The rules of gambling dens was that the den couldn’t refuse challenges, but the banker had admitted defeat, chopped off his finger and announced his retirement just as the unwritten rules demanded, never complaining or making a fuss over any part. Therefore, people assumed the maiden harboured some sort of grudge that she wouldn’t set down until she buried them.
As if she was unaware she caused the clamouring, she declared, “Seven thousand taels. Keep going.”
“Miss, are you trying to start a war with our Eternity den?” The banker wrapped his bloody left hand, then grabbed a broadsword by the side. “I don’t know where you came from or why you want to die so desperately, but I’m not going to entertain you!”
“We playing, or not?”
The banker was unsure how to proceed.
Although ordinary folks operated gambling stores, they’d never thrive if they didn’t have connections with the orthodox and unorthodox factions. Information was crucial for them to survive and thrive. If they didn’t know officials were coming, they’d spend more time being detained than running their business.
The banker asked the intel-collection employee who leaned in to him, “Who is she?”
“In the last fortnight, she has been playing at every den in Suzhou and Hangzhou. She’s become notorious for always staking thousands at the very least. After she’s done playing, though, she’d pass all her prize money to the local powerful people and ask them to distribute it.
The banker pulled his brows together. From the information, he learnt that this wasn’t the first time she was doing this and wasn’t out for fame or money. He also learnt that she had a means of walking off after winning against businesses. Since when did any gambling den just let someone walk away with thousands of taels that belonged to the den? By extension, the sword that she carried wasn’t just an ornament. The last thing he noticed was the list of names she entrusted her prize money to; he couldn’t afford to get on the wrong side of a single person listed. She wasn’t just capable; she also had connections.
Once he came to a decision, the banker set down his weapon gently and exhaled. “Miss, may this one ask what you are after? You do not truly intend to challenge us, do you? This one wholeheartedly respects your skills, but he would like to ask that you do not go too far. Always leave a bridge so that we can remain on speaking terms.”
“I want to see The Master.”
Three Hangzhou-born accomplished and decorated martial artists were still considered part of Hangzhou’s martial arts community despite no longer residing there. When they returned from adventures, they’d have visitors seeking audiences with them. Yet, for some unknown reason, they all left for Night Fortress one day, turning the unknown faction into a huge deal overnight. Were it not for their presence, Night Fortress wouldn’t have been able to become the only faction in Hangzhou to rival Wutong Jin Yuxuan.
Outsiders didn’t know that the trio were actually brothers who shared a famous grandpa. His actual name hadn’t been used for so many decades that people only referred to him by his nickname – The Master, or just “Master” when speaking to him directly.
The Master never really achieved anything big. In fact, he wasn’t even really a formidable combatant. One time, someone witnessed him fight a young man, and it was hardly memorable. In any case, it ended up with The Master having to go get treated. Yet, he was famous – extremely famous – which was attributed to his immense wealth of knowledge. For instance, he knew about Tiezhen’s ruler changing, why they changed, when they changed, and he knew all of this before their former ruler was aware they were about to be displaced. He had never been to Mount Tian, yet he knew where their missing Glacial Water sword was located. If it wasn’t for him, the reigning Emperor would never have found the missing imperial seal.
Nobody knew how The Master knew so much. The most popular belief was that he had a private intelligence network, but that was nothing more than a popular legend. However he obtained the information, it didn’t change the fact that he was valuable to both sides of the law since he had so much information on hand. If you were to list the name of everyone seeking an audience with him annually, you’d need a lot of paper – and that was despite many of them never even being granted an audience. As long as he didn’t want to show himself, no one knew where to find him… At least until now.
The elder in his eighties leisurely enjoyed some porridge with side dishes, while his eight subordinates stood beside him. Even so, the maiden before him didn’t appear intimidated in the slightest.
“Good to meet you, Master.” In addition to casually greeting him, Shen Yiren casually helped herself to a stool, much to the chagrin of his subordinates. She tossed a stack of something onto the table and remarked, “A small introductory gift for you.”
The Master’s subordinates went to get physical, only to halt in their tracks when they identified the stack as over thirty two hundred tael cheques.
Intrigued, The Master glanced at Shen Yiren, then went back to eating. Once he was done eating and relishing every drop of tea, which took him a good while, he asked, “How long has it been since you last visited this old one?”
“Around six years?’
“Mm, props to you for being able to find this old one.”
Shen Yiren tugged up a corner of her lips ever so slightly. Her gaze had become a little piercing but not enough to overwhelm the gentleness in her expression. “I know you do not want to see outsiders. I would never have been able to find you if you were hiding. However, you never change your gambling addiction.”
The Master smiled heartily. “Shen Clan is in good hands.”
“It matters not if it is not. As long as Liu Shan Men still exists, the orthodox factions will still have a haven.”
“This old one chose his words poorly. Yan Shisan is the one who has a capable successor.”
The two gave each other a smile of acknowledgement.
“When you asked this old one who was responsible for your family’s demise, you left in a huff when he told you he doesn’t know. What question do you have for this old one today?”
“I wish to inquire about three people. The first one is Feng Yuge.”