After “Ming Feizhen, twenty-year old male born during the second year of Yuansheng’s reign, a citizen of Nanjing,” there was a chunk of blank space, followed by the events after my participation in Liu Shan Men’s recruitment exam.
As I ran my eyes through the document, I analysed everything Emperor Yuansheng had said to me to figure out why he inferred I was the senior successor of Mount Daluo and when he drew the conclusion. Depending on what the answers were, I had to choose between remaining in the capital or ending my recluse plan and retiring away in some secluded place.
Based on the handwritings, over twenty people had recorded every minute detail, including even the most mundane ones, they saw me engage in. In other words, personnel from different parts of the capital stalked me, and then the information was sifted through. Put it this way: the capital is where recorded secrets were kept. It wouldn’t be surprising if there were no records of me – if I didn’t reside in the capital.
Worth mentioning is that I became a target for monitoring post-Orange-Prince mutiny for that was when details of my day to day activity started to increase notably. I just couldn’t see anything worth delving deeper into, though.
Upon reaching the end, I evaluated the thorn sticking out to be the part where my junior brothers met up with me.
I stole a glimpse of Emperor Yuansheng’s grumpy visage. I’d describe his countenance as the kind you would show when you finally call, “Check.” In the scenario he actually unravelled my identity, though, he wouldn’t show it. Instead, he’d wait for The Ultimate Three and, without hesitation, instruct them to bring my head to him on a platter. His grumpy visage was a terrible attempt at hiding his affable undertone, you know, the kind when he’s trying to betroth his adopted daughter to me…
“I assume you already noticed that I want to give Liu Shan Men a push back up.”
The wry look on Emperor Yuansheng’s face told me he was smug about his self-conjured feeling of superiority, with him being the genius and me being the halfwit. That was why I kept asking myself, “Should I kill him? Should I kill him?”
“If those in the imperial court hear about my intent, I imagine it would be huge deal. Be it Qilin Guards or my entourage, be it in the imperial court or out in the wild, they’re all waiting for me to declare Liu Shan Men’s return. Do you think I can trust all of you on something so major?”
Though I always thought Emperor Yuansheng was a straightforward man, hearing him changed my mind somewhat as I realised that he was as vulnerable to being as impulsive as anyone else. On the surface, sending Tang Ye, Su Xiao and I to the three ministers gave the impression that he was giving us bigger tasks, it was more him testing the waters. Letting people know that he sent the three of us off to the ministries put us to the test and uncovered how many people were colluding with Qilin Guards for profit. In which case, he had to have done more than what we saw on the surface.
“If I am to give Liu Shan Men big tasks, you must be up to it. Otherwise, Liu Shan Men is but a plaque hanging on a wall. I have always intended to give Yiren power. For as long as I am alive, Liu Shan Men is hers. I can trust her, but I need to know that I can also trust the others. One cannot trust another based purely off the one side they can see.”
“And that is why you probed into us?”
“Precisely. Sharp as I would expect from a senior disciple of a reputable sect. Ever since I decided to promote you, I started digging into your backgrounds. Tang Ye and Su Xiao are fine; you’re a bag of mysteries. Even with our resources, we haven’t been able to dig up any details of what you’ve done in the last twenty-eight years. None. From my experience, people with such profiles are either reclusive adepts or suspicious people. Only when we found out Ten Thousand Mile Dragon Rider, Hong Shiba, calls you ‘Leader’ and two others, seemingly also disciples of Mount Daluo, did I confirm you’re a disciple of Mount Daluo.”
“You never trusted me, then.”
“Whether I trust you or not is not important. My personal feelings have less of a role in my decisions concerning the world than you may think. In fact, my opinion is sometimes unnecessary.”
“But… why do you think I am Mount Daluo’s successor? Did I not tell you my shifu is Daoist Wushan?”
“Heh, he never named a successor. If he hypothetically did, his disciple would also be a daoist. Tell me what about you reflects a daoist?”
Well… I frequently curse monks, so…
“You have been the highlight reel of this journey. You deserve the most credit for resolving the standoff at the inn. Seeing you pick up the copper coins reminded me of your shifu and grandmaster, both of whom are renowned for their divination skills. I started to pay more attention, keeping in mind Hong Shiba’s appearance. I then suspected you were Night Fortress’ master, but that is set aside for now. Last night, it dawned on me that you had to be Mount Daluo’s successor to know someone of Master Ming’s status. Your shifu is known for having a one hundred percent accuracy rate with his divinations.”
Hearing the last sentence brought me to life – with anger.
You’ve been duped, man! Virtually nothing he ever said to me came true. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have white hair already! If it wasn’t for him lying to women everywhere he went, would I have to be avoiding even Night Fortress? You know how irritating it is to deal with his women knocking all the damn time?! When I was younger, I thought half of the martial world was his harem!
“Shaolin and Wudang’s successors are active in the pugilistic world. Shaolin is known for maintaining a low profile, and some of their adepts are in the imperial court’s employment. Though I am bewildered as to why none of Wudang’s young generation has mastered Tai Chi, they are a school of adepts. Mount Daluo, in contrast, has never released any information on their disciples. Everyone knows that, unlike Wudang and Shaolin, Mount Daluo likes to be ostentatious. Name any one of their successors who didn’t create maelstrom.
“After tireless deliberation, it finally occurred to me. Ming Huayu’s fame is known throughout the land, yet it’s extremely rare to hear him fight anyone. He’s definitely a fighter to be feared. Having said that, his wits precede his martial prowess. Following that thought, I hypothesise that his disciple wouldn’t necessarily have needed to be a mighty pugilist and could be a strategist, instead. Put two and two together, and there’s one obvious conclusion.”