“Are you worried opposing ideas have flourished in Luo Siming’s mind?” inquired Dugu.
“I would never think about marrying my daughter to a troublesome man. Luo Siming is the reigning patriarch in name. He’s proved himself a worthy a leader ever since he replaced his father. He’s shown commendable prudence when dealing with the imperial court and has never made any mistake. He’s demonstrated he is an upright and humble gentleman.
“As a pugilist, Luo Siming earned a top-five rank among the seventeen wyrms at the tender age of seventeen. I would argue he could rival Mount Daluo’s Ten Thousand Mile Dragon Rider if it wasn’t for his obligations to his clan consuming his time.”
The information I read from Black and White Reflection reflected Emperor Yuansheng’s claims on Luo Siming. That being said, Luo Sword Manor had started as much trouble as the other six in the pugilistic world the last few years. I dare say I saw their misdemeanours listed in every issue of Black and White Reflection.
I could understand the imperial court turning a blind eye to Luo Sword Manor’s misconduct since they didn’t impact the imperial court. Sure, all of the monarchs in the current dynasty were cognisant of the fact that sects in the pugilistic world would never change their nature. Howbeit, it became an issue when their actions were beyond the pale. Ignoring a problem doesn’t magically make it go away.
Emperor Yuansheng’s only options were to continue marching to Luo Sword Manor to seek Luo Ming’s help or opt for plan B and seek the support of someone else who could tackle Abels. There was no telling which plan would be more efficient time-wise. By the same account, Luo Sword Manor’s accountability had to be questioned.
If Luo Siming wasn’t shady or terrific at deceiving those in the pugilistic world, then Luo Sword Manor was carrying out an agenda hidden from the public eye.
“Your subject also agrees that you would have solid judgement for a fuma candidate. In saying that, your subject has not heard many…” responded Dugu.
“Many nice things about Luo Sword Manor’s conduct, am I right?” Emperor Yuansheng, smiling, finished off with, “Don’t be wishy washy.”
Dugu smiled back: “Ultimately, he is not someone your subject can recklessly comment on. In recent years, your subject has heard of accusations including dumping their swords I lakes, fighting with people, peddling their famous swords for outlandish prices on the black market and selling bootleg swords that are promoted as the real deal, consequently getting laid out for it when buyers caught them. For that reason, your subject refrains from casting judgement on his character.”
“You’re overthinking. I met him when he was young, and he impressed me as a gentleman. You can say he’s humble, but I’d argue he’s honest to a fault. That’s why I thought he’d be the perfect match for my straight-laced Hong’er. What a pity…”
Why did you look my way at the end, huh?! I’ll flick your eyeballs out the other side of your head! You think it was fun to fight Jin Wangsun? By the way, you’re the one who imposed it!
Emperor Yuansheng carried on, “Those who aren’t familiar with Luo Siming may perceive him to be a two-faced man. Are you aware how many contributions they’ve made to our military, though? They are one of the major military arms contributors since the previous dynasty. For them, nothing is more important than their smithing.
“Those belonging to the swordsmanship branch focus on honing swordplay under their elder’s guidance, who is referred to as ‘earth worshipper’. Since their disciples don’t necessarily have to be blood related, they do their best to recruit the best young prodigies outside of the clan.
“Those belonging to the smithing branch must be blood-related individuals, and the closer they are to being a direct descendant, the greater their chances of holding higher status. If a portion of their blood comes from an outsider, they’ll be stuck as an errand boy for the smithing department for the rest of their life.
“The smithing department’s hierarchy is based on the Chinese phrase, ‘The sky is black, and the earth is yellow.’ Those in the first half of the phrase, the first independent clause, work at the four workshops on Taihu Sword Island and manufacture weapons specifically for pugilists in the martial world. Those assigned to the second independent clause work in the four factories responsible for our armoury at locations we delegated. The leader of the smithing department is referred to as ‘great swordsmith’. Directly underneath him is ‘sky worshipper’, who handles the logistics of the department.
“Luo Ming used to be in charge of both departments in his time, and his great swordsmith admired him, thus making it easy for him to keep all the departments in line. Once he went into seclusion, Luo Siming took over but failed to keep the departments in line. Luo Siming’s second uncle, Luo Yan, took over as sky worshipper, commencing the ceaseless clash between the two departments.
“Do any of you know what the difference between the two departments are?”
As everyone was thinking, I chimed in, “Those who study martial arts are responsible for protecting the clan as that is the duty of servants. Inheriting the skills of predecessors is the duty of the master. It is easy to see who wins when one produces swords and the other wields a sword.”
Long Zaitian gave me a thumbs up: “Nobody can stop an educated thug.”
The next time you’re poisoned, please die for me.
Emperor Yuansheng raised the corner of his lips: “What truly concerns me is the uncertainty of who I can trust at Luo Sword Manor. There is no way we can fight off Abels, and I doubt Master Ming will coincidentally be there to save us a second time. For all we know, approaching Luo Sword Manor could be walking into a trap.
“My last plan was to garner attention in Canhu Town so that Luo Sword Manor would invite us to Refining Divine Convention. Abels ambush, however reminded me that we are powerless to stop them even if we do see what they are up to. Hence, I changed my mind and sent a letter off to Bai Ma, asking him to adapt and proceed accordingly. Although the Beijiang frontier is far away, it can reach anywhere I need him within three days’ time.”
Bai Ma? If he’s summoned, you could consider the job done. The issue was his workaholic personality; he’d snub even Emperor Yuansheng for work. Who, then, could guarantee he’d actually race over after receiving the letter? Knowing him, I wouldn’t be surprised if he stuffed the letter under a wobbly table leg or tried selling it in fragments as “Emperor Yuansheng’s letter, a treasure for antique collectors”. I’d bet he wouldn’t even respond to the letter and wait to see what happens. You want to bet on that? Look at everyone else’s fac-
“If Grand Commander arrives, Abels would plead for mercy!” effused Long Zaitian.
Don’t worry about what I was going to say.
Emperor Yuansheng touched his beard: “Don’t get excited yet. He’s just my insurance policy. We will have to do all of the other heavy lifting. For all we know, it might take half a month for him to arrive due to the time it takes to deliver the letter. If he doesn’t make it in time, we will have to spearhead the operation ourselves. As for our designs at Canhu Town, I need to discuss it. Ming Feizhen, you stay behind. Everyone else is dismissed.”
I could understand Dugu and Long Zaitian wrinkling their noses since I wasn’t part of their factions. If I were to venture a guess, I suppose they thought it was an indication that Liu Shan Men was starting to return to its former glory.
Su Xiao turned back to mouth, “Idiot, you ran your mouth and said something you shouldn’t have, didn’t you? Don’t start spitting vulgarities.”
Look, I don’t want to give the impression I’m a sicko, but Su Xiao is bloody cute, man. He’s a man. I know. He’s a guy. I get it.
“Master, may I ask why you asked me t-”
“Take a seat,” interjected Emperor Yuansheng.
“You speak in jest, Master. I will stay standing.”
“You didn’t tell the truth back there.”
I faked a smile right away: “Which sentence are you referring to?”
“Are you implying that you lie so frequently that not even you can tell which sentence I’m referring to?”
“No, your subject is pointing out that he has a poor memory.”
The two of us stared at each other for a couple of seconds then shared a laugh. Heck as if I knew what he was laughing about. We probably just thought the ambience was comical?
“Enough of your spiel. Stop making me wait and sit.”
“Thank you. Thank you,” I responded, sitting down opposite Emperor Yuansheng.
“Hahaha, you knew we were suspicious of you?”
Cutting to the chase certainly spared me effort and tension.
“I had an inkling, just an inkling.”
“Hmph.” Still maintaining his smile, Emperor Yuansheng jibed, “I applaud your acting.”
Swordsmith – This is a term I made up for the title of the post. I know there’s blacksmith, but they’re specifying swords in particular.
“The sky is black, and the earth is yellow” – Because of the nature of the syntax in Chinese defying conventional Chinese grammar (conventional being what is currently popular), the English structure fails to reflect the Chinese structure.
Essentially, the Chinese would be read as “Sky earth black yellow, universe primordial”. To work around the issue, I split the original phrase into two independent clauses and referred to them as “first half” and “second half”.
The reason for the sky being described as black as opposed to blue is due to the nature of the blue being affected by an array of other factors.