In the inn's courtyard Shi Mu was in the shadows. He was gazing in the direction of Zhong Xiu's residence.
Some time had passed since Xiao Wei had entered the room. But, there hadn't been the slightest of movement or sound from Zhong Xiu's residence so far. The situation rather seemed a little different from his anticipation.
But then, a sound of footsteps spread from outside the courtyard. Shi Mu's brows wrinkled, and he swept his spirit sense in that direction. He found that the approaching person was Leng Yue Tong. Her glowing facial expressions were ample enough to assume that she was in great delight. It seemed that she had returned from a very amusing trip to the city because of which she was in a buoyant mood.
Shi Mu obviously wasn't going to show up and greet her. So, he remained hidden in the same place.
Leng Yue Tong passed by Shi Mu's hiding place while jumping and bouncing happily, and her foot suddenly stopped. She then turned around, looked in the direction of Shi Mu's hiding place, and a hint of suspicion surfaced in her eyes.
Shi Mu was alarmed, and hurriedly restrained the aura that his body was emitting.
Leng Yue Tong looked around a couple of times. Then, she shook her head, turned around, and continued to walk forward. She soon disappeared into the distance.
Shi Mu saw this, and exhaled a long breath inwardly. But, a surprised look peeped through his eyes at the same time.
This woman's cultivation wasn't too high. But, she was still able to see the surrounding scene in the dark night. She also had many other unthinkable abilities apart from this. And, all this indicated that her background wasn't as simple as it seemed to be.
Shi Mu shook his head, and cast away such thoughts for the time being. After all, he knew that it wasn't the right time to think about this matter.
But then, the sound of footsteps again transmitted from afar. Then, a group people came into appearance. The person in the forefront was a black-robed old man. He was the same man Shi Mu had peeked-at in the City Lord's office.
The people behind him were the barbarian men of the Wing Crane Tribe.
The owner of this inn was also among them. He was following the old man with deep veneration and humility.
Shi Mu's complexion changed.
"Shi Tou, how did this fellow show up here? Don't tell me they want to execute their plan right away?" Cai's voice rang in Shi Mu's mind.
Shi Mu shook his head, but myriads of thoughts were swirling in his mind.
"Are those noble guests staying here?" the black-robed old man took a look at the courtyard that was not far in front, and asked the inn owner beside him.
"Yes, Respected City Lord," the owner promptly replied.
"This man is the City Lord?!" Shi Mu was astounded. He couldn't help but throw a few glances at the black-robed old man.
This old man's face looked withered like that of a dried corpse, but his bright eyes were brimming with radiating vigor. Moreover, his body was sending forth a profound and imposing aura.
The black-robed old man nodded. Then, he stepped forward, and arrived in front of the courtyard's gate. He was about to push the door-in when the courtyard's gate suddenly opened up. Then, four-or-five Xian-Tian martial warriors jumped out, and stopped before the gate to block the way.
"Whoever is Your Excellency why do you dare to trespass this place?!" one of the men shouted at top of his voice; he was clad in a red gown.
A distinct shadow flashed in midair at the same time, and Ling Chu's silhouette emerged before them.
Simultaneously, a white light flashed in the back of the house. And, Zhong Xiu's silhouette appeared in the air. She looked at the black-robed old man and his people in a cold manner, but didn't speak anything.
"It turned out to be you, Dear Friend Ling Chu. Long time no see By the way are you going to welcome your old friend in this way?" The old man swept his gaze over Zhong Xiu first. Then, he looked at Ling Chu, and said with a smile.
The old man smiled casually, but it appeared as if he had squeezed a smile on his face forcefully like a dried corpse. This made him look very weird and ugly.
"You are... Noble Friend Yun Yang?" Ling Chu was dumbfounded to see the black-robed old man's appearance for a moment. He then said with a bit of hesitation.
"Hehe, that's right. You arrived in my city, but didn't inform me" the black-robed old man said.
"Haha, I must say that this place looks very familiar to me. By the way I haven't seen you for decades. Who would've thought that Dear Friend Yun Yang would be serving as the City Lord here? Congratulations!" Ling Chu laughed first. Then, he clasped his hands in obeisance and said.
"Dear Friend Ling Chu is very polite. Your Excellency is the best and most heroic military officer under City Lord You Can. You've also become very popular outside. In fact, you are far better than this Old Man who is merely a City Lord of a small city," the old man replied with a smile.
"Miss Zhong, this person isn't a suspicious individual. He was a good friend of mine in the past. He's Mo Yun Yang of the Wing Crane Tribe. He's the current City Lord of the Cloud Wing City." Ling Chu turned toward Zhong Xiu and said.
Zhong Xiu's brows wrinkled. But, she didn't loosen her guard even after she had heard Ling Chu's words. Instead, her wonderful eyes sized-up the black-robed old man once.
A hint of embarrassment crawled across Ling Chu's face when he didn't receive any response from Zhong Xiu.
"Dear Friend Ling Chu, you should've introduced her to me. Who is this Miss?" the old man asked.
"This is Zhong Xiu. Miss Zhong is a High-ranked Guest Elder of the Heavenly Wu Chamber of Commerce. The fact is that we are here to escort the batch of goods that the City Lord You Can had entrusted us to deliver. So, we just happened to pass through here; that's all." Ling Chu explained.
"So, the Miss is an honored guest of the Heavenly Wu Chamber of Commerce. This Old Man apologizes for not giving you a proper welcome," The old man's eyes lit up as he heard these words. He then cupped his hands, and said in a reverent manner.
"City Lord Yun is very polite. But, you made your gracious presence here at this time. Is there any matter?" Zhong Xiu's red lips opened, and a cold voice spread from her mouth.
"There's nothing important to speak of. It's just that Friend Ling is my old acquaintance. So, I thought of inviting him to the official residence mansion for some wine. I figured that we could chat about former times. Besides, this was a good way for this Old Man to perform the duties of a good friend. But, I hadn't expected to run into the distinguished guest of the Heavenly Wu Chamber of Commerce. However, the more the merrier!" the black-robed old man said.
"I'm sorry, City Lord Yun. We've been ordered to escort the goods under supervision. My hands are tied since I'm bound by a responsibility. I'm afraid I'm too busy to accompany you to a feast," Zhong Xiu turned down his invitation even before Ling Chu could open his mouth.
Ling Chu's brows creased; it seemed as if he wanted to say something. But, he shot a glance at Zhong Xiu, and chose to remain silent.
"Haha, Miss Zhong has considered this matter very thoroughly. It's truly admirable. However, Miss Zhong doesn't have to be anxious about security issues. You're in the city which is under my jurisdiction. I assure you that robbers and bandits would never dare to lay their dirty hands on this inn. The invitation for drinks is just a trivial matter. The fact is that this Old Man happens to have a lot of valuable goods. And, I want to get rid of them. But, I didn't find any suitable person to entrust this task on. But, I can see the Heavenly Wu Chamber of Commerce's sign at the doorstep. And, Miss Zhong also appears to be a very responsible kind of a person. So, I would appreciate it very much if you two could come together and take a look at them. This Old Man will leave those things in Miss Zhong's care if she finds them appropriate," the old man said.
Zhong Xiu was dumbfounded on hearing these words. A hint of hesitation also bubbled-up on her face in response.
The black-robed old man didn't urge afterwards. Instead, he engaged himself in a conversation with Ling Chu. The string of conversations between the two men was basically moving around their past experiences.
"City Lord Yun, could you please get your goods here? This humble girl isn't prepared to leave the inn. You can also have a feast in the inn if you want to," Zhong Xiu considered this matter for a moment. Then, she spoke-up in an apologetic manner.
"Those goods are large in quantity. They are the demon beasts' materials that my Cloud Wing City has accumulated over the period of ten years or so. So, it seems that it would be unsuitable to bring them here," the old man's facial expression looked uncomfortable as he explained.
Zhong Xiu's eyes brightened. As far as she knew the Chamber of Commerce had recently made a public proclamation in various regions for the acquisition of demon beast's materials. In fact, the Chamber of Commerce wanted to make a big purchase. So, it would be very advantageous in strengthening her position in the Chamber of Commerce in case she succeeded in cracking this deal. It might even help her with 'that' matter as well
Moreover, the Heavenly Wu Chamber of Commerce was a very renowned entity everywhere. So, there was a possibility that her refusal could adversely affect the reputation of the Chamber of Commerce.
"All right, let's have a talk tonight," Zhong Xiu nodded after a momentary consideration.
The black-robed old man's face beamed with gladness. However, a trace of strange yet inconceivable gleam flashed across the depths of his eyes at the same time.
"City Lord Yun, please wait a moment. This humble girl needs to give some orders before leaving this place," Zhong Xiu continued.
"I'll wait. Miss Zhong, please do as you wish," the old man replied.
Zhong Xiu turned around, and called the escorts in the courtyard. She then made a proper arrangement of the people who would take charge here after her departure. She also asked the guards to double their hours of duty. In addition, she explained other related matters in a systematic manner.
"Miss Xin, Xiao Wei forthwith use that thing to inform me if something happens," Zhong Xiu organized everything in an appropriate order. After that, her lips moved, and a whispering voice surfaced into the ears of those two maids.
The two maids nodded to indicate that they had understood the matter.
"A few of you will stay behind to help them guard the security of this place. You mustn't allow any mishap. Otherwise, you'll be questioned!" Meanwhile, the black-robed old man also turned towards the barbarian people behind him, and commanded with a solemn expression on his face.
The barbarian people complied in unison.
"Both of you, please come!" Then, the old man made a generous gesture to invite Zhong Xiu and Ling Chu.
The three people then walked in the direction of the inn's gate at a fast pace.
Shi Mu was in the distance. He looked at the three people walking away, and his brows tightly creased. Also, a look of disbelief emerged on his face.
He had clearly told Zhong Xiu about the conspiracy of the Wing Crane Tribe. Then, why did she still take such a step?
Could it be that Zhong Xiu didn't believe in the jade slip's contents? Or, could she possibly have any other viewpoint regarding this situation?
"Shi Tou, how could Miss Zhong go with the opposite party?!" Cai's voice resounded in Shi Mu's mind.
"Follow them, and keep an eye." Shi Mu said as he stole a glance at the fleet of carriages in the courtyard. Then, he flashed out of the courtyard in order to pursue Zhong Xiu and the other two men.
Twenty guards were positioned in the courtyard at the moment. They all stood firm around the fleet of carriages like a wall.
Zhong Xiu had just passed an order that no one was to take even half-a-step outside the courtyard until she and Ling Chu had returned.
"Heh, why can't I see Brother Mu around?" a purple-haired young man looked around and said in a soft voice. He was the same man who had been sharing the Floating Cloud Carriage with Shi Mu and Leng Yue Tong throughout the journey.
Leng Yue Tong stood right beside him. Therefore, she heard his words, and her refined brows creased in response. She also looked in all directions to catch a sight of Shi Mu.
But, Shi Mu was indeed nowhere to be seen in the courtyard.
"He might not have returned from his sightseeing yet?" the purple-haired young man guessed.
Leng Yue Tong snorted in a cold manner as a strange gleam flashed across her eyes. However, she didn't speak anything.
"Everyone, is there anything you need us to help with?" a tall and black-skinned barbarian man walked forward, and said. He was one of the Wing Crane Tribe's men; he had been left behind by the black-robed old man.
"I truly appreciate your kindness. However, we're here to guard the goods in rounds. So, there is no need to bother everyone," There was a Xian-ranked thin middle-aged man in the team of escorts. He walked out, and stood in front of the black-skinned barbarian to block his way. He then said with a vigilant look in his eyes.
Zhong Xiu had sent a message to him right before she had left. She had specially instructed him that he must guard against these Wing Crane barbarians. Also, he mustn't allow them to approach the fleet at any cost.
"But, the Lord of the City has commanded us to stay here..." the black-skinned barbarian said in a somewhat awkward manner.
"Escorting this batch of goods is a very important mission for us. And, you people are outsiders. So, I request you to not make things difficult for us," The lean middle-aged man remained unmoved.
"Hehe, that's natural," the dark-skinned barbarian nodded, and said with a smile.
"Then, we'll go and inspect the other places of the inn. We shall take our leave now," the black-skinned barbarian continued. Then, he beckoned and led the other people to other parts of the inn.
The lean middle-aged man's facial expression finally loosened, and he walked back to the fleet.
A few barbarians of the Wing Crane Tribe walked out of the courtyard under the leadership of the black-skinned barbarian. But, the smile on the black-skinned barbarian's face disappeared as soon as he left the courtyard. He then turned to look at the courtyard, and the trace of a strange and intriguing gleam flashed across his eyes.