In the end, Zu An refused to let them bow down to him. The father and daughter of the Sang clan were both moved by his magnanimity, and their faces were filled with admiration. They used to be enemies, so they understood just how far this young man had come, and how formidable he was now.
“By the way, Ah Zu, how did you manage to survive your meeting with the emperor?” asked Sang Hong curiously. Sang Qien and Zheng Dan were staring at him with their beautiful eyes as well. None of them could understand what had happened. They had all believed that he was a dead man once they had set out for the capital.
“Perhaps it’s just His Majesty’s benevolence,” Zu An said. “I offered the Phoenix Nirvana Sutra to him. After going over it, he praised me lightly, then bestowed upon me the title of baron.”
His agreement with the emperor was the greatest secret, and he couldn’t let anyone else know the truth.
“Benevolence?” Sang Hong’s eyes shone with a mocking glint. If his emperor was truly benevolent, he wouldn’t be in the state he was in right now. After all, he had devoted himself to working for the emperor, offending countless officials in the process, yet he’d been discarded as soon as something bad happened.
He knew that such a fate was inevitable. He wouldn’t have been too bothered by it, except that his only son had died in the process, leaving him without an heir. How could he possibly view this situation rationally?
Sang Qien frowned. “Could it be that the Phoenix Nirvana Sutra cannot truly grant immortality?”
This was the only explanation. His Majesty wouldn’t have left him alive otherwise.
Zu An smiled. “Immortality has always been a vague and illusive concept. The truth has already long been distorted.”
This was the response he and the emperor had agreed on. This, coupled with the manner in which the emperor had dealt with him, would be enough to convince most people. This way, Zu An would no longer be hunted by the rest of the world.
Of course, it was different for King Qi. As someone opposed to the emperor, he would never take the emperor’s word as fact. He would have to confirm it on his own before he was satisfied. If he did not, and the emperor secretly obtained immortality, then his entire life of scheming would be rendered a joke.
Sang Hong had a thoughtful look on his face. He knew the emperor well, and was convinced that there was still something deeper. However, he did not pursue it further. Instead, he said, “Ah Zu, you’ve shown our Sang clan great grace. You can ask us for anything you need in the future. Even though you’ve always been blessed with good fortune, it’s still easy to be ripped apart within the great storm which is this capital city. Caution is of utmost importance.” His words dripped with hidden meaning.
“Thank you Lord Sang.” Zu An was happy to hear this. After all, he knew far too little about the powers within the capital. With Sang Hong’s help, however, things would go much more smoothly. After all, this old fox had moved within the political circles for decades.
Sang Hong continued, “I’m already an old man, and I’m afraid I will not be as useful as before. My son’s death has taken a great toll on me as well. Seek out little Qien if you need anything. Her mind is as sharp as my own. I’m sure she can be of help to you.”
Zu An was stunned. Only now did he realize that, while he was in Brightmoon City, Sang Hong’s old eyes had still burned with a fighting spirit. Now, however, they seemed to have dimmed with decline. He seemed to have aged another decade in this short span of time.
He sighed, then clasped his fist towards Sang Qien and said, “Lady Sang, I thank you in advance.”
“Big brother Zu is too polite.” Sang Qien smiled, then gave her father a puzzled look. She had obviously picked up on the fact that her father was trying to matchmake the two of them. But father, do you know that he and sister-in-law are… sigh.
“Oh, right,” Sang Hong suddenly exclaimed, “His Majesty has already approved my request. We are setting off to our hometown in a few days to bury Sang Qian with the other ancestors of the Sang clan. We may be gone for a while.”
“Huh?” Zu An subconsciously looked at Zheng Dan. They had only just been reunited—now they had to be separated again?
He knew about the sticky situation that Zheng Dan was in. She shouldered the responsibility of this clan. Even though she hadn’t fully completed the wedding ceremony, she was still officially the daughter-in-law of the Sang clan. As long as the Sang and Zheng clans did not annul the wedding agreement, she would not be free.
Of course, she could leave if she really wanted to, but her public reputation would suffer tremendously, and the Zheng clan would get involved as well.
Zheng Dan was filled with regret over leaving as well. She had waited in the capital for a few more days precisely because she had been worried for Zu An. Now that her lover was all right, she could feel at ease.
She had always planned to stay with the Sang clan through these hardest times. After all, the Sang clan had lost their only son and heir, and were busy with the funeral arrangements. Bringing up a divorce right now would be terribly insincere.
Sang Qien snorted. These two are exchanging flirty looks right in front of me! Do you think I’m blind?
Also, my father has always been incredibly shrewd. Why hasn’t he noticed anything regarding my sister-in-law?
Sang Hong coughed, then said abruptly, “By the way, Ah Zu, I must remind you of one thing. I’ve heard that you’re now the crown prince’s secretary. You must be careful in the eastern palace. The crown prince, even though he is a little… ahem, ahem… somewhat simple and honest, you cannot treat him like an ordinary fool. He has a cruel nature, which is not bound by sufficient rationality. He has always done whatever he pleased. Far too many eunuchs and palace maids have lost their lives after provoking him. It is imperative that you don’t offend him.”
“Thank you for your advice, Lord Sang.” Zu An nodded, recalling the unfortunate eunuchs he had seen. It wasn’t a big deal if an ordinary family gave birth to a mentally-impaired son, but things were different when this person was the crown prince. His status granted him tremendous authority. Once he turned to evil, the damage he wrought would be immeasurable.
“There is one other matter,” continued Sang Hong. “The young master of the Shi clan, whom you did not get along well with in Brightmoon City—he is also one of the crown prince’s important advisors.”
“Huh?” Zu An had almost forgotten about that guy. Previously that young master had been in a hurry to flee Brightmoon City for the safety of the capital. Who would’ve thought that they would meet again so soon? It really was a small world.
Sang Qien smiled. “If big brother Zu can kill Mosquito Daoist, then a measly Shi Kun will surely not be a problem. Furthermore, now that His Majesty has shown you his favor, I don’t think the Shi clan would dare to use their status to pressure you.”
“Thank you for your praise, Lady Sang.” Zu An looked at Sang Qien strangely. Even though what she said was true, why did it sound like she enjoyed watching him suffer?
They chatted a while longer before Zu An bid them farewell. Even though he really wanted to spend more time with Zheng Dan, there wasn’t much he could do while the two other Sang clan members were there.
He returned to Ding Manor. Uh, wait, no. This is my own home now.
To his shock, Zu An discovered that everything inside looked brand new. The inside of the rooms had clearly been meticulously cleaned, and even the bedding had been changed.
His first reaction was that Zhuxie Chixin had sent someone to sort everything out, but he quickly rejected this thought. The Embroidered Envoy knew how to kill, but there was no way they were adept at such matters.
He noticed that the place now seemed to resemble the Chu Estate, in Brightmoon City. It was rather similar to the small courtyard that he used to live in.
He was touched by the leftover scent of plants in the air. This had to be the work of Qiao Xueying.
Only she was this capable, and this familiar with the Chu clan.
“Snow, where are you? Snow?” Zu An quickly looked around for her petite figure. He didn’t know how she had cleaned the entire residence. It was a massive undertaking.
Even though she could employ countless vines instead of her hands, it had still taken her such a short amount of time to turn such a large residence into such a comfortable space. He wondered just how much effort it must have taken.
However, his search was fruitless. In the end, he only found a letter beside his bed, written in a graceful hand. “Something happened in the clan that requires my urgent attention. Since the master has yet to return, we will meet again in the future.”
Zu An felt slightly remorseful. He could imagine how Qiao Xueying had cleaned up the entire courtyard alone, then waited for him expectantly, only to be disappointed when he did not show up.
He wondered what could have happened to her clansmen. He hoped that everything was okay.
He suddenly realized that all of the girls by his side seemed to shoulder great responsibility. Their lives were full of duty and compromise. He was the only one who was entirely alone, and seemed to enjoy a little more freedom.
He had already toiled for several days on end, and decided to take a nice hot bath to relax. Even though the cultivators of this world did not have hygiene issues once they reached a certain stage, he had already spent a long time as a mortal before traveling to this world, and some habits just couldn’t be changed.
Even though no one was around to help him heat the water, it was a simple task. He drew some water into the bathtub using his Blue Mallard ability, and then he summoned Daji to heat up the water with her foxfire.
Zu An lounged comfortably in the bathtub. Even though the technology of this world wasn’t as developed as his previous world, his cultivator abilities could still raise his quality of life to a suitable standard.
The people of this world only used cultivation to kill. It really was a waste of resources.
Daji was kneeling beside him, expressionless. If she had retained her intellect and knew that she was using her own fire to help him take a bath, she might have beaten him to death out of sheer anger.
As he was bathing leisurely, a light knock sounded at the entrance to the residence.Previous Chapter Next Chapter