"What do you mean by this? Are you trying to bribe me?" Garen put down the documents and asked calmly.
"How can you call it a bribe?" Bovini smiled. "This is just a simple exchange, where we each get what we need. What do you think?"
Garen smiled too. He felt a sense of contempt and absurdity.
"What a pity. Maybe you think that without the White Cloud Gate, you can become independent and completely control all the assets. But I'm not interested in getting involved in your business."
Bovini's expression changed a little. "So what you mean is…?"
"I'll take these." Garen stood up and collected the transfer documents. "Alright, it's settled then. I still have other matters to attend to. I'll make a move first."
As he watched Garen's figure slowly walk out the door and leave, Bovini's face showed a trace of confusion.
"Did he agree? Or…? Forget it, as long as he's taken the documents, it's fine." He gradually felt more reassured.
After exiting the building, Garen walked straight to a red horse carriage stopped by the roadside.
Inside the carriage sat a black-haired youth wearing a grey overcoat.
"It's up to you now, Jim." Garen stepped into the carriage and patted the youth's shoulder. "We have to let Bovini realize that he can't do anything without us."
"As the local manager for Golden Hoop, this is my duty. Since Mr. Six told me to obey your every order before leaving, I certainly will not reject," the youth said calmly. "Nonetheless, the procedures at school are done, what do you plan to do next? To tell you the truth, Golden Hoop's forces locally are mediocre. The most we can mobilize is thirty to forty people. The plan cannot work by relying on us alone."
"What's going on? I thought you could previously mobilize a lot of people in a short amount of time?" Garen asked, confused.
"It's all because of you," the youth complained. "Our local operations have been suppressed to the limit. My application to manage Huaishan City seems like a mistake from the start. No, I need to start applying to be transferred to other cities. Staying here around you is too problematic."
The youth Jim was the local ordinary staff manager for Golden Hoop, also known by the titles of intelligence chief, periphery administrator and so on. Apart from the ranked Golden Hoop members, the remainder periphery Golden Hoop members— technically nobodies—are assigned under him.
From an external perspective, he was considered the leader of two local groups.
"It doesn't matter. As long as the goal is achieved."
Garen smiled. The carriage began to move. The driver was from Golden Hoop too, but he completely ignored the conversation between the two people behind him.
"I've been back from Dinah City for more than twenty days. If I had waited for Su Lin to help me out of the tight spot, I would probably be long dead. Any news from Number 6?"
"Mister will arrive in Huaishan today, if the trains are on time," Jim said in a hushed tone. He stretched his wrist out to look at his watch. "It's now 11 o'clock. He should arrive at three. And plus, you can't say that. Mister was relieved when he heard that you managed to get yourself out of that tight spot, which is why he didn't go out of his way to make a trip over. Otherwise, he would have been here within ten days. The reason he's delayed his trip was merely to help you tie up the loose ends."
"So.. I should thank him?" Garen was speechless.
Half an hour later, the carriage slowly drove to a small, remote restaurant. The restaurant was desolate; barely a handful of people were dining inside. The only customers dining were youths wearing white robes. They were the branch students of the reopened White Cloud Dojo.
Garen stepped off the carriage and walked into the small restaurant.
A girl in a green dress who was bored inside immediately greeted him. The girl was slim and had large breasts. She looked quite pretty, and gave off an impression of innocence and charm.
"I've reserved the private room for you. Please follow me."
"Thank you." Garen had been dining here recently. The restaurant was small; there was only one main area and one private room. The owner who managed the place was a middle-aged man. The girl responsible for cleaning up was this thirteen-year-old girl in green dress he adopted. Additionally, there was the chef he hired. Father and daughter ran the restaurant near the dojo branch, and relied on business from students to make a meager living.
Their food wasn't very good. It was average, but more importantly it was clean. And the beautiful and adorable figure of the girl was pleasing to the eyes too.
Garen was wearing jeans and a white t-shirt, his strong muscles tight against his clothes. Below his indigo hair was a pair of clear dark red eyes. His actions and words conveyed an inexplicable authority, as though his physical stature was oppressive enough to crush opponents with weaker willpower.
When the green-dress girl first stood in front of Garen, she actually felt weak at the knees and didn't dare to look up into his calm red eyes. It was the type of strong confidence which gave him the ability to stay calm in the face of any situation.
Garen followed the girl into the only private room. Since he entered the restaurant, everyone else seemed to quieten in his oppressive presence. It wasn't until he completely entered the private room that they resumed their loud chatter. The gaze of a few youths curiously followed him into the private room, then slowly retracted.
After walking into the clean and tidy private room with red walls and sitting down on a wooden yellow chair, Garen ordered a few familiar dishes. The green-dress girl hurried out of the room to prepare them.
As the door closed, he could vaguely hear her let out a deep sigh of relief.
Garen smiled helplessly.
"Ever since that battle with Andrela, my Bravery is getting stronger. Even if I concealed all of it, it would still unconsciously affect others. How troublesome."
"Some people want it but can't have it, yet you complain that it's troublesome," Su Lin's voice came from outside the door. He pushed the door open to enter. He was wearing an ordinary black t-shirt and jeans, similar to Garen's. But his physique was slender, which gave the impression that he had a gentle temperament. The only imperfection was his eye-catching red hair which ruined the whole look.
"I saw you come in, so I followed."
"I thought you said you would only reach at three o'clock?" Garen casually asked as he watched Su Lin walk to the chair by the table to sit down.
"That was a ruse. If everyone could easily grasp my whereabouts, then there would be absolutely no security at all," Su Lin smiled as he sat down.
"Have you settled things with your parents and sister?"
"They are under my uncle's care. They shouldn't be involved in our world." Garen shook his head. "They should be allowed to just lead a quiet life. The Manleyton Corporation has retreated from Huaishan, the whole city is now under the control of our family. Covertly protecting the safety of a few people shouldn't be too much trouble, right?"
"According to the rules, they are indeed not in much danger. Even though you're getting more and more famous in the martial arts world, but you're still relatively unknown in other areas. The possibility that your family is targeted is low. After all, no one would dare break the rules. Whoever starts the fight would have to expect an opponent without scruples. With your current true strength, even if you retreated behind the scenes, Celestial Circle Gate would probably still be concerned," Su Lin chuckled. "But the stronger your true strength, the more useful it would be for me."
"How are the state of things now? The specific situation," Garen poured some cheap black tea for the both of them, took a sip and asked.
"The state of things…is a little complicated. But it's simpler after a detailed analysis," Su Lin paused, seemingly thinking about how to phrase his answer.
"Currently, three forces in play have been determined, you excluded. Celestial Circle Gate is with Crimson Sand Sword, Black Mark Association is a force on its own, and Southern Sky Holy Fist Gate another."
"Celestial Circle Gate and Crimson Sand Sword are not homogeneous with Black Mark Association. Even though they have formed a temporary union, but the pie that is the Southern martial arts world which they've jointly broke up, they each want a piece. So they've been expanding wildly and challenging others along the way. Members of Black Mark Association almost got into conflict with members from Crimson Sand Sword. It seems that in the process of integrating the South, they are using the opportunity to expand their own influence. All three forces seem to be competing against each other. "
Su Lin paused and glanced at Garen who was listening attentively." Celestial Circle Gate has temporarily retreated because of you. Andrela has played a big part in this. He has openly declared that he owes his life to you. Everyone understood what he meant. Even if you've killed Ni Tenstar, but anytime you are in danger and need help, the branch that he, Andrela, commands, will instantly come to your aid. All to repay the life debt that he owes you. No one doubts the authenticity of his words. Rumor has it that when he said those words, Andrela was publicly slapped by the Celestial Circle Gate Master, and was heavily injured to the extent that he vomited blood on the spot. But this did not diminish his respected status and influence in the eyes of other disciples. So to avoid internal conflict, Celestial Circle Gate won't take any action against you. But that's not the case with Black Mark Association.
"What about the other two forces?" Garen was clear about the consequences of saving Andrela. This was a man who took his promises seriously; he didn't easily offer promises, but once he had promised something it will be honored. So he had already anticipated Celestial Circle Gate's attitude from the start.
"Black Mark Association seems to be indifferent. They are of the opinion that Andrela's true strength was being exaggerated, so they are not taking it seriously. And naturally they do not think much of you, the person who defeated Andrela. They have produced three Fist Master Grade experts internally. I predict that you will face them sooner or later. Crimson Sand Sword, on the other hand, are fully aware of Andrela's true strength before he was seriously injured, so they will be more restrained in their attitude towards you. Lastly, Southern Sky Holy Fist Gate. Merely established for a dozen days or so, they are simply referred to as Southern Holy Gate. Due to personal emotional involvement, three people stood up against the three Fist Master Grade Grandmasters of Combat from Black Mark Association. Initially, these three were not experts from the South, but because their acquaintances were injured by Black Mark Association, so they are now involved formally as a major force against them. They are styled as Divine Marshals by members of the Southern Holy Gate, collectively known as the Three Divine Marshals!"
"The Three Divine Marshals? What an impressive name. But how is their true strength?" Garen murmured.
"I'm sorry, you are one of them," Su Lin giggled as he said it.
"Huh?" Garen was stunned. "Me?"
"Yeap," Su Lin suppressed his laughter and nodded. "You are the strongest among the three in Southern Holy Gate, one of the Three Divine Marshals: the Mammoth."
"So I'm named after my Secret Martial Art? I thought they would give me a better nickname," Garen sounded disappointed. "But out of the blue I've become one of the so-called Three Divine Marshals, I'm really speechless. They've set a position for me without me even knowing about it."
"It can't be helped. It wasn't easy for Southern Sky Holy Fist Gate to find a Grandmaster of Combat who is able to oppose Black Mark Association in a short amount of time. You are merely filling in to make up the numbers, just like White Bird Holy Fist senior who was summoned to hoist the banner. Anyway, there is no disadvantage to you, just accept it." Su Lin shrugged.
"Now, I believe it's time for you to help me?"