"Oh, if it isn't Arthur!" the young master spoke out. His handsome face was adorned with a gentle, surprisingly pleasant smile.
No matter how hard I looked, I couldn't see even the smallest hint of hostility, be it on his face or in this damned bastard's voice.
"And who might you be?" I asked.
While I was perfectly aware of his persona, we never really had the chance to get aquatinted. And right in the middle of the sect, with all sorts of people passing by us, getting honest or even remotely direct wasn't an option.
After all, I didn't want Vaner to impose even harshed punishment on me than he already did. If he were to raise the default price of the stones I was going to buy off him, it could prove disastrous!
"I'm Jenne, a fellow disciple of the sect that ranked just one spot below you," the young man smiled, revealing two rows of perfectly white teeth. "It's a pleasure to get aquatinted with you," he added.
"The pleasure is all mine," I replied, making sure to kindly smile at the man.
Whatever feud we had below the table couldn't be mentioned out in the open.
I couldn't bring it up because I didn't even have a shred of proof to connect all the attacks on me with this guy. On the other hand, it was clear that openly bullying a fellow disciple like he was doing was something that could hamper the reputation of Jenne's clan, something he likely wasn't allowed to do either.
As such, we were stuck in this uncomfortable, fake scene, where both of us had to pretend we respected or at least tolerated each other.
"You see, brother, it just so happens that I wanted to meet you for a long time. But, regretfully," Jenne shook his shoulders, "the life wasn't easy on me recently, making it impossible for me to spare some time to do so."
"Brother, I fully understand your trouble," I shook my head, acting as if I could sympathize with that guy's situation. "Between all the training and rowdy fellow disciples of ours trying to use me as stepping stones, I barely even had the time to enjoy my slave!" I exclaimed, shaking my head over the injustice of this world.
A slight mutter coursed through the crowd of Jenne's followers.
"Still, this is the great opportunity and a fateful moment. As such, I would be spitting on the grace of the gods if I didn't make full use of it," Jenne started again. "Would you mind sparing me a few minutes of your time to discuss a certain business I have with you?"
"Brother, I would never dare to miss an opportunity to be of help for someone of your caliber!" I shouted, raising my eyes to the sky, only to lower my head a moment later and shake it sideways. "Regretfully, right now, I'm in a great hurry. If only you could wait just a few minutes for me to finish my orders, I would be more than happy to see that your wishes would be fulfilled to the best of my ability," I said, hiding all the vicious thoughts from my face.
I had massive doubts whether this guy would not only catch my drift but also fall for the small trap I set for him.
After all, what reason would a normal person my age have to refuse a favor to someone of Jenne's status? Outside of the obvious moral reasons that were the culprit, there was only one other option.
It was greed.
As small as the chances were for me manipulating Jenne into believing I simply wanted to raise the price I could ask for Mia, there was nothing wrong with trying it!
After all, as soon as she would show her token in the accommodation office, this fucker would be unable to bully her any longer!
"If that's the case, I won't infringe on your mission," Jenne smiled, pointing at the doors to the accommodation office with his open palm. "I can see that it's a matter of great importance for you," he added.
Nodding my head to the man, I turned around and looked at Mia. From the look on her face, I could tell that she was openly as disgusted with this conversation as I was internally.
I couldn't tell whether this meeting was a random occurrence or a planned event. I didn't have enough information to decide. But there was only one thing that I took from this short conversation.
Jenne wasn't going to be an easy opponent.
So far, I thought that getting Mia released from her status as a slave would do the job of binding Jenne's hands. But from the looks of things, he wasn't the usual, arrogant young master that I took him for.
But all those thoughts could wait. Even if it wouldn't grant Mia absolute protection, having her as a disciple proper would still knock several weapons out of Jenne's hands.
As such, there was no time to waste.
"Girl, go," I said offhandedly, nodding at the doors with my chin.
A momentary look of surprise appeared on Mia's face, only to instantly be replaced with defiant compliance. Gritting her teeth, she lowered her head and moved ahead, entering the building.
'Almost there,' I thought when I suddenly felt someone's hand on my shoulder.
"I'm sorry, junior, but it appears that my brother went to see you recently," a man said, forcing me to turn my back to the doors.
My muscles tensed up a little.
Taxing the man's building, I couldn't help but feel slightly intimidated.
His robes were of the dark-blue color, different from the elders' robes and the ones that I wore myself. But it was his muscular build, making him appear more like a bodybuilder rather than a cultivator, that put my own looks to shame.
Right now, I felt like losing on a dick measuring contest to him.
"Do you happen to know his whereabouts, by any chance?" the man asked, not bothering to hide his hostility.
'Maybe that's what I can use against this bastard?' I thought, instantly moving on to planning my next moves as soon as an idea appeared in my head. 'Even if he himself is smart, the same couldn't be said about his followers!'
This realization was like a god-sent vision.
I couldn't hurt Jenne directly. Doing so would surely incur the wrath of his allegedly powerful clan. I wasn't so sure if I could topple him on the battle of intellects either. Even if I was smarter, he knew far more about this world and potential methods of dealing with me.
As such, the simplest way of dealing with his threat was to undermine his position by removing his allies!
My lips curled up in a smile.
"A guy my age, medium-length golden hair, dark eyes?" I asked, raising my eyes at the man's face.
"That's correct," he replied, his expression darkening a little. "Where is he?"
"Oh, that actually depends," I replied, shaking my head. "It's a topic far harder than I have time to discuss right now," I sighed, only to raise my head and look the man directly in the eyes. "Where he is right now, depends on his religion," I said, my happy smile souring.
"I only know where his battered corpse is unless someone already cleaned it out."
I nodded my head, turned around, and approached the doors. In those few moments, only a complete silence accompanied me.
"ARTHUR!" Mia screamed outright as I entered the doorway.
She didn't even need to warn me. Thanks to my recent breakthrough, I could feel the energy gathering behind my back.
I swirled around on my heel, only to see a mountain-like fist heading straight for my face.
Only thanks to my extensive training over the last two weeks, I managed to raise my guard to protect my head.
'What?!' I thought when the hit struck my raised forearms, pushing them against my face. While the bones didn't break, they weren't that far from doing so.
"I WILL KILL YOU!" the man shouted, charging forward and sending another attack towards my stomach.
If I slipped now, I would be done for. I could tell as much from the strength of the first attack I received.
Yet, despite how dangerous this situation was, I couldn't stop my lips from forming a satisfied smile.
The sound confirmed my long-lasting guess.