Chapter 591 – Banquet (One)
The Marquis of Ruyi’s estate was located right at the centre of the commandery city. It was surrounded with tall walls with crenellations that rose and fell. Soldiers patrolled atop the walls, vigilantly checking the surroundings. It gave off a sense of authority naturally, a city within a city.
A slightly-plump, middle-aged man who resembled a caretaker paced around at the entrance. He constantly glanced at the moon in the sky, estimating the time. He was anxious. Why had commander Gu still not come?
That was how he thought when a figure in white clothes pierced through the sky and landed in front of the marquis’ estate. She was a beautiful woman in clothes whiter than snow. The corner of her lips curled into a slight smile as she waved her jade folding around gently. She seemed like she had appeared out of thin air, kicking up a slight breeze. Her white clothes swayed with the breeze.
A large, tall man arrived right behind her, with a bronze face, thick eyebrows, and large eyes. He stood quietly behind the beautiful woman like a guard, but he did not seem meek at all. Instead, he gave off a natural sense of dignity.
They were Gu Yanying and Li Qingshan. This was the first time Li Qingshan had come to the Marquis of Ruyi’s estate. He had visited the Forbidden Palace in his past life. The lofty imperial palace that had served as the residence of the emperor through the two dynasties of Ming and Qing basically seemed as simple and crude as a common house compared to the marquis’ estate.
Upon considering how someone else had already taken over the marquis’ estate that the Jiang clan had managed for several millennia, replacing its master, he could not help but think of a lyric he had once read. His lips moved slightly as he muttered it to himself.
Only Gu Yanying managed to hear his words, and she said, “Where once the swallows knew the mansions of the great, now where would they fly to nest and mate?” She could not help but glance at him, feeling mildly surprised inside. He had a crude air about him, but never did she think he had such literary talent.
TL: This is lyric poetry from the Song dynasty, which was adapted to another poem later on. It’s referring to Wuyi Lane in Nanjing. I’ve used a pre-translated version of the adapted poem and tweaked it so it fits the meaning of its original lyrical form. You can read more about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wuyi_Lane
“Commander Gu, you’re finally here. His highness has already been waiting for a long time. If you still didn’t come, I’d be punished.” The caretaker saw Gu Yanying and beamed with joy, approaching her and bowing.
“Caretaker Zheng, is Thirteen still so strict with his rules? He actually got you to receive me in person.”
“It’s an honour for the commander to remember an insignificant figure like me. I am honoured to be able to personally receive commander Gu. Please come with me.” The caretaker extended his hand and invited them in, leading the way at the front.
“There’s no need. I’m probably a little more familiar with this estate than his highness.”
With a wave of her hand, Gu Yanying turned into a white blur and shot into the gates. The caretaker followed along in a hurry, actually also moving with startling speed, sticking close behind Gu Yanying like her shadow as he called out loudly, “Commander Gu has arrived!”
Even though Gu Yanying was not using her full strength, he was able to keep up with her regular speed, which was extraordinary enough.
Li Qingshan was surprised inside. Only now did he realise that the caretaker Zheng who seemed like a servant was actually a Golden Core cultivator. He had concealed his aura far too well, and combined with his overly-submissive behaviour, he did not give off the bearing that belonged to a Golden Core cultivator at all. As a result, Li Qingshan misjudged him.
Just what kind of a person was the new Marquis of Ruyi? Having a Golden Core cultivator as a friend or a guest of the estate was easy, but having one as a servant was unimaginably extravagant.
Li Qingshan followed the two of them and passed through gate after gate until he reached the centre of the marquis’ estate. He noticed a large, magnificent palace from afar. Under the moonlight, it was wrapped in a scarlet glow, which made it seem like it was burning.
On the square in front of the palace, a man with a fancy hat and luxurious robes stood with his hands behind his back, facing the wind. “Yanying, if you still hadn’t come, I probably wouldn’t be able to help myself and would have started the banquet first.”
His voice was harsh to the ear, even slightly shrill, like a jackal howling at the moon. It pierced through the air, tempting people to block their ears.
Li Qingshan squinted his eyes, only to see that the man had a darker face and a pair of slightly-bulging eyes. There was even a faint scar over his right eye. His appearance was anything but handsome, nowhere near as elegant and graceful as the previous Marquis of Ruyi, Jiang Fu. However, he gave off a sense of heaviness and force simply by standing there, well beyond what Jiang Fu could rival.
Next were his robes. They were not embroidered with the serpents of the Marquis of Ruyi, but five true dragons. This was the bearing of a descendant of the imperial family of Great Xia. From a single glance, Li Qingshan knew that this person was far, far more difficult to deal with than Jiang Fu. If this person insisted on opposing him, then he would probably serve as quite a troublesome enemy.
“Thirteen…” “I’m already Eleven now!”
Gu Yanying was like a feather, landing right in front of the man gently. However, before she had even finished talking, the man interrupted her. His gaze towards Gu Yanying also shone brightly, possessing the most natural admiration of a man towards an outstanding woman, but he also seemed like he would never change his ways just because of a woman like her.
“It has only been a few years, yet you’ve advanced by another two ranks.”
Originally, Li Qingshan thought that the descendants of the imperial family were ranked according to their seniority, but as it seemed, that was completely false. Instead, it resembled something like a battle ranking.
“You better just call me by my name, Si Qing!” Si Qing smiled. His gaze skipped over Gu Yanying and landed on Li Qingshan. Although the glow of the arcane artifacts on Li Qingshan was already withdrawn completely, how could it fool his eyes?
His gaze caused Li Qingshan quite the distaste, as he did not seem like he was looking at a human. It was more like he was gazing at a racehorse or a fighting dog, even evaluating his strengths and weaknesses inside.
“This must be your subordinate. Looks like you still haven’t forgotten about the traditions of the Dragon province, but your insight has worsened. He’s merely at mid Foundation Establishment, and he’s already armed to the teeth with arcane artifacts. He probably still hasn’t even grown accustomed to it!”
Gu Yanying said, “I think you’ve been stuck in the Dragon province for too long, and it’s narrowed your mind.”
“Really?” Si Qing stared at Li Qingshan for a while and smiled. “Sure enough, his murderousness is completely withdrawn, without even a hint leaking out, like a tiger resting in the forest. If he can take a step further and reach late Foundation Establishment, he really might be able to give me some anticipation.”
Li Qingshan could not help but stare at Si Qing. He showed no respect or fear at all. Si Qing’s face sank slightly, and his smile vanished. “Though, his unruliness remains untamed. You really do need to teach him the principle of respecting the strong.”
“Not everyone can be tamed. Let’s go in.” Gu Yanying changed the topic and glanced at Li Qingshan, expressing that he should avoid openly clashing with him. Li Qingshan lowered his gaze and said nothing, making him seem rather haughty.
“Please!” Si Qing raised his hand. He did not take the rudeness of this Foundation Establishment cultivator too seriously. Were people supposed to care when a dog bared its fangs at them? Not to mention a dog that was about to die.
They entered the palace together, only to see several dozen tables arranged on the two sides of the hall. The people on one side were all dressed in white—Gu Yanying’s subordinates and colleagues of the Hawkwolf Guard—while the attires of the people on the other side were divided into a few colours.
The seat at the very front for both sides was empty, facing one another from afar. Clearly, they were reserved for Gu Yanying and Si Qing. However, there was no seat for the host. This kind of arrangement was rather strange. A banquet was supposed to be about bringing endless joy to both the guests and the host, yet it seemed more like a formal negotiation.
“Greetings, commander Gu!”
The White Wolf guards saw Gu Yanying and all stood up and bowed. Li Qingshan spotted Han Qiongzhi at first glance, while Han Qiongzhi looked back quietly as well. Li Qingshan nodded towards her. Afterwards, he found Wang Pushi, but from the corner of his eye, he actually discovered another acquaintance—Qiong Rongzhi.
Although Qian Rongzhi sat at the end, she was dressed in white. She had been promoted to White Wolf guard some time recently. She smiled gently at Li Qingshan, seeming indescribably tender.