Despite the fact that it was late at night, the entire Zhou household burst to life at the Zhou patriarch’s command. The cooks were pulled out of beds, sleepy and confused, to cook up a last-minute feast.
The remaining helpers sneezed and yawned as they squatted in the kitchen’s yard washing and peeling vegetables, the maids scattered water and fresh flowers around the main paths, the handmaidens on welcoming duty in the front hall or serving food quickly helped each other dress up and apply makeup.
Once Chengfeng was cleaned up and arrived in the main hall, the entire hall was lit with lanterns and lights, and within the hallway and foyer, two luxuriously dressed pretty maidens stood every three steps of the way, curtseying when Chengfeng passed.
These tens of young, beautiful servants were proof that the Zhou clan had the riches to call itself the head of Tong’an city’s six great clans. It was no exaggeration, further proven by the exquisite spinning lights from Kuiqi Kingdom, the rug made of snow fox fur and an intoxicating incense from the south.
An aura of opulence wafted from every corner, displays of luxury in every direction. Although they were not as awe-inspiring as Hidden Brocade Court, they were already as luxurious as it gets within the mortal realm.
Chengfeng scoffed: the decorations and arrangements made for the feast were enough to pay the debts owed by all six clans; they're as rich as a kingdom but too calculative for their own good!
He did not understand: where were their brains?!
They did not seem to know how to be content!
Chengfeng switched his demeanour to one fit for a descendant of his clan, strolling slowly. His luxurious clothes did not seem out of place on him, his noble yet reserved behaviour caused every subordinate and maid to change their minds, no longer considering him that intimidating brute who lifted a man’s head outside.
The Zhou patriarch was surprised too. He had long been sitting at the head seat in the centre, he could not help but smile when Chengfeng appeared with a nobleman’s aura, “How do you find the clothes, kind saviour?”
Chengfeng’s eyes circled the entire room, seeing all sorts of food spread out on the table long enough to fit ten people, yet there were only two chairs; four beautiful servants stood along the sides. He smiled. “My surname is Li, I don’t think I saved you either. I am just here for the money, there is no need for formalities.”
As he spoke, Li Chengfeng sat down shamelessly- his demeanour of a noble gentleman, yet his words more fitting for a street gangster, “I know you’re all unwilling to pay up but rules are rules. I don’t know when these rules appeared, or when they were set, I wasn’t here yet. But since there are rules, and it is now my turn to enforce it, I’ve got to follow them too, don’t you agree?”
Obviously, Zhou Guangfa could not say now. He sat humbly, then lifted a jug of wine, pouring a cup for him. “Yes yes, you’re right, Mr Li! Although our Zhou clan seems huge, and everything here looks expensive, they are just accumulations of many years’ work. In terms of cash flow, we simply do not have the required amount at the moment, please allow for a few days, sir.”
Chengfeng laughed heartily. “A few days? Alright!”
Zhou Guangfa was ecstatic. “You’re a generous and reasonable man, Mr Li! The entire Zhou clan will forever be grateful!”
Chengfeng grinned. “But the Spiritual Mountain Sect has a deadline too!”
Zhou Guangfa’s smile froze, then asked awkwardly, “You mean…”
With a half-smile, Chengfeng replied, “On the day we arrived in Tong’an, we only had no more than three days left, but due to your welcome, we stayed half a day in the Zhou dungeons. After tomorrow, we won’t have much time left! Once the deadline arrives, please put in a good word for me when you meet the Martial Uncles of Spiritual Mountain!”
Zhou Guangfa’s smile looked pathetic due to the extreme awkwardness. “You jest, Mr Li.”
Li Chengfeng picked up the wine jug, then poured a cup for Zhou Guangfa with a smile. “Jokes are easy to crack but lies are hard! Especially in front of such a smart man like you, Master Zhou, it will be even more difficult to lie, right?”
Zhou Guangfa’s back was drenched in sweat. He had travelled far and wide and done many negotiations but this was his first time losing this badly!
Why was this young man so difficult?
Chengfeng lifted the cup, as if about to drink it all, but when the cup arrived at his lips, under Zhou Guangfa’s watchful gaze, he stopped and smiled. “When the deadline arrives, I’m afraid I’ll be punished at Spiritual Mountain. When that happens, my other brothers at Spiritual Mountain won’t be as reasonable as me!”
You’re reasonable? You trespassed into my property, killed the Profound Life disciples and now pushed us into a corner!
Zhou Guangfa’s hand shook as he lifted the cup, his expression flickering. After a moment, he forced a smile, “I… will do my best to fulfil your requests! Please let us know if you have any requests.”
Zhou Guangfa naturally turned on his businessman’s strategy: in a negotiation like this, who wouldn’t set out to earn a little something for themselves?
Previously, was there even a single disciple who did not privately take a chunk for themselves, leaving with pouches full of gold?
On the other hand, did Chengfeng lack money? Yes!
But would one million silver pieces change his current predicament? No!
That was why he did not want money!
He only wanted to survive this challenging obstacle, then become stronger!
Chengfeng smiled, his eyes darted at the window, then quickly looked back at Guangfa, “Requests? I only have one: at noon sharp tomorrow, I want to see the Zhou clan’s debt paid fully in silver pieces. I will not take anymore, but definitely will take no less!”
Zhou Guangfa fell silent, privately disappointed: why was this young man not tempted by money?
Li Chengfeng lifted the cup with a smile and said, “If not, I would not know who to drink this wine to!” As he spoke, he poured it on the ground, until all the expensive wine in the cup was gone, then placed it on the table.
He saluted them, “It’s been a long day, it’s very late now. I won’t overstay my welcome, Master Zhou. We’ll meet tomorrow! Farewell!”
When he finished, Chengfeng flung his sleeve and strode away, leaving the frozen Zhou Guangfa.
Chengfeng arrived at the door, thought of something and turned around. “Right, I have one more request.”
Zhou Guangfa’s hopes were raised: he still is a young man, he must have been tempted by a beauty like Bao Lian, right? He must be asking for Bao Lian!
Everybody has their own weakness. This young man sat before a feast of good wine and good food but touched nothing, then asked for not even a single piece of silver- he must have great self-discipline for these things but… a beauty as a temptation a young man cannot resist! Everybody has a weakness!
Zhou Guangcai sat up to look at him hopefully but Chengfeng turned and grinned. “I want the money in a check that can be cashed in any of the four major Daqi banks, I don’t want actual silver pieces!”
Chengfeng then left, leaving Zhou Guangfa who fell back into his chair.
After a long, terrifying silence, firelight from the candles danced eerily. Chengfeng did not drink a single drop of wine, and left a table full of luxurious food. A beautiful servant whispered, “Master, the food…”
Zhou Guangfa suddenly exploded in rage, “GET OUT! GET OUT NOW!”
The maidens and servants dispersed immediately, leaving the hall empty save for the Zhou patriarch, his expression flickering.