Chapter 175: Mu Jinghu
There was a mysterious valley in the mountain ranges where the Great Yan and Great Zhou borders touched, called ‘Soothsayer Valley’. Those in the jianghu only knew that the Soothsayer was an extraordinary person who came from this place. People had only ever heard of the valley name, but had never been able to visit it for themselves.
Some said that it didn’t exist in the mundane world. Others said that a poisonous miasma surrounded it so that no one who entered could come back out alive. Therefore, it was natural that no one could enter it.
There was other analysis that there must be strange and exotic traps and formations set up around the valley. No ordinary person could solve them, so no one could find the entrance to the valley and lay eyes on the ethereal palace within.
Pang Xiao was sitting on a foldable camp stool in front of a thatch hut, located deep in the mountains of the Great Zhou and Yan border intersection. He was glowering at the very handsome young man in front him. Oddly enough, the young man was wearing a patched and mended robe. Pang Xiao accepted the offered crude, wooden cup, took a sip, and immediately spat out two tea leaf stems.
“I say, you’re the Soothsayer’s disciple after all! Your master is a fiend gluttonous for wealth, but you’re a miserly ghost who can’t even bear to light an additional lamp! Why do all these weird people come from your school of learning?? And what kind of lousy tea leaves are these?? Are they for humans to drink?”
Pang Xiao plonked down the wooden cup with great disdain and jabbed his finger at the barren surroundings, the thatched hut, sparse bamboo fence, and a newly fertilized vegetable garden.
“Is this the wealth of the Soothsayers?? If those in the outside world knew how poor things looked inside the valley, and that a nominal head such as you are wearing patched robes, they’d probably die from laughter!”
Mu Jinghu looked expressionlessly at Pang Xiao, pouring the derided coarse tea into his own wooden cup. He sipped at it slowly, then spoke in slow, even tones. “My master doesn’t admit that I’m her disciple. She only lets me call her ‘martial uncle’.”
This was the first time that Pang Xiao had heard this. It was an interesting tidbit. “Oh? Why doesn’t your master admit to you? Is it because you’re too dense, like a block of wood? Or because you’re too cheap?”
Mu Jinghu took another sip and mulled over the taste of the tea. “When the grandmaster took my master as his disciple and tried to pass on his martial skills, master was too lazy to learn. The grandmaster tried to pass on medical skills, but master was too lazy to learn. The grandmaster tried to pass on Taoist teachings, but master was too lazy to learn. Master was only willing to learn some fengshui, saying that being able to feed herself was enough.”
The young man lowered his head. “The grandmaster said that with master’s temperament, she’d have a flair for causing trouble in the mundane world. Since she was too lazy to learn any self defense, he picked me up off the streets and passed on his martial arts and medical skills. I first called the grandmaster ‘master’, but he pushed me off to my master. He said that he was only teaching me so I could protect her, and that she was my master. My martial arts and medical skills were all to save her life.
“And so I called her ‘master’, but she felt that I was a bother and refused to admit that I was her disciple. She told me to call her martial uncle, and that if the grandmaster took another disciple in the future, I’d be that disciple’s disciple.”
Huzi was stunned senseless by this background, not even noticing that he’d chewed the tea leaf stems to a pulp. Pang Xiao however, roared with laughter.
“This sounds like something the Soothsayer would say. But you don’t have that many bad parts to you, apart from being a little dense, too wooden, too honest, a bit silly, and too miserly. So why doesn’t your master want you?”
Mu Jinghu lifted his head and responded after a long pause. “You reeled off so many faults, no wonder my master doesn’t want me.”
“Heh!” The prince once again barked with laughter at the block of wood’s expense.
Huzi also chuckled. “Then has Sir Mu’s grandmaster taken in another disciple?”
The young man shook his head honestly. “I don’t know. The grandmaster is a very mysterious person. I haven’t seen him in many years.”
Pang Xiao’s laughter petered out with a sigh. “Blockhead, I’m here to call in that bet.”
“I know, Sly Fox Pang. The two of you wouldn’t be able to find me otherwise.” Mu Jinghu put down his cup. “We’re even after I help you this time.”
“Alright, you have my word.”
“You’re a fox. You’re too slippery. I don’t trust you.” Mu Jinghu took out half a sheet of paper from his sleeve and scribbled a note with charcoal. “Handprint.”
Pang Xiao looked down wordlessly at the scrap of paper. “Since you want to put it down in writing, can’t you get a better piece of paper?” Still, he covered his palm with some ash and pressed his hand down.
This finally set Mu Jinghu at ease and he put the paper back into his sleeve. “Alright, what is it?”
“Blockhead. I’d like to ask you to protect someone for me. Someone very important to me. Protect her until I can do so myself.”
The young man nodded and didn’t ask who that person had offended, why was he being put on protection duty, when Pang Xiao would take over this job himself, and thought even less of what kind of trouble this would bring him. He only nodded in acceptance.
“What’s his name and where does he live?”
“Her surname is Qin, given name Yining. She’s fifteen years old and lives in the Marquis of Anping Manor in the Great Yan capital. She’s the official daughter of the Marquis of Anping, Qin Meng, and comes fourth in her family.”
“A female?” A trace of surprised emotion finally colored Mu Jinghu’s tone.
Pang Xiao nodded with a smile. “Yes, she’ll be my wife in the future.”
“Oh.” Mu Jinghu nodded. “Another fox.”
Pang Xiao roared with laughter again.
Those in the Great Yan capital had no idea of Pang Xiao’s doings in the city of Liang. Meanwhile, the empress was beet red from anger after hearing a eunuch’s report.
She smashed everything her enraged eyes alighted on in a grand show of fury. In the blink of an eye, her Soaring Phoenix Palace looked like bandits had gone through it. Shattered porcelain covered the floor and pots of coral decorations were tipped over. Braziers were knocked this way and that, mimicking the disarray of jewelry boxes. Strands of large pearls had been snapped and pearls were rolling everywhere on the floor.
The servants shuddered and trembled, hunching in on themselves as they knelt on the ground, deathly afraid that the empress’ wrath would descend on them as well. Even after all that, the towering rage within the empress’ heart wasn’t the slightest bit abated. She kicked over a young eunuch, using such force that he tumbled over the ground.
“That damned Soothsayer! How dare she deceive me!” The empress spat through grit teeth.
A confidante eunuch tried to pacify in low tones. “Don’t be angry, Your Majesty. Perhaps the Soothsayer has other things to do and went away on a short trip. She might be back after a few days. You know how mysterious these types of people can be. Besides, she still has to produce the divine pill for the emperor. She wouldn’t dare leave for too long.”
“I’ll skin her alive if she dares come back!”
“Your Majesty has a harsh mouth but a soft heart.” The eunuch smiled. “You’d still think of the emperor even if wanted to skin that baldie alive, no? Don’t be angry. The statesman said for you not to be in a rush. Be at ease, he’s making a list of all those who dare displease you. You’re the emperor’s most favored and the apple of the elder statesman’s eye. Whoever displeases you is displeasing the two strongest men in the world! Nothing good will come of them! Why harm yourself with anger over them?”
The eunuch had served the empress for many years and knew that she was proudest of two things. Being a Cao, and being the empress. These comforting words mentioned her two most cherished qualities, instantly cheering her up.
“You old thing, you always have such a sweet mouth.” The empress sighed. “Forget it, have someone clean this place up. The emperor will surely visit soon. This seat will go freshen my makeup and outfit so I am ready.”
“Understood, this servant will do so immediately.”
Previous Chapter Next Chapter