“So, you failed in your task.”
His arms crossed in front of his chest, Tlaloc tried his hardest to look imposing. Attitude was important for a great Swordsaint like himself, that much his master had taught him. How else could his subordinates respect him? Even more, he was angry that his disciples had failed to fulfill his wishes. What use were some low-class cultivators if they could not follow simple instructions? However, even though the dogs lay before him on their knees, the defiant light in one pair of eyes had not lessened. Even the dog's reply surprised the master.
“Yes master, indeed we failed, just as master wished for,” Tlahua said, a sly grin on his face.
“Huh?” Before Tlaloc could grasp the situation, his disciple had left the master behind and continued his thoughts on his own.
“This disciple can only offer his greatest deference to master's genius. Everything went just as planned by master. After all, the sect's original plan was to enter Hueatlan and look for a doctor to cure master's illness.”
“But master is not ill, is he?” Chichian the dog said with slurred words.
“Idiot! That is the plan! Since master is not ill, those foolish doctors would try to diagnose master and make mistakes in the process. Then, all we need to do is show our anger and we would have sufficient reason to take over the herbal bazaar of Hueatlan.”
“Indeed. That stubborn Chatra Huemac has held onto his power for far too long. Once the bazaar is ours, how could that lowly governor even hope to stand against the powerful Flowing Water Sect again?” Self-satisfied, Tlaloc nodded his head, before he realized he had been pulled along by his discipole's words. With a frown, he returned to the core of the matter. “Even so, that... street doctor's words went too far! Never has a great sword saint been this insulted!”
“True, which is why the sect's actions will be even more justified. That was why we were tasked to watch the doctor and his apprentice, was it not? With our mere presence, we created pressure and made sure the doctor and apprentice would be forced to seek shelter within the Chatra's mansion. However, this disciple wonders how master could know about the doctor's connection to the local Chatra. Please master, enlighten this dull servant.”
For a moment, Tlaloc was the dull one. Who had planned what? Their ploy had never been this intricate to start with. They just wanted to make some trouble and then force their will onto others through sheer power, like they had done so many times before. Still, how could it be that a simple disciple would upstage a master in terms of intellect?
“Of course this saint would be prepared well enough. A simple disciple would never understand the deep thoughts of a great cultivator. Study hard and cultivate your mind. Only then will you be able to reach your master's level,” he said and further straightened his already upright spine. “If there is sufficient justification, none of the surrounding administrators will have a chance to interfere. Soon, the bazaar will be ours, and then all of eastern Chutwa will fall into the hands of the glorious Flowing Water Sect.”
As he watched his disciples lower their heads in deference, Tlaloc's lips curled up. This was convenient enough. Through their own misunderstanding, he could further improve his reputation with the simple disciples. At the same time, their plan had pretty much become a guaranteed success now. With the current Chatra's weak attitude, Hueatlan's soldiers would never oppose a show of force from the sect. All he had to do was make sure he punished the annoying doctor who had insulted him in the process of their conquest. This would be easy. He was already looking forward to it.
“Tell the disciples to get ready. And ask Scholar Itoia for his support as well. We're headed back to Hueatlan right away. It is time for the sect to show the local magistrate who holds real power in the east.”
Unfortunately for the great sword saint, he failed to see the sly grin from one of his disciples. Through his own sharp mind and his master's ego, Tlahua had only just managed to erase his failure and escape with his life.
Just like Huemac had said, Corco's recruitment efforts had not yielded any more success. It had been several days since he had left the safety of the Chatra's mansion. Since then, he had only traveled together with two of the lord's guards. Of course, his own men would also come along, though only in secret. Since he didn't want to publicize his status or his secret agreement with Huemac, the king couldn't very well have his men show off his banner, could he? Still, since he was accompanied by the Chatra's official troops, the doctors in the city were a lot less rude to him, but they still weren't receptive to his offers.
In the end, most of them just weren't interested in anything outside of Chutwa. After all, even Itzali had only decided to join his cause after Corco had saved his life, and after the doctor had royally offended a powerful local force and needed to find shelter elsewhere. The king couldn't expect to get this lucky every time. So, since he didn't have the time to wait for his luck, he would have to engineer it. However, the xianxia young master proved to be a lot more patient than he had thought at first.
At this rate, he would have to return back home with only a single physician. This would be his last day in Hueatlan. Wacoca had already readied their ships for their departure. After this final attempt to get more field doctors for his army, they would return first to the Verdant Isles to finalize his deal with the Green King, before he would make the journey back home. After all, there was still a siege waiting for him to resolve it. Letting his uncle wait for so long wasn't Corco's usual style anyways.
As he strolled through the now-familiar market for one last time, a wistful look on his face, he suddenly stopped in his tracks. As if it had never existed, Corco's melancholy was blown away with the favorable winds from across the plaza. As a group of fancily dressed young masters marched towards him, Corco plastered a despondent look on his face, while he only just managed to hide his excitement. They had even brought a white-robed scholar with them. One of the flowing water sectists pointed towards the king as he spoke to the young Swordsaint Tlaloc in the center of the formation.
As soon as the saint raised his hand in a lazy gesture, his minions spread out to close off all entrances to the market. With great strides, the young master, followed by the servant and the scholar, marched towards the king.
Only two men in support, and one of them a noncombatant. He's a haughty one, huh?
“You, commoner! Are you not the apprentice of the physician called Itzali?” the Swordsaint said, one finger pointed at Corco and one hand on his sword.
“So what if I am?” the king answered, and stole a slight tremble into his voice.
“Hand over your master's location right this moment! For his transgressions, he shall receive his just rewards! Do so and this saint will overlook your life just this once!”
“'Just'? Where is the justice in any of this?” Corco repeated his studied lines with a low growl, and took half a step back. “As he would always do, master only tried to save a patient back then. It was not master's fault that the patient was not happy with his diagnosis. Where is the justice in killing a good man like that for no good reason?”
“Young man, your heart might be pure, but your words are not correct.” From the side, the old man in the white robes buzzed in. “Although the doctors hold a special status in society for their great skills of healing, but in the end, they are still nothing more than common craftsmen. How could an ordinary commoner insult a true master of cultivation like this?”
Trimmed beard, arrogant, self-satisfied attitude, scrawny arms. This must be another one of the Way's scholars.
“Who's an ordinary commoner? Master even has the official seal from Hueatlan's Chatra, Lord Huemac!”
As soon as Corco snapped back in rebuttal, the servant of the trio stepped forward and pointed his finger again. They really loved doing that, pointing and shouting at kings.
“How dare you speak to the great Scholar Itoia like this? Even though the great scholar showed so much leniency and tried to educate you in the truth, you still-”
“That is enough,” the scholar raised his hand to interrupt the servant. “This teacher thanks inner disciple Tlahua for his support, but it is not necessary to berate this young man so. After all, for a teacher of the Way, it is necessary to convince others of the great truth, rather than to intimidate them into compliance. Please allow this teacher to help this young man see the light.”
He turned to Corco.
“Young apprentice. Indeed, your teacher holds the seal of the local Chatra, but this action does not erase his guilt, it only transfers it. You must understand that a commoner can, under no circumstances, show disobedience towards a cultivator. Thus speaks the Way. The low shall devote to the high and the high shall love the low in turn. How else could we live in a civilized world of peace?”
Even though Corco felt like spitting in the guy's face and insulting his ridiculous school of thought in front of the entire crowd, he had to hold back for now. At the moment, he played the role of a Chutwa doctor's apprentice, and he was on Chutwa land. If he insulted their entire culture, he would hardly win the doctors in attendance over to his side. Thus, he waited for the teacher to continue with his hypocritical nonsense.
“Thus, when Chatra Huemac offered shelter to the guilty commoner, doctor Itzali, the doctor's guilt indeed disappeared through the Chatra's grace. However, in the process the lord took sides against a cultivator, and sided with one who had broken the commandments of the Way instead. How could this be true and just? How could these be the actions of a servant to the Immortal Palace?” The scholar's voice got louder and louder as he spoke, while he hid his face with his right hand. Despite the shoddy performance, Corco could tell from the grins of the scholar's two companions that this was roughly their goal: Bring along a scholar of the way to legitimize their claims. Make the local lord look guilty in front of his own people and threaten his very livelihood: His government appointment. With that sort of bargaining chip in hand, they could extort not only the doctor who had insulted their young master. They could also rob whatever else they felt like. However, Corco had his own plans.
“That means, if master was no commoner, he would be blameless?”
As soon as the bold apprentice spoke up, the scholar's hand revealed his face again, together with his deep frown.
“However, not every man can be a cultivator. Thus is the way of the world. Since your master is only a simple craftsman, he will have to stand up for his crimes, or have his lord take them on for him.”
“No he won't! Master is a cultivator, a far greater one than those windbags from the piss stream sect!” Corco shouted and pointed right back at the two young masters.
“Calm yourselves!” The Swordsaint's silver blade was already half-unsheathed, but the scholar's words held him back at the last second. Meanwhile, the circle of people around them drew ever tighter, as more and more people at the market joined in on the fun. All of them wanted to see the haughty brat who would dare challenge the scholars.
“Saint Tlaloc, there is a need to ascertain the truth first. Rash actions would be ill-advised.” In response to the doctor's words, the young master spat on the ground in front of Corco and resheathed his sword. At the same time, Corco's hidden hand eased the grip on his pistol. It was a shame, really. If only the young master had attacked him, the king could have killed him through justifiable self-defense and saved a lot of time and effort.
Well then, time for plan B.
“Young man,” the scholar said with a strained smile, “Your master cannot pretend to be a cultivator. That is a great sin deserving of death, or worse. Please be truthful and weigh your next words with care.”
“It's true though! Master is a great cultivator! He has taught me everything he knows about cultivation, much more than those piss brothers over there will ever know! You want proof? Here it is: I challenge that Saint Xianxia over there to a duel, life or death! If he loses he'll have to admit that my master was right and he can't get it up. Let's see who's the liar then!”
Eyes bloodshot and hands cramped into fists, the xianxia young master stepped ahead of the scholar at last. It appeared even the fake intellectual had also lost all interest in a civil discussion, as he didn't hold back the enraged Swordsaint.
“Okay brat, this saint was willing to overlook your transgressions, but it appears as if you are just as rotten as your master. This saint will educate you on your crimes, and show the city of Hueatlan the great power of flowing water!”