Chapter 202 Bribery
Everything started with an unexpected invitation the twins received.
On the first May of the lunar year, the patrol commandant Zhong Heng invited Shangguan Fei, the leader of the Qiu Society, and Shangguan Ru, the leader of the Kun Society, to the Seeking Immortal Pavilion in Northern Jade City.
One thing that was not written on the invitation card but was orally conveyed by the delivery officer was that the society leader could only bring one servant with them.
The invitation came as a surprise because the patrol commandant was purely nominal and had never interfered with the fight in Southern Jade City. Besides, the twins had already reached a compromise on the surface and no longer needed this Lord Zhong's reconciliation.
No. The twins' initial reactions were surprisingly consistent, but the castle soon sent someone to remind the ninth young lord and Tenth Gongzi that they'd better visit the Seeking Immortal Pavilion as invited.
The one who was most surprised about this matter was Gu Shenwei. He had dealt with Zhong Heng several times and had to send him several thousand taels of silver every month, so he was very familiar with this patrol commandant, who had always tried to avoid trouble and never hesitated to push it onto others. Meddling in the twins' issues was something quite unlike his usual style.
The twins arrived that evening as requested. This was the first time they had met since the battle in the peach grove, and both of them were very embarrassed. They acted too humbly and politely towards each other to look like family members. Then they sat down while maintaining a high vigilance and refused to look at each other again, afraid of being tricked by the other side.
Gu Shenwei was the person Shangguan Ru had brought, but in the presence of the lords, he wasn't qualified to sit down. Zhong Heng nodded to him with a smile before beginning his lengthy greetings.
Gu Shenwei had seen Zhong Heng's kung fu in talking about nonsense in a roundabout way before. This time it was extremely lengthy. Gu Shenwei forced himself to listen for half an hour before finally giving up in confusion, having failed at figuring out the commandant's purpose.
The twins endured with impassive expressions. They had lost interest long ago. If not for the castle hinting at the importance of this meeting, the two would have left angrily long ago.
"Ah, Lord Zhong, let's please cut to the chase. The Governor sent you here, I suppose." Shangguan Fei had more inside news about this meeting through the Qiu Society.
"Okay, okay." Zhong Heng agreed with a smile, but his 'cutting to the chase' still took another quarter of an hour. And when he did, the purpose of the meeting was actually very simple.
The highest ranked administrative official in Jade City, the governor, was consecutively appointed by the three big countries: the Central Plains, the Northern Tribe (Bei Ting), and Shu Le in a cycle that repeated every three years.
The current governor was from the Central Plains and was at the end of his term. According to custom, all the forces, large and small, in Jade City would send him a 'peace talisman', namely of gold and silver.
The reason it was called 'peace talisman' was that once he received the money, the Governor would write a memorial after his departure to praise Jade City for being peaceful, so that the big countries would not directly interfere in the affairs of the city.
"I see. So how much do you want? Just name it, Lord Commandant."
Shangguan Fei had a lot of money, so he didn't take the 'bribery' seriously. The figure Zhong Heng said next, however, startled him.
"Uh, well, it's mainly voluntary, depending on your ability. But there are some previous practices to refer to. For Tenth Gongzi's Kun Society, a donation of 150,000 taels is enough. Ninth young lord's Qiu Society is more powerful and will certainly be more generous. If there are no other problems, a donation of one million will be adequate."
"What!?" The twins stood up together. Shangguan Ru still owed money to Servant Huan, and although Shangguan Fei had managed to save up several hundred thousand taels, it was not enough. Both of them were planning to strengthen their power with money and didn't want to waste it on the Governor. After all, they didn't even know the name or face of the Governor.
"Why does the Qiu Society have to pay so much?"
"Well, several young lords' territories have been merged into the Qiu Society, so … In fact, if you split it up, you would have to donate even more."
Now the twins finally understood their elder brothers' 'good intentions'. On the surface, they had handed over their power at Southern Jade City when in fact they had passed on a hot potato. Shangguan Ru had actually grasped luck from misfortune by trading back for the Kun Society with all her territories.
"No," Shangguan Ru simply refused.
"Neither will I." Although Shangguan Fei wasn't bold, he was not afraid of the officials of Jade City.
Zhong Heng was neither angry nor anxious. He persuaded the twins for a while, but seeing as the feast was about to break up in discord, he finally laid out his trump card. "Ninth young lord, Tenth Gongzi, there's no need to be angry with each other. I'm just a messenger. Honestly, I can't even get a coin of this silver, so why should I be so passionate about it? I've been in the Western Regions for many years, and although my martial arts skills and achievements are not worth mentioning, I have some experience. I have advice for you. Do not rush to say yes or no. Rather, go back and ask for others' experience, especially the veterans under your elder brothers. Well, you may not trust me, but you can always trust them."
The twins didn't trust anybody. Those so-called 'veterans' had handed over the money but not the power. They belonged to the ninth young lord nominally, but in fact they were still loyal to their former lords.
The two left in anger, cursing the Governor as they went downstairs without caring whether the Patrol Commandant heard them or not.
The brother and sister pair finally remembered that they were enemies after they walked out of the pavilion. So they coldly glanced at each other and departed without saying good-bye.
Within just three days, the twins found that the matter was not that simple. They not only had to pay the 'peace talisman', but also couldn't even bargain about the price.
Madam Meng had never directly intervened in her children's affairs, but this time she sent out a confidant to visit the twins in turn to tell them about the importance of the bribe.
Golden Roc Castle and the Meng family were the supreme rulers in Jade City. They were also one of the most important forces in the Western Regions, but they were not the strongest under the heavens; there were still several big powers above them. The fact that Jade City was independent for so many years was not only because of its killers and sabres, but also due to innumerable gold and silver sacrifices.
It was a test for the twins, who had to scrape up enough money to hand over to the Governor. If they could not, the castle would pay for them, but their abilities would be questioned.
No one had ever told the twins in advance that there was such a thing, and even Madam Meng had just found out. She poured all her anger on the other young lords because even the second, sixth, and eighth young lords who had joined her hadn't been kind enough to remind her. Madam Meng had conveniently forgotten that it was exactly her that forced the other young lords to hand over their territories in Southern Jade City.
Naturally a new round of open and private fightings in the castle broke out. But none of this could solve the twins' problem, which actually gave them another chance to fight each other.
The Kun Society was very poor. Their monthly income could barely meet the expenses, but as long as Servant Huan didn't mind, they could still fill in the deficit with the remaining over 100,000 taels of silver from Tie Hanfeng. Instead, the Qiu Society which had more people and power, still lacked 200,000 or so taels to meet the target of one million taels of silver.
Shangguan Fei wanted to collect a month's worth of protection fees in advance, but this was objected against by the overwhelming majority of his subordinates, who were originally from other lords and still loyal to their former lords. They found all kinds of reasons to oppose the measures of the ninth young lord.
Shangguan Fei broke into a furious rage, but all he could do was sack a large number of sabremen to save money.
Both sides needed a large sum of money. All of a sudden, victory or defeat no longer depended on the number of people and the size of territory one owned, but on who had the extra money to re-expand once the Governor had been dealt with.
It was at this crucial moment that a very good chance to make money came to the door.
All along, Gu Shenwei's main source of information had come from Xu Xiaoyi. Although Xu Yanwei had set up a blood alliance with the killer, she had lost her enthusiasm quickly after and focused more on taking guests to earn money. This time, however, the contributor was her.
"It's a really generous guest, I have to get ahold of him. None of the other bitches in Retention Alley will take him away from me."
Xu Yanwei started with her business as usual before she talked about the subject that Gu Shenwei was interested in. "He was drunk once and had a good time. Then he started talking nonsense which he completely forgot about after he woke up. He said that he was going to buy a big house in Northern Jade City and said that he'd take me to live there. He didn't look like a nobleman, so I asked where he got the money. He chuckled for a long time without saying. But he couldn't resist my temptation, so he finally said that he was a robber, and now he was ready to retire and settle down for the rest of his life."
The robber who had found the wrong whore couldn't keep his mouth shut once he opened it. He put his arm around Xu Yanwei and told her all his secrets.
They were a band of lucky robbers about thirty men. The chief managed them well. Instead of squandering the gold and silver they had robbed right away, they hid them until they had accumulated half a million taels. Then the chief and his cronies began to kill off all their associates, leaving only five men to share the money to settle down in Jade City.
It was too dangerous to deliver so much dirty money to Jade City. They were always very wary of their peers, so they had sent a man to Southern Jade City to find a reliable money shop and talk about depositing the money.
Some big money shops had branches in many different places of the Western Regions, so the robbers only needed to move the silver to the nearest designated destination. Then they could come to Southern Jade City empty-handed and withdraw money at any time.
Five hundred thousand taels of silver were like manna from heaven to the cash-strapped Kun Society. With this money, not only would the 'peace talisman' no longer be a problem, but also part of Wild Horse's plan to recruit more sabremen could also be implemented.
A big-mouthed robber would probably not just show off to the prostitute. Gu Shenwei spent a whole day gathering information, during which he used up over one thousand taels of silver. In the end, he found that there were several other forces who were coveting the five hundred thousand taels of silver, including the Qiu Society.
Shangguan Ru had shown strong interest in the silver. The money would not only help solve their urgent needs, but could also give the Qiu Society a heavy blow because Shangguan Fei had already taken this money as his own and decided to use it to pay for the 'peace talisman'.
It was impossible to compete directly with the Qiu Society, so Shangguan Ru had an idea where the whole Kun Society would pretend not to know about the existence of the rich robbers. Xu Yanwei was ordered to have a quarrel with that generous guest and send this fat sheep to another prostitute. Correspondingly she received some compensation from the Kun Society.
As expected, the robber was immediately lured by one of the prostitutes appointed by the Qiu Society.
Over the next two days, the Qiu Society launched a series of action, either explicitly or covertly, to frighten all the other forces away. Shangguan Fei wanted to have the half million tales of silver all to himself.
Gu Shenwei mobilized all his strength to find out where the loot was hidden and where the robbers would move it to.
This was information the Kun Society didn't know. The robber had told Xu Yanwei everything except for the most important part no matter how hard she tried.
Shangguan Ru's plan was to follow behind the Qiu Society and intercept the silver.
The killers' plan was to use the opportunity to ignite a real fight between the twins and eliminate the unqualified lord.
Servant Huan and Wild Horse's plan was to get rid of all their accomplices while killing the lords. After silencing all the insiders, the world would be at peace.