Maiden to the Rescue. Su Griefer.
After Green Prince and his companions departed, we rushed to carry Emperor Yuansheng, who was still out cold, to a room. Tie Hanyi and Dugu concentrated on using their qi to help Emperor Yuansheng out, but they were as helpless as the imperial physician. Meanwhile, Long Zaitian chewed me out.
“Ming Feizhen, why is it that all of your ideas are as trash as you look? We have yet to find Vice-Captain Shen, Abels or any clues on Refining Divine Convention, yet you’ve gone and pissed off someone who could mop the floor with us. Why do you always love playing with the enemy’s nerves? Can we afford to affront Kunlun Sect? Can we? You think the fatso is someone we can offend when he can’t order Kunlun Sect’s patriarch around? Who do you think Luo Sword Manor is? You knew the fatso is friends with Young Master Luo, yet you asked their young master to be your witness? How is that any different to shooting yourself in the foot?”
You think I wanted to go there? I wouldn’t need to jump through all these hoops if any of you could beat Yi Wangyou. Tang Ye had his spirit knocked out of him, while you lot refused to fight. You want Yi Wangyou to beat Tang Ye into a vegetative state?
I swear I couldn’t figure out what sorcery was at work. How did Green Prince, Luo Siming and Yi Wangyou all come after us right when Emperor Yuansheng happens to be out? Talk about timing… I was still in the fog in regards to Emperor Yuansheng’s evaluation of Green Prince. Abels might be so ecstatic that he throws a party if I use Emperor Yuansheng to rein Green Prince in; Green Prince was a speakerphone. You think bandits wouldn’t kidnap Emperor Yuansheng while he was vulnerable to trade him in for mountains of gold or something?
I couldn’t swoop in as Night Fortress’ master to save them on every occasion. Emperor Yuansheng instated me as his strategist after I went through so much trouble to save him. How could I possibly predict what he’d do if I saved him a few more times?
“His Majesty will scold your ears off.”
“You done? Keeping blah, blah, blah-ing in my ear and I’ll pour boiling water over your mouth.”
“You’re useless when it comes to strategizing but a pro at cursing, huh?”
“I provided an idea, while you provided what?”
Dugu jogged over as soon as he heard hope roll off my tongue: “Brother Ming, what should we do now that Master is out of commission?”
“Master just ate contaminated food. He’ll be as good as new in a few days. I’ve already prescribed a formula to supplement his recovery.”
Tie Hanyi came over to join the party: “Brother Ming, why did you let His M-, Master eat that stuff?”
“Can all of you pipe down?! You’re disturbing Mr. Fangzhang!” reproved Lyu Yaoqin, smoke whisking from her head. “Brother Ming, you… you… Why did you let him eat it when you knew it was harmful? Is he less important than Refining Divine Convention?!”
“You can’t blame me! You saw how destructive Su Xiao’s cooking is. Why didn’t you stop him?!”
“I was busy managing the soup’s flame!”
“Your Mr. Fangzhang is less important than a pot of soup, is he?”
Defeated, Lyu Yaoqin stomped her way back His Majesty.
Long Zaitian crossed his arms: “All right, tough guy, since you’re the strategist, we’re counting on you for ideas. You were the one who talked big, weren’t you? Where are you going to get five fighters from? Your rear?”
Unconfident, I muttered, “Don’t we… have a lot of people here?”
“Huh? Us? What gives you the idea we can be anything more than Patriarch Yi’s warm-up? Do you know why he’s the patriarch of one of the four biggest orthodox sects? You saw with your own eyes how dangerous Desolate Sword Dance is. Who do you think can take it?”
Not sure myself, I replied, “Well… isn’t it your job to stake your lives when Master needs you?”
“What you’re saying is, we have to wipe your butt after you had to go and rile him up? Piss off! Even if Dugu and I nod, where are we going to pull another three fighters from? Ol’ Tie has only just healed and can’t fight protracted matches. Laimu and Ye Luo aren’t going to cut it. Tang Ye’s old man just died, or so his face says. You going to throw Su Xiao in? Listen, Strategist Ming: even if you cut and piece us together, you aren’t going to have five combatants.”
“Am I not a contestant?”
“… It isn’t an incompetence competition.”
I admit I was careless and impulsive. I irrationally jumped to the conclusion that Green Prince couldn’t pool together a team of five, which would force them to bail out of the bet. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember to account for our circumstances.
Still, you lot is duh stupid. Just because you challenge someone, doesn’t mean you have to win. We just need to take the invitation from someone else before the date of the tournament, and we won’t have to bother fighting, stupids.
I couldn’t explicate my idea as the imperial court’s warriors held promises to fight as dear as their lives. “If I make a promise, I have to keep my word. If I agree to a fight, I must win,” was their mantra. Instead of spawning extra problems for myself, it’d be far simpler to pinch an invitation and tell them afterwards.
Besides stealing an invitation, we needed to leverage Dragon Phoenix Inn to locate Boss Shen. I had to go catch up with Zha Pi and the squad once we were in business.
“What?” I asked, looking up to see all eyes on me once I was done musing.
Long Zaitian rubbed his chin: “I get this feeling that you’re being a classic Ming Feizhen.”
“What do you mean?”
“In that case, what are we going to do about the tournament?”
I whistled and called out to the one under the table, “Hey, if you don’t come out and help, you won’t have your name in the list of contributors.”
All I heard was a quiet gyrating of lips from under the table.
“Stop beating yourself up. You didn’t mean to.”
“… Leave me to become a mushroom under the table.”
“Do you think that’s even possible?”
“… It just takes time.”
I pulled aside the table, revealing the squealing kid. He lost his blanket that he wrapped himself in while putting up a resistance, so he refused to meet my eyes.
“You’ve been sulking for long enough.”
“I… I… I harmed Master and Miss Ye…”
“You didn’t mean to, though. Attend the meeting properly. Compensate your mistake with a contribution.”
I couldn’t blame Su Xiao for possessing the same lethal, incorrigible talent my shifu’s second wife had. Shifu still runs from her cooking to this day.
Though Tang Ye was absent from the group meeting, the three offices had still convened, technically speaking.
Long Zaitian voiced, “Master holds you in the highest regard, and you’re the root of this conundrum. How are we going to decide who the five participants will be?”
I didn’t have an answer, while Su Xiao was still processing everything. Hence, I tossed the ball to Dugu: “Brother Dugu, you are a composed and logical man. What do you think?”
“Me?” Dugu spent a while watching the imperial doctor work on Emperor Yuansheng then answered, “Nothing, to be honest. If we’re short on manpower, though, how about seeking outside help?”
“Can you expand?”
“Bets and fights commonly go together in the pugilistic world, and calling on every friend you have is the norm. If even Patriarch Yi is here, it shouldn’t be difficult to find adepts in Canhu Town.”
Why you so stupid?! If we really wanted to win, the idea was the best possible option; however, we didn’t need to win. Look into my eyes! Play dirty, son!
“Good idea. That escaped me. We may be here covertly, but we can consider the idea as long as the people we ask for help don’t pry unnecessarily,” opined Tie Hanyi.
“Can we find anyone is the question,” Long Zaitian pointed out, stating what I was also thinking.
Dugu impugned, “Probably not before. Thanks to Brother Ming, nonetheless, we have three hundred thousand taels. We can afford to hire anyone now, including even the likes of assassins from League of Assassins.”
Get bent! You want to buy me problems using my body?!
Long Zaitian, showing surprising patience and composure, disputed, “It’s an idea worth contemplating, true. That being said, just because you can hire them, doesn’t mean they are competent enough. Not everyone treasures money, especially those who’ve reached a high level. I guarantee you couldn’t hire an Yi Wangyou with three hundred thousand. Do we really have to hire someone from League of Assassins? If we want a true adept, we’ll need to do our homework.”
Dugu smiled: “We don’t necessarily to hire their fists. Some people like women or materials. As long as we have money, we can purchase them what they want.”
Long Zaitian executed his signature thigh smack, infuriating Miss Lyu again. Sadly for her, he was too busy to notice.
“That sounds good. Ol’ Tie, you’re the elite at information gathering. Do you know who our pool of candidates consists of?”
“I heard Mount Wudang’s Elder Shou has arrived.”
“He’s a good choice. He’s strong and from Wudang. Mount Kunlun is nobody against Wudang.”
“Wait, wait,” I hollered. “Elder Shou is a no go. First, he’s not interested in money. Second, no materials tickle his fancy. All he does is chase immortality.”
“True. Wudang’s elders aren’t mundane humans…” everyone verbalised in synchrony.
I had to sank a pot of tea to calm myself down after the scare of almost being exposed.
Our silent friend, Bai Laimu, reminded, “Doesn’t Hero Lie owe Brother Ming a favour? He did say he would do anything Brother Ming asked back at the inn that night.”
“Oh yeah, Lie Shang is an extraordinary broadsword wielder. He also has the weapon advantage over Yi Wangyou.”
“No, no, no. That’s like toiling for nothing. He’s bloodthirsty, and his weapon doesn’t help him; the man cleaves people on whims. If he butchers Patriarch Yi, Kunlun Sect will be furious with us. If he loses, what’s the point of hiring him?” I contested.
“Those two are high calibre even if we expand our candidate list. I reckon it’s hard to find anyone superior,” Long Zaitian noted. Who else do we have…?”
Su Xiao raised his hand: “I know! I know! When Big Brother Ming and I were out, we ran into Wutong Jin Yuxuan’s group.”
Not long ago, Long Zaitian got his saliva all in my face with his chiding. Thanks to Su Xiao, I had the chance to return the favour with a mouthful of tea.
Su Xiao, why the hell are you sticking a knife in me?!
Su Xiao’s face read, “Don’t worry. Liu Shan Men is going to get all the credit for this.”
Oh, no, no, no! You’re not helping! You’re screwing me over!
“Keep going,” Long Zaitian demanded.
Su Xiao beamed: “That fatty attacked Wutong Jin Yuxuan’s group today, and we helped Wutong Jin Yuxuan’s group out.”
“Oh, fate sure has a way with things,” commented Dugu, smiling. “In which case, we might be able to befriend Wutong Jin Yuxuan’s group if we express our sincerity.”
Tie Hanyi mumbled, “Wutong Jin Yuxuan… Heroine Lian did demonstrate amazing strength. If they could lend us a hand, our chances of winning would be boosted.”
Wiping away the tea at my mouth, I interjected, “Wutong Jin Yuxuan ar-”
“Put a sock in it, Ming Feizhen!” Long Zaitian admonished. “You shake your head at everything. Are you a strategist or a dancer? Also, why the hell did you spray the tea in my face?”
Why the hell are you picking a fight for that right now? Stay on topic, jerk!
“You’re the one who triggered this mess, so you take responsibility. We haven’t opened for business yet, so you better go find help tomorrow,” Long Zaitian accosted.
“Who else? You’re the genius who came up with the idea. I also remember that you and Miss Lian are friends.”
Friends? More like creditor and victim!
Su Xiao leaned an arm on my shoulder and added, “You’re right about that. Even Abbess Huofeng is on good terms with him.”
Everyone tried to skewer me with their glares.
“Ming Feizhen, you’re responsible for imploring Wutong Jin Yuxuan for help tomorrow.”