Although Poison King didn’t buy my story, he let it go since River Monster was pleased, thankfully. The two would inevitably realise something was amiss when they looked outside to see the time of the day had changed. That was the reason I kept rambling and rambling on a non-existent epic revolving around River Monster’s bear – pandering to her obsession with bears – until my mouth was dry.
Can I just say that it was a real hassle given that I went to Luo Clan’s estate, came here, sealed them and then had to deal with their interrogation? The only thing worth celebrating was that I found Boss and that she was alive.
I could understand why Boss was adamant about going undercover as the events in Huzhou befuddled me the more information I gathered. I had yet to get a grasp on how much Refining Divine Convention influenced and the motivation behind it. Bodhi, Poison King and River Monster’s involvement corroborated with my growing suspicion that the scale of the conspiracy was bigger than I could imagine.
I had a bold guess that I wished wasn’t correct. I couldn’t test my hypothesis given my identity, so letting Boss go undercover was my only option. As I told her, nonetheless, I didn’t feel reassured leaving her alone. You expect me to lose her the very day I found her? You must be kidding me. I, therefore, believed I’d be able to keep her out of harm’s way as long as I kept her within my sight.
Boss stuttered, “Y-you…”
I blithely threw away down a card: “One ten.”
“Wait…” Boss clumsily drew a card from my hand and then smugly threw down her card: “A two!”
“Four fives! Indemnity multiplied. You now owe me fifty taels, Boss.”
Boss lied back on the bed, not taking issue to the fact that I could feast my eyes on her ample thighs: “Did you cheat? Why am I always losing and losing to you, no less?”
“That is the magic of cards. No matter how clever or strong you are, your risk of losing to an experienced gambler is the same as an amateur.”
“Hmm… After we get out of here, I’m going to arrest you.”
“Save that for after you beat me.”
We didn’t feel sleepy, and the night was long, so we ended up playing cards on the bed using a set of popular cards in Western Regions that I used a book in the room to make. I had all the time in the world to teach Boss how to play since River Monster and Poison King left Boss in my care while they discreetly stayed in separate rooms, with River Monster staying in a room in the north and Poison King staying in a room in the south in order to guard the exits. That meant they were far away from our room. Besides, they didn’t trust each other.
Boss surprised me when she reached the same conclusion as me. If I had to guess, I’d say her experience developed an ability to sense the locations of hostiles.
“It’s called ‘Precision Scout’. I started practicing from when I was three years old and got the hang of it after twelve years. I could teach you if you want to learn, but your son would probably be able to run by the time you master it. Four cards.”
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised when she’s Yan Shisan’s successor. That cornhole must’ve used the same technique to chase me five hundred kilometres to collect a debt back then…
Bugger used to wear a smug, evil grin whenever he found me back in the day and claimed that he had sources. I flipped out on Ximen Chuideng several times over it. I believed it for all those years until Boss told me of Precision Scout! Screw that lying cornhole!
“Move over. I’m about to fall off the bed.”
Whilst shifting over, Boss griped, “I can’t believe you have the gall to ask for space when you’re so big.”
Due to the damage to Boss’ left hand, she couldn’t draw cards with one hand while playing cards with the other. Thus, he helped herself to one of my hands, having me hold cards for her. So, I had to hold up cards with the same hand I played my cards with…
Around midnight, maybe past it, I decided to voice, “Uh, Boss… Um…”
“Stop mincing your words and out with it.” Boss stared at the cards I held for her, contemplating her strategy.
“… Your hand…”
“Oh.” Boss looked to her left hand and opined, “This? It’s severed, so what? I’ll ask an imperial doctor to nurse it when we get back. It’s not completely useless. I don’t think we need to amputate it.”
Wh-what are you? A veteran soldier who has transcended?!
“Don’t downplay it. You are a girl, after all.”
Boss jerked subtly and then, in a soft voice, asked, “Am I?”
Boss looked up while I was looking at her, resulting in us silently staring into each other’s eyes. Perhaps the meeting was unintentional, allowing me to see softness in her eyes that I hadn’t seen before.
“I don’t know if I am a girl for nobody has ever told me. I have a lot of goals and likely even more people who want me dead in the imperial court and pugilistic world. I don’t have time for trivial things like that.”
Boss never slowed down since she had so many things she wanted to do and things she was willing to sacrifice her life for. She treated improving her skills and climbing the ranks as emergencies. Look no further: she was risking her life to add a merit next to her name as soon as she escaped danger. Her attitude was bound to cost her; perhaps her left hand was one of said sacrifices and many more to come.
“I need to report back tomorrow morning to let them know I’ve found you.”
Boss Nodded: “Poison King is an eccentric man; however, most poison creators prefer to be nocturnal, so you should be okay during the day. As for River Monster, you better have excuses ready.”
“I will do what I must.”
“There’s an even tougher job I’ll need to trust you with, though.”
Boss let a charming smile bloom on her lips and then placed her cards down: “King bomb. Multiplied by thirty, that’s four thousand taels. Don’t just sit there. Pay up.”
W-wait a second… How fast do you learn?!