Zu An shrugged. “Strength is everything in this world. Since strength is a virtue, I’ve clearly used my virtue to convince you.”
Liu Yao was about to explode from anger. How could there be such a shameless person in this world?
This was indeed a world where the strong reigned. If he’d lost to someone stronger, then so be it.
But how many men did Zu An have on his side? Had he relied on his own strength at all? He was relying on this Red Cloak Army, which numbered three thousand!
You have successfully trolled Liu Yao for 999 Rage points!
Zu An had a taunting look on his face. Come at me, bitch. He now realized how moderately Chu Zhongtian had acted all this time. He had such a huge force behind him, yet he tried his best not to offend anyone. That was why everyone tried to step all over him, and treated the Chu clan like a bloody doormat.
Since that was the case, he would instead take a completely opposite approach! He needed to make an example out of someone, and this Liu Yao was the best candidate.
Sometimes, you just had to kick someone’s ass to scare the others off!
Xie Yi was worried that these two sides might really get into a fight. It seemed wrong to mediate, yet not stepping in also seemed wrong. He quickly walked over to appease Liu Yao, “General Liu, please do not get angry. This humble official has some things to consult with you about. This way please…”
He led Liu Yao over to one side as he spoke. Xie Daoyun also hurried over. She was beautiful and graceful, and shared a slim connection to the crown prince, which made her a perfect choice to help ease the tension.
Liu Yao gave Zu An a resentful glare, but decided against any further action in the end. He followed Xie Yi to the side for a chat.
Xie Xiu arrived at Zu An’s side. He sighed and said, “Brother Zu’s performance today has completely changed my opinion of you! You actually dared to go against a cultivator at the pinnacle of ninth rank!”
Zu An scoffed loudly. “What’s so special about the pinnacle of ninth rank? I’ve already played around with master and grandmaster rank cultivators before.”
He really wasn’t lying. Forgetting Old Mi and Wei Dan for a moment, none of those individuals in the secret dungeon had been weaker than Liu Yao.
Xie Xiu stared at him without speaking.
Since he didn’t know about these things, he treated Zu An’s words as simple boasting. He didn’t really care about it anyway, since there was something else he was concerned about. “By the way, what is going on between you and my sister? I’ve never seen my sister take the initiative to help someone else like this before!”
“Oh, just a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” Zu An said with a smile.
“What do you mean?” Xie Xiu began to panic.
“Just go ask your sister.” Zu An smiled mysteriously. Then, he called for some people to follow him into Chu Estate.
The imperial guardsmen moved to stop them, but when they recalled how even Liu Yao had been defeated, they were at a loss as to what to do.
Fortunately, Zu An didn’t bring everyone in, but only selected a few dozen to accompany him. The rest of the men were left outside the gates.
Xie Yi, who had been keeping an eye on him, finally exhaled in relief. He was glad that Zu An had the good sense to know when to stop, and hadn’t become openly hostile towards the Imperial Guard.
Chu Zhongtian and Qin Wanru were shocked and overjoyed when they saw him enter with his Red Cloak Army escorts. Chu Yucheng and Chu Hongcai hurried off to visit their own family members after they paid their respects.
Qin Wanru was the more excited of the two. “Ah Zu, you didn’t disappoint me after all!”
“Master, Madam, it’s all right now. With the Red Cloak Army outside, none of these people would dare to start any trouble in Chu Estate!” Zu An smiled.
Chu Zhongtian was still worried. “But the debts that the salt commissioners have left behind are still there. Even if they don’t torture us to extract our confessions, the Chu clan is still done for if they continue with the investigation!”
Qin Wanru snorted. “What’s there to be scared about? We’ll just live as refugees in the wilderness if it comes to it. The Blackwind Stockade and the Whale Gang were doing just fine before. Is our Chu clan inferior to them?”
This woman really is irritable! Thank goodness Chuyan isn’t anything like her.
Zu An wiped the sweat off his brow and said, “Relax, it’s not that bad. It’s not as serious as Madam thinks. The account book that was stolen isn’t the real one.”
Qin Wanru and Chu Zhongtian looked at him, bewildered.
Zu An thus explained what Chu Chuyan had done with the account book to them.
Chu Zhongtian roared with laughter. “My Chuyan really is smart! Hahaha!”
Qin Wanru also smiled. The huge weight bearing down on her had finally lifted. However, another thought struck her immediately afterwards. “That brat! How dare she deceive me? I’m going to discipline her properly once she gets back!”
Zu An ordered the Red Cloak Army to set up camp nearby as he left the interior of the Chu Estate. It was clear that they wouldn’t leave until the investigation of the Chu clan was over.
Xie Yi was worried that hostilities would accidentally spark between the Red Cloak Army and Imperial Guard, so he had Xie Xiu and Pang Chun order the City Defense Army over, in case anything happened.
Liu Yao felt extremely irritated, but the Red Cloak Army was just too strong. Xie Yi had also clearly expressed his intentions to shield them. His hands were well and truly tied.
However, he was in no rush himself. Time was on his side. All he needed was to examine the account book. Once he had concrete proof, it would be easy enough to convict the lot of them.
Once they were convicted, no one would be able to help the Chu clan, unless Xie Yi openly rebelled.
Even if Xie Yi did step in to help the Chu clan, it wouldn’t matter either. He would just ask the emperor to issue an imperial edict, and then they would proceed to suppress all those who dared to step in.
Hmph, Zu An, just you wait! You can keep up your smugness for a few more days. Soon, I will make you understand just how cruel this world is!
Zu An felt his lips curl when he saw the Rage points flowing in. Coward. Come at me now if you have the guts!
He chose to ignore Liu Yao, and went to find Xie Daoyun instead.
She’d been a great help earlier, after all, and he had to thank her properly.
Zu An was surprised to see that her carriage was about to leave. “Where is Miss Xie going?”
The carriage curtains were drawn, revealing Xie Daoyun’s graceful figure. “Miss Zheng is getting married today. Since we share a good relationship, I am going to offer her my congratulations.”
“What?!” Zu An was shocked. He had been so preoccupied with everything that was going on, it had completely slipped his mind that it was already the following day.
“Teacher Zu, do you want me to bring a congratulatory gift in your stead?” Xie Daoyun winked mischievously.
She didn’t know about the secret that Zu An and Zheng Dan shared, but the two of them shared a teacher-student relationship in the academy. It was still expected of Zu An to congratulate her on her marriage.
“No need, I’ll congratulate her myself.” Zu An said in a downcast voice.
Xie Daoyun was shocked to see how sullen Zu An’s expression had become. However, she didn’t think too much of it. “Ah Zu, do you want to go together?”
She was worried that Zu An might get into further conflict with Liu Yao. The Xie clan might not be able to stop them if that happened, so she wanted to separate them first, if possible.
“Sure, give me a moment.” Zu An smiled. He ran back to explain a few matters, and then he entered Xie Daoyun’s carriage. “I’m ready.”
Xie Daoyun blushed. I did say we could go together, but I didn’t tell you to get in my carriage!
She opened her mouth to object, but the two of them had just ridden on the same horse, so it felt a little unnatural to refuse him now. She left her objections unvoiced.
However, she still felt a little uncomfortable sitting with another man in such a private carriage. She immediately looked for a topic to alleviate her awkwardness. “Ah Zu, what do you plan to do now?”
“Obviously, I will act according to how the situation unfolds,” Zu An replied.
Xie Daoyun hesitated, but decided to carry on with her reply. “I shouldn’t really be saying these things, but as a friend, I can’t watch you continue to sink into the abyss.”
Zu An was stunned. “What is Miss Xie saying?”
Xie Daoyun pursed her thin lips. “I know that Brightmoon Duke has chosen a neutral stance. However, even though maintaining neutrality may seem as though you are refraining from offending either side, the reality is that you will end up upsetting both sides. All the disasters that have fallen upon the Chu clan have been precisely because of this. The Chu clan is already on the verge of collapse! Are you all really still going to maintain your neutrality?”
Zu An said with a smile, “Is Miss Xie trying to recruit me in King Qi’s stead?”
Xie Daoyun sighed. “I won’t deny that I am trying to rope you in. However, these are also the sincere words of a friend. Even though your Chu clan has the three-thousand strong Red Cloak Army, what can you all do against the powerful imperial court with just a mere three thousand men?
“Moreover, once you lose your Chu clan’s land, the salt mines and the iron in the mountains, what can your Chu clan rely on even to sustain this force?
“Everyone knows what Brightmoon Duke is like. I refuse to believe that he will allow the Red Cloak Army to attack caravans like how the Blackwind Stockade does. Without any income, the Red Cloak Army will soon crumble. When that happens, it would be too late for regrets.”
“What you say makes a lot of sense,” Zu An said. “We will carefully consider your offer.”
Xie Daoyun looked carefully into his eyes for a long time, before she finally said, “I don’t know why, but I feel like your words aren’t sincere. I don’t sense the slightest bit of nervousness from you. Instead, it looks like everything is going according to your plan. However, I really do not understand how the Chu clan can possibly come back from this!”
Zu An smiled and said, “Let’s talk about something casual, like romance. I don’t want to discuss this any further.”
The image of the two of them riding on a single horse suddenly appeared in her head, and her cheeks grew red. “Who wants to talk about romance with you?” she said with a snort.
She looked out the windows with a guilty expression. She suddenly noticed that there were soldiers following behind the carriage, which startled her. “Why did you bring the Red Cloak Army with you? What are you trying to do?”
Zu An looked out the window in the direction of the Sang clan’s estate. “I’m going to congratulate them on their wedding.”
He’d left most of the Red Cloak Army behind to protect the Chu clan, but brought a few hundred men along with him to the Sang Estate.
Xie Daoyun obviously didn’t believe him. She said in panic, “I know that you and the Sang clan share many grudges, but this is Zheng Dan’s important day! Please don’t do anything reckless!”
She began to feel regretful. What in the world had she been thinking when she’d invited him to come with her? This guy loved to start trouble! Disturbances sprang up around him no matter where he went.
“Don’t worry, I won’t.” Zu An smiled. His eyes were hard to read.
Xie Daoyu didn’t know what to make of his response. Not knowing what to say, she couldn’t help but worry inside. The first thing she was going to do after reaching the Sang clan was to send someone to contact her father.
Zu An looked out the window. Unlike the heavy atmosphere that had hung around the Sang Estate during his last visit, it was now decorated with large red lanterns and symbols of luck.
A lively atmosphere had already sprung up around the estate. The marriage of a governor’s young master and the Zheng clan’s first miss was a huge deal. All the important figures in the city were present.
If Zu An hadn’t suddenly brought the Red Cloak Army into the city, Xie Yi and Liu Yao might have been here as well.
The servant at the gate announced the guests and their gifts.
“First miss Xie has arrived with twenty-eight of the highest quality eastern pearls as a congratulatory gift.”
“The Chu clan… huh? The Chu clan’s young master has arrived with… with a green hat as a congratulatory gift.”
The festive and lively Sang Estate suddenly grew quiet at these words.
All of the people here were respectable figures. Most of them knew about the grudge between the Chu and Sang clans.
They had just been discussing the confrontation between the Red Cloak Army Zu An brought back and Liu Yao. Why was one of the main figures involved suddenly showing up here?
Also, what in the world was up with that hat?
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