While only one night had passed in the Nine Heavens, several months had gone by in the human realm. That night when Liu Cheng fought with Qiang Wei and Hong Bao injured Mister Zhong seemed to not have changed anything. After the initial fear, the lives of the Zhongs were still progressing as usual. Jing Yi had even needed several days to remember his grandfather and soon forgot about him again when he didn’t turn up again. Instead, he spent his days with Shao Hai, winning over customers for the teahouse or exploring the capital city.
By now, Jing Yi had turned ten and the teahouse Zhong Gang had opened with the help of Mister Zhong and his wife was thriving thanks to the efforts everyone had put in. Unfortunately, things were about to turn for the worse.
It was a clear morning in spring and the teahouse once again ushered in the usual guests. There was the old woman with her daughter-in-law that always ran over the first thing in the morning, the daughter of the merchant living on the other side of the street and her friend, and even some younger sister of a general. In short: The whole lower floor was completely taken up by women in the first two hours after opening.
Just when the last woman walked over the doorstep, a young scholar came in, several others following after him. Soon enough, the rooms on the upper floor had been booked too, leaving not a single table in the teahouse unoccupied. It was the same as every other day.
Outside of the building, an obese man looked at the two stories with a dissatisfied expression. “Is this the one?” he asked the two servants behind him who eagerly nodded.
“Yes, yes! The owner is that Zhong Gang but the man working here is his cousin or something like that, called Zhong Lei.”
“Hmph.” The fat man pursed his lips and entered the teahouse. With a dismayed look, he counted the customers sitting at the tables and his expression turned even worse.
How many customers were there? He didn’t care! In any case, it were too many! How could he tolerate this? He couldn’t, it was as easy as that! If he didn’t make this teahouse close down in the next two week, he wouldn’t be called Li Bo!
Seeing the three men step in, Mister Zhong hurried over. After taking care of the teahouse for such a long time, he wasn’t as awkward as before. “Dear guests —”
“Hmph, what guests!” One of the servants interrupted him before he could even finish his greeting. “Is your small, dirty establishment good enough to attract the great Li Bo?”
Li Bo pursed his lips as if to reinforce his servant’s words but didn’t deign to say something himself. Why would he? He had brought his lackeys with him to do these lowly tasks in his stead! That was the privilege of the rich!
“Uh …” Mister Zhong might have learned to greet customers but he had never been confronted with ones as difficult as this. Until this day the work at the teahouse had been smooth sailing. As such, his reaction was … a bit lacking. “If you’re asking like this … probably not?” Mister Zhong furrowed his brow. “I’m not sure. Could you tell me who this ‘Li Bo’ is?”
The women at the nearby tables laughed before hurriedly clasping a hand over his mouth. They had seen Mister Zhong stunned often enough to know he meant every word he said. Unfortunately, Li Bo and his two lackeys didn’t know him and thought he was mocking them.
“How dare you speak to us like that!” The second servant clenched his fists and shook them at Mister Zhong.
Mister Zhong was dumbfounded and looked around for his wife. He had tried following the golden rule she had made clear to him: Always be polite to your customers! But it seemed like the golden rule didn’t apply here? Why were they mad at him?
The first servant used this opportunity to chip in the reason for their visit: “What are you getting mad at, Xiao Guo? You shouldn’t have expected anything else from such a shameless person!”
Mister Zhong didn’t know how to react any longer. Unfortunately, it seemed like his wife was in the kitchen. What to do? He couldn’t just go and bring her over to talk to the guests, no?
Thankfully, his savior was near! Shao Hai had seen the obese man walking in and observed the following confrontation. He was a little older than Jing Yi and had already turned eleven some months ago. He could see this was spelling trouble.
“Let’s go help uncle Zhong.” He gripped Jing Yi’s hand and pulled him over. “Uncle Li!” Shao Hai looked up at the obese man with a deadpan expression.
He knew him and his two lackeys. Actually, everyone doing business in the capital knew them because those three loved to make trouble! And they always got away with it. In fact, they had offended plenty of people but still didn’t have to pay for it. Making trouble for a family like the Zhongs was as easy as taking candy from a baby for them. And they definitely were the type of people who would rob a baby of its candy.
Shao Hai’s father had also had the bad luck of having to do with this Li Bo once. It hadn’t been a nice encounter. You could even say that Li Bo had ripped his father off but what could he have done? There was no talking things over with Li Bo. If he intended to make things difficult for you, nothing could deter him. Well, besides a huge bribe, maybe …
Shao Hai knew that but he still wanted to try. This was Jing Yi’s family, after all!
Li Bo stared at the children in front of him. He didn’t know who they were but his eyes started to shine at their sight. He bent forward and smiled, making the people around him shudder. “Oh! Who might these small munchkins be?”
Shao Hai curled his lips. “I’m the son of Shao Chen. You did some business with him.”
Li Bo couldn’t remember any Shao Chen and as soon as he heard that he stopped paying attention to Shao Hai and concentrated on Jing Yi. Never mind if that one is from another family, this child would be more useful anyway.
His smile grew even wider. “And what about you?”
Jing Yi clutched Shao Hai’s arm and hid behind him. Shao Hai straightened up, feeling like he had to claim ownership now. “That’s my bride!”
Thankfully, Qiu Ling wasn’t there to hear that. Though, if he had been, he might have said the same line as Li Bo: “We’ll see about that!”
Shao Hai frowned and pushed Jing Yi further behind his back. “What is that supposed to mean?!” That Li Bo couldn’t be thinking of taking his bride away, could he?!
Li Bo only smiled, leaving the explaining to his servants.
The second servant took up where Shao Hai’s arrival had interrupted their act. “Didn’t Xiao Nuo already tell you? They’re such shameless people! Who knows if they can stay?”
Shao Hai frowned even more. “How can you say that about uncle Zhong and his family? They’re good people and only doing business here!”
“Hmph! Good people? Only doing business?” The first servant snorted. “How can you say that with a straight face? Those people stole the great Li Bo’s horses!”
“Right! You better confess now!”
“Or else we’ll call the people from the justice court over!”
Li Bo smiled patronizingly. “Even though you’ve wronged me like that, I’ll leave you a way out since I’m such a good person.” He gazed at Jing Yi, his smile getting wider.