Yan Xun snickered. "To find her would not be so easy. If AhChu was determined to hide, there would be no way those idiots from the Xia Empire could do anything to find her. I would be really relieved if you could help search for her outside. At the end of the day, I am still worried about her being out there alone."
"And one more thing." Contemplating for a short while, Yan Xun inquired, "How have you handled the things I requested for in the letter last month."
Feng Mian's expression became even more serious, as he walked over to the table and picked up a thick stack of papers, before answering, "They are all here. All the intel has been collected."
Yan Xun received the papers, and glanced through them briefly, before smirking. "As expected, they really could not hold their horses anymore."
"Prince, the Da Tong Guild is our ally who had supported Yan Bei all along. If we were to do that, wouldn't others spread nasty rumors about us?"
Smirking, Yan Xun jolted his wrist, as the stack of paper ruffled in his hands. Calmly, he declared, "Feng Mian, did you really think the Da Tong guild was still the same after hundreds of years? Perhaps only respectable people like Mister Wu still held wonderful ideals close to their hearts. Da Tong had long been rotten. Do you still not understand after so many years of being in Xian Yang?"
Hesitating for a moment to construct his opinions, Feng Mian agreed, "Prince, you are indeed right. This servant feels that there are serious structural problems within the Da Tong guild. Although there are still groups of people, particularly those led by Lady Yu and Mister Wu, who uphold righteousness within their heart and still work towards their ideals, most of the elders had succumbed to vices. This had become common knowledge within the guild. As the person in charge of so many gambling dens, taverns and brothels, this servant is undoubtedly most clear with all these shady proceedings within the Da Tong guild.
Yan Xun patted Feng Mian's shoulder, and laughed heartily. "Silly boy, could you still not accept all these as the norm even after so many years of being here in Xian Yang City? Perhaps hundreds of years ago, the Da Tong Guild was truly dedicated to bettering life for the people. But now it was reduced to just a title that people use to congregate political power. The elders within Da Tong had already gathered scary amounts of fortune, and they only lack a suitable political representative to stand as the puppet figurehead of this powerful organization. If they could achieve that, they would be able to gain even more advantages." As he continued his monologue, Yan Xun's gaze was icy cold. "Equality for all. Hmph, What an attractive slogan. It is a pity that where people are present, competition exists. Likewise, where benefits are present, war exists. Equality for all? Perhaps only cowards and idiots would believe in such a thing. But I must acknowledge how this slogan had really been attractive, particularly during this era of chaos. Many common folks had placed their hopes on the Da Tong Guild. Right now, if we cooperate with them, we can provide the military might, while they can provide the resources and finances. We can provide for each other's needs. This was a cooperation matched in heaven."
Feng Mian was confused. "If that is so, why must the Prince ask this servant to search out for that intel?"
"Regardless of the organization, there should only be one leader." Yan Xun turned around and watched the swaying willow branches. Subconsciously his fingers strummed on the table, before he carried on his speech, "The Da Tong Guild had infiltrated too far. The Guild leader dared to even infiltrate his loyal men into Yan Bei to hold key appointments. Right now, regardless of military or administration, many of Yan Bei's have close ties with Da Tong. If we let this be, my position in Yan Bei would be very passive."
Yan Xun continued his monologue, "Right now, Yan Bei is still not that stable, so I cannot risk to change out too many officials. But I can take this opportunity give the Guild Leader a reminder. I am sure the Da Tong Guild Leader is a smart person, so he could understand this indirect warning. In the first place, these stubborn elders probably had already given the Guild Leader a lot of headaches."
Hearing that, Feng Mian got pumped up. The usually calm and elegant Feng Lord laughed naughtily. "Indeed, I had since long been pretty pissed off by their antics. If I had not considered your position, I would have fixed them up good long ago!"
Yan Xun stood up, and with a chuckle, said, "Let us get ready. After we take a shower and rest a bit, you shall follow me to meet these Elders of the Da Tong Guild."
Feng Mian stood up, smiling as well. He was just about to exit from the room, before he turned and asked Yan Xun, "Right, Prince, what will you be wearing tonight? Casual clothes? Or the Da Tong Guild uniform?"
Yan Xun pondered for a second, before replying, "Let's just wear the uniform."
"But there are multiple ranks of uniforms. Although the younger faction refers to you as their leader, you are still considered a low ranking guild member. I am worried they will find fault with you."
"Find fault?" Yan Xun raised his eyebrow in amusement, before turning his lips into a smirk. "Do you think I am scared of people finding faults with me?"
As the night fell, the Xian Yang City began bustling with night activities. The Chi Shui River that flowed across the city carried with it a wisp of fragrance, as the commotion of the unceasing business on the riverbanks emphasized yet again the prosperity of Xian Yang City. Particularly, the brothels are crowded with customers, just like any other normal business day.
In front of Yan Xun was a titanic tavern. Squinting his eyes, Yan Xun observed that in front of the main door were two gigantic red lanterns. Despite the plain design of the door, there was an aura of nobility and majesty which remained unaffected by the rowdy crowds of the night. Above the main doors hung a huge wooden plate, with two beautiful calligraphic words written on it—Zhao Xi.
This was merely a brothel but was given such a graceful name. Seeing that Yan Xun was slightly taken aback, Feng Mian closed up and whispered, "Prince, this is my brother, but the name was in fact named by the lady back in my starting years!"
Yan Xun nodded. As much as Feng Mian was a capable person, when he first arrived in Xian Yang he was pretty much a novice in businesses. Most of his plans and knowledge were taught by Chu Qiao. This brothel probably cost a lot of Chu Qiao's effort as well. Thinking about her, Yan Xun could not help but frown yet again. He then walked into the store.
The manager of the brothel had noticed Feng Mian from afar and was already in waiting beside the door along with a group of beautiful ladies.
An extremely seductive lady walked forth. She was probably in her early 30s, but she did not look that old at all. Curvaceous and tender, her eyes winked flirtatiously as she greeted Feng Mian, "Lord Feng, thank you for visiting us today. I was so happy to see you I could not decide which leg to use first to go welcome you!"
With Yan Xun beside him, Feng Mian could not help but feel slightly anxious. Immediately, he continued, "Yu Niang, where are Elder Liu and his group? Quickly, bring us over."
Yu Niang was experienced in handling people, so she could immediately tell that they were here for serious business. She quickly let the way. Noticing that Feng Mian had reverently trailed behind Yan Xun, she could not help but to secretly be surprised. Being well accustomed to social situations, she remained quiet and did not voice out her curiosity.
Before long, the group passed through a long corridor into an intricately designed courtyard. The boisterous main hall gradually faded into inaudibility. Within the courtyard, there were all kinds of bonsai and flowers. As the night breeze grazed past, one could catch a wisp of the refreshing scent of flowers.
Walking to a separate small tower, Yu Niang giggled. "They are here. I will proceed no more. Please head up yourself, Lord Feng." Following that, this seductive woman turned around and laid her gentle hands on Yan Xun's arms. Amorously, she whispered, "This is our first meeting, but I could immediately tell you are unlike those common folk. If you have time in the future, please frequent Lord Feng's businesses, and come here often."
Feng Mian was stunned by that speech. He was just about to explain, but Yan Xun had already pushed her hands away and smiled lightly, replying, "Sure, why not?"
Yu Niang then left, her curvaceous figure swaying as she walked.
Feng Mian panickedly explained, "Prince..."
"Feng Mian, you need not be so nervous. Also, do not address me as the prince anymore. Let us go." Yan Xun brushed his sleeves aside, as he headed in, "Let us go in and take a look."
The wide hall was brightly illuminated with a round table placed in the middle crowded full of dishes. Yan Xun looked around and saw that around eight to nine men had already sat down with a bodyguard standing behind them. Upon seeing Yan Xun and Feng Mian enter, their voice instantly ceased and threw antagonistic gazes at Yan Xun and Feng Mian.
Feng Mian and Yan Xun removed their coats and passed them to AhJing, before greeting the elders.
Yan Xun and Feng Mian were just about to sit down, as a 60-year-old man caustically remarked, "Lord Feng is really so influential now! Not only did he arrive late, but he brought two guards with him. Seems like the Cao Gang has seen good business to the point where he does not need to care about all of us old fellows!" This acrimonious comment smelled of gunpowder, not leaving a single chance of misinterpretation.
A tinge of coldness flash within Feng Mian's eyes, but before he could speak, Yan Xun already voiced out, "You are Elder Yu, right? The overall in charge of salt supply in the Southeastern region."
Looking at Yan Xun from the corner of his eyes, Elder Yu did not even reply and merely snorted.
Not discouraged, Yan Xun greeted him with both hands clasped in front, and tried to introduce himself, "I am..."
"No one is interested in your position!" Elder Yu coldly looked at Yan Xun, along with his lowly ranked uniform, and sarcastically continued, "You should better recognize your own position. There is no place for you to speak here. Since you came with Lord Feng, you should just shut up and listen!"
Feng Mian frowned and stood up with great indignity. Yet Yan Xun held him back, and casually looked at Elder Yu. He calmly replied, "Elder Yu, I think there is a need for you to know my name. You might have heard of me before, and from now onward, you will have a deeper impression of me."
With that said, Yan Xun tapped the table with his hand. In a flash, AhJing suddenly jumped out from behind Yan Xun. With a straight punch, he struck squarely into Elder Yu's face! In that split second, the sound of Elder Yu's nose breaking could be clearly heard. With a shriek, Elder Yu flew backward. AhJing agilely dashed forward, and grabbing Elder Yu by the collar, he continued hammering the old man's face into a bloody mess.
The bodyguard behind Elder Yu charged forth after that moment of hesitation. With a whoosh, he drew his blade. Feng Mian dashed forward, and without dodging, he grabbed the bodyguard's wrist and with a quick yank, that man's wrist was twisted at an unnatural angle along with a loud snap! With a cry of anguish, his blade had been snatched away by Feng Mian. Despite living in a bed of roses for all these years, Lord Feng swung the blade with great skill and dexterity. With a quick slash, he amputated that man's hand!
The crowd was completely astonished. Although Feng Mian was young, he usually acted with a certain maturity and treated all these Da Tong Elders with respect. What happened that he suddenly became so crazed? Was it really because his old master had gained authority within Yan Bei that he did not care about Da Tong Guild anymore? In the first place, who was this young man that came with Feng Mian?
The crowd watched on in horror and confusion.
Slowly raising his body, Yan Xun's lowly ranked white colored uniform now seemed strangely disturbing and fearsome as he walked to Elder Yu and slowly announced, "Didn't you know that interrupting others in their speech is very impolite?"
Following that, under the terrified gazes of the surrounding people, he lifted his foot and stomped down onto Elder Yu's face! With a muffled sound of impact, fresh blood splattered all over!
Elder Yu fainted without even making a sound. One could no longer tell if he was alive.
"Drag him out." Yan Xun instructed calmly, as though he had just stepped on an ant instead of a Da Tong Elder. A few droplets of blood had landed on his hands. As he sat back into his seat, he took out a white handkerchief and casually wiped his hand.