Warnings:BL. Slightly NSFW. Mature as there is sexual innuendo, references to sexual arousal, and they touch each other’s upper bodies in the process of searching each other.
Zheng Xiao Jing ground his teeth as soon as he reached the main door of Suyi Hall because he saw something that made his stomach cramp.
Of all the days he could have arrived, he had managed to do it on the same day as his adopted sister, Zheng Wei Wei…and to make things worse, she had arrived first. Even though everyone in the hall was concealing their identity in some way, there was no mistaking his sister’s arrogant stride as she sauntered towards the mission boards with her team of meatheads.
How did she get here so quickly? Xiao Jing silently fumed. I was too careless! As the legal heir of Jade Forest, I cannot let her get the Thousand-year Plum Blossom jade.
He was about to pull his hood further down over his head, but the air shifted just behind him.
“Oi! Are you stupid? If you’re going inside, then do it. If not, get lost!” grumbled a huge man, who deliberately barreled into the boy’s shoulder as he brushed past.
Xiao Jing stumbled at the contact, causing a jade longevity pendant to slip out from under his collar. Swallowing his temper, he put on a charming smile, and stepped to the side with cupped hands and an apologetic bow. Although the smile hurt his face, he straightened very gracefully.
“So sorry, Senior…but the door isn’t meant for someone of your…stature…” he said silkily. “Perhaps it would be better for your health to indulge a bit less…?”
“Eh?” the man grunted, swinging around. “What did you just say…?!”
But of course, Xiao Jing had already side-stepped the fellow; and in the time it took for the burly man to register the insult, he had already made it halfway down the hall.
“W-Where did that little brat go?” the man bellowed.
His companion only shook his head.
“Forget it. Didn’t you see the jewelled forearm guards he was wearing when you bumped into him? Only people from Jade Forest have them. The brat isn’t someone you want to mess with…”
Haaah! smirked Xiao Jing, as he stuffed the jade pendant back under his collar. At least some people still have respect for Grandfather...
Turning his attention back to the boards, he wove through the crowd, picking his way towards the largest one at the very back of the hall.
It was just before midday and all kinds of people were lining the counters: cultivators looking to improve their skills or obtain elixirs; merchants looking to buy or sell strange, rare things; skilled smiths offering rewards for obtaining materials; and assassins looking to find their next kill. As long as an item could be bought, sold, traded, or stolen, it could be exchanged through Suyi Hall…for the right price.
As Xiao Jing moved closer to the end, he heard a small snort from somewhere in the balcony level. Curious, he glanced up, green eyes scanning left and right. No one else in the hall seemed to react, but he was sure that he’d heard it.
Which means I was the only one meant to hear it…
The boy cocked his head and concentrated. Closing his eyes, he carefully stripped out the sounds, one by one, until he finally zeroed in on a balcony just to the left of the main board. Staring at the curtain, he could sense the gaze behind it.
It should be the Hall Master… thought Xiao Jing. His lips lifted slightly as he nodded a curt greeting.
Observing from the balcony level, the person behind the curtain was indeed the Hall Master, Rong Xi.
What a cocky brat!
Even from afar the Hall Master had noticed the boy’s pendant. There was no need for him to see it up close to know that one side was carved with a qilin, and the other side with a phoenix.
I never thought I’d see a pendant like that again. It looks like that old fart from Jade Forest has been hiding something good from me. Interesting.
The Hall Master smiled.
Although the upper part of the boy’s face was covered by a mask, it did nothing to conceal the delicate texture of his milk-coloured skin, the elegant curve of soft pink lips, or the clean lines of his jaw. Now that the boy’s hood had slipped down, Rong Xi could see light brown hair secured in a loose braid that trailed down past the boy’s hips.
Rong Xi casually wondered what it would look like spread out in bed.
Green eyes with a cascade of light brown hair and a body as slender as the willow…even a blind man can see that the heir of Jade Forest is an incomparable beauty.
Charmed, Rong Xi waved a languid hand and a servant stepped forward. He leaned towards him and whispered a few words in his ear. Having received his master’s instruction, the servant went down immediately.
“You’re doing something unnecessary again…Won’t it cause him more trouble to be singled out like this?” sighed the masked guard standing in the shadows next to Rong Xi.
The Hall Master laughed.
“The boy has something I want. Does it make you jealous?”
The guard only harrumphed in response.
“It’ll be fun…just wait…” Rong Xi promised, as he smiled like a satisfied cat. Turning back to the hall below, he saw the boy looking over the largest mission board.
Stretching almost the width of the hall itself and rising almost as tall, the last mission board was covered in plaques listing out requirements, the object to be obtained, the details of where to find it, and the compensation. All the requests were of course anonymous, and Suyi Hall was well known for keeping it that way.
Now…where is that mission plaque? Xiao Jing wondered, teasing his lower lip with his teeth.
“Little Master…this servant gives greeting,” said the person who suddenly appeared at his elbow.
“Oh!” Xiao Jing exclaimed, bowing automatically.
The gold banding on the uniform clearly identified the man as an upper-level Hall servant.
No way! thought Xiao Jing, looking cautiously towards the balcony.
“Little Master, the Hall Master wishes to pass along his personal token to you,” said the servant. Presenting it with both hands, the servant held out a jade token with a red tassel. Xiao Jing bowed as he carefully received it, noting the character “Rong” carved on the front.
“With this token, the membership fee is waived, and you may have first pick of any mission on any board you choose,” said the servant. “Which shall you have, Little Master? This servant will fetch it for you.”
There was instant uproar around Xiao Jing as the servant had not bothered to lower his voice or take him aside.
The murmurs of the crowd rose, full of incredulity and envy.
Surprised, Xiao Jing felt blood rise in his face, but he kept tight control over his emotions. Though he knew that the Hall Master was testing him, it only made him more determined. He didn’t intend to disappoint his grandfather…and any opportunity was still an advantage, no matter how frivolously bestowed.
“I’ve come for the Thousand Year Plum Blossom jade,” he said calmly.
“Hold it! I object!” cried Zheng Wei Wei, as he knew she would. “That mission has already been given to us!”
She strode up to him and shoved the mission plaque in his face. She then turned and held it up for everyone to see.
Oho! Who is this? thought Rong Xi, as he watched from above. Taking a melon seed from the bowl beside him, he flicked it with one finger. Moving with the force of the man’s qi, it punctured the curtain, skimmed past the side of Xiao Jing’s face, and hit Zheng Wei Wei square in the wrist with an ominous crack.
“Aagh!!” she cried, clutching at her newly shattered wrist, clearly shocked.
The mission plaque flew up from her hand, and with a grim smile Xiao Jing snatched it out of the air. She’s lucky that isn’t her sword hand…he thought.
There was dead silence in the hall.
“Do you have anything else you want to say?” he asked, coldly.
The look that Zheng Wei Wei gave him was filled with loathing, but since the Hall Master had made his stance clear, there was nothing more she could do except file a formal complaint. Since Suyi Hall was not easy to move, she’d already lost her chance.
“Just wait, Zheng Xiao Jing! It is many li between here and Nanhe town! Don’t think this is over,” she hissed. Waving at her subordinates with her good hand, she said: “Let’s go!”
The boy watched her stalk out and glanced once more at the balcony.
“Well…we’ll see if this is a blessing or a curse…” he sighed with resignation, as he waved his hand over the small plaque. Immediately the assignment came up as a magical projection, giving him all the related information. According to the plaque, the current carrier of the Thousand Year Plum Blossom Jade was one Feng Yi of Yinfeng Pavilion...and just as Zheng Wei Wei had said, he would be stopping in Nanhe town.
Though he was less eager than before, Xiao Jing bowed to the balcony and left.
From his seat above, Rong Xi grinned.
“Send the shadows to ensure that nothing too serious happens to him…”
His guard snorted with disdain, but grudgingly went to do his master’s bidding.