Dragon Phoenix Inn’s Grand Opening. Danger Encroaches.
The last batch of Refining Divine Convention attendees rolled into Huzhou after New Year’s Eve, tension between groups rising as ambitions and desires were hauled out from tight lids. Rife rumours of the mysterious weapon hunter on the loose compounded their tension and promoted paranoia, creating a vicious cycle that spread it faster and further, even becoming a gossip topic for denizens of Canhu Town.
To say it was but a rumour wouldn’t be accurate for it was a fact that someone or several pugilists were robbed daily, yet nobody could do anything to stop the attacks from taking place. Nobody was going to help other groups as every group was in competition with each other.
There was no way of guessing who the culprit was for nobody had the name list of people invited, not to mention all the pre-existing grudges between people. How could anyone tell who was after a weapon and who was purely attacking others under the guise of robbing a weapon to hide their identity? To speak metaphorically, the pent-up pressure, the invisible enemy, could detonate any moment the culprit decided to act.
Word on the street was that Refining Divine Convention was another fighting tournament, meaning the pressure of dealing with fights loomed even if they didn’t need to worry about the weapon hunter. Not shying away from fights doesn’t mean one is detached from the pressure of an imminent scrap. Accordingly, the pressure of waiting for a challenge to knock on their doors wilted away at their patience and composure.
In addition to the weapon hunter on the loose, the mysterious group that bought out the biggest restaurant in town for an entrance suddenly reopened it as an inn – Dragon Phoenix Inn. They bought the restaurant on New Year’s Eve, finished renovations over the 1st of New Year and announced their grand opening on the 2nd.
Anyone who had resided in Canhu Town from Bright Jade Restaurant’s era would know the restaurant didn’t have any rooms, yet the mysterious group could afford to hire all of the town’s artisans and artists on New Year, not to mention giving the interior a remake within a single day. One could argue that there was so much clamouring in the building that Bright Jade Restaurant was silent when their tables were filled.
The proprietor of the inn, who was said to be involved with the pugilistic world, generously offered high salaries to win over the best chefs, artists, musicians and dancers from the biggest brothels in Canhu Town to work at Dragon Phoenix Inn. Even the wealthy had trouble believing the proprietor dropped that much money within days without batting an eye.
The first and second floors were turned into dining floors. Both floors offered a tall platform at the centre for diners to watch performances of various nature, commencing from when the sun was over the mountains and moon found its throne in the black velvet canvas.
The decision to start such a large-scale business in a disproportionately small town at a time where there was no promised boom in business had many scratching their heads. Equally befuddling to them was how Dragon Phoenix Inn’s business exceeded even their most outlandish estimates on their first day in operation.
The success of Dragon Phoenix Inn was twofold: first, the town was overcrowded, and most visitors travelled in groups, so staying together in one place was better than splitting up. Second, constantly delivering entertainment befitted the business atmosphere still lingering from New Year – lasts about twenty-three days, ending on the 15th day of the first lunar month. Thus, even though it had “inn” in its name, Dragon Phoenix Inn was more than just an inn.
To emphasise again, danger was encroaching upon Canhu Town.
On the third morning of business since Dragon Phoenix’s opening, it was packed to the gills with customers dying to feast their taste buds on the elite culinary of the inn’s chef and others burning to feast their eyes on the rumoured belles. Anticipation spiralled into disappointment when the six musicians and twelve dancers didn’t please them.
Concierge Tie, who stood beside Concierge Long, grumbled, “Ol’ Tie, where?”
Unable to find said person of interest, Ol’ Tie yelled, “Su Xiao!”
“Coming, coming!” Su Xiao, the most busy and energetic worker, jogged over to heed the call.
Su Xiao spearheaded the renovations and helped out in every department once the doors were open to customers. It wouldn’t be outlandish to say he had a fall back plan if life as a constable didn’t work out for him in the end. Part of his motivation to perform and contribute was to make up for knocking Emperor Yuansheng out cold days ago.
Concierge Long rubbed his chin, asking, “What are you doing, Su Xiao?”
“I am wiping the tables upstairs. The diners on the second floor are here early; however, they are really approachable. Everyone greets me whenever they see me.”
“Bloody crooks already trying to ogle a maiden so early in the morning?”
“Ahem, nothing. Don’t worry about the second floor. The customers on the first floor need you more.”
“Got it.” Su Xiao brightly jogged downstairs, wide sleeves flailing around and displaying his lanky forearms.
“Susu! Come take a seat over here!”
Su Xiao giggled in response to the passionate greetings from the men who lambasted the dancers and musicians from before: “I can’t. I need to wipe down the tables. Excuse me.”
As he energetically wiped down the tables, winning the hearts of all the male customers, Su Xiao greeted them: “How are you?”
They gasped and then belted, “Fantastic!”
“Hahaha, you’re so noisy,” responded Su Xiao, covering his ears.
You haven’t forgotten a danger was encroaching upon Canhu Town, have you?
“More added,” Long Zaitian remarked.
“What does that mean?” Ol’ Tie queried.
“Villains.” Long Zaitian could tell the customers on the first and second floor were not people they could dissuade from fighting with Penetrate-Into-The-Enemy’s-Soul-With-Preaching Style.
Ol’ Tie acknowledged he understood with a bob of his head.
Ye Luo, who carried dishes out from the kitchen, added, “Not one of the people on the first and second floor look like good people. The unconventional weapons the majority of them carry are dead giveaways that they aren’t members of orthodox sects.”
Long Zaitian said, “Nobody will argue with you on that. I dare say none of them would conspicuously walk around in Jiangnan as they are doing now or cause uproar. I doubt anti-tradition people would strut around so brazenly if they weren’t invited to Refining Divine Convention. I reckon more people have rocked up in town today than any other day we’ve been here. I reckon we’re not far away now.”
“Not far away?” inquired Ye Luo, receiving silence for an answer.
Bai Laimu, who was enlisted as their calligrapher for his praiseworthy competence with the brush, had just finished writing, “Harmony is conducive to good business,” heard “Young Master Zhong Ming around?”
Bai Laimu almost fell to the ground upon hearing the booming voice that muted the music.
“Thought so,” commented Long Zaitian.
Tie Hanyi explicated, “If I’m not wrong, he’s Yin Changmei.”