“I’m starting to get interested in this fellow after hearing what you said. I’ll be heading to the academy tomorrow to test him out myself.” Shi Kun gazed in the direction of the academy as he spoke with a confident and composed tone, as if he was just going to settle a trivial matter.
Snow hung her head in shame. It’s due to my incompetence that the young master has to make a move personally.
“Young master Sang is still waiting for me outside. I’ll pay him a visit.” Shi Kun stood up and headed toward the doorway, but before walking out, he suddenly halted his footsteps. He turned around and asked Mei Chaofeng, “What’s the name of your subordinate who lost 7,500,000 silver taels?”
“Plum Blossom Seven,” replied Mei Chaofeng fearfully.
Shi Kun nodded silently for a moment before remarking calmly, “There’s no use keeping useless things by your side. Dice him up and feed him to the dogs.”
“Y-yes!” Mei Chaofeng felt a chill in his heart.
He knew that Shi Kun was indirectly sending him a warning through those words. He felt rather indignant about this. He was supposed to be the king of Brightmoon City’s underworld, a powerhouse possessing unquestionable authority. When had he ever been threatened by a youngster like this before?
However, as displeased as Mei Chaofeng was, as soon as he saw the old man that had been following Shi Kun around, all of his displeasure immediately eroded. Shi Kun was no threat to him—the other party was unlikely to even be a match for him—but the old man, on the other hand, was far stronger than him.
It looks like the Shi clan is a force to be reckoned with. Even a guard of theirs possesses this much strength.
Mei Chaofeng suddenly felt a sliver of despair. It looked like those of the pugilistic worlds like him were doomed to be led around by the nose by prominent clans.
At the lounge outside, Sang Qian was getting impatient from all the waiting. However, as soon as he saw Shi Kun walking over, he put on a smiling face to welcome him, “Young master Shi, it has been a long while. You still look as suave as you used to be.”
The lividness on Shi Kun’s face had also been replaced by a warm smile too. “It has indeed been a while since we parted at the capital, but you still look as awe-inspiring as ever.”
The two of them were acquainted with one another. After trading some pleasantries, Shi Kun finally got to the topic on hand, “May I ask what your father’s intentions are? He has yet to make a move despite having moved over to the Linchuan Commandery. I’m rather confused as to what he’s intending to do.”
Sang Qian smiled in response. “My father has been preparing some stuff during this period of time. He says that if young master Shi wishes to make a move, you may go ahead first. Our plans will not interfere with one another.”
“I’ve heard that Governor Sang Hong always plans properly before making his move, but it looks like it’s truly the case.”
In his mind, however, Shi Kun sneered coldly. He’s just trying to push me to the front so that I can take the brunt of the impact. You’re going to make me look like I can’t deal with the Chu clan so that you can step out at the last moment to ‘clean up the mess’?
“Brother Shi is too polite. My father is just worried that he might affect your plans to conquer Chu First Miss if he makes a move in advance. If you can successfully bring Chu First Miss over to your side, it’ll save us a lot of trouble.”
Sang Hong’s words were polite, but his heart was filled with envy. There was no man who wouldn’t be interested in Chu Chuyan after witnessing her ravishing looks. It was just that while his father had been rising through the ranks, the foundation of the Sang clan was still shaky at the moment. In terms of accumulation, they were nowhere on par with established clans with centuries of history behind them.
Not to mention, there were even people like Shi Kun pursuing her. Sang Hong knew that there was no way he would stand a chance at all. Thus, he could only make do with the Zheng clan.
It was fortunate that Zheng Dan was beautiful too; it was just that her cultivation and standing were slightly lacking. Nevertheless, he was still satisfied with having such a woman as his wife.
Thinking about Zheng Dan reminded him of the honey trap plan he had entrusted her to put into action a while back. He had checked in with her to see how it was going, but it seemed like she hadn’t succeeded yet. That being said, quoting her words, ‘everything is going according to plan’.
Hmph, I just hope that she doesn’t get taken advantage of by that Zu An.
He thought about how Zheng Dan wouldn’t even allow him to hold her hand, and that assuaged his worries by a fair bit. There’s no way she would allow that trash to come close to her.
Meanwhile, Shi Kun was clearly pleased with Sang Hong’s flattery. “Hahaha, I’m sure things would go well with Brother Sang’s words of blessing. Once I manage to capture Chu First Miss’ heart, I’ll make sure to send you a wedding invitation, and we’ll have a good drink together!”
Hah, you just want to rub it in my face, huh? Sang Qian sneered in his mind, but on the surface, he maintained an amiable face as he went along with Shi Kun, “We’re all working for the royal family. Allow me to propose a toast to Brother Shi with this cup of tea in place of wine. To our success!”
“Of course, of course. To our success!” Shi Kun lifted his teacup too and clinked it with Sang Qian’s. However, he, too, had other thoughts in mind. You sure know how to phrase your words well. For the royal family, huh?
In truth, the Sang clan was the aide of the emperor whereas the Shi clan was in the empress’ faction. On the surface, it looked like the royal couple was on good terms with one another, but that was only because they had a common enemy at the moment—King Qi.
Who knew what would happen in the future? Naturally, they couldn’t be too trusting of one another.
Sang Qian also shared the same thoughts in mind.
The following morning, Zu An was a lot calmer after having some time to cool down and think things through. In this world of cultivation, where strength determined almost everything, he should prioritize strength over his dignity.
This world hadn’t been very kind to him. Having been through numerous dangerous situations, he would rather obtain another means to ensure his safety than to stubbornly clutch onto his pride for practicing something a eunuch would. I mean, while it does sound bad that I’m learning the Sunflower Manual, it’s not as if people in this world have watched the Proud, Smiling Wanderer. What do I have to fear?
Besides, he did need the Sunflower Phantasm, be it for tomorrow’s Clans Tournament or entering the dungeon to unseal ‘little Zu An’.
With such thoughts in mind, he began to study the Sunflower Phantasm once more, making careful sure to take note of every ki pathway.
After breakfast, Chu Huanzhao knocked on his residence to go to the academy together. Zu An was initially quite resistant against the idea of going to the academy, but with such a beautiful sister-in-law escorting him, the notion of it wasn’t that off-putting to him anymore.
However, today was a little different since Chu Chuyan, for the first time in forever, was going to the academy too.
Zu An felt that it was unfair how the perceptions between him and Chu Chuyan were vastly different. She hadn’t been to the academy in ages, but everyone still treated her like a model student. On the other hand, if he simply skipped school for one day, others would take him as a hopeless delinquent.
Due to Chu Chuyan’s eye-catching appearance, she usually traveled around in a carriage. This way, it wouldn’t cause unnecessary congestion on the street.
Sitting on the soft cushion in the carriage and smelling the faint fragrance lingering in the air, Zu An couldn’t help but recall the first time he rode on this carriage when he just arrived in the world. Many things had happened since then.
“Honey, do you still have any news about Snow?” asked Zu An.
The word ‘honey’ left Chu Chuyan with a helpless look on her face, as usual. She had tried to correct him several times now, but he simply refused to budge on this. Admittedly though, she was starting to get used to it too, so she ended up letting him have his way.
“I haven’t found her yet. It’s as if she has disappeared into thin air. Why? Do you miss her?”
“I miss her?” Zu An nearly leaped to his feet from sheer disbelief. “That woman tried to kill me multiple times! Do I look like a masochist to you? Why would I miss her?!”
“Speaking of which, you mentioned that this wasn’t the first time she tried to kill you. Why didn’t you tell me earlier?” asked Chu Chuyan.
Zu An rolled his eyes. “How would I know who is the one trying to kill me here? She’s your personal maidservant. What if you had some boy toy outside and wanted to kill me so that you could get together with him?”
Chu Chuyan’s cheeks flushed red. “What do you mean by boy toy? You really should learn to keep your mouth in check!”
“Brother-in-law, you sure are pitiful. You must have been incredibly worried during this period of time,” Chu Huanzhao chirped in.
Zu An felt a surge of warmth in his heart. He shot a glare at Chu Chuyan as he said, “Look! It’s my sister-in-law who cares the most about me in the end. You should learn more from her example!”
Chu Huanzhao was oddly amused by that remark. Back at home, it had always been her parents telling her that she should learn from her big sister, but for the first time, someone was actually telling her big sister to learn from her instead. It felt not bad listening to those words.
Chu Chuyan, on the other hand, disregarded his words and said, “Feel free to tell me anything from now onward. We’re a family now, though…”
She hesitantly shot a look at her little sister before eventually deciding not to say it. “… In any case, I’ll make sure to protect you well, so you don’t have to worry about that.”
Zu An’s eyes lit up. “That’s perfect! If anyone dares to bully me from now onward, I’ll make sure to summon you so that you can plant their heads into the ground!”
“…” Chu Chuyan.
“I’m not saying these just so that you can mess around.”
“I know, I know~” Zu An laughed. “I must say though, your Chu clan isn’t as formidable as I thought. Despite being a ducal clan, it can’t even deal with a mere underworld sect. Heck, you can’t even find a mere maidservant too. I really think you all should work on that.”
Toward that, Chu Chuyan replied, “You’re also a member of the Chu clan now. There are some things that I ought to tell you. While we’re a ducal clan, our situation isn’t as rosy as it looks from the outside. To be more direct, we’re currently caught in the middle of the battle over the throne.
“According to the promise made by the preceding emperor, the crown should be passed on to King Qi, but His Majesty instead wishes to pass the position onto his own son, the current crown prince. Under normal circumstances, the officials are more inclined to respect His Majesty’s decision, albeit grudgingly, as he’s the only Earth Immortal stage cultivator at the moment. However, the problem is that the crown prince is far lacking in aptitude. He’s nowhere close to matching King Qi.
“There are already many officials and clans who were displeased with His Majesty for reneging on the promise back then, and the crown prince’s insufficiency further deepened their disapproval. King Qi made use of this opportunity to rally these officials over to his side, resulting in two major factions in the royal court.
“As powerful as His Majesty is, he’s already old. At the same time, the crown prince is incompetent and unable to hold his own too. Due to that, the two factions are equally matched with one another. In order to break the tie, both actions are trying their best to win over all notable clans throughout the country. Our Chu clan governs the salt and arms trade in Brightmoon City, which makes us a key target for both factions.
“However, our Chu clan doesn’t wish to get involved in this, which is why we refused to side with either of the factions. Our actions, in turn, frustrated both of the factions simultaneously. His Majesty is worried that we would choose to side with King Qi, so he appointed the Vice Minister of Finance, Sang Hong, as the governor of the Linchuan Commandery. In the first place, Sang Hong regulates the salt and arms trade, so this action could be said to be a move directed toward our Chu clan.
“Currently, King Qi seems to be intending to watch from the sidelines. It’s likely that he’s waiting for us to be worn out from dealing with Sang Hong and the others before playing the good person and coax us into joining his faction. Speaking of which, the city lord of Brightmoon City is a member of King Qi’s faction. You should have sensed it back at the casino too.”
Zu An finally understood all of the complications involved here. That explains why no one seems to like me ever since I became the drafted son-in-law of the Chu clan, with some even openly coming after my life. I thought that they might be coveting Chu Chuyan’s beauty, but it seems like it’s the entire Chu clan they’re after.
1. Dongfang Bubai, one of the antagonists of the Proud Smiling Wanderer, is known to be quite an interesting queer character, and Sunflower Manual, who needs one to be castrated in order to practice, has been a thing of meme in China.