Paragon Of Destruction 40 The Magistrate
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"They're from the Redstone branch of the Jiang Clan," she replied. "From what I heard, the branch leader has been trying to get an audience with Uncle Bear for the past month. They thought they could use me to force Uncle Bear to see them." She shook her head in disgust.
"Are you okay?" Arran asked.
"I am," she said. "But this is going to cause some trouble for you. The Redstone branch is among the more powerful factions within the clan, and they will want compensation for what you did."
"The little b.a.s.t.a.r.d had it coming," Arran said with a shrug. He was confident that Lord Jiang would protect him if necessary, but even if that weren't the case, he would not let some random thug manhandle Jiang Fei.
"Young master, young mistress," Captain Wu said uncomfortably. "I'm supposed to arrest you, but…" He hesitated for a moment. "I can escort you back to Lord Jiang's estate if you wish."
"No," Jiang Fei said firmly. "That would cause problems for you. Uncle Bear can protect us, but you can't afford to make enemies of the Redstone branch."
"Thank you, young mistress." Relief was clear on the man's face as he nodded in grat.i.tude. "I have already sent word to Lord Jiang. Once he learns of this, I'm certain the matter will be resolved quickly."
From his expression, it was obvious that he could not wait to have someone else take charge of the situation.
"Where are we going?" Arran asked. They had been walking for a while already, with Arran, Jiang Fei, and Captain Wu in front, and half a dozen guards following some paces behind them.
"I'm taking you to the Magistrate's mansion," Captain Wu said. "Normally, I would have to put you in jail for the night, but…" He gave Arran and Jiang Fei a frightened look.
They arrived at the Magistrate's mansion a short while later. Captain Wu said some words to the guards at the gate, whose faces immediately paled. Hurriedly, the guards let them through the gate.
Inside, they found a large, quiet courtyard, surrounded by a sober but tasteful wooden building. The courtyard itself was mostly empty, except for a large pond and several carefully trimmed hedges and shrubs. On the whole, Arran thought, the place more resembled a temple than it did a mansion.
Moments later, a feeble-looking old man in an ornate yellow robe stepped into the courtyard. He was short, barely reaching Arran's shoulders, and his expression was filled with worry. Arran understood that this must be the Magistrate.
"Captain Wu," the old man said, "could you tell me what happened?"
As Captain Wu explained the earlier events, the old man anxiously knitted his brows. "Oh dear," he said several times, casting furtive glances at Arran and Jiang Fei.
"I'm terribly sorry about all of this," he said after Captain Wu had finished his explanation, while looking at look at Arran and Jiang Fei.
He turned toward Captain Wu, and said, "You and your men can leave. I don't think there's much risk of these two young people trying to escape." With an awkward laugh, he added, "Although that would save us all quite a bit of trouble."
Captain Wu and his men left in a hurry, obviously glad that they were no longer involved in the problem.
The old man turned to Arran and Jiang Fei with a troubled look. "I am Magistrate Huang," he said, "and I really am terribly sorry about what happened." This was the second time the man had apologized in as many minutes, and Arran wondered just why the old man was so afraid.
Magistrate Huang looked around anxiously as if to make sure n.o.body was watching them, then said in a low voice, "It's these Redstone thugs… ever since they arrived, they have been causing all kinds of trouble."
"What kind of trouble?" Jiang Fei asked, her expression thoughtful.
"I will tell you over dinner," Magistrate Huang said. Again he looked around anxiously, as if he was afraid that someone might be listening in.
They followed the old man inside, and he led them to a large but empty dining hall. As they sat down, several servants appeared, pouring them wine and setting down some food.
They ate in silence, with Magistrate Huang only eating a few bites, spending most of the meal looking anxiously at Arran and Jiang Fei.
Finally, he spoke. "You wanted to know about the trouble the city has seen of late?"
Both Arran and Jiang Fei nodded.
"It all began when the Redstone delegation arrived a month ago," the old man said. "They came to see Lord Jiang, but like most others, they were turned away at the gate. I didn't think much of it at the time — Lord Jiang rarely sees visitors — but afterward, they started to cause trouble."
"Cause trouble? How?" Jiang Fei asked, a deep frown on her face.
Magistrate Huang let out a deep sigh. "At first, it was limited to a few fights. Then, they started to intimidate members of some of the lesser branches of the Jiang Clan, even challenging people to duels." He shook his head. "It's almost as if they're looking for trouble."
"Why haven't you done anything?" Arran asked.
"Me?" The old man looked baffled. "You think I would interfere?"
"You are the city's Magistrate, are you not?"
Understanding dawned in Magistrate Huang's eyes, and he let out a bitter laugh. "I might be the Magistrate, but this city belongs to the Jiang Clan. I handle small crimes — cutpurses and the like — but I would not dare get involved in the affairs of the Jiang Clan."
"But couldn't you—" Arran began.
"Arran," Jiang Fei interrupted him, "Magistrate Huang and his men aren't mages."
Arran felt his cheeks flush in embarra.s.sment. After having spent so long surrounded by mages, he had almost forgotten that not everyone had magical powers. Now that he knew that they lacked magic, he understood why the Magistrate and his men could not stand up to mages.
No wonder they had been so frightened by the situation — they were stuck in the middle of a conflict where either side could kill them without even the slightest effort.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I thought that…" He hesitated for a moment, then sighed. "I didn't think."
"It's quite alright," Magistrate Huang said. "Until now, the presence of Lord Jiang was enough to dissuade others from causing trouble. I don't know why the Redstone men are acting like this."
"They're trying to get Uncle Bear to meet them," Jiang Fei said. "They probably believe that by causing trouble, they can force him to make an appearance."
Magistrate Huang looked at Arran. "For your sake," he said, "I hope he does make an appearance. If not…" He frowned, then sighed. "The young man whose brother you attacked will probably demand a duel."
"A duel?" Arran smirked. There were some things he feared, but a duel against that arrogant young man was not among them.
"Don't take him lightly," Magistrate Huang said in a severe voice. "He might be arrogant, but I've seen him fight. His skill with the sword is frightening. None of those he faced stood even the slightest chance."
Arran nodded in understanding, although he could not bring himself to feel too worried. After the months he had spent training with Lord Jiang, he was confident that he could best most opponents.
Confidence notwithstanding, after they finished the meal Arran moved to the courtyard, where he began practicing with the starmetal sword. Even if he wasn't truly worried about the possibility of a duel — and he was almost certain that Lord Jiang would not let it get that far — it couldn't hurt to be prepared.
With every swing, he found himself liking the sword more. It was solid and hefty, but not so much as to be clumsy. Best of all, with his current level of strength, it allowed him to deliver blows that should devastate even the strongest opponents.
"What is that thing?" Jiang Fei asked. She had been watching him practice, mostly remaining silent except for the occasional comment on his technique.
"It's my new sword," Arran said, grinning broadly. "Take a look."
He handed her the sword, and instantly her eyes went wide. "It's so heavy!" she said. She gave it an awkward swing, and the sword nearly slipped from her hands. "What do you need this for?"
"Remember the adept we fought at the monastery?" Arran's expression turned serious as he asked the question.
"Of course," Jiang Fei said. "How could I forget?" Sorrow sounded in her voice, and Arran knew she remembered how the adept had killed several of her fellow initiates before dying himself.
"It took us dozens of blows to kill him," Arran said. "But with this… I doubt he would have been able to withstand even a single well-placed strike."
Jiang Fei nodded, understanding. As she handed the sword back to Arran, she asked, "But isn't it too slow? It's just so heavy…"
Arran grinned, then struck out again with the sword, this time using his full strength to strike as fast as he could.
"I see," Jiang Fei said thoughtfully. "You really have more talent for Uncle Bear's techniques than I do."
"I got something for you as well," Arran said in an attempt to change the subject. He took the sword he had bought for Jiang Fei from his bag and handed it to her.
"Of course, it has to be a sword," she said with a sigh. Still, when she tried a few practice strokes, her eyes lit up and a smile appeared on her face. "As far as swords go, this one really is very nice," she added some moments later.
They practiced for several hours more, sparring and training with their new swords until they were both too tired to continue.
It was close to midnight when they finally retired to the rooms that Magistrate Huang had prepared for them.
Paragon Of Destruction 40 The Magistrate
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Paragon Of Destruction 40 The Magistrate summary
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