Chapter 33: Never Told a Lie
“Both of you now,” Lan Jue said.
“Huh?” The Barber and Beautician looked at him, stunned.
Lan Jue asked flippantly, “Wasn’t that your plan from the start?”
The two exchanged a glance, surprise evident in their eyes.
The Beautician ran her hand through her hair and smiled. “And how’d you figure that out, Little Brother?”
Lan Jue shrugged. “It wasn’t difficult. I knew you two were a team once he started his attack. You’re always calling him the Diabolical Little Clippers, but his style of confrontation is always head on. Clearly you’d been trying to deceive me from the start. Moreover, were you two not a team why would you come in once the fight was finished? It may be my first time, but I know the rules don’t permit noncombatants to enter during a bout.”
The Beautician glared at the Barber. “I told you! You should have held back, don’t rush in guns blazing. You don’t listen. You’ve shown your hand.”
She turned back to Lan Jue, that devilishly cunning smile once more lighting up her features. “Little Brother, you really are something. I simply must know what degree ninth-rank you are.”
Lan Jue blinked his eyes. “I’m not sure what degree I am myself.”
The Beautician pursed her ruby lips, malcontent written across her face. “Little Brother, don’t be so dishonest.”
Lan Jue sighed. “I’ve never told a lie. In fact, Sister Beautician, I must tell you that my degree isn’t menial.”
She responded with a smile that didn’t reach her eyes, and in that moment a pink light exuded from the center of her body. In the space of an instant, the arena had become a world of pink.
The air filled the shrieking howls, bloodcurdling cries, as a host of wraiths clawed their way out from the ground with bony hands. The world of man had become hell, adrift in the river Acheron*
The Barber disappeared, and the hellish shrieking of the wraiths lapsed in to silence. He had become the deadly blade in the bowels of hades.
Lan Jue, meanwhile, simply lifted his hand and shouted. “That Silver’s mine!”
“Ahh,” the Clairvoyant sighed, and gave a halfhearted smile.
The Wine Master grinned at him. “What’s all that noise about?”
The Clairvoyant replied. “Are we going about this the right way?”
“What’s wrong about it,” the Wine Master inquired. “If we didn’t do it this way, they would find a way. In this case to do is better than to restrict. It will take more than a day or two before they accept the Jewel Master. After all, when he’d first arrived in the Avenue we broke our fair share of rules. But these three years he’s kept a low profile, gained prestige in the council. These are good things.”
“This morning I saw the Barber, his face sour,” the Clairvoyant said. “Like he’d lost something valuable. The Jewel Master’s face, meanwhile, was aglow – like he had a hot date, a good sign.”
Smiling, the Wine Master rejoined, “Let them work it out among themselves. Though the Jewel Master’s heart isn’t entirely pure, but his actions are measured.”
“I wouldn’t call that measured. Economical so as to avoid shortage, maybe. Take care of your precious liquors.”
The Wine Master snorted. “The guy’s quite rich, but exceptionally stingy. I haven’t the slightest idea what he’s planning with all of that money. And when choosing alcohol he’s even more sinister than the Beautician. In these three years he’s opened up more of my treasures than I care to count.”
The Clairvoyant responded with a full-bellied chuckle. “The fault also lies with you, good drinking buddies are rare! Were you to give me fine liquor I wouldn’t know what to do with it. No, it seems you quite like the boy. Although he takes advantage of you, there will certainly come a day when he’ll pay you back double.”
“Oh?”The Wine Master raised a brow in curiosity. With the Clairvoyant, this sort of talk was never to be taken lightly.
It felt incredible to switch up his mood. Lan Jue toyed with the Harlequin Silver in his hand, throwing it up and catching it. As he left the arena all his worries, his anger over Zhou Qianlin, melted away. It was like taking a long drink of ice water after leaving the sauna.
Not long after he left, the Barber and Beautician followed.
The Beautician had become like a peasant woman, her reddish-brown hair tousled and tangled.
She looked like a lion after viciously defending it’s territory.
She ground her teeth as she watched Lan Jue leave.
The Barber looked even more wretched. He lurched with a hand over his stomach, and his face looked like he’d been constipated for more than a month. He looked like he wished he were dead.
“Shameful loss, that guy trounced us,” the Barber nearly bellowed, flustered and frustrated.
“It’s your fault,” the Beautician hissed, trying in vain to get her hair under control. “Who made you so useless! My Harlequin Silver!”
The rage painted across the Barber’s features gradually disappeared, replaced with a stern and dignified look. “The Jewel Master was far stronger than we had assumed. By my estimation he’s at least a fourth degree Ninth-Rank Talent. What do you think?”
The beautician nodded in agreement. “Seems about right. I’m a second degree, and you’re a first. Our powers complement each other. No one but a fourth degree or higher could crush us so quickly and easily.”
The Barber’s face twitched in anger. “We weren’t crushed. We’ll persevere one day.”
“Oh absolutely… ONE DAY!” The Beautician spat sarcastically.
Lan Jue, meanwhile, had paused in his route to escape the Skyfire Underground and walk towards a shop.
In the center of Skyfire Avenue, there was a rather unremarkable little store. The reason why it was described as ‘little’ was only because it was little by comparison to the enormous, noble structures surrounding it. The storefront was only seventeen meters wide, and it was designed in accordance with a combination of the luxurious, classical style with the simplistic neo-classical style. The mirror-like deep blue walls, the brilliant display windows, all showed off several dazzling, gleaming jewels. In the middle of the top of the store, four letters, glowing with a sapphire light, formed the name of the store.
Z, E, U, S.
The door was made from some sort of unknown deep blue metal. It didn’t have any decorations, save for an imprint of a jagged lightning bolt.
Indeed it was Zeus’ Jewelry Shop, a mirror image of the one that sat above them on Skyfire Avenue.
He pushed open the door and entered.
Ding ding ding, the pleasant ringing of silver bells heralded his entrance, and a young girl greeted him. “Boss, you’re here!”
The young woman wore a black skirt that fell to her knees, revealing thin fair-skinned legs. Her torso was hugged by a snow-white blouse, and her short green hair framed her shimmering viridescent eyes. A sweet smile spread across her face.
“Guoguo… how’s business been lately?” Lan Jue called at her in greeting.
Goguo responded with a charming giggle. “Bad.”
“Bad?” Lan Jue responded, slightly taken aback.
She snickered. “The boss hasn’t been around to see us! Of course things have been bad! Really though business is alright.”
“Not great, but at least there’s peace and quiet!” A disgruntled voice interjected. Another shop assistant appeared, fresh from entertaining a customer and clearly not in the best mood.
She wore the same clothing as Guoguo, but the two were as alike as apples and oysters. She rose a hundred and seventy centimeters on long thin legs. Her deep breaths caused her figure to strain against the confining blouse. Her fiery red hair was tied in a bun, and the black rimmed glasses perched on her nose lent her titillating aura an decidedly intellectual flavor. Her pink eyes glinted, like a pair of captivating gemstones.
*Acheron was one of five rivers in the Greek myths of Hades, the River of Woe. Here, it may also refer to hell in it’s entirety.