“What? You failed to find him? What are you guys doing?” Huang Chen asked with a malevolent expression. They were all within the Huang residence.
Huang Chen was definitely furious. They had spent so much money, to the extent that his brother fell from power to protect him. They spent four thousand seven hundred gold to buy six women but before they could take these women home, they were attacked. The Huang Family had six men protecting the carriage at that time but four of them were killed. “What useless soldiers!”
The six women were all gone from the carriage. Fortunately, the killer was not interested in the Huang brothers or they would be dead. The Huang brothers furiously dispatched his private army to find that barbarian and the women. He had not yet seen any results.
“Young Master. Leader Deng has returned with a carriage!” One person delivered the news while Huang Chen was fuming.
“Deng Tian is back?” Huang Chen asked in delight. Deng Tian was once a noble of the Deng Family but he was now the servant of the Huang Family. He had talent but he was only the leader of the Huang Family’s private army. Obtaining him had been extremely easy. It was because he had talent that the Huang Family wanted him.
“He even brought back the carriage?” Huang Chen was happy. When they were attacked, one carriage had been stolen. If they managed to get back the carriage, it would mean that they got back the women as well.
“Quick! Follow me out!” Huang Chen wanted to go out and greet Deng Tian. However, Deng Tian was faster. He was already in the courtyard by the time Huang Chen arrived there.
“Young Master!” Deng Tian cupped his fist the moment he saw Huang Chen. Although the two Huang brothers were disgraceful, they knew how to take in useful people such as Deng Tian. All of Deng Tian’s peace and comfort here had been arranged by the Huang brothers. That was why Deng Tian was grateful to them.
“Haha! I knew it! How could those useless people be compared to our Leader Deng!” Huang Chen stepped forward and complimented Deng Tian. “And they still call themselves soldiers! It is more likely they got expelled from Jiangxia’s troops!” Huang Chen added. His six bodyguards were from Jiangxia and had survived fighting on a real battlefield before. However, they were now treated as useless people by Huang Chen.
“Young Master!” Deng Tian felt awkward as the six bodyguards Huang Chen was talking about had been elites. In order to protect Huang Chen, four of them lost their lives, one was severely injured, and the remaining one was half crippled.
Huang Chen should not have sneered at them. On top of that, these men were the ones that injured the barbarian enough to leave behind a trail.
“Young Master’s words is too heavy! This one cannot accept those words!” Deng Tian objected.
“Why not? Deng Tian. I must definitely reward you heftily!” Huang Chen laughed and patted Deng Tian’s back. He then rushed to the carriage impatiently and saw several women looking back at Huang Chen in horror.
These women had already been frightened by the barbarian. The barbarian did not kill people with a sword and instead skewer them with the pitchfork. That was a scene that would make too gruesome and frightening for them.
Their fear made them look more lovable. This caused Huang Chen’s wicked thoughts to soar. He immediately took one of those women into his embrace.
Huang Chen then counted the number of women and frowned. There were only five women there. Wasn’t there supposed to be six? He then realized the most valuable one, the barbarian woman, was missing.
“Young Master. We only found this carriage! We could not find the barbarian or the barbarian princess!” Deng Tian cupped his fist in reply.
“Trash! You are all useless trash!” Huang Chen roared angrily. Two thousand seven hundred gold had just disappeared like this. They had not even touched her once. The two brothers had spent so much to obtain her. His brother was even going to be disowned. Now he was being told that they could not find her. Previously he was just praising Deng Tian. Now, he was calling Deng Tian useless as well.
“Yes. Yes.” Deng Tian could only receive the verbal abuse as he was the Huang Family’s servant. Whatever their master says, goes. It was also true that this was due to his neglect. He never expected the barbarian to use schemes. The barbarian had threatened the coachman to keep riding while he escaped in a different direction.
Deng Tian initially followed the trail of blood but gave up when he heard about the carriage.
“I knew it! I knew you would not be able to complete the Young Master’s task!” The housekeeper entered and spoke up while Deng Tian was being scolded by Huang Chen.
“Housekeeper?” Huang Chen’s mood became even worse once the housekeeper showed up. “You as well! Didn’t you follow Deng Tian as well? Why did Deng Tian return first but you only appeared now?”
“Young Master! It is not that I, Huang Jie, do not want to work for your sake. However, Deng Tian had already been bribed by others!” The housekeeper knelt down and lied. Instead of telling Huang Chen that he got shamed by Deng Tian, he instead said that Deng Tian had betrayed Huang Chen.
“Huang Jie! This is venomous slander!” Deng Tian stepped forward to retort. He was already the mortal enemy of the Cai Family. Nobody else except the Huang Family would take him in. “Since when have I received bribes? Last time, your family wanted to enter my troops and become a captain but I refused him. You can hold a grudge but I, Deng Tian, have only been working for the sake of the Huang Family! You are just trying to frame me!”
“Huang Jie! What did you say?” Huang Chen also knew that the housekeeper and Deng Tian were at odds. Normally, the housekeeper would be in charge of the private soldiers as well but Deng Tian was too capable. As a result, the troops did not listen to the Huang Jie. There definitely was a possibility for Huang Jie to want to frame Deng Tian.
“I am framing you? Do I even need to do that?” Huang Jie stood back up and replied to Deng Tian.
“Hmph! Only you would know!”
“Fine! Let me expose your hypocrisy! We will let Young Master see what kind of outsider you are!” Huang Jie then sneered. “Let me ask you! Do you know of the Kuai Family’s Kuai Ran?”
“I do.” Deng Tian nodded in reply.
“Kuai Ran?” Huang Chen became angrier after hearing that name. He and his brother was in this predicament because of Kuai Ran and Wang Shu. His brother had to sacrifice himself to protect him. Huang Chen ignored the fact that they only ended up like this because they were the ones that tried to plot against others and their schemes backfired.
“You know Kuai Ran?” Huang Chen narrowed his eyes. If Deng Tian does not give a proper explanation, he would definitely arrest Deng Tian.
“Yes, Young Master. How many people in Jingzhou do not know of Kuai Ran?” Deng Tian was not an idiot. He would definitely not let Huang Jie get him so easily.
As the only heir to the Kuai Family, Kuai Ran had reputation in Jingzhou. In fact, he had higher reputation compared to the Huang brothers as the Huang brothers need to compete amongst themselves for the inheritance.
“Huang Jie. What do you say to that?”
“Of course I am not talking about just knowing Kuai Ran. I meant that Deng Tian and Kuai Ran have a past!”
“Have a past?”Huang Chen questioned and looked at Deng Tian with suspicion. Having a past meant that they were friends. Kuai Ran and Deng Tian had different statuses. How could they be friends? Even Huang Chen himself treat Deng Tian like a dog.
“Yes.” Contrary to Huan Chen’s expectations, Deng Tian admitted to this. “Me and Kuai Ran do have a past together but just like what you said, it is the past! I know of Kuai Ran during the time the Deng Family was still around!” Deng Tian replied honestly.
Huang Jie did not expect Deng Tian to reply this way. The Deng Family was ruined almost ten years ago. During that time, Deng Tian was also the heir to his family and his status was not any lower compared to Huang Chen. It was normal for Deng Tian to have personal enemies and friends of his own during that time.
“Housekeeper Huang accuse me of accepting bribes. Then let me ask you, where did the provisions in fourth warehouse outside Xiangyang disappeared to?”
The guards at the fourth warehouse were relatively lax compared to the ones guarding the first three warehouses. This is because the fourth warehouse did not have much inside it unlike the first three warehouses which were completely full. Watching over all of these was Deng Tian.
“What happened to the provisions at the fourth warehouse?”
Huang Jie jumped after being questioned. He was the one that embezzled those provisions. He sold those provisions when Zhang Xiu was still around and the money all went to his own pocket. This year, he had planned to buy provisions dirt cheap from the populace to fill up the difference in the fourth warehouse. He never expected Deng Tian to throw him out early.
Unable to give an explanation, Huang Chen became even more furious and was prepared to punish Huang Jie.
“Young Master! I beg your forgiveness! I will return the money to the Young Master! I beg your forgiveness!” Huang Jie panicked the moment Huang Chen was about to give the order to arrest him.
“Speak! How much did you sell?”
“One… one…” Huang Jie stammered as he raised a finger.
“One hundred gold?” One hundred gold worth of provisions was about one third of the warehouse. How daring.
“Haha. It is probably more like the entire warehouse!” Deng Tian laughed. He planned to get rid of Huang Jie once and for all.
“An entire warehouse?” Huang Chen smiled angrily1. That was at least three hundred gold. Yet, Huang Chen had underestimated Huang Jie. Huang Jie actually sold it for five hundred gold. If he waited until a bumper harvest, he could leave behind three hundred gold worth of provisions, he could still profit two hundred gold.
“Men! Arrest Huang Jie and put him in the torture chamber!” If a family servant committed a crime, they could be dealt with within the family. They did not need to send him to the government.
“Young Master! Spare me! Spare me!” Huang Jie panicked. If he were sent to the torture chamber, he would be finished. He would definitely die there. If he had been given to the authorities, he would be banished but he could keep his life.
“Young Master. There is no need to send him to the torture chamber. Housekeeper Huang has a lot of savings. The total should definitely be a few hundred gold! If you send him to the torture chamber, you will get nothing!” Deng Tian spoke with the intention of trampling over dying Huang Jie.
“Deng Tian! Young Master! Spare me!”
“Arrest him!” Huang Chen’s eyes shone. He had no interest in Huang Jie but he definitely had interest in the man’s wealth.
“Fine! Deng Tian! Since you are so unkind, I am taking you with me! Young Master. Since I have served the Huang Family for so long, allow me to speak my last words.” Huang Jie gritted his teeth and glared at Deng Tian.
“Just like what I said earlier, this Deng Tian has accepted bribes and have long since betrayed Milord!”
“You are still trying to frame me?” Deng Tian shouted back as Huang Chen did not forbid Huang Jie from speaking.
“Then let me ask you. Did we find traces of the barbarian when we chased him?”
“Yes.” Deng Tian nodded. It was hard to hide the smell of blood. On top of that, the attacked happened near the Huang Family residence so the soldiers were able to dispatch quickly.
“Did the figure disappear around the time we met Kuai Ran’s group?” Huang Jie asked again.
“Then why did you not search their carriage?” Huang Jie asked. Huang Chen turned his head to look at Deng Tian.
“Young Master. Kuai Ran is also a noble’s son while I am just a servant. How could I act against him? Huang Jie were you trying to provoke a war between the Huang Family and the Kuai Family?” With Kuai Ran there, Deng Tian did not dare to act. It would have been better if Huang Chen was also there. The both of them had similar status so Huang Chen could act. On the other hand, if he were to act, it would be humiliating the Kuai Family as he was only a servant.
“I don’t think that is the real reason! I think you got bribed by Kuai Ran!” Huang Jie sneered at Deng Tian before turning to Huang Chen. “Young Master! This Deng Tian is not only close to Kuai Ran. Kuai Ran even wanted to accept Deng Tian’s son as a disciple!”
“What?” Huang Chen was stunned. This was not a small matter. The Kuai Family was extremely influential. On top of that, the one accepting the disciple was Kuai Ran. Accepting the offer would be a shortcut to success. It would also allow the Deng Family to become nobles again.
It was an extremely enticing offer. What kind of friendship could they have for this to happen?
“Is Kuai Ran not afraid of offending the Cai Family?” Huang Chen also knew about the competition in Jingzhou. There were three factions. The neutral one was the Pang Family and the Lumen Academy. They are the ones that did not care about government matters and does not intervene. They were people that only pursued knowledge.
The second faction was the Kuai Family and Cai Family. Although both families have their disagreements, they were in the same faction as they were the first to follow Liu Biao.
The last faction was the Huang Family and others. They were the group Liu Biao used to keep the power balance. It was why Liu Biao did not only forgive Huang Zu for losing Jiangxia but even gave Changsha away to them. It was all to keep the Cai and Kuai families in check. It was also why the Huang brothers could not deal with Kuai Ran.
It was the Cai Family that was responsible for the destruction of the Deng Family and it was the Huang Family that saved Deng Tian. By taking Deng Tian’s son as a disciple, the Kuai Family would inevitably offend the Cai Family.
“Did that really happen?” Huang Chen’s expression turned cold. It was an offer so good that Huang Chen himself would accept it if he had been in Deng Tian’s position.
Deng Tian looked at Huang Jie meaningfully. He had underestimated the man. Although Huang Jie had already been chased off, he still managed to find out about this. That means that there was a spy amongst his men. Deng Tian had confidence when it comes to training his troops and yet someone was still able to scheme against him. He sighed and ignored Huang Jie to reply to Huang Chen. “Young Master. Kuai Ran had offered to accept my son as a disciple and only asked for loyalty2 but I had refused him.”
“Aiyo? You refused? Are you sure? He only asked for loyalty. Who else could be so close to the Deng Family to say such things?” Huang Jie mocked. There were nobody close enough to the Deng Family to do such things. Even if there were, they would not want to stand out in fear of the Cai Family. On top of that, most of those friendships had been destroyed as they would all want a share of the once colossal Deng Family.
“Huang Jie! You are a vile person trying to sow dissension! I already said I refused his offer! I did not do anything wrong to the Young Master and the Huang Family. I have a clear conscience!” Deng Tian replied firmly.
“A clear conscience? Kuai Ran’s carriage was bloody but you did not search it. Instead, you left after Kuai Ran offered to take your son as a disciple! If this is not taking bribes or betrayal then what is it?” Huang Jie shouted back. Deng Tian could not say anything in reply because most of the things said by Huang Jie was true. When Kuai Ran made that offer, he was certainly moved. In the end, he rejected simply because he did not want his son to get involved in noble family matters. Although he had a good opinion of Kuai Ran, he only left because he heard that the carriage was found.
“Young Master, please punish me!”3 Deng Tian knelt down. Although Huang Jie framed him, Deng Tian also had selfish motives.
“Men! Arrest Deng Tian!” Huang Chen roared. The troops hesitated as Deng Tian was their leader. They were all personally trained by Deng Tian. Amongst the troops, the one nearest Deng Tian had a profound expression. He was most likely the spy.
“Do you not even listen to the Young Master’s orders?” Huang Jie spoke in place of Huang Chen when he saw that the soldiers did not move.
“Leader Deng. Forgive us!” The troops were all selected from families who worked for the Huang Family in other areas. Their entire family depended on the Huang Family to make a living. They had no choice but to obey.
It was just like what happened to Liu Mang at Wancheng. The private army of the nobles there were the common people of Wancheng. Liu Mang had to kill all of them and their families because he did not have enough men to quell a rebellion that may happen if he left them alive.
“Come!” Deng Tian stretched out his hands to be arrested. Just as he was about to be dragged to the torture chamber, Huang Kai appeared. “What’s going on here?”
Huang Chen immediately greeted his brother respectfully the moment he saw him.
Huang Kai dragged his body into the hall with all of his strength. Four thousand seven hundred gold. Even if the Huang Family were to sell him off, they would not be able to obtain that amount. He was now doomed to pay back this amount to the Huang Family. It was not even a matter of whether he could remain the heir. Being able to live was now the best ending he could get.
“Brother. Why are you here? You should go back to your room!” Huang Chen said sincerely. This was not just because they were brothers but because Huang Kai had sacrificed himself to protect Huang Chen. Instead of sharing the burden together, Huang Kai bore the entire thing.
“What happened?” The pale Huang Kai asked again. He had only just woken up. This entire time, he had been unconscious from the shock of possibly being discarded even though he was the heir a little while ago. It would be even stranger if he could stay conscious after such a huge discrepancy. Huang Chen was the one that helped Huang Kai return home.
When Huang Kai woke up, he wanted to discuss something with Huang Chen. He came out after hearing that Huang Chen was in the courtyard.
“Brother. This is my fault. I lost the barbarian princess that was meant for you! This is all because of this damn Deng Tian!” Huang Chen felt guilty. The barbarian princess was two thousand seven hundred gold. It was something Huang Kai exchanged for with his life. The only thing Huang Chen could do now was give his brother a final moment of pleasure before his brother receives his punishment. However, this was no longer possible.
“You lost her? What happened?” Huang Kai frowned. He truly deserved to be called the elder brother. He had gone through various hardships in the past. Even before this, he had already received something worse. He was naturally able to endure this trial.
Huang Chen then explained everything that happened.
“What are our casualties?” Huang Kai asked.
“Only four guards died protecting us!” Huang Chen replied. “The coachmen that the brothel sent and a few of their escorts as well if you want to count them.”
“The brothel also suffered casualties?” Huang Kai’s eyes brightened up. “The brothel’s escorts?”
“Yes. The brothel dispatched three escorts but they died really quickly.” Huang Chen said in disdain. He was originally dissatisfied with his own men. Six people fought against one but four died and one was seriously injured. However, when he compared his men to the three escorts from the brothel, they were significantly better. These three escorts were killed by the barbarian instantly. They were not even able to put up a resistance.
“Haha! Good!” Huang Kai burst out laughing.
“Brother, what’s wrong? Don’t scare me!” Huang Chen became afraid that his brother had gone mad. He was toyed by others when he wanted to scheme against them. On the way home, they got robbed. Huang Chen was afraid that his brother could no longer endure this and went crazy.
“Nothing! I am simply saying that it was good that the barbarian killed these escorts!” Huang Kai said in high spirits.
“Little brother. It seems like I would not be disowned after all!” Huang Kai said excitedly.
“Brother? Are you saying you will pay the four thousand seven hundred gold? How are we going to find that money?” Huang Chen looked at his brother with doubt.
“Who said we are going to pay four thousand seven hundred gold?” Huang Kai sneered.
“Brother. Are you not going to pay?” Huang Chen hurriedly dissuade his brother. The brothel could not be trifled with. The master of the brothel was someone even the Huang Family had to give way to and Huang Kai had already signed the IOU. Huang Chen and Huang Kai may be a big deal elsewhere but they were nothing to the brothel.
“We are definitely paying the brothel but we won’t be paying four thousand seven hundred gold!”
“Brother, what do you mean?”
“The four thousand seven hundred gold is the price of these five women and the barbarian princess, but where is the barbarian princess?”
“She got stolen away by others.” Huang Chen replied.
“Exactly! She was stolen away on the way back! This is the fault of the escorts, not ours! We want to pay but we have not received the goods! If she went missing in our residence, then it would be our fault but this is none of our business! We even pursued and found these five women. Naturally, we would pay for them but not for the barbarian princess!” Huang Kai explained. If the brothel wanted to collect that money, they would have to send a replacement. However, it would be almost impossible for them to find another barbarian princess. Even if they could find one, it would not be two thousand seven hundred gold. In other words, losing the barbarian princess was a blessing. It helped give Huang Kai his life back.
“Little brother! Early tomorrow morning, we will go sell off our properties until we get two thousand gold! Then, we will go and pay the brothel. We must not owe people money.” Huang Kai said with a bright expression.
“Yes. Whatever brother says.” Huang Chen was also happy since his brother was saved.
“Hm? What’s wrong with Deng Tian? Why are you kneeling here? Stand up.” Huang Kai said to Deng Tian. Based on the current situation, Deng Tian losing the barbarian princess should not be a mistake and was instead a meritorious deed.
“Replying to the Young Master. This Deng Tian does not dare!” Deng Tian lowered his head in reply.
“Brother. Although Deng Tian escaped from this mistake, he cannot stand. This person accepted bribes and colluded with Kuai Ran.”
Before Huang Chen could say anything, Huang Jie exaggerated what happened with Deng Tian and Kuai Ran again.
“Colluded with Kuai Ran? Accepting bribes? Haha! What a joke! Deng Tian, just stand up.” Huang Kai waved his hand and allowed Deng Tian to stand.
“Thank you, Young Master.” Deng Tian stood up and replied.
“Young Master! We have evidence and Deng Tian himself admitted to it!” Huang Jie quickly said the moment he saw how Huang Kai treated Deng Tian.
“Deng Tian colluded with Kuai Ran? Do you think I am an idiot? Kuai Ran is the sole heir of the Kuai Family. Do you think he would offend the entire Cai Family for someone insignificant like Deng Tian?” Huang Kai asked coldly.
“Did you see it personally?” Huang Kai asked.
“My subordinate saw it personally.”
“You did not see it personally. What kind of proof is this?”
“Someone told me!” Huang Jie replied, referring to the spy within the private troops.
“Yes!” Huang Jie turned to the troops and wanted to point out the informant. However, that person had already disappeared. That person was too cowardly. It was no longer possible to frame Deng Tian.
“You have no evidence? You point fingers at the leader of the troops without evidence? You are really getting better at this!” Huang Kai shouted. Even after all that’s happened, Huang Kai still had a lot of prestige was still high. This is especially true since they are within the Huang Family’s residence.
“On the other hand, you, embezzled the provisions at the fourth warehouse! Not bad! How much did you earn from this?” Huang Kai asked. His tone became duller. On the other hand, Huang Jie became more afraid. All Huang Kai needed to do was speak and somebody would suffer.
“I profit… a hundred gold.” Huang Jie replied softly.
“Really?” Huang Kai narrowed his eyes.
“Two hundred gold! Two hundred gold!”
“Oh?” Huang Kai measured Huang Jie with his eyes.
“Five hundred gold!” Huang Jie gritted his teeth and lied. The price of the entire thing was only about five hundred gold. After counting the capital and hush money, only one hundred and fifty gold actually entered Huang Jie’s pockets.
Now, Huang Jie said five hundred gold. If he were to add in the capital, he would need to pay up eight hundred gold. That was his entire wealth. He immediately became bankrupt.
Huang Kai looked at Huang Jie and knew that this was the man’s limit. His original plan was to put Huang Jie into the torture chamber and force the man to take out eight hundred gold. Three hundred gold would go to the fourth warehouse while five hundred gold would go to his own pocket. This way, he would already have one fourth of his debt to the brothel.
“Go.” Huang Kai waved and allowed Huang Jie to leave.
“Yes. Yes.” Huang Jie quickly nodded while glaring sinisterly at Deng Tian.
“Deng Tian. You can leave as well.” Huang Kai had already achieved his objective. There was no point for Deng Tian to remain there as well.