Chapter 299 “Friends or foe?”
The party finally came to an end before the break of dawn. Each with their own carriage, Biliabuer didn’t miss the opportunity to make another invitation to the guests, claiming this was Taklanshan’s turn to host and he will do the next one. After some more pleasantries, the crowd then dispersed for their own homes.
After a long night of discussion, Du Wei himself also felt a little tired and took the freed-up space to rest inside his traveling carriage. Though on the surface he gave a lot of benefits away, but Taklanshan and Biliabuer aren’t fools, they are bound to return the favor in the future. No matter how high standing his status was, being absence from the main political scene for long periods can’t be good. That’s where those two come into play. Based on their relationship, there will be times when they will speak up in his stead while he’s absent.
As for money… essentially Du Wei’s not a businessman that only knows how to chase after profit. He’s very rich already, earning a little less doesn’t mean anything to him now.
Though the imperial capital’s curfew remains in place during the early morning, prohibiting access with the shuttered gates, but who’s Du Wei? He’s someone that has the personally signed free passage document issued by the Regent himself, naturally he will be able to come and go as he pleases.
Aside from the haziness of the pitch-black darkness before dawn and the occasional stamping sound of patrolling soldiers in the distance, there really aren’t anything else going on this early in the day. Forget about pedestrians, not even the usual hoot-hoot sound of owls or cawking calls of winter birds in the night could be heard.
Du Wei was still resting in his carriage when it happened. Abruptly coming to a full halt, Du Wei’s eyes were jolted awake by his coachman’s (Lufei) fearful words: “My-my lord, someone’s blocking our path up ahead.”
Furrowing his brow, Du Wei wondered who could it be that’s blocking his path in the middle of the night. Can it be an assassin?
Standing further ahead up in the street was a thin yet tall shadow draped in the typical gray servant’s wardrobe attire. Oddly enough though, aside from the strange roundish hat on the guy’s head, none of Du Wei’s men could make out the person’s appearance. To everyone else, this creepy man standing there alone in the darkness of the night only looked like a blur as if some unknown force was blocking off his facial features.
Not backing down, the two of the escorting Tulip guards had already stepped forward, their hands pressed against the sword hilt. “Who dare block the road, hurry and move aside!” One of the guards hollered at the stranger.
Despite the demand, the man reacted like he didn’t hear a thing and continues to stay put. Then before the guards knew it, the two furthest in front suddenly felt an indescribable chill running through their spines as if they were pinned down by a pair of piercing cold eyes. Even their horses were moving back involuntarily due to the fright.
Some of the more seasoned guards have by now noticed the problem. Dismounting, they moved forward with their swords drawn.
It was at this time the shadowy figure made a faint sighing sound: “Duke Tulip, will you come out and have a meet with me?”
The head of the guards shouted back instead: “Who are you, do you think the Duke is someone you can meet so easily!”
At that, the head guard signaled his companions to move in using an encircling formation.
Just then, Du Wei had opened the carriage door and walked himself out. Calling out to the guards to “stop”, he then stepped forward a few steps to find Lufei shivering in cold fright when he shot the kid a glance. Frowning, Du Wei calls out to the distant man: “Who are you, and why do you want to see me?”
Du Wei was also a little wary. Although his location remains far from the man, but as a magician with acute senses higher than the average person, how can he not see through the darkness? Yet, the shadow hovering over the mysterious man remains a blur to even him. Like a mist that has melted into the night’s darkness, Du Wei can only see a muddy shadow. It’s clear to him now, this man either used a spell or some sort of special means to hide his identity.
Upon seeing Du Wei coming out to greet him, the gray figure’s voice no longer sounded so ghostly and became a little warmer “Duke Tulip, it’s not I who wishes to see you, it’s my master.”
Du Wei tightly furrowed his forehead: “Oh, and who is your master?”
The man seems to chuckle at his question, but in the next moment Du Wei’s eye lit up when the air around the dark figure began to bend and warp. Like a dismissing fog, bit by bit, the contour of the man began to show himself.
A thin face with a sharp chin, just like a rodent. If an ordinary person had a face like that, there’s no doubt others would find that face to be shrewd and wretched looking. However, this wasn’t the case here. For this person, the only feeling Du Wei got was a striking urge to show his respect at the aura coming his way.
The person’s eyes were very bright and alive when he looked at Du Wei. Curling his mouth into a faint smile, this man in gray then raises his left hand from under his sleeve and flicked the air. Next thing Du Wei knew, lines of frosted frozen white were drawn from nothingness, floating there like countless subtle ice particles….
Seeing this scene, Du Wei knew right away who this “master” was. Making a smile: “I see, I know who your master is then. Hmm… Since he’s inviting me, why do you need to stop me in the middle of the road and at night too? Considering your master’s identity, he can easily come find me during the day at my residence.”
The person seems to chuckle again but with a stain of mockery: “Your lordship is a busy person, and master said you are unlikely to meet him. You see, you’ve returned for two days already and yet you never even sent a message despite my master doing you such a big favor. What a disappointment.”
Against a man like that, a tone of that nature, how can Du Wei’s men not get angry?
Even so, Du Wei remains very polite: “Hmm, you are correct, I’ve been rude. I’ll follow you and see your master right away.”
Despite his subordinate’s strong opposition, Du Wei orders his people to return to the Duke’s residence and walked towards the mysterious man: “Where is your master? Bring me to him.”
Making a grunting smile, the man didn’t say more and began leading the way towards the other end of the street.
As Du Wei followed from behind, the guards also did the same from a far distance but was quickly dismissed by his harsh order: “No one is to follow!”
As dawn slowly drew overhead, two pacing figures were making their way across the lifeless streets of the imperial city. One in front, one in back, their distance remains approximately ten meters apart. Du Wei tried several times to speed up his pace to close the gap, but it’s almost like the person in front of him was constantly deliberately keeping the distance. Regardless, whether he go fast or slow, it’s always like this.
Du Wei was certain the guy had a special ability. Based on that fast walking posture, it’s like the man was floating on air, likely some sort of special martial technique. Matching it with the ice move he used earlier, Du Wei was even more certain of his speculation.
(The snowy mountain has a special body training technique to make them more flexible as mentioned back when the dancer girl was captured.)
As men with special abilities, their speed was magnificently fast despite going in a straight line. Before dawn completely takes the sky, they were already at the western part of the city despite coming from the east end. Then from the west to the north….
The man seems to be very familiar with security patrol routes. Zigzagging left and right, he bypasses all of the soldiers without raising detection.
Finally, they came to the riverside of the Lancang Grand Canal north of the city.
This segment of the Lancang Canal was home to the largest pier in the capital, also the spot where Du Wei’s father, Earl Raymond, arrived at when he received the grandiose welcoming ceremony after coming back from the expedition down south.
Like a slumbering giant monster, the pier stretches far and wide into the canal, long enough to hold the largest Sea-God class warships the navy has to offer.
And at each end of the port, stretches of bustling isles of buildings were erected along the streets, especially the upstream segment where many businesses and teahouses reside. Overlooking the riverside and watching the sailing boats while sipping tea, this level of enjoyment was truly elegant, thus making this spot a very famous location in the capital for both locals and tourists.
It’s just that the pier right now was a little lifeless with only a few boats moored here, some fire light, and a few early morning workers laboring away at the port. Peaceful for a usually bustling area.
As Du Wei continues to follow from behind through the empty streets next to the riverside, the man leading him then makes an abrupt turn and enters a small tea house that came into sight over the next corner.
Compared to the bustling businesses in the area, this tiny teahouse seems a little shabby in comparison. Walking up to it, Du Wei can see the sign hanging off the door, which read:
“Common mortals do not enter.”
Seeing this line, Du Wei could not resist a laugh and pushed the door open.
Once inside, there were no one else present other than a shabby looking staircase leading upstairs. He can only speculate that person had gone up already. Not hesitating, Du Wei also goes up too to be welcomed by a drape screen at the entrance.
Entering, the second floor was but a small room with windows on all sides, the only one being open was the side facing the river. Due to the morning wind blowing inside, the room felt very cold.
And next to that window was a man sitting in front of it with his back facing Du Wei, a silver pot and two cups ready for serving on the table. From behind, the person looks to be a bit old due to the slightly crouched back shrinking against the chair. Even so, the man doesn’t seem to take heed to the chilling cold in the room, only covering his body with a thick blanket.
Meanwhile, the one responsible for leading Du Wei here was standing behind the person in the seat, almost like a statue, unmoving and unyielding.
Making a long heaving sigh, Du Wei then looks at the figures back and smiled: “Overlooking the river is nice, but don’t you think the weather is a little too cold for this so early in the morning?” At that, Du Wei scoffs a laugh and takes two steps forward.
Without looking back, an old voice came from the seated man: “Duke is a busy man. If I didn’t choose this time, I fear you won’t have any free time.”
Despite that comment, Du Wei continues to slowly move up: “You are being too polite. If it’s you inviting, I would squeeze time out to come meet you regardless of the day. There’s no need to have this master here come guide me now is there? Honestly, I was a little surprised, when did the ‘ice Dou Qi’ become something so worthless that any road stopper in the middle of the night can use? Then again, I guess only a person like you can produce a master apprentice like him.”
The seated man smiles: “He’s not my apprentice, just someone close to me.”
By now Du Wei was standing in front of the table. Not being polite, he takes a seat and pours himself a cup for a sip. Frowning: “Seems I’ve made the wrong judgement. Sitting next to the riverside and enjoying this fine scenery, I expected you to be drinking some hot wine to fight off the cold weather. But for someone of your status and background, why are you only drinking plain water? Don’t you think it’s too bland and tasteless?”
This person pricks his brow and smiled: “Duke never heard the saying? The more wine you drink, the warmer you become. The colder you are, the colder the water becomes! My heart has been cold for decades, so drinking water is just right for someone like I who’s cold in the heart.”
At that, he raises his skinny old hand and points to the open window: “Duke, you see out there? Although the wind is cold and bitter for everyone else, but for me… this cold sensation is a form of reminiscence….”
Forming a faint smile, Du Wei faces the wind and inhales deeply to let the cold frosted sensation reach down into his lungs. Laughing, “Reminiscence, so you are reminiscing the snowy mountain’s cold? Mr. Blue Ocean.”
Blue Ocean did not smile, instead his old face seems to fall into a long ponder. After a while, his bright eyes flickered a hint of helplessness: “Du Wei, what you say is correct, I really do miss the Snowy Mountain. It may be freezing cold up there, but in my heart, it’s warm while here in the capital is cold.”
Du Wei bellowed out a laugh: “Since that’s the case, then let me, a warming person, accompany you in sharing a cup of chilling water!”
Emptying the cup in one full swing, Du Wei heaves out a long puff of satisfaction. Smiling wryly: “I never thought I would feel so satisfied by drinking a glass of cold water in this type of weather, what a great feeling.”
As Du Wei made that statement, Blue Ocean suddenly began to cough harshly. Immediately the gray robed servant came up to pat him on the back in a smoothing motion but was promptly waved away by his master. Regaining himself, Blue Ocean wraps himself tighter with the blanket and looked even frailer than before: “Duke, you took away my eighty students yet didn’t even come visit me when you came back, don’t you think that’s a little unreasonable?”
Du Wei eyes turned sharp and said: “Mr. Blue Ocean, I doubt your original intention in giving the eighty students were that simple. Of course, I am also grateful for your help, but… before I met with you again, I wanted to make sure of a matter first.”
Du Wei places the cup down and eyes Blue Ocean, “Are we friends or foe now that we meet again?” He asks this clearly and slowly.
As soon as his voice died down, the entire room immediately became enwrapped in a suffocating level of murderous intent that shook the very foundation of the ground!!
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