Nightfall - Chapter 51

Published at 9th of April 2018 09:20:16 AM

Chapter 51

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Ning Que had not the slightest clue that the owner of the House of Red Sleeves was staring at him coldly from the top floor, let alone that the owner was already furious at him for teasing the girls playfully. Sitting casually as usual beside Dewdrop, Ning Que continued to chat her up to know more about the death of Zhang Yiqi.

"I like the way you smile, and your cute dimples." Dewdrop cast sheep's eyes at Ning Que and said, "Back to the point, now that you're going to take the exam of the academy, you ought to study properly. If you don't enroll, people may say it's us, the prostitutes, who distracted you. How would you pay us for such a bad name?"

Another girl teased. "It's not about us. Ning Que comes here every day only to see you. How could that have anything to do with us?"

What Dewdrop said might sound like banter, but yet she is quite concerned. Ning Que's heart suddenly felt warm, and with a smile answered something comforting like, "No need to worry, I'm already prepared". Sangsang was off to the side eating sunflower seeds while chatting with a maidservant called Xiaocao, and fell into secret thinking. "The young master's words were total crap, the academy entrance exam had six disciplines altogether. How much did you review even though I urged you every day?"

Although Sangsang did not need to dress up to appear like a manservant, the girls in the brothel had acquired a sharp eye over all these years to know that she was a plain-looking nobody. Xiaocao, chatting with Sangsang, felt a lot of sympathy for her, thinking to herself, "Ning Que must dislike Sangsang for her plain appearance and shamelessly comes to brothels for pretty girls."

In one of the top floor rooms, a middle-aged man clad in an indigo robe strolled toward the backstage and stood abreast with the owner of the House of Red Sleeves, looking downstairs at the lad who sat in a chair chatting up the girls that surrounded him. The corners of the middle-aged man's mouth curled up, and his face seemed to light up suddenly.

The man said with a smile, "If this lad is the last tenant at Lin 47th Street, I certainly have no reason to allow him." He continued, "Throw him out. All the rental deeds are in my hands now. By the time I transfer them to the yamen, I bet you couldn't think of any excuses to refuse if the Chang'an Local Government was going to sequester the street."

"All the shopkeepers at Lin 47th Street were once driven off by you, except me. Have you ever seen me lowering my head?" The indigo-robed man smiled and continued, "Let alone, you aren't capable of turning him out of doors."

"Really?" The man stared at his eyes silently and suddenly laughed, saying, "You might be right. I bet no one dares to make a move merely upon hearing your name—Old Chao from Spring Breeze Pavilion."

The indigo-robed man smiled, but said nothing, turning to sit back in his chair.

Earlier on he was informed by Lao Si, and was already aware of what happened at Lin 47th Street today. A young scholar who came from nowhere showed little fear at the imminent gang battle, even asked for a fleecing, and scrambled one year's rent from his hand. Unfathomably, the lad did not ask for an arbitrary price but dealt with it very carefully. In other words, his bearing was impressive.

On the first day of the opening of the Old Brush Pen Shop, he went to Lin 47th Street, not for seeking shelter from the rain, but to find out which dimwit was foolhardy enough to rent one of his shops. After examining the lad's presence, he knew that the boy was no dimwit whatsoever, even if he didn't have a clue what happened in the Jianghu world of Chang'an.

No fool in this world could write down those admirable calligraphy works, and no fool would have such heavy calluses between his thumb and forefingers, revealing his frequent use of swords. Thinking about those calligraphy works hanging on the wall that were oozing great strength and a somewhat hidden intent of killing, and what Qi Si described today, the middle-aged man suspected that the lad had killed a man. More specifically, he suspected that he had killed countless men.

For a man like himself who often trod in darkness and blood-shed, it was still incredibly hard to swallow the fact that, at just fifteen or sixteen, the lad had killed so many people. A lad like him, if he had no intention to leave, then he could not think of anyone who could make him leave.

"Old Chao, I'm here on behalf of the prince's palace to question you, could you at least show some respect?"

The middle-aged man lifted his head, only to realize that he had drifted away thinking about the lad, and smiled apologetically. But the mention of prince's palace obviously had little effect on him for anyone concerned.

The man who was talking with him was called Cui Delu. As vulgar as it sounded, he was not some common man, as he was able to manage the first brothel in Chang'an. Most Chang'an people thought it might have been some high-ranking official behind this brothel, but only the middle-aged man and a few big shots knew that Cui Delu was dependent on the butler of the prince's palace. Some may have even thought that the brothel was one of the prince's properties.

"The House of Red Sleeves was in trouble recently, and I didn't expect you still had time to talk about this petty stuff."

Cui Delu said coldly, "You know very well that Lin 47th Street wasn't for the prince. As the Ministries of Military and Revenue wouldn't like to be involved, we're left to run errands. Who knew you would be so stubborn about this and would bring about such trouble, getting these big shots' hackles up? A few days ago, you held back the prince's palace's men. As a result, they sent the Yulin Royal Guards…"

On hearing, "the Yulin Royal Guards", the middle-aged man frowned slightly and seemed hurt.

Watching his face change, Cui Delu dropped the subject and continued with a smile. "Of course, you know, those who represented the prince's palace were to take some benefits. The butler told me that the prince thought highly of you and mentioned you once when he was drunk, saying that you were level-headed and behaved with discretion."

The middle-aged man remained silent, and yet his countenance appeared prominently more grave.

Cui Delu continued seriously, "You know that a censor died in my place, which was a real hassle. The idiot dropped dead, but his family rushed to the prince's palace for an inquiry. The prince was acquainted with the censor and asked me to deal with it. If you should handle this matter for me, then I'll never interfere in the matter at Lin 47th Street. How about that?"

Although Cui Delu was merely an owner of a brothel, and showed little respect while talking with him, the middle-aged man was fully aware that he represented the prince's attitude and spoke for him. Pondering a short while, the middle-aged man asked with a smile, "Even if the prince was acquainted with the censor, handling his death wasn't difficult at all. Why bother to find a man like me who's from the Jianghu world to do this?"

Cui Delu said darkly, "Do you really not know or are you just playing dumb right now? If you really don't know, then I'll never recognize you as Old Chao from Spring Breeze Pavilion, because you're an idiot. If you're just playing dumb, I'll do the same, as you're smart yet unappreciative of favors."

The middle-aged answered calmly, "The matter of Lin 47th Street was no big deal to both the prince and me. If one day one of the Imperial Courts really wants it, I'll be perfectly happy to offer it with both hands. However, you shouldn't press me with this matter."

"The conventions of the Spring Breeze Pavilion aren't the involvement of the court, be it the prince, or the Military Ministry and Ministry of Revenue. As long as it has anything to do with these matters, I'll hide as far as I can. The harder you press me, the further I'll hide."

"You, Old Chao of Spring Breeze Pavilion, are the biggest gang leader, who is in charge of thousands of men. The court even sent you to escort, now you want to leave this behind? Do you think you can quit? And where can you hide? What about those 3,000 men who followed you? Where do you want to put them, in military prison or the frontier fortress prison?"

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Cui Delu stared at him ghastly and said, "It was possible to leave several years earlier when the court was peaceful. But now, the fourth princess has come back and is intent on getting her brother crowned, yet forgetting that the queen has her child as well! Of course, these royal conflicts have nothing to do with you. But if you don't pick your side decisively and be as docile as a dog on that side, neither side will tolerate you."

"A servant? Do I have to choose my master?" The middle-aged man sighed, and then asked, "So you're going to control me on behalf of the prince?"

Cui Delu replied, "You're right, and now anyone who has a say would like to press you. Why? Because you're a dog without an owner. If you're willing to make your choice and pick a side, whoever it may be, anyone who wants to beat you must realize who your owner is, and know the consequences."

The middle-aged man suddenly beamed and asked, "Can I ask a question?"

"Go ahead."

"Which side will the prince pick, the queen or the fourth princess?"

Cui Delu gave a categorical answer. "Neither of them, of course. The prince has been loyal to His Majesty, and will support whoever His Majesty chooses."

The middle-aged man remained silent for a while, slowly lifted his head, and answered with a smile, "Sorry, as a man living in the Tang, I don't think I can get accustomed to being a dog."

Cui Dele was not expecting this, and stuffing down his annoyance, he continued to persuade him. "People have to be dogs in their lives. Some men want to be a dog, but yet they don't have a chance."

The middle-aged man stood up, fasten his sword around his waist, and cupped his fist in his palm, said, "I have to say, you aren't a persuasive lobbyist because you aren't familiar with my character.'

Cui Delu, his face now gloomy, rose up and said in a low voice, "Are you afraid that you can't persuade your men? Be assured, the prince said that as long as you kneel down, even if you just put on an act, he'll let the Military Ministry give you two heads. Surely this doesn't mean that a gang leader as high as you can't rule your men?"

There was no need to use the pretext of the prince's butler at this moment. The mention of the prince would have a more direct bearing. Nevertheless, the middle-aged man seemed as if he had not heard the mention of the prince, and walked out of the door. No one noticed that he showed an inscrutable smile when heard the gang leader.

"Stop, Old Chao." Cui Delu stared at the back of his head gloomily. "It looks like you and your men have lived too well to know how to respect people. I must warn you, that you, a cockroach in the gutter, will never know the world that men of rank live in."

The middle-aged man slowed his steps but did not turn his head and walked off.


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