Walter started shivering. He knew that whenever the little devil smiled like this, someone would pay. Walter felt a little sympathy for the people in the hall.
"Your excellency, you have finally arrived. We have been waiting for a long time." From the middle of the hall, an elaborately dressed middle-aged man was walking over slowly. His face was abnormally white, his steps unstable, obviously a man who indulged in women and drinking. Although his words were polite, there wasn't a single trace of respect in them. In their eyes, this young girl was only a male-chaser, becoming the castellan only through the prominence of her family. So what if she was from the Hill clan? The emperor was far away currently. How could they not straighten out this young and inexperienced child? Threaten her first, then offer a few benefits. But they couldn't overdo it, because the master of the little girl was Sir Cliff. Fortunately Sir Cliff didn't come, or things would get a little tricky.
Claire watched the middle-aged man walking towards her while smiling the whole time, making the middle-aged man happy internally. He was glad that the child was indeed easy to straighten out.
But Claire saw the contempt in his eyes clearly.
"Your excellency, your servant is Flinn Menda. The qualities your excellency exhibited during this plague... " The middle-aged man called Flinn was the head of all the nobles in Niya. He put what he thought was a charming smile on his face, continuously praising. First flatter, then coerce, and finally, lay out conditions: this the way they usually did things.
But soon, his charming smile froze on his face.
Because Claire raised her hand quietly to stop what he was going to say.
This was very rude behaviour.
All the nobles in the hall were stunned. Although Claire was the castellan, she was only the lowest baron. And she made such a rude gesture? No castellan had ever dared to be so rude to them nobles.
"Does your excellency have something to say?" Flinn asked, frowning, suppressing his anger.
"Everyone knows that the plague had just ended, and there are still a lot of matters to settle. I need help from you; I'm sure that each and every one of you are kind-hearted and generous." Claire spoke, smiling at the doorway.
When Claire gave such a speech, the expression on the faces of Flinn and the rest of the nobles changed. Claire's meaning was very clear: she would not let them increase the prices on goods.
"Your excellency... "Flinn squeezed out a smile, wanting to say something.
But Claire didn't even glance at him. Instead, she raised her head to speak to the crowd. "I know that you invited me here today to prove your loyalty to the country. I'm sure that you have already agreed to lower all daily supplies sold by the trade union by twenty percent to help the people of Niya city. Another thing: I will be soon be leaving on a trip with my master Cliff, and while I'm gone, Heath will still take over my role as a castellan. I have faith that all of you will help Heath diligently, returning Niya to its prosperity."
As soon as Claire finished speaking, the whole hall boiled.
The crowd was gossiping among themselves, and Flinn's expression was extremely ugly. He didn't think that this little girl would take the initiative, first giving them such a big responsibility, then saying her decision.
"Your excellency, you should also know that the founding of our trade union wasn't easy. During this plague, we also experienced serious losses... " Flinn's face was green as he complained.
"Are you saying that the castellan's words have no authority? Is loyalty worth a penny? Are you trying to say that not only are you unwilling to lower prices, but you plan to increase the prices and make money out of the crisis? And exploit harshly the already poor and grievous people?" Yixuan Feng now spoke fiercely, glaring and cursing at Flinn. He pointed at the elaborate decorations in the hall.
"This is what you call experiencing serious losses? Whoa, look at this crystal chandelier, market price five thousand gold coins. And this table set is from the Feng Family Trade Union, huh? At least two thousand gold coins. And this rug is a foreign import and costs at least eight thousand gold coins!"
Flinn opened his mouth wide, completely astonished. Who was this black haired red eyed youth? So rude and arrogant! The castellan also didn't do anything about it. And the prices he listed for each item were so precise.
"You! Who are you? Speaking so rudely!" Flinn came back to his senses and started thundering. Although this black haired youth was dressed nicely, his language was rude and Flinn had not heard of any other nobles accompanying the castellan, so this youth probably didn't have any background. Perhaps, he could be the weak link in their party and Flinn might get a chance to correct his mistake.
"He's my assistant." Claire smiled and answered, for she knew that Yixuan Feng, that crazy boy, would definitely say, 'I'm your castellan's future husband'. Then Claire's expression became dark. She asked coldly, "But wasn't everything he said correct?"
"Yes... " Flinn answered absent-minded, then came back to his senses and shouted, "Absolutely not. Our loyalty to the country is open for everyone to see."
"Then, Baron Flinn, you have agreed to lower prices by twenty percent?" Once again, Claire put on a brilliant smile.
"Well, this, I agree, but the other trade unions... " Flinn was riding on a tiger and unable to get off, so he pretended to be awkward. He looked at the other nobles in the hall and continued, "Your excellency, as you have also seen, my family is richer and still able to maintain itself despite the losses suffered from the plague, but my colleagues... " It doesn't matter if he lowered the prices. If need be, he could just close his shop and take his goods to his relatives' shops and still make a lot of money.
"That's right, your excellency, Baron Flinn is able to maintain, but it's hard for us." A fat man immediately walked over and interrupted.
"You could lose some weight." Wenmo Shui humphed coldly, extremely annoyed by looking at the parasites in the room. These people wanted to make money out of the crisis, but pretended to be so pitiful.
"Who are you? You're interrupting my talk with the castellan." Once he heard Wenmo Shui jab at his sore spot, the fat man used this as an excuse to explode in anger.
The hall became noisy as more people started blaming Wenmo Shui. There was finally a weak point on the castellan's side; how could they let it go? He was only a servant of the castellan. A lowly peasant being so rude to a noble would only end up hanged.
But Wenmo Shui only humphed and looked indifferently to the side.
"Your excellency, you also saw it. Your servant was so rude to me. A peasant insulted the authority of us nobles. I ask for you to punish him harshly! Hang him right now." The stupid fat man exclaimed indignantly, his spit flying everywhere.
Claire glanced at Wenmo Shui and suddenly lowered her voice so that only they could hear. "Wenmo Shui, his spit flew onto your hair."
The next moment, Wenmo Shui's face became very red, an indication that he was about to fly into a rage.
With a "whoosh", Wenmo Shui had pulled out his sword, his violet DouQi radiant. A magnificent ray of DouQi slashed towards that fat noble.
A deep crack appeared on the red-carpeted floor, reaching all the way until the fat noble's feet. If it went forward just a tiny bit, the fat guy would probably be dead.
The hall was deathly silent.
Everyone looked at the scene in front of them, stunned.
That handsome youth was actually a grand swordsman! And such a dangerous person too, using force for no reason at all! Without any respect to people or place! If he used just a bit more strength, that aristocrat would be dead!
The fat man finally realized what happened and his fat legs started shaking uncontrollably.
"You, you... " The fat man couldn't even get a whole sentence out, only pointing at Wenmo Shui with a trembling finger. He was extremely afraid. Why is such a dangerous person with the castellan?
The aristocratic women and girls who were attracted by Wenmo Shui before were now frightened, and they decided not to hook up with Wenmo Shui after the banquet as they planned to.
"Aiya, hehe, I'm so sorry. My guards are just like this, unable to control themselves when they see someone unrespectful towards me." Claire smiled like flower. "And as for the hanging this nobleman here mentioned, I'm afraid that's a little hard to do. No one in Niya is his match." Was there any sincerity in this apology? Was there? Was there? It was very obviously that not only wasn't there any sincerity, it was full of pleasure.
The hall was deathly silent.
Everyone's expression was ugly. Most people wanted to criticize her, but because of Claire's strong backing, Cliff, they couldn't say anything too harsh.
Flinn knitted his brows tightly, thinking about how to get the upper hand back.
"Ahem, ahem~~ " Suddenly, Claire straightened her expression and coughed slightly, and said pretentiously, "Wenmo Shui, how could you do that, treating this noble like this?"
When everyone heard that, their expressions became lighter. So the castellan still had to rebuke her guard on the surface.
Flinn's face also relaxed a bit. So this little child wasn't too uncooperative and knew when to stop.
"Oh, it's my fault." Wenmo Shui pouted and answered unwillingly.
"Yes, it's your fault. Next time you come across such a situation, don't give any mercy; just slice him into half." Claire's smile was brilliant and charming, but her words were dark.
As soon as Claire finished speaking, the expressions of all the people in the hall changed greatly. Disbelief was in every eye. They couldn't believe that a pretty, sunny little girl would say something like this.
"Yes, yes." Wenmo Shui nodded and laughed evilly.
"If you do that next time, I'll increase your wage." Claire's casual words were like tons of stones on the nobles' hearts. They were so casual, not caring about their status as aristocrats or their lives.
Everyone stared at Claire. Right now, all they were thinking was how frightening Claire's smile looked.
"Haha, I'm very willing to do so." Hearing this, Wenmo Shui laughed gleefully. In truth, one gold coin per month was way too little.
"Then what about me, will I get wages if I kill him now?" Yixuan Feng interrupted hurriedly. After all, he was working for free.
"Maybe next time. It'll depend on which one of you is faster." Claire replied insipidly.
Jean watched this silently, a light flashing through his eyes as he looked at Claire.
The casual conversation between the three infuriated and frightened the nobles in the hall. Nobody dared to interrupt. Even their families didn't have the power to defeat the grand swordsman.
Flinn's gaze was furious. This little child was pushing it too far! Who did she think she was?! He would find a way to report to the emperor of her unrespectfulness and reckless attitude. Just wait and see!
It wouldn't end like this!
"You all know that I'm busy these days, so I won't stay long. I will tell the emperor of your sacrifice for Niya and your loyalty to the country and make sure he rewards you. Please enjoy your rewards. I'm going to take my leave." Claire smiled gracefully, nodded towards the people, and then turned around and left.
The beautiful men also turned around and followed behind Claire elegantly, leaving many red-faced nobles.
And like so, they walked out the door. Jean handed Claire a jacket for protection from the sun. Claire put it on, and instead of getting on the carriage, she strolled around on the streets. Everything Claire needed was in the pockets of the jacket, including the still asleep White Emperor.
Niya had finally returned to it's usual prosperity. Many people came up and greeted Clarie when they saw her, gratitude written all over their faces. At first they didn't trust her, but now they worshipped her.
Suddenly, a little girl in a flower-print dress rushed up to Claire with a bouquet of flowers. She raised up the flowers and smiled. "Big sister, this is for you."
Claire looked at the innocent smile of the little girl and was stunned. From the depths of her eyes was pure gratitude and happiness.
"Big sister made Mother well again, so big sister is a good person." The little girl held up the flowers stubbornly, as if she wouldn't put them down if Claire didn't accept them.
"Mary, what are you doing?" The rebuking voice of an adult sounded in the distance and then a young man dressed like a commoner ran up hurriedly, his expression terrified. He looked at Claire and explained, "Your excellency, I'm sorry, the child is still young and disobedient."
A smile slowly appeared on Claire's face as she bent down and accepted the flowers from the little girl. She patted the little girl's head and said, "Thank you, the flowers are beautiful."
The young man was shocked. Born a noble, yet the castellan was so approachable?
"Big sister, you will always protect us, right?" The little girl asked happily when she saw that Claire accepted the flowers.
"Mary!" The young man's expression changed, rebuking the little girl as he picked her up. He apologized immediately to Claire. "Your excellency, I'm sorry, I'm really sorry... "
"Yes, I will. I will always protect everyone. Always." Claire smiled and looked at the little girl, promising.
"Yay! Yeah!" The little girl cheered, holding her father's neck and smiling.
Claire smiled as she looked at the young man and said, "No need to be so cautious. Your child is very adorable. If there are any problems in the future, just go to the castle and find the proxy castellan. He will help you."
"Thank you, castellan, thank you, castellan." The young man hastily thanked over and over.
Walter asked wickedly, "Claire, since when were you so kind?" After Walter finished asking, he waited for Claire's life threatening pinch, but even after a long time, there was no response.
Claire was silent, not saying a word.
Why was this word so ridiculous?
Seeing Claire's silence, Walter started to become add more fuel. "Claire, what kind of style are you doing today? Just then you were laughing, telling someone to kill someone and dismember their dead body, now you're adorably and kindly deceiving that man's little girl. Was it something you ate or drank..." Walter chattered on without end.
Claire was silent. She went forward slowly, like she was pondering over something.
At that moment, a small youngster walked over and brushed past them.
Once Claire came back to her senses, she discovered that Walter's voice was going farther and farther away!
What was going on?
"Claire, damn you, you idiot, I've been stolen! Just then when that guy brushed past you guys, they stole from your bag! If you still don't quickly come over here and save me..." Walter furiously shouted.
What?! Claire's expression changed. The youth who had just brushed past them? They actually stole from her. Claire promptly felt her bag and sure enough, found her wallet and the spiritual stone gone. White Emperor was still sleeping peacefully and everything else was still there. It was just that the money and the spiritual stone was gone.
"What is it, Claire?" Yixuan Feng asked with a tilted head. He discovered that something was wrong with Claire.
"We've been stolen from." Claire said quietly.
Everybody's expressions changed. They all subconsciously felt their bags. Only Wenmo Shui's expression was unperturbed, because he didn't have a wallet or anything else valuable.
Jean's expression also changed. There was actually someone who could stealthily steal money from him!
Yixuan Feng was so pissed his teeth ached. There was actually some blind guy who dared to steal from him! When he found that little thief, he would definitely beat him up so much that even his own mother wouldn't be able to recognize him!
Claire coldly turned to lead and said coldly, "Follow me."
If it was just the wallet, then perhaps Claire really wouldn't have any method to capture that thief.
Even though stealing anything was bad, how could a person be stolen?!
Walter was actually stolen away!
It was an outstanding robber. Very obviously, a very outstanding robber.
Claire emotionlessly followed Walter's instructions, going past two streets, chasing all the way to a faraway alley. The alley was very secluded with no signs of life. At the very end, a door appeared at the right. Tottering on the verge of collapse over the door was a sign that indicated it was a hotel.
Claire pushed the door open, a person asleep at the front desk. When they heard the sound of the door being open, they raised their head and saw Claire's group, preparing to say something. But Claire snapped her finger and a small fireball flew in front of the businessman. It swayed as it circled twice and then disappeared.
The businessman's mouth opened wide, not a word coming out. Magician! A magician actually came to such a classless little inn like his!
"We're looking for someone. No matter what sounds you hear in a moment, don't bother. We will compensate twice the amount for damages." Yixuan Feng was practically gnashing his teeth as he said these words hatefully.
Claire didn't say a word and went straight upstairs.
Walter was making a racket incessantly. "Claire, how are you this stupid? Huh? I, a living person, was actually able to be stolen away. You didn't even notice when they touched your bag?"
Claire had a dark expression the whole way as she went to the room Walter directed her to. Wasn't this first time she had been stolen from?
"Wenmo Shui, you're in charge of the window. Jean, watch the door." Claire was really a bit angry. She had actually been stolen from without noticing!
"How did you know it was here?" Yixuan Feng look doubtfully at the door.
"I set up a spell on my wallet." Claire explained halfheartedly.
Yixuan Feng immediately realized and fiercely kicked the door open. Wenmo Shui was like lightning as he raced to the window madly, blocking the escape route of the person inside. And Jean guarded at the doorway.
Yixuan Feng smiled evilly, his fist tightened so much, there was the sound of cracked knuckles. If he didn't beat up the robber inside the room so much that their head would be filled with bruises, then he wouldn't be called Yixuan Feng.
After the door was kicked open, sure enough, the first reaction of the person inside the room was to run towards the window, but the window was already guarded by Wenmo Shui. The door was also guarded by another warrior.
"Where will you run?" Yixuan started laughing evilly.
Claire sized up the young robber in the room. Plain clothes, slim body, brown hair, long bangs that even blocked the brows. A pair of jet-black, large eyes watched them alertly.
"If I give you the items, let me go." The young robber said immediately. Naturally, he understood the situation. Originally, they had thought they were fat sheep. Who would have thought they were all strong experts? It was a real miscalculation. The young robber quickly brought out all the wallets and put them on the table. Naturally, there was also Claire's spiritual stone. All the items were brought out, untouched.
Claire was silent as she approached, grabbing her wallet and spiritual stone and putting it into her bag.
"We can let you go. Just wait for me to beat you up so much that nobody can recognize and then it'll be fine." Yixuan Feng pushed up his sleeves, preparing to start.
But Claire blocked Yixuan Feng and walked up to the young robber. The young robber faced Claire's eyes and stepped back, feeling a little uneasy. This woman gave him an indescribable pressure.
"What's your name?" Claire asked the thin and weak looking youngster.
The youngster bit their lip, not saying anything.
Suddenly, Claire started laughing coldly. "If you don't respond, I'll let them strip you bare and then tie you up and send you to the prison. There won't even be a trial because I am this city's castellan."
The youngster looked at the cold light in Claire's eyes, and their heart couldn't help trembling, saying quietly, "I'm called Summer Ai Luo."
Everybody in the room twitched their mouth when they heard Claire's threat. What kind of threat was this? Strip away their clothes? It was fine to just send them to prison, why strip them?
"Very good, Summer. Talk. Why do you need to steal?" Claire said insipidly. She pulled up a chair and sat down, then indicated at Jean to close the door.
"I'm a robber." Now Summer's voice didn't have any timidness. Instead, they stuck their chest out, speaking boldly. Their meaning was, I'm a robber, it's proper for me to steal. But Claire noticed that when Summer said this, there was a trace of pride.
"What about the other things you stole? Will you bring them out or will I let them search your body?" Claire coldly stared at Summer as she said these words.
"Holy shit, Claire, you want to do villainous things to another villain?" Walter cried out in surprise.
Claire didn't say anything, silent. Nonsense. They had all tasted this robber's skill; if the items he stole didn't have anything good, it would be strange. Also, the robber had been tightly pulling at the bag in their hand the whole time.
Summer angrily look at Claire, gnashed their teeth, and handed over the bag in their hand in the end.
Claire grabbed the bag with one swipe, not caring for formalities. Then she started looking inside. There were jewels, jewels, necklaces, etc., all unordinary items.
"Claire, do you like these? Go home with me. I'll give you as much as you want." Yixuan Feng crouched down, looking at Claire look through the items, laughing.
But Claire didn't even look at those treasure left on the side. These were all useless items. In the very depths of the bag was a book. Claire was about to start flipping through, but the words on the cover caught her eye.
It was Chinese! Really, truly Chinese!
Treasured Lotus Style Cultivation.
The four words in fangsong font were imprinted clearly on the front cover.
"Where did you steal this from?" Claire asked while frowning at Summer.
"I don't know. I've stolen from so many people, how could I know which person this is from?" Summer snorted, replying disdainfully.
"Oh. Well then, Yixuan Feng, strip him naked and tie him up, then take him away." Claire instructed insipidly and stood up.
"I'll talk, I'll talk!" Summer was alarmed incessantly, continuously waving hastily, saying, "I stole this from another robber."
"In other words, you don't understand the words on the cover?" Claire asked while waving the book.
"I didn't know what kind of strange thing it was so I was preparing to throw it away." This time, Summer replied cooperatively.
Claire didn't speak anymore and instead flipped through the book. With a rough skim, Claire's eyes actually widened.
This was a rare cultivation book!
"Bring him away." Claire put away the book and then lead the way.
"Hey, hey, what do you mean. I already gave the items to you and you even took something you wanted, isn't it time for you to let me go?" Summer angrily raised a fist. Summer had thought subconsciously that because he was so cooperative, after they were done, they would definitely let him go.
"When did I promise to let you go?" Claire turned and gave a brilliant smile.
"You!" Summer dared to be angry, but didn't dare to speak. He only stared hatefully at Claire.
And just like this, in front of the three handsome men's suspicious gazes, Claire brought Summer back to the castle.
Entering the room, Claire hinted at everyone to wait outside the door while she and the robber, Summer, have a one on one chat.
Yixuan Feng felt so conflicted, his heart extremely disturbed. Perhaps Claire fell for this pretty boy? This pretty boy that could be easily blown away by a gust of wind?
Yixuan Feng felt so conflicted he almost scratched the walls. Wenmo Shui felt joy looking at Yixuan Feng's misfortune. Jean didn't have any expression on his face. There was only a sliver of suspicion in his eyes.
Inside the study, Claire set up a magic barrier, preventing anyone from hearing their conversation. Only then did she sit down.
Summer watched Claire hatefully. Right now he was the equivalent of a sheep waiting for slaughter. He couldn't fight and win against Claire and couldn't escape either. There were still three even stronger people guarding outside.
"What on earth do you want to do?" Summer asked angrily. "I'm tell you, I stole that book from another robber. I don't know what the words on the cover mean either."
"I don't mean to ask you about your relationship to this book." Claire smiled. She leaned back in her chair leisurely as she watched Summer.
"Then what on earth do you want to do?" Summer asked furiously.
"Claire, you haven't really taken a liking to this pretty boy, right? Look at him, so skinny, like what? A gust of wind would knock him over. At least find a strong man who's able to suppress you." After saying the last bit, Walter felt regret. Sure enough, the next moment, the life threatening pinch came.
"Summer Ai Luo. Someone from the grand Ai Luo robber family. A self proclaimed robber, but you still haven't passed the clan's exam I'm afraid, right?" Claire tapped her fingers on the table indifferently, smiling gently.
Summer froze, then watched Claire alertly.
"Your exam is really harsh, it's actually stealing a dragon's tooth." Claire smiled.
"How do you know?" Summer blurted out, them came to his senses, quickly covering his mouth.
"Isn't it a bit too hard for a little girl to travel alone and single handedly steal a dragon's tooth?" Claire propped up her chin, languidly looking at the people below as she said this sentence.
Summer's expression immediately changed greatly, eyes wide as she* stared straight at Claire.
(TL: All the previous male pronouns were male in the Chinese. At first I attempted to make them gender neutral but it sounded super awkward.)
"Do you want to know how I figured it out?" Claire smiled while looking at Summer.
Summer was silent, but her eyes revealed anticipation. Of course she wanted to know. To this day, nobody had figured out she was female, so how did this girl figure it out the first time they had met?
Claire smiled brightly, looked at Summer, and then stated quietly with her vermillion lips, "I'm not telling you."
"You!" Summer's expression changed from anticipation to annoyance. If was to the point that she even had the impulse to rush up and beat this annoying person up, but she couldn't beat her. Sigh... Summer felt extremely conflicted.
"Why don't you come with me? I will help you steal dragon teeth." Claire displayed a charming smile, persuading with a low voice.
"W, why would you say these kinds of words? What qualifications do you have to make me follow you?" Summer snorted, speaking disdainfully.
"First, I'm stronger than you. Currently, I could beat you up so much that your whole face bruises until you agree. Second, the three men guarding outside are stronger than you and can also make your whole face bruise. Third, my Master, Cliff, can beat you up so much that even flowers wouldn't bloom in your presence and immediately wither." Claire elaborated indifferently. Then she said one last sentence. "Of course, if you agree, then not only will we not beat you up, we'll help you successfully steal dragon teeth and let you pass your exam, let you become a true part of the Ai Luo clan, let you become the Ai Luo clan's pride." With one jab, Claire had completely grasped Summer's weakness. The Ai Luo clan was the world's largest and oldest robber clan, but becoming a true part of the Ai Luo clan required passing a test.
Summer frowned, then relaxed, then frowned again, and then relaxed again. Of course she had heard of Cliff's name and knew what kind of person he was. It was just that she never thought today she would bump into Cliff's recently acquired disciple. She was Claire Hill!
And like so, Summer knit her brows and then smoothed them out many times, so much that just by watching, Walter felt conflicted. Summer finally said slowly, "What kind of price do I need to pay?"