The two experts from the Mortal World Pavilion who were being harshly scolded by Qian Shuxiao showed no change in expression. They still looked as aloof as ever. After taking a glance at Qian Shuxiao's invitation cards and verified that they were authentic, they automatically retreated to the side. They had no reason to make things difficult for Ye Que. The Mortal World Pavilion was a business; there was no such thing as turning away money.
"Who is this person? He's so audacious! Isn't he worried about being beaten up as soon as he steps out of his home?" someone asked confusedly in a quiet voice.
"How could you not know him? You're not a Luoyang native, are you? He's Qian Shuxiao, the only grandson of the Qian Manor," someone else immediately explained.
"Is he very rich?"
"His family riches might not be able to rival the coffers of an entire nation, but more than enough to rival that of a city."
After Dao Shisi saw that Qian Shuxiao was backing the young man up, he understood that it would be impossible to humiliate the man today and that he would have to find another opportunity to avenge his Junior Sister. However, he was confused as to why a poor country bumpkin would be acquaintances with a playboy Young Master from Luoyang. The two of them obviously came from different worlds and there shouldn't be any sort of connection between them.
He snorted before turning to flash the faraway Lin Mei'er an apologetic expression. He was prepared to leave as he wasn't interested in the selection of the Queen of Flowers. Lin Mei'er was the only one for him in this multifarious world, whether or not she could be his partner. To him, the final auction item was the main show. If he could win a great gift for his master, his trip here wouldn't be in vain. His master's 50th birthday was about to arrive.
"Wait a moment."
The moment Dao Shisi was about to leave, Qian Shuxiao stopped him.
"Were you the one who shouted at Mr. Ye and demanded that he get off the dragon ship?"
Qian Shuxiao pointed respectfully to Ye Que. "Do you think Mr. Ye is someone you can chide as you please?"
Qian Shuxiao was truly furious this time. All he could do was shout at the people from the Mortal World Pavilion. Though he had his backing, it would implicate too much if he did anything and the gains wouldn't make up for his loss. However, Dao Shisi was nothing to him. Compared to Ye Que, he was even more insignificant than an insect.
After all, Ye Que was Qian Shuxiao's savior as well as the lifetime luck-bringer that the latter selected. He was also the first person that Qian Shuxiao sincerely wished to befriend. Perhaps there were people similar to Ye Que next to his grandfather or father but those were all his elders and not someone of his generation. Neither were those people his trusted aides. He, who was destined to helm the Qian family, must pave his future road.
Yet the impertinent Dao Shisi had humiliated the person that he chose. This was worse than humiliating himself.
"What do you want?" Dao Shisi had some misgivings because he recognized Qian Shuxiao. His tone was also much more polite.
"Apologize to the old Mr. Ye. Seek his forgiveness and plead for his understanding," Qian Shuxiao replied matter-of-factly.
"Apologize?" Dao Shisi pointed to Ye Que. "To him?"
"And plead for old Mr. Ye's understanding? Is his hair even fully grown? You dare call him old? What a joke."
As if he had predicted that Dao Shisi would respond in that manner, Qian Shuxiao said, "I've given you a chance. If you apologize now, I'll pretend as if nothing has happened. But it won't just be as simple as an apology later on."
Dao Shisi's expression didn't change as if he didn't hear what Qian Shuxiao said. He raised his foot, about to walk away.
He couldn't be bothered to lower himself to the level of a frivolous Young Master like him.
"One year's worth of weapon procurement in Luoyang City," Qian Shuxiao said coolly while narrowing his eyes.
Dao Shisi stopped in his tracks. He turned around to look at Qian Shuxiao.
"I'm the sole grandson of the Qian family and my word represents the entire Qian household. You can choose not to believe me and you're also free to test it." Qian Shuxiao shrugged. "I'm not afraid anyway."
Dao Shisi weighed the impact of Qian Shuxiao's words on the Extinctive Sword Manor House against both his and Lin Mei'er's egos. Finally, he clenched his teeth and chose to be silent. His expression was now incredibly unpleasant.
"Courageous!" Qian Shuxiao raised his voice a little. "One year won't do? How about three years?"
Dao Shisi's steps became as heavy as a mountain.
"Still not enough?" Qian Shuxiao stared at Dao Shisi's back and once again raised his voice. "How about if all the shops belonging to the Qian family stop selling weapons from the Extinctive Sword Manor House?"
"How about from now on, the Qian family terminates all business dealings with the Extinctive Sword Manor House?"
"Try and guess how much money the Extinctive Sword Manor House can still make in a year."
"Will the Extinctive Sword Manor House still be able to feed their disciples? Can they still afford rent for the mine under government contract?"
Qian Shuxiao paused for a moment and calculated on his fingers.
"I heard the weapons that the Chinese Redbud Manor House, Amid Clouds Forge, and Mount Qingcheng produce aren't inferior to those that your Extinctive Sword Manor House makes. Their prices also seem to be a little lower."
Qian Shuxiao grinned with his eyes narrowed. Dao Shisi's expression had already turned dark.
"You." Dao Shisi pointed at Qian Shuxiao with a malevolent expression. "Fine, you win."
Clenching his teeth, Dao Shisi walked to Ye Que in just a few steps. He took a deep breath and said, "I'm sorry. I was blind earlier. Please forgive me."
He spoke quickly without even looking up to see Ye Que's expression. Arrogant as he was, it was impressive that he was able to say such words. He wanted nothing more than to find a hole to bury himself at this moment. He was so terribly ashamed but he must do this. He was neither Lin Mei'er nor Ye Yunhai. He was just the Eldest Senior Brother of the Extinctive Sword Manor House. If the business of the Extinctive Sword Manor House suffered a tremendous loss because of him, he had every reason to believe that his Master would beat him to death.
He knew his Master better than anyone. To his Master, the Extinctive Sword Manor House was more important than his own life.
"You're going to leave just like that?" Qian Shuxiao once again stopped Dao Shisi after seeing the latter apologize.
"What more do you want? Don't you think you've humiliated me enough?" Dao Shisi yelled as he glared at Qian Shuxiao. He thought that he had shown sufficient humility and fawning. Wasn't that enough?
Qian Shuxiao's smile vanished. Putting an emphasis on his every word, he said, "I've already said that I'll give you only one chance and if you let it pass, it'll take more than an apology to solve this issue."
"If an apology is useful, why do we need money?"
"Making a fuss about nothing; where it is possible to let people off, one should spare them; every dog has its day. Aren't you worried that you'll fall into the hands of the Extinctive Sword Manor House one day?" Dao Shisi retorted coolly.
"Are you threatening me?"
"There are other Manor Houses aside from the Extinctive Sword Manor House. But if you lose my Qian family, where would you peddle your weapons? What other families have the ability to cover the entire capital, nine cities, and 16 prefectures with their shops?"
"Moreover, let me remind you that you and the Extinctive Sword Manor House are different entities. Are you sure you can represent the Extinctive Sword Manor House? Does your Master know how you're speaking to me?" Qian Shuxiao took out his final trump card. He understood very well what people like Dao Shisi feared the most.
"Fine, fine, fine."
Dao Shisi was rendered speechless but had no position to retort. Qian Shuxiao's every word was like a sharp sword that pierced the weakest points of his heart as well as his deepest fears. His words drew blood at once.
"Speak. What exactly do you want?" Dao Shisi's expression was no longer malevolent. Rather, he looked more like a deflated balloon. He seemed to have given up trying to resist.
Qian Shuxiao smacked his lips and revealed a victorious smile. Then, he pointed to Luo River that flowed under the dragon boat.
"Jump down from here!"
"Get the hell out of the dragon boat!"
Qian Shuxiao had always been one of the hedonistic Young Masters of Luoyang. He was particularly skilled in using force to bully others. There was no way he would let Dao Shisi off with just an apology.
The guests gathered on the deck of the ship had seen something spectacular today.
There were so many twists and turns in such a short time and the young man who they viewed as a pauper ended up becoming the final victor. The one who would get off the dragon ship and jump into the water was unexpectedly the Eldest Senior Brother of the Extinctive Sword Manor House. Moreover, since he would do it out of his own will without anyone forcing him, no one tried to stop him.
Naturally, the Mortal World Pavillion wouldn't interfere much in things like this. Moreover, such an incident would easily be gossip fodder for the guests. It could also be considered a free promotion for them. There was no reason for them to stop it.
"Everyone, please enter the cabin. The selection of the Queen of Flowers has ended, and the auction of treasures will begin very soon," a green-robed man said in a clear voice. Then, more than a dozen of chamberlains filed out to lead the guests up the floors.
Ye Que and Qian Shuxiao were the last to enter the cabin.
"Mr. Ye, I'm really sorry for what happened. I was a little late. I didn't think there would be someone this rude in a flower-viewing drinking banquet that the Mortal World Pavilion organized," Qian Shuxiao said apologetically. It was true that he was a little embarrassed. He had brought Ye Que here but caused his guest to suffer humiliation for no reason.
Ye Que waved his hand. "It's no big deal. He bears a grudge against me in the first place. I still have to thank you for helping me settle the matter."
Qian Shuxiao immediately rejected his expression of thanks. "I didn't do much; all I did was using force to bully others. Since they have something they need from my family, they have no choice but to oblige."
"I'm not good with words and I'm worried about causing a fuss too. You're impressive for being able to use your mouth to solve this issue." Ye Que was polite, but Qian Shuxiao seemed to have detected some connotations to it.
"Not good with words? Then what is he good at? Expressing himself without words."
Qian Shuxiao felt his heart tightened. He immediately said, "Mr. Ye, this is the Mortal World Pavilion. Though it looks ordinary on the surface, rumors had it that they have as many experts as there are clouds in the sky. They even have legendary Taoist immortals who can fly in the sky and burrow into the ground. Unless absolutely necessary, don't make your move in this place."
"Taoist immortals?" Ye Que looked at the man dressed in a green robe with a faint smile. "He's not even in the Psychic Realm. Can you call him someone on par with Taoist immortals?"
Without responding to Qian Shuxiao's warning, Ye Que entered the cabin by himself. Qiao Shuxiao caught up to him just as he was about to cross the wooden steps.
Turning his head to look at Luo River, he happened to see Dao Shisi buoying up and down in the water. He looked like he was about to return to the shore.
"You can go and meet that Dao Shisi later. Tell him that he owes you a life," Ye Que said indifferently.
There was no expression on his face.
"If you hadn't shown up, he would be a corpse by now."
Ye Que then entered the hall inside the cabin with his hands clasped behind his back, leaving Qian Shuxiao behind to savor his words all by himself.
In early spring, the waters in Luo River flowed gently. Even though there had been some light rain several days ago, the water level was still normal. There was still a long time to go before the monsoon season would arrive. That was why the dragon boat would be so stable, seemingly without rocking at all.
A shoal of fish had gathered under the dragon ship and under them were verdant and lush water plants as well as some oddly-shaped river corals. All of them existed in harmony, but unknowingly, the sludge at the very bottom of the river began bubbling.
Far away on the shore, two figures could be faintly seen behind the reed that lined the sides.
A little further away, at a spot where the mountain and the clouds met, more than a dozen sword lights hovered uncertainly.
The clear and boundless sky that hovered over Luo River.
A storm was brewing.