The big boat slowly turned around and in a blink of an eye, it went ahead of them and disappeared into the vast river.
The boatman sighed a long relief and wiped away the cold sweat on his forehead.
Siao Shi took a sidelong glance at him.
The boatman said sheepishly, "Luckily we're saved by the bell, Lady. It's not that I'm a coward but Young Clan Leader Zou is too powerful. If he snatched you away, my boat will suffer a calamity too. I only have this boat in my entire life. If I lose it, I won't have any income."
Siao Shi scoffed, "What about him? He's so rampant, overbearing, and do all kinds of evil, nobody will do anything then?"
"He's the Young Master of Clan Leader Zou. Who would dare to do anything?"
"So, this Clan Leader Zou can just defy all laws and act in disorder. He's just like a tyrant!"
"SighClan Leader Zou is really like the tyrant over here. No one dares to do anything to him."
"The officials? Haha."
"Sounds like the officials have colluded with him."
The boatman looked at his surroundings cautiously then said softly, "Clan Leader Zou is the brother-in-law of the mayor in the Town of Clouds!"
Siao Shi looked at Chu Li then chuckled, "The mayor of the Town of Clouds? This is a rumor, isn't it? Besides, it's just the mayor of the Town of Clouds, not the brother-in-law of the mayors of the fifteen towns along the river!"
"SighLady, it looks like you're clueless about the ways of the world. Since ancient times, bureaucrats have been shielding one another. The other mayors even have to humble themselves. Besides, Clan Leader Zou knows what he's doing so he fed all the mayors. So how can any commoner cause an uproar?"
"Old man, you know quite a lot," Siao Shi said.
The boatman shook his head, "These men know too, but what if we know? Who dares to bother about it? Who can control the mayors?"
Siao Shi said, "Those martial arts paladins will teach those mayors a lesson, right!"
"Those paladins all came to no good end. Once they kill a mayor, the House of High Dukes must step in. Sighin short, the bureaucrats are always shielding one another. There are no means of subsistence for the civilians!"
Under the white veil, Siao Shi's face turned slightly gloomy.
All these while, she had always thought that the House of High Dukes was a guardian to the civilians. She did not think that it was actually the other way around that it was actually helping the evil side!
While the both of them were talking softly, Chu Li and Han Fei conversed as well.
Han Fei said, "Brother, I'm Han Fei. That man Zou Shaohe is not a good man. When I leave later, he will certainly look for trouble with you and your madam again. The River Alliance is a big force. I think it will be best for you to follow me!"
The four maids felt that something was off. The Young Master was always arrogant and proud and had never acted contrary to his previous actions and became acquainted with a scholar. Could it be something unusual? Or was it because of the madam's beauty?
Chu Li saw that since Han Fei was being sincere, it would be unreasonable for him to decline the offer. He roughly found out about the situation in the River Alliance anyway and indeed it was as he expected. It had already become like their own backyard where they could rampant at their own will and acted unscrupulously.
"All right then, thank you for your hospitality!" Chu Li cupped his fist and smiled.
Mister Fei was a young alliance leader from Jiang Chuan Alliance. Jiang Chuan Alliance and the River Alliance controlled the river trading together so he needed to find out more about it.
Soon after, a ladder was put down from the big boat. Two beautiful maids got off the boat to the small boat and held Siao Shi as they went aboard the big boat.
Siao Shi allowed the two maids to hold her to the boat.
Meanwhile, the two beautiful maids secretly sighed. The Young Master really had a good eye. It was clear that the woman with the white veil came from a wealthy family and had an unusual background. The other Young Master was probably not a common figure too.
Once they boarded the big boat, their view suddenly widened.
Han Fei gestured Chu Li and Siao Shi to take a seat.
After Chu Li sat down and took the wine that the beautiful maid offered, "Mister Fei, I've actually heard of your great name before."
"Oh--?" Han Fei smiled and said, "Not a very good reputation. Please don't laugh at me, I still don't know your name, brother"
"I'm Chu Li," Chu Li said.
"Brother Chu," Han Fei raised his white jade glass, "Come, it's lucky to meet such a friend with a good eye in our chanced meeting. Here's a toast to you, Brother Chu!"
"Please!" Chu Li held the white jade cup up and drained all the wine in one shot.
That gave a favorable impression to Han Fei. He no longer hesitated and was not afraid that he would be poisoned. It was clear that Chu Li was a straightforward and upright man.
The pretty maid who shot the lancet previously filled up Chu Li's cup with wine again. Chu Li nodded to thank her.
Han Fei smiled and asked, "Madam, do you drink?"
Siao Shi shook her head.
Han Fei bowed to apologize then smiled at Chu Li, "Brother Chu, are you going to Chong Ming Town for work or for travel?"
"My home is in Chong Ming Town," Chu Li said.
"That's such a coincidence. I'm heading towards Chong Ming Town too," Han Fei laughed happily, "I heard that the New Moon Brothel in Chong Ming Town is the best in the world. All the ladies in the brothel are beautiful and have a stunning consummate art of skill of their own and it's different every night!"
Chu Li laughed and replied, "Indeed, their songs and dances change every day but the New Moon Brothel is a money-squandering establishment. You'll never have enough money to spend."
Han Fei became even more excited, "I heard that the entrance fee itself costs two hundred taels?"
Chu Li nodded.
Han Fei asked, "Is it true that the ladies in New Moon Brothel do not prostitute themselves?"
Chu Li laughed and explained, "The ladies in New Moon Brothel must be virgins. If they're no longer a virgin, they'll either become a chief or leave the New Moon Brothel."
"If this was about somewhere else, I won't believe it!" Han Fei held up the white jade cup and downed his drink, "But if it's the New Moon Brothel, so I believe it. Well, the House of High Dukes is their supporter!"
Chu Li smiled, "Mister Han, you haven't been there at all?"
"I came from a strict family so I'm not allowed to go there," Han Fei shook his head and lamented, "It was really a regret!"
Chu Li took a glance at the four beautiful maids then laughed, "With these four Misses here, there's no need for you to go to the New Moon Brothel, Mister Han."
"That's not the same," Han Fei waved his hand and laughed.
The four beautiful maids glanced over for a while and forced a smile.
Chu Li said, "I heard from the boatman just now that Clan Leader Zou is the brother-in-law of the mayor of Town of Clouds and the fifteen mayors are united. Is that really so?"
Han Fei put down the white jade cup and smiled then said, "Whether it's true or not, how could an outsider tell? It's all but a blurred vision."
"Mister Han, can you clear my doubts?" Chu Li finished his drink again.
"I'm delighted!" Han Fei drained all the drink from his cup and laughed, "The Jiang Chuan Alliance is a place for the poor for them to fend themselves. We are not associated with the officials and usually have human relations too. But after all, we're an association that seeks for a living by the river whereas the River Alliance is different they are considered to be the officials'."
Chu Li raised his brows, "Why do you say so?"
Han Fei laughed, "Brother Chu, I'm telling you all these because I think that it's your liking. Nobody knows the background details of the River Alliance but I know it very well. The alliance leader Bao Shaoan is a faade. The person in charge is the mayor of the fifteen towns. They will send one person from each town into the alliance to discuss matters together."
"Aren't they afraid of the Imperial Court?"
"Hah, so what if the Imperial Court finds out? They didn't offend anyone. For all you know, the Imperial Court might have even acquiesced in their acts!"
Chu Li nodded slowly, "With the both of them colluding together, they really can take over the world and do anything at their will!"
"There's nothing anyone can do. Our Jiang Chuan Alliance used to be able to compete with them but if this goes on, it will be difficult instead," Han Fei shook his head, "But in the end, they can't leave our men here at the riverside. They need us to work for them."
Chu Li sighed, "If the Imperial Court really finds out about this, then they've really broken through the sky and are even connected with the imperial family."
Han Fei's face slightly changed, he smiled and said, "It looks like you're a man from the bureaucracy, Brother Chu."
For someone to be able to look past the blurred and vague vision to reach such a statement, he was definitely not a common civilian.
Chu Li shook his head, "I have nothing to do with the bureaucracyit's just that the River Alliance is so rampant, looks like there's no way out of that issue."
"You're just denying it," Han Fei laughed, "Unless the House of High Dukes can do something about it but it's unfortunate that the House of High Dukes cannot interfere with the matters here, whatever it is. The people are the unlucky ones so our men have to put in the effort to practice martial arts and get out of the ruck."