Word on the Street is that I’m the Man with the Strongest Arms, the Man with the Greatest Charm…
“I… get it now.” A relaxed smile bloomed on Shen Yiren’s lips.
“Why Mount Daluo’s members are rarely active in the pugilistic world and haven’t been extolled for a long time, yet they remain one of the three biggest sects and are respected.”
I shrugged: “That’s not quite correct. We actually don’t care how others perceive us. My shifu often told me, ‘Do what you think is right.’ We don’t interact with the rest of world and don’t owe the world anything. I agree. We don’t need others to know what happens on Mount Daluo. Whether they praise or pan us doesn’t change reality or our job.”
“Pffthaha, okay, you done gloating? I get it. Mount Daluo has so much swag that they have enough to spare for the next millennium. Anything else important?”
“I thought you were asking the questions, and I was answering.”
“I understand your concern regarding the six evil beasts now. If Luo Ming also knows about them, then, indeed, his research is disturbing. Noted.”
“Glad you understand.”
“Then…” Boss pinched her cheek and stared me down.
“What?! Can you leave stripping people with their eyes to men?!”
“Hoho?” Shen Yiren pinched her chin. “You want a man to strip you down?”
No! Who said that?! I’d rather you strip me!
Hey, I’m not saying I want Boss to strip me! I’m just saying I prefer her over a man! At least, it’s better if it’s her feminine self…
Wait, stop changing the topic so fast!
Boss giggled as she watched me grab my hair and scrub it. “I understand your apprehension regarding Luo Ming; however, you still haven’t told me about yourself.” Boss twirled her hair and added, “Night Fortress’ master, we should also talk about you, right?”
Well, I expected this topic to eventually come up…
“Go on. What do you want to talk about?”
“You recognise the name South’s Ember Five Palaces?”
“After Demon Sect’s fall, those are the five strongest factions that took advantage of the vacancy in Jiangnan’s martial world to rise and hold authority in Jiangnan second to only the Seven Champion White Princes. Night Fortress is one of the five.”
I placed a hand on my chest: “This one is honoured to receive your praise.”
“Night Fortress’ mysterious leader led Night Fortress on to become what can be considered a powerbroker in Jiangnan. They are situated in Hangzhou, so it’s neutral territory, Wutong Jin Yuxuan is there, and the Seven Champion Princes are eyeing it for their conquest. Yet, the seven don’t give Night Fortress any grief. Instead, the latter earned a place among South’s Ember Five Palace’s. Don’t you find that strange?”
“I suppose that’s true to the ordinary folk.”
“Mount Daluo and Night Fortress are the inside and outside of the same shirt, correct?”
“Uh, I spent too long in the Western Regions, so my Chinese is rather lousy. What’s this about a shirt or trouser?”
Shen Yiren lowered her eyelids and lifted my chin up to force my gaze into hers. “Punk, you’re not being very cooperative.”
Hold my chin all you want. It’s your arm that will end up sore.
I wouldn’t lie, but I didn’t have much about myself that I could openly talk about. My martial arts’ origins are complex, so I can’t go into depth there. I couldn’t talk about Lord San Shen. A lot of brothers at Night Fortress are from Demon Sect. If I wanted to talk about that, I’d have to mention other stuff. I wouldn’t lie to Shen Yiren, but the time was not ripe to discuss those topics yet.
I stuck my tongue out to lick Shen Yiren’s hand, prompting her to remove it. “Tsk, no respect for hierarchy whatsoever,” she griped.
“It’s a page from your book. I won’t lie to you. I will decide whether or not I can tell you. Whether or not you can find the parameters of what I can tell and acquire the most amount of information possible is on you.”
“I only have one question.”
“I heard Night Fortress’ master used wondrous skills in his bout against Abels, and there are numerous witnesses who can testify you were present. Accordingly, the person Abels fought must have been…”
She got there faster than I thought. Better start thinking how can I respond to this. What sort of impression of myself should I leave on her?
“Was your shifu?”
“It would make sense. You’re too lousy to go toe to toe with Abels.”
Huh?! What the ! #@%?! All those doubts about me only to call me out on having lousy combat abilities?!
“Um, I’m not saying you’re really bad. Like, your qingong and strength are decent.”
Thank you so much for the sympathy, but I don’t need that sort of sympathy!
“Don’t mind it. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. See, you’re not exceptional in the looks department, but… you’re mischievous…”
You’re so bad at comforting people that you’re surprisingly vicious! Boss, you scare kids when you get aggressive and make them cry when you try to comfort them!
“I understand you have your pride as the senior disciple of a big sect, master of Night Fortress and one of the leaders of South’s Ember Five Palaces. There’s nothing you can do if you’re not the type to excel at martial arts, though.”
“What makes you think my skills are poor?!”
“… Mm… I’m not discriminating. It’s a fact that you don’t look… You don’t look like the type who can fight.”
Can we stop bringing up my appearance?!
“Please enlighten me as to how a don’t-look-like-the-type-who-can-fight person looks!”
“I reckon you fit working in a field.”
A man who doesn’t know martial arts working in a field? Isn’t that just an ordinary farmer?! Am I a farmer? Do I look like a farmer?!
“Actually, you don’t really resemble a farmer.” Shen Yiren scrutinised my appearance. “Your aura is rather rare in the martial world. You give off the vibe that you can’t hurt anyone, are not very sharp and harmless. You’re a little round and, ah, that’s right, like a groundhog.”
I look like a groundhog?!
I stomped my way to my feet: “The one who fought Abels as me! M! E! Me!”
“… Say what?”
“It wasn’t my shifu or hired help but me! I was the one who drove off Abels! Also, that wasn’t Abels but Luo Ming in disguise!”
Shen Yiren’s angry switch flipped on: “You just promised you wouldn’t lie to me.”
“I’m not lying! I really am a peerless fighter, charming and a lady kill-”
“How dare you tell such a white lie to my face?!” Boss whacked me across the face with her inkstone. “Where’s the ‘peerless’ in peerless fighter?!”