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Book 5 Chapter 21 - Seventeen Alleys, One Port, Three Markets

Immortal Devil Transformation
     There was a lot of rainfall around Breath River during the beginning of summer. At twilight, a fine drizzle scattered down.

    A black silk-clothed rough robust man, his hair bound behind his head with grass rope, straw sandals on his feet was sitting under a small shop that sold deep-fried dough cakes, but doubled as a tea shop, slowly eating a deep-fried dough cake.

    An accountant-like green-clothed middle-aged man held a black tarpaulin umbrella, walking over. After giving him a nod, he sat down in front of him.

    “The other party accepted it, but he said that the three thousand taels was what Fourth Grandpa Zhu gave Elder Mo as compensation, used as an apology.” The accountant-like green-clothed middle-aged man’s expression was a bit lifeless. He minded his own business, picking up a deep-fried dough cake from the saucer, at the same time saying this quietly without much expression.

    “This is a bit too unyielding. This is three thousand taels we are talking about, not thirty taels.” Pu Feng furrowed his brows, saying quietly, “How did he react upon seeing Zhuang Juan’s stab?”

    The accountant-like green-clothed middle-aged man still spoke in a lifeless manner, “Zhuang Juan said that he was a fierce figure, his brows not even furrowing, definitely someone who has witnessed blood and death… Zhuang Juan also said that the other party didn’t even say anything extra, the feeling he gave off not like someone who had just left to serve as an official, but rather like an old arrester who had already served for five or six years, someone who specializes in dealing with great bandits.”

    The accountant-like green-clothed middle-aged man nodded. “Alright, then tomorrow, we are going to send Lu Fengniang over?”

    Pu Feng nodded.

    The accountant-like green-clothed middle-aged man grabbed the half eaten deep-fried dough cake and then walked out. At the same time, he asked quietly, “How is Second Grandpa Zhang’s health?”

    When he asked this, his face that was always lifeless like the river bank’s evening mist actually produced a bit of true concern.

    Pu Feng gave his rear figure a look. “Not good at all.”

    The accountant-like green-clothed middle-aged man didn’t ask any more questions. He shrunk his neck, and then prepared to enter the fine rain.

    “If there is a chance, send a bit of Silver Hook Lane’s wind over to this Young Sir Lin’s ears.”

    Right at this time, Pu Feng quietly said this. Then, he muttered to himself, “If you wish to make this East Port Town a bit cleaner, it will depend on whether you have the guts and ability to purge those truly dark waters.”

    Pu Feng, who didn’t have any reputation in East Port City, was precisely one of Fourth Grandpa Zhu’s most capable backbones, this outwardly rough looking individual had a manner of speech and meticulous thoughts that didn’t match his appearance at all. He was like a black fish that normally hid in Breath River’s silt, nor revealing any ripples normally, but was extremely dangerous to the shrimps and crabs,

    Only, what even he didn’t know, was that the green-clothed middle-aged man who was originally supposed to be as loyal to Fourth Grandpa Zhu as himself, after eating half a deep-fried dough cake, instead walked into an ordinary wine shop in another alley.

    Then, this accountant-like green-clothed middle-aged man held his umbrella that was still dripping wet and moved away a cloth curtain in the wine shop, entering the rear private booth.

    Towards the one in the private room behind the bamboo hanging screen, this lifeless green-clothed middle-aged man said simply and directly, “Second Grandpa Zhang’s condition is extremely bad. Fourth Grandpa Zhu and Pu Feng wish to borrow this gust of wind to blow things a bit.”

    “Great, who would have thought that in the few days I was here, such interesting things would happen.” A youngster’s laughter sounded from within. “Let’s see how things play out tomorrow… if this Enforcer really is something, then we can conversely also borrow this wind to blow a bit.”

    …

    “Sir, your respected self might have gone a bit too far with this matter.”

    Within an archway, Du Weiqing had a worried expression while looking at Lin XI, “These three thousand taels aren’t a small amount even for Fourth Grandpa Zhu, who knows how long it’ll take before those Black Oil under him can earn back this much silver. If sir didn’t say anything, privately putting it away, building a relationship with him in the future, regardless of whether these three thousand taels are used to scare sir or really to bribe sir, he and the people under him will feel like it is worth it. However, sir, you directly said these three thousand taels are used to compensate that Elder Mo, this is basically directly saying Fourth Grandpa Zhu surrendered to you, lowered his head. For people like them, this is even harder to accept than even having another three thousand taels!”

    Lin Xi turned his head slightly, giving Du Weiqing and Liang Sansi a look, and then looked at the indiscernible rows of waterfront buildings. With a smile, he instead replied with a question. “Du Weiqing, Liang Sansi, do you know why I only had you two lead the way, and did not let anyone else do this?”

    Du Weiqing and Liang Sansi who were already panic-stricken both stared blankly, unable to help but exchange a look.

    “We do not know.” Du Weiqing quickly shook his head.

    “I had you lead the way because you have courage.” Lin Xi gave him a look, calmly saying, “Previously, when I was questioning Xu Jianling and Liu Tong, both of you were long aware that Xu Jianling had completely infuriated me. If it was normal people, out of fear of angering their superiors, they would naturally speak as little as possible, yet you still dared speak out, explaining many things. Your courage, moreover, speaking so much, were precisely to help Xu Jianling a bit, and also to remind me not to let my emotions affect my decisions too much, which is why I made the judgment that the way you conduct yourself is honest and considerate.”

    After a slight pause, Lin Xi turned around to look towards Liang Sansi, continuing, “As for you, Liang Sansi, I can tell that you are dissatisfied towards Xu Jianling and Liu Tong, and I cannot see much dissatisfaction towards me from your eyes, instead only worry and doubt. That is why you should be a righteous person, it is just that your position is too low, knowing that you cannot change much.”

    While looking at these two who were stunned and silent, Lin Xi continued to slowly say, “Actually, I have never been someone who has too much of a sense of hierarchy, but neither of you will likely dare treat me as a friend. What is easiest for you two to understand, is naturally that regardless of whether it is a major tenth rank petty officer or a major first rank great official, they will need some trusted aides. I know practically nothing about this East Port Town, I also need people to help me listen to some news, tell me some ways of doing things, or else who knows how much energy I would end up wasting.”

    “Sir, honestly, I can already tell that you aren’t that type of book reading calf who doesn’t understand how the real world works.” After a bit of hesitation, Du Weiqing revealed a forced smile, saying, “However, if sir really wishes to deal with East Port Town’s unfair matters, the rank of Enforcer really is a bit too low.”

    Lin Xi didn’t get mad, instead smiling and saying, “I obviously understand your misgivings, but are you two willing to make a gamble?”

    “Make a gamble?” Du Weiqing and Liang Sansi gave each other a look, momentarily at a loss for what Lin Xi meant.

    “I want you all to help me do things wholeheartedly.” Lin Xi laughed. He looked at the two of them and said, “I’ve looked over the records pertaining to you two as well. Your families in this East Port Town can only be considered ordinary, so even if there is a bit of ill-gotten gains, I reckon most of it has been eaten up by higher ups, you two could only get the scraps. Either way, you two can pretend to not care that much about me on the surface, but secretly sincerely help me do things, this shouldn’t affect you two that much. I can promise you that in the future, the two of you both won’t stop at only my Enforcer position, so how about it, do you two dare make a gamble?”

    “Sir, since you have already set your resolution, even if there are no benefits, I, Liang Sansi, will definitely do everything I can.” Liang Sansi took a deep breath, and then said while looking at Lin Xi.

    Du Weiqing revealed a bitter smile, saying, “Sir, the things you say are true, instead giving me a bit more confidence. This type of unfair gambit, I will obviously take it on as well.”

    A hint of appreciation flashed past Lin Xi’s eyes. With a smile, he said, “In that case, please guide me to that small building Fourth Grandpa Zhu wants. I will ask that Elder Mo if he can rent me a room.”

    “What?”

    Du Weiqing and Liang Sansi both cried out in alarm. “Sir, your respected self isn’t going to stay in Bamboo Orchid Alley?”

    According to Yunqin’s laws, the local officials all had accommodation arranged for according to their rank. When they got promoted or retired, if there were any damages, they would have to repair and renovate themselves. Most of East Port Town’s publicly owned housing were located in Bamboo Orchid Alley, soldiers patrolling throughout the night, making it extremely safe, moreover easy for them to foster affection with other officials. Normally, unless officials had too many family members, really not big enough to accommodate them, only then would they move to other residences. However, Lin Xi was only a single person, yet he wanted to live in that small building, his intention was extremely clear.

    Lin Xi smiled and said, “Fourth Grandpa Zhu, even though he is known to act with propriety, even if he doesn’t immediately trouble me, he will still trouble others, especially that outsider Wang Buping. Moreover, Fourth Grandpa Zhu, this type of person has always set his eyes on Elder Mo’s small building, so I reckon that small building’s view is definitely extremely fine.”

    Du Weiqing knew that Lin Xi already thought things through extremely well, and as such, he didn’t try to advise against it either, only leading the way while explaining, “That small building really is quite excellent. Mo Family has produced two Accountants, the small building that they passed down carrying great significance. Not only is this entire small building made of redwood, the main pillar in the center is even made of yellow rosewood. Moreover, there is even a small courtyard terrace made of stone facing the water, facing precisely the wide river scenery. On the other side, there is even a small mountain above an Apricot Flower Tree. When the apricot flowers bloom, the view from that terrace truly is wonderful, quite a few literary officials leaving behind calligraphy there. It is rumored that Fourth Grandpa Zhu long offered four thousand five hundred taels, but Elder Mo has a bit of an unyielding scholar temper, saying that for people like Fourth Grandpa Zhu, even if he just rented out a room or two, it would ruin the building’s refined aura. It was perhaps these words that thoroughly offended Fourth Grandpa Zhu.”

    Lin Xi nodded, and then calmly asked, “Purely talking about heart, how do you two feel about Fourth Grandpa Zhu and the others.”

    “The people under him are arrogant and overbearing, aggressive and violent, cases of injuring others not few.” Du Weiqing muttered to himself, saying this very carefully, fearing that his words would leave Lin Xi with any mistaken judgment. “However, normally, he almost never provokes the residents, even if he is an evil tyrant, it is only when hustling for business. That is why this time, forcefully asking for Elder Mo’s building, many people feel like it is because Elder Mo’s words offended him.”

    “Are there any people above him?” Lin Xi chuckled, and then asked.

    Du Weiqing shook his head. “There shouldn’t be any. Previously, Second Grandpa Zhang already said that they won’t sit in the same boat with one or two others, or else it would be easy to fall over the boat together with them. The meaning of this is actually quite clear, precisely that Breath River has always existed, but the large ships don’t always exist. Those officials will leave just like the waves, or they will fall from power. It is precisely because they understand this well that even though East Port Town and the officials above have been exchanged many times, the ones who manage Black Oil and Stone Rats are still them.”

    “Sir, what Xu Jianling said before isn’t everything.” At this time, Liang Sansi cut into the conversation, saying, “Second Grandpa Zhang, Fourth Grandpa Zhu and the others, what they manage aren’t only East Port Town’s Black Oil and Stone Rats, but rather most of the Black Oil and Stone Rats from Aleurites Town in the upper reaches down to our East Port Town.”

    “The number of Black Oil and Stone Rats doesn’t really matter, the key is how many truly formidable figures there are.” Lin Xi gave Liang Sansi a look, seriously asking in a soft voice, “Are there any cultivators among them?”

    “Cultivators? Could it be…” Liang Sansi and Du Weiqing were both shocked, their eyes gathering on Lin Xi.

    Lin Xi’s expression was calm, no clues visible.

    “It is rumored that Second Grandpa Zhang is a cultivator, as for the rest, I do not know.” Du Weiqing took a deep breath, and then slowly said, a chill continuously spreading in his body. An ordinary bailiff like him naturally wouldn’t associate Lin Xi with being a student from the empire’s three great academies, he only thought that if Lin Xi was already a cultivator at such a young age, then things really were a bit too outrageous.

    “There are cultivators?” Lin Xi’s brows furrowed. He looked at Du Weiqing, “Tell me about this East Port Town’s real circumstances.”

    Du Weiqing nodded. “According to our Enforcer Office’s many years of established standards, normally, we will separate this East Port City into seventeen alleys, one port, and three great markets.”

    “The seventeen alleys precisely refers to the seventeen alleys closest to the river. Our East Port Town, the closer it is to the river, the more concentrated the houses and shops, layer upon layer, personnel also extremely complicated. The single port refers to the great eastern harbor, most of the goods will be loaded and unloaded there, various merchant ships also docked there. The three markets are respectively the fish market, South North Goods Market, and River Bank Night Market.”

    “Apart from these places, they all have some residences of East Port Town’s older residents. Apart from the rare cases of adultery, brothers dividing up a family unevening, there aren’t many matters normally at all.”

    “Of the people from all different trades, apart from Fourth Grandpa Zhu who is in charge of labor and sand business, Fatty Xu who is in charge of the fish market also has great influence. Most of these fellas were born from fish households or fish peddling families, so they aren’t afraid to use blades, the aim of their harpoons also extremely precise. South North Goods Market and most of gambling spots in East Port Town are under Old Ghost Ning. There’s a fella named Fan Jinya under Old Ghost Ning who is in charge of their loan shark business, issuing out high-interest loans for gambling in the casinos, thus causing some people to lose their family fortunes. The River Bank Night Market mostly consists of the Night Fish Steak Restaurant, Flower Lane Brothel, and the exchange of some archaic objects, originally managed by Liu Beiwang, but ever since Silver Hook Lane was opened, it was rumored that Liu Beiwang even wants to get involved on this side. The boss of this Silver Hook Lane is someone from Aleurites Town, surnamed Gao, unknown what kind of background he has.”

    Ever since he became a cultivator, Lin Xi’s senses regarding some fine details around him became sharper, and he learned the benefits of being more careful from Hua Jiyue. Right now, he clearly sensed that when Du Weiqing was talking about Silver Hook Lane, he wanted to say something, but hesitated. As such, he gave Du Weiqing a look. “It seems like you seemed to have something else you wanted to say about this Silver Hook Lane?”

    Du Weiqing, after a bit of hesitation, still spoke about it. “This Silver Hook Lane should originally only have some slightly higher grade brothels, yet many rich merchants from the upper reaches of the river would come down from time to time to visit, so there are people who suspect that it might be related to the missing cases from the towns in the upper reaches. However, because there is no proof, these cases could only be dropped.”

    “Then this means that there might be a chance that women from respectful families were kidnapped for the sake of satisfying public degenerate pleasures?” Lin Xi was a bit stunned, his footsteps also couldn’t help but stop.

    “If this really is the case, then this Silver Hook Lane definitely has a huge background.” Du Weiqing took a deep breath. He looked at Lin Xi and said, “Sir, your respected self should also understand that this is a tremendous crime that will result in the decapitations of many people.”

    Lin Xi nodded. His eyes passed through the fine rain, staring at the water surface and dripping boardwalk.

    He wasn’t scared of making things bigger, not only because Fourth Grandpa Zhu was a bandit, while he was an officer, the most important thing was that his background was extremely tough.

    As someone who came from the same world as Principal Zhang, he knew that in officialdom, having people backing you from above was the most important.

    He was a Green Luan Academy student, and he also knew that the imperial princess would appropriately pay attention to him, which was why he just needed to continue in an upright manner. He didn’t have to worry about just how many nests he poked, not to mention that he still had a favor from Yuhua Family to cash in.

    That was why while he and Peng Xiaofeng chatted, he already said that if he was a small fish, then the others here could only be shrimp.

    Those who could truly pose a threat and cause true trouble were only those Thunder Academy and Green Luan Academy’s great golden spoons. However, he has a powerful ability not even Gao Yanan knows about, so he didn’t really worry much, just acting as he pleased.

    If this type of huge matter really was going on here, then Lin Xi’s trip here really had value.

    This East Port Town’s misty rain was like something out of a painting, the scenery not outdone by those sunny south towns. Moreover, most of Yunqin’s wooden buildings used tung oil, the tung oil business along this river not stopping anytime soon, so this East Port Town would definitely become even more prosperous in the future.

    The fewer the unpleasant things in this type of place, the more beautiful it would become, and the more comfortable and unrestrained it would feel to live here.

    In the past, the reason why Principal Zhang did so much was perhaps also because he found it uncomfortable, unable to put up with it.

    …

    Wang Buping carefully cut some green bamboo under a small building’s veranda eaves.

    Suddenly, he froze slightly, standing up, bowing respectfully towards the fine rain in front of him. “Sir Lin, why did you come here?”

    “I heard that the scenery here in this small building was exceptionally fine, and sure enough, I can see that it is even better than I imagined it. From the looks of it, the master of this place already agreed to rent a room out to you.” Lin Xi placed his rainwear on the rocks on the side, and then smiled towards this stubborn and unyielding youngster, starting to size up this small building.

    Sure enough, this small building could be described as refined and outstanding. Even some fine areas had extremely exquisite and auspicious carvings, the redwood full of fine wood lines, after the accumulation of time, it even more so displayed a type of sparkling and glossy feel.

    From the wide open front and rear doors, he could see an expansive terrace up ahead, the terrace reaching past the river, the river like a refreshing open field.

    “The reason I came here is because I wanted to ask the owner if he was willing to rent me a room to live in too.” After retracting his gaze from this two-story wooden building that wasn’t all that small, Lin Xi looked at Wang Buping, saying this with a smile.

    Wang Buping stared blankly for a moment. Right at this time, a thin bearded elder dressed in clearly shabby hemp garment, his body covered in ink traces walked out. Despite the age difference, he gave Lin Xi a deep respectful bow. “This elder thanks Sir Lin for your grace. If Sir Lin really finds this place favorable, your respected self can reside in the Pine Bamboo Chamber.”