“Wh-what are you talking about?”
Emperor Yuansheng snorted: “I said, I know all about it.”
“Y-you found out? Okay, fine. Yes, I was the one who ate all of the rations yesterday! Do something about it! I am too broke to pay for it, so mete out my penance, military style!”
Come on, man, don’t just keep staring. This is getting awkward. Either show your belief or disbelief. People are going to think I’m a useless glutton if you keep this up.
Emperor Yuansheng finally cracked a hopeless grin: “And that’s why I don’t know what to do with you. You appear dishevelled and lame, but you’re not actually stupid and useless.”
“Ehehe, this one is an insignificant peasant. You are merely being the bigger man, not really helpless.”
“You want to be a smart aleck? I always knew you weren’t as useless as you let on. Else, Shen Yiren wouldn’t have trusted you with big jobs. Pry as I may, however, I can never get to the bottom of your story. Scouts I sent to investigate also couldn’t dig up anything worth my time.”
You bet I found ways to bob and weave my way out of his snooping.
“You cannot find what does not exist, Your Majesty.”
“Indeed. Nonetheless, it then dawned on me that our thinking wasn’t the problem. The problem is you are a mess.”
Listen, my guy, that’s straight up libel!
Contrary to the impression his visage gave, Emperor Yuansheng steered the conversation elsewhere, conveying, “Is this really the work of fate? Your patriarch and I married sisters. Coincidentally, you entered the imperial court’s employment.” Emperor Yuansheng stopped to gesture “this close” with his thumb and index fingers: “You came this close to marrying my daughter.”
Daughter? Which daughter?
“To be honest, I can’t see any harm you could’ve done if you had married Hongzhuang, Nevertheless, I can’t force her into a marriage.”
The hell is this man on about? A constable marrying a Princess is harmless? Even if I did send everyone in the Imperial Martial Arts Tournament packing, there’s no way he’d choose someone without a bright future. I swear he’s looking at me differently now.
“What… do you think about Yiren losing her left arm?”
I had to cut off my own thoughts to answer the question accompanied by a stoic stare: “Boss’ arm will not grow back even if we severe Abels’ left arm. Just amputate both of that wanker’s arms, then!”
“I like what I hear. Yiren definitely has good judgement.”
I have no idea what you’re trying to say, but I don’t like the vibes I’m getting…
“This debacle with Abels has shone a light on several individuals. Would you be willing to hear me out?”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“First, my entourage.”
“You suspect them?”
“It is not that I don’t trust them but that I have been stabbed in the back more than once. No matter what one’s attainment in martial arts is or how wealthy they may be, natural desires always prevail over loyalty. Some like women. Some like valuables. Most of the time, there is no end to their desires. Sometimes they don’t want to do certain things but are forced to when the choice is no longer theirs to make. Even I have erred before, let alone others.
“What I want to point out, though, isn’t their problems but their loyalty. These recent events have allowed me to witness their loyalty.
“The second thing I want to point out is that Yiren really does have an eye for talent. Tang Ye and Su Xiao are brilliant in their own rights. Yiren quite likes you, you know? Huh? Boss Shen has a crush on me? Is you duh stupid or duh stupid?” I blurted upon having my train of thought broken. I quickly held my hands over my mouth and prostrated myself: “Sorry, sorry, it was a habit I developed working in this field. Please do not take it to heart.”
Unbothered, Emperor Yuansheng continued, “There are plenty of astute men who are dense when it comes to romance. Yiren, he can’t tell how you feel.”
I was close to blurting out my previous response again. Fortunately, I could control my mouth this time: “B-but, umm, Boss is engaged…”
“What, you have a problem with my daughter?
Your daughter? Which one? Okay, enough with my lame jokes.
Basically, what Emperor Yuansheng was getting to was that I didn’t receive a proportionate reward for my awe-inspiring, epic triumph at the Imperial Martial Arts Tournament. Accordingly, he could easily rig some strings. To unpack that further, he was implying that he could take Boss Shen in as his adopted daughter and betroth her to me.
“You are spoiling me, Your Majesty. Even if Boss assented, this one is nobody, nor is he worth anything. This one would be doing her a disservice.”
“You are nobody? Are you still trying to humour me?”
“This one does not understand…”
“Look for yourself!” snapped Emperor Yuansheng, slamming a filled document on my lap.
My performance evaluation on this journey, my daily whereabouts the last two months and even my brothers’ visit to the capital was recording on there.
“Mount Daluo’s successr has always been known throughout the land. Ming Huayu boasts that his disciples are the best in every department, yet he did the complete opposite this time and chose you, his senior disciple, to be his successor!”
Oi! You want to catch these hands?!