Chapter 65: First Candidate for the Personal Guard
The Capital, Qingyang Lane.
The morning’s sunshine spilled into a yard, as a youth wearing coarse hemp with sweat pouring down his face trained a set of blade techniques.
The yard was exceedingly roomy, as the red lacquered main door, strong and tall walls, with it’s spacious layout overall, all spoke of the great fortune and prosperity that had once graced this yard.
Except, much of the red lacquer had been chipped away from the main door under the erosion of time, appearing rather in mottled disorder. The strong and tall walls also showed some tattered gaps, and seemed to be unable to withstand the wind and rain from the outside.
The spacious internal layout appeared empty and deserted as well, with no trace of any decent furniture to be found.
No matter how illustrious and wealthy this house had once been, the owner who lived here now had absolutely come down in the world. This was verified by every detail.
Except, the youth in the yard didn’t seem to want to accept this harsh reality. He trained in an exceedingly desperate fashion, with the emotions of his family once again prospering inspiring him. He had practiced this set of blade techniques whenever he heard the rooster’s crow, everyday, for no less than eight years.
He had no other choice. He seemed to wish to regain the lost splendor, and find the illustrious eminence of this house through the blade in his hand once again.
The red lacquered doors were banged open.
A crowd of nefarious servants like a pack of tigers and wolves barged in, gathered around a youth around twenty years old.
“Guo Jin, you’re keeping your poise alright. You’re still in the mood to practice? Today is the final deadline. Are you giving up this house and its surrounding yard or not?”
The youth’s smile was sinister and ruthless, and his tone was that of complete confidence in that the practicing youth was at the former’s mercy.
The youth Guo Jin stopped and rested his blade on his shoulders, saying coldly. “You, with the Zhuo surname, this house and its yards have been passed down from my forefather, and his forefathers, and is the honor and glory of my Guo family. We can discuss anything else, but you should forever drop the idea of having me sell my ancestral home!”
“Not willing?” The Zhuo surnamed youth smiled threateningly. “Then let’s tally up our accounts clearly. You came to my financing house last year to borrow ten thousand silver. It’s been one full year by now. Combining both principal and interest, you need to return fifteen thousand silver. Either you immediately pay up, or I’ll immediately make a statement to the local authorities to impound your house.
Don’t blame me for not telling you that the local authorities will swallow you whole, without leaving not much behind. I, Zhou Tan, am willing to pay eighty thousand silver to you right now. If we go to the local authorities, if there’s even ten thousand or eight thousand silver left to you, it’ll be because you were lucky enough that the auspicious sign of green smoke rising from your Guo ancestral graves appeared.”
This ‘Zhou Tan’ was the young boss of the biggest firm for exchanging and transferring money in the capital, and he had methods for both legitimate and shady ways. He had taken a fancy to this house and had no doubts in his mind that he could handle this friendless and helpless youth whose family fortunes had declined, whether through the local authorities or through other methods.
Young man Guo Jin only shook his head, “Zhou Tan, kill me if you want, but I will never betray my ancestors or give up this house.”
“Betray your ancestors?” Zhou Tan laughed a rather meaningful laugh. “You think too much. You’re a youth who simply doesn’t know any better. How could you still have the face to mention your ancestors with your infamous father, that army deserter? If it was me, I would have left the capital long ago and found a remote backwater location to hide in.”
It was as if that word was like lightning, causing the youth Guo Jin’s body to slightly convulse all over. His originally somewhat restrained eyes shot out killing intent like that of wild beasts gone mad.
“Zhou Tan, just try saying what you said again!”
The hand clasping the blade’s hilt trembled lightly as Guo Jin’s eyes filmed over with red, as if ready to leap forward and fight to his death at any second.
His father was a taboo subject that could not be touched in Guo Jin’s heart!
“Huh. To speak of this matter or not, this reputation already exists in the capital. Even if you forbid me from saying it, can you stopper all the wagging mouths in the capital?” Zhou Tan obviously didn’t take much notice of Guo Jin’s ferocity.
However, he was here to scheme and seize the house, and didn’t wish to fight until one of them died.
“Bullshit, this is all bullshit! I’ve said that my father wasn’t an army deserter, he isn’t a deserter! I’ll fight whoever says he’s a deserter. Zhou Tan, just try saying that one more time!”
The veins on his neck bulged out as the youth roared, his black face flushing scarlet, apparently angry to the utmost.
Zhou Tan’s face darkened, “Guo Jin, I have no interest in your father’s affairs. I’m here today to give you a final ultimatum. Either transfer the house to me or I’ll go through the local authorities to impound your house! You only have these two choices! Don’t think you can fool me by putting up a death defying front. That little bit of fortune and glory your ancestors had is long gone by now. And even if it was still present, so what?
I, Zhou Tan, am giving your Guo family face in taking a fancy to your house. If it was another one, and you were begging me to accept your house, I might not even be willing to!
Kids, get ready. If that kid Guo is insensible like a block of wood, then throw him and the old one out with random blows from your staves. Don’t hold back, feed them to the dogs if they die!”
It was apparent that Zhou Tan was pretty much out of patience.
The crew of nefarious servants were all rubbing their fists and wiping their palms upon hearing their master’s order. They started hovering closer with malicious intentions.
Guo Jin gave a great wave of his blade and raged, “Whoever dares come forth dies first!”
Zhou Tan said coldly, “Kid Guo, looks like you refuse to give up until all hope is gone. Rush him, it’s on me if you beat him to death.”
At this moment, a round of ear piercing applause suddenly sounded from outside the great door.
That was followed up with someone laughing as their clicked their tongue, “Daring to enter someone’s home and kill them in broad daylight. Are we still in the Eastern Kingdom’s territory?”
This scene was outside of Zhou Tan’s expectations. He hadn’t thought that there was anyone who dared to poke their nose in his Zhou family’s business in the Qingyang Lane. Was there someone who felt that they had lived too long?
“Who are you? This is a debt dispute between my Zhou financing house and the debtor. What business is it to you?” It was obvious that Zhou Tan was accustomed to running wild in the capital.
“It originally was none of my business, but now I’m making it my business.” A youth with a confident, unhurried smile, and clear eyes strode in leisurely with four underlings.
This person was naturally the young duke from the Jiang Han Dukedom, Jiang Chen.
The band of nefarious Zhou servants immediately formed a circle and surrounded Jiang Chen and his Sheng retinue.
Jiang Chen ignored the gleaming of the blades and shadows of their swords. Instead, he remained calm and composed while handling pressing matters, and flicked a glance at Zhou Tan. “How much does he owe you?”
Zhou Tan laughed coldly. “What does it matter to you? It’s not an issue of money now, but that he used this house as collateral and has defaulted on his loan. I’m here to take this house. Sir, no matter your background, I advise you to not meddle in this business. Some businesses, you’re unable to meddle in. Some people, you’re unable to suffer the consequences of provoking them!”
“Oh?” Jiang Chen smiled. “Judging from your tone, you seem to be quite a character.”
“Huh. My Zhou financing house numbers amongst the elites in the entire kingdom. Who are you? Who is your father? Is he an official or in business?”
Jiang Chen completely ignored Zhou Tan’s existence and instead turned his head to ask Guo Jin, “Your surname is Guo?”
Guo Jin was also surprised to see someone flagrantly interfere. Seeing that this person seemed to have quite the intention of protecting him, he nodded honestly.
“Your grandfather is Guo Shun, tutor Guo?”
“Yes.” Guo Jin’s chest puffed out upon hearing his grandfather’s name and a trace of pride flowed through his eyes. There were still people of great ability who numbered amongst the Guo ancestors, and they had once enjoyed riches and honor.
“Alright, how much money do you owe the Zhou financing house?” Jiang Chen asked again.
“I’d originally borrowed ten thousand silver to cure my mother’s illness. Interest compounded, and now, combining the principal and interest, it amounts to fifteen thousand silver.” Guo Jin was also a bit downcast when he spoke of the debt that was as heavy as a mountain.
“Fifteen thousand silver.” Jiang Chen nodded and said to Sheng One by his side, “Sheng One, count out fifteen thousand silver to them.”
In the time that the four brothers from the Sheng battalion had followed Jiang Chen, they had witnessed all sorts of miracles and amazing feats from Jiang Chen. Their relationship with Jiang Chen now had been built up to that of a deeper superior and subordinate relationship.
No longer the mere original relationship of completing a mission.
Notes for fifteen thousand silvers were counted out, and Sheng One directly handed it to Zhou Tan. “Count them up! The young master of my house is repaying the money for him. Don’t come here in the future seeking to make a fuss!”
Sheng One hailed from the army and naturally had a threatening presence.
His step forward caused Zhou Tan’s heart to tighten. He stared at Jiang Chen, the thought occurring to him more and more that this youth seeming to have quite a background.
However, Zhou Tan had never been afraid of anyone since he was small.
He didn’t accept the notes, but rather smiled queerly. “I seemed to have said quite clearly just now that he’s defaulted on a loan. I want the house now, and not silver.”
“Default? Do you have evidence?” Jiang Chen didn’t erupt in anger.
An underling brought out the certificate of indebtedness with a wave of Zhou Tan’s hand. Of course, this certificate was riddled with various traps and had Guo Jin’s signature and personal mark.
Jiang Chen twisted his hands smoothly and directly shredded this certificate. “Now, do you have more?”
Zhou Tan had been completely caught off guard by this motion. He hadn’t thought that this youth who had an uncommon air about him would suddenly be deliberately dishonest and destroy the evidence!
It had always been him, Zhou Tan, committing dog eat dog acts. To think someone would do the same to him today!
“You… you’re courting death!” Zhou Tan’s temper flared completely in that moment.
Jiang Chen walked into the yard without turning his head, saying noncommittally, “Sheng One, take the notes and people and throw them out together!”
The four brothers from the Sheng battalion were all of the advanced realm of true qi and strong men who had long trod the battlefields. They naturally captured these villainous servants easily.
A few rises up and down and they’d thrown the master and his servants outside the great door.
Throwing the notes for fifteen thousand silver after them, “My house’s young duke is a man of reason. Take the silver, if you still want to create a ruckus, think over it again.”
Young Guo’s heart was filled with all sorts of emotions as he watched the Sheng battalion brothers beat the Zhou servants into a hideous state of disorder, as if they were wolves or tigers.
On one hand, he was very grateful that this group of people had offered timely assistance, like offering fuel in snowy weather. Their demeanor was uncommon and caused the malicious looking Zhou group to be completely unable to act wildly in front of these people.
On the other hand, he was anxious and fearful as he didn’t know what motives this group of people from an unknown origin had.
As he looked at the figure of Jiang Chen walking in, a strand of unusual emotion rose in his heart. “They’re both young men, but this is true noble bearing. These are the methods of the truly strong! I, Guo Jin, must be like him and become heads and shoulders above others, causing these powerful local despots to take the long way around when they see me!”
Jiang Chen felt that the surroundings were familiar even though it was his first time visiting. As he walked into the inner courtyard of the Guo house, he saw that the tablets honoring the past succession of Guo ancestors were sitting in front of the hall.
Upon seeing this situation, Jiang Chen walked up and lit a stick of incense, piously paying his respects. When he stuck the incense into the incense burner, he happened to see some dust on the burner. Jiang Chen waved his sleeve and swept away at the burner.
Such a simple ceremonial gesture – just a few very ordinary movements – were enough to cause Guo Jin’s heart to burn up with boiling heat, as a glut of emotion choked his throat, giving him the feeling of being moved to tears.