Volume 3 Chapter 2: Crossing the Western Border of Chu
Within the imperial palace of Chu, Emperor Chu Han and the Eldest Princess Chu Yue were standing inside the imperial study looking at Houyi Bow, utterly astounded. They never imagined in their wildest of dreams that Houyi Bow would be returned to the imperial palace by someone completely wordlessly.
Chu Yue said, “Father, look. There’s a letter underneath Houyi Bow.”
Chu Han unfolded the letter. After reading the letter, he tightly furrowed his eyebrows before gradually relaxing them.
After Chu Yue gave the letter a read, she joyfully exclaimed, “So it’s actually our old ancestor’s doing from behind-the-scenes. He wishes to wander around the continent. With his appearance, Yu’er will surely be fine.”
Chu Han said, “I’m afraid Yu’er won’t be returning for a while. I am unsure whether she can adapt to life outside of the palace.”
Chu Yue said, “My meimei is very naughty; she normally begs me to take her out. Now that she has left the imperial palace, she can be considered a fish returning to the water. Father, you need not worry about her.”
Chu Han was somewhat forlorn. “Now that he has appeared, of course I don’t have to worry about her. Only… your second brother Wenfeng has already been away for the past few years. Now that my mischievous little girl has also left, of the three children I am most fond of, only you remain by my side.”
Chu Yue soothed, “Sooner or later, gege and meimei will return to father’s side, so you need not feel sad.”
Chu Han grumbled, “En. Actually, this should be beneficial to that mischievous little girl. She’s too naughty. After going through this experience and refining herself through hardships, she will definitely mature a lot.” After he deeply pondered over something, he said, “Don’t disturb Elder Zhuge for now. Seal all news of Chen Nan’s havoc in the imperial capital as much as possible. No matter what, it cannot be divulged.”
On the road, the Little Princess discovered that Houyi Bow was not on Chen Nan’s person. She couldn’t stop herself from endlessly questioning him about it. Chen Nan didn’t respond at all to her inquiries. In the end, she determined that Chen Nan had hidden Houyi Bow away in some place near that inn.
With regards to the events that conspired the night before, she was completely ignorant. Seeing Chen Nan’s absent-minded appearance, she mocked him. “Degenerate, seeing your worrying, despondent look, in your mind, you must be scared, right?”
Forgoing manners, Chen Nan flicked the Little Princess’s bright forehead. “Scared of your head.”
Grimacing in pain, the princess’s eyes glistened with tears. She furiously said, “Damn degenerate, sooner or later, there will come a day you will fall into my clutches again…”
Chen Nan patted the princess’s fragrant shoulders. With ‘sincere and heartfelt words’, he said, “Wishing is fine, doing is complicated, but the outcome is impossible. Ai, it’s the season of fantasies; the minds of young ladies are all filled with yearning. Pitiful child, wake up. That day will never come.”
The Little Princess was angry and annoyed. She heatedly said, “Smelly thief, don’t be so pleased with yourself. One day, I will make you regret the things you have said and done today.”
Chen Nan laughed. “Little demon, don’t act idiotic while under the spell of your own delusions. That day will never come.”
Throughout the journey, the Little Princess and Chen Nan quarrelled endlessly. Simultaneously, she took advantage of every opportunity to try to sneak away, but she failed every single time.
In the beginning, Chen Nan had taken the princess and hurried along the path riding horses, but the princess was too attractive. She continuously raised the eyebrows of everyone who passed by them. For the sake of avoiding unnecessary trouble, they changed their mode of transportation and took a horse-drawn carriage instead. At the same time, he smeared dirt and filth all over the Little Princess’s jade countenance. This resulted in the princess crying and cursing, but because of his threats, she finally settled with this happening.
A few days later, Chen Nan’s weak body from using the God of Imprisonment’s Finger finally recovered. He let out a long breath of air.
“There really hasn’t been anyone at all following us the whole way. It must be because that old monster brought back Houyi Bow and notified Chu Yue and the others. The experts of the imperial capital didn’t follow us. Most likely, that old monster himself is tailing us.” Recalling the old monster’s dreadful position, his heart chilled. He didn’t even want to imagine if that old man was truly conspiring against him…
Chen Nan brought the princess with him as they headed straight to the west, unobstructed. The emperor hadn’t sent anyone to pursue or stop them, to the extent that he didn’t hear a single word of the chaotic things that he had done at the imperial capital.
“Little demon, your emperor daddy and princess jiejie have abandoned you. Not only did they not send anyone to rescue you, but they’ve sealed off all news of the imperial capital. It seems that they plan to give you to me.”
The princess reclined back into the carriage. She glanced at him sideways and said, “Smelly thief, you’re uneducated and incompetent. You can’t even figure out this simple matter, yet you still have the nerve to speak rubbish, hmph!”
“In their eyes, the reputation of the Empire of Chu is much more important than yours. If not, why would they only focus on sealing off the news from the imperial capital while completely ignoring you?”
“Hmph. I, the princess, will not even dignify you with an explanation, you despicable bastard.”
“Do you want freedom? As long as you obediently listen to what I say, I’ll give you freedom.”
The princess took another sideways glance at him and then ignored him.
Throughout the journey, although Chen Nan didn’t continuously put into practice his ‘enslavement education’, the stubborn Little Princess never gave him any flattering looks. This resulted in the shattering of his dream of the princess becoming an obedient maid.
Ten days later, the two of them arrived at Tantai City. There were two great roads here. One road went straight to the western border of Chu. The other road went straight to the south for several hundred li before turning towards the west, passing through the middle section of the continent that sheltered the City of Crime among the mountains. They proceeded towards the western continent.
Seeing the lifelike sculpture carved out of white jade standing tall in the public square of Tantai City, Chen Nan woefully sighed. It took ten thousand years for him to finally understand the cause of his power retreating instead of advancing. Everything was due to the goddess that he had worshipped in his heart.
“Tantai Xuan, the day I break through the void with my martial arts and ascend, I will definitely banish you to the realm of mortals!”
From the side, the Little Princess took a timely jab at him. “You’re daydreaming. To go as far as to dare blaspheme Fairy Tantai like this, Fairy, honour us with your presence—hurry and strike him with black lightning as punishment.”
Seeing Chen Nan raise his hand, the princess rushed to cover her forehead. These past few days, her clear forehead had already been hit quite a number of times. Chen Nan didn’t hit her. Pinching her straight, refined, exquisite nose, he said, “Still speaking rubbish? I’ll pull at your nose until it becomes a pig’s snout.”
The princess painfully cried out, “Ouch! Smelly thief, hurry and let go…”
Chen Nan laughed. “Your nose feels pretty good.”
“It hurts… Ow… Damn degenerate, I won’t forgive you for this.” The princess scratched and kicked, attracting the attention of everyone in the square. Chen Nan hurriedly let go.
The night they were residing within Tantai City, the powerful symptoms of the God of Imprisonment’s Finger began to flare up in the Little Princess’s body. Every inch of her flesh turned a glistening scarlet as a result of her engorged blood vessels. Within her body, the blood was circulating one hundred times faster than normal, as if it was boiling.
“Ah~! I can’t bear it! Damn degenerate, hurry up and release that lousy finger technique that you cursed me with! I can’t bear it!” Sweat soaked through the Little Princess’s clothes. She continuously writhed on top of her bed.
Chen Nan poked several of her acupoints in order to stop her from flailing around. Only then was he able to uninterruptedly slap at her body. Golden light poured into her body. This continued for an hour.
After a long time, the harrowing symptoms that were caused by the God of Imprisonment’s Finger began to gradually vanish. The body temperature of the princess slowly returned to normal.
“Degenerate, I’ll return the favour!” When they Little Princess regained her ability to move, she pounced on Chen Nan in frenzy.
“I’ll bite… I’ll scratch… I’ll kick… I’ll slam…” Unable to bite, scratch, or kick Chen Nan, she ultimately slammed her head against Chen Nan.
Chen Nan didn’t dare use his power, afraid of accidentally hurting the rabid princess. He was finally able to subdue her after expending quite of bit of effort. Then princess was gasping for air. “Smelly thief, I hate you to death. What kind of depraved finger technique did you use against me? You better immediately and thoroughly neutralize it for me.”
Chen Nan said, “The power of the God of Imprisonment’s Finger can only be neutralized by a single person in this world—me. Every ten days to half a month, it will flare up again. If I don’t cleanse the essence of your blood in advance, every time it flares up, you will be in this kind of pain. Therefore, you have to obediently listen to what I say. Or else… Well, you know the consequences.”
“Go die. Only ghosts will listen to your words, you smelly thief.” The Little Princess grabbed a pillow and threw it at him. After that, she left to go clean up, upset.
“The project to cultivate a maid has failed yet again.”
The next day, the two of them began their trek to the City of Crime early in the morning. The ancient city of Tantai gradually vanished behind them.
This great road linked the east and west. It was the continent’s most significant road of business and commerce. The daily flow of travelling merchants was immense. The area surrounding the road was endlessly busy.
As they travelled, they ate in the wind and slept in the elements. The two of them finally arrived at the Empire of Chu’s western portal—Wangfeng City. This city was lofty and firm. It was the stronghold at the bottleneck on the road connecting the east and the west.
The name of Wangfeng City possessed a lengthy history. Reportedly, when the first iteration of Wangfeng City was built, it had been during the great battle between the east and the west. It had a history that approached ten thousand years. The city had undoubtedly gone through myriad vicissitudes. The Wangfeng City in front of them had been constructed a thousand years ago. It had never changed its address since then, even up to the present. Instead, it continuously expanded from its original foundation by many folds.
Although there were rarely any conflicts that broke out between the east and the west in the past several millennia, regardless of which dynasty it belonged to, this city was deemed as a military stronghold. It possessed an extensive military force for protection. During the current peaceful era, the military soldiers within the city focussed on questioning the visiting travelling merchants, as well as inspecting and screening their goods.
Prior to entering Wangfeng City, Chen Nan conducted a ‘lesson on entering cities’ with the princess. He threatened her to properly cooperate with those interrogative soldiers.
At the beginning, the Little Princess had laughed and sneered. She had proclaimed that she definitely would not put on an act for his repulsive self. But after a round of threats from Chen Nan, if she still refused to act a bit more ‘sincerely’ and something were to arise during the screening process, she would be disfigured. Furthermore, he would force the God of Imprisonment to flare up earlier than anticipated. The princess resentfully agreed to his terms.
Sure enough, when they entered the city, the two of them were met with rigorous interrogation. Fortunately, Chen Nan had already prepared beforehand. He had prepared a series of light lies in order to deceive and get past the questioning.
Naturally, there was a slight hiccup during this process. Despite the dirt that Chen Nan had caked onto the Little Princess’s face, her natural beauty was just too difficult to conceal. As a result, it attracted the pawing of one of the soldiers. The angry girl almost exploded in rage. Chen Nan hurriedly threw down some gold coins and dragged the infuriated princess away.
Although Wangfeng City was a faraway fortress at the distant frontier, the inside of the city was incomparably prosperous. There was a profession within the city that was especially thriving—mercenaries.
Right outside Wangfeng City was the boundless mountains. On the road to the western continent, there were all kinds of vicious beasts. There were also a few intrepid bandits. Therefore, the people that regularly travelled this road all kept together in parties. In fact, a majority of these people even spent money to hire a few mercenaries in order to ensure the security of their lives and assets.
Chen Nan brought the Little Princess to a local mercenary union. Inside was noisy and chaotic. The walls were filled with all sorts of posted announcements. They were all missions of various scales and difficulties waiting for a mercenary to accept it. The easier ones involved acting as someone’s bodyguard. The hardest ones involved investigating some extraordinarily dangerous locations.
Currently, the mission with the most expensive reward was to capture the mythical qilin in the Luofeng Mountain Range. There were already some people who had offered fifty thousand gold coins for its capture. The number of people who had accepted this mission was great, but to this day, not a single mercenary or company of mercenaries was able to succeed. The majority of them had gone off on the mission never to return. Now, very few people remained who were willing to accept this mission.
The employers that came here were usually people who wanted to go to either the City of Crime or the western continent. If they wanted to get by the bandits that plagued the road, several mercenaries were insufficient. Often, a whole group of people with the same desired destination would collectively hire a whole corps of mercenaries.
Carrying a large sword resting on his shoulder, a slovenly dressed, giant of a man with a face full of whiskers walked over to Chen Nan and said, “Brother, are you looking for a mercenary to serve as your bodyguard? Select me; I am the most sensible option here. I am known as the ‘King of Mercenaries’. I can ensure you a pleasant journey.”
From the side, several other mercenaries also spoke up at the same time. “Pft… If you’re the King of Mercenaries, then we’re the Emperors of Mercenaries.”
The big man restated, “Oh, I forgot to mention the word ‘future’. I am the future King of Mercenaries.”
Chen Nan could already see that this big man was indeed strong. His body’s cultivation had already reached the level of the first rank. However, he wasn’t sure why he would be willing to serve as some ordinary mercenary.
“Brother, how does it sound? Although I have only recently joined this party, I am definitely a prodigy among mercenaries. I will ensure you a worry-free journey. Although your little wife’s face is covered in dirt, anyone with a discerning eye can tell that she is an exceptionally gorgeous woman with but a glance. If you fail to have someone with outstanding ability protecting the two of you, leaving Wangfeng City will be incredibly dangerous.”
The Little Princess was extremely irritated. She furiously rebutted, “Big Moustache, don’t say whatever drivel comes to your mind. Who is this degenerate’s little wife? If you keep speaking rubbish, watch out for when I chop off your head.”
The big man said, “Aiyah… What a ferocious little lady.” With that, he turned his head to face Chen Nan. “Brother still hasn’t succeeded yet. You ought to do it when the opportunity arises. Otherwise, after leaving this village, you won’t get another chance!”
Chen Nan chuckled. “She is currently still just my maid.”
Faced with these two bad men, the Little Princess quickly grew insane with rage. She snatched the teapot off the table, flinging the teacups away. Chen Nan and the big man quickly dodged to the side, but other nearby patrons were not so lucky. The scalding tea was poured all over several of them, attracting a few raging curses from the victims inside the mercenary union. Chen Nan hurriedly dragged the Little Princess away to escape.
That big man whose face was covered in whiskers also followed them out. He yelled out to Chen Nan, “It’s really too dangerous for the two of you to go out on your own. If you hired me, I can ensure you two a pleasant journey.”
Chen Nan stopped in his tracks. “We wish to go to the City of Crime. I have heard that that road is littered with many bandits. Can you by yourself protect us from them?”
The big man said, “I can easily handle those mobs with just a single hand. What’s more, it won’t just be the three of us. A group of travelling merchants has hired a mercenary corps. I am very familiar with their chief, so we can leave with them. This will guarantee your safety.”
Although Chen Nan did not fear those bandits on the road, now that he had to worry about the Little Princess, he wasn’t entirely confident in himself. As insurance, he decided to embark on their journey with those mercenaries.
“Alright. Tomorrow morning, we will come here to find you.” With that said, he brought the fuming princess away.
The big man yelled after them, “Then it’s settled.”
After they returned to the inn, the Little Princess looked incredibly upset. She coldly said, “Smelly thief, you are about to leave the borders of Chu. You can help me neutralize the power of the God of Imprisonment’s Finger now.”
“Why so rushed? We haven’t even arrived at the City of Crime yet.”
“What? Have you forgotten what my jiejie had said? After you leave the borders of Chu, if you fail to release me, she will issue the command for your death. She will mobilize everything in order to kill you. You’ll die without a proper burial site.”
“Hmph. Me releasing you is only one possibility. Instead, how about I keep you by my side to serve as my maid.”
This time, the Little Princess was truly frightened. With a trill voice, she said, “Degenerate, you’re lying, right? There are no grievances or enmity between the two of us. Although there had been some… unpleasant things that have occurred between us, those were all… misunderstandings. Besides, it’s already been a long time since then. You don’t need to… have retribution, right?”
Chen Nan reached out and hit her faint acupoint. With that, he released her onto the bed. Although Chen Nan’s heart had always suppressed a trace of fear for the old monster who had yet to present himself, he felt safer with the Little Princess by his side. He was certain that despite the old monster’s terrifying cultivation, he was still unable to release his God of Imprisonment’s Finger. He inwardly rejoiced at the ingenuity of ancestral profound skill.
The next day, Chen Nan brought the princess to the mercenary union right on time.
A scowl was plastered across the Little Princess’s face. She hatefully stared at Chen Nan, but felt dread in her heart at the same time. They were to leave the Empire of Chu soon. She was truly worried about losing her liberty afterwards.
After that big man saw the two of them, he immediately waved as he walked over to the duo. The princess gave him a greatly contemptuous look.
The big man didn’t seem to care. He chuckled.
The caravan had altogether one hundred and three mercenaries in order to ensure their safety. Excluding the deputy chief of the corps, an old magus of the first rank, the rest were all martial artists.
The chief was a middle-aged man around forty years of age. He seemed shrewd, yet experienced. There was a colossal beast behind him. Shockingly, it was a Land Dragon. The Land Dragon was about five zhang long. Pitch-black scales flickered in the light. Its appearance seemed rather vicious.
The big man said, “A first ranked magus, a first ranked dragon rider, and me, the future King of Mercenaries. Who dares provoke this party? I guarantee your safety on this trip.”
Chen Nan asked, “How many gold coins does it cost?”
The big man said, “One hundred gold coins per person. Two people are discounted, so one hundred and eighty gold coins.”
Chen Nan said, “You’re robbing me. Ten gold coins are already enough for an ordinary family to live off of for a month. You’re merely escorting us for a leg of our journey, so how can it still be this outrageously expensive?”
“Then how about one hundred and fifty gold coins?”
“One hundred and twenty.”
The final negotiated price totalled one hundred gold coins. Chen Nan promptly paid him.
Right then, the chief of the hired corps of mercenaries walked over and said, “Guan Hao, you’ve already been hired and paid by eight people, yet you’ve just received another two. Although you are helping us, by bringing this many people to trail us, my brothers will start having objections.”
Guan Hao said, “These are the last two.”
After the chief of the hired corps left, Chen Nan, irritated, said, “Swindler, return my money.”
Embarrassed, Guan Hao said, “This… Although there are many people, I guarantee your safe passage.”
From the side, the Little Princess chimed in, “One degenerate and one swindler; neither of you are a good person.”
Chen Nan shot her a glance before turning to face Guan Hao. “It’s fine if you don’t refund us, but when we leave the city, can you guarantee you’re capable of keeping this girl silent?”
A light bulb went on over Guan Hao’s head. “So you’re a trafficker.”
“Ah, my words are mistaken. Heihei, this matter is easy to handle. Isn’t it only leaving the city? We just have to seal her mute acupoint and stuff her under the pile of merchandise.”
The Little Princess’s gaze was sharp enough to kill someone. She angrily said, “You two bastards—”
Chen Nan hit her mute acupoint. Then, he turned to Guan Hao and said, “Are there any women among the travelling merchants?”
“Leave her inside the carriage with those women. Otherwise, her delicate, tender body will be squished by the merchandise, which would be problematic.”
In total, there were about forty or so people within the group of travelling merchants. There were over twenty carriages filled with goods. Adding on over one hundred mercenaries, this procession proved to be rather striking. With her mute acupoint sealed, the Little Princess rode in the same carriage as the women of the travelling merchants. Her mouth couldn’t speak, and her body couldn’t move. She could only sit upright inside the carriage.
From the side, the several womenfolk examined her and praised:
“This ill girl is really pretty. I’ve never see a girl as beautiful as this.”
“Right, she’s really pretty.”
“Her face is filthy, but that is definitely for the sake of protecting herself. She’s really a clever girl.”
“I really want to pinch her smooth, delicate cheeks.”
In the end, the women truly began caressing the Little Princess’s jade cheeks.
“If I had a daughter as pretty as this, that’d be amazing.”
“Right, she’s really too cute.”
The Little Princess’s lungs were about to explode in anger. She couldn’t stop herself from panting with rage.
“Aiyah, this girl’s illness has worsened.”
“That doesn’t seem right. How could her voice resemble angry panting?”
This squadron of men and horses very quickly arrived at the city gates. After the travelling merchants donated several tens of gold coins, the interrogative soldiers stopped harassing the women.
It wasn’t until they arrived very far away from the city gates did Chen Nan release the princess’s acupoint. The instant she regained voluntary movement, she fled out of the carriage with what seemed like a leap. Afterwards, she loudly shrieked into the forest beside the road.
“Haha!” Chen Nan couldn’t contain his hearty laughter.
“Damn degenerate, hurry up and release that lousy finger technique you placed on me and let me go.”
Guan Hao walked over to them and said, “Little lady, don’t shout. If you keep shouting, wolves will come.”
“Y-you’re not a good person either. Big Moustache, aren’t you greedy for money? If you help me kill this degenerate, I’ll pay you one hundred thousand gold coins.”
Guan Hao gasped in alarm. “Wow! One hundred thousand gold coins! Such a large sum of wealth! However, someone with a noble character can choose to be avaricious in a virtuous way. This kind of illicit, ill-gotten wealth is something I can never accept.”
“You miser, you swindler, you still have the face to talk about the virtuous way of making money? As long as you help me kill him, I’ll give you another hundred thousand gold coins.”
With a ‘dong’, Chen Nan rapped the princess’s forehead. “You actually dare ask someone to kill me in front of me? Don’t treat me like air.”
With a pained yet hateful voice, the princess said, “Smelly thief, you deserve to be chopped into infinite pieces! Degenerate, sooner or later, you’ll go to hell.”
Chen Nan laughed. “Buddha says, ‘If I don’t go to hell, who will go to hell’.”
“Well then go to hell right now.”
“I have yet to become enlightened.”
“Shameless degenerate, smelly thief…”
The travelling merchants and the hired mercenaries all raised their eyebrows at this scene. With surprised expressions, they looked over at this couple.
In the following few days, everyone became accustomed to the sound of the two of them bickering. If no one were to hear their quarrelling for half a day, everyone would be baffled.