The Fish and Dragon District was a quagmire of a place. Jiang Chen had no desire to stay there for long, nor did he want to bring a group of pretty girls there in any capacity. Thankfully, a man of his current station was unlikely to encounter any problems. The last time he’d come here, he’d been accompanied by Wei Jie. Despite that, he hadn’t been taken very seriously by most of the people they’d come across. Back then, House Wei had still been a typical ninth-rank house on the brink of destitution. It was the very definition of insignificant. This time, Jiang Chen wasn’t bringing anyone notable with him on his revisit. Both Wei Jie and Ji San were as busy as he for the next short while, having to make various preparations before entering the Veluriyam Pagoda. Nobody in their right mind would waste the three days of prep time allotted to them. These two were no exception.
Moreover, given Jiang Chen’s current prominence in Veluriyam Capital, there was no one here that would dare lay a hand on him. The burning ire of Emperor Shura’s faction could not manifest itself either. Emperor Peafowl’s perceptiveness knew no bounds. Who knew if he was watching in secret? Anyone who schemed against the new young lord of Sacred Peafowl Mountain risked being made an example of by its master. Jiang Chen also had no interest in stirring up trouble. A few attendants in tow, he came quietly to the Fish and Dragon District.
However, after weathering the Veluriyam Pagoda gathering, Jiang Chen was a mysterious pill king no longer. He was the idol of the town! As soon as he arrived in the district, he was recognized by huge swathes of people. All of them came up to greet him. Even the most unruly of ruffians acted with modest and humility in front of him. Evidently, it wasn’t his status but his performance that had conquered their hearts. Their support of him was sincere.
“Young lord Zhen, do you still remember this lowly one?” A person suddenly emerged from the throng. He was dressed in flowery clothing that could almost be described as gaudy. Such garments would be par for the course for a woman, but it was a bit over the top for a man.
“Aren’t you Lin Ming?” Jiang Chen remembered the guy. When Wei Jie had brought him to the district, the first thing he did was look for Lin Ming’s store. The merchant had been polite enough, but not particularly enthusiastic. He’d given Wei Jie a measure of face without being too eager to do so. Still, he seemed more than happy to cozy up nowadays. Here he was now, sidling towards him.
“Young lord Zhen, I heard that you became Sacred Peafowl Mountain’s young lord! I surmised that you would need some high-quality slaves, so I’ve been turning my pockets inside out recently… I’m happy to report that I’ve managed to cobble a reasonable batch of goods together. May I invite you to my store to take a look?”
Jiang Chen’s impression of Lin Ming was indifferent at best. The merchant had been comparatively distant back then, but that was normal. It was unreasonable to expect someone to be thrilled about dealing with a stranger. On the positive side, he’d gotten a few pieces of pertinent news afterwards from the man. Sure, that had been contingent on him curing the merchant’s illness, but the transaction had yielded useful results. In particular, the location of Regal Pill Palace’s group of disciples had been a key bit of information. That was why he had been able to rescue Shen Trifire, Gouyu, and the others from House Sikou’s Myriad Puppets Pavilion. It had only been a fair deal, but the timeliness of the information was not to be denied. If he’d been a few days late, it was likely that they would have been sold to the four corners of the world. Therefore, Jiang Chen remembered the favor.
“Boss Lin, you look like you’re doing well lately.” Jiang Chen smiled at the merchant, noticing that he was no longer powdering his face. The white spots had disappeared. That meant that the root cause of his illness was gone.
Lin Ming’s heart trembled at the very thought of the disease. He had been extremely lucky. He knew that without the pill king’s previous help, he would likely be a corpse by now. He had kept a Nether Felidae around as a pet. Every midnight, countless evil and yin humors were drawn to it. If it hadn’t been for the pill king’s keen perception, he would have been history in just a short while. No matter how much money he possessed, he wouldn’t have been able to spend any of it.
Thus, his gratefulness towards Pill King Zhen was heartfelt, and by extension, towards Wei Jie as well. After hearing about the pill king’s remarkable deeds and witnessing his gradual rise to his present position as Sacred Peafowl Mountain’s young lord, Lin Ming felt extremely regretful. He regretted that his attitude hadn’t been the best in the past. Why had he waited until they’d struck a bargain before offering the useful piece of news? If he had been just a bit politer in terms of demeanor and behavior, he would have been able to hug the pill king’s powerful thigh, so to speak, and refer to the encounter to others with ease. With Pill King Zhen’s support, there was no way he would remain unknown. The backing of Sacred Peafowl Mountain’s young lord meant that he could walk with his head held high and do as he would throughout the entire Fish and Dragon District.
House Sikou’s Myriad Puppets Pavilion had only been sponsored by the Majestic Clan. Emperor Shura was a layer beyond that. Yes, it was only a single layer of difference, but it meant that the Pavilion could never become a top store. They could only grow to rival the Majestic Clan, and not become useful to Emperor Shura himself. However, Lin Ming could have established a direct relationship with Sacred Peafowl Mountain if he had been able to help young lord Zhen. Every time he remembered this matter, Lin Ming regretted his previous actions down to his very intestines. He wanted to slap himself in the face a few times. He had missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime. Fortunately for him, he had another shot at it this time.
Ever since he’d received the news about Pill King Zhen becoming Sacred Peafowl Mountain’s young lord, Lin Ming had wondered what would be the best way to go about making reparations for his past behavior. What would be the most ideal method of connecting with the pill king? He instantly thought that because young lord Zhen was moving into Sacred Peafowl Mountain, he would need a large number of slaves. This was customary for any young lord moving into a new residence. From here, he had an idea. He used every ounce of his energy and every thread of his network to collect a large batch of high-scoring slaves. They were all very reliable to boot! He carried out all of this with caution and reliability.
After all of this, he waited in front of the Fish and Dragon District entrance for Jiang Chen to appear. Lin Ming was fairly smart. He’d fully expected that young lord Zhen would come buy slaves during the half-week prep time. He had waited here three days and nights. His labor had finally been rewarded! He was both excited and anxious.
The excitement was from seeing young lord Zhen, and the anxiety from wondering how petty he would be. Was the Capital’s new star going to give him attitude for his prior treatment? If the young lord truly was a vengeful one, then the tribute he was attempting to pay him might have entirely the opposite effect. It could bring him misfortune rather than favor. The Fish and Dragon District was a pragmatic place. If anyone knew of the previous bad blood between him and young lord Zhen, they would surely take the opportunity to torment him or worse. The young lord was sure to be pleased by that! Lin Ming was wise enough to acknowledge this possibility from the start.
Thankfully, young lord Zhen was a tolerant man. There had been no lingering grudge. Instead, the young lord had both remembered him and inquired after the condition of his illness. Lin Ming’s smile was positively simpering as he replied, “It’s all thanks to your help, young lord Zhen. I’ve always appreciated it, and I’ve wanted to repay you for a while now…”
Jiang Chen returned the grin. “Then, shall we spend a few moments at your place?”
The other shopkeepers felt a tug on their heartstrings at those words. Countless gazes of admiration and envy shot towards Lin Ming. Nobody could come up with the actual reason why Lin Ming was so lucky. What did the young lord see in him, anyway? They had all been waiting to butter up the new star. Many had redecorated their stores to the point of obsessive perfection. Some had even hired exceptionally pretty girls as employees, all for the sole purpose of pleasing young lord Zhen. If the young lord stepped into their store, business would be much easier for them in the future.
How unfortunate that he’d been intercepted by Lin Ming. Judging by the expression on his face, they were on fairly good terms too. There were smiles and small talk. A relationship like that was enough to make any onlooker go green with envy. Feeling the burningly covetous looks from everyone around him, Lin Ming felt great satisfaction. Now wasn’t the time to reveal it, however. He respectfully led Jiang Chen and his entourage along with him towards his store. The group disappeared at the end of the street, but the crowd persisted still.
“Lin Ming doesn’t have a big business or a big store. What’s that guy up to, joining in on the ruckus like this? Why’s he trying to charm the young lord, too? What an annoyance.”
“That kid’s won the lottery. Did he know young lord Zhen from before?”
“Who knows? He looks like he’s going to have a good life from now on..”
“Ah, curses. I’ll have to socialize with him a bit more in the future. I didn’t know he had such a strong backer…”
Lin Ming was solidly middle-of-the-pack in terms of his prominence in the Fish and Dragon District. After today’s events, though, he would likely skyrocket in importance. It wasn’t a stretch to say that he would become one of the biggest shopkeepers here. This was the art of using someone else’s power to one’s advantage. Even the momentary presence of someone important in one’s store was worth ten thousand gold. That the person in question was on buddy-buddy terms as well made it all the more weightier.
Jiang Chen hadn’t considered any of this. He couldn’t possibly have imagined his few phrases of casual courtesy would cause such a noticeable effect on the Fish and Dragon District. Watching the slightly over-excited Lin Ming in front of him both amused him and made him a bit sentimental. When he had first come to the district, he had felt sidelined, despite having been in the company of Wei Jie. This time, innumerable eyes followed him at every turn, respectful and reverent. A change of standing really did have a large effect on social perception.