Chapter 23: Exchanging One Life with Another
Translator: Atlas Studios Editor: Atlas Studios
In Skyplume City, the Jiang Clan supposedly ranked right below the Ji Family but above the Ma Family. However, with the disappearance of Grand Elder Jiang Yunhai, the Jiang Clan lost one of their most formidable martial artists who attained the top level of the Purple Mansion Realm, depriving them of significant prestige and power. On the other hand, the status of the Ma Family skyrocketed three years ago, when Ji Nujian, the Great Young Master of the Ji Family, married one of the young ladies from the Ma Family. Over the last two years, the Ma Family seemed to be growing into a force that might surpass the Jiang Clan.
The members of the two families butted heads constantly over the past couple of years. Just last year, Jiang Yi had witnessed a brawl between Jiang Rulong and one of the sons of the Ma Family, each leading a group of dozens of descendants from their respective family. Two of the Ma Family’s descendants had been beaten straight into a vegetative state and were apparently still paralyzed and bed-bound till this day.
Ergo, Jiang Yi was feeling pretty heavy-hearted right now. Who knew that Fengyue Brothel was the property of the Ma Family? He could only hope that nothing would go wrong today…
Upon seeing Jiang Yi at the door, the housekeeper of Fengyue Brothel smiled apologetically at the Ma Family young master, who was casually sipping tea, before turning to Jiang Yi and jeering, “Oh? You are here before the one-month deadline is up? Did you manage to acquire enough purple gold?”
Jiang Yi looked at the housekeeper while he was secretly gauging the reactions of the Ma Family young master from his peripheral sight.
“I have the money. Why don’t you give me the command token?” he said nonchalantly.
The Ma Family’s scion paid Jiang Yi no mind and seemed content with drinking tea in solitude. He acted as if Jiang Yi was a nobody as if he was like the girls in this Fengyue Brothel—unworthy and low-bred.
The housekeeper did not have much to say to Jiang Yi either. “Get the command token,” he instructed one of the guards instead.
Thereafter, he ignored Jiang Yi completely. Turning to the Ma Family young master, he asked with a toadying smile, “Young Master Fei, there’s still plenty of time. Why don’t we summon Little Fengxian over to service you? She has learned many new tricks from Madam Flower recently, guaranteed to bring you great comfort.”
Keeping a neutral expression, the Ma Family young master ducked his head and took a casual sip of tea, “What are you saying? I’m here for business, and yet the way you put it would make those who don’t know better think I’m here for pleasure…”
The housekeeper grinned wickedly, “Indeed, indeed. Although, wouldn’t you say that inspecting the girls in this brothel is a part of the business itself?”
The Ma Family young master smiled and patted the housekeeper’s shoulder in satisfaction, getting up to make his way upstairs.
At once, Jiang Yi’s highly-strung nerves relaxed almost completely. By the time the guard came in with the retrieved command token, he was entirely at ease and reached into his chest pocket to hand over ten pieces of purple gold leaf to the housekeeper.
The housekeeper glanced at a guard, signaling him to take the Ma Family young master upstairs. Only then did he dare to take the purple gold leaves from Jiang Yi, all the while looking sideways at him, chiding, “You little brat! You’d better not act so brazenly next time! Consider this as me giving face to the Jiang Clan…”
“The Jiang Clan?”
The Ma Family young master, who was making his way up only a second ago, paused his steps. His gaze swept over lightning-fast and spotted a single character, written in exquisite calligraphy on the command token: ‘Jiang.’
“Halt!” he bellowed at once.
Jiang Yi could sense that the situation was heading downhill, but he dared not risk taking the command token by force. With the guard withdrawing the command token to himself the moment he heard the Ma Family young master’s shout, there was no guarantee that Jiang Yi could succeed in forcibly taking it. All he could do was to look coldly at the Ma Family young master.
The Ma Family young master swept a glance across Jiang Yi and motioned for the housekeeper, “Housekeeper Liu, what do you mean by the Jiang Clan? What’s this about the command token?”
Housekeeper Liu went to the Ma Family young master promptly and eagerly, recounting the events which occurred on that day in an undertone and ending his story with a deliberate remark. “Young Master Ma Fei, our men weren’t hurt too bad that day, and since it was the Jiang Clan, we businessmen did not want to make a scene, so we did not report the incident to the family clan either…”
A mocking smile soon appeared on Young Master Ma Fei’s face. After staring at Jiang Yi for a few moments, he suddenly gave a derisive snort. “You destroyed the famous painting that was the treasure of our brothel and attacked our men. Yet you wish to settle things so easily? What you did couldn’t be absolved even if Jiang Henshui himself were here, don’t you think?”
I knew it…
One look at Ma Fei’s demeanor told Jiang Yi that things would not go well. He silently cursed his bad luck. Why had he not consulted the almanac today before leaving the house? And to have so coincidentally come across such a wastrel playboy of the Ma Family? With the feud between the Ma and the Jiang families, any wastrel descendant of the Ma Family would have chosen to take action against him.
How could they give up such a great opportunity to openly and rightly belittle the Jiang Clan?
Despite fuming internally, Jiang Yi forced himself to keep an even tone. “Young Sir, the housekeeper and I had already made a deal on that day. You have your money now. Surely, a brothel as big a scale as Fengyue would not have gone back on a promise, yes? If others knew, your credibility would be at stake.”
Housekeeper Liu’s expression turned rigid. Indeed, in doing businesses, credibility was of paramount importance. As the housekeeper of Fengyue Brothel, he was considered to be someone of reputable standing. It would do him no good if word got out that he had bullied a youth. However, Young Master Ma Fei was a direct bloodline descendant, and his father held a great deal of power in the Ma Family. Therefore, he was someone Housekeeper Liu could not afford to offend. As it was, Housekeeper Liu could only remain silent.
“At stake, my ass!”
Smiling coldly, Ma Fei sauntered over and stood in front of Jiang Yi. He held up a finger and jabbed at Jiang Yi’s forehead. “Who do you think you are? Your maidservant worked at my brothel; setting aside the damage she had done to our property, you had the audacity to attack our men? The Ma Family would not let this matter go even if the City Lord were to hear of it, and yet you presume you can patronize us with a mere ten taels of purple gold? Do you think our family is made up of beggars? Hand me the command token now!”
The Fengyue Brothel guard immediately handed over the command token to Ma Fei who mockingly dangled it by its strings in mid-air in front of Jiang Yi. “You want the command token? No way in hell!”
Jiang Yi was almost bursting at the seams with rage: this was not just some command token—Xiaonu’s life depended on it! With his teeth clenched and head bowed, he silently told himself to remain calm over and over. He would not lash out today; to do otherwise would do Xiaonu no good.
It took him several minutes before he could quell the urge burning within him. Biting his teeth hard, he asked, “What is it that you want?”
Ma Fei gave a slow smile and said coolly, “Pay up for the damages! You’ve already paid ten taels of purple gold for the painting. I will return the command token to you immediately, but only after you compensate the medical expenses for beating up our brothel’s guards and recompense for insulting Fengyue Brothel’s reputation.”
Jiang Yi’s expression had darkened completely. He forced two words past his teeth: “How much?”
Brushing off imaginary dust, Ma Fei smoothed out his clothes and smirked, “Not much. I did a rough calculation: why don’t you just pay something like a hundred taels of purple gold, and I will give face to Jiang Henshui and consider this case closed…?”
I’ve run out of options once again…
Jiang Yi bent down his head deeply; his fists, which were concealed by his sleeves, were clenched so tightly that veins were popping up through the skin. Jiang Yi’s body shook with light tremors, slowly emitting an aura of hostility and viciousness. He was like an angered lion with bristling manes.
“Haha! What, you want to fight? Strike me then! Come on, I promise not to hit back.”
Seeing Jiang Yi like this only made Ma Fei laugh aloud without an ounce of fright. To him, Jiang Yi was someone useless who was only at the second stage of the Cast Tripod Realm. If Jiang Yi dared to attack, he would only end up being knocked down and dragged out. Not counting the seven or eight guards in Fengyue Brothel, just Ma Fei alone, who was at the fourth stage of the Cast Tripod Realm, would be able to cripple him with just one blow.
Housekeeper Liu, however, was aware of how strong Jiang Yi was. Jiang Yi, despite only having power level at the first stage of the Cast Tripod Realm that day, was able to defeat a guard who was at the third stage of the Cast Tripod Realm. Although Housekeeper Liu did not know how Jiang Yi managed to conceal his true strength, he cautiously signaled the surrounding guards with his eyes, while moving two steps closer to the Ma Family young master.
Jiang Yi raised his head soon enough, his demeanor unexpectedly calm. He fixed his gaze on Young Master Ma and breathed out deeply. “Young Master Ma, is it possible for the amount to be less? How about fifty taels of purple gold? Fifty taels are all I have. If you agree to it, I would hand them to you now…”
As he was speaking, Jiang Yi hurriedly reached into his chest pocket with a pleading look. The eyes of the housekeeper, Young Master Ma, and those guards lit up. They subconsciously directed their gaze to Jiang Yi’s left hand that was in the midst of retrieving the money.
However, everyone became slightly stunned when Jiang Yi soon took out something that was definitely not purple gold… but a black substance wrapped up in paper. Housekeeper Liu realized what it was immediately and yelled, “Young Master Fei, look out!”
“Hmph, it was too late… taste my hidden weapon—the Heart-Pierce Million-Poison Powder!”
With a great shout, Jiang Yi infused his hands with essence force, instantly shattering the black substance into a fine powder. Abruptly, he lifted his hand and sprayed the powder at Housekeeper Liu, Young Master Ma, and the two guards in front.
Housekeeper Liu’s facial expression changed. He hastily shielded his young master and moved him backward. The two guards also retreated at once, while the guards from the other directions swarmed forth. There were even two of them who took out a black dagger, all ready to shed Jiang Yi’s blood.
“Planning to run?”
There was nothing but a look of ruthlessness on Jiang Yi’s face. He charged at Young Master Ma and Housekeeper Liu as fast as a cheetah, completely undeterred by the powder filling the air—for how could he possess such a thing as poison powder? The black substance was actually just the jerky that Xiaonu prepared for him…
This fiasco caused by the Ma Family young master had left Jiang Yi with no other option. Yet, just like the time when he encountered Jiang Ruhu at the Western Hills, he would stand firm if there was no other way to turn. He would fight his way out and leave a blood path in his wake!
Amidst the whirling black powder, Jiang Yi’s figure shot forth like an agile wolf. His fists, which were surrounded by essence force, transformed into six fist silhouettes and enveloped Housekeeper Liu and Young Master Ma entirely.
Phantom Punch was a Man-tier superior-grade technique that belonged to the Jiang Clan. This technique was not about the number of fist silhouettes produced, but the degree of realism of each fist silhouette, preventing the average martial artist from ever making out the real fists, thereby wounding the enemy with ease.
With Jiang Yi’s astonishingly high talent, he had long attained Phenomenal Stage for the Phantom Punch technique. Naturally, the power it produced was astounding, especially when he executed the technique combining the blue and black essence forces. Both Housekeeper Liu and Ma Fei were at the fourth stage of the Cast Tripod Realm; hence, they were absolutely stupefied enough to make them unable to differentiate the real fists from fist silhouettes.
“Young Master Fei, stand back!”
Housekeeper Liu shouted in a booming voice. He formed a strange hand-seal with his hands, both palms facing outwards and producing a pentagram-shaped essence force shield. He repeatedly shoved his palms forward, enshrouding the space in front of him with the force shield.
He had sensed danger from the six fist silhouettes that Jiang Yi hurtled at them. As Ma Fei was behind him, he dared not act impulsively and could only try to temporarily ward off the attack. When all the guards had come forth, Jiang Yi would no longer be able to harm Young Master Ma. When Young Master Ma’s safety was secured, they could then give their all to deal with Jiang Yi.
Their ideal intention was soon crushed by the cruelty of reality!
Jiang Yi slammed a fist against Housekeeper Liu’s arm, the tremendous shockwave that came from it caused Housekeeper Liu to abruptly stagger back, completely powerless to defend himself.
“Pong, Pong, Pong…!”
Jiang Yi’s Snake Whip Leg followed closely behind, raining hits on Housekeeper Liu’s thighs and forcing him back several steps farther. In the same instant, leveraging on the strength of the multiple kicks he delivered, Jiang Yi leaped up into the air. He turned in mid-air towards the stunned Young Master Ma and raised a fist to punch him hard.
This youth of the Jiang Clan is even more powerful than me. This is bad, the Young Master is in danger!
Housekeeper Liu was forced seven or eight steps back before he could steady himself. Upon seeing Jiang Yi’s fist, which carried irresistible strength, about to hit Ma Fei in the head, he was scared out of his wits. Circulating his essence force in frenzy, Housekeeper Liu shot towards Jiang Yi with a roar. “Jiang Clan brat, you would certainly die here today if you dare harm my Young Master!”
Multiple enemies were charging at him from all directions, locking in on him with chilling intent to kill. Yet, Jiang Yi’s face betrayed nothing. His gaze never wavered from Ma Fei, and the corners of his mouth were lifted up in the remnants of a smile. Laughing loudly, he said, “This young master does not have a hundred taels of purple gold; he has nothing except for this humble life. However, if you want it, you can… exchange it with your Young Master’s life!”