“The hardest thing to do in life is to reason with a woman. If you reason with a woman and attempt to convince her to acknowledge that you’re reasonable, you’re basically hopeless as a man.
—— Yun Yang”
Ji Ling was adamant about not leaving until she had spoken her peace. Even her pet monkey seemed to have adopted the place as its home, and it looked like there was no easy way to chase this pair off.
“Miss, it will damage your good standing if you linger on here.” Yun Yang was relentless, “This is, after all, a man’s house.”
“Oh, I absolutely agree!” Ji Ling was positively beaming with delight. “You’d have to agree that we should talk this through quickly, so that I may depart with haste. After all, if I do linger on and my name is tarnished, gossip will inevitably spread. The next thing you know, my family will be outside your door, calling for your head!”
Yun Yang spat out his drink at the temerity of this girl. Pointing at the fox that sat in front of him, he was momentarily speechless with exasperation. With his remarkable skills, he should be the one threatening others. Instead, he found himself being blackmailed by this scoundrel.
“Have I forgotten to mention? My family is huge… much larger than the Eight Symbols1…” the little devil winked.
Once again, words failed Yun Yang.
Lao Mei, standing beside his master, asked in bewilderment, “Miss, surely you exaggerate? The eight most influential families in the world right now are the Eight Symbols. What other families could possibly be more powerful than them?”
Ji Ling pursed her lips thoughtfully. “This mainland is enormous. The more renowned one is, the fewer people will know about them. Take for example, the man who proclaims himself to be the wealthiest person in the city. More often than not, there will be many others who are wealthier, just that they do not wish to flaunt their riches. Do you not know this?”
Even in his irritation, Yun Yang had to admit that this particular piece of wisdom was undeniably true.
“I believe you,” Yun Yang muttered.
“You do?” It was Ji Ling’s turn to be surprised. Yun Yang had taken her at her word? Was he not afraid that she might just be putting on airs or pretending to be someone she was not?
“You have about you an air of elegance, and you are bossy as you are prideful. The disregard you hold for the eight most influential families comes genuinely to you.” Yun Yang continued slowly, “While the Thousand Illusion Monkey is not a mystical beast of the highest tier, its future is limitless, as it has vast growth potential. Although it belongs to you, you keep it as a pet; not as a companion in combat. This obviously shows that your family background is incomparable to that of others. The members of the top eight families could have obtained similar creatures with levels comparable to this monkey, but their purpose in obtaining and training them would be vastly different. Their parents would not have agreed to their young masters and misses’ wanting to keep them as pets.”
Yun Yang was clearly becoming more upset as he spoke, “It looks like I have managed to place myself in hot soup, even though it wasn’t I who started the fire.” Infuriatingly enough, he had already sensed that she was trouble during their previous encounter, but he just couldn’t seem to run away fast enough.
“Miss, what do you ask of me?” Yun Yang inquired. “Speak plainly, as I will not go the extra mile if it is beyond my means.”
Simply put, you won’t force yourself to do it if you can’t. Ji Ling rolled her eyes in contempt. “This would be something simple for someone like you.”
“I shall be the judge of that,” Yun Yang retorted.
“The annual mystical beast tournament will be held at Tiantang City this year.” Ji Ling continued, “A great number of families, including the top eight, will all take part. This is a large event among the second generation of all the great families. Of course, we girls will also be competing against each other.”
“How many ladies will there be in total?” Yun Yang was already cringing in anticipation of the answer.
“Including myself… perhaps a total of thirty-odd?” Ji Ling was not entirely certain..
Hearing her answer, Yun Yang’s face fell, and he felt that he was about to weep.
He had thought it was only this one insufferable girl, but now, he was looking at a whole troupe of them.
“Look, this is just not feasible.” Yun Yang said, “With my dashingly good looks, your friends will inevitably fall in love with me, and I would have signed my death warrant!”
Ji Ling almost choked on the bile that rose in her throat.
She stared at Yun Yang, then nodded slowly. “True enough, you are indeed good looking. Fear not, you don’t have to worry about anything with me around! If you found saw someone you fancy, I’ll even put in a good word for you, seeing as to how you’ve agreed to help me.”
Yun Yang raised his hand, “Hold on! I haven’t agreed to anything yet. You still haven’t mentioned what it is that I have to do.”
“It’s really simple.” Ji Ling said happily, “I’ve come to realize that Ling Ling is really friendly towards you, which means that you have an affinity towards mystical creatures. This is innate, a gift from God, and you should utilize it for something greater.”
Her tone and voice sounded remarkably like that of a scheming witch.
Yun Yang snorted. “It’s only your monkey that thinks so. Others may not feel the same way.”
Ji Ling smirked, “The Thousand Illusion Monkey’s defense mechanisms have always surpassed that of all the other mystical beasts. Why, not even ninth level creatures could hold a candle to it! Since it was so friendly to you, other beasts probably wouldn’t be any different.”
She continued, “For this tournament, each of us has to pair up with a mystical beast lower than the fifth level. Bets are huge in this competition, and of course, there’ll be other bonuses as well.”
Ji Ling grunted, “I’ve lost five consecutive years. This time, I have to win!”
“She lost five consecutive years. You’d think that she’d be used to it by now.” Yun Yang thought with amusement.
“How does the tournament work?” Yun Yang asked, feigning disinterest, despite the mild intrigue that he suddenly felt.
“Again, it’s simple. None of us can cheat, every competitor has to buy their beast in the mystical beast market after arriving at Tiantang City. Ten days later, we’ll compete in obedience, tacit understanding between the creature and its owner, and their abilities; not their innate abilities, but the new ones trained by the owners. This would prove the creature’s dependence on its owner.”
Ji Ling said in frustration, “The last one is rather difficult…”
“Indeed, it is,” Yun Yang agreed.
“…and that is why I came to you,” Ji Ling finished, looking at Yun Yang with shining eyes.
“…” Yun Yang felt like a drowning man, as he waved his hand in protest, “Look, I can’t help you, find someone else. Mystical beast trainers are a dime a dozen in the mainland, why can’t you just hire one?”
“Trust me, if they were that capable, I wouldn’t be here,” Ji Ling said sardonically.
“I’m not helping.”
Yun Yang stood up, his mind set. He refused to dig himself into a hole; even if the Nine Supremes were still here, he would still not put himself in such a tight spot. There would be thirty-odd ladies from all sorts of influential families present. He would be in a grave situation, regardless of who he offended. Yun Yang had a lot of things to accomplish, but joining a mystical beast tournament was not one of them.
Again, Yun Yang stretched his arm out towards the exit, “I cannot help you. Please, leave quickly, or I will have to call for someone to escort you out.”
“You’re really not helping?” Ji Ling squinted her eyes dangerously.
“No!” Yun Yang shook his head vehemently.
“Amazing. Simply amazing.” Ji Ling stomped her feet and turned back to say, “Young Master Yun, think this through properly. If you help now, you would only be helping me. Only you and I would know about this. If you refuse me, I could just walk out onto the street and spread the news. Before you know it, it won’t be just me but all the other thirty-odd sisters running in your direction. Not to mention the young masters as well. I sincerely hope that you can manage all that attention.”
“They may not believe me, but they won’t pass up the chance to find out the truth. When that day comes, you’ll offend everyone if you help only one and if you help none of them at all, well, it’ll still be the same. Harrumph, and good day to you.” Ji Ling turned as if to leave.
“Ah…” Yun Yang could feel his head pounding, “Lady Ji, please hold up.”
Ji Ling spun back and beamed like the cunning little fox she was, “Yes, Young Master Yun?”
Forcing a pained smile onto his face, Yun Yang waved his servant over, “Lao Mei, serve tea, the best that we have. Lady Ji, on a second thought, I think there’s still space for discussion on this matter.”
Ji Ling turned around proudly, her face full of delight for successfully winning the rally. “You’ll agree to help?”
Yun Yang nodded in defeat. “Yes, but I would like to ask, what are the bets involved? And how will you reward me for this? You won’t allow me to help you without recompense, I hope?”
“The men are the ones who make the big bets. It’s only playthings for us girls,” Ji Ling smiled, “Some of us bet on spiritual pills, mystical stones, cultivation methods, seventh or eighth grade mystical pills and whatnots; nothing significant. But among the seven of us sworn sisters, we also decide on who’s the oldest and youngest according to the competition outcome.”
Ji Ling was bitter. “I’ve been the youngest for five years already.”
Yun Yang’s expression grew increasingly dark.
Spiritual pills… mystical stones… cultivation methods… seventh or eighth grade mystical pills and whatnots… nothing significant… she called these playthings!
Do you know how many people in Tiantang City would fight over a spiritual pill? Have you seen the riots that would break out for a mystical stone? Do you know that the whole underground martial arts world would turn into a bedlam over a cultivation method? Do you know a seventh or eighth grade mystical pill…
Forget it, never mind.
Yun Yang was peeved. This was the first time he actually felt like a poor man; like a villager who had never seen the world. The ladies’ bets were already so shockingly decadent, and he wondered what the young masters would bet on.
Throughout his entire internal tirade, Yun Yang remained stoic, “What about my pay?”
“Whatever I’ve won, you will get half of it. That is, assuming I win of course.” Ji Ling offered generously, “What do you think?”
Yun Yang was tempted to say that it was barely sufficient, but he grudgingly admitted to himself that it was more than he had expected.
“Done.” Yun Yang said, “But for me to help you win this tournament, you’ll have to help me obtain some information. Would you agree to that?” The world might not know about the Four Seasons Tower, but it should be common knowledge for these large, influential families.
“What information do you require?” Ji Ling asked.
“I’ll let you know after the tournament. If I can’t win this for you, we’ll forget about this whole farce.” Yun Yang continued, “But if you win, I don’t even mind not receiving my portion of the bet. Just promise to help me find out this particular bit of information. Agreed?”
“Alright, agreed!” Ji Ling nodded easily.
Both of their hands clasped loudly together, sealing the deal.
“I’ve just noticed that your hand is even fairer than that of a lady, and better looking to boot,” Ji Ling observed as she peered closely at Yun Yang’s hand. “Let me take a closer look. Are you a woman disguised as a man?”
A flustered Yun Yang refrained from throttling the girl as he replied through gritted teeth, “My dear miss, would you like me to drop my pants to answer your question?”
1 Eight Symbols (春夏秋冬、东南西北 chūn xià qiū dōng, dōng nán xī běi): Creatively derived from Four Symbols which are four mythical beasts in Chinese mythology who each represent one of the four seasons and one of the four cardinal directions. Literally means spring, summer, autumn, winter, and north, south, east, west – each representing the family name of powerful, honorable families. Four was changed to Eight so that the title of the eight great families would not mislead readers.