Husband and Wife to Battle – Zizi, The Dragon’s Descendant
Rabbit Fiend didn't make things difficult for Lord Zi upon learning he was our son. He promised to release Lord Zi once we met tomorrow morning. He didn't want to offend us, since he wanted to recruit us.
After we picked up Lord Zi, we were led out. We were forced to cover our eyes once we reached the exit. That made the place much more mysterious and suspicious than I initially thought; fortunately, we weren't in danger.
"Why are you here, Lord Zi?" asked General Manager Bai, after we swiftly left the place. In her serious demeanour, she questioned, "Why did you sneak out? Does anyone else know about this place?"
Based purely off General Manager Bai's tone, she was respectful to Lord Zi. Her attitude, to the contrary, was more of an elder sister reproaching her younger brother out of care. For the record, she was only eighteen or nineteen, so she was only a few years older than him.
Lord Zi hung his head down and pleaded, "It's not my fault, Sister Lian. I didn't want to sneak out. I followed someone and ended up arriving here."
Me: "Good kids don't lie. It takes several hours on horseback to reach this place from the capital. Who would you follow all the way here?"
Lord Zi blinked a few times: "You."
Lord Zi puffed his cheeks: "I said I would be your disciple; I can't quit half way. That's why I followed you ever since you left the palace. I saw you speak with Grandpa Li and Sister Lian! Then, I followed you here when you two rode off."
"You can run as fast as a horse?"
Lord Zi proudly responded, "I know how to ride horses! Sister Lian taught me!"
I glanced over to General Manager Bai: "General Manager Bai, why does he keep calling you Sister Lian? You two… aren't playing some sort of weird game in the palace, are you?"
That plus the fact she couldn't possibly be any more becoming in female clothing raised alarms. I suspected she dressed as a female in the imperial palace!
"Ow! That hurt," I griped.
General Manager Bai ruthlessly smacked me. She avoided addressing the way Lord Zi addressed her. Tone cold, she said, "It's none of your business. Lord Zi, I have not finished speaking. You cannot just leave the palace. Your mother will be worried sick. She must have a lot to say to you, since it has been a long time since you two met. Moreover, this place is far from the capital. Y-"
"It wasn't on purpose. I left a note for Mother before I left," interjected Lord Zi, hiding behind me after and giving Bai Lian the pitiful look. He tugged my sleeve and quietly pleaded, "Shifu, Shifu, help me out."
"Who you calling your shifu? Plus, General Manager Bai isn't wrong. Do you realise how much danger you were in? You'll need more than ten lives next time."
Lord Zi looked away and pulled a funny face: "I only get bullied, because my martial arts skills aren't good enough. If I was as good as you, casually putting away the cavalry villains, I wouldn't have to fear anyone."
'Huh? You saw me fight the cavalry from Northern Xinjiang? You're a sneaky one, kiddo!'
Puzzled, Bai Lian asked, "Cavalry villains?"
Lord Zi replied, "Th-"
I covered Lord Zi's mouth and intervened: "Uh, nothing, nothing. Calm down. He's still a k-"
"Don't defend him!" scolded Bai Lian. "One can't hide after committing a mistake. Lord Zi, come here."
Thus, Lord Zi obediently copped a scolding. On a serious note, I had no idea why he giggled when General Manager Bai reproached him. I didn't know any second generation rich kid or second generation official who would be happy to cop a lecture.
"We have an important mission today. Do not meddle, understood?" said General Manager Bai.
"Just send him back. Solved," I remarked.
"What sort of idiocy is that? How can Lord Zi, a child, go back?!" argued General Manager Bai.
In my mind: "Come on… What sort of logic do you work with? Is there even any? If he can't go back, how did he come here in the first place?!"
"I'm worried Lord Zi will meet with mishap, so he must go back with us, full stop. Lord Zi, we have to go out for work tomorrow. Please wait for us at the inn. Do not leave it," stated General Manager Bai, in a respectful, yet demanding, tone.
After Lord Zi nodded, General Manager Bai turned to me: "And you! We're splitting up tomorrow. I'll take care of the fighting in the ring; you focus on locating their contact."
A helpless feeling surfaced when I thought back on the design and set up of Feiyun Hall. I was hoping to kick back, eat pears and feast on pork shoulders after Jin Wangsun's fiasco to enjoy New Year, but there I was stuck with two busy days.
General Manager Bai headed to Feiyun Hall as she said she would the next day. According to my observation from yesterday, nobody at Feiyun Hall would be able to put one on her. She would be able to escape even if they ganged up on her. Finding a way to retrieve the stolen artefacts was far harder than sparking doped fighters.
According to what General Manager Bai said, the stolen items were sold once they smuggled them out of the palace. Apparently, the items were seen at Feiyun Hall before. The biggest shareholder of Feiyun Hall was Lu Shangfei. Pure common sense was enough to realise a rich businessman couldn't have possibly sneaked into the palace. He either had to disguise himself as someone high ranking, or he had someone influential supporting him.
I went around to different places to ask different people about Lu Shangfei. Their information didn't match with what I knew. He, apparently, was a household name at Wuhua County. He wasn't born there, but he migrated there from childhood, studied and grew up there. Hence, he treated it as his second home and often returned to participate in philanthropy events. He had a brother working as an official at the capital. Once successful, his brother often came back to teach. The brothers, consequently, were respected.
The information I obtained was bemusing to me. I could understand someone running an underground fighting syndicate and stealing from the imperial palace trying to create a facade with philanthropy. Nevertheless, Lu Shangfei clearly didn't fit that description. If his philanthropy was a facade, he should've stayed off the grid as much as possible. Yet, Prime Minister Li and General Manager Bai knew of him. That wasn't even counting the Emperor's entourage. If he could be the mastermind behind Feiyun Hall, he had to be underestimating people in the pugilistic world. The biggest plot hole was… if he really was part of the underground world, he wouldn't let his brother work as an official and make a big deal out of it; he didn't even attempt to hide their relationship. If something undesired ever happened, both of them would be history. In my opinion, he resembled a scapegoat more than a mastermind.
I made my way to Feiyun Hall's main property. We were too overconfident yesterday and didn't pack up, so they most likely caught on to us already. The main door was open when I arrived, proving my speculation someone already entered. I hurried to the air duct storehouse to see a group of people, presumably Feiyun Hal's subordinates, gathered in one spot.
"Someone must've barged in and smashed the storehouse."
"Yeah right. Are you claiming he used a hammer to do this?"
"Well, they're not here anymore. I wonder who it was."
"Wait. There are two people here, a male and a female. They resemble Hu Wangxing and his wife."
"I told you Die Yilan suddenly looked so much better yesterday. Hang on…"
I thought, "Pretty perceptive, bros."
"There's a reward if you guess correctly," I said as I whooshed over. I chopped all four using a knife hand, knocking them out on the spot. I silently remarked, "You're smart, but I can't let you expose us. General Manager Bai is still whooping ass down there, after all."
I threw the four aside then checked Hu Wangxin and his wife's pulse. Their pulse was all right, and they were still breathing. They probably needed another half a day to wake up. Due to yesterday's rush, we didn't tidy up. Thus, I helped the couple ease out the clogs in their qi and blood circulation pathways to ensure they could heal. Then, I sealed their meridians so that they would sleep for one more day. Once done, I questioned, "What happened to waiting at the inn?"
Lord Zi ran over from behind: "You noticed me already?"
"There's no reason for you to follow me even if I didn't detect you, is there?"
Eyes on the people on the ground, Lord Zi adopted an envious tone: "You are strong as I thought… I need to be as strong as you."
"Lord Zi, I think you're mistaking something. I don't accept students," I said, arms folded and smiling. "Especially those who aren't honest."
"… You knew?"
"Knew what?" I asked with a smile. "That your name isn't actually Zizi?"
Though hesitant, Lord Zi eventually admitted, "My name is Li Zizi. The first 'Zi' is 'zi' in filial son, and the second 'Zi' is the 'Zi' for purple."
"Oh? You share the same surname as the imperial family? That's quite the coincidence."
"Please don't make fun of me. You know he is my father," said Lord Zi, particularly serious for once. "Given my name is Li Zizi, it is obvious I am His Majesty's seventh son."
I hated to admit it, but I was spot on. The seven Princes were named after colours red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, blue and purple. The six adult Princes were crowned as Princes, had their own fiefs and were forbidden from returning to the capital without permission. Hence, it was quite obvious he was the seventh son yet to be crowned a Prince, since General Manager Bai was so concerned about him, and he could enter and leave the palace as he pleased. I assumed he was called Lord Zi, since he wasn't officially declared a Prince yet.
"Hero Ming!" cried Lord Zi, hugging me around my waist. "I don't know why Sister Lian thinks you're weak, but I know you're anything but weak. You're the strongest person I've ever met. Can you take me as your disciple?!"
"Don't try to cotton up to me," I said as I pushed Lord Zi's face away gently. Voice frigid, I questioned, "Tell me why you chased me all the way here to ask me to be your shifu in spite of the risk? You're a Prince; can't His Majesty find you a shifu? Why do you insist on learning from me?"
"That's because…" A trace of fear crept onto Lord Zi's small face: "Someone is after my life! If you don't take me as your disciple, I'll die in the imperial palace!"