Chapter 263: Lord Tian Xuan
Although Sky Cliff City was not as well-known as Red Mist City when it came to commerce nor was it known for military strength like the City of Aurora back in the days before the Aurora Empire was established, it stood as a key location in the Warring States Region nonetheless.
Due to its geographic location on the northern frontier and its proximity to the Misty Mountains, Sky Cliff City had always received numerous benefits from the lords of the northern regions and at times even the Blue Moon Kingdom.
Since Sky Cliff City was practically on the border of the Warring States Region, to ensure the previous status quo, no one dared to antagonize its city Lord due to the fact that if Sky Cliff City were to defect to the Blue Moon Kingdom, the rest of the Northern Regions would fall under jeopardy.
Thanks to this, even though Sky Cliff City was a fairly small city within the grander scale of things, the city lord’s mansion was extremely lavish as his coffers were brimming with riches and wealth from the many bribes and benefits he received.
With the wealth and power under his beck and call, Lord Tian Xuan, like many others in his position, stood unchallenged within his domain and as time went on a tyrant was born within Sky Cliff City. A tyrant who could call for rain and storms as he pleased thanks to the deep roots he had laid down within the surrounding areas.
Today in order to further increase his power and prestige within the surrounding area, Lord Tian Xuan had elected to marry the youngest daughter of a lord of the Blue Moon Kingdom.
Situated in a similar position as Sky Cliff City, Black Star City, which was located within the borders of the Blue Moon Kingdom, had wished to form an alliance with Lord Tian Xuan who had in turn sent a marriage proposal as a response.
As the wedding between Lord Tian Xuan and the youngest daughter of Black Star City’s Lord had been decided many months ago and all manners of preparations had been long since underway, despite the attacks on the neighboring villages, the wedding wasn't going to be postponed.
Rather, making use of his wedding as an excuse, Lord Tian Xuan had actually decided to make a hefty sum off of the people living in and entering Sky Cliff City.
Seeing it as killing two birds with one stone, stuffing his pockets full and showing his authority, Lord Tian Xuan could be seen with a wide grin on his face as he greeted the guests attending his wedding.
“Thank you for attending.” Lord Tian Xuan said with a hearty laugh as one of his guests handed him a large brocade box. Despite appearing to only be in his late fifties, Lord Tian Xuan was actually about three hundred years old. As a warrior of the eighth rank, on top of aging much slower than everyone else, his lifespan was also significantly longer than the average person.
“Take this and put it with the rest.” Lord Tian Xuan said to one of his servants as he handed over the large brocade box he was holding. With a nod, Lord Tian Xuan’s servant silently took the large brocade box and placed it on a large table piled with gifts of various shapes and sizes.
Holding to gain favor, forge relationships and appease the tyrant of the north, many people were in attendance of Lord Tian Xuan’s wedding and with them were gifts that were obtained from the far reaches of the empire.
“Lord Tian Xuan! Thank you for inviting this old man to such a festive occasion.” An elderly looking man said in a loud tone as he walked through the city lord mansion’s main gates, with a small box in hand and a dozen or so uniformed men around him.
“Haha, how could I not invite the city’s number one merchant, Mister Lao Cai.” Lord Tian Xuan said with a wide grin as he eyed the small box in the elderly man’s hand.
“Haha, as a show of my appreciation for you my Lord, I've brought something that I've recently acquired from an acquaintance of mine who happens to have a relative that dwells within the empire’s forbidden city.” Mister Lao Cao said with a broad smile as he held up the smell brocade box, drawing in Lord Tian Xuan’s gaze even more.
With much anticipation, Mister Lao Cao slowly the small brocade box, revealing an intricate looking pair of jade bracelets with beautifully carved phoenixes on them.
“Lord Tian Xuan, these bracelets had belonged to one of the empire’s imperial princesses and only by using many various channels was me acquittance able to smuggle them out from the forbidden city. As you know, being an object that had been once worn by one of the imperial princesses alone makes the value of these already expensive increase exponentially. However, I couldn't think of anyone worthier to possess these then your bride, my lord. Surely someone as your bride who is many times more beautiful than those princesses deserve these bracelets more than anyone else.” Mister Lao Cao said while rubbing his heads together in a particular manner which caused a wide grin on Lord Tian Xuan’s face.
“Haha, Mister Lao Cao you sure know your way with words. It is as you say, those four so-called unrivaled beauties who reside in the imperial palace couldn't hope to come close to my bride.” Lord Tian Xuan's chuckled in a delighted tone.
“Prettier than the imperial princesses, you say.” A voice sounded in the ears of Mister Lao Cao and Lord Tian Xuan, causing their gaze to shift.
Looking toward the mansion's front gates, a young man and four women whose faces were covered behind veils could be seen surrounded by a dozen or so armored men. The young man and four women of course are Zhang and his four wives while the armored men were all Lord Tian Xuan’s subordinates.
“Who might this be?” Lord Tian Xuan said with a raised brow as he glanced at one of his subordinates.
“My lord, this man barged in through the gate without an invitation! Please step back and allow us to apprehend him.” The guard responded in a hurried tone seconds before positioning himself in front of Lord Tian Xuan pointing the tip of the spear in his hand was toward Zhang.
“I happened to be in the area on official business from the imperial capital, but when I heard that the local lord was celebrating a wedding, I figured I would at least stop by for a drink or two.” Zhang said with a chuckle.
“Regardless of whether or not you hail from the imperial capital, to intrude into the city lord’s mansion is an offense punishable by death.” A guard said in a stern voice just as Zhang flipped his hand and revealed a golden medallion.
“Even if I show you this?” Zhang asked as he held the golden medallion high up into the air.
“Hah you think showing us a random chunk of metal will allow you to walk out of here scot-free?” The guard said in a haughty tone while Lord Tian Xuan’s complexion became deathly pale.
“Idiot! Quickly get on your knees, that’s an imperial medallion that is only granted to those within the inner circle of the imperial court! Even those who are three ranks higher than me in the court do not possess one of those! Seeing that is equivalent to seeing the emperor himself!” Lord Tian Xuan said as he hastily got onto his knee and kneeled to Zhang.
In an instant, upon seeing what Lord Tian Xuan was doing, everyone present at the wedding quickly did the same and before long from the lowliest of servants to the most important guests, everyone was on their knees.
“Haha no need to be so formal.” Zhang said with a laugh as he saw the sudden change in his surroundings.
“My lord, my I ask for your name.” Lord Tian Xuan spoke in a polite tone.
“My name is Lee Ming. I am currently serving within his Highness Prince Zhang’s Elite Guard.” Zhang said, after confirming that no one present knew his true identity. While Zhang’s name had been spread far and wide and tales of his adventures had become that of legends, besides those who reside in the central region of the empire, not many knew his how he looked. This is because paintings and statues are incapable to truly capturing a person’s features exactly and certain features are always often exaggerated.
“Lord Lee, since you've decided to grace this lowly noble with your pretense, please come in and have a seat.” Lord Tian Xuan said respectfully.
“Under the imperial prince’s orders, I have come to the northern frontier to investigate the strange phenomena that has caused the deaths of hundreds of the empire’s citizens who were residing near this city. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.” Zhang said as he casually walked toward the nearest table and seated himself along with his wives.
“If you require any assistance from myself or my vassals, please do not hesitate to call upon us. We are all at your beck and call, Lord Lee.” Lord Tian Xuan said as he walked up to the table Zhang was seated at and sat down.
“Lord Tian Xuan, if I recall correctly, before my husband interrupted your conversation, you had mentioned something about a pair of bracelets belonging to the imperial princesses? My sisters and I are quite familiar with the princesses and if possible, I would like to have a look at these bracelets.” Ling said with a laugh as a mischievous glint appeared in her eyes while the other beauties could be heard softly chuckling.
“Madam, I believe Mister Lao Cao was simply joking or trying to make his petty gift appear to be more lavish than it actually is. As I'm sure you know, taking items, especially items owned by the imperial princesses, out from the forbidden city without permission is punishable by death or at the least the loss of both of one’s hands.” Lord Tian Xuan said in a slightly nervous voice as he gulped down a mouth full of saliva.
Under normal circumstances if Ling were the madam of some lower-ranking official, Lord Tian Xuan would have certainly reprimanded her or thrown her into the city dungeon as he's done to many others, however due to the golden medallion that Zhang had shown him earlier, Lord Tian Xuan was too afraid to do so. The worst enemy to make was not someone who held more power than one’s self but rather it was the person who could whisper soft words into the ears of one who is stronger than one’s self.
“Oh, is that so? If this Mister Lao Cao was merely joking about these bracelets being the precious possessions of the imperial princesses, then they aren't worth mentioning.” Ling said.
“You are right madam; such petty things aren't worth mentioning.” Lord Tian Xuan said with an awkward laugh.
“Sis, how can we be sure they aren't the real things unless we examine them for ourselves. Darling, aren’t I right?” Lingqi said as she leaned against Zhang causing Lord Tian Xuan to gulp down another mouthful of spit.
“Haha, Lord Tian Xuan if you could allow my madams to have a look at these bracelets so we can put an end to this matter. If not I'm afraid I won't ever hear the end of if.” Zhang said with a laugh as Lord Tian Xuan inwardly cursed the beauties.
While he was usually domineering and haughty, Lord Tian Xuan knew better than to act so in front of Zhang, who he believed was an official who held a very high position in the imperial court.
Although Lord Tian Xuan had never heard of a minister by the name of Lee Ming before, the Aurora Empire was still in its early state of development and high-ranking officials were elected fairly often. On top of all things, the golden medallion that Zhang had shown everyone was without a doubt genuine, making his claims believable.
“Mister Lao Cao bring your gift over here so Lord Lee’s madams can authenticate them…” Lord Tian Xuan commanded in an unhappy tone, causing sweat to form and drip down from Mister Lao Cao’s brow as he walked toward the table where Zhang was seated.
“Lord Lee, if these bracelets do turn out to be authentic, I hope you can show Mister Lao Cao a bit of mercy.” Lord Tian Xuan said with a faint smile on his face. Although it appeared as if Lord Tian Xuan was trying to ask Zhang to go easy on his friend, he was actually drawing a clear line between himself and Mister Lao Cao, stating that he had nothing to do with the bracelets.
“Of course, if these do turn out to be an object that was taken from the forbidden city without permission then I’ll have to trouble you, Lord Tian Xuan, to deal with the matter.” Zhang said with a grin as Lingqi took the small brocade box from Mister Lao Cao’s trembling hands.
With a mischievous smile on her face, Lingqi slowly opened up the small brocade box and took out the pair of jade bracelets.
“These are…” Lingqi said before taking a long pause, putting Lord Tian Xuan and Mister Lao Cao on the edge of their seat with dread.
“These are fake.” Lingqi said with a chuckle as cracks began appearing on the pair of jade bracelets pinched between her fingers, soon enough the bracelets broke apart into bits and pieces.