It was the twenty ninth by the time they arrived at Bi Shui City. Looking at the city’s small bridges and thin lakes, the beautifully painted pavilions, it was quite a beautiful scenery, with no sign of a cold and desolate winter. The New Year’s Eve was approaching and everyone was happily preparing for the New Year’s celebrations. Firecrackers and New Year pictures were being sold everywhere, and there were many pretty little girls selling plum blossoms. The whole atmosphere was peaceful and auspicious.
Everyone was a little heavy hearted when they thought of what was about to happen. Bi Shui City was Nan Hai faction’s territory and as the host, Leng Sheng Yin had already arranged lodging and ordered food and drinks to welcome everyone.
Shu Ke Restaurant, it was brilliantly illuminated.
“Not here again!” Lei Lei was extremely dissatisfied with everything relating to her current transmigration and had quite a huge prejudice against GM Shu who was in charge of the design. She felt angry upon seeing this signboard and reached out to tug on the iceberg handsome man as she urged, “Don’t frequent their business in the future, book your reservation with other restaurants.”
Leng Sheng Yin glanced at her, feeling baffled.
Qin Liu Feng was by his side and he patted his shoulder: “Brother Leng has a pretty good eye for things and this restaurant has several signature dishes that are renowned in Jianghu. Boss Shu is also an honest person, I think this is very good.”
This person always has an opposing view, Lei Lei sneered, “Honest my *ss, it’s not good at all!”
Qin Liu Feng raised his eyebrows: “You’re familiar with Boss Shu?”
“Haven’t you lost your memories?”
She had underestimated this flirtatious scholar. On the surface, he appeared to be in a huff but he was actually trying to find out more information about her! Seeing that there were numerous gazes focused on her, it was inevitable that Lei Lei became a little flustered: “Of course I’ve lost my memories, but I……had previously entered his restaurant before and it was very bad inside, not good!”
“Is that so?” Qin Liu Feng smiled with a look of “why don’t you just come clean and fess up” on his face.
Lei Lei’s hair stood on end and she broke out in a cold sweat. Could this sly and treacherous person have secretly looked into this before? No, this fellow was very good at extorting confessions, he’s probably just leading her on intentionally. So, she said calmly: “Yes. At that time, we……”
“We had visited their restaurant at Jinjiang City,” The gongzi suddenly said, as he motioned for Leng Sheng Yin to lead the way, “The more pressing issue is to discuss important matters, I’ll tell Brother Qin about the details when there’s time.”
He Tai Ping frowned slightly, but he quickly recovered his smile: “That’s right, let’s eat first.”
With a smile on his face, Qin Liu Feng gave Leng Sheng Yin a push: “I’m very hungry, please lead the way.”
The soundproofing at the restaurant’s private room was very good, perfect for private discussions. Be it intentionally or inadvertently, the seats beside Leng Sheng Yin and Qin Liu Feng were empty, and coincidentally, both Leng Zui and Wen Xiang had yet to take their seats. Wen Xiang stood to the side awkwardly and Leng Sheng Yin didn’t greet her. It was obvious that Leng Zui knew about her brother’s affairs, but she couldn’t bring herself to sit beside Qin Liu Feng.
After a moment’s hesitation, she sat down beside her brother.
Qin Liu Feng suddenly stood up and hauled Lei Lei away from the gongzi’s side: “The seat beside Brother Xiao is empty, Leng Guniang might as well sit there.”
Lei Lei was annoyed: “You you you……”
Leng Zui bit her lip and smiled, before sitting down beside the gongzi.
Seeing that Leng Sheng Yin was still silent, He Tai Ping gave a small smile: “There’s no need to stand on ceremony, Wen Guniang, please sit.”
With her head bowed, Wen Xiang went over and sat down.
Shu Ke Restaurant lived up to its reputation and it wasn’t long before the steaming hot food and drinks were delivered. There was a wide variety of dishes and they weren’t too greasy or too light, just enough to satisfy the appetites of the travel-worn guests. The only thing that Lei Lei couldn’t get used to was the modern cheongsam that the waitress was wearing. She couldn’t tell if she was in the ancient Jianghu times or in a modern day restaurant.
He Tai Ping got down to business: “When did Leader Leng arrive?”
This “Leader Leng” caused the atmosphere at the whole table to become serious. Leng Sheng Yin said: “Not more than half a month, but I’d already sent my men to probe around for information two months ago.”
He Tai Ping motioned for him to continue.
Leng Sheng Yin said slowly: “In order not to alert the enemy, the investigation could only be carried out in secret. Many figures have checked into the various inns, and besides some travelling merchants from beyond the pass, there are rich and powerful persons from various cities, Kong Tong, Qing City, E Mei faction’s leader, Wu Ying sect’s leader, Tong Ren Mountain’s five brothers, Hmong people’s three ghosts……”
After these dozens of names were announced, silence fell upon everyone.
The gongzi laughed grimly: “All of them are renowned.”
It could be seen that Mr Shi had a purpose in secretly selling the information. He had deliberately drawn these important people to one place, and regardless of whether the Longevity Fruit auction was real or fake, it would be very easy to make them kill each other.
Qin Liu Feng said: “He’s an intelligent person.”
An intelligent person would have known the consequences of doing something like that, serving to show that he has impure motives. Greed was a terrible thing, and with so many important figures gathered together, if a fight really were to occur over competing for the Longevity Fruit, would they be able to stop it?
When Lei Lei saw that the gongzi and the others’ moods seemed to have fallen down to the pits, while He Tai Ping’s expression was still as gentle and calm as before, she couldn’t help but to admire this aspect of him. Then she heard him say with a sigh: “The day after tomorrow, Dong Shan faction’s Leader Yan will arrive with his men to join forces with your Nan Hai faction. We will then enforce martial law on the whole city and first try to have the situation under control, increasing our odds of success. I will then move Liang Shan Lake’s forces here.”
Liang Shan Lake? Lei Lei remained silent, I didn’t hear anything.
Qin Liu Feng said: “But the evil faction’s men might interfere in this……”
“We’ll do our best!” He Tai Ping interrupted him with a smile, “Since they’re all after longevity, they wouldn’t be willing to be the first to come forward. Victory isn’t in the numbers but in who can control the whole situation.”
Lei Lei agreed with this. Even a fool knew the principle of the third party benefiting from the tussle. Although they had numbers, all of them would want to preserve their strength for seizing the Longevity Fruit and wouldn’t want to make a rash move. Besides, even if they really were to obtain the Longevity Fruit, they would be targeted by everyone else because no one liked to see someone living a longer life than themselves. Even if the Longevity Fruit could increase a person’s ability, they wouldn’t be able to fight so many martial arts experts unless they had a perfect escape plan.
Leng Sheng Yin abruptly said: “Actually……ten days ago, those people had already left Bi Shui City one after another.”
He Tai Ping knitted his brows: “Could there have been some unforeseen development?”
With confusion in his eyes, Leng Sheng Yin said: “The arranged location was originally a gambling house on the old tea lane, and Madam Cai Er is the boss of that place. Their contact seemed to have a code word and for fear of alarming him, I didn’t show myself and only sent someone to keep watch over the old tea lane. No one special was seen entering or exiting the place and I think that he might still be in hiding and has yet to come out.”
Qin Liu Feng said: “Now that these people have already arrived, why are they leaving?”
Leng Sheng Yin said: “I’ve heard that it’s to raise money.”
The price of the Longevity Fruit wouldn’t be low, so this made sense. He Tai Ping was silent for a long time before he revealed a smile: “It’s good that we have information, let’s eat!”
The topic of conversation at the table started to become plentiful, perhaps deliberately, but the tense atmosphere gradually decreased.
Lei Lei became increasingly angrier as she looked at the person beside her. She stepped on his foot under the table, gritted her teeth and said under her breath: “Why didn’t you ask the great Scholar Leng to sit here!”
Qin Liu Feng seemed to have his guard up against her and he avoided her foot, replying under his breath: “Because she won’t be willing to.”
“Then do you think that I’m very willing to?”
“Aren’t you close friends with Wen Guniang? This is called ‘helping someone to fulfill their wish’, understand?”
Lei Lei didn’t give him a reply. Helping someone to fulfill their wish, then who will help to fulfill laoniang’s wish! Just a moment ago, he had been doubting her background, but now, he still dared to joke around with her. That skin of his was so so thick. D*mn it!
She became more unreconciled the more she thought about it, and she scanned the whole table.
Qin Liu Feng’s voice suddenly sounded by her ear: “Look no further, I’ve already asked them to remove the chives just now.”
“You flatter me.”
Qin Liu Feng was talking and laughing cheerfully as if nothing had happened. In low spirits, Lei Lei could only retrieve the ladle to get some soup. Who would’ve thought that following the ladle’s stirring, a black thing surfaced on the soup. She had keen eyes and quickly scooped it up to take a look, and was immediately stunned.
Seeing that she had remained motionless for a long time with the raised ladle, everyone was curious.
Lei Lei mumbled: “The one with the family name of Qin! Coc……cockroach!”
Everyone’s appetite was ruined when they saw the dead cockroach in the ladle and they put down their chopsticks, feeling between laughter and tears. The gongzi was slightly mysophobic and his expression was especially ghastly. Both Wen Xiang and Leng Zui also had their lips tightly pursed.
Leng Sheng Yin said awkwardly: “This restaurant has always been clean, how……”
“It’s alright, we can default on the payment,” Looking unaffected, Qin Liu Feng took out his handkerchief and wiped his hands as he called for the waitress outside the door in a loud voice, “Guniang, please call for the person in charge.”
The waitress looked troubled: “This……Manager Zhang isn’t here.”
Qin Liu Feng picked up a single chopstick and pointed it at the cockroach: “Then please help me to pass on a message to your main store’s Boss Shu, do you still intend to run this restaurant?”
The waitress panicked, and she apologised and pleaded repeatedly.
With a calm expression on her face, Lei Lei banged on the table: “The business must close for an overhaul! Reorganise!”
Qin Liu Feng shook his head: “So vicious, too vicious. A woman’s heart is the most malicious!”
“It’s you that becomes soft-hearted whenever you see a woman.” Lei Lei raised her neck as she insisted, “This is a very serious problem. If the hygiene isn’t good, what will you do if the customer becomes ill? In the worst case scenario, this would pertain to a human life. Previously, there were a lot of……” she suddenly stopped.
Qin Liu Feng laughed softly: “Previously, there were a lot of……what?”
Lei Lei said vigilantly: “I don’t remember.”
Qin Liu Feng: “Ah, right. You had animosity with Boss Shu previously.”
Lei Lei gave a cold ‘hmph’.
“Guniang, please be more tolerant. This was probably due to the kitchen’s carelessness. This has never happened before, really.” Seeing that she wasn’t letting up, the waitress rushed to give her a guarantee, before she sighed, “Boss Shu had drilled this into us, and Manager Zhang usually managed things strictly, it’s just that recently……”
Qin Liu Feng said: “Recently, what?”
The waitress didn’t speak.
With a smile, Qin Liu Feng held her hand and placed an ingot of silver: “You can be assured that no one knows that you’re the one who told us this.”
The waitress blushed and said in a soft voice: “Manager Zhang was very good, but recently, I’ve heard that he wanted to buy something important and had been tight on money. He had saved wherever he could, and even docked our wages, so everyone hasn’t been as diligent as usual……”
He Tai Ping suddenly asked: “What does he want to buy?”
The waitress shook her head: “I don’t know. He left ten days ago and has yet to return.”
Qin Liu Feng immediately asked: “Where did he go?”
The waitress smiled: “I think it was Ye Tan City.”
“Oh no!” He Tai Ping suddenly stood up, “Head quickly for the old tea lane to check on things!”
The old tea lane couldn’t actually be considered a lane. It was so wide that it was just like a small street. As far as the eye could see, there were two rows of red lanterns and there was a busy flow of people under the shadow of the lanterns. Two or three tall and strong men stood at the entrance of practically every gambling house and there was constant shouting coming from inside. As a result of practically the whole city’s gambling houses being set up in this area, the ladies of the night were inevitably drawn here to solicit customers. Therefore, whenever night fell, this place would be even more lively than other places.
Leng Sheng Yin led everyone to the entrance of a large gambling house: “It’s this place.”
The two strong men put up their guard and stepped up to stop them: “You……”
Qin Liu Feng said with a smile: “We are Lady Boss Cai’s friends and are looking for her regarding an important matter. Can these brothers go in and inform her?”
The two strong men sneered when they heard this: “Friends? Nonsense……” Before he could finish, an “ouch” was heard and one of them had been thrown onto the streets, falling on his back.
Leng Sheng Yin picked up the other person and said coldly: “We’re looking for Madam Cai Er.”
This strong man was actually quite skilled, but now that he wasn’t even able to see how his opponent had made his move, he knew that his own martial arts was far behind his opponent’s. He didn’t lack judgement, so he didn’t dare to act arrogantly anymore: “Yes yes yes. I failed to recognise your importance. Please feel free to give out any instructions……”
Leng Sheng Yin casted him aside: “We’re looking for Madam Cai Er!”
The strong man replied readily: “No problem, please come with me.”
Qin Liu Feng sighed: “Not learning if you don’t suffer losses. I’m so friendly, but you refused to speak, forcing him to make a move.”
The strong men smiled along politely: “You’re right, I won’t dare to next time.”
Everyone found this ridiculous, but no one could bring themself to smile. One after another, they followed him in, only to see that it was very crowded and there were many people crowded around a few tables as they gambled. It was extremely noisy, and no one had the time to pay attention to anything other than the cards on the table.
Upon entering, they could see that there were three rooms, and the strong man cautiously led everyone to stand beside the small door of the innermost room.
A thick blue-green cloth curtain hung on the door. At the sides were two servants waiting on standby and that strong man spoke to the two people in a low voice and one of them sized everyone up before lifting away the curtain and entering the room. Then, the sounds of a conversation could be heard from inside, but it was unclear because it was too noisy outside. In no time, that person came out and invited everyone in.
When he saw “Madam Cai Er”, Qin Liu Feng’s eyes widened to the point that they were even larger than Lei Lei’s, looking like he had really eaten a cockroach.
Around forty years of age and with a small beard, a fat man slowly stood up from his chair with a puzzled expression on his face: “You are……”
Everyone finally realised what had gone wrong, and even He Tai Ping couldn’t hold back his laughter: “You are Boss Cai?”
Mixing around in places like this, he knew how to be discerning. He could see from the other party’s manner that he wasn’t the average person, so the fat man immediately heaped a smile onto his face: “I’m Mr Cai. For everyone to have graced me with your presence, what can I do for you?”
Qin Liu Feng recovered from the shock and muttered to himself: “Wasn’t it Madam Cai Er?”
The fat man said: “I am Cai Er Liang” He then sized everyone up, and as if he realised something, he said awkwardly: “If it’s about gambling a small amount for fun, a hundred or so taels is alright, but if you want to place a large bet, I’m afraid that my place……”
He Tai Ping interrupted him: “I’ve heard that the Longevity Fruit will be auctioned here in two days.”
Cai Er Liang finally figured out what everyone was here for, and he sighed repeatedly: “So this is the matter that everyone had rushed here for, you’re late!”
“Late?” The gongzi stepped forward, “Isn’t it on the night of the New Year?”
Cai Er Liang said: “The time is correct, but the location has been changed, it’s not here at my place. More than ten days ago, Mr Shi had released the information to the various people and they’ve all hurried over. Could it be that you weren’t aware of this?”
Sure enough, the location has been changed! Everyone gasped.
The gongzi said coldly: “That Mr Shi is very intelligent.”
He Tai Ping asked: “It’s been changed to Ye Tan City?”
Cai Er Liang didn’t reply and instead questioned: “Is your family name He?”
He Tai Ping said: “That’s right.”
Cai Er Liang seemed to heave a sigh as he smiled: “Mr Shi had expected your arrival and specially left me a message for you. He said that trouble had arisen at the auction at the last moment, and he’s very sorry that he didn’t have time to inform you about the changes.”
These words sounded polite to outsiders, but it was clearly a provocation and ridicule. Everyone had ghastly expressions on their faces. News about the gongzi and Qin Liu Feng travelling over to Ye Tan City to calm the people had already spread in Jianghu, and for that Mr Shi to change the location to that place meant that he had already known of their plan!
It was at this point that Lei Lei finally realised what Shang Guan Qiu Yue had meant by “won’t go to Bi Shui City”, he probably already knew about this matter.
But why would Mr Shi be so clear about He Tai Ping’s whereabouts? Ba Xian Residence’s Sir Bu Er had declared to the world that He Tai Ping was a guest at his house. Unless……Shang Guan Qiu Yue was lying! The auction was planned by him, and he had changed his plans at the last minute after learning of He Tai Ping’s movements from her. It was even more probable that Mr Shi was his man, and the Longevity Fruit was definitely not in his hands, because back then, she had heard the yuepu say that Qian Yue Cave was also inquiring about the Longevity Fruit’s whereabouts. Now that the news about the Longevity Fruit that he had fabricated had drawn so many people to one place, it was clear that he had a motive.
For Qian Yue Cave, disorder and chaos in Jianghu would only bring benefits and spreading information secretly was something that Qian Yue Cave’s xingpu and yuepu were totally capable of accomplishing.
But where was the real Longevity Fruit? Who killed Old Sir Bu? And how did the Former Leader Leng die?
As Lei Lei was feeling anxious and doubtful, He Tai Ping calmly continued his inquiries: “Is Boss Cai familiar with Mr Shi?”
Cai Er Liang looked troubled: “That……I’ve never seen him before.”
Leng Sheng Yin was angry: “The auction was supposed to be held here at your place, how could you not have seen him before?”
Cai Er Liang was displeased by his rudeness: “That’s all I know, if all of you do not believe me, you are welcome to do whatever you like!” implying that he wanted to show them the door.
Leng Sheng Yin’s father’s death had been a result of the Longevity Fruit, so how could he put up with this. The desk was broken into pieces with one strike of his palm, and he hauled him in front of him: “You’re refusing to speak?”
Cai Er Liang had been giving the people at the doorway a meaningful look, probably to call for the hired thugs, but when he saw the power of this strike, he realised that he had met an expert and was so frightened that he shook his head repeatedly: “What good does it do me to deceive all of you, that Mr Shi, sigh! Swordsman Feng from the city had first approached me to say that his friend wanted to use the venue for a night. After that, all contact had only been between them, I really do not know.”
He Tai Ping asked: “Swordsman Feng?”
Cai Er Liang quickly said: “Feng Qian Wei, Swordsman Feng.”
Leng Sheng Yin threw him aside.
He Tai Ping asked: “Where does he stay?”
Cai Er Liang was put on the spot: “This Swordsman Feng had been introduced by others to gamble here, I have not visited his place before……”
By the side, Wen Xiang suddenly spoke up: “I know.”
Everyone immediately looked towards her.
Wen Xiang hung her head: “He previously had dealings with my father and I had followed along on a visitation once.”
According to Cai Er Liang, it was clear that Feng Qian Wei was in cahoots with Mr Shi. For the dignified Leader Wen to be on good terms with Feng Qian Wei, it was inevitable that suspicions on him would become stronger.
He Tai Ping looked at Leng Sheng Yin: “I’ll have to trouble Wen Guniang to lead the way.”
1. Because I’m reading as I translate, I have no context for all these groups that have suddenly been introduced to us. I tried my best based on what I think they are, but if any of them are brought up again in future chapters and I change my mind on the translation, I’ll leave a note at the bottom of that chapter.↩
2. Leng Sheng Yin’s men probably misheard
蔡二良 Cai Er Liang (Male name)
蔡二娘 Cai Er Niang (Madam Cai Er)↩