Xiao Wan was in a state.
For the last few days, he had been traipsing around the brothels of the Capital both the well-known clean, bright establishments and it's seedier underbelly. He had to admit he had looked down on those like his Young Master who went out at all time of the day to congregate, cavort and corral in these places.
He had seriously underestimated the sheer thickness of skin and stamina one must have to do such things.
Today when he returned to the Estate his clothes were dishevelled, his hair was a mess, he reeked of alcohol, there were increasingly darker circles under his eyes and the lipstick stains of several different shades on his collar.
To be a debauchee was not an easy life.
Those who laughed at it and thought it easy have never once tried to emulate it.
When he finally crawled his way to the Young Masters courtyard, under the disdainful gazes of some of the other servants, he found Young Master Ren Yao being served tea by a beautiful maiden in a light pink dress.
From her face, he couldn’t remember her from among the household staff.
For a moment, he wondered if things had changed so much in the time he was gone.
“Ah-Bei, bring Xiao Wan a basin of hot water, a bowl of some rice gruel and a jar of well-watered down wine.”
Seeing the state of his little helper Ren Yao couldn’t help but chuckle as the fairy in pink left to fulfil his commands. Now his needs were mostly met by those 13 slave women, who were even being taught by the estate's maids in how to better serve him.
In the direct bright sunlight, Xiao Wan sat on the stone stool and sweated profusely. He could feel the alcohol leeching out of his pores as each beat of his heart caused another pulse to split his head. The headache was so severe he could only truly see from one eye.
His was afraid his face would be permanently scorched scarlet red from the copious amounts of alcohol and the constant embarrassment and shame he’d had to endure.
Brothels were not the sorts of places delicate young boys should visit.
When the pink clothed maid reappeared, he grabbed a handful of grapes from one of the platters, wolfing them down before they’d even set the tray on the table.
Next, he took the pitcher in both hands and chugged it down as well.
Settling down, he fished a scroll from inside his robes and passed it across to the Young Lord as he wiped the wine stains from his mouth with his other sleeve and starting towards the rice gruel.
Ren Yao smiled gently at the weary servant as he accepted the scroll.
He unfurled it and began to study its contents with rapt attention.
It’s as much as he expected, but this was merely the superficial information. How much could he honestly hope an inexperienced Xiao Wan to grasp? It was like looking at a calm lake but not knowing the furious undercurrents.
Another pink maid, at some time, had appeared at his side with a tray of paper and ink.
He took up the ink brush and began to jot down a few things.
Xiao Wan barely had enough time to rest before his Young Master sent him out once more with a new task and a different list of names, this time on the hunt for specific information.
Zhen Tan stared blankly at the retreating back of the small figure.
The room still subtly smelled of fragrant wine, but the lingering scent of the Little Devil was not what caused the older man’s current state of mind. No, he’d just had one of the strangest conversations ever with the young steward.
He looked once more at the unrolled scroll in his hands.
It was apparently “His copy”!?
With only one good eye remaining and a face full of scars, Zhen Tan had trodden on countless battlefields, drowning in blood alongside his fellow brothers and the Old Patriarch of the Ren family.
If not for taking an arrow to the knee, which stifled his military career, he may have risen further through the ranks and even still been a part of the kingdoms standing army — a commander of 10,000 men.
Instead, he was now becoming an old war dog, growing fat and slow behind a desk in the capital.
Of course, this desk was a fairly high position within the capitals police force.
He smiled once more and summoned his two most faithful officers to his study room. When the two burly men entered, they had the backs of tigers and the waists of a bear, he spared no time for pleasantries and directly tossed the scroll at the nearest one.
“Seems like the Young Master is about to do something fun.”
This one profoundly simple sentence from the old tiger froze the puzzled faces of the two men, a strange shiver round down their backs.
Zuo Shou and You Shou, they had also gone through many fierce battles with Zhan Ten, so they were aware of the other's personality. As both glanced over the scroll, the one-eyed tiger watched them intently, a menacing glow burning deep in his remaining socket.
“The capital will soon be in chaos. Let's play the fisherman and use it to clean up a little.”
He smirked. Both men instantly understood, just by glancing at a few names on this strange list, with the storm the young Master was about to unleash most of the notorious and nefarious elements hidden within the capital would go to ground.
They’d scurry back to their holes to avoid the stormy weather.
It was indeed a perfect opportunity to cleanse the city of some of the more dangerous elements as well as rooting out the spy’s, dissidents and insurgents that had infiltrated from foreign powers.
Soon all three men in the large office were smiling viciously like wolves that had just cornered prey.