Chapter 25: Zhong Fai
Seven black-cloaked men had traveled non-stop for six days before they managed to arrive at the mountain range which revealed the border into Shenyuan.
This particular part of the mountain range was not home to incredibly strong magical beasts like the others, instead it contained a valley which led towards a beautiful mountain made of ice.
From this mountain, ice cold winds were constantly billowed out into the world and bringing with them death to any creature that came into contact, which was the reason for no real life being visible within eyesight.
These seven men, however, were completely unaffected by the cold winds, and even their black cloaks did not seem as if they were caressed by the wind. As the seven men inched closer to the mountain, they politely saluted to various patrols appearing within the white landscape.
All of these patrols were shrouded in black cloaks exactly like the arrivals, but none spoke nor was there any friendliness or companionship visible between the many men.
The seven men went towards the foot of the mountain where they knelt down in respect, waiting to be granted access.
“Enter!” A voice boomed out into the entire valley causing the snow to tremble and the trees to shake. Every patrol was collapsing down on one knee, showing great respect towards the voice, and the seven men who were waiting started kowtowing, before they finally dared step on the stairs leading towards the residential area for the mountain lord.
The men who seemed to pay no attention to Lan Feng were now moving with great care as if the smallest step could bring calamity, and after taking thousands of steps they finally reached the mountaintop.
This mountain of ice was by far the largest mountain around and the top was buried within a cloud of snow, constantly coating the floor in snow.
On this snow covered mountaintop, a massive building was erected, a building of the same type as the Black Market Auction House, however, where the black market auction house still had a structure of wood adorned with gold and gemstones this building was built of white jade entirely.
The walls were as white as the snow falling from the sky and the entire area had a celestial shine to it. The closer these seven men got to the jade palace the more restless they grew. Hui Yue would definitely have been surprised upon seeing that these men could express fear.
Inside the jade palace was a young man waiting patiently. His eyes were shining with interest as a slim smile was spreading across his face while looking at the seven black cloaked men who seemed to fear him by instinct.
It took a few minutes for the men to arrive in front of him within the jade hall, and all seven instantly kowtowed in front of him, pressing their foreheads against the ice-cold floor.
A beckoning gesture was made from the young man and one of the black-cloaked men quickly lifted a hand. On the hand was a ring, and on the ring was a small black stone. This black stone was, however, no simple black stone but the highest grade storage memory stone.
From the stone two simple-looking black memory stones emerged and they instantly flew towards the young man. A hint of excitement was shown on his face as he grasped them and quickly placed both at his forehead.
A light much brighter than when the stones were created emitted out as both activated at the same time, and all of this light slowly entered the young man’s forehead making the small smile on his face grow in size.
“I knew it!” the man started laughing maniacally, and his laugh contained a certain degree of desperation, “Sang Young, did you really think you could pull the same trick twice? Hahahahahaha.”
The man laughed for a long time before he finally sat down on his seat and picked up a tall glass made of white jade. With a flicker of his hand, he retrieved a bottle of red liquid from his storage memory stone, which he poured into the glass and slowly sipped it with delight as he looked at the seven still kowtowing men.
“Rise!” he ordered, and as his voice boomed through the room, the seven men instantly rose to their feet.
“This man once sold me two skills exactly like the ones you bought at the Black Market Auction House. Back then I was tricked and I suffered badly for my naivety. But never again! Since you have found this man, instantly bring him back to me!”
The seven men bowed deeply before backing out of the room with a resolute march. It was now time for them to return to Riluo City and pick up the expert they had allowed to escape once before.
“Do you think this is a good idea?” A soft and charming voice sounded from a corner of the jade hall, causing the young man’s face to mildly darken.
“These puppets are not yours to play with Zhong Fai, he might not be happy with your actions.”
Hearing this caused the young man, Zhong Fai, to snort with displeasure.
“If I wish to have them capture that scoundrel Sang Young, then they will go and capture Sang Young. He will not care, even if he was to lose seven puppets such as these. Anyway he already gifted them to me so he has no say in this anymore.”
Hearing this resulted in the other person within the hall to stay quiet and purse her lips; soon departing footsteps could be heard. Zhong Fai leaned back against his frigid jade throne as he looked out into the horizon. A satisfied and elated smile appeared on his face as he sipped the red liquid within his glass.
Many miles away in Riluo City, a carriage was crossing through the city gates. Within this carriage was five youngsters and a young child seemingly around ten years of age.
The five youngsters were all chatting amongst each other while the child was leaning against the carriage wall and sleeping soundly.
This child was obviously Hui Yue. Within the last six days Hui Yue had gotten no sleep what so ever. The days were dedicated to training, meditating and fortifying his body while the nights were dedicated to absorbing the essence of the world. Not one minute had been spent on sleeping or playing around causing the friends to be worried about him.
Hui Yue could not help but be happy when he heard that his friends had worried about him, and he made sure to tell them that he was practicing something important. As soon as they heard about his training, none of them had tried to distract him or forcefully drag him from his courtyard, but they still came by to check in on him from time to time.
Their caring and consideration had warmed his heart, but even so he remained steadfast and unwavering in his practice. It was not until Ma Kong had told him they needed to visit the Black Market Auction House that Hui Yue finally halted his tireless training and began preparations to follow the them.
Seeing Hui Yue finally leaving his courtyard, all the friends decided it was time for them to leave the academy and visit Riluo City.
Hui Yue followed Ma Kong to the Black Market Auction House while they discussed the insurance idea, which Hui Yue briefly had mentioned previously, along the way.
Excitement grew within Hui Yue as he looked forward to implementing the insurance concept in Riluo City.
In a world filled with murder and death, insurance seemed to be able to get a good foothold.
Although Hui Yue was currently an incredibly rich child, he was aware that if he gave just one of these spirit coins to his family back home, the entire village, which so far lived a whole year on just a few gold coins alone, would be capable of living a much more luxurious life on that coin alone.
Hui Yue wished he could give the money to his family, however, right now, he had no way of doing so without attracting unwanted attention, so his excitement pertained to the insurance idea grew instead. By allowing the Black Market Auction House to spearhead his idea, he was likely to be given a certain amount of the revenue reeled in from the insurances. Even if it was a low amount, Hui Yue wished for this money to be given to his family, allowing an easier life for them.
Today, the twins and Gao Yan were also traveling to Riluo City. They claimed they wished to go to the city for the sake of visiting the Martial Art Schools, but Hui Yue knew they were coming along because he needed to enter town and for the first time in a week, he allowed himself to relax.
Unfortunately, loosening up had led to him falling asleep almost instantly. While Hui Yue was sleeping, the others had laughed at him but none of them considered waking him up as they all knew just how hard he had been working recently.
Deng Wu was also within the carriage. He needed to visit his family, but he refused to tell the others as to why he needed to go. He just smiled every time they had asked and shrugged it off as family business.
Ma Kong, Gao Yan and Rong Xing had shown absolutely no interest in what Deng Wu was up to, however, Rong Ming was too curious and the more Deng Wu refused to answer, the more Rong Ming wished to know.
By the time Hui Yue woke up, the carriage had already dropped off the Rong twins and Gao Yan at the City Lord’s palace where they would greet the City Lord before the three of them were to make their way towards the Martial Art Schools.
Deng Wu was still within the carriage by the time Hui Yue woke up, as this was his carriage, but he was incredibly friendly by helping all of his friends to get to their destinations before he, himself, went on his way home.
The reason Hui Yue woke up was because the carriage was holding still, and a goofy expression was evident on his face as he realised he had just slept in front of all his friends.
Although he was a boy, it was still embarrassing that he had behaved in such a manner. If it had been anyone else, then Hui Yue would never have fallen asleep, but the reason he could sleep so soundly was exactly because it had been his friends.
Arriving at the Black Market Auction House for the third time, Hui Yue was no longer deeply astonished by the architecture and buildings in front of him. However, he knew this was supposed to be his first visit, so he pretended to widen his eyes and gape, fauxly astonished, at the big building in front of him.
This display made Ma Kong’s smile deepen as he led Hui Yue inside. The guards all paid their respects to Ma Kong and gaped openly at the white child tagging along.
Ma Kong led Hui Yue up the ornamental stairs and past the rooms where the auctions were held, and once again, Hui Yue entered the third floor.
The only change was that Hui Yue was here as a friend of Ma Kong and not an unknown esteemed expert.
Finally reaching the upper floor, there was the same kind of rush Hui Yue had seen the other times. However, unlike those times, no one were respectfully standing at the wall and greeting Hui Yue, instead they were bustling around, carrying papers from one office to another.
A smile adorned Hui Yue’s face as he looked at these busy people. This made him feel so at home, as they reminded him of the crowded corridors within the university and how students and teachers would rush from one classroom to another. It was definitely an improvement from how it had been on his previous visits.
Ma Kong was a young man of few words, and so far little had been said on the trip, so when Ma Kong stopped in front of a massive door, Hui Yue just quietly imitated his actions, standing slightly behind his friend and awaited the permission to enter.
The Auction manager was seated at his office desk where he was still fairly dazed after the auction that had transpired the week prior.
He had acted selfishly by not taking a fee from the auction, now a legend, but unlike the scolding which he had expected to get from the other elders, the manager found that all of them approved of his actions. Not only that, after adding up the ticket revenue, he quickly found that the earned amount of money was nothing to joke about.
After the auction had finished, everything had been handled perfectly, however, a few things were still swirling around within the manager’s head.
Who was this unknown expert? Why had she suddenly arrived within this small town, and how come she knew someone as insignificant as the young master of the Deng family?
As the manager was deep within thought of the unknown expert, he suddenly heard a knocking on his door. A frown appeared on his face as he did not remember having any planned meetings today, but he quickly regained his calm exterior as he leaned back in his chair.
“Enter!” his voice boomed out, and Ma Kong smiled to Hui Yue as a means to allow the younger child to relax.
Hui Yue was very thankful to Ma Kong for this gesture, and even more so now that he knew Ma Kong actually cared about him. Although he had brought him here, he still ensured the child was not afraid.
“Uncle,” Ma Kong said respectfully, as he entered the office. He gave a slight bow before closing the door behind Hui Yue.
The manager was staring blankly at Ma Kong who was bringing in a small child. Was the young master intent on marrying someone? Where was it possible to find such a white child?
Hui Yue had grown up with the mentality of an adult and since many years back, he had needed to strengthen his mental fortitude, however, even with someone as good at hiding his emotions, Hui Yue felt an urge to laugh at the dumbfounded expression currently strewn across the manager’s face.
It was obvious the manager was also skilled at hiding his emotions; Hui Yue knew that from their previous interactions, however, this one time it seemed as if he had been caught completely unprepared.
“Young master Kong,” the manager said quickly after returning to his stern and serious expression, “what is the meaning of this? Who is this lovely friend of yours?”
While asking, the manager spent a lot of time contemplating. He felt as if he had heard about a white-haired child recently but was unable to remember from where he had this information, and linking Hui Yue to a family was impossible. If a noble family within Riluo City had such a child, then it would have been well known to the others.
“Uncle, this is Hui Yue, a schoolmate of mine,” Ma Kong introduced, and as he did so, the manager vaguely remembered a rumour about a beautiful genius student who had fought the Wang master to a standstill.
Although Hui Yue had become famous at the academy for his various acting and his outstanding talent, it was still not enough to make him an important person for the people who resided within Riluo City.
This world was after all filled with geniuses, however, only a handful of them would manage to survive long enough to break into the upper realm of the dantians.
“Hui Yue was deeply shocked upon hearing about the destiny of the Shan family and came up with a very interesting business idea which I think we should look into.”
This was the excuse Hui Yue himself had used back when he was asked how he could think up such a brilliant idea as the insurance policy. Unfortunately, he had never expected it to sound so silly when he heard Ma Kong tell it to the manager in a serious tone.
‘I bet they’d die of shame if they knew that the culprit was standing in front of them,’ Lan Feng mused, entertained. These last six days had managed to give Lan Feng an even more brilliant shine than he had ever before, and his behaviour was also slightly more frivolous.
‘If they knew, I am pretty sure that we would both be finished,’ Hui Yue replied with a chuckle, as he calmly kept observing the two men from the Ma family.
‘I liked your idea of insurance,’ Lan Feng commented, ‘but are you sure they won’t link you to the expert? I mean this guy has spoken with you before.’
Hui Yue knew that it was quite the risk he was taking, however, the bigger the wager, the more it was worth it. Who would, after all, think that the unknown and esteemed expert of Saint rank would turn into a little child who was merely ten years of age.
‘It should be fine,’ Hui Yue sighed, saying it to both himself and Lan Feng before he noticed that both the Ma men had stopped their conversation and instead were staring at the white-haired boy.
“Sorry,” Hui Yue said sheepishly, “I was thinking about something, please repeat.”
The manager looked at this young boy with great confusion. Ma Kong had given a brief explanation of what they were here to talk about, and the idea was definitely something which could reel in quite some profits.
Who would ever have guessed that this idea came from such a young child like this? The manager was greatly astonished as he looked at the white-haired boy and began to humour the thought that this was a genius whom the Ma family needed to befriend.
“Young Master Hui, please be so kind as to explain in detail about this insurance idea,” the manager said respectfully, as he finally led the two young men towards his desk.
At his desk he pressed a small memory stone which lit up and after a few minutes, knocking could be heard from the door.
“Enter,” the manager said once again, and this time the errand boy from last time appeared with a chair, which he respectfully placed in front of the desk, ensuring that there were two seats; one for each of the young men.
Hui Yue sat down and waited for the manager to show a sign that he was ready for the explanation. Currently, he was clearing his desk of various memory stones and paper scrolls while looking for empty memory stones within his desk drawers.
His plan was to simply record everything the child was to say and then relay it to the other elders of the Ma family so that they could decide whether or not to try out this idea.
Finally, the manager was ready and he beckoned Hui Yue to start talking.
“You see,” he started, causing Ma Kong to look at him with gigantic eyes and Lan Feng to laugh uncontrollably, “I heard about how the poor Shan family needed to leave the comforts of Riluo City just because they were the unjust target of an attack from some extreme expert who then vanished without paying for the damages.”
‘Pwhahahahahahaha…. Kid what have you done with your voice?’ Lan Feng laughed; his laughter was so uncontrollable that it kept ringing within Hui Yue’s head.
‘Shut it for now, I need to concentrate. I just used some Qi to make my voice seem as If I’m having a voice change. Now allow me to play this act perfectly, or I won’t be able to do a satisfying job.’
‘I got it,’ Lan Feng laughed, and although he got quiet he still kept on laughing.
“My thought was that the houses pay a specific amount of money each month. This can be as low as one copper or as much as ten gold depending on the size of your house. Then they keep paying this money every month, and if their house gets destroyed by fire or by a natural disaster, like the weather or even if it is an unknown expert, then the insurance pays for the repairs.” Hui Yue explained patiently.
As Hui Yue took a break, the manager nodded his head, astonished as he could understand the possibility in turning this into a lucrative business.
“Young master Kong also said that you might have an idea as to how we make this insurance cover cultivators as well?” The manager continued, questioningly, this time slightly politer than before.
“Yes,” Hui Yue continued with his changing voice, causing both himself and Lan Feng to snicker slightly while Ma Kong was completely confused by the sudden change.
Although Hui Yue felt somewhat guilty for putting Ma Kong in such a weird situation, he knew that it was the only way he could keep himself safe while meeting with the manager, and at the same time, it was not that unnatural for a boy his age to have a voice change.
“We have a lot of cultivators here in the city, and these cultivators have families. I could not help but wonder what would happen to the families if the cultivator was to die.”
Hui Yue started with a look of pity. “Imagine that this one cultivator was bringing home the money for more than one generation, and he perishes… it would be devastating. So what I suggest is something like how we did with the houses, however, with slight changes.”
Hui Yue paused slightly to see whether or not the manager still followed, but the manager had his eyes firmly fixated upon the young child and did not treat him like a child at all, but rather as an esteemed advisor.
“Again, the amount of money they pay is different, for instance a mercenary will pay more than a guard. Also, a higher ranked expert pays more than a low ranked expert. If the expert is the cause of their own death, then they are not eligible for compensation.”
Hui Yue stated the basics first. This was insurance and not just some playground. For an insurance network to work out, Black Market Auction House would need to have mathematicians and bookkeepers going through all the possibilities, or it would be highly likely that they incur a loss, however, if they managed to pull this off, then they could scrape in an immense amount of wealth, especially in a quiet town such as Riluo City.
“What do you mean caused their own death?” Ma Kong asked curiously while seated back. So far he had not chimed in on anything, however, this subject was intriguing to him. He could see the potential profit behind its premise.
“Let’s say I was to insult an extreme expert, then I caused my own death. Or if my family is very poor, and I cannot earn enough money so I suicide. Then I am also the cause of my own death. In situations like these, the insurance does not reimburse as per the insurance agreement, as you do not wish to support suicidal cultivators.” Hui Yue explained.
Having heard the explanation, Ma Kong nodded a little and looked at the manager who removed a finger from a memory stone he had been pressing it against.
Currently all of his memories containing ‘insurance’ was not imprinted within the memory stone and it was a subject which he would discuss with the other elders when they held another family gathering.
This was going to be a big part of their business if they were to try it out, and the manager was in no rush to set things into motion. He had long since understood that patience is a virtue indeed and doing things properly gave better results.
Hui Yue nodded with satisfaction as he saw how the manager was not promising anything for now. He, too, knew how dangerous this could be if they were not thorough with their preparations.
“So what do you wish for by coming up with such a great business strategy?” the manager finally said after having stored the memory stones within a pocket of his robes.
“one percent of the revenue,” Hui Yue answered seriously. He could have asked for a higher figure, however, he knew that this was an already risky rate to levy and if he were to demand a high percentage, it would simply not be worth it for the Ma family.
Not to mention that one percentage was the money going to his family. For them, one percentage of all the profit of the insurance business was definitely an exorbitant sum of money. For himself, he still had the five percent from the watermills as he was completely certain that the Ma family would agree with his demand.