Edited and Proofread by KitKat
The clerk ‘pei’d at An Chang Qing and chased the three of them out of the store rudely.
Seeing his bold and skillful behavior when hushing them out without any guilt, An Chang Qing could guess that this was not his first time doing so. An Chang Qing frowned and said to the clerk, “If you continue to do business this way, I’m afraid this store won’t last.”
The clerk sneered, “You’re such a busybody. I don’t have time to deal with you. Leave, leave, leave!”
Just as he had stopped talking, the store manager was coming down the stairs while laughing and chatting with a man dressed in expensive clothes. Seeing that the clerk was still at the door, he urged, “Zhang Si, what are you doing? There’s still a batch of clothes in the warehouse, go and clear it up…”
The clerk lowered his head and complained, “I’m going now. These people here say that our clothes are too expensive.”
He then ignored the three and scurried to the back room.
The store manager sized them up before coming close and cupped his hands, “So you think that our clothes are expensive?”
Seeing that the manager’s attitude was a lot better than the clerk’s, An Chang Qing was slightly relieved, thinking that it was probably just the clerk who was unruly. He nodded and said, “That’s right. Two silver taels for a cotton-padded robe is too expensive.”
“Then there’s something that you don’t know,” the store manager stroked his beard and proudly continued, “Tian Yi Fang is not like other stores, our tailors made clothes for dignitaries all over Yejing, so naturally, our price should be higher.”
“Even if it’s sewn by the palace’s tailors, isn’t it still a cotton-padded robe?” Anfu couldn’t hold back and said, “The price is too high compared to any other stores, how can you do business this way?”
The manager’s face slightly twitched. He restrained himself and smiled reluctantly, “This is simply buying and selling. You’re willing to buy, we’re willing to sell. You can’t blame us for our pricey products just because you can’t afford them.”
An Chang Qing initially thought that since the store manager was polite towards them, he must be different from the clerk but now it seemed that the management of this store had turned into a nest of snakes and mice.
Anfu was about to retort but An Chang Qing waved his hand, “Forget it, let’s go have a look at another store.”
He was only here to inspect the store and inadvertently bumped into this situation. However, he had no intention of rectifying this problem on the spot and therefore, did not disclose his identity. Rather, it was imminent he used this opportunity to survey the other stores.
Unexpectedly, even when he did not want to cause trouble, trouble came to him. The man who came down with the manager had been silent all this while but when he saw that An Chang Qing was about to leave, he smiled and said, “Wait a moment, young sir.”
An Chang Qing turned and looked at him, “Is there something wrong?”
The man who spoke was roughly over twenty. He had a round build with big and fleshy arms. The large body was squeezed into a red brocade robe like a piece of white dough wrapped in regal fabric. The man had a folding fan with him even in the winter, trying to look scholarly. He opened his fan and said, “The clothes of Tian Yi Fang are really good. If you want, you can just pick any and I will pay for it.”
“I don’t accept rewards without merit,” An Chang Qing could tell from his eyes that the man bore evil intentions. He gave him an unfriendly look before turning to leave.
Unfortunately, when the lump of dough saw that he was leaving, he went over and blocked his way, “Don’t worry, you’re very pleasing to my eyes and I only wanted to be friends. My store is also on this street, why don’t you come back with me and pick whatever you like?”
His words were getting disrespectful. He even reached out his hand to grab An Chang Qing. An Chang Qing was about to fend him off but Zhou He Lan was faster than him. He stood in front of An Chang Qing and gave the plump white face a big fist.
The dough lump covered his eyes and howled grievously, “How dare you hit me! Are you all dead?! Come out here and tie them up!”
Suddenly, six or seven sturdy men from nowhere dressed in servant uniforms came and surrounded the trio.
The people on the streets saw the crowd and gathered to watch the excitement.
Worrying that this might invite unwanted troubles, the store manager hesitated before trying to dissuade the man, “Young Master Zhao, this is a public place after all, we shouldn’t make a big scene, let’s forget this.”
Young Master Zhao looked at him angrily, “Forget this? The person who has the guts to hit me has not been born yet!”
“Bring me the good-looking one,” he rolled up his sleeves and said viciously, “I will personally teach him a lesson.”
The henchman heard the order and approached An Chang Qing. An Chang Qing was not going to stand there and be a sitting duck, he was about to announce his identity when he heard the henchman screaming while writhing on the ground in pain.
Xiao Zhige arrived in the nick of time and guarded An Chang Qing behind him. A cold light flashed in his eyes, “Who was it that dared to make a move on my Wangfei?”
His everyday expressionless face was already terrifying enough, now that he was angered, he looked all the more violent. His cold eyes seemed to hide daggers that could stab through anyone he looked at.
The white lump of dough had now turned whiter. His legs gave in and he fell to the ground begging, “Wang, Wang Ye… It, it’s all a misunderstanding…”
Xiao Zhige put on a murderous smile. His military boots with a nail-studded sole trampled on the man’s hand, “Is it also a misunderstanding if I kill you today?”
The man was terrified beyond words. He shook like a pendulum and could not even muster the strength to beg for mercy. The store manager and clerk were also panic-stricken. They fell to their knees and dared not speak up.
Someone in the crowd suddenly said, “Wangye is going to kill…”
The onlookers who had been watching the commotion immediately dispersed. As for those who were still curious, they stayed hidden far away and continued to watch the scene.
Xiao Zhige was indifferent to his surroundings and continued to stare coldly at the Young Master Zhao whose limbs had now turned into mush.
Clearly there were many people present but the entire street had turned so quiet that one could hear a pin dropping.
Zhou He Lan had heard of the rumors before and looking at Xiao Zhige who now resembled a death god, whatever he had wanted to say could only be kept inside.
Only An Chang Qing was not afraid. He turned to look at the people watching from far away then back at the intimidating Xiao Zhige. He pursed his lips and tugged at Xiao Zhige’s sleeve.
Xiao Zhige looked at him without speaking.
An Chang Qing was not going to do any persuading. He scanned the area and his eyes landed on a large vase which he went over to fetch. He then returned to Xiao Zhige and said solemnly, “Let me do it.”
Xiao Zhige did not respond and only frowned. But in the end, he still stepped aside.
Before the lump of dough even had time to feel relieved, he saw a large vase hanging over his head. By the time he could register fear, the sound of porcelain breaking boomed and the dough lump who had just escaped death was rendered unconscious on the spot.
An Chang Qing dusted his hands and gave him a kick. Satisfied, he said, “How dare you flirt with me?! You’re simply asking for trouble.”
The sight of An Chang Qing baring his fangs and brandishing his claws caused the anger in Xiao Zhige’s chest to dissipate, giving place to a feeling of tenderness and heartthrob. An Chang Qing looked at him and raised his chin proudly. He then said to the frightened servants, “Take him away. Don’t leave him here to be an eyesore.”
The group of servants snapped out of their daze and scurried off with the unconscious lump.
In the end, only the ghastly pale store manager and clerk were left.
An Chang Qing paced a few steps in front of them and said with a smile, “As for you two, I will settle the scores with you later. Anfu, take them back to the manor and lock them up.”
Anfu complied with glee. He kicked the clerk and said fiercely, “Stand up and follow me.”
The duo dared not disobey. They stood up feebly and followed him quickly as though running for their lives.
Anfu escorted the duo away and only Zhou He Lan remained. He glanced at An Chang Qing and promptly made the decision to tag behind Anfu, “I’ll go get the carriage.”
When only An Chang Qing and Xiao Zhige were left at the storefront, An Chang Qing squinted at Xiao Zhige and asked, “Does Wangye recognize this store?”
Xiao Zhige replied, “Yes. It’s mine.”
“And I thought you’d forgotten about it,” An Chang Qing complained, “None of the employees are any good and the clothes are ridiculously overpriced, no wonder Steward Wang said that the shop is getting worse. In the long run, don’t talk about earning, we could incur heavy losses. And the person in charge is so treacherous, I suspect that something shifty is going on behind our backs.”
“It was all under Steward Wang’s care.” Feeling as though he was being accused of something by An Chang Qing’s wave of complaints, Xiao Zhige immediately threw Steward Wang under the bus, “I do not have the time.”
“I’ll deal with them after I’ve combed through the accounts once more.” An Chang Qing was outraged. With Xiao Zhige’s negligence of the businesses, he was certain that this was not the only shop with problems. People like the store manager tend to sail with the wind, if the boss was watching, they would not dare to make any bold moves. Nonetheless, once they were left unattended, these slippery fellows would come up with ideas to reap some profit for themselves.
Tian Yi Fang did not start out this way but due to the long-term managerial laxity, its workers had become insolent.
“Everything is as you say.”
Only when he was appeased did An Chang Qing remember that this morning Xiao Zhige had left for the barracks. He questioned, “Why is Wangye here?”
“Having a drink with some colleagues,” Xiao Zhige answered.
Finally hearing Xiao Zhige mention them, He Lao San who had been watching in silence with the others poked his head out and said, “Wangye was drinking with us in the restaurant over there.”
He Lao San’s charcoal face smiled like a blooming flower, “If Wangfei is free, you can join us. Lao San would like to treat you to some wine.”
When the others heard his bold invitation, they looked at Xiao Zhige and mentally lamented for He Lao San.
As expected, Xiao Zhige’s briefly calmed expression immediately turned dreary. He said with a slight annoyance, “Wangfei can’t drink.”
He Lao San was still unaware of the danger and continued to insist, “If you can’t drink, you can still join us for food. We haven’t had the chance to… umm!”
Before he could provoke Xiao Zhige any further, his colleagues hurriedly covered his mouth and held him down, “We haven’t settled the bill yet, let’s go back and do so. Wangye and Wangfei, please take your time.”
They then dragged He Lao San away and ran off like the wind.
Back at the restaurant, He Lao San was brimming with dissatisfaction. He stared at his colleagues like an angry bull and complained, “What were you guys thinking, I wasn’t finished talking yet!”
The others rolled their eyes at him thinking if they’d let him run his mouth, their days in the barracks for the upcoming year would be a hell pit.
“But I have to say that Wangfei was indeed good-looking. No wonder Wangye rejected all the women just to be with him. And he even hid him so well…” He Lao San smacked his lips and said with envy, “If a beauty like that was willing to be with me, I wouldn’t mind if it was a man.”
“Can you please be quiet? Haven’t you got into enough trouble with that mouth of yours? And don’t forget that Wangfei just threw a vase at someone.”
My good man, that vase was as tall as a kid and he did not even bat an eye when dropping it on the man. And with Wangye’s terrifying temper, no one had ever dared to confront him except the seemingly fragile Wangfei.
What surprised them the most was that Wangye’s anger had instantly vanished. It was about time the tiger found its tamer.
After having his colleagues simplify the matter for him, He Lao San was finally enlightened. At the same time, he also felt a chill at the back of his neck. Oh no, what has he done?
Zhou He Lan came back with the carriage and An Chang Qing got on. Xiao Zhige hesitated momentarily and finally decided to ditch his horse to ride the carriage with An Chang Qing.
In the far distance, the people of Yejing had begun to whisper.
“Wangye’s ferocity is too frightening. Was that the young master of the Zhao family? What rotten luck…”
“But the young master of the Zhao family was asking for it. Even if Wangye ended up killing him on the spot, it’s nothing…”
When someone said this, other listeners also agreed and chimed in. Whoever is not mad when their wife is being harassed and bullied in public?! Wangye was too kind in sparing his life!
They were too used to hearing about Xiao Zhige indiscriminate killings that someone had to bring up this point to deter them from their usual train of thought.
“That’s right! Young Master Zhao had also done many evil things, he deserved it. Even if Wangye had killed him, it’s a blessing to the people!”
“Speaking of which, Wangfei was quite incredible. He had a scholar’s body but is actually quite powerful when hitting someone!”
“Did you get to see Wangfei’s appearance?”
“No, I was too far away but I can tell that he was very charming. Wasn’t all that written in the scripts…”
The people continued to chat happily while the central figure of their discussion was currently buying roast duck at Jufuzhai. Even after the unpleasant incident, he still insisted on buying the delicacy.
When the carriage stopped in front of Jufuzhai, Xiao Zhige alighted and went to order a serving of roast duck. The waiter peered at the carriage while wrapping the duck in oil paper. He said with flattery, “This duck is blessed to be eaten by Wangfei. The manager said that whenever Wangfei wants to eat from our store, just send someone here and we’ll have a freshly roasted duck delivered to the manor.”
The waiter’s bold and enthusiastic banter was unfamiliar to Xiao Zhige who was used to being feared. He frowned slightly and after a few seconds of silence, threw him a silver ingot and returned to the carriage with the roasted duck.
The waiter looked at the payment and hoped: Wangfei, please come again, Jufuzhai’s business will depend on you from now on.
“Why did you want to buy roast duck out of the blue?” An Chang Qing sniffed as he looked at the paper bag in his hand.
“It’s good,” Xiao Zhige handed him the bag and said, “Eat some when we get back.”
An Chang Qing was still filled with curiosity as to why Xiao Zhige suddenly went out of his way to buy the roasted duck but the smell of the duck was truly enticing that he gladly accepted it, “We’ll eat together when we get back.”
Seeing that he liked it, Xiao Zhige’s expression softened considerably, “If you like it, I’ll buy it again for you next time.”
An Chang Qing turned to look at him and their eyes happened to meet. Suddenly, An Chang Qing was able to connect the dots, “Did you buy this especially for me?”
Xiao Zhige responded bluntly with an ‘en’.
An Chang Qing moved in closer to him and concentrated his eyes on him, “Just like the plum pastries?”
The man being stared at answered with another ‘en’.
The smile in An Chang Qing’s face widened and he whispered softly to himself, “Looks like you’re not entirely made of wood.”