There’s a Leader for the Elites
Wulun Hall was a study reserved for the Emperor and his vassals’ private conversations. The unwritten rule was the Emperor was the pugilistic world’s hero from back then when he was there. So accordingly, they could forego the formalities between monarchs and subjects when conversing there. It was also why the Emperor often reserved Wulun Hall for discussing business pertaining to the pugilistic world. Today was no exception.
The prime minister read out the report received from the returnees from Canhu Town then finished off with, “That, is the entire report. Vice-Captain Shen had the soldiers flee along a designated route, while she turned back to stall the enemies. Unfortunately, we do not know her whereabouts. Whether she is dead or alive… remains unknown. Abels also pursued our forces solo and robbed the presents for the Seven Champion White Princes.
“Unforgivable! That is unforgivable!”
Boss’ situation was unknown for two days before this all happened. Even if I was to rush there at this point, I had already missed out the prime time frame to rescue her. Moreover, I would have to plough through the Beijiang bandits who had a bone to pick with the Central Plain.
I slammed the table. Anxious, I fumed, “Abels, you piece of shit! Of all the times you could choose, you choose to rob us when Boss is on escort duty?! He must be picking a fight!”
Prime Minister Li Si touched his white beard: “I agree with you, Young Ming. Robbing an escort Captain Song and Vice-Captain Shen are escorting is blatantly challenging our authority. Should people learn of this, it would impact the imperial court’s reputation and likely encourage more brazen robberies. If they join forces with the four unorthodox factions, it will spell serious trouble. Your Majesty, please give the order to march and exterminate them.”
His Majesty: “Uh, you have a point…”
I raised a thumb: “You are on the money, Prime Minister! We need to send our army out! Evil Spirits have always disregarded everyone. They are ruthless and still practice a primitive slave system as they do in Beijiang despite being bandits. They have slaves serve them and treat them as goods, switching between slaves at their own leisure and killing them if they do not sell them. Their group often makes slaves out of skilled warriors. Given they trample on warriors’ pride, if they capture Boss Shen, she will suffer unspeakable torment.”
Knowing Boss Shen’s temperament, she’d bite her tongue before her first day as a slave came to an end. Besides that, there was also the concern of those Beijiang bastards getting aroused! I did plant a safety measure on her, but it wouldn’t activate unless she was close to dying. If she was defeated in battle, the internal energy I transferred into her subconscious would activate, granting her the ability to fight using my style of moulding energy and prioritise escape. If they drugged her or something, however, my insurance policy wouldn’t do anything.
Worried sick and unable to confirm Boss’ circumstance, I bit my thumbnail.
The Emperor: “Uh… uh… um…”
Secretary Zhang deliberated prudently before saying, “We do not know much about Evil Spirits, unfortunately. According to your subject’s knowledge, our three martial world offices have not crossed paths with them, either.”
The Qilin Guards and the Emperor’s Entourage’s representatives, Long Zaitian and Tie Hanyi, respectively, shook their heads.
“Intelligence on Evil Spirits’ is not difficult to find,” I chimed in. “They are one of the top bandit groups in this era. They are among the most fearsome groups when it comes to bandits ruling mountains and forests. Foreign kingdoms’ populations lowered their standing, but they cannot be underestimated. Their four sub-leaders, Mountain Monster, River Monster, Ox Demon and Feathered Serpent, are enough to give many pugilists a run for their money.
River Monster is a girl skilled at seducing people. It is said that her movement style is elusive, and she specialises in assassination. Not many people are aware she is actually a girl due to her mysterious nature. She is Abels’ top combatant. Mountain Monster is a broadsword wielder also specialising in disguise. He is a bloodthirsty maniac and kills as if he is striving to break a kill-count record. Ox Demon is another one of their formidable fighters who relies on his unreal brute force. In terms of combat style, he prefers to use wide swings and tight defence moves unlike Abels. Ox Demon should not be underestimated. As for Feathered Serpent, he is currently in our prison.
Abels is the most dangerous among them. He is a master of Beijiang’s imperial family’s martial arts style called Sun Ghost God Scripture. It is easy to learn but difficult to master. As the name suggests, once mastered, the practitioner will be able to produce five hundred kilograms of force with each blow. He is one of the current Supreme Ten Saints.
Their group will steal the most petty of things to robbing a kingdom. Beijiang’s power reins have been passed around once, and they played a part in making it a success. They gained infamy after the battle and became known as bandits who usurped the throne. The mere mention of their name could incite fear.”
“How are we going to go up against such a fierce enemy?”
“Regardless of how famous they may be, they are still bandits. It would be difficult to find a single martial arts school capable of dealing with them, but we have an army. As long as our forces can locate their den, eradicating them is not difficult.”
“Detailed and impressive!” applauded Secretary Lu, clapping her hands twice. Smiling cordially, she followed up with the question, “What sort of place would they hide in, then?”
I waved a hand: “They are used to living on the run. They do not mind how they disguise themselves. At the end of the day, they are bandits. In essence, they swoop in to steal and flee as soon as they hear enemies approaching. It is pointless to search for them in states or counties. You will only find them deep in unpopulated forests and mountains.”
Prime Minister Li Si stroked his beard: “What strategy do we use against them?”
I waved my arm in a big motion: “Emperor’s Entourage?!”
“Present?” responded Tie Hanyi, raising a hand.
“Take one hundred scouts. Split your group up to scout the mountains, swamps and eighteen caves by Taihu. In short, if you find a hole, pour scalding hot water in there three times!”
“Me?” asked Long Zaitian, bewildered.
“Send support. The Qilin Guards’ combat prowess is rather strong, so you will complement the Emperor’s Entourage perfectly. With one working in the shadows and one in the open, we will have better chances!”
Long Zaitian was in high spirits the moment he heard he was searching for Boss’ whereabouts. He thumped his chest: “Leave it to me. You can leave it all to me. I’ll pull together as many teams as you say.”
“What sort of comment is that? Take ten or eight teams. Turn the mountain, trees and shrubs upside down. There is no time to waste. Ministry of Military?!”
“Here, here, here!” responded Secretary Lie, raising his hand.
“Secretary Lie, send ten thousand men. Have someone you can trust stay on standby at Canhu Town. As soon as you pick up on anything suspicious, send your men in and annihilate them! If necessary, kill them before you see them!”
“Ministry of Justice?”
“Present,” responded Secretary Leng, stoic as ever.
“Evil Spirits have shown they have absolute no regard for the law this time. Add all of them to the wanted list of criminals in the martial world. You must add Abels’ portrait. Have all of the nation’s bounty hunters chase them at the same time we are hunting them. I want them suffering every day they are in the Central Plain!”
“That is wise… But I don’t know how he looks.”
“Hmph.” I took out a notebook from my shirt and said, “Abels’ portrait is in here. Find a skilled artist to copy it.”
Unable to watch on anymore, His Majesty spoke up: “Wait, Ming Feizhen… don’t you think you are a bit t(oo)-“
“Your Majesty!” I cut in and shot the Emperor a displeased glare: “This is extremely serious. Do you think your subject is right or not?!”
“… You are.”
“Then, what are you waiting for?! Pass down the edict! The water is at neck level!”
The Emperor shot me a glare whilst gnashing his teeth furtively. Speaking with his teeth clenched, he said, “… Get down from my throne first.”
I looked down to see I was sitting on the Emperor’s throne and slamming his gavel, acting as if my heart was broken and eager to save my vassal. You could say I resembled an Emperor more than he did. At some point, I was so riled up I ended up taking the Emperor’s throne. I was so worried about Boss that I started playing master of Night Fortress without realising it… I looked across the room to see the prime minister and secretaries going along with me before with their eyes bulging. Tie Hanyi and Long Zaitian looked at me as if they were looking at a freak.
The Western Region’s beauty, Secretary Lu, had a reputation for being bold. She stared straight at me as if she wanted to skin me… Fuck, I even mistook my Black and White Reflection magazine for an art book and threw it. I felt awkward as I watched the secretaries check out the magazine that recorded what happened before Fuma Jingan won the tournament. Thank heavens we weren’t in the conference hall or the imperial study, or my head would roll. I was lucky the Emperor also had many things on his mind and had no energy to spare on fussing over my mistake.
I hurriedly stepped down and went to stand next to Long Zaitian. The Emperor shot me several glares before sitting down. He then had a brief discussion with the prime minister and secretaries.
Secretary Zhang, who never crossed paths with me, surprisingly said, “Head Constable Ming’s suggestions are realistic and practical, especially in regards to the search and investigation format. Your subject cannot come up with anything better.”
Prime Minister Li Si: “The three law enforcement offices for the martial world are the experts when it comes to the pugilistic world’s affairs. Your Majesty, you would probably gain more seeking the opinion of the three.”
Thus, the Emperor sought Tie Hanyi and Long Zaitian’s input. In the end, they reached the same conclusion I did.
Unable to accept I was correct, the Emperor hesitantly questioned, “But… is there any point in painting a portrait of Abels? I doubt any bounty hunter would dare to try and capture one of the Ten Supreme Saints.”
“Hehe, Your Majesty, your subject has an idea.” I leaned forward and recommended, “You can pass the job on to the League of Assassins. Did they not accept jobs to kill our men? You can get back at them. Their assassins will die trying. First, that will deal a blow to the League of Assassins’ forces. Second, you will thin out Abels’ forces. You will even have saved yourself the trouble of finding Abels. That is three birds with one stone!”
Secretaries: “That is brilliant!”