Chapter 56: A Lower Tier Steed

A furious blush consumed Chu Chuyan’s cheeks. There were plenty of people who praised her beauty over the years, but most of them did it in an indirect manner. This was the first time someone had so directly and passionately complimented her, such that she was starting to feel a little self-conscious.

Meanwhile, Qin Wanru’s frown only deepened upon hearing those words. This fellow sure has a slippery tongue. The more I look at him, the more hateful he becomes.

Chu Zhongtian reminded with a light cough, “It’s impolite to speak on the dining table.”

Zu An decided to rein himself in for now, so the group of five ended up eating their meal silently. It didn’t take them long for them to finish up, and the servants quickly entered with saltwater for them to gargle their mouth with while quickly taking away the plates and utensils.

To be frank, Zu An was a little perplexed at this situation. Food was usually sent to his room, and yet, he was called over to the main table today to eat together with the rest of the family. Was this a sign that he was starting to get accepted by them?

While he was deep in thought, Chu Zhongtian suddenly spoke up, “Chuyan, how is your trip to Luling?”

Zu An was a little taken aback. They were going to talk business in his presence? Did they really no longer view him as an outsider?

“I investigated the matter, and it would appear that the goods were intercepted by the Blackwind Stockade. I swept the area with my men, but it was as if they had vanished from the face of the world. I couldn’t find any traces of them at all,” replied Chu Chuyan.

“Blackwind Stockade?” 

Zu An fell into deep thought. 

Two days ago, when he met Yu Yanluo at a mountain valley outside the city, he met a group of people who identified themselves as bandits from the Blackwind Stockade. Just thinking of the matter really infuriated him. Yu Yanluo simply left him with an empty cheque before performing a vanishing act. Truly, the more beautiful a woman is, the more scheming she is.

Chu Zhongtian sighed deeply and said, “That’s the unique trait of the Blackwind Stockade. They are always able to sense danger and flee beforehand. As soon as we dispatch an army over, they would hike deep into the Hidden Dragon Mountain to seek refuge. We can’t possibly dispatch an army to protect our goods every single time. This is really a tough problem to solve.”

He paused for a brief moment before continuing on, “I heard that the Blackwind Stockade assaulted the Yu clan’s convoy a while ago, and quite a few people died. I wonder if it’ll be possible for us to work together with the Yu clan to deal with this poisonous tumor.”

“I think you’re just interested in Yu Yanluo, aren’t you?” Qin Wanru harrumphed coldly. “The Yu clan already has enough problems to deal with, so how could she possibly have the spare attention to help us deal with the Blackwind Stockade?”

Chu Zhongtian’s face immediately reddened. He pulled his wife’s sleeves and said, “It’s not what you’re thinking. Besides, the kids are still around…”

Qin Wanru turned her head away coldly, completely ignoring her husband.

A knowing smile emerged on Zu An’s lips. It seemed like his father-in-law had courted Yu Yanluo in his younger years. Well, he could relate with that too. She was indeed unbelievably beautiful.

Chu Chuyan broke the awkward atmosphere by clearing her throat, and she continued the report, “Our arms business is facing a problem at the moment. The pollution of the spirit creek meant that our clan has already lost our greatest advantage when it comes to weaponcraft, but it would appear that the Yuan clan has found a fairly formidable runemaster to enchant their items. The weapons they create don’t pale in comparison to us, and they’re cheaper too. They have already eaten into quite a bit of our market share, and at this rate, our foundations might be shaken.”

Zu An processed the information he had just heard. He remembered the slight blue glow he saw from a formation inscribed on Yu Yanluo’s carriage—that was probably the work of a runemaster. Runemasters were capable of adding functions on items, so naturally, weapons that were inscribed with runes tended to be more powerful than ordinary ones.

If only that darned academy stopped preaching propriety and start teaching more practical knowledge, I wouldn’t have been so bored out of my mind.

In truth, Zu An had misunderstood the Brightmoon Academy. It was for a good reason that it was deemed to be the best academy within the nearby municipalities, and the teachers working there were the cream of the crop. It was only because he was in the Yellow class that he was learning about propriety and such stuff.

Those in the Yellow class had barely any cultivation talent anyway, so it was meaningless for them to learn too much about cultivator-related subjects. As such, there was only a lesson or two every week that imparted to them general knowledge relating to cultivation.

On the other hand, the other classes, especially the Sky class, were focused mainly on cultivation and had less of those propriety sort of lessons.

“How in the world did the Yuan clan manage to hire a runemaster?” Qin Wanru frowned. “Did they have such connections?”

“They don’t, but the neighboring Wu clan does. The patriarch of the Wu clan is a duke as well, and they have been interested in snatching up our Chu clan’s market share for quite some time now. I’ve looked into the matter, and the Wu clan is secretly backing the Yuan clan on this matter. Otherwise, the Yuan clan wouldn’t have dared to challenge us openly,” replied Chu Chuyan.

“Indeed! That Yuan fellow was really arrogant today at school. He said that he would teach my brother-in-law a lesson during the Clans Tournament!” Chu Huanzhao had no place in the conversation thus far, but now that a familiar name had finally popped up, she immediately leaped at the opportunity to brush up her presence.

“The Yuan clan is really too much! Even a servant or a dog of our Chu clan shouldn’t face such oppression from them!” Qin Wanru slammed her palm on the table as she flew into a state of rage. “Let’s go! We’ll head over to the Yuan Estate to reason with them!”

Zu An looked at Qin Wanru with grudging eyes, not hiding the fact that he was offended by her words at all.

“My wife, you should calm down a little first. Sang Hong has already been appointed as the governor, and without a doubt, he’s looking for a reason to crack down on us now.” Chu Zhongtian quickly stood up and pulled his wife back. “We need to calm down and take things slow, or else we might just worsen our plight.”

Zu An’s eyebrows shot up. Despite the Chu clan’s glamorous exterior, it would appear that it was surrounded by threats.

Chu Zhongtian stroked his wife’s back to calm her down while turning to Zu An to ask, “Zu An, Yuan Wendong must have made things difficult for you. Are you alright?”

Before Zu An could respond, Chu Huanzhao had already butted right in. “It wasn’t just Yuan Wendong. Even Hong Xingying wanted to deal with my brother-in-law too! He’s supposed to be a subordinate of our Chu clan, but that damned two-faced scoundrel chose to side with outsiders instead!”

Zu An felt touched by how Chu Huanzhao was speaking up for him. At the very least, she doted on him more than his own wife did.

“Hong Xingying?” Chu Zhongtian frowned.

Beside him, Qin Wanru spoke up, “I know that child. He has a huge ego, and he was really fond of your older sister previously. Naturally, he doesn’t carry any goodwill toward Zu An. As you know, young people tend to be unable to rein in their emotions.”

Chu Huanzhao wasn’t willing to let things rest just like that. “But he…”

“Alright,” Qin Wanru stopped her from speaking with a wave of her hand. “That child is a diligent one, and his father has been loyal to us for decades now. Don’t bother talking about such minor matters in the future, or else it’ll only chill their hearts.”

Chu Huanzhao’s cheeks puffed up in indignation. You’re afraid of chilling the hearts of Hong Xingying and his father, but what about my brother-in-law then?

Zu An, on the other hand, wasn’t particularly fazed. He could understand how a useless drafted son-in-law like him had a lower significance than Butler Hong and his son. He had previously heard from Cheng Shouping that Qin Wanru was interested in having Chu Chuyan marry Hong Xingying, and it would appear that those weren’t just rumors.

He subconsciously shot a glance at Chu Chuyan, only to see that there was no peculiar emotion on her face. From the looks of it, it didn’t seem like she was interested in Hong Xingying either.

It was then that Chu Chuyan spoke up once more, “Actually, compared to everything else, I’m more concerned about the Clans Tournament that’s going to be held half a month from now.”

Qin Wanru frowned. “Haven’t we won every single time thus far? As long as you’re around, who in the Yuan clan could possibly be a match for you?”

Chu Zhongtian shook his head and chirped in, “The Yuan clan isn’t weak either. They share the same title as the Chu clan as one of the Four Merchant Powerhouses. It’s only because they lack a noble position that they dare not to offend us thus far, so most of the tournaments we had thus far were mainly just for show. However, now that they have the Wu clan to back them, we can expect them to go all out. In fact, I suspect that the Wu clan might secretly dispatch their own cultivators down too.”

It was then that he paused for a while before turning to look at Zu An with a conflicted look on his face. “Furthermore, with Zu An participating as well, we’ve already lost the first round.”

Zu An was utterly dumbstruck. I was just watching the drama by the sidelines, so how in the world did I get implicated in this as well? 

“Ah, I’m not a cultivator in the first place. Do I need to fight in the Clans Tournament too?”

“According to the rules of the Clans Tournament, every single offspring of the clan must participate. In view that you’re the son-in-law of our Chu clan, there’s no way that the Wu clan and Yuan clan will allow you to sit out. We can also expect the governor to step in and denounce such  a move from our part too. In fact, the main reason why we called you here today is to give up a heads up so that you can prepare yourself for it,” said Chu Zhongtian.

Those words left Chu Huanzhao feeling anxious. “Just earlier today, Yuan Wendong proudly declared that he was going to cripple my brother-in-law! If we send our brother-in-law in as well, wouldn’t that be the same as sending him to his death?”

“That works just fine,” Chu Chuyan answered.

Zu An’s heart skipped a beat. Even if you aren’t pleased with me, surely you shouldn’t resort to such means to kill your own husband, right?

Chu Huanzhao was utterly horrified too. She stared at Chu Chuyan in disbelief as she murmured, “Sister, you…”

Seeing their expressions, Chu Zhongtian hurriedly cut right in. “Let your older sister finish first. She wouldn’t say such words for no reason.”

It was only then that Chu Chuyan slowly continued what she was driving at. “The most outstanding offspring of the Yuan clan is no other than Yuan Wendong. I heard that he recently made a breakthrough to the fifth rank. I don’t fear him, but we don’t have anyone else in the clan who is a match for him, and the Yuan clan wouldn’t be so foolish as to send him against me. In other words, Yuan Wendong is bound to win a single round since no one else will be able to deal with him. 

“If so, rather than to waste our experts on him, it would be much better to send Zu An against him. This way, there’s still a chance for others to win their battles.”

Zu An came to a realization. To have the weakest face the strongest so as to conserve their forces; it was basically the ‘Tian Ji Racing Horse’ strategy…. Pui, what am I saying? I’m not the weakest one here!

Chu Huanzhao was still very uneasy about this plan. “Isn’t it still very dangerous for my brother-in-law?”

Those words brought a slight frown to Qin Wanru’s forehead. Isn’t my second daughter a little too concerned about that wastrel today?

“Don’t worry, I’ll arrange for their match to be at the very last. If we manage to achieve an overwhelming advantage by then, the final match would be rendered meaningless. If so, we can simply call it off.”

Chu Huanzhao blinked her eyes for a moment before asking, “What if the victor hasn’t been decided by then?”

Chu Chuyan was also stunned for a moment before hurriedly shaking her head. “Don’t worry, it can’t possibly be that coincidental.”

Stop planting flags here!, Zu An retorted in his mind.

He sighed softly before speaking up as well, “It doesn’t matter if the victor hasn’t been decided by then. As you know, the stars of the show usually make their appearances at the very end. I’ll make sure to pull off a glorious comeback for the Chu clan if it comes down to that.”

It took him only a couple of days to transform from an utterly inept human being to a third rank cultivator. Considering that he still had half a month on hand, he should be able to raise his cultivation by a fair bit. Even if he couldn’t reach the fifth rank, considering all of the cheats he had on hand, he should still stand a fair winning chance with a good strategy.

However, Zu An’s assurance only brought a furrow to Qin Wanru’s forehead. “Zu An, since Yan’er has already chosen you, I shan’t pursue your past anymore. However, can you at least kick off your habit of bragging? A man can be weak, but he must be of good virtue. Yuan Wendong has already reached the fifth rank, which means that he can already control the elements. Yet, you still want to fight against him and win? Haa!”

After saying those words, Qin Wanru got up to her feet, flung her sleeves, and left the hall.

You have successfully trolled Qin Wanru for +763 Rage!

Zu An shrugged leisurely, not bothering to explain anything at all.

It would appear that Qin Wanru was deeply prejudiced against him. They always say that mothers-in-law tend to grow on their sons-in-law, but why did it seem like his relationship with Qin Wanru was getting worse and worse?

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starvecleric's Thoughts

The Tian Ji Racing Horse Strategy is a story about a general named Tian Ji, who was invited to a horse-racing event to compete with the emperor. It was a race between each of their three horses, and the one to win two out of three of the races is the ultimate winner.

Basically what Tian Ji did was to:
Pit his best horse against the emperor’s second best horse, 
Pit his second horse best against the emperor’s worst horse,
Pit his worst horse against the emperor’s best horse.

To put it in power level terms:
Tian Ji’s best horse (LV 100) VS Emperor’s second best horse (LV 50) => Tian Ji wins
Tian Ji’s second best horse (LV 50) VS Emperor’s worst horse (LV 1) => Tian Ji wins
Tian Ji’s worst horse (LV 1) VS Emperor’s best horse (LV100) => Emperor wins

So that’s the logic here.