Friends in the Pugilistic World Should Look Out for Each Other
I finally finished clearing out enemies in the room. Sadly, the rain wouldn’t let up and continued showering in via the hole in the roof. Fragments of a broken beam were strewn on the wet floor. Furniture was turned upside down and sideways.
Ye Luo heaved a pent-up breath: “I was worried to death we’d have to risk our lives against dangerous opponents on our first day. Thanks for the save, Young Master.”
Dugu: “We owe it to you and your vast knowledge, Brother Ming. They wouldn’t have quit if it wasn’t thanks to you. Now we don’t need to worry about delays.”
“Although stealing the copper plates was shameless… Young Ming’s merits compensate for his misdemeanour. You don’t need to take care of the miscellaneous tasks from now. Swap roles with Long Zaitian. He’ll take charge for those tasks from now.” Emperor Yuansheng ignored Long Zaitian’s figurative shrinking and gave me a smile: “You just keep going as Young Master Zhong. Your familiarity and experience in the pugilistic world will be nifty. We also need a customer for the escort. You’ll save us a lot of trouble with your role. But, uh, Young Ming, I’m curious how you figured out Master Kuang’s surname; that was more startling than when you identified Young Master Ling.”
I clasped my fist with one hand and held my hands before me: “Thank you for the kind words, Teacher Li! It was nothing special, really. During my time at Mount Daluo, I learnt some divination skills from Grandmaster. That was a pure lucky guess, hahahahaha.”
Su Xiao effused, “See?! I told you he used spirit possession!”
Tang Ye stared and stared until he eventually muttered under his breath, “Obsolete and superstitious.”
Don’t expose me with a straight face! At least, let me fool Emperor Yuansheng!
Tie Hanyi focused on scrutinising the results of the short clash. He mumbled, “Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary’s successor, Red Scarf Broadsword Character, Wutong Jin Yuxuan, Wudang’s elder and an especially seasoned sword-wielding scholar… Why are even characters seldom seen attracted to Huzhou?”
“Ol’ Tie is right. It is quite the eventful period. As you pointed out, it isn’t often we see the five together. Honestly speaking, we have no more than a sixty percent chance of winning if Wudang’s elder and Wutong Jin Yuxuan’s disciple align with the others,” Emperor Yuansheng verbalised with a nod.
Emperor Yuansheng was partially right. At the end of the day, we outnumbered them, and it wasn’t as if our adepts paled in comparison to theirs. Emperor Yuansheng continued, “Most troubling is their aim. The year is coming to an end; Lunar New Year’s eve is in two days, yet they are weathering the harsh weather to rush to Huzhou. That’s sufficient to conclude something important has happened in Huzhou.”
“Teacher Li, if we are going to account for people in the martial world, Ol’ Tie missed someone important.”
“Did I? Besides the five I named, I only left out Great Spear Sect.”
“Did you forget who our target is?” I asked as my gaze sharpened. “Is Evil Spirits’ Abels not in Huzhou at present?”
Emperor Yuansheng’s brain stuttered for a moment. Once his thoughts caught up, he said, “Young Ming has a point. Huzhou is Luo Sword Manor’s territory. Evil Spirits’ won’t show up unless there is something worth their time, so something must be worth the risk. Their most likely goal is… Luo Sword Manor! The five must be headed to the same destination. All that’s left to work out is what they are after.”
“You are still missing the most imperative piece: that is not their entire force. Their numbers are my primary concern,” I added. Since everyone looked confused, I pointed out the window: “Take a look outside.”
They traced my finger to see a cavalry team numbering approximately forty to fifty people ride into the small town and continue galloping through after a short break, which I presumed was solely to replenish their supplies.
“What happened in Huzhou? Why is everyone flocking there?” queried Su Xiao.”
“That should be obvious enough,” answered Tie Hanyi, crossing his arms. “Your subordinate did a count and found there are, at least, twelve different groups in the town. If we add the group that just entered into the town, there are thirteen groups. Considering Young Master Ling suspected we were an unorthodox group, it is safe to assume there really are unorthodox groups making their way to Huzhou. As so many people are moving about together, it is inevitable for there to be opportunities to exploit. Brother Long and I can search for an unorthodox group. We can capture their leader and interrogate him, but…”
“But what?” reacted Emperor Yuansheng.
Tie Hanyi smiled bitterly: “We might see delays.”
“What?! We’re already running two days late due to news reaching us late. This is a race against time! We have no time to waste! I can’t imagine what Evil Spirits will do to Yiren if we don’t hurry!”
Dugu explained, “Correct me if I am wrong, but Brother Tie means to say that, since there are so many people, especially because they are part of the martial world, heading in the same direction, there will be heavy traffic. I think… delays will be inevitable.”
“Ol’ Tie, is that what you meant?” thundered Emperor Yuansheng.
Tie Hanyi bowed instead of kneeling due to the circumstances: “Indeed. There certainly are multiple paths that lead to Huzhou. It becomes an issue owing to the the number of orthodox sects in Jiangnan. According to my investigation, sects not part of the martial world’s orthodox sects’ system are being ostracised even if they have never been known to have committed any heinous deeds. They, as a matter of fact, are nowhere to be seen on main roads. When we include the unorthodox into the equation, even more space and roads will be taken up.”
Dugu elaborated, “Brother Tie means that, if we continue on the main roads, the orthodox sects heading to Huzhou will hamper our movement. If we extrapolate from the tyranny they tried to enforce just now, we will likely have disputes. If we opt for alternate paths, the sects forced to take them will mark us. Teacher Li, our escort is not exactly a large group. The size of our group makes us the perfect target. The alternate paths will probably be fraught with dangers.”
“They bully peasant groups, yet they claim Jiangnan is the representative region of justice! They can shove their justice up their rear end!” Emperor Yuansheng snapped.
Nobody noticed I had sneaked back to the kitchen while they were discussing their plans. Ling Xuan wiped his perspiration off his forehead when he learnt we didn’t kill each other. He told me, “This town is not one of our important towns, so we could have abandoned it if need be. This humble one was merely afraid he would sabotage your job. Words fail to describe this humble one’s admiration for you. None of those orthodox sects were easy to get along with, yet you defused the situation without resorting to violence of any shape or form!”
“That’s not entirely true,” I objected in a nonchalant tone. “We have to go to Huzhou, yet the roads are congested when we can’t afford any delays. Do you know what they are going there for?”
Ling Xuan nodded and gave me a concise rundown of their plan. If I could take his word for it, our delays weren’t going to be short. Given their aims, they were bound to be equipped for combat. We wouldn’t stand to gain anything fighting them on the way. Again, there were too many of them, too.
I had no means of verifying Boss’ status quo, while I knew Evil Spirits loved making slaves out of their defeated victims. No matter how strong Boss was… she was only a nineteen year old girl at the end of the day.
“Toss it, I can’t let the circumstances control me,” I decided in my mind. I requested, “Ling Xuan, get in touch with your leader. I need a favour.”
Ling Xuan’s eyes were alight for a second before he noticed my serious look. Switching to a prim expression, he replied, “Please feel free to speak. This humble one will relay every single word.”
I framed what I wanted to say before I implored, “I want him to notify everyone heading to Huzhou Master Ming needs to go to Huzhou. As friends in the pugilistic world, please do him a favour.”