The Human Emperor - Chapter 114: Six-fingered Zhang!
Back then, that alchemist brought up many interesting affairs in his trade. The reason why Wang Chong paid particular attention to this ‘Six-fingered Zhang’ was because of the matter that he was about to do several years later.
As life in the royal palace was boring, and forging pills only contributed to one’s boredom, Six-fingered Zhang’s gambling addiction worsened after he became an alchemist. In just the short span of a few years, he had already owed an astronomical debt to the loan sharks.
In order to repay the debt, Six-fingered Zhang actually lowered his standards and introduced a wealthy merchant into the secret alchemist organization.
Smuggling pills from the royal palace and kings’ residences was a huge secret, and no outsiders should find out about it. Unfortunately for Six-fingered Zhang, this wealthy merchant wasn’t a person with tight lips.
Eventually, due to this wealthy merchant, the smuggling conducted by the secret organization was exposed, and Six-fingered Zhang died as a result.
Wang Chong felt pity for Six-fingered Zhang in the sense that his destiny was already fixed. That was, if Wang Chong didn’t intervene.
“However, it’s a pity that there’s still a few years before that matter. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have to go through so much trouble to enter the secret alchemist organization.”
Looking through the windows of the carriage, Wang Chong thought as he looked at the leisurely strolling Six-fingered Zhang.
The secret alchemist organization was extremely wary of outsiders, and the immense difficulty of joining the organization was a renowned fact among insiders. If it was a few years later, all Wang Chong needed was to fork out a huge sum in that wealthy merchant’s place to join the organization and obtain a steady source of pills.
But at this moment, nothing had happened yet so Six-fingered Zhang wouldn’t be as easy as he was in his previous life. He might not necessarily give this opportunity to Wang Chong.
But Wang Chong had no other choice.
Without a doubt, of all alchemists, Six-fingered Zhang was the easiest target, as well as the one he was the most likely to succeed with. If Wang Chong wanted to reach Tiger Bone within the shortest period of time, this was his only way.
The earlier he got himself into the secret alchemist organization, the sooner he would get himself a steady supply of pills. Even if not for the ‘Ire of the Barbaric God’, he had to get into this secret alchemist organization.
Entering a few years earlier meant benefiting for an additional few more years!
“This will determine whether I’ll able to get into the secret alchemist organization or not.”
Wang Chong thought. He opened the carriage door and walked out. In a moment, Wang Chong caught up with Six-fingered Zhang.
“Master, nice to meet you!”
Walking up to Six-fingered Zhang, Wang Chong smiled and bowed politely.
Six-fingered Zhang slackened aura abruptly vanished upon hearing the word ‘master’, as though a cat who had its fur ruffled. In a split moment, his face darkened.
“Who are you and what do you want?”
Suddenly, Six-fingered Zhang seemed to have become an entirely different person. Narrowing his eyes, his body tightened as though a bow pulled to the brim, prepared to strike out at any moment. His eyes were filled with deep wariness and hostility, and it seemed as though he would attack Wang Chong the moment he spoke a single wrong word.
‘Master’ was a common term used in the Central Plains to address an alchemist respectfully. That single word Wang Chong greeted him with revealed much about their asymmetrical intelligence.
Six-fingered Zhang’s instinctive reaction was to suspect if he had been caught smuggling pills!
“It is truly hard to approach the alchemist organization!”
Wang Chong’s heart sunk.
Of all of the alchemists, Six-fingered Zhang could already be considered as the easiest target. However, upon hearing the word ‘master’, his face immediately changed. Just like any other alchemist, his guard was up in an instant, making it difficult for anyone to approach him.
“Master, please do not misunderstand. I am Wang Chong, and I don’t have any other intentions. I just hope to obtain a pill from you.”
Wang Chong smiled.
“How do you know that I am an alchemist?”
Ignoring Wang Chong’s words, Six-fingered Zhang was still fixated on the word ‘master’. He was dying of curiosity to know how Wang Chong knew his identity.
“Hehe, my nose is still functioning well, so how can I possibly not identify master?”
Wang Chong smiled gently as he did a slight breathing gesture.
Six-fingered Zhang hurriedly grabbed his sleeves and smelled it forcefully. Naturally, he caught the scent of the concentrated fragrance of herbs. Alchemists often came into contact with cauldrons and pills, so it was impossible for him to avoid this scent.
Relieved, Six-fingered Zhang’s face lightened.
“You don’t have to say anymore, I won’t forge a pill for you.”
With a cold face, Six-fingered Zhang rejected Wang Chong without any hesitation. His wariness laxed upon realizing that Wang Chong didn’t know about his smuggling of pills.
After saying those words, Six-fingered Zhang ignored Wang Chong and walked away.
“Master, please wait a moment. Regardless of whether you are willing to take it or not, I have a present which I would like to gift master.”
“A present? Hmph, what kind of present can a kid like you give me?”
Six-fingered Zhang harrumphed contemptuously.
“Master, you will know once you take a look.”
With a smile, Wang Chong gestured. Shen Hai carried a fine box that was prepared beforehand over.
“Hmph, what an elaborate act…”
Criticizing disdainfully, Six-fingered Zhang opened the box. A bright yellow glow blinded his eyes, and for a moment, he forgot to breathe. He fell into a stupor, unable to utter a single word.
Gold! Furthermore, it was at least two to three thousand taels!
Six-fingered Zhang stared at Wang Chong in shock, as though reevaluating him. This sum wasn’t something that a child could produce casually.
“Master, this is a token of my sincerity. Please accept it.”
Wang Chong smiled. Before Six-fingered Zhang could react, he returned to the carriage with Shen Hai and Meng Long, and before long, they disappeared from the streets.
Six-fingered Zhang was left standing blankly on the street, carrying a box of two to three thousand gold taels.
“What in the world is going on?”
Six-fingered Zhang stared at the back of Wang Chong’s departing carriage. At this moment, his mind was in turmoil. He had never experienced such a situation. Without saying anything or achieving anything, the other party left behind a box of two to three thousand gold taels and left without any hesitation.
“Heh, even though bizarre matters occur every year, it seems to occur exceptionally frequent this year. Since someone is willing to give me gold, there’s no reason for me to not accept it!”
Greed flashed across Six-fingered Zhang’s eyes as he swiftly kept the box Wang Chong gave him. In the end, the reason why he risked his life to smuggle pills was for profits as well.
Since someone gave him money for free, why should he reject it?
“I haven’t been to the gambling den for a while. This much money should be sufficient for me to play around for a bit!”
Six-fingered Zhang stopped a carriage and headed straight for a gambling den.
“Young master, since you want to give him money, why don’t you give him a little more?”
At this moment, on the carriage, Shen Hai looked at the young master with a look of doubt. Young master had never hesitated in utilizing money to achieve his goal.
Giving away ten thousand gold taels should be nothing for him!
The previous time, young master paid an additional several ten thousand gold taels to Ablonodan and Arloja to ensure that the Hyderabad ores would fall into his lap. They thought that it was unlike him to be so ‘petty’.
Two to three thousand gold taels didn’t seem like his way of doing things.
“Hehe, while I am willing to give him several ten thousand gold taels, he has to be willing to accept it first! If I were to do that, doesn’t that make it clear that I have my own motives?”
Wang Chong chuckled.
The duo was stunned.
Wang Chong smiled, not saying anything more. All members of the secret alchemist organization were wary and guarded, and Six-fingered Zhang was no exception to the rule. Even though the intelligence Wang Chong possessed granted him an advantage, approaching the organization was still no easy feat.
It was sufficient for Wang Chong to just leave a good impression for the first meeting. Otherwise, he might just scare the other party off.
“Meng Long, have you gotten the information I asked for?”
Wang Chong suddenly asked.
Meng Long nodded. He took out a scroll from his sleeves, unrolled it, and passed it over.
“There is a total of six gambling dens near this Falling Jade Pavilion. Three of them are small, two of them are average, and the last one is a large one.”
“What is the large gambling den called?”
Wang Chong didn’t take the scroll.
“Great Golden Sky Gambling Den!”
Meng Long said.
“Great Golden Sky Gambling Den…”
Wang Chong frowned. He had some impression of this place, and it seemed to be operated by Goguryeons.
In his previous life, Wang Chong was extremely curious what kind of person could drive a noble and esteemed alchemist to the point of going against the rules just to bring a wealthy merchant into the organization.
If not for a compelling situation, there’s no reason for Six-fingered Zhang to put himself at such great risk.
However, if the other party was a Goguryeon, it all made sense.
Goguryeons were an extreme bunch. They were they savage, aggressive, and fearless. While Six-fingered Zhang’s identity as an alchemist could intimidate others, it wasn’t as useful against them.
Wang Chong’s social circle in his previous life was large; he knew everyone and he could go everywhere. However, the only exception to the rule was the Goguryeon establishments, be it taverns, gambling dens, teahouses, brothels…
It wasn’t only because Goguryeons were fierce, aggressive, and lawless. More importantly, they had connections with a fearsome organization in Great Tang, ‘Goguryeon Martial Arts Organization’, otherwise known as ‘Goguryeon Assassin Organization’.
It was common sense not to get involved with Goguryeons, but clearly, Six-fingered Zhang was unaware of this convention.
As an esteemed alchemist of the royal palace and kings’ residences, he would surely pick the most extravagant location. Without even thinking, Wang Chong was sure that Six-fingered Zhang would head to the Great Golden Sky Gambling Den, and unfortunately for him, it happened to be a gambling den owned by Goguryeons.
“Shen Hai and Meng Long. follow him for the next two days. I will have Arloja and Ablonodan back you two up! If he meets with any danger, save him. Regardless of what happens, don’t let him get injured.”
Wang Chong contemplated as he tapped his right forefinger lightly on the window.
“Also, there is another twenty thousand gold taels on the carriage. If anything urgent comes up and you find yourself in a need to use the money, feel free to take it. If it is insufficient, you can get Arloja to bring more over from the residence. There is no upper cap for this matter!”
Upon hearing that there was no upper cap, Shen Hai and Meng Long were shocked. They knew that it was rare for anyone to catch their young master’s sight, but those who did were all extraordinary.
But even so, the duo didn’t expect Wang Chong to regard that alchemist so highly.
“Yes, young master! We will surely accomplish our mission!”
With a lowered head, the duo said.
“Un, bring your tokens with you. If the need arises, feel free to use it! Alright, go!”
Wang Chong gestured.
Troublesome people seemed to always attract trouble as though a magnet. A compulsive gambler and gambling dens controlled by Goguryeons… Wang Chong could already foresee a potential conflict.
Wang Chong knew that given his cultivation, it was best for him to stay out of the commotion. In any case, Shen Hai, Meng Long, Arloja, and Ablonodan should be more than enough.
As he thought so, Wang Chong left the Falling Jade Pavilion.
Goguryeon isn’t a true word.
I did mean ‘citizens of Goguryeo’, but it makes the sentence sound awkward. For the sake of convenience, I decided to use Goguryeon in the story.
Just some brief history of Korea back then, during this period of time, Korea is split into four countries, Goguryeo, Gaya, Silla, and Baekje. (Note: The Gaya Confederacy is likely to have already been annexed by Silla at this timeframe) During that period of time, Goguryeo was a powerful empire in East Asia, and the territory it had far surpassed any other state.
However, it eventually fell to a Silla-Tang alliance in AD668, and Silla took some of its land (eating Baekje and Gaya along with it) to form Unified Silla and Balhae, and the Tang took some of its territory as well.
By the end of AD668, there was only Unified Silla, Balhae, and Great Tang of all of the states mentioned here.
If you don’t like the word bombs at the end, feel free to read just the underlined and bold ones because that’s where the main point lies.