Unexpected (Part 1)
“Please spare this one out of consideration for our two factions’ friendship!”
I refused to meet anyone besides leaders of major sects and factions since I didn’t want anybody to associate Night Fortress’ master with Lord San Shen. I assumed control of Night Fortress soon after Lord San Shen vanished, after all, so I needed to be cautious. I didn’t think the man before me would recognise me. I never intended to kill him, but I did choke him to threaten him. His skills were so abysmal that he couldn’t put up any resistance and trembled as if he’d snap. I questioned, “You recognise me?”
“M-My surname is also Cha. My name is Cha Bao, Ch-Cha Hao’s younger brother.”
“You’re Tea Lake Manor’s second in charge? I have a hard time believing that.” I clutched his throat harder. His tongue crept out and eyes started to roll back. I continued, “Cha Hao is a loyal and just man. Our people have always been on good terms, too. My third junior brother always buys his tea from you. Why would Cha Hao’s younger brother try to harm me?”
I loosened my grip enough for blood circulate to his brain. Since that tampered with his mind temporarily, it was the perfect opportunity to interrogate him.
Trembling, Cha Bao replied, “I accepted three thousand silver taels to testify.”
“Tea Lake Manor is one of the wealthiest families in Hangzhou, yet you took a big risk just for three thousand silver taels?”
“My brother is strict, wh-while I spend a lot. S-Since there were a lot of people in on it, I thought I would not have to do much, so…”
“Great, another spendthrift young master character.” I pointed: “Who poisoned the maiden?”
“H-His surname is Wang. It was him who supplied the poison and poisoned her…”
I flashed my teeth sarcastically: “You three sure were helpful. You almost killed her just to malign me for some paltry cash. You’ve ruined your valiant clan’s name.”
“Please spare me!”
“Killing you wouldn’t even be considered punishment. I imagine your brother isn’t too far away. I’ll send him a letter, and he’ll deal with you.” I let go and stomped on his chest. I authoritatively inquired, “Who commanded you?”
“H-His surname is Wang. I have never met him before. He claimed to be a wealthy businessman from the North. He was a generous spender, so I decided to befriend him. My brother informed me you were going to Huzhou yesterday and asked everyone to do a favour. My brother knew you would have some complications on your journey…”
I had no idea they considered me a dead beat.
“Lots of people caught wind of it and claimed you must have spent all your money.”
Why do you all consider me broke?! I am broke! Are you going to donate or something?
“My brother thought he would not need to offer you money if so many people were going to. That was why he asked me to gift you some beautiful women to keep your company. As for the others, they gifted you money, citing you would not have en-.”
“Get to the crux of it!” I stomped down, garnering a loud whimper: “I will don’t know who the man with the Wang surname is!”
Why do you keep stressing I’m poor? You think you’re hot because you’re rich in Hangzhou? You were drooling over three thousand silver taels! Man, I don’t even get three thousand silver taels a month. Now I’m reminded of the hair dye I have to buy monthly. I only earn seventy taels a month, damn it! Now I’m annoyed.
“I will talk! I will talk! He approached me as soon as I set out. With him was Horse Divine Association’s Ma Jun and Qian Baiwan Clan’s nephew. They suggested travelling with them since we were all going to see you. I deemed it a good idea. After a few drinks last night, he spilt the beans and offered me money to frame you. I was so startled. I mean, are you someone we could frame so easily?
I repetitively refused him, but he argued, ‘Heh, Master Ming is an exalted individual. He wouldn’t fuss over something so trivial. Please do not misunderstand this is some sort of sinister plot. I am not trying to malign him. I am trying to distract him and deter him from going to Huzhou. Why do you think Master Ming is going to Huzhou? It’s New Year. He must be going to Refining Divine Convention. You three and I know we would not have the fortune of obtaining the weapon produced. On a positive note, Master Luo said that, besides the ultimate weapon they intend to forge, they will forge another twelve quality weapons from the remaining materials and would share them with attendees.
‘Let’s look at The Big Four Blacksmiths. Sky Palace’s reputation stinks to the high heavens, so you can never make a name for yourself even if you use one of their best weapons. Tang Clan’s secret weapons are self-explanatory. How many clans use secret weapons? Name a clan that has managed to even exchange something for one of Tang Clan’s second-rate weapons. Clear Mirror Palace has been supplying the pugilistic world with weapons for years, so there’s nothing special about them. The only way you will stand out is if you have Luo Sword Manor’s weapons. If you could have one of their reputable weapons, your name would be ten times shinier.
‘We now have an opportunity to obtain a reputable weapon. Luo Sword Manor has produced less than twelve weapons in recent years. There are no more than ten of them still remaining in the pugilistic world. They intend to make twelve in one go this time. Don’t pretend you’re not interested. Who doesn’t covet prestige? We now have a chance.’
We all agreed with him.”
“He certainly has the gift of the gab. What else did he say?”
“He then told us, ‘Our aim in Huzhou this time is obvious. Of the countless groups in Jiangnan, nobody is really that much stronger than the other. For instance, Tea Lake Manor is one of Hangzhou’s most influential and no less of a force to be reckoned with than any other faction.’
“He was right. We cannot match the strongest, but we could try our luck for the twelve weapons. So, we saw eye to eye.”
The man with the surname Wang sounded exasperated when he maligned me. I had the impression he refused to take the short end of the stick but deliberately cushioned it. I had to give it to him. He was able to sway with his delivery and content. Businessmen were bound to be liars. Based on that fact, I surmised even his surname was fake.