This chapter is updated by Novels.pl
Translator: Henyee Translations Editor: Henyee Translations
Dog Butcher was terribly nervous. This was the first time they were carrying out a mission on behalf of the Dragon King, and yet he was the only one who’d arrived on time, and all the others had been late.
“Old Man Mu asked me to come and report to you first. He… he’s still stalking them.”
“Who’s he stalking?” Gu Shenwei didn’t get angry.
“Why’s he stalking her?”
“Here’s the thing…” Dog Butcher took a sip of water to try to ease his nerves, and then started narrating what he and Old Man Mu had discovered in the last few days.
Han Wuxian was clearly not alone, and there were clearly some other Waning Moon Hall members that had been assigned to Jade City, whom even Lotus didn’t know about. During the last three days, Han Wuxian had visited seven places in total: five of them were in Southern Jade City and the other two in Northern Jade City — and each with different amounts of time.
And the people she’d met ran the gamut from blacksmiths, prostitutes, casino owners, prostitutes, old sabermen, and merchants all the way to fugitive nobles.
“I wrote down all of their names and addresses,” Dog Butcher said as he produced a piece of paper.
Gu Shenwei took it, casually left it on the table, and then asked, “What about the people from the Central Plains?”
Dog Butcher was worried that Dragon King might not be satisfied, and he hesitated for a moment. “We haven’t found them yet. Old Man Mu said that Han Wuxian’s movements were suspicious, and that she must be up to something, so the Dragon King should make some preparations.”
Gu Shenwei’s voice turned slightly severe and he wanted to pressure Dog Butcher somewhat — though not too much. Just a little. “I’m not surprised that Old Man Mu would make decisions without my permission, but I didn’t expect that you would also do the same thing. If you want to achieve something in the martial arts world, this is not the right way to do so. Since you have made a voluntary decision to work for me, you have to do exactly as I tell you.”
Dog Butcher flushed red from embarrassment. He wanted to defend himself, but he also felt that it would be a betrayal if he continued to hide behind Old Man Mu, so he just lowered his head and stopped speaking, his feet nervously rubbing one another where he stood.
“Your kung fu is better than Old Man Mu’s, so you should be the one calling the shots.”
“But I’m inexperienced.”
“Old Man Mu used to be a vicious bandit who always acted alone, and the enemies he made back then were numerous. On the topics of socializing with commoners and extracting intelligence, how much experience do you think he really has? Don’t be fooled by his brags. When he comes back, I’ll have him report to you. Remember, you lead him. Not the other way around.”
Dog Butcher was encouraged and replied with a loud “yes.” When he turned around and walked out, he gave off a confident air.
Nie Zeng had been watching all this carefully from behind the Dragon King. He took a step forward and asked, “Han Wuxian’s movements were very suspicious. Shouldn’t you be worried, Dragon King?”
“Han Wuxian used to teach you kung fu, right?” Gu Shenwei didn’t answer his question directly.
“She did. While we were still in the Norland. But she hasn’t taught me anything recently.”
“That’s because I told her to stay away from you.”
“Why?” Nie Zeng was surprised.
“Someone once told me that a servant always serves his master with expectations of a reward. He considers every amount of his humility and subservience as an investment and expects to be rewarded as this investment increases over time. Yet, the master tends to take his servant’s service for granted, which is the typical origin for many betrayals.
Nie Zeng felt that these words were reasonable, but also that they had nothing to do with Han Wuxian. Although he didn’t want to carry that woman on his back, the reward he received was usually greater than what he expected, so he was pretty satisfied and held no grudges about it.
Gu Shenwei continued his explanation. “There’s always a disparity between the investment and the reward. Not just between masters and servants, but between all interpersonal relationships. I have to warn you — the mindset of the Waning Moon Hall is different from that of normal people, and the disparity is also far greater. You might think that you’re exchanging even favors, but from her side, Han Wuxian probably thinks that you owe her a huge favor.”
Nie Zeng went numb — Han Wuxian had never indicated that she had wanted something from him, but judging by her peculiar personality, it did sound strange that she would teach him kung fu so willingly. “I can see what you are saying now.”
“And the Waning Moon Hall also claims their rewards in their own particular ways. You just have to remember one thing: you don’t owe her anything.”
Nie Zeng nodded, feeling that this warning from Dragon King was unnecessary — he had never thought that he owed Han Wuxian anything.
After finishing this topic, Gu Shenwei brought the discussion back to the original issue. “I don’t want to dig up Han Wuxian’s secrets simply because it does me no good to do so. Me and her, while we have a common enemy, that’s the extent of our relationship. When the job is done, I expect to cut all contact with her.”
Nie Zeng was still pondering over Dragon King’s words when someone opened the door. Shangguan Fei rushed in hurriedly as he gasped out of breath, “Sorry I’m late. Eek, where’s everybody? Am I too late?”
Clearly Shangguan Fei had sprinted here. Sweat was dripping off him and much of the foundation and blush he had used for his disguise had been washed off. And the formerly straight hair bun on his head was now tilted, which made him look even weirder than Han Wuxian.
Nie Zeng was startled. He reached out his hand to grab his saber hilt, and almost pulled it out.
Shangguan Fei also discovered that he was in a mess. As he cleaned himself up, he said, “The schedule was too tight and I barely made it here. Please forgive me, Dragon King. I didn’t mean to be late…”
There was no fear in Shangguan Fei’s voice — on the contrary, he sounded a bit self-satisfied, as if he had acquired some important intelligence that gave him a considerable amount of confidence.
Nie Zeng loosened his grip on the saber hilt. Knowing that Shangguan Fei’s act of beating around the bush was an indication that he wanted to make the report alone, Nie Zeng took the hint and left the room. Then he saw Tie Linglong, standing transfixed in the courtyard.
Shangguan Fei turned his head and watched Nie Zeng leave. After making sure that Nie Zeng was out of earshot, Shangguan Fei whispered excitedly, “The Dragon King won’t be able to guess what kind of intelligence I found.”
“So it has nothing to do with the green-faced assassins?”
Shangguan Fei smiled embarrassedly, but he was sure that the intelligence he was about to offer was of greater importance than that about the green-faced assassins. “I met my mother, and she told me a lot.”
“How’s Madam Meng doing?”
Shangguan Fei shook his head and replied, “Not so good. Because of that incident, the Unique King still hasn’t forgiven her, but he at least doesn’t want to kill her anymore. My mother’s now living with the Meng family in Northern Jade City, and she’s has something big planned.”
Shangguan Fei purposefully paused to build suspense. Gu Shenwei irritatedly asked, “Is Meng Yuzun still alive?”
“You know about it already, Dragon King?” Shangguan Fei was startled.
“Tell me what you know.”
Shangguan Fei was no longer as confident as he was previously. “Then I’ll put it simply. Meng Yuzun had been trying to learn kung fu in secret, and he also coveted the Daoless Divine Power of Golden Roc Castle. The Lord knew of this for a long time, but didn’t do anything about it. And then about a year ago they found someone who greatly resembles Old Meng and fattened him up — after that, the Unique King killed Old Meng, so the present patriarch of the Meng family is actually a fake.”
“That was half a year ago.”
Shangguan Fei was now in great admiration for the Dragon King’s foresight. “Exactly. It took them several months to fatten that guy up and teach him all of Meng Yuzun’s manners.”
“The fake Meng Yuzun’s job is to throw the Meng family into a mess. Then my mother will take over, and thus the Meng family would be under Golden Roc Castle’s control.”
“Does the Unique King trust Madam Meng that much?”
The complicated relationship between his parents had given Shangguan Fei severe headaches, and he responded, “Fa… The Unique King hates my mother. But he wants the Meng family’s support and also wants to keep it a secret, so he needs my mother’s identity.”
Gu Shenwei pondered the new information for a while before asking, “Golden Roc Castle has been on good terms with the Meng family for generations. Why did they choose to rupture their relationship now?”
“One of the reasons is that Old Meng tried to stealthily learn their kung fu. And my mother said that there’s also another reason: The Unique King was raising money to buy an army, but the Meng family refused to help.”
“To buy an army?”
Sensing the confusion and interest in Dragon King’s tone, Shangguan Fei’s confidence recovered. “A massive army. Mother doesn’t know the details, but according to her speculation, this army is from the Norland, and it belongs to either Duodun or Luoluo.”
The 70,000 troops of Duodun were stationed in Heaven’s Pass and were seemingly allies of Golden Roc Castle. While teacher Zhang Ji was lobbying in Luoluo’s army camp, both Duodun and Zhang Ji had gotten in close contact with the Unique King.
“Did Madam Meng know that you were asking about this information for me?”
“She did.” As he said this, Shangguan Fei became a little proud. “My mother would do anything for me. She was happy when she learned about what I’ve been doing recently, and she even asked me to send her gratitude to you for the care and help you’ve offered me.”
Shangguan Fei was satisfied with his mother’s unconditional love, but Gu Shenwei didn’t believe it blindly. “What else did Madam Meng say?”
Shangguan Fei flushed slightly and giggled, “My mother has a suggestion — and I’m just repeating her words here — she said that she could find out the whereabouts of the green-faced assassins for the Dragon King. Actually, she feels a little confused herself as the Unique King hasn’t sent any green-faced assassins anywhere for a very long time, and even the killers are becoming idle.”
“What’re her conditions?”
“Ur, my mother has a strange idea. She believes… believes…”
“Believes that you can inherit the title of the Unique King as well as Golden Roc Castle.”
“You’re so wise, Dragon King. Actually I don’t have any ambitions like that — you know what kind of person I am. It’s just my mother’s fond hope. She said that you actually have only one foe, and that’s Shangguan… Fa, and that the others in Golden Roc Castle have nothing to do with the massacre happened many years ago. So if you would be willing to focus all your hatred onto the Unique King and spare the others, more than half of the people in Golden Roc Castle would take your side.”
The more than a hundred thousand strong cavalrymen of Norland were still a thousand miles away from the Jade City, and yet under the pressure caused by them, Golden Roc Castle’s foundation had been already compromised. Gu Shenwei thought that it was happening too soon. “Well, maybe what Madam Meng believes is not just a fond hope. I have no interest in the title of Unique King and I have no problem giving it to you. But Golden Roc Castle…”
Shangguan Fei immediately interjected, “It’s not the Stone Castle on the mountain that my mother is determined to own. She just wants me to have the properties at the foot of the mountain.”
“It seems that I need to meet with Madam Meng.”
“I’ll arrange a meeting. Noone else will know about it. It’ll be absolutely safe. My head will be the guarantee.” An ambitious expression, which had rarely appeared on Shangguan Fei’s face, had shown up, and he was trying hard to subdue his excitement.
“All right.” Gu Shenwei gave his consent. He wanted to find out exactly how important Madam Meng’s only son was to her.
Shangguan Fei left, and before long, Han Wuxian arrived. She didn’t give any excuses nor apologies for her tardiness.
Old Man Mu arrived at almost the same exact time and he assumed a surprised look. “What a coincidence! I thought that I would be the last one.”
Han Wuxian walked towards Old Man Mu with a smile, and yet before he could react, she gripped the collar behind his neck and said in a low voice, “I want to talk to the Dragon King in private. Since you’re so fond of peeking from the outside, you might as well stay outside this time too.”
“Ouch! Woman, stop it. I was secretly protecting you. Dragon King, say something. I was…”
Han Wuxian roughly tossed Old Man Mu out of the room, closed the door, and locked it. Then she turned and walked towards the Dragon King as she said, “Lotus and the traitors are indeed in Jade City. Can you guess what that girl is up to?”
“She wants to make the first move and attack Golden Roc Castle.”
“It seems that Lotus is determined to make sure that her every one of her moves is ahead of yours, Dragon King. You’re right. Lotus is rallying all of her minions and making war preparations. And the Unique King also has his own plans. You want to know what the green-faced assassins are doing? They’re searching the whole city for clues, ready to start a bloodbath. And there’s more — the Unique King has paid large sums of money to hire kung fu experts from lots of different countries, and they’re on their way to Jade City right now.”
Her chest heaving by this point, Han Wuxian stretched out her tongue and sensuously licked her lips. An intoxicated look appeared on her face, and it seemed as if she could already smell the fragrance of fresh blood.
To hire both an army and kung fu experts, undoubtedly required a large sum of money from the Unique King. Gu Shenwei was suspicious and he believed that only one of these two messages could be true.
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