Different Year, Same Thing (Part 4)
Mount Lu Sword Manor’s influence in Jiangnan’s martial world was unrivalled if it wasn’t for the imperial court. Only Hong Jiu’s martial uncles and Hero Shenzhou would be qualified to exchange words with Sword Scabbard Clear Sky, Ling Haozhong, as the latter’s youngest daughter was one of Ming Huayu’s wives, a fact that those in the pugilistic news were all aware of. For those reasons, Hong Jiu couldn’t belt him even though he didn’t like his annoying face and rude language.
The group Ling Qingshu accompanied up the mountain was equally surprised to learn his identity. They were suspicious of him during the journey as he never uttered a word. If Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary wanted to expand into Hangzhou, nobody would dare to put up a resistance.
Fief originally being Jiujiang, Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary expanded beyond Jiangnan already, almost qualifying to declare sovereignty over Changzhou if it wasn’t for the restriction on levying taxes and the ban on mobilising their military there. They were the only White Prince to have two fiefs under their banner. Their reputation would’ve developed healthily as their territorial claims did if it wasn’t for their poor conduct.
Ling Hanzhong wore his ambitions on his sleeve, evident from the fact that he married his daughter into the imperial family to become the Empress. His next goal was to lay claim to Jiangnan, which was still no-man’s land. To facilitate the goal, he ordered his son to start establishing their dominance.
Ling Qingshu was privy to the weight his father’s name carried, and the panic that painted faces was exactly what he expected.
That’s Hangzhou’s Seven Heroes in my grasp. Now, Night Fortress’ master has to earn his place.
With the corner of his lips tugged up, Ling Qingshu demanded, “Please ask Night Fortress’ master to come out and meet us.”
Ling Qingshu exerted minimal internal energy, yet it was enough to impressive Hong Jiu.
The quaint candles lined up on either side resembled the altar lamp lights in the imperial palace. Judging from their appearance, they might’ve been even older than the dynasty’s history.
Suddenly, the room was plunged into darkness, and a gust of wind forced the flames to bend to its whims. In the next blink of an eye, the over six hundred candles were back on. The only sign that the flames did once go out was the scent of smoke lingering in the hall.
“Are these our esteemed guests today?”
Heads turned in the direction the lazy, yet tyrannical, voice originated from. There he was, lazing on the couch without any regard for their presence. His face was hidden as he sat further back in the couch, leaving his appearance up to their imagination based on his black and white overcoat.
“I can’t see what the big deal is. Why is there so much tension? I wonder if they’re trying to avoid someone.”
Ling Qingshu couldn’t contain his admiration for the maiden in white next to Ming Feizhen.
“He is our leader!” Hong Jiu announced.
Nobody but Xie Duzhe recognised the origins of the couch carved from jade and gold that Ming Feizhen lazed on because he had been granted an audience in the imperial palace before and was a descendant of Dark Robe Brotherhood. Yellow was a colour legally reserved for the imperial family, yet Ming Feizhen brazenly used it; even a dragon was carved on. There was only one couch in the entire kingdom that would have identical features – the dynasty’s monarch’s imperial couch in The Forbidden City.
Does he realise what he’s lounging on?!
Left hand supporting his chin and right hand holding Ming Suwen’s, Ming Feizhen inquired in a slow, yet imposing, voice, “What can I do for you?”
Nobody dared to voice their request for Night Fortress to prevent the riot on the cusp of breaking out after learning that the Seven Champion White Princes might’ve been the mastermind. Hangzhou’s Seven Heroes regarded each other with their eyes, signalling for one another to speak, citing the need to defend their prestigious title. Meanwhile, Ling Qingshu watched them hubristically.
“I shall speak on our behalf,” asserted one of the seven heroes, with the other six applauding him insincerely.
“Brother Cha, as our new member, you should speak on our behalf.”
Brother Cha was a stubby, tanned and chubby man, yet he had the aura of an honest man. Accompanied by his three attendants, he bowed and shared, “This one is Chao Hao, originally a resident of Beiping. He started a tea leaves business twenty years ago in Hangzhou and has seen success thanks to friends helping and having an ideal location.”
“May I ask if you are the owner of Tea Lake Manor?”
Cha Hao was a man who never forgot where he came from regardless of his success.
“That is correct.”
“You should’ve spoken up if you had a request.”
“Indeed.” Chao Hao raised his head to show his steel gaze and elaborated, “This one came here to inquire about a certain issue. They say you fear no man and nothing, saying there is nothing you shy away from if it is for the people, but there are requests you reject. This one wishes to know if that is true or bullcrap!”
“You’re bullcrap! Who do you think you’re speaking to?!” Hong Jiu brayed.
“It is an important question this one must ask.”
Ming Feizhen found the question and man interesting, hence the hiked up corner of his lips: “The fearless part is bullcrap, but I don’t fear nine out of ten requests from the people. Is that a satisfactory answer?”
Cha Hao pointed the boy he held the hand of: “This eight year old boy is not this one’s son but a child he adopted.”
The seven heroes exclaimed, “Chao Hao, have you lost your mind?!”
“Three days ago, a group barged into his home, abusing his mother and elder sister to death, as well as mauling his father at the entrance to their home. The culprit then dumped their corpses in the fields and forbade anyone from putting the corpses to rest. This one could not stand for it and decided to collect the corpses. That is how this one found this boy hiding in the home, having starved for three days.”
“So, what have you come to see me for?”
“This one refuses to believe justice does not exist.”
“Who is the culprit?”
“He is present here.” Cha Hao paused for moment and then pointed to a youth: “The culprit is Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary’s patriarch’s second son – Ling Qingshu!”
Cha Hao – If you have forgotten, Cha Hao’s brother was one of the people who approached the escort in volume 7 to supply them with food, women and drinks. His brother was one of the people who fell for Mountain Monster’s lie and almost killed Lyu Yaoqing using poison. That’s why Ming Feizhen berated the younger brother for his actions, citing it was a shame he had Cha Hao as a brother.