Chapter 833: The Ling Father and Daughter Pair
Jiang Chen could see that Shen Trifire was already quite devoted to the task at hand. However, he still felt somewhat guilty when he recalled Ling Bi'er's selfless assistance back in the Myriad Domain. The world was a big place—who knew where Ling Bi'er had ended up? Still, her father and sister had come to Veluriyam Capital and were thus his responsibility. He was obligated to take care of them and, in good conscience, couldn't allow any harm to befall them. It wasn't simply a responsibility towards a peer of the same sect, rather, it was a kind of accountability towards the girl who had saved his life.
"Trifire, let us go right now. I will come with you." Jiang Chen couldn't sit still. He wanted to take the Ling father and daughter duo to Taiyuan Tower immediately to ensure their safety. They were already here in the capital. Even though law enforcement was fairly adept, it was still an eat-or-be-eaten type of social pecking order amongst wandering cultivators. Considering Ling Su and Ling Hui'er's level of cultivation, sooner or later they were bound to end up in an unfavorable position.
Located in the northern part of the city, the Azure Sea District was a place well-known for its population of wandering cultivators. At least two or three hundred thousand wandering cultivators roamed its streets each day, with upwards of a million at its busiest times. It was heaven for wandering cultivators, intentionally created by Veluriyam Capital itself to serve as such. The locale was designed to be an area of activity for these cultivators. Here, cultivators could cultivate, conduct business, take up missions, entertain themselves, and carry out just about anything they wanted to do. There was endless wine here, countless women, and limitless money to be earned. Thus, the wandering cultivators of surrounding territories had always viewed this place as a kind of wonderful refuge.
Of course, the district's luxurious surface belied its hidden corners, devoid of light. A place with a heaven-like appearance often held a great deal of accompanying darkness within as well. Acts steeped in grime and malice took place here, just as they did anyplace else. However, wandering cultivators each followed their own paths. No one concerned themselves with the fate of others. For a wandering cultivator, anyone they did not know was considered a passerby. Because of this, the Azure Sea District was actually a rather lawless place. Some obtained money and fame here while others met their demise.
By now, Ling Su and Ling Hui'er had already stayed here for three days. For the first two days, Ling Su had taken his daughter into the nearby streets to privately gather information. He had been more cautious both yesterday and today, however. His worldly experience told him that they were being watched. Today he fully intended to stay inside the inn without venturing a single step outside. Yes, the Azure Sea District did have certain things that were better left unseen, but there were still a few basic principles that everyone adhered to. The inns, at the very least ,were safe.
Ling Hui'er was a little bored by it all. "Daddy, we've been stuffed up in the inn all day. This is so dull. Plus, how are we going to discover any news about senior brother Jiang and older sister like this?" She pursed her lips.
Ling Su knew his daughter's nature well. She was indeed the kind of person who found it difficult to simply sit idly in an inn. But an old hand like him knew that the situation within the Azure Sea District was complicated, more so than it appeared at first glance.
"Hui'er, don't be so capricious. This isn't the Myriad Domain. With what little strength we have, at best we can be considered middle-lower class. I can't keep you safe if a problem arises."
"There's no way things are as bad as you say, daddy." Ling Hui'er repeatedly tugged on her father's arm. "We can go out during the day and come back before nightfall. It'll be fine."
It wasn't Ling Su's first day navigating the world, and he was much wiser than his daughter. If he hadn't noticed the signs that something was awry, he wouldn't have needed to be discreet.
"Hui'er, when has daddy hurt you?" He patiently explained. "I want to find your sister more than anybody. But I've traversed more bridges than you have roads. Something is definitely amiss. Let's lay low for a bit—we can take a look around afterwards."
Ling Hui'er was unhappy at her father's refusal to budge and sat down with a huff.
They were mid-conversation when a series of footsteps could be heard in the hallway. An attendant at the inn knocked on their door.
"Customer, the crystals that you gave us have almost been used up. If you don't give us further payment, you'll need to vacate your rooms between eleven and one."
Ling Su frowned when he heard the announcement, his expression suddenly becoming very serious. They had spent long days on the road over the course of these past few days. In order to avoid the Eternal Celestial Capital's investigation and pursuit, they had taken many detours. Thankfully, the Eternal Celestial Capital had been after Jiang Chen. People like the Ling father and daughter duo had no place on the city's wanted lists, and they were able to successfully muddle along to Veluriyam Capital. However, their road had been a bumpy one, and they had kept low profiles. They didn't have any real way of making money. As such, their crystals had been quickly used up.
They had only been in Veluriyam Capital for three days, but they had already reached the last of their funds. The original assumption was that they would be able to live at Veluriyam for a fortnight or so, then find some missions to keep themselves barely afloat. But it wasn't until they'd actually arrived at Veluriyam Capital that they discovered their own naivete. The inns within the capital were much pricier than the ones outside. Three or four times more so, in fact.
However, the inns here were significantly safer. While living here, there was no need to worry about someone assaulting them in the middle of the night. Something like that would never happen at Veluriyam Capital. If something like that were to occur, the inn in question would immediately close down. Despite the safety benefits, however, the price for accommodations was high enough to make Ling Su's heart drip blood. The attendant's prompt for the required additional payment only exacerbated his anxiety. He wanted to seek refuge here until the dust settled, but misfortune came in pairs. Instead of finding shelter, he was about to be kicked out of the inn.
Ling Hui'er put on a more careless air. She wasn't at all saddened by the news, and her large eyes twinkled. "Daddy, we don't have money anymore, so how can we keep staying here? Let's go find a mission and ask around in the meantime." She sighed softly, seeming to recall something. "I wonder if senior brother Jiang has gotten here yet? Has older sister met up with him? I really want to know…"
Ling Su's face was fraught with worry. He looked outside with some concern, but had no idea as to what to do next. Without money, they couldn't do anything in Veluriyam Capital. If they couldn't stay in an inn at night, then their safety was no longer assured. "Hui'er, let's pack our things. We're leaving quietly." He had no other resort.
"Why do we have to leave quietly?" Ling Hui'er widened her eyes. "We haven't done anything wrong! Is it really necessary for us to have to sneak around like that?"
"Hui'er, we're not at Regal Pill Palace anymore," Ling Su chuckled wryly. "We can't afford to be easily noticeable. It's my fault for spoiling you when you were little… if your sister were here, you wouldn't even think twice about listening to her."
Ling Hui'er giggled. "Daddy, if you were as fierce as sister is, how would I be able to live with the both of you?" Both of them knew that they couldn't stay in the inn without more money.
There was nothing that could be done. Ling Su had no better solution than to pack his bags and attempt to sneak out. They weren't too far from the inn when a pair of eyes around the corner spotted them. It immediately darted backwards, retreating into the darkness. Ling Su was a well-traveled man and had a wealth of commensurate experience. His intuition was very good in these situations. Sensing something, he pulled Ling Hui'er towards the opposite direction and moved to hasten their pace. "Hui'er, let's go this way."
Though Ling Hui'er was fairly obtuse, her father's guarded watchfulness reined in her whimsical nature in the heat of the moment. She followed closely behind him. In no time at all, several horses charged from the opposite direction they were going in. Ling Su hastily pulled Ling Hui'er to the side of the road, preparing to let them pass by.
However, they were evidently the target of the horses, as the steeds and their riders scattered upon reaching the Ling father and daughter duo's side, encircling the pair. His face tensing, Ling Su growled in a low voice, "Friends, we do not know each other. Why are you blocking the road?"
"Hahaha, you don't know us, eh? So you don't remember borrowing money from us, old fart? You've evaded us for these past few months, but finally no longer!"
"No need for small talk. Debts must be paid. You can't leave today without paying us both the principal and the interest!" The cultivators flourished the riding whips in their hands. With vicious demeanors and greedy looks, they appeared implacable.
Ling Su's heart fell. With his experience, how could he not see that these people were picking a fight on purpose? "I think you have the wrong person. I've never borrowed money from anyone here. If you'd like your debts to be repaid, why are you soliciting me for money?"
Though he knew it was just a trumped-up charge, Ling Su didn't want to turn on them right away. From what he could see, he couldn't match a single one of these cultivators. It would be completely effortless for the men to defeat them.
"Hahaha, the wrong person?" The burly man at the head of the group chuckled. "We've done this for a couple hundred years, and you say that we've got the wrong person? You've got to be kidding me."
"You wanna renege on your debts, old man?"
"'Course, you can do that, as long as you give us that girl as collateral. That'll make us barely even."
Ling Su's heart trembled. It was as bad as he had thought. He'd felt someone gawking at his daughter before, but from the looks of it, trouble was unavoidable. The supposed debt they talked about was only a ruse—it was Ling Hui'er they were really after.
Hui'er's babyish face was all puffy and red. "Aren't you guys being unreasonable?" She shouted angrily. "When did we borrow money from you?"
"Ho, the girl has a bit of a temper!"
"Hmm, having a wild side is even better. You can't get out of paying your debts, little girl!"
Ling Hui'er hadn't met anyone as unreasonable as these men before. She was speechless, her cheeks flushing with fury.
Pulling his daughter behind himself, Ling Su spoke to her in hushed undertones. "Hui'er, these people are here to make trouble. They're here for you. Daddy will hold them off for a bit. In the chaos that ensues, you should make your way out of here. Remember, forget about me. Just run away as fast as you can."
As insensitive as Ling Hui'er was, by now even she knew what these men's intentions were. Her heart was both furious and remorseful. She shouldn't have called her father overcautious—his worries had been entirely justified. "Daddy, Hui'er definitely won't leave you behind. We'll fight them if we have to. How can the law not be upheld at Veluriyam Capital? I don't believe it." Ling Hui'er huffed.