Besides Li Gang, several aides and staff were standing in the hall. At the moment, they were all measuring Li Mu with curious eyes. Since the robust youth had risen to fame in Chang’an over the past few months, they were quite interested in him. Plus, he had a special relationship with their master.
“I hope Your Honor could take out the Sky-stabilizing Mirror and help me investigate who the man that drew the power of heaven and earth on the other day and attacked my friends at the gate of the Hanshan Academy with the golden fingerprint was.” Li Mu uttered the point-blank request without beating around the bush.
Li Gang looked unperturbed as always. After hearing that request, he said mildly, “The Sky-stabilizing Mirror is an important instrument of the empire. It has never been used on private matters.”
“Is that a rejection?”
But Li Mu had already expected that result.
“So, Your Honor, what’s the catch? You name it.” He said.
Now that the pretty old face explicitly asked Zheng Cunjian to tell him to come there in person, there was undoubtedly some leeway for negotiation. On no account could Li Gang summon him there to say to him that rubbish. The only plausible explanation was that he wanted to negotiate.
Li Gang shot Li Mu a significant look and slightly knitted his brows. A moment later, he gently waved the others away.
The aides, staff, and guards in the hall who were casting furtive glances at the two out of curiosity then headed out reluctantly.
So only Li Mu and Li Gang were left in the large hall.
“After eight years’ worth of separation, your disposition has changed quite a lot. Now, you even dare bargain with me.” Li Gang was still sitting upright behind the desk, his features bearing a commanding look.
Li Mu, yet, did not say a word.
Surely, Li Gang continued, “During those years, few have dared bargain with me.”
“He is such a chatterbox!”
Li Mu finally spoke, “Your Lordship, let’s cut to the chase.”
Li Gang gave a smile and said in a playful tone, “Fine. But you need to know that the catch I demand is not gonna be easy to satisfy.”
“Why is he still prattling on?”
“Gosh, just say it!”
Though complaining in his head, Li Mu said politely, “Your Lordship, please go on.”
The smile on Li Gang’s face gradually faded. With a nod, he said, “Good. But before that, here is a man you have to meet first.” Then, he looked over his shoulder and called, “Brother Qinzhi, please come over here.”
From behind, a golden screen at the rear of the hall strolled out a figure.
It was a man probably in his fifties, who was tall and big-boned, cladding linen robes. Although he was dressed, his grey hair was neatly combed and swept back in a bun fixed with a wooden hairpin. He wore no valuable accessories. Like his appearance, his entire image was utterly unremarkable.
But the one thing that attracted Li Mu’s attention was the man’s arms.
His arms were so long that they drooped beneath his knees. And his arm bones were much stronger, while his ten fingers were one-third longer than ordinary people’s. His knuckles looked big and coarse, dimly gleaming in the color of the earth as if his hands were polished out of gravels. Due to his disproportionally long arms and big hands, there was a sense of absurdity around him.
“That guy is definitely a strong expert!”
“And he ought to be an expert with amazing punching skills, at least in the Celestial Being Realm.”
Li Mu was rather surprised.
As the middle-aged man appeared, he sensed a wave of invisible pressure was flooding towards him noiselessly. He knew that man’s strength was much larger than that of the Red-hair Killing God, Zhang Bulao.
He quietly put up his guard.
When the middle-aged man came out, he set his eyes upon Li Mu and scrutinized him from head to foot. Then, he gave a subtle nod but did not speak.
“Brother Qinzhi, please take a seat.” Li Gang was especially courteous towards that man. After he settled himself in a chair, the magistrate began to introduce him to Li Mu. “Brother Qinzhi is an elder of the Yue Mountain Faction. Twenty years ago, he made his name with the Sky-cracking Punch and since then overawed our empire. Now, he is one of the Executives of the Imperial Executive Group under the Supervisory Department. As to today’s catch, Brother Qinzhi will discuss with you.”
At that, a horrible discovery abruptly dawned upon Li Mu.
“He is a man of the Supervising Department!”
Xu Sheng, the Sky-cracking Punch, also styled as Qinzhi, was an elder of the first-grade Yue Mountain Faction and one of the Executives at the headquarters of the Supervisory Department. In the files Zheng Cunjian furnished him before, that man was underlined as an extremely formidable Celestial Being, who claimed that his brilliant punches were invincible. This time he was sent to Chang’an by the Supervisory Department to take over Lu Lizi, the Routing Supervisor previously in charge of the cases in Chang’an. Surely, he was a big shot.
According to Zheng Cunjian’s comments, the hazard level of Xu Sheng, the Sky-cracking Punch, ranked among the tops, which was only second to the ascending second prince.
Before, Lu Lizi had come to Li Mu with blatant aggressiveness. However, even before he confronted Li Mu face-to-face, he had his life scared out of him and hastily called an end to his ambitious task. But since Xu Sheng arrived in Chang’an, a couple of days had passed uneventfully. Li Mu just found it bemusing. To his astonishment, today, he met the big shot with strong punching skills at Li Gang’s place.
“Greetings to Senior Xu.” Li Mu paid obeisance to the supervisor.
For the moment, he could not figure out what purpose the big shot from the Supervisory Department had by meeting him on that occasion.
“Indeed, heroes start being heroes in their youth. You, at the age of fifteen, already killed a Natural Expert. That kind of victory can hardly be unprecedented. No wonder you have the guts to kill those working in our Supervisory Department. Lu Lizi failed to do anything to you. You also looted Chu Nantian, the Four Great Devil Zombies, and even Meng Wu.” Xu Sheng stared Li Mu, his face revealing a hint of admiration.
“I’m so flattered.” Li Mu replied mannerly.
He felt that man famous for the Sky-cracking Punch was not there to ask him to answer for his wrongdoings.
“That’s no surprise. After all, what kind of prosecutor could talk in such a roundabout way?”
“The Supervisory Department is an institution inspecting the entire martial circle on behalf of the top nine Holy Clans. In our Western Qin Empire, the headquarters of the Supervisory Department represents the will of the Guanshan Pasture, which is one of the Holy Clans. Murdering a Supervisor of our Supervisor is a felony. If someone committed such a crime ten years ago, the Supervisory Department certainly would not let him off the hook until he was killed. We would dispatch experts at all levels and hunt the criminal down. Boy, you do have some audacity.” Xu Sheng added.
“It might be like what you said if it was ten years ago. But what about now?” Li Mu came straight to the point.
Xu Sheng sighed and then smiled. “Nowadays, the Supervisory Department is divided into several parties. Te decrees it issues is not that orderly as before. But thanks to that, you’re still alive.” Xu Sheng was a short-tempered person. Today, he directly stated the truth to Li Mu, unveiling the current tendencies inside the department all at once.
Li Gang, the prestigious magistrate, was quietly listening to Xu Sheng’s remarks, showing no intention to cut in.
Li Mu, too, seemed to be all ears at what Xu Sheng would say next.
It was apparent that the supervisor was harboring a specific agenda.
Sure enough, Xu Sheng went on, “Well, I won’t beat about the bush. This time, the Supervisory Department that I represent show great interest in you, audacious boy. How does it sound? Are you by any chance intrigued to join our Supervisory Department?”
“Join the Supervisory Department?”
“Did he just offer amnesty and enlistment to the rebel?”
In that instant, the tragic endings of the one hundred and eight heroes from Liangshan county being enlisted by the government flitted across Li Mu’s mind.
“Even if you rely on secret methods or treasures to kill a Celestial Being at the age of fifteen, that is already very stunning. As long as you don’t die, your potential is very huge. All the parties in the Supervisory Department believe you have a promising future, so they consider to recruit you,” Xu Sheng explained, “Nonetheless, I object to it at the beginning. If anyone that killed a member of our Supervisory Department can be spared by joining the staff because of his qualities and outstanding combat ability, then, what will become of the Supervisory Department? It will be a base of bandits sooner or later.”
Li Mu rubbed his temples and did not give a reply.
“The Sky-cracking Punch Xu Sheng surely is a darn, straightforward person. What he said is sensible, but not very pleasant to the listener.”
“However, when I came to Chang’an and learned about the things you did in detail, I suddenly changed my mind,” Xu Sheng continued, “You took out the Shennong Faction, cracked down upon those good-for-nothing experts in the northwest of the Wulin World, the Dafeng Chamber of Commerce, the Heaven Sword Martial Club, and the turmoil night in the Musical House… Emm… and the Hanshan Academy. Boy, all that you did are quite to my tastes.”
He did tell the truth. Li Mu had turned Chang’an upside down for the sake of several maids. His chivalry character and tendency to protect the weak sat very well with Xu Sheng. Back then, as the supervisor himself ventured in Jianghu, he was also a famous chivalrous man who was very protective of those in his league. Sometimes, he could even commit a massacre just for the faith he held. He gained the name as the Sky-cracking Punch by beating up one villain after another.
Very cooperatively and shamelessly, Li Mu commented, “Senior Xu does have eyes like a hawk’s.”
A little taken aback, Xu Sheng said, “You’re truly… Well then, little boy, the present Supervisory Department is fraught with bad aura, and only a little of the righteous spirit remains. However, you seems agreeable to me. You’re a rare talent, and I place high hopes on you. What do you say? Join us right away. When you have our Supervisory Department to back you up, you won’t have to worry about the punishment if you ever stir up any trouble.”
Li Mu was a little tempted.
Even though he was quite confident about his strength and very much belittled those lame experts on this planet from the strategical perspective, he knew he had to take serious the opponents from a tactical standpoint. Given that the Supervisory Department claimed to inspect the entire Wulin on behalf of the top nine Holy Clans, it was a backup strong enough. If he stuck to that backup, he would undoubtedly have more assurance to complete his tasks in the future.
“But, but I’ve killed a Supervisor of the Supervisory Department.” Li Mu added.
“Haha, I’ve investigated that case. The Supervisor you killed at Taibai County was an evil and greedy scumbag who perpetrated all kinds of crimes under the name of our Supervisory Department. Even if you didn’t kill him, the department would send killers to get rid of him. So, you did a good job killing him.” Xu Sheng laughed heartily and then instructed, “When you join us, we will tell the public that you simply took him out on behalf of the Supervisory Department.”
“Even that’ll do?”
“The old chap Xu is rather cunning.”
“He truly has high morality reaching up to the clouds. Once he is fond of someone, he confidently brings in the advantages through the back door. Who else should I follow other than him?”
Shortly, Li Mu had made up his mind.
However, on the surface, he still pretended to be wavering between the options. “But, now, I’m an official of the empire. I’m governing Taibai County. So, am I allowed to join the Supervisory Department?”
Xu Sheng said coolly, “You can rest assured on that. When you become one of us, you can choose not being the county magistrate anymore. There won’t be any conflicts of interest. So, I’m sure the Board of Civil Office will let you go.”
“They do need me to resign.”
Li Mu smiled.