Not an Easy Mission
“I failed to recognise your true capacity due to my impulsiveness. I hereby give you my heartfelt apology.” Ah Neath bowed solemnly.
“Hohoho, no need to stand on ceremony, my dear nephew,” I replied.
“Who you calling your nephew, you moron?!”
“Your Majesty, you are the one holding this banquet for Feizhen. Do not sabotage yourself,” Feng Xue reminded.
I don’t know what you two talked about, but it looks like you can’t give me any grief at this banquet, young Ah Neath.
Ah Neath knocked back a cup of wine: “A toast to you!”
Hahaha, Uncle convinced you, huh? Now you know I’m valuable, huh?
Seeing his King pour me a drink, the prison guard behind me conveyed, “Bro, you’re my idol.”
I brought the prison guard along because he had an abundance of pertinent knowledge that could be conducive to helping Ah Neath – in addition to preventing anyone from expunging him. It was inevitable for him to learn Ah Neath was a she since he was around me.
Speaking of Ah Neath’s gender, she made less effort to hide it than I imagined. Not only did the high-ranking officials know, but even her maids and guards knew. I suppose they didn’t make a big deal out of it as she was the only offspring of Baimu’s last King.
I had no reason not to rest my feet on the table and recline with my hands behind my head. “Was that a toast? Where’s my drink? You drink my share?”
Ah Neath begrudgingly picked up my cup and the wine pot.
“You have to add some nectar in first. How do I know when the last time you washed the cup was? How am I supposed to drink it without any nectar?”
“What about the salt? It’s right next to your hand. You should get your eyes checked.”
“You done?! I’m not here to serve you!”
“First Brother.” I was going to keep playing thug when Zhuiyue removed my legs from the table and adjusted my sitting posture. The man even smoothed out the wrinkles in my clothing and instructed, “You are the face of Mount Daluo. You must mind your manners in the presence of Baimu’s monarch. As well, you need to be polite when requesting a drink.”
Ah Neath absolutely loved the conundrum I was in.
“What are you laughing about?! Every family has its problems!”
“Okay, I won’t laugh at you. You’ve given me grief, and I’ve made you suffer. Let’s start over with a clean slate after you’ve had the drink.”
“What needs to be cleaned off the slate?”
“Probably the part where you grabbed her breasts?” opined the prison guard.
Two slabs of bony beef smashed us in the face the next second. I just took a bite out of the delicious beef. Unfortunately for my buddy, the steak slept him.
“If you dare to mention that one more time, I promise I’ll disfigure you after I kill you!”
Continuing to chomp on the beef, I responded, “I won’t. You must have a reason for releasing me. Go on. My ears are yours.”
Ah Neath scrubbed her head, looked over to Uncle Martial Paragon, waited for a nod and, at long last, stated, “I didn’t know what you were capable of… but I do now. I trust you now.”
“Should’ve trusted me from the start.” I knocked on the table. “Five more kilos of that stewed bone.”
Obviously, there were no servants around at the secret meeting. Thus, Wu Ba had to go fetch me a stewed bone. Before he went, though, he said to me, “Motherflipping Zhouzi, I shall go get you a freaking boner.”
“It’s just ‘bone’! Hey! You can’t eat what you just said! Hey! Also, what’s with your speech style?!”
“Is that something you should really be asking?!” raged Ah Neath. “Wu Ba is an honest man. He wouldn’t be using profanity if it wasn’t for you. He thinks he’s using language reserved for the palace. All day, he’s motherflipping this and motherflipping that.”
Oh, I almost forgot I was the one who taught him. Oh, well, sheet happens. Not going to be my concern, anyway.
“In any event, I can trust you now. I heard you’re acquainted with various people and groups, skilled in various departments and great at using disguises.”
“What do you want me to disguise myself to assist you with?”
“… I have a rather difficult request for you. It’s difficult and dangerous; however, if you succeed, what you gain will decide the winner.”
I skulled some wine: “Elaborate.”
“Right now… nobody knows Baimu is in our custody. I want to obtain the labour of Baimu’s fruits before anyone catches wind of his capture.”
“Mhmm, mhmm. I see. Can you simplify it?”
“… In other words, people are under the assumption he is still leading a battle somewhere during this disappearance of his. Nobody will think he’s already been defeated and in my hands – same goes for his allies. If he were to suddenly meet up with his conspirator, do you think we’d be able to acquire insider information?”
“You want me to disguise myself as Baimu to go on a recon mission, correct?”
Nobody but Baimu and his allies knew what he was plotting. He had authority over the military, after all. Eliminating him alone wasn’t enough to take back power because he had his loyal cronies. Somebody, therefore, needed to find out what they were cooking, but that person couldn’t be me.
I would feel at home if I had to dress up as someone nobody recognised. Asking me to pose as somebody the target was familiar with, however, was taking a big risk. I used disguises primarily to dodge debts, enemies, Shifu and similarly catastrophic people. Put another way, I learnt the art of disguise to run, not spy. Moreover, I would need a long time of training to be able to do what Mountain Monster did.
“May I ask, your spy candidate is not me, is it?”
Ah Neath bobbed her head: “While I wasn’t sure who to tackle the challenge, Feng Xue recommended you strongly, so I feel you’re fit for the job.”
When I looked over to Uncle Feng Xue, he grinned as if to say, “Surprised?”
“I can’t! It’s not that I’m unwilling to help you, but I don’t know how Baimu interacts with his conspirators. Further, I don’t even speak Nanjiang’s language. Surely you’re aware of these points. How can I infiltrate their ranks?”
“I have accounted for those issues; you will get close to someone he’s not familiar with. That said, she’s extremely dangerous – my Princess Consort.” Calmness and focus seeped into Ah Neath’s tone when she mentioned her Princess Consort. “Although Baimu is as much of a scoundrel as she is, they shouldn’t be very familiar with each other because, as I’m around, they wouldn’t dare to directly interact too much. I suspect they communicate through a middle man, and I suspect the third party is someone working for Great Spirit Shaman. I stress again: this is my theory. Feng Xue and I will tell you as much as we do about Baimu so that you can convincingly pass off as him.”
“There’s still one more problem: it’d take, at the very least, a month to create a human-skin mask that is convincing. Heck, it would take twenty-two days even if you wanted to create a mask that could fool someone not familiar with you. We don’t have that much time.”
“I’ve already factored that in.” Ah Neath slipped out a brocade box under the table and showed me three human-skin masks. “I had someone make these masks behind their backs. Originally, I planned to have someone pose as him after I killed him. That would allow me to control the military until I’m allowed to take over. I’d say these masks strongly resemble his face. Combine them with your skills, and you shouldn’t have any problems, right?”
Ah Neath a lot more prepared than I thought. Judging from the chest of gear she had collected, she had been preparing for a long time.
Upon looking up again, Uncle Feng Xue was using his gaze to urge me into accepting the job. I had a feeling he recommended me for the job due to Baimu’s strength. Nobody else around could imitate his combat prowess. I appreciated him not explaining his reasoning for recommending me to Ah Neath to cover my secrets. The only way I could show my appreciation was accepting the job.
“Leave the job to me. While I’m eating, tell me all about Baimu. The more details you can provide, the better.” Everyone was happy at this point. Nonetheless, I remembered to something I needed to inquire about. “By the way, when did you capture Baimu? You’re pretty quick. We’re in the same boat now, so you can tell me that much, can’t you? … Why you staring at me?”
Wu Ba came back during the window of silence: “Sir Zhouzi, I’m motherflipping back. Here you go!”
“Feng Xue!” Ah Neath finally erupted. “I just knew he couldn’t be trusted! He was just lucky! I even poured him a drink and apologised!”
I passed a stewed bone to Ah Neath: “Relax. Here, this one’s on me, kiddo.”