losing their weapons. That, alone, was enough of a reason to dissuade me from stealing his weapons.
Mount Daluo certainly had weapons. Nevertheless, I never learnt styles involving weapons; consequently, I never paid any attention to them. I, therefore, didn’t know if there were any good weapons at Mount Daluo. Shiyi, on the other hand, was well-versed in all eighteen weapon types. But alas, with her suave personality and dislike for burdens, she whinged that carrying a weapon with her all the time was just dead weight, literally. Whenever she entered combat, she’d pick up whatever was available within the vicinity. Worst comes to worst, she didn’t have to be concerned about tackling opponents with her bare hands, since she had learnt Mount Daluo’s Five Divine Styles and Heavenly Net Treasure. Subsequently, I needed to find myself a weapon on par with Tiger Fang to compete against Jin Wangsun.
The second round of the contest was ‘thousand miles’, a contest where we were to search for a rare object within a thousand miles, and bring it back for the Emperor. The further the object was located and the rarer it was, the more points would be assigned. Obviously, the one with more points assigned would be deemed the victor. The round was a contest of manpower and resources. Gold and Silver Sect was a wealthy family in Jiangnan. You’d be hard-pressed to name a rare object that they couldn’t get their hands on.
I wasn’t afraid of fighting Jin Wangsun one on one, but frankly, the two aforementioned contests were all subtly in Jin Wangsun’s favour. I, initially, didn’t realise it, but now that I thought about, I’d bet my head that it was Jingan’s idea. That lass would definitely support him in such a roundabout way. I just didn’t know what the last contest ‘to be determined’ was.
I stayed at a place outside the city for three entire days to prepare for the contest before returning to Liu Shan Men.
As soon as I entered the doors of Liu Shan Men, there was a strange atmosphere lingering in the air, but I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly it was. As a quick summary, everybody walked around with their hands down. My comrades, who usually greeted me, checked left and right. They were either had something holding them up or were busily heading somewhere.
‘It’s just a greeting! Just how busy can you be?! You, messenger boy, you still haven’t left when the sun is at its peak; just how busy could you be?!!’
When I got to the side yard, I caught sight of Su Xiao leading a small team out.
“Xiao, are you going out on patrol?”
I raised a hand to greet him, only for him to pout sideways. With a, “hmph,” he looked away and led the team out.
Bewildered, I chased after them, “Hey! Wait. What’s going on here?”
Su Xiao wore high boots on his straight and slender legs, yet the boots had the vibe of dance shoes. When he saw me give chase, he suddenly halted in his tracks, leading to me nearly colliding with him. He, too, jolted due to me appearing up close so abruptly, but I caught him in time.
To my surprise, Su Xiao shook my hold off, “I-I’m not careful, beat it! It’s none of my business even if I die!”
“Just what is the going on here?’
“What is going on, you ask?” fumed Su Xiao. “Mr. Ming! You don’t even know about the unscrupulous deed you committed?! Is there a need for you to ask the obvious?! Hmph!”
With a flick of his hip, he turned around and left.
‘What in the world is going on here?!’
After I strolled through the entirety of Liu Shan Men, I gradually noticed that they didn’t just avoid me, but basically despised me.
‘God, you’ve got me spinning. Have you mistaken me for someone else?’
‘Tang Ye was the one who gave Jin Wangsun a green hat and bedded the man’s fiancée, not me!’
The atmosphere in Liu Shan Man was truly bewildering.
Even my loudmouth second brother had a cold and sounded husky. True, his cold did have to do with him getting drunk then sleeping naked on a cold night on the streets, but it was still perplexing. The heavy atmosphere was weird, but I couldn’t put my finger on what the trigger was. It was similar to… feeling as if someone would push you from behind while you were urinating down the edge of a cliff.
‘It’s only been a few nights since I was last in. Just what exactly happened?’
I headed to my room… Man, I didn’t get any sleep for several nights again. It seemed as though sleep and I didn’t mesh recently. If it wasn’t Su Xiao moving in, it was Princess Hongzhuang taking my bed, consequently robbing me of a peaceful night of sleep.
‘Man, I miss the good old days when Boss was around. If Boss Shen was here, you two girls… a girl and a Su Xiao wouldn’t be able to bully me out of my bed.’
I didn’t see any traces of Princess Hongzhuang anywhere. Perhaps it was inconvenient for her to stay with just Su Xiao when I was out, and thus, went somewhere else. I pushed the door open and walked straight over to my bed.
Suddenly, my nose picked up a faint sweet scent. It didn’t seem to be Su Xiao’s scent or the perfume Her Highness liked to use, but it was a familiar scent, nevertheless.
My curiosity was piqued all of a sudden. I strolled over to the bed and pulled open the curtain. On my small bed, lied a pretty, small, delicate young girl with youthful white shoulders. She lied face down on the bed. Her attractive long hair covered a small portion of her face, but left enough visible to see her face. Her face was pretty; she had red lips and white teeth. She looked younger than sixteen year old Su Xiao by several years. She was the assassin I ran into at Heavenly Fragrance Garden, Sisi.
‘She tried to kill me last time, but was exposed by me. She shouldn’t be coming after me so soon; why is she on my bed, and asleep for that matter?’
I seemingly heard a sound. The girl, who resembled a purring kitten, wasn’t asleep. She vigilantly raised her head up, turned her head around and glanced at me. Realising it was me who entered, she reacted with shock.
“Wh-Why are you here?”
I was unable to withhold my chuckle, “This is my room, yet you’re asking me that?”
I took two steps forward. Sisi struggled with her entire body, seemingly in an attempt to flee. Unfortunately, she couldn’t move. When I had a closer look, I realised that she was restrained with a thin rope, thereby totally restricting her movements. She wasn’t sleeping on my bed, but forced to wait on my bed.
“You… you shameless lecher!” exclaimed Sisi. With a flushed look, she yelled, “You used Liu Shan Men’s authority to abduct me from Heavenly Fragrance Garden after my assassination attempt failed! You know well and truly that I am not a girl working at Heavenly Fragrance Garden, yet shamelessly violated me! You bring shame to your exalted name in the martial world!”
*All units of measurement in the series have been converted to units you, readers, are more familiar with. For instance, all the phrases using incense as measures of time have been converted.