I Am Extolled
“Teacher Li, how did you end up getting into a fight when I had left for only a moment?”
“It’s not as though I wanted to fight with them…”
I nodded: “Leave it to me.”
Su Xiao was still thumping my chest from my arms. That combined with his drunken look resulted in our people calling me a creep with their gazes and the opposition ridiculing me…
I’m getting tired of those looks! Would I have to put on this act if it wasn’t for you?! How was I supposed to predict you’d destroy the roof during the brief window I went to collect intelligence?! Had I returned a tad later, this inn would be on fire!
We engaged in an eye-contact exchange, surveying one another, albeit their disciples checking out my third mistress. I couldn’t blame them; I mean, look at him. To my chagrin, he refused to stay in role and persisted he was a male even though there was a lot on the line. Ever since hearing Su Xiao declare he was a man, Young Master Ling stared intently at the former.
In the voice of a stuck-up young master, I scorned, “Hmph, never seen such a pretty boy, have you?”
Those behind me: “Shameless bastard.”
Shut up! This is all for the bigger picture, right, Ye Luo?! Hey, stop pretending! I heard a girl’s voice, and you’re the only girl in our group!
Young Master Ling was the only one who didn’t hesitate to voice his opinion: “Rosy lips, white pearls, delicate and unblemished skin, curvaceous hips and slender thighs, nice. What a rare catch, indeed. You picked up the entire package. You have my admiration.”
Oi, oi, oi, Professional, don’t scare me! Aren’t you Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary’s Young Master Ling? Since when did you guys start raising gigolos?! Wait… I heard the next successor refused to marry, let alone have children, when he’s already twenty or thirty. Don’t tell me it’s you! Oh, I get it now. I was befuddled why a thirty year old man who was never part of Demon Sect or never had to fill in as a Fuma for somebody else!
Shit me, I just discovered a secret of the martial world at the inn! Oh, I don’t see any junior sisters with him, either. Yep, it’s confirmed. He’s gay! Control your eyes! You’re scaring Su Xiao! Oh, don’t lick your lips! Last chance before I hit you!
Elder Shou cleared his throat and brought the conversation back on topic: “Pleased to make your acquaintance, Young Master Zhong. May this old one ask what you are going to Huzhou for? What might it be that you hired the escort for?”
“That’s what you wanted to know?” I waved a hand: “The carriage is actually empty.”
The various groups were alarmed after hearing my response. I elaborated, “The real job is to escort this one and his third mistress!”
I saw stupefied looks flit across faces. Lie Shang asked, “She’s okay. I mean, she’s still worth it, but why would you be worth dirt? Why do you need bodyguards?”
I rolled my shoulders forward: “I am an exalted individual. My clan is influential and our business is colossal, yet I am the only successor. It’s tough being tall, handsome and rich. Please don’t hold it against me, escort team.”
“Your clan is influential, and your business is colossal? What does your family do for business?”
I was going to blow my trumpet louder, but Emperor Yuansheng used ventriloquism to tell me, “Hey, uh, Young Ming… can I have a word with you…?”
I released Su Xiao and rested an arm on His Majesty’s shoulder: “Teacher Li, feel free to speak.”
Emperor Yuansheng fought tooth and nail to maintain his smile. Continuing with ventriloquism, he worriedly inquired, “Young Ming, they are all adepts in the martial world. Are you sure you can handle this?”
I draped my arm over Emperor Yuansheng’s neck and pulled him in. With a delighted look on my face, I replied, “What other choice do you have? You have torn the roof down. We can only take it step by step now.”
“You need help?”
“I do. Please lend me something.”
Emperor Yuansheng passed me what I asked for. After stealing a glance at the people behind me, he worriedly reminded me, “Keep the bragging reasonable.”
“Don’t worry. I have worked as a reliable professional for twenty years already,” I said as I waved my hand. I took a step forward and declared, “My Zhong Clan’s business has branches at every place in the nation. I can’t explain the intricacy and scale in a few meagre sentences. Just bear in mind that I am an exalted individual.”
I reached into my shirt and pulled out a perfect, legendary luminous pearl the size of an egg. Emperor Yuansheng prepared it and similar precious items as gifts to ask Luo Sword Manor to succour. The pearl was enough to buy any mansion along Vermillion Street in the capital. If it was used for business, you could buy an entire street.
The various sects could tell the pearl was worth a lot of money, helping me convince them I was wealthy. Elder Shou, nevertheless, stroked his beard and expressed, “Zhong Clan, Zhong Clan… Which Zhong Clan in Luoyang might that be? This old one heard there are many wealthy clans in Luoyang, but the wealthiest clan is Huang Clan. This old one has not heard of Zhong Clan being extraordinarily wealthy.”
Lie Shang laughed: “Exposed! Huang Clan is the richest clan in the entire nation. Don’t tell me your clan is even richer than theirs.”
“Did you listen to what I said? I said I am the wealthiest young master; I never said we were the wealthiest in Luoyang. Huang Clan’s daughter is the only one who married into the palace as a concubine. Their male descendant is only ten; you think he can match me?”
Elder Shou followed up: “Who is your clan’s current patriarch, Young Master Zhong? This old one has not heard of your clan.”
My eyes darted side to side as I scoured my brain for a response. I calmed down and replied, “Uh, my father is Zhong… Hualiu. He came from Beiping and is now running the family business in Luoyang.”
Shifu, I didn’t mean to name you, “I contracted a sexually transmitted disease”. If you’re watching me from heav-, I meant… I was just improvising. I apologise.
They all started searching their database for Zhong Hualiu, while I was thinking, “Don’t bother. As if there’s anyone called ‘I contracted a sexually transmitted disease’.”
The young ones couldn’t recall anyone with the name. Elder Shou, however, said, “If this old one’s memory is still working, he met someone with the name thirty years ago. Oh, yes!”
What the hell? Are you for real?! How?!
“Thirty years ago, there was a man by the name of Zhong Hualiu in the pugilistic world.”
“Yes, yes, my father was active in the pugilistic world thirty years ago.”
Elder Shou looked at me bewildered: “He was a burglar.”
For a second, everyone held their breaths and looked at me bewildered… Long Zaitian jeered, “Now you’ve done it! That’s what you get for making up names.”
Cornered, I had to use my profound ace: a cordial smile.
“An exalted individual?”
“… A burglar?”
“… They got rich stealing from people?”
“But wouldn’t he be asking to be arrested if he hired an escort?”
“He turned a new leaf?”
I nodded with a smile: “Yes.”
Fuck sakes, you finally came up with an explanation for me! Take your time, will you?!
“This old one does remember he turned over a new leaf.” Elder Shou elaborated, “The reason this one said he was a burglar was because this old one was acquainted with him after he quit stealing. He robbed orthodox and unorthodox sects back then utilising to his advanced qinggong. This old one fought him once, and he certainly was hard to keep up with. He was a money monger; however, he never harmed or bullied the people. He was a thief with morals. Unfortunately, he eventually met his match after a hero chased him over fifty kilometres, and he failed to outrun the hero. He quit stealing henceforth and turned to business, starting from scratch. He did build up a big business, indeed.”
I was sweating the entire time I listened! I wondered if the old man saw through my disguise and merely made up the story to save my behind. Howbeit, he then said, “This old one heard he had a son with the name Ning…”
… Oh, shit, so it was Zhong Ning’s old man? You scared me, man! Zhong Ning, why would you fuck your family over when you came from a rich family, man?! Why go raping girls when you had deep pockets? You’re a one-of-a-kind idiot.
I cleared my throat: “I, uh, am the younger one. My brother is pretty much done. I’m taking the reins.”
“Oh, I see,” commented Elder Shou. “That explains your wealth. Mr. Zhong’s business really does spread to every corner of the nation, after all.”
I finally smiled without my heart in a knot: “You flatter me, Elder. My clan and family business truly is vast and enormous. I would be happy to have you over as guests at some point.”
Elder Shou started to look nostalgic as he recalled the past: “Mr. Zhong’s acumen exceeds what words could do justice. When I met him, he was broke. Later on, his growth was comparable to flowers blooming after rainfall. His ambition was to become the Central Plain’s wealthiest business. Judging from his son’s aura, I would say he was quite successful.”
“You flatter us. It is all thanks to our vast and strong network of brothers,” I said, spouting pointless hogwash. As if I knew Zhong Huaili was so successful. I tapped Tang Ye on the shoulder. I then hooked my arm around Emperor Yuansheng neck again to show we had a strong brotherhood: “I have Brother Tang and Teacher Li here to thank for all the years of hard work. Right? Right?”
“Oh, yes, yes. We work well with Young Master,” said the Emperor.
“Yes, yes,” replied Tang Ye, trying to keep up.
Initially surprised, Elder Shou raised a thumb after: “Impressive Young Master Zhong! This old one always thought brothel proprietors kept it strictly within the family. This old one never thought you would be willing to delegate so enthusiastically. Like father like son!”
The Emperor: “Huh?”
Tang Ye: “Hmm?”
Me: “Meow, meow, meow?”
Su Xiao stared at me: “Brothel?”
“Of course. You don’t know what your master does? Mr. Zhong opened the first brothel thirty years ago. His record was eighteen brothels along Yangtze River. They called it Yangtze’s Eighteen Rejuvenation Centres! Thanks to the martial realm’s people propelling their success, Mr. Zhong became known as King of Flower Kingdom. He was gigolo king of the Central Plain!”
I could sense piercing gazes on me. My last resort was to use Mount Daluo’s mental cultivation style to sm-sm-, how the hell was I supposed to smile?!
Zhong Ning! What the fuck, man?! Your old man ran brothels!!
*I contracted a sexually transmitted disease – It’s written 中花柳, which is a homophone for 钟花流. The second one can be an actual name, the first one… never. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to name your son that since nobody would know unless he wrote his name.