Chapter 276: Stalling and Stalling

The River Patrol Army was originally set up as a preventative measure against the river flooding. If the river floods, then they need large amounts of manpower to repair the dike. There was also a need of laborers to cut out canals for ease of transportation.

Eventually, as the transportation system developed, the River Patrol Army also assumed the role of ensuring the safety of the trade route along the river. They were in charge of exterminating some wild beasts in the vicinity.

Brightmoon City’s area prospered because of the salt industry, and because of the potential profits, the illicit drug trade had always been a problem. The River Patrol Army thus took on the job of suppressing smugglers. Over time, everyone eventually called them the River Patrol Police Camp.

Inside a secret room within River Patrol Camp’s government office, Commander Sang Qian bowed respectfully to an elder. “Father’s move truly is brilliant. You’ve effortlessly divided Wang and Chu clans.”

Sang Hong lightly stroked his beard. There wasn’t much joy in his expression. “How can it be that simple? I really would be looking down on Chu Zhongtian if this was enough to make those two families fall out.”

“Is it possible that Chu Zhongtian can still turn things around?” Sang Qian asked with curiosity.

“He will definitely think up some countermeasures, but it doesn’t matter.” Sang Hong released a light laugh. “The exchange permit is just the beginning, there’s still a whole arsenal of tricks waiting for him. We’ll cut off their most competent ally first, and then we’ll deal with the isolated Chu clan.”

“You make Brightmoon Duke sound pretty impressive, but isn’t he still being toyed with under father’s hands?!” Sang Qian roared with laughter.

Sang Hong shook his head. “It’s not that Chu Zhongtian is inferior, but instead that I have the emperor and empress behind me. The irresistible trend isn’t something a mere man can go against.”

Sang Qian grumbled to himself that his father always loved to blabber about nonsense. He was clearly doing amazing for himself, yet he kept flattering other people. He really was taking modesty too far.

“Oh, by the way, father needs to take good care of your body too. Brightmoon City’s rich merchants sent over some of Immortal Abode’s ‘fine goods’ earlier.” Sang Qian winked as he spoke, giving his father a knowing expression.

Sang Hong rolled his eyes at his son. “Are you really still holding a grudge because I didn’t let you go to Immortal Abode last time? You called for their girls as soon as I turned my back?”

“I wouldn’t dare!” Sang Qian bowed his head at once in apology. But inside, he had some other thoughts. 

“Father has always been upright and honest. I’ve made a rash decision in calling those escorts today! This might slander your respected self’s name and easily draw political attacks.”

“As long as I can take care of the mission the imperial household has assigned me, an honest reputation is pointless. Your dad will give you a piece of wisdom today,” said Sang Hong with a heavy voice, “An honest appearance is completely useless apart from having a good reputation. If you want to be an honest and upright official, then you have to be even more crafty than those corrupt officials.”

“Only if you receive those clans’ gifts would they treat you as one of their own, only then will cooperation become much easier in the future, eliminating some unnecessary misgivings.”

“The task we were entrusted with this time is to deal with the Chu clan, take back all of their salt and iron wealth back to the court where it belongs. Everything else is secondary.”

Sang Hong bowed respectfully. “Father’s instructions are wise.”

He couldn’t help but sign inwardly. To even justify sleeping with women with such proper wording and reasoning… perhaps his father was the only one in this world who would do such a thing.

“Reporting! Chu clan’s young master Zu An has brought men with him and requested a meeting!” A soldier passed on this message at the entrance.

“Why did he come here?” Sang Qian’s brows furrowed. He really didn’t like this guy for some reason.

When he thought about how that second-rate rascal ended up obtaining the goddess like first miss Chu, he really felt like this was a flower falling into shit. No, this was a flower falling into an entire hole of shit.

He felt even more irritated when he recalled how Zu An won a few hundred thousand silvers from his own family’s casino.

“You are letting your emotions affect you too greatly! How many times have I already taught you? You just don’t learn!” Sang Hong said in dissatisfaction. His son was way too immature, not possessing a shred of his father’s composure. “Go and see what Zu An came for.”

“Yes…” Sang Qian replied resentfully. It’s all that Zu An’s fault that his dad scolded him again.

Zu An was waiting in the hall. He suddenly saw two chunks of Rage points come from Sang Qian.

Zu An was speechless. He was already so upset when the two of them didn’t even meet yet?

Does he know about what happened between me and his fiance?

But apart from having a bit of an ambiguous relationship, groped a few times, nothing really happened either?

I’m really being wronged here!

While he let his imagination run wild, Sang Qian finally came. “Young master Zu, what brings you to River Patrol Police Camp today?”

Calling this fella young master made him want to throw up. How could the two words young master possibly fit someone like him?

But his father always told him not to let his anger get the best of him. If he directly called out this guy’s name, wouldn’t he feel even more enmity?

He was incredibly conflicted inside. But how could he possibly know that Zu An already knew about his hostility through a different way?

“We discovered that a large batch of illicit salt is being unloaded from the pier tonight. That is why we need Commander Sang Qian to lead your men and completely take out those illicit salt traffickers.” Zu An didn’t feel like wasting any time with this man either, instead getting straight to the point.

“Illicit salt?” Sang Qian was immediately frightened. “Where did Brother Zu obtain his intelligence? Why did our River Patrol Army not receive any news of this?”

He gave a slight nod to his subordinate while talking. That subordinate nodded slightly as well before silently withdrawing.

Zu An and the others didn’t notice anything. After all, there were just too many River Patrol Army men here, and none of them were familiar with this place.

“I do not believe the key issue right now is where the intelligence comes from,  but rather that we need to catch those criminals as quickly as possible.” Zu An obviously didn’t want to bring up Qiu Honglei.

He originally wanted to berate this guy and say that even a brothel has better information than the army actually in charge of this type of criminal activity. Weren’t they completely good for nothing?

But after some consideration, the Chu clan still had to depend on them in the future. He held back on these words for now and cook his ass later when things were already decided afterwards.

“It’s really not that I don’t believe you, but this matter is too important! If we always fail and alarm the true illicit salt traffickers, then that’ll only make it even harder to catch them in the future,” Sang Hong said with a heavy voice.

“My information is definitely reliable. The commander just needs to do your part and catch them,” said Zu An. This didn’t come purely from his trust in Qiu Honglei, he himself already scouted things out. There was definitely no mistake.

“In that case, does Brother Zu dare lay down a military order?” Sang Qian also got up, his expression becoming serious.

Zu An’s eyes narrowed. He shook his head and said, “I am not a military soldier, why would I bother with any military order?”

Even though he had great confidence, he didn’t want to assume risks for no reason.

Unexpected things always happened.

This guy is definitely up to no good by making me give some military order, right?

Zu An frowned. He thought for a bit, and then he felt like this operation might not go as smoothly as he thought.

Sang Qian laughed and said, “There is no need for Brother Zu to feel alarmed, I am merely seeking confirmation. It is just that dispatching troops isn’t that simple of a matter. I need to report to the authorities for approval. If we make a huge fuss but end up with nothing, then everyone from the top brass to the low level soldiers will have complaints.”

“You need to request for approval from the higher ups?” Zu An was stunned. “Then why are you wasting time here? How long does it take for this process to be completed?”

Zu An’s brows furrowed tightly. Where was there any time to waste like this? These fellas are so inefficient! No wonder the illicit salt trade has gotten so out of hand.

Sang Qian then came up with all types of subjects to stall for time. Zu An replied indifferently to all of it.

After a while longer of this, Zu An finally couldn’t take it anymore. He got up and said, “If the commander’s side won’t be able to help, then I’ll move my Chu estate’s own men to catch the criminals.”

Things always had a higher chance of going wrong the more time was wasted. Being held up here already left him with a vague ominous feeling.

“Please do not be impatient Brother Zu, it’ll be completed soon.” Sang Qian changed the topic. “Furthermore, the arrest of the illicit salt trade is our River Patrol Army’s responsibility, so how can we make Brightmoon Duke go through the trouble? If the governor, City Lord, heard about this, then I will be severely punished for negligence.”

“I will wait another ten minutes. If there is still no progress, then I will head over to deal with it myself.” Zu An also knew that Chu Zhongtian most likely sent him here out of reservations towards the regulations, to prevent his political enemies from having more things to use against him.

But he couldn’t wait here limitlessly. If someone really scared those illicit salt traffickers away, then everything would go down the drain.

“Minutes?” Sang Qian didn’t really understand this measurement of time, but he roughly guessed Zu An’s intentions. “We’ll receive news soon. Please be patient, Brother Zu.”

After waiting a few more torturous minutes, Zu An finally couldn’t take it anymore. He got up and began to walk out.

Unknown if it really was a coincidence or not, a soldier suddenly ran in and said, “We received orders from above!”

Sang Qian said with a laugh, “Good, we’ll immediately mobilize the troops. Depart!”

The soldiers in River Patrol Army’s drill ground began to gather. When he saw how slow these soldiers were moving, their armor not even on straight, Zu An frowned. Are these soldiers or riffraffs?

With this type of army in charge, no wonder the illicit salt trade has grown so rampant.

Sang Qian’s expression also became a bit unpleasant, hurriedly explaining, “Yesterday’s drills ran a bit late. I reckon that the men haven’t completely recovered yet.”

He spoke while roaring at his subordinates, “Hurry up, stop dilly dallying!”

Unfortunately, no matter how he roared, those soldiers only put on a bit of an act. In reality, they didn’t move that fast.

Just the assembling of the troops took half an hour.

But thank the heavens they still departed in the end.

Sang Hong silently watched as the troops departed. He fiddled with a smoking pipe in his hand and quietly took a hit. His slim face flickered behind the rising smoke.

A wave of confusion rose within him. “How did Zu An manage to pinpoint the illicit salt traffickers’ activity?”

Zu An brought Chu estate’s guards and River Patrol Army’s soldiers towards the pier.

Out of worry that the illicit salt traffickers already ran, Zu An was extremely anxious. He urged the horse to charge crazily.

As a result, after only covering half the distance, a palanquin suddenly rushed out from a street.

Zu An hurriedly reined his horse in. Even though it stopped at the final moment, those porters were clearly alarmed.

The palanquin on the shoulders of the men who fell over also leaned to the side.

“Aiya~” A young lady’s alarmed voice sounded from within.

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