We finally got back on the road after losing half a day. Emperor Yuansheng was relieved to hear Boss Shen wasn’t captured. The others were in party mode. The warriors who didn’t have the fortune of learning secrets were all smiles; even Tang Ye had a subtle smile on his face. Good Ol’ Long was on cloud nine.
Though Emperor Yuansheng was glad Boss Shen wasn’t captured, he didn’t mistake that for her being safe. We assumed she still had strength to defend herself after she escaped and wasn’t on the verge of death for the meantime. With the pugilistic world about to be embroiled in another event, we needed to locate her as soon as possible, lest anything happens. Hence, our objective had changed to collecting information to locate her.
Rescuing and locating sounded similar but were different. In the former case, we wouldn’t be able to predict what the enemies would do to Boss Shen. It would be a race to locate Evil Spirits and brainstorming a battle strategy for a rescue operation. Consider it a ten-star difficulty mission. I planned to rescue her on my own after pinpointing their hideout. Of course, I’d have to lock horns with Abels in a tough scrap.
Our objective had changed to information gathering. Locating Evil Spirits and figuring out how to exterminate them was no longer the priority. If Boss wasn’t gravely wounded, I didn’t plan to rush head first into the enemy base.
I would prefer not to fight with any of the Supreme Ten Saints if it could be avoided. Once you engage them in a fight, it’s not just about winning and losing. I intended to let the imperial court deal with Abels unless they couldn’t do without intervention. Either way, it wasn’t my priority.
Emperor Yuansheng rearranged our escort formation. Ma Divine Society’s horses finally joined our formation.
As the three strongest defenders, Long Zaitian, Dugu and Tie Hanyi shared the tall and large carriage with Emperor Yuansheng. Three horses were required to pull the carriage because of the dynasty’s courtesy system.
Ye Luo and Su Xiao rode in the carriage to Emperor Yuansheng’s left as they made the perfect offence combo. They had two horses assigned to their classic light carriage. Two horses made it perfect for speed and agility. The latch was removable so that they could mount a horse each and engage enemies if the situation called for it.
Bai Laimu rode solo with ten others riding behind him. He was assigned to scout duty, so he rode at the forefront. The reason the role wasn’t assigned to Ye Luo, who was renowned for her visual prowess was that she’d raise alarms as a female scout. Female scouts weren’t common, after all. Bai Laimu was dull-witted, but he did fantastic leading his team.
Tang Ye led five riders in the rear. Their tall and aggressive horses pulled a small carriage carrying our money, weapons, imperial doctors, artisans and so forth.
Emperor Yuansheng distributed the thirty-four horses based on martial prowess. The more skilled one was considered, the better their horse was. Needless to say, Emperor Yuansheng took the three best horses for himself. Ye Luo’s steed was superior to Su Xiao, and Tang Ye’s steed was superior to both of theirs. As for me, hang on, let me rub my eyes and check again.
“Why the hell do I have a mule?!” I griped.
“Oh, shut up. We don’t have enough horses. I even went out of my way to buy it from the market for you,” chastised Long Zaitian, rubbing his temples due to still feeling the after effects of Mountain Monster’s sealing.
Oh, you went out of your way to buy it for me, did you? Thank you so much. Is that what you thought I’d say?! They gave us thirty-four horses. All of you are riding Beijiang horses even if you suck, yet I have to ride a mule?!
Su Xiao: “I knew Big Brother Ming’s skills were…”
Tang Ye: “… crap?”
Is that the name of my style, ‘Crap’? How did everyone find out? Su Xiao, you’ve been spreading it, haven’t you? Screw this mule!
“Gather around. We’re heading out in this formation. We’ll make it to Canhu Town tonight. Thankfully, Yiren is safe and sound. I assigned you identities prior to setting out, but I’m now realising that some of the roles aren’t suited to you. I have to admit my planning was lacking. People will see through our disguise at this rate. We will meet even more people from the martial world once we reach Canhu Town. We are going to have to stay there for some time to collect intelligence, so I must make some adjustments,” announced Emperor Yuansheng, cutting off our quarrel.
Long Zaitian: “Master, this humble one is willing to do anything you ask of him.”
Tie Hanyi: “You are going to switch our roles?”
“Yes. I assigned myself the captain role, but none of you would let me fight. You are slacking when it comes to defending the goods, yet worried sick about the captain’s safety. I understand you are loyal. Unfortunately, that is a glaring flaw,” Emperor Yuansheng explained as he shook his head to express disappointment with his arrangement.
I was surprised Emperor Yuansheng didn’t realise that beforehand. As if his entourage would let anyone scratch him, let alone allow him to engage in fights.
“Henceforth, I will be your master, a businessman from the capital. Since you are my subordinates, we won’t have to worry about you looking out of place when prioritising my safety. As for the nephews and whatnot, we’re doing away with them.”
Are you sure you want to abandon that department after teaching Tang Ye your clan’s broadsword skills for him to play your nephew? I saw him assiduously practicing it, you know?
Emperor Yuansheng heaved a breath then looked over to me: “Young Ming has promoted himself as Zhong Hualiu’s second young master, so we can’t change that now. You will continue as Young Master Zhong Ming and hold equal rank as I in the escort.”
Now I’m Zhong Ning’s younger brother, too? Hang on, equal my foot. Where’s my horse?! You have three horses pulling your carriage, while I’m pulling a wooden carriage from my mule. Equal?! Who educated you?!
“I didn’t expect to learn of the Refining Divine Convention this trip. Miss Lyu reminded me it’s not easy to enter Taihu Sword Island to reach Luo Sword Manor. I can’t reveal my identity, but we have your Young Master Zhong card to play. Why not capitalise on your fame and announce your presence at Canhu Town. Luo Sword Manor would invite you, then.”
You’re a lunatic, Your Majesty. You want me to be my clan’s brothel proprietor, and tell the world about it? Did you ever think about what people will say when they see me in the future?!
“I’ll leave the details in your hands. Come up with a plan by the time we arrive.”
You even expect me to plan it on my own?
“All right. Ladies and gentlemen, back into your positions!”
Wait, wait. For crying out loud! Why on earth would Luo Sword Manor want to invite a brothel proprietor? You think the eighteen brothels are called Pure Breeze Eighteen Techniques?!
I needed to vent, and the best candidate to be my victim was the vicious loli placed in my custody since I caught her. As soon as I went up to the mule’s carriage, Mountain Monster poked her head out as if she smelt me coming. She still had her wrathful gaze on.
“You’re finally back, you blasted turd!”
It was frustrating Mountain Monster vented on me before I could. Emperor Yuansheng wasn’t worried about leaving her with me because she suffered qi deviation and had her meridians sealed. She could move her limbs. In saying that, she couldn’t produce any harmful strength. Merely sitting up was taxing on her.
I pulled Mountain Monster into the carriage for carrying goods. I grabbed a broadsword and cut open two holes for light and air. It was a small carriage, but she was a loli, so it wasn’t hard to fit her in there. She, of course, wasn’t happy that she didn’t have three horses pulling her carriage.
“Son of a monkey, are you seriously making me sit here?!”
“Hop off if you have a problem.”
“You’re insulting a prisoner of war! I am an international esteemed guest! I demand VIP-prisoner-of-war treatment.”
“International esteemed guest… You’re lucky you’re not famous here in the Central Plain. If your old enemies were to come looking for you, they’d dice you up.”
“Hmph, that’s their fault for being weak. Don’t join the pugilistic world if you have a phobia for death. I’m the enemy strategist. You can’t make me sit in this shabby carriage.”
“This is good enough.”
“Are you blind?! This is nothing but a casket without a lid!”
“Nonsense! Nobody would make holes in your casket for you. Plus, you don’t need to worry about ghosts.”
“Piss off! I want to sit in that carriage!” demanded Mountain Monster, pointing to Emperor Yuansheng’s carriage.
Mountain Monster’s demand just added oil to my fire. I suspected she heard I wasn’t allowed to sit in Emperor Yuansheng’s carriage and deliberately asked for the impossible. I slapped her hand: “Stop pointing. There are people in there.”
“Huh?! Kick his fart-knocking bum off, then! I’m not sitting in this piece of crap! Let me sit in the carriage!”
To reduce the number of greedy and vain citizens in Beijiang, I decided to perform an act of philanthropy: “A mule is enough to pull twelve of you, Brat!”
“Shut up! This is my transformed form. I’m actually much taller.”
“Yeah, yeah, you can’t change your weight with your technique. Your height makes no difference to your weight.”
“Wh-what are you doing?”
“You know, you’re too light. I reckon you’re only thirty kilos or so.”
For an eight year old girl, Mountain Monster’s height and body weight were within a healthy rage. Arguably, she was growing well enough to safely assume she’d be a curvaceous beauty later on. Still, the unchanging height and weight ratio remained unchanged. If she was taller as she claimed, she was average height for a female, but her weight…
My eyes ran down her collar bone to where her heart was and its neighbour. Once I saw the wall, I fell silent and touched my nose: “Must protect…”
“Yeah, you better protect yourself! Where do you think you’re looking?! Get over here! I’ll flipping kill you!”
I gave the kid a look of sympathy and patted her. Man, even her head was rather flat.
“You’re the one who’s going to be flat! Get over here! I’ll bite you to death!”
I shook my head and walked off, heaving a heavy breath.
Mountain Monster bit her fingernails: “There’ll come a day where I kill you, kill you, kill you, kill you…”