“Men who wield swords, command brotherhood!”
Yun Yang murmured, raising his goblet for a toast and gulped the crimson wine, his gaze cold and thoughtful.
He lazed on a chair, dressed in purple, under the orchid roof of the courtyard. His eyes seemed to be looking at the canopy of orchids, yet his dazed, faraway look was as if he was staring into another dimension.
His features were delicately sculpted; perfectly arched eyebrows framed a pair of deep black orbs, and a straight chiseled nose sat atop lips akin to a budding rose.
His face was a perfect piece of jade, with raven black hair tied carelessly on his head and a fringe which hung loosely, framing both sides of his face. His whole being exuded otherworldliness, the kind that was tinged with lonesome exclusivity.
His beauty was parallel to that of a maiden.
Even so, 99% of girls in the world would not have features as delicate.
Yet the combination of such features brought about a cold and distant feeling, like a deity above the clouds that was dismissive of mortal emotions.
Although he was rather thin, and his face was too pale, those added a melancholic charm instead.
Yun Yang seemed to enjoy repeating the saying, “Men who wield swords, command brotherhood!”
Then he offered a toast once more, as if inviting someone, and emptied the cup.
An unmistakable sadness swept across his face, with abysmal agony sitting deep in his dark pool of orbs.
Suddenly, his gaze turned sharp like shards of glass.
The piercing gaze came and vanished in a flash, but several blossoms of orchids in front of his eyes trembled and fell, withering before they touched the ground.
Yun Yang’s gaze turned a little dull, wondering how long it would take before he could recover his own cultivation base1. He had too many things to be done yet not a single ounce of his cultivation base remained.
Footsteps came from behind him.
“Young Master,” an elder stood behind him respectfully.
Yun Yang did not turn his head, merely asking, “What is it, Lao Mei?”
The old man stood straight behind his young master in reverence. Although his young master was yet to heal from his injuries, his cultivation base was all gone and he could do nothing about it. His intimidating dignity and honor still could be felt despite his weak state.
It was a strange feeling, seeming to come from nowhere, but its existence was concrete.
“There are two matters.” Lao Mei said in a brief manner, “First, the military had raided the houses of President of the Censorate2 Wu Wenyuan and a few censors3 without notice. I’ve also heard that it was a direct order from Old Marshal Qiu Jianhan. Wu Wenyuan’s whole family had also been captured while Wu Wenyuan himself was arrested, and is now held behind bars.”
Yun Yang listened without saying anything.
It was nothing out of the ordinary – just a downfall of an influential official from the imperial court. This would not be worthy of Lao Mei’s personal report so he knew that there was something more.
And Lao Mei would divulge the details.
“We’ve had our eyes on Wu Wenyuan for half a year now. This servant4 has made slight arrangements during the raid and found a secret chamber within Wu Wenyuan’s secret chamber. When the officials left after the raid, this servant had personally gone over to retrieve what was in the secret chamber.”
Yun Yang was not even the least bit curious about the fact that Lao Mei was able to enter the zone during the military capture of the imperial official, to find and retrieve what was said to be the most secure and obscure secret chamber.
Lao Mei continued, “There was an authorization tally5, a jade pendant, a medicinal pill6, and a beast pill7.”
Yun Yang frowned.
Lao Mei quickly followed, “On the authorization tally, ‘the best time of the year is spring’ was written! On the pendant, it wrote ‘tenth of the first month’. The medicinal pill is a revival pill from Hall of Pills while the beast pill was a mystical pill made from a sixth grade mystical beast, the green-head hawk.”
“Mm… Wu Wenyuan is now being charged with… treachery, and is alleged to be involved in the War of the Nine Supremes at Tianxuan Cliff,” Lao Mei finished.
Yun Yang was still silent, but Lao Mei could see the obvious shudder when his young master heard the words ‘Tianxuan Cliff’.
Lao Mei felt the reducing temperature – a chill coming right from the heart permeating the courtyard, as orchids dropped without the existence of wind, forming a shower of petals.
After some time, Yun Yang said, “Bring Wu Wenyuan over, I’ll question him myself!”
With Wu Wenyuan now jailed in the Ministry of Justice’s prison, how could he possibly be fetched over?
Yet Lao Mei promised without hesitation and continued, “Young Master, I’ve heard that the military plans to pay homage to the Nine Supremes, with Wu Wenyuan and a thousand heads of the betrayers.”
Hearing ‘Nine Supremes’, Yun Yang paled, his heart panged as if stabbed with a dagger. He said, “I have my ways.”
Lao Mei replied, “Yes.”
“What’s the second matter?” Yun Yang then asked.
“It’s that… we have no more money.” Lao Mei said awkwardly, “We still have ten thousand silver taels, but my estimation tells me that they can only last us till tomorrow night.”
Yun Yang nodded, saying, “I understand.”
“Lunch is ready.”
Lao Mei then went away.
A sliver of malice surfaced in Yun Yang’s expression, “Year! The best time of the year is spring! Tenth of the first month… You guys are finally coming out?”
A faint smile appeared.
It was one that would frighten anyone who saw it, as the faint smile was wicked and murderous, as if haunted with souls of the unrest!
The dining table was full of mystical beasts’ meat, they were aromatic but too much to go around.
There were at least 40 to 50 catties8 of meat.
Yun Yang sighed and began to eat.
Lao Mei turned his head away with a cough.
This was a daily moment that he was most reluctant to watch – his usually elegant young master who seemed to come out from a painting, had to finish so much meat alone!
Although his meal etiquette was impeccable, there were still…at least 50 catties of meat!
How big of an appetite was needed to consume them all?
His young master’s appetite had increased to an insane amount ever since he came back bearing injuries a year ago.
Each of his meals must be served with at least several dozen catties of mystical beasts’ meat, and each serving of meat for a meal would cost 8 thousand taels of silver.
This was unsustainable, especially on top of other large expenditures.
What really happened to his young master?
Just as he was engrossed in his thoughts, his young master spoke, “Send invitations to Ma, Liu, Zhang, Qin, and Ling. I’ll host a banquet tonight at White Cloud Restaurant.”
The corner of Lao Mei’s lips quivered before he said, “Yes.”
Soon after, Yun Yang ate the last piece of meat and swallowed the revival pill from the Hall of Pills easily, before popping the mystical pill made from the seventh grade mystical beast into his mouth as well.
Just the value of the last two items alone were already close to being priceless.
“Just about full,” Yun Yang said.
The corner of Lao Mei’s lips quivered a bit more violently.
The invitation had evoked furious wails in the courtyards of all seven different young masters!
“I’m not attending!”
“I have no money!”
“Whoever goes is a son of a b*tch!”
“Bastard, a banquet again? Oh my god…how could this be?”
“Oh god, oh earth, kill him with a lightning strike please… this vampire… he hosts a banquet the very moment I have money…”
“Father, give me some money, Yun Yang is hosting a banquet again…”
Yun Yang went on his way as night came.
Lao Mei followed him, with cautious steps.
Yun Yang’s robe seemed to change colors under the rays of the sunset; cold and distant in black with hints of mysterious navy when he walked, yet there seemed to also be a glimmer of elegant purple.
His stroll on the street was elegant, yet naturally at ease.
His pace was slow as his internal injuries caused burning agony within him with each step he took, but a smile hung on his lips regardless.
It seemed that the searing pain allowed him to remember something, allowing him to imprint it in his mind. Only then would he feel better. Lao Mei, who was behind him, looked at him, feeling the otherworldliness of his young master.
White Cloud Restaurant was the most luxurious restaurant in the Empire of Yutang’s capital, Tiantang City.
The workers of the restaurant were rather surprised.
Seven young masters who dressed lavishly were in the hall, all of them regular patrons of White Cloud Restaurant. There was never a moment that they visited without much joy and pride, but this time round...
All seven young masters wore the same haughty look, some sighing while some cussing; discontent filling the air…
Just as the workers were wondering, a shadow had already stood by the door.
Everyone widened their eyes in amazement when a lantern light illuminated the person’s face.
Only half of his face was lit up by the light, yet it was enough to stir marvel within all that were present.
A few waitresses lowered their heads bashfully, eyes radiating and hearts thumping, with their cheeks flushing a rosy pink.
This young master… is really handsome! If only I could…
The figure by the door sauntered in, with his robe in all sorts of elegance and mystery, with the ever-changing dark purple and navy.
“Haha, all my good friends came indeed.” Yun Yang smiled, “Please, please enter. We haven’t met in a long time, we must have a good round of drinks this time round.”
One of the young masters then said with gritted teeth, “Young Master Yun, there’s no need for drinks. Let’s be straightforward, how much do you want this time?”
Yun Yang smiled as he tilted his head, replying in a friendly manner, “Why, Young Master Ma, are you not honoring or even obliging me? Not even having a sip, are you?”
Young Master Ma paled, quickly defending himself, “No, no, not at all. Who dares disregard Young Master Yun? Haha…”
As he spoke, he kept signaling others with his eyes.
“Right, right. Young Master Yun’s reputation is higher than the sky. Drink, we must drink.” The few young masters nodded in agreement, with forced smiles and humorless laughter.
Yun Yang smiled gently, “If so, please.”
The young masters replied in an equally eager manner, walking upstairs harmoniously but when they turned around, all their faces were close to tears…
God, drinking this time? There was no such pleasant treatment the last time…
They wondered how much this goblet of wine would cost…
Everyone sat in their respective seats; Lao Mei stood behind Yun Yang, with a straight and unmoving face.
“A long time ago, there lived a rabbit. Once, it got drunk and actually assaulted a bear…” Yun Yang joked in a light tone. The joke was not even the least bit comical, but all seven young masters roared in laughter as if they had heard the world’s most hilarious joke.
“Young Master Yun, this is the ultimate joke… Hahaha, I’ll live depending on this joke for the next half of the year…”
“Ah, the laughter, my stomach hurts…”
Yun Yang nodded smiling, “Looks like everyone welcomes me, huh?”
“Of course!” Young Master Zhang spoke quickly, “If anyone failed to welcome Young Master Yun, that’d be really… really tactless!”
All the other young masters nodded like pecking chickens. “That’s right, that’s right. Anyone who doesn’t welcome Young Master Yun is a bastard.”
Their eyes met, all of them thinking, “Damn it, all six of you are bastards! Me too… Anyone who welcomes this character… that person is a bastard!”
Wine and dinner was served.
Yun Yang coughed and said, “Since all my brothers are here, Yun Yang has something to say, but he is also quite embarrassed…”
Young Master Ma spoke, close to tears, “Young Master Yun, please speak.”
“Yes, since everyone welcomes me so much, I’ll be straightforward then.” Yun Yang chuckled abashedly and continued, “I’m strapped for silver taels recently, so I’d like to… seek for a way out of this, possibly with the help of you guys.”
All seven young masters’ expressions turned bitter, “How much would Young Master Yun need?”
Yun Yang looked at the dishes on the table and exclaimed, “The meal today is not cheap…”
Before he finished, Young Master Qin had already interrupted him, “It’s just a meal, how can we let Young Master Yun spend on us? Let me do the honors!”
Yun Yang nodded, “Young Master Qin is indeed sensible, I’ll be disrespectful if I decline.”
Young Master Qin’s face was sour, “Oh, don't mention it, we’re all brothers.”
“Mm, I told a joke before the meal. Everyone felt that it could last for a year's worth of joy.” Yun Yang said, “I don’t need much this time, 7 million silver taels. I think, that would last till the next joke…”
All seven young masters were ashen-faced.
7 million taels? 1 million taels per person?
What joke would be worthy of this much silver taels?
Young Master Ma spoke with a frown, “Young Master Yun, it’s not that I don’t want to help you out, but currently... the family business is not doing so good, each branch is suffering losses…”
Before he could finish, Yun Yang smiled at him, “2 million taels of silver from you.”
“I…” Young Master Ma had his expression frozen, “This…”
“Is 2 million taels too little?” Yun Yang continued, “Then 3…”
“Not at all, not at all…” Young Master Ma interrupted him immediately, “2 million taels it is then. Young Master Yun, let’s make a toast.”
He gulped the wine as soon as he raised the goblet, the wine tasting bitter in his mouth.
He felt stupid. It was 1 million taels, why did he say anything more?
The other six people looked at him sympathetically, with a gloat.
Damn! Speak more, would you?
“Young Master Ma is just the kind of friend I like, forthright and noble!” Yun Yang complimented, “Who would think such friends are too many to have?”
Young Master Ma looked like he had just gobbled down feces, while the other six relished in his expression.
“Then, my 6 other brothers, I don’t think you would think that 1 million taels would be too little?” Yun Yang asked chuckling.
“Not little, not one bit little,” they said, exasperated.
This joke today was expensive.
They knew it would cost them an arm and leg to attend this time, but nobody would have known that it was much more merciless than the previous times!
1 Cultivation base (修为 xiū wèi): the possessed Qi of a cultivator by practicing and/or cultivating.
2 President of the Censorate (左都御史zuǒ dōu yù shǐ): the Censorate was a high-level supervisory agency in ancient China headed by two Presidents, another of which was called 右都御史 (yoù dōu yù shǐ).
3 Censors (御史台官员yù shǐ tái guān yuan): officials of the Censorate.
4 This servant/laonu (老奴lǎo nú): literally means old slave; used as first person pronoun to humbly refer to oneself.
5 Authorization Tally/Fu (令牌lìng pái): a tally made of bamboo, metal (gold, silver, bronze) or jade used as a proof of authorization
6 Medicinal pill (丹药dān yào): miracle drug/medicine with various effects, often for immortality, boosting cultivation, antidote, etc.
7 Beast pill (兽丹shoù dān): miracle drug/medicine with various effects, often for immortality, boosting cultivation, antidote, etc. with beasts as one of its ingredients.
8 Catty (斤jīn): traditional Chinese unit of mass; 1 catty = 500 grams.