Chapter 278: Incompetent and Angry

Zu An was completely unaffected by his fierce rebuke. Instead, he turned to Zheng Dan, who was beside him.

“Isn’t your young miss here? She’s obviously the one who should take charge of such an important matter. If she wants me to take responsibility then I will. If she doesn’t, then I won’t. What does miss Zheng think?” Zu An said with a chuckle.

Zheng Dan blushed. Was this fellow deliberately trying to take advantage of her? Despite this, she still replied, “Everything the young master is doing is for the sake of the government. How could I make you take responsibility?”

Zu An laughed heartily. “I’m really happy that miss Zheng doesn’t need me to take responsibility. It seems like our relationship is pretty good.”

From the side, Sang Qian’s brow furrowed. He subconsciously adjusted his helmet. His headgear seemed somewhat uncomfortable today.

“The young miss has already given the word.” Hou Yun said. “Follow me.” He walked to the front and gestured to his subordinates to open up the cabin.

Sang Qian waved his hand. His soldiers entered in a single file and began to carry out a search.

Zu An gestured to his men as well, and the Chu clan guards followed the others inside. He clearly didn’t trust Sang Hong’s people.

Still uneasy about the situation, he followed them in personally.

Sang Qian and Zheng Dan exchanged a look, then went in as well. 

Inside the cabin, sacks were piled up like a mountain. The soldiers were extremely rough with their search, stabbing their blades directly into the sacks and allowing their contents to spill out.

Hou Yun couldn’t bear the sight of all the cotton tumbling out of the ruined sacks. He cried out, “Everyone, please be more careful! Just tell me which bag you wish to inspect, and I’ll open it up for you!”

His pleas fell on deaf ears, so he could only entreat with Zu An. “Chu clan’s young master, you’ve already inspected what you want to inspect. Respectfully, you should be most satisfied with what you have uncovered, yes?”

Zu An made no comment. He pushed him aside and entered the deepest level of the ship. He saw more densely packed sacks piled up on each other.

He wanted to examine the sacks at the very bottom, but it seemed unrealistic to be able to, unless someone completely unloaded all the goods on this ship.

However, he quickly realized his mistake. He had subconsciously used his previous world’s experiences as a reference. In this world of cultivation, however, the strength of cultivators was many times greater than ordinary people.

As such, he personally began to move away the sacks, trying to expose the ones right below.

The Chu clan guards also rushed over to help. In no time at all, they had made a hole measuring three square feet.

“Chu clan’s young master, what are you doing?!” Hou Yun panicked. He immediately rushed over to stop them, but was stopped by Feng Daniu and the others.

Zu An’s face had grown extremely dark. He fished out one of the sacks that had been buried the deepest.

“Why is butler Hou so nervous?” Zu An inquired, tossing the sack at his feet.

“Nervous? I’m not nervous at all, hahaha~” Hou Yun laughed a few times. However, the sheen of cold sweat on his face was clearly visible.

Zu An gave Zheng Dan and Sang Qian a look, and snickered inwardly at their grave expressions.

He fished out a blade and stabbed into the sack.

Everyone around craned their necks to see. What came out wasn’t cotton.

Zu An was disappointed. There was no white salt flowing out. Instead, a vast quantity of yellow sand leaked out.

Zu An blinked. “Why did you store yellow sand among the goods?” The premonition he’d had earlier was finally becoming a reality. He was somehow unsurprised by the outcome so far.

Hou Yun chuckled. “The young master has never had to fend for yourself, so of course you don’t understand our difficulties! These sacks of sand are used to weigh the ship down, to stabilize the ship when faced with great winds and mighty waves.”

Everyone knew that Zu An had merely been an impoverished kid before he became the Chu clan’s young master, while Hou Yun seemed to have done quite well for himself all these years. His words sounded terribly mocking to all those present.

Zu An’s eyes narrowed. This guy wants to play games with me! Sure, come at me!

He wasn’t interested in trading insults with this man. He quickly examined the other bags too. Most of them contained yellow sand. He sneered. “Is there a need for so much of this just to stabilize the ship?”

Hou Yun began to wipe at the cold sweat covering his forehead. “It’s not illegal to bring extra yellow sand onto the ship, is it?”

Zu An pointed at the goods in this ship. “If I am not mistaken, most of the goods on this ship should be yellow sand. Is this how the Zheng clan does business?”

His eyes fell on Zheng Dan as he spoke.

Zheng Dan frowned slightly. This did seem somewhat suspicious.

“This… this…” That Hou Yun continuously wiped away his sweat. He clearly couldn’t find any excuses to get himself out of this situation.

“Take him away and interrogate him!” Zu An ordered immediately.

Sang Qian stepped forward. “I fear that this might be unsuitable. The Chu clan doesn’t have the authority to enforce the law in this situation. This task ought to be handed over to our police camp personnel.”

Zu An said coldly, “This operation should have gone smoothly. However, after making a trip to the police camp, the salt smugglers somehow received news ahead of time, and managed to swap out the goods. Isn’t it inappropriate to continue to leave this matter in the hands of your police camp personnel?”

Sang Qian’s fury was swift. “Are you saying that I leaked out the information?”

You have successfully trolled Sang Qian for 213 Rage points!

Zu An replied indifferently, “I didn’t accuse Commander Sang of leaking out anything. But we all know that those in underground businesses have eyes everywhere. There might be spies on the inside. I have no choice but to act carefully.”

“Nonsense! You are not only slandering me, but also slandering the hardworking soldiers of the River Patrol Army!” Sang Qian’s gaze was full of hate.

The expressions of the other River Patrol Army soldiers became hostile as well. Their hands moved towards their sword hilts.

You have successfully trolled River Patrol Army soldier A for 66 Rage points!

You have successfully trolled River Patrol Army soldier B for 66 Rage points!

You have successfully trolled River Patrol Army soldier C for 66 Rage points!

The Chu clan’s guards rushed over, looking nervously at the soldiers around them.

Zu An wasn’t worried at all. Sang Hong had taken such pains to scheme against the Chu clan in secret, so he was definitely not one to resort to force.

So many people already know that I came to the pier, and there are even so many Chu clan guards present. If something really does go down, then all his plans would be blown up.

Sensing the escalating tension, Zheng Dan took a step forward, interposing herself between the two sides. “Ah Zu,” she said, “you seem to be suspecting our Zheng clan of participating in illegal trade.”

“That’s not my intention at all,” Zu An replied. “But if those under you are hiding their illegal activities from those higher up, then all of you will become implicated in the end. I’m sure the rest of you want to get to the bottom of this affair too, isn’t that right?”

“Of course we want to get to the bottom of this. However, if others find out that our Zheng clan’s butler was arrested, their first thought would be to cast suspicion on the whole or the Zheng clan. This will deal irreversible damage to our clan,” said Zheng Dan.

Zu An smiled. “Those who are clean will remain clean, and those who are dirty will have their filth exposed. Why does miss Zheng need to worry about these things?” He clearly had no intention of backing down.

There was no way Sang Qian could let him take this person away. He found himself in a tight spot.

Right at that moment, there came the sound of a group of orderly footsteps, accompanied by loud laughter. “In that case, why don’t you just hand him over to us?”

Zu An turned around and discovered that this voice belonged to a familiar face. Vice Magistrate Pang Chun was walking over, leading a group of bailiffs.

Sang Qian said coldly, “This area is under the jurisdiction of the Police Camp! Isn’t the vice magistrate overstepping your bounds?”

Pang Chun was simmering inside. He said with a slight smile, “Commander Sang is a little too excited. Since neither side wishes for the other to have custody of the suspect, wouldn’t it be better for a neutral third party like us to interrogate him?”

Neutral my ass! Sang Qian seethed inside.

Pang Chun continued without missing a beat. “Commander Sang and the Zheng clan are engaged to each other. Since someone from the Zheng clan is involved, shouldn’t we handle things in a way that avoids the most suspicion?”

Sang Qian knew he had lost. He understood that there was no way he could take the butler in hand anymore. In that case, giving him to Pang Chun was still better than giving him to the Chu clan.

Zu An didn’t have any objections either. Pang Chun was someone on City Lord Xie’s side. Strictly speaking, City Lord Xie wasn’t on the  same side as the Chu Clan, but neither was he in Sang Hong’s camp. Moreover, the Xie clan and the Chu clan’s relationship was still considered close.

Pang Chun quickly took Hou Yun and his workers into custody, while bringing forward his own people to act as witnesses.

Zu An and his guards hurriedly returned to the Chu clan estate to fill them in on what happened.

When both sides had left, Sang Qian called Zheng Dan over to a quiet corner. He wore a dissatisfied look. “Why was Hou Yun left behind? And why were all those sacks in the boat filled with yellow sand? Anyone could tell that something was wrong!”

Zheng Dan replied, “By the time we received the news, it was already too late. Even if we tried to stall him longer, it still wouldn’t have been enough. Where would we be able to find that much cotton in such a short time? Using the yellow sand as a substitute was the best we could manage. Thank goodness we had enough of that.

“As for Hou Yun, we needed to have someone competent around, to make sure that the tasks were completed quickly. He was the best candidate.”

Sang Qian knew that she was telling the truth. However, the fact that Hou Yun had been taken into custody left him feeling anxious. “Sure, but Hou Yun was still brought away by Pang Chun’s men in the end! Things will get really tricky if he ends up saying something he shouldn’t say!”

Zheng Dan smiled, “Don’t worry. Uncle Hou has already worked for our clan for so long. He is completely trustworthy. Besides, he’s lived through several decades of a turbulent life. Small things won’t be enough to scare him. Furthermore, there wasn’t any concrete proof today.”

Sang Qian sneered. “Many times, proof isn’t needed at all for them to handle a case. You might not know how vicious the methods employed by the Yamen can be. Only a handful of individuals could endure their torture. That Hou Yun seems like he’s been enjoying life recently. If he were in my hands, I guarantee that he would spill everything within three days.”

Zheng Dan sighed. “That is why we must save him as soon as possible to prevent our worries from multiplying.”

“He’s already in Pang Chun’s hands. The Chu clan is paying close attention to this situation too. How are we going to save him?” Sang Qian said in frustration.

Zheng Dan’s expression was still calm. “Don’t worry. I’ve already thought of a way as soon as I was notified. I’ve informed Uncle Hou as well. He should have mentally prepared himself for a potential arrest.”

“What are you planning?” Sang Hong asked hurriedly.

“You’ll find out tomorrow morning.” replied Zheng Dan. “Of course, I will need your father’s cooperation at that time.”

Sang Qian wasn’t in the mood to pry further, especially since Zheng Dan was acting all mysterious. He’d just make himself look dumb. Instead, he moved on to a different topic of concern. “By the way, where did all the illegal salt go?”

Zheng Dan sighed with pity. “We were in a rush, so of course we dumped it into the river. Our Zheng clan would have been finished, otherwise.” 

“That dogshit Zu An made us lose so much silver again!” Her words made Sang Qian curse in fury.

You have successfully trolled Sang Qian for 999 Rage points!

Zheng Dan maintained the smile of a wise and virtuous lady, but sighed deeply inside. This fiancé of hers was usually somewhat charming, but just look at how flustered he got after encountering the merest trouble! He could only get angry at his incompetence. In this respect, he was just too inferior to his father.

On the contrary, that fellow Zu An normally looked like an idiot, but he was terrifyingly calm and difficult to deal with at crucial times.

When she recalled what had happened between the two of them earlier on, she suddenly felt her heartbeat quicken. Her fair cheeks grew flushed with a faint tinge of redness.

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