When Hua Yu Xin woke up and saw a room full of people staring at her, she was so frightened that she shot up from her couch and reached out for her sword.
"Miss Hua, there is no need to be nervous." Xu Zhi Nan's voice was gentle and calm, and had a reassuring power of its own.
Hua Yu Xin looked at Xu Zhi Nan in surprise and confusion, and then at the others, "Xu Zhen Ren, Your Highness ... you guys, me, what's going on?" She wanted to get up, but her body felt weak and feeble, as if her fever had just subsided and her skin was still burning. She had sweated a lot, and her body was sticky and very uncomfortable.
Qi Meng Sheng said, "Don't move around, listen to us."
Hua Yu Xin stared at Qi Meng Sheng, her emotions, which had just been slightly calmed by Xu Zhi Nan, had tensed up again. There were many evil legends about the Cangyu Sect in the Central Plains, and Qi Meng Sheng's reputation as a demoness was well-known. Her first contact with the Cangyu Sect was this big shot, who was also a cold-faced beauty, so it’s normal for her to feel scared.
When Qi Meng Sheng saw Hua Yu Xin's reaction, she raised her eyebrows slightly.
Xu Zhi Nan laughed twice in a low voice: "Meng Sheng, don't scare her.
Let me speak." Qi Meng Sheng gave a cold snort and looked away. "Does Miss Hua remember what happened tonight?"
Hua Yu Xin thought for a moment, "I remember that after the banquet, Consort Shen invited me to Qinghui Pavilion to sit for a short while." She looked at Song Zi Heng, "Consort Shen treated me to her treasured wine, did I ... drank too much? What happened after that, I don't remember. Where is this place?" She lowered her head and smelled her clothes, not only did she smell of wine, but also a strange floral scent.
Song Zi Heng was so ashamed in his heart that he did not dare to look directly at Hua Yu Xin, but simply remained silent at the side.
But hearing these words, everyone was secretly relieved, and Xu Zhi Nan gave a few unnoticeable smiles.
If she didn't remember, then this matter was much easier to explain. "Miss Hua was indeed drunk, and Consort Shen ordered His Highness
and Ninth Highness to send you back to the guest residence, but on the way, you guys were attacked."
"What?!" Hua Yu Xin's eyes widened, "By who?"
"It's a long story." Xu Zhi Nan glanced at Song Zi Heng, "His Highness was wounded. Fortunately His Highness asked us to drink here this evening, not far from where you were attacked. Ninth Highness ran to ask for help and we arrived in time before the villains had to retreat, otherwise tonight, the consequences would have been unthinkable."
When Hua Yu Xin saw that Song Zi Heng had indeed changed his clothes and was pale and weak. She was so young and innocent that she did not suspect him at all and shouted in fear and anger, "Who was it?! Who tried to harm me?!”
"It was not to harm you, it was to harm us." Song Zi Xiao stood beside Song Zi Heng, clutching his sword, lying without changing his expression, "However, this is somewhat related to your Huaying Sect."
Hua Yu Xin immediately understood, "Could it have something to do with my little martial uncle?"
"That’s right." Xu Zhi Nan sighed, "We eliminated the Lion Alliance and captured Chen Xing Yong alive, but this matter is not over yet. Where those cores Chen Xing Yong had dug, including your little martial uncle's core, went, we still haven’t found out. Uncovering the buyer behind the scenes is far more important than catching Chen Xing Yong."
"Then has Chen Xing Yong confessed?"
"He's confessed, and that person is now in Daming."
"Who is it?!" Hua Yu Xin said sternly, "How dare he try to kill and silence Your Highness and Ninth Highness!"
"He is the head of the Wuyun Sect - Yan Shu."
Hua Yu Xin's pupils suddenly shrank and she drew a breath backwards. "We already knew about it last year, but due to his status, we simply
didn't dare to alarm the enemy and act rashly without hard evidence. Now that he's become the head of the Wuyun Sect, he's even harder to shake." Xu Zhi Nan said in a deep voice, "But I never thought he would be so arrogant as to strike first and dare to assassinate the prince in the territory of Daming."
Hua Yu Xin clenched her fist, "It's really a case of knowing people and not knowing their hearts. So what should we do now?"
"We have a plan that might unravel his true colors, but we originally did not want Miss Hua to get involved in this matter."
"But I'm already involved." Hua Yu Xin tightened her grip on her sword, "No, I want to tell my big brother." Xu Zhi Nan stopped her, "The fewer people who know about this matter the better. If you hadn't been attacked with the two Highnesses this time, you wouldn't have been allowed to know about it, and this is also for your elder brother's safety."
"Alright, so what is your plan? What can I do?" Hua Yu Xin gritted her teeth and said, "Let me know who ate my little martial uncle's core, and I will definitely kill him!"
"This plan will be twice as effective with half the effort if Miss Hua helps."
Before Xu Zhi Nan sent someone to send Hua Yu Xin back, Hua Yu Xin found Song Zi Heng and thanked him, "Your Highness, thank you for saving me."
Song Zi Heng bowed his head slightly: "Miss Hua is very modest, it is because of us that you were involved in danger." Although he was avoiding Hua Yu Xin's pure gaze out of guilty conscience, in Hua Yu Xin's eyes, he looked weak because of his injuries.
Hua Yu Xin stepped forward worriedly, "Your Highness, where are you hurt?"
Song Zi Xiao immediately stopped her, "It's in a place that is not good for people to see."
Hua Yu Xin's pretty face flushed, "Then ... is it serious?"
"It's nothing serious, it will be fine after a few days of recuperation." Song Zi Heng said softly, "Miss Hua, it's getting late. If we don't go back soon, your brother will be worried."
"It's fine. I went out on a trip alone and he wasn't even worried." Hua Yu Xin said somewhat smugly. Song Zi Heng smiled lightly, "As big brothers, I think he must be worried. It’s just that he can't stop you from growing up."
Hua Yu Xin smiled shyly, "Then, I'll go back first."
"Miss Hua, what we agreed upon tonight, you must keep it a secret, and if you see Yan Shu or the people of the Wuyun Sect tomorrow, you must also be calm and composed, and do everything according to the plan."
"Don't worry, Your Highness." Hua Yu Xin put her hands behind her back and took two steps back, seemingly a little reluctant. She pursed her lips and said slightly shyly, "Your Highness, aren't you curious about what Consort Shen said to me?"
As Song Zi Xiao watched the two of them make eyes at each other, and watched Hua Yu Xin's undisguised affection for Song Zi Heng, his patience had reached its limit, and he suddenly let out an ‘ouch’ sound, covering his stomach and squatting down.
"Xiao Jiu, what's wrong?" Song Zi Heng held him up with one hand. "Big brother, my stomach hurts, I don't know what's wrong."
"Is Ninth Highness alright?"
Song Zi Heng saw right through Song Zi Xiao as he coughed lightly, "It's fine, I'll take care of him, Miss Hua, then I won't see you off."
Hua Yu Xin walked away with a little disappointment.
Song Zi Heng kicked Song Zi Xiao's butt: "Still pretending?"
Song Zi Xiao straightened up and snorted coldly, "I'm doing this for your own good. If you keep talking to her, I'm afraid you'll be exposed."
Song Zi Heng was stunned and gloomy, "I am indeed ashamed to face Miss Hua. To have put her through such a thing, and to lie to her and use her." "It's not even your fault, it's Consort Shen's ..." Song Zi Xiao barely resisted the urge to say something mean, "She's gone too far. She's simply harming others and herself. She's extremely foolish."
"How could I have ever imagined that my mother would commit such a mistake?" Song Zi Heng could not relieve the anger, shame and pain in his heart, and he did not even know how to go back to face his mother.
Seeing how hard it was for Song Zi Heng, Song Zi Xiao followed suit. He held his elder brother's hand and comforted him, "Big brother, you shouldn't blame yourself too much. After all, nothing really happened. Hua Yu Xin doesn't know, no one will know."
"Heaven knows, the earth knows, and you all know. Big brother can't get over it." Song Zi Heng shook his head and said in a weak voice, "I've been straightforward and upright all my life, yet I came close to doing the most shameless and nastiness thing, and being set up by my own mother, I ..."
Song Zi Xiao sighed and, with arms that were not yet wide enough, hugged Song Zi Heng: "Big brother, it's not your fault, don't blame yourself too harshly."
Song Zi Heng closed his eyes, feeling the unstinting warmth and care of those closest to him.
However, Song Zi Xiao was so close that he was distracted by the fragrance of orchids that came to his nose.
Originally, this familiar and elegant scent had been overshadowed by the scent of the charming love potion, but after bathing and dressing, the smell of the potion dissipated, and the residual medicinal properties left the heat of Song Zi Heng's body unabated, making his body fragrance more and more fragrant.
Song Zi Xiao thought of his big brother’s unkempt clothing and confused expression under the moonlight. Thinking of the house separated by a door away, warm candles, warm water, ambiguous deep moans, his brain boomed and his whole body heated up. He quietly let go of his hand, not daring to press against it like this again. His Adam's apple slid and his nerves tightened: "Big brother, you have not recovered yet, so go back and rest early. You have a lot of work to do tomorrow.
"Tomorrow ..." Song Zi Heng said gruffly, "Your task tomorrow is to have a good match. Don't be distracted by it."
That night, neither of the brothers went back to the palace, instead they stayed overnight at Xu Zhi Nan's guest house. Song Zi Heng stayed up all night thinking about his mother's appearance of either grief, anger, disappointment or pity.
The second day of the Jiaolong assembly was naturally much more interesting than the first, as the eight finalists would be chosen to compete on the third day.
Both Song Ruo Ning and Song Zi Yun were eliminated on the first day. Song Ruo Ning's cultivation was shallow and she had only come to the competition for fun, but Song Zi Yun was not bad and was considered one of the best among his peers, yet he lost to a female cultivator two years younger than himself.
Despite his frustration, he lost convincingly, and the female cultivator, named Chen Lan Duo, joined her two fellow disciples in making a name for herself at the Jiaolong assembly.
This is the first time that the Cangyu Sect has participated in the Jiaolong assembly. In fact, in previous years, they have occasionally sent people to watch the competition in the Jiaolong assembly. It was only a matter of time before they got closer to the Central Plains sects and integrated into the Central Plains immortal cultivation world. And this time's Jiaolong assembly, they sent two women and one man to compete in the tournament, and each of them was able to defeat their opponents within a few moves. They were so powerful that the crowd had new speculations about the winner this year. Song Zi Xiao has to compete 3 times today. If he wins all three, he will be competing for the top spot tomorrow. And his first match was against another female cultivator from the Cangyu Sect.
The woman's cultivation was not bad, but she was still no match for Song Zi Xiao and was soon defeated. And as Song Zi Xiao rested, the crowd all tacitly flocked to the western ring.
Song Zi Heng whispered, "The Wuyun Sect and the Chunyang Sect have been drawn together. Yan Shu will definitely be there to watch, so let's go over and watch too."
The Chunyang Sect and the Wuyun Sect are both large sects, and there are many juniors participating in the Jiaolong Assembly this time, but this match consisted of young successors from both sects, thus it naturally attracted a lot of attention.
When the two of them walked over, they saw Xu Zhi Nan standing with Yan Shu, no different from how he usually treats people. Facing a life-or- death enemy and still being able to talk and laugh so easily, one could not help but secretly admire Xu Zhi Nan's manners.
When Xu Zhi Nan saw the two of them, he joined the crowd in smiling and arching hands.
Yan Shu also bowed, "Your Highness, Ninth Highness."
Looking closer at this man, he was about fifty to sixty years old, tall, with a sharp angular face, deep eye sockets and a very sharp gaze that gave him a stern look.
"Sect Leader Yan." Song Zi Heng nodded and said, also trying to maintain his composure, "I have heard of your name for a long time."
"It's just a humble name. Your Highness thought highly of me." Yan Shu had a straight face, unable to see any emotion.
"Let's all sit down, the tournament is about to begin." Xu Zhi Nan teased Yan Shu, "Sect Leader Yan, if my sect’s junior wins, you must not be annoyed." Yan Shu said with a fake smile, "Joking aside, when the children compete, winning or losing is a lesson they have to learn."
As Song Zi Heng sat down, he exchanged a quiet glance with Song Zi Xiao.
Song Zi Xiao understood and asked curiously, "Sect Leader Yan, I heard that you have a magical weapon called the Wu Sheng Pen, which can turn anything you draw into the real thing. Can I borrow it to play with?"
Song Zi Heng chided, "Xiao Jiu, don't be rude, how can you just ask for a magical weapon?"
In rumors, Song Zi Xiao had a reputation for being arrogant, so it was not surprising that he made such a request. He said indifferently, "So what if I borrow it? I don't even want his, besides it's not like the Wu Sheng Pen is the most powerful magical weapon of the Wuyun Sect."
Yan Shu shifted his body uncomfortably.
Song Zi Xiao flattened his mouth unhappily, "Sect Leader Yan, you can demonstrate it to me."8n
Xu Zhi Nan laughed lowly, "Ninth highness is still a teenager at heart." "He's just mischievous, always thinking about playing all the time."
Yan Shu did not look embarrassed, and said, "If Your Highness really wants to see it, I will demonstrate it when the competition is over."
Song Zi Xiao clapped his hands happily, "Okay. Big brother, what do you think we should draw? A dragon?"
"Do you know how big a dragon is? How can it be drawn."
"Oh right ..." Song Zi Xiao thought for a moment, "Hey, I have an idea, how about letting Sect Leader Yan draw a small dragon? Then Xu Zhen Ren can use Gong Shu Ju to turn the small dragon into a big one?" Yan Shu's eyebrows twitched and his jaw suddenly tensed up.
Xu Zhi Nan laughed dryly, "Ninth Highness, that Gong Shu Ju, is not in my hands, but with the Flying Plume Ambassador."
"But Qi Meng Sheng clearly said it was in your..."
Song Zi Heng yanked Song Zi Xiao over and barked lowly, "Will you shut up?"
Song Zi Xiao grunted defiantly.
Xu Zhi Nan showed an awkward look on his face.
In the ring, the competition had already begun. Yan Shu looked ahead with unblinking eyes while whispering, "I heard that Your Highness and Xu Zhen Ren captured the Lion Alliance's Chen Xing Yong alive, eliminating harm for the martial world. That's indeed a truly chivalrous act."
"Everyone has to be punished for stealing cores. His Highness and Ninth Highness fought bravely against the enemy, while I did help a bit, which is not worth mentioning." Xu Zhi Nan said indifferently.
"I heard that Xu Zhen Ren’s junior brother... I’m sorry about that."
Xu Zhi Nan's pupils contracted, and his eyes flashed with bitter hatred, but he was as calm as a mountain. Without revealing any flaw, he just said sadly: "We were trapped, even Chen Xing Yong was silenced. Otherwise the mastermind behind the curtain would have already been found out."
Yan Shu stroked his beard and said, "Wouldn't that have allowed the person behind the curtain to go unpunished? The safety of the cultivators is still a cause for concern ah."
Song Zi Xiao said smugly, "When we first interrogated Chen Xing Yong, he couldn't tell us everything in order to keep his life, but he couldn't keep it all to himself either, so he still revealed some clues in the end, and we'll definitely be able to find out who it is."
"Oh, what clues?"
Xu Zhi Nan said, "Sect Leader Yan, just watch for the time being. That person behind the curtain must be an expert. Maybe he’s in Daming at this moment. Before the end of the Jiaolong assembly, we will test one by one, sooner or later we will be able to test it out." When he said this, he deliberately emphasised the word "test" clearly. This word inevitably let people think of measurement, and talking about measurement, in this situation, again it inevitably led to the thought of Lu Ban’s divine ruler, Gong Shu Ju.
"Yes, it will definitely be tested." Song Zi Heng stared at the ring and gave a heavy clap, "That was a good move."
Yan Shu looked at the ring and snapped out of his daze before realizing that his sect’s junior had fallen under the Chunyang Sect.
Soon after, the match was over, and the Chunyang Sect won over the Wuyun Sect by a narrow margin.
Yan Shu did not show a happy or angry expression on his face as usual, and calmly congratulated Xu Zhi Nan.
Xu Zhi Nan laughed loudly, "You are too kind, Sect Leader Yan."
Song Zi Xiao couldn't wait to say, "Sect Leader Yan, let me see the Wu Sheng Pen quickly. I will be competing again in a while."
Song Zi Heng was ashamed, "Sect Leader Yan, my younger brother does not know how to act. This is a presumptuous request. If you are in a difficult position, just say so."
"No worries, today I will let Ninth Highness have a glimpse of it." Several people sought shelter in the mountain forest. Yan Shu took out a simple and unsophisticated writing brush made of goat’s hair and looked at Song Zi Xiao, "Ninth Highness wants to see a dragon?"
"Yes, draw a dragon."
The Wu Sheng Pen emitted a burst of spiritual light and floated in mid- air. Yan Shu urged his spiritual power and the tip of the brush moved automatically. Soon enough, a small arm-length dragon was drawn in the air.
This little dragon, although black, is also alive and vivid. It shook its dragon's whiskers, stretching its long body, and obediently wrapped around Yan Shu.
Song Zi Xiao chased the dragon with excitement.
Song Zi Heng stroked his palm and laughed, "It's so interesting, how did Sect Leader Yan get such an interesting magical weapon?"
"Sect Leader Yan, how long can this dragon be maintained?"
"A small object like this, I can maintain it for a long time." Yan Shu looked at Xu Zhi Nan, "But if Xu Zhen Ren was to use the Gong Shu Ju to make it bigger, that would be too spiritually draining for me and I am unable to estimate how long it will last."
Xu Zhi Nan waved his hand and smiled bitterly, "Gong Shu Ju is not in my hands."
Song Zi Xiao said unhappily, "Hmph, what the hell are you ..."
Song Zi Heng sternly interrupted Song Zi Xiao’s words, "Gong Shu Ju is a matter of great importance, it is not for you to have fun."
The three echo to each other*, which really made Yan Shu frown. The more Xu Zhi Nan shrugged it off, the more suspicious it seemed, plus they were so nervous about Gong Shu Ju, they look fishy no matter how one looks at it.
After separating from Yan Shu, Song Zi Xiao rolled his eyes: "He really let me play with his magical weapon. I am not even a child."
Xu Zhi Nan said, "That's because the only thing His Highness wanted to see was the Wu Sheng Pen. So naturally he wouldn't want to disgrace you."
"If you really asked him for the Wuyun Sect's treasures, not only would he not agree, he would also be suspicious." Song Zi Heng stroked Song Zi Xiao's head, "You are indeed still a child."
Song Zi Xiao pushed his big brother's hand away, straightened his chest and said with a straight face, "I am not a child."
"He should have taken the bait. He has made many deals with Chen Xing Yong and inevitably has oversights, and it is impossible for him not to worry about his identity being exposed. Now that we are going to 'test' Gong Shu Ju, even though he does not know how and what we are going to 'test', he is bound to feel guilty."
"Only this step is not enough. He only suspects, but may not really think that Gong Shu Ju can expose him."
Xu Zhi Nan nodded, ", it's up to Hua Yu Xin."
"What do you guys know about that magical weapon of the Wuyun Sect?" Song Zi Xiao frowned, "Even if we do force him to reveal himself, if we can't catch him, it won't help."
"The Chasing Mountain Whip ..." Song Zi Heng recited, "Legend says that it is the magical weapon of Emperor Shi which can move mountains, but no one has ever seen what it is capable of. After all, it has not been seen in the immortal cultivation world for hundreds of years." Since three hundred years ago, when the ancestor of the Song Clan unified Jiuzhou and ascended to the throne as emperor, there has been no more great strife in this land. Not only the Chasing Mountain Whip, but also the top magical weapons of all the great immortal clans, have almost not been used, so their generation now knows very little about the Chasing Mountain Whip.
"When the time comes, the only way to capture him is to combine the strength of all the people." Song Zi Heng looked at the sky, "Xiao Jiu, your second match is about to start, let's go back."
Song Zi Xiao's second match happened to be the disciple of the Chunyang Sect who had just narrowly defeated the Wuyun Sect, just now. It was clear enough from this match that this disciple was no match for Song Zi Xiao, so this match does not have any suspense.
Song Zi Heng was about to go and watch the match when he was stopped by Shen Shi Yao's maid: "Your Highness, Consort wants to see you."
Song Zi Heng said coldly, "I am going to watch Xiao Jiu's martial arts competition."
"But Consort said ..." the maid lowered her voice and said with difficulty, "Your Highness, Consort has been angry all day, if she comes and finds you, won't it make an even worse scene?"
Song Zi Heng took a deep breath. He knew it was useless to run away from what was coming, and walked with great strides towards his tent.
Shen Shi Yao waved away all the attendants. Mother and son stared at each other through space, both with anger burning in their eyes.
She was about to talk when Song Zi Heng said: "Mother, do you know your mistake?"
Shen Shi Yao stared with her pair of beautiful round eyes and said with a shaking voice: "My mistake? For whom am I doing all of this for?" "I don't need you to do despicable things for me."
Shen Shiyao was furious: "How dare you! You're saying I'm despicable!?"
"You ... You gave that kind of drug to an innocent girl and gave it to your own son ..." Song Zi Heng's face turned red with shame, "Have you thought about what will happen to us if this matter is revealed?"
"What will happen? What will happen is that Hua Yu Xin will marry you no matter what. The Huaying Sect originally wanted you to be their son-in- law, so this is exactly the fulfilment of the marriage."
"You ..." Song Zi Heng was so angry at Shen Shi Yao that his body shook.
"You think it was easy for me to get that drug? You think I'm not scared or guilty in my heart for going out of my way?" Shen Shi Yao gritted her teeth, "But that bitch Li Xiang Tong is far more vicious than I am. If I don't use tricks, I will have to wait for her to use tricks to ruin you!"
"Unreasonable!" Song Zi Heng snapped, "You're simply unreasonable!" He had always been obedient and filial since he was a child, and had never had such a heated argument with his mother. This time he was really angry and disappointed, and for a moment he could not even accept that such a person would be his own mother.
Shen Shi Yao cried out, "Why are you so unfilial? You don't understand your mother's painstaking efforts, you disappoint me every time, and you oppose me every time. I'm your mother ah, I'm doing all this for you ah!"
"Are you really doing this for me?!" Song Zi Heng asked with tears in his eyes as he took two steps back.
Shen Shi Yao stiffened and looked at her son.
Song Zi Heng shook his head and turned to run away.
Song Zi Heng was feeling uneasy. He found a secluded place in the forest and spent a long time alone, watching the twilight fall, before returning to the tournament ground.
According to the plan, Hua Yu Xin would be on the move soon, and he could not hold up his business.
On the way, he bumped into Li Bu Yu.
Li Bu Yu had swept away yesterday's gloom: "Where did Your Highness go? I've been looking for you for half a day."
"I was strolling around." Song Zi Heng said warmly, "What did Bu Yu want to see me for?"
"I wanted to judge the sword techniques of other sects together with Your Highness."
The two of them chatted as they walked towards the tournament grounds.
Li Bu Yu's gaze suddenly fell on Song Zi Heng's waist: "Your Highness has changed swords?"
"Yes." Song Zi Heng took off his sword and showed it to him, "This sword was given to me by Xu Zhi Nan Zhen Ren, which came from the hand of Master Ran of the Giant Spirit Villa."
Li Bu Yu was overwhelmed by an unexpected favor, "Can I, can I take a look?" A swordsman's sword is not a toy and is not shown to anyone casually.
This gesture represented great recognition.
Song Zi Heng smiled, "Don't you want to see it?" A few years ago, when he was out on a trip, he inadvertently saved Li Bu Yu, who was also traveling, from an evil spirit. The two of them had already known each other in the Wuji Palace, but due to Li Xiang Tong, they did not interact with each other. Since then, Li Bu Yu has been visiting him every year in Daming. Although Song Zi Xiao disliked Li Bu Yu for being a bit crafty, he felt that this young man was intelligent and pleasing to the eye, and with the fostering from the head of Wuliang Sect, he would become a great man in the future.
"I want to see, I want to see." Li Bu Yu solemnly took the sword with both hands, admired it carefully and praised it from the bottom of his heart, "It's a good sword. What is its name?"
"Good name, Your Highness has always been good at choosing names." Song Zi Heng wondered, "Where did this 'always' come from?"
"Lan is a gentleman, and Heng is a jade. Your Highness’s sword is like you, and you are like your name." Li Bu Yu's expression was very sincere.
Song Zi Heng broke into laughter, "My name, which was given by my father, can't be counted as mine."
"Since the emperor gave the name, he must have thought that the Your Highness is worthy of this word, so it will be counted as yours."
"You ah, have really grown a good tongue."
The two of them talked and laughed as they returned to the tournament arena, where they ran into a black-faced Song Zi Xiao.
"Where have you been?" Song Zi Xiao said unhappily, "You were nowhere to be seen during my match. Were you with him the whole time?" Li Bu Yu said sarcastically, "Ninth Highness."
"I was a little tired and went to take a rest, and when I came back and ran into Bu Yu." Song Zi Heng said, "You won, didn't you?"
"Of course I won." Song Zi Xiao gave Li Bu Yu a sidelong glance, "When did I ever lose?"
He used the word "lose" with extra emphasis, and Li Bu Yu's face changed slightly.
Song Zi Heng gave him a disapproving look, "Alright, has Miss Hua's competition started yet?"
"It's about to start, I thought you've forgotten." Song Zi Xiao pulled Song Zi Heng, "Hurry up."
Li Bu Yu also followed unhurriedly, getting several surreptitious rolls of the eyes from Song Zi Xiao.
At this time, the dusk was rising, and there were only two rounds left in today's competition. Those who had made it this far were all very talented. After all, there will be only eight people in the final competition tomorrow. Hua Yu Xin is not a bad performer among the female cultivators.
But this time she has drawn Ye Yun Chen from Chunyang Sect, who is one of the most likely candidates to win this year's Jiaolong assembly, so there isn’t much suspense.
At this moment, Ye Yun Chen was talking to Xu Zhi Nan under the ring. As the three of them walked over, Xu Zhi Nan smiled and said, "Your
Highness, everyone is looking for you."
Song Zi Heng said with embarrassment, "Was feeling slightly unwell and rested for a while."
Ye Yun Chen arched his hand towards a few people, but when he looked at Song Zi Xiao, he had some pride of a teenager between his brows. Song Zi Xiao also sized up Ye Yun Chen. They weighed each other's strength.
Xu Zhi Nan instructed in a low voice, "Yun Chen, be merciful to Miss Hua, but don't be too irreverent either."
"Senior Brother, I understand."
Li Bu Yu said curiously, "Xu Zhen Ren, tonight is the night of the full moon. I heard that after sunset is when Yin energy is the greatest. Is it the time when the Yuanyang technique is at its weakest?"
Xu Zhi Nan laughed, "The Yuanyang technique is the purest and the most Yang, so the night of the full moon is indeed unfavorable to us. Every month on this night is when the cultivators of our sect take a rest, but it is only slightly affected, not weakened."
On the other side of the ring, Hua Jun Cheng was also encouraging his sister, but Hua Yu Xin was distracted, frequently looking in the direction of Song Zi Heng. To outsiders, Hua Yu Xin's nervousness was because she was going to face Ye Yun Chen, but in fact it was not.
Once the match began, Ye Yun Chen took the measure, looking neither intentionally losing the game nor being aggressive. Only after a dozen moves in a row did he decide to end the fight. He dodged Hua Yu Xin's thrusting sword and swept his palm across her shoulder.
Hua Yu Xin took the blow and fell to the ground after taking several steps back.
Ye Yun Chen gave an arch of his hand, "Miss Hua, thanks for letting me win."
But Hua Yu Xin was lying on the ground, unresponsive, as if she had passed out.
Hua Jun Cheng called out, "Xin Er?" Ye Yun Chen frowned slightly.
Hua Jun Cheng jumped into the ring, picked up Hua Yu Xin and used his spiritual energy to feel out her injuries, "Xin Er!"
The crowd was a little surprised. Everyone could see that Ye Yun Chen had not struck hard, and a female cultivator was by no means an ordinary weak woman. How could she not be able to receive even one blow?
Hua Jun Cheng gave Ye Yun Chen an annoyed look, but he could not accuse him. The ring does not distinguish between men and women, winning and losing were based on an individual's ability, so if he blamed the other party for this, he would only appear to be small-minded.
But Ye Yun Chen looked at Xu Zhi Nan with innocent and confused eyes. Suddenly, Hua Yu Xin's eyes snapped open.
"Xin Er, you're alright ..."
Hua Yu Xin's expression, however, became very odd as she staggered up from the ground and looked around as if she was looking for something, yet she was oblivious to those present.
"What, what’s wrong?" Hua Jun Cheng looked at his sister worriedly.
Xu Zhi Nan coughed lightly, "Yun Chen, how much force did you just use?"
"At most three or four points, really." Ye Yun Chen hurriedly said.
"My core, my core." Hua Yu Xin covered her abdomen with one hand and muttered under her breath.
"Xin Er, what are you talking about?" Hua Jun Cheng pulled Hua Yu Xin, "What's going on with you?"
"My core!" Hua Yu Xin shouted shrilly as she viciously pushed Hua Jun Cheng away. "What ... core?"
"What's going on, what's wrong with her?"
"It's like she's been possessed by an evil spirit ..."
Xu Zhi Nan jumped into the ring and shouted, "Who are you?!"
"My core, my ..." Hua Yu Xin wandered aimlessly as if she had lost her soul, only protecting her abdomen to death. As if she had finally spotted Hua Jun Cheng, she was stunned for a moment and said quietly, "Little Tiger? Have you seen my core?"
Hua Jun Cheng was shaken, staring at his sister with wide eyes, "You ... you ..."
"What's going on?" Li Bu Yu said urgently, "What's wrong with Miss Hua?"
Xu Zhi Nan pulled out a spirit gathering talisman from his pocket, only to see the talisman burning instantly.
"An evil spirit, it really is an evil spirit!"
"Where is this evil spirit? How dare it possess Miss Hua's body!"
"This place is full of cultivators, how can it be when the Yang energy is so concentrated?"
The commotion on this side of the ring gradually drew the crowd over. Song Zi Heng said, "This evil spirit's tone is so familiar."
Song Zi Xiao echoed, "Yes, back then that person too kept calling out 'My core."
Hua Jun Cheng looked at Hua Yu Xin with a pale face and said in a trembling voice, "Could it be that you are ... Little Martial Uncle?" "Little Martial Uncle?" Xu Zhi Nan asked, "What Mr. Hua is talking about, is it the one who was killed by Chen Xing Yong ..."
"Right! 'Little Tiger' was the nickname given to me by Little Martial Uncle when I was a child." Concerned, Hua Jun Cheng had completely lost his composure.
Xu Zhi Nan pondered for a moment, "Are there any items that he owned on Miss Hua’s body when he was alive?"
"Yes, Xin Er’s dagger."
Hua Yu Xin roared, "My core, my core, it's here, it's here!"
"I understand." Xu Zhi Nan said fervently, "On the night of the full moon, the Yang energy in Yuanyang technique is in decline. As our sect's aura is very attractive to evil spirits, it is easy to attract an invasion of Yin energy at this time, and this cultivator's resentment has not dissipated for years. Coming after the objects he owned when he was alive and the people he missed, and by all the coincidences, that blow from Yun Chen helped him get into Miss Hua's body."
All the Chunyang Sect disciples involved listened in awe. It was true that they would especially attract evil spirits on the night of the full moon, but it was unheard of for spiritual power to help evil spirits possess bodies, yet no one dared to question their Senior Brother.
Song Zi Heng watched the performance on stage, sweating coldly with nervousness.
Song Zi Xiao quietly squeezed Song Zi Heng's palm. His big brother was pure and straightforward by nature, so he didn't want him to be exposed first.
Hua Jun Cheng choked on his sorrow, "Little Martial Uncle, is it really you?" Hua Yu Xin was still searching for "his own core", while everyone, including Song Ming He, had arrived at the sound of her voice.
Xu Zhi Nan took out another exorcism talisman from his pocket, "Sorry about that."
"Wait ..." Hua Jun Cheng said urgently.
"If this goes on, Miss Hua will be hurt, and it's not your little martial uncle, it's just a trace of his resentment."
"But he said his core is here." Hua Jun Cheng clenched his fist, "Although Chen Xing Yong has been put to death, who on earth ate my little martial uncle's core!?" He looked around and his voice was stern.
Everyone understood in their hearts that those who could buy the human core from Chen Xing Yong at a sky-high price were either rich or noble, and most of them came from famous sects, so the one who had eaten the human core was most likely in the Jiaolong assembly.
"You return my core, right here, my core ..." Hua Yu Xin looked like she was about to plant herself in the ring.
Xu Zhi Nan asked three times in a row, but naturally there was no answer. He was worried that Hua Yu Xin would reveal herself after a long time, and after obtaining Hua Jun Cheng's consent with his eyes, he threw the exorcism talisman out.
The talisman was useless to ordinary people. As soon as the talisman touched Hua Yu Xin, she screamed and passed out.
Hua Jun Cheng hugged his sister and said with tears in his eyes, "Little Martial Uncle, I will definitely avenge you."
"What's going on here?!" Song Ming He asked.
Song Zi Xiao said, "Father, do you still remember that Huaying Sect cultivator that big brother and I restrained in Gutuo Town? He had just possessed Miss Hua." "What?" Song Ming He obviously didn't quite believe it, "The one who had his core dug out?"
"Right." Song Zi Heng arched his hand, "Father, when son interrogated Chen Xing Yong, he didn't know who ended up with the core either, but, just now ..."
What just happened, everyone saw. Although it’s very absurd, when related to evil spirits, anything can happen. At this time everyone's hearts were suspecting, in this Jiaolong assembly, in these surrounding people, someone had eaten a human core before.
Song Zi Heng secretly glanced at Yan Shu, but saw that his expression was absolutely flawless. Song Zi Heng secretly clenched his fists. This is only the first step of the plan. Tomorrow, he will make sure that this beast will unmask his true colors.
The story of Hua Yu Xin spread everywhere in Daming that night and would soon spread to the entire immortal world.
The topic of this year's Jiaolong assembly was hotly debated, changing from "who would win the championship" to "who had eaten the human core of the Huaying Sect cultivator".
The immortal world has always hated the core thief to the bone, and now that Chen Xing Yong is dead, the buyer deserves to die as well. The ghosts of the victimized cultivators are now haunting the Jiaolong assembly, and there are many opinions on how Emperor Ning Hua will investigate tomorrow.
What they did not know was that Song Ming He was not interested in capturing the Lion Alliance, only hastily handing over the case to an elder and his eldest son, and hardly ever asked about it. It was the perseverance of Song Zi Heng, Xu Zhi Nan and others that led to Chen Xing Yong's execution.
That night, Song Ming He summoned Song Zi Heng, Song Zi Xiao, Xu Zhi Nan and Hua Jun Cheng to the palace.
Among the four, only Hua Jun Cheng really knew nothing about it. Song Zi Xiao had intended to tell Song Ming He what had happened, but Xu Zhi Nan and Song Zi Heng both objected. Xu Zhi Nan, who is not a Song, was justified in being cautious, while Song Zi Heng wanted to protect Song Zi Xiao because the man behind the curtain wanted his own core, and he could not let his younger brother or his father know until the matter was clarified. Song Ming He was very upset and questioned why they had caught Chen Xing Yong but failed to find out who was behind the purchase.
Song Zi Heng could feel Song Ming He's anger towards him, but he had to take into account the Chunyang Sect and Huaying Sect, so he did not lash out in front of outsiders.
Seeing that nothing could be done, Song Ming He brushed his sleeves and left.
After sending Xu Zhi Nan and Hua Jun Cheng out of the palace, Song Zi Heng did not return to Qinghui Pavilion. He did not want to face his mother yet, so he decided to go to Bailu Pavilion to sleepover for one night.
It was late at night and Chu Ying Ruo had long since rested, with only the inner servants, who were keeping watch at night, greeting them. Song Zi Xiao asked the servants to send some food to his room.
"Big brother, you haven't eaten anything yet, right?" Song Zi Xiao pushed the food over, "You didn't eat last night, and I haven't seen you eat during the day."
Song Zi Heng smiled bitterly, "I really would've forgotten about it if you didn't mention it." It was true that he had not eaten anything since he had been poisoned by the love drug last night. At first, he felt uncomfortable and retched, but by the afternoon, when the drug had subsided, he did not feel hungry.
"Hurry up and eat." Song Zi Xiao urged. Song Zi Heng ate obediently.
Song Zi Xiao sat next to him, staring at him unblinkingly, his eyes seemingly glued to this face.
"You're looking at me like that, is it you want to eat too?" Song Zi Heng took a piece of pork ribs and shoved it into his brother's mouth. Song Zi Xiao said as he chewed, "I ate some for dinner. These pork ribs are nowhere near as good as the ones you make."
Song Zi Heng laughed, "It's been a long time since big brother made pork ribs for you, hasn't it?"
"When the Jiaolong assembly is over, big brother will cook you a big table of delicious food."
Song Zi Xiao smiled, "Then I'll set the menu." "Okay."
"Big brother, do you think that Yan Shu will believe that scene today?"
"I saw Miss Hua acted quite well. I was previously worried that she was a girl with thin skin, but it seems that she has gone out of her way to avenge her little martial uncle."
"How is she thin-skinned? She's always in front of you."
"How could that be?" Song Zi Heng laughed, "You're the only one who thinks others are trying to steal me away. Who would know that other than you, who else would cherish me?" He teased him originally, but for some reason, he remembered his mother's disappointed accusation and his father's disdainful impatience, and his heart felt indescribably bad.
"They just want to steal you away from me. Other brothers and sisters love to play with you, and that glib-tongued Li Bu Yu, who is annoying as hell."
"Li Bu Yu is from a first-class upbringing, and that’s called being eloquent. Unlike you, he is not big in size but is not small in temper."
"So what you're saying is that Li Bu Yu is better than me?" Song Zi Xiao glared, "I can even beat him with my feet." Song Zi Heng smiled helplessly, "In big brother's mind, of course you are the best, but he is not bad either. Such words can no longer be said anymore."
"Alright, let's rest."
Song Zi Heng washed up and laid down on Song Zi Xiao's bed, unable to resist sighing.
Song Zi Xiao dawdled and refused to go to bed, finally awkwardly lying down next to his big brother. He still has to keep a fist's length apart, as if he was afraid of even touching the corner of the other party's clothes.
Song Zi Heng didn't notice and murmured, "Tomorrow, it's your final battle, and also our final battle."
"I will win, we will both win." "Xiao Jiu, go to sleep." "Mmm."
"Come in here a bit, aren't you afraid of falling off the bed?" "... I won't."
Song Zi Heng teased him, "When you were little you were dying to sleep with me in all seasons, but now that you've grown up, you're not even close to big brother anymore, are you?"
Song Zi Xiao was silent for a moment and moved into the bed.
With his arm next to his arm, Song Zi Xiao could only feel his skin burning through his clothes. He understood vaguely, but at the same time he seemed to not really understand about his own abnormality. But Song Zi Heng did not notice as he concentrated and meditated, and soon fell asleep.
In the middle of the night, Song Zi Heng woke up abruptly. His spiritual breath was a bit abnormal, his body became hot and cold, and his breathing was not smooth. He sat up, feeling uncertain. He had experienced this sensation not long ago when he had taken an immortal pill given to him by Xu Zhi Nan to help him expel the effects of the love drug. It was the exact hot and cold alternation at that time that made him feel extremely uncomfortable. That’s why he didn’t eat anything for a day.
But what was going on now? The drug effect had clearly passed long ago, and he didn't feel any signs of poisoning, could it be the residual medicinal properties of that immortal pill?
"Xiao Jiu, pour a cup of water for big brother." Song Zi Heng gently pushed Song Zi Xiao.
However, Song Zi Xiao did not move a muscle.
Song Zi Heng's heart tightened. People who cultivated immortality were very alert, not to mention pushing him like this. The moment he got up, Song Zi Xiao should have sensed it, so why did he not react? He probed Song Zi Xiao's nose and felt his pulse, but it was too calm and obviously not right - ecstasy!
There must have been ecstasy in this room, and the immortal pill he had taken was still in effect, so it had helped him resist the drug. Song Zi Heng's hair stood on end as he tried again to wake Song Zi Xiao, but to no avail, so he turned over and got out of bed. But there was no strange scent in the air. What kind of ecstasy in this world could be colorless, odorless and so potent?
And who had done it, and for what purpose?
Suddenly, he thought of the incense burners placed all over the Bailu Pavilion. He returned to the bed and placed a guarding barrier around Song Zi Xiao before silently opening the door and walking out.
When he reached the front hall, the fragrance became stronger. If there was some kind of bewitching drug in the incense. People who were not sensitive to the smell would not be able to detect it for a while, but he had been raising flowers for many years and had made incense before, so when he distinguished it carefully, this incense seemed to be a bit different from when he first came in.
He soon found the chambermaid who was on guard fainted on the ground.
Whoever had done this, the target must be the owner of this Bailu Pavilion. Song Zi Xiao had a barrier around him which was set up by him so that he would be notified immediately if there was any danger. He had to hurry to see if Chu Ying Ruo was safe.
Song Zi Heng cautiously walked towards Chu Ying Ruo's bedchamber, but just as he approached, he heard a sweet moaning sound, and he stiffened, unable to believe his own ears.
He took a deep breath and tiptoed to the door to confirm what was coming from inside the house; the sound of a man and woman making love, and doing it sneakily, it could not be his father. His mind went blank. At this point he really wished the fact that he too had been dazed. He had discovered a secret he didn't really want to know!
Coming back to his senses, he gritted his teeth and slowly, slowly backed away. If his father found out about this, Chu Ying Ruo would lose her life, and Song Zi Xiao would also be implicated. Whoever is in that house, he does not want to know at all. He decided to swallow this matter into his belly.
When he woke up the next day, Song Zi Xiao was refreshed, but Song Zi Heng was black-eyed and listless. "You didn't sleep well?" Song Zi Xiao cupped his big brother's face and looked at it carefully.
"Had a nightmare." "What nightmare?"
"I forgot." Song Zi Heng got out of bed with a sullen face. He also doubted whether what happened last night was a nightmare. Whether it was or not, let him forget it, forget it completely.
"Big brother." Song Zi Xiao came around to his side, his eyes filled with concern, "With all that has happened recently, I know it's hard for you, but everything will be fine. I will win, we will all win. No matter what, I'll be with you. There's nothing in this world that we can't solve, hand in hand, as brothers."
Song Zi Heng smiled tenderly and smoothed his younger brother's hair, "Xiao Jiu has really grown up more and more like a man."
Song Zi Xiao smiled contentedly, and had to pretend not to care. He never got tired of hearing his big brother's compliments since he was a child.
"Let's go, big brother will watch you win the championship!"
On the third day of the Jiaolong assembly, every match was highly anticipated.
Hua Jun Cheng lost to Chen Lan Duo by a single move. Although many people thought that Hua Jun Cheng lost because he was reluctant to deal a hard blow to a female cultivator, Chen Lan Duo's strength was also evident to all. It was a bit strange that Qi Meng Sheng did not even show up when Chen Lan Duo was crowned the third best.
And the ultimate battle for the win was, not surprisingly, between Song Zi Xiao and Ye Yun Chen. Song Ming He was overjoyed and promised once again, in front of everyone, that if Song Zi Xiao won the championship, he would have a divine sword forged for him from Shen Nong Ding.
The Daming Clan, which had not produced a great talent in three generations, was about to turn its fortunes around with this young prince, who was only 13 years old.
Guests from all sects gathered around the ring to take their seats. When Song Zi Heng saw Chu Ying Ruo, he had goosebumps all over his body.
She still had a face like a peach blossom. Compared to Qi Meng Sheng’s cold and ruthlessness, she was as charming and delicate as ever. But when Song Zi Heng looked at her, he could no longer find the respect he had before, and when he thought what kind of storm her illicit affair might bring to Song Zi Xiao once it was revealed, he felt nothing but anger.
"Zi Heng, Zi Heng?"
Song Zi Heng snapped back to his senses, "What?"
Xu Zhi Nan said, "You look so pale, is it your body hasn't recovered yet?"
"It's fine, it's better than yesterday." Song Zi Heng said quietly, "Is Flying Plume Ambassador ready?"
"Well, as soon as the competition is over, she will bring that person here." At this moment, Yan Shu came with the people from Wuyun Sect, and
Xu Zhi Nan rose to greet him.
"Congratulations, Xu Zhen Ren, the future Chunyang Sect’s descendants are immeasurable."
"Haha, Thank you Sect Leader Yan. The few brats from Wuyun Sect are also stunning. In another twenty years, it will be their world." Yan Shu looked at Song Zi Heng again, "Ninth Highness is so outstanding, Your Highness gets the greatest credit."
Song Zi Heng stood up, "You flattered me. It all depends on my father’s and uncle’s fostering." He wrinkled his nose slightly. He seemed to smell a very faint fragrance from Yan Shu, it smelled so familiar.
It seemed to be ...
Song Zi Heng was as if struck by lightning. In that instant, it was as if all the blood in his body had gone cold.
PS: Honestly speaking, I forgot most of the parts going on in the front chapters, so translating this novel is benefiting me in recalling what I’ve read in the past. So, when I read the last 3 lines of this chapter…my mind instantly went ‘WTF’. *finds toilet bowl to vomit*
The last contest of the Jiaolong Assembly had begun, and Zong Zi Heng had not yet been able to pull himself away from the shock and fear.
The faintly discernible incense on Yan Shu's body was exactly the same as the one he had smelled last night at Bailu Pavilion. He had carefully distinguished the incense, so he definitely could not have remembered it wrong.
But his first thought was disbelief. Even regardless of his birth status, Yan Shu is more than thirty years older than Chu Ying Ruo, so why would Chu Ying Ruo betray the young and handsome Emperor Zong, who is extremely fond of her? How and when did these two people, who are not related in any way, hooked up?
But if that man was really Yan Shu, then some of the questions seem to be explainable. For example, perhaps they had known each other before Chu Ying Ruo entered the palace, and the man behind the curtain had instructed the Lion Alliance to defend Zong Zi Xiao when they attacked them in Gutuo Town ...
Zong Zi Heng gasped. A chill went straight from the soles of his feet to his heavenly spirit. Even the naked eye could see that the blood on his face faded significantly.
It was ridiculous, too ridiculous.
But what if ...
Zong Zi Heng looked at his younger brother in the ring, who was performing with a sword as nimble as a flying bird, and gathered the courage to turn his face sideways and look in the direction of Yan Shu.
Only seeing Yan Shu fixed his gaze at the two teenagers who were competing, and his face, which had always been indifferent and prudent, faintly flashed with a hint of pride and delight.
Zong Zi Heng's body swayed and he lowered his head heavily.
And as the battle was raging in the ring, no one noticed his abnormality.
Ye Yun Chen had become famous as a teenager, very much like Xu Zhi Nan's momentum back then by going all the way through with little effort and cultivating his Yuanyang technique at a young age to such a marvelous extent that it was already difficult for ordinary weapons to hurt him. With such an ability, even if he encountered a high-ranking cultivator, he would still have the ability to fight. It’s indeed a youth to be regarded with respect.
Without Zong Zi Xiao, he would have been the most talked about person in the immortal cultivation world today.
In this duel, Zong Zi Xiao demonstrated his cultivation level of the seventh Chongtian of the Zongxuan Sword, causing the entire audience to be in an uproar.
For the next ten years, decades, and centuries, the continent would spread the name of Zong Zi Xiao's talent and the indelible fear he brought to the immortal world during his life and after death.
Zong Zi Xiao had won, becoming the youngest winner of the Jiaolong assembly in five hundred years, shaking the entire Jiuzhou.
Zong Ming He stood up in excitement and shouted, "My son is the Jiaolong, my son is the Jiaolong!"
The elders of the Zong Clan all expressed happiness and were overjoyed. The appearance of a generation of heavenly pride heralded the return of glory to the Daming Zong Clan.
The guests of the immortal clans, whatever they are feeling in their hearts, were all outwardly congratulatory.
The consorts, on the other hand, had their own splendid faces.
Zong Zi Xiao, a young man, was soaring with pride that his face seemed to glow. He first knelt to thank his parents and then turned in a hurry to look at his big brother.
Zong Zi Heng was overwhelmed, but he could only force a smile on his face.
Zong Zi Xiao jumped out of the ring and smoothly jumped into Zong Zi Heng's arms, laughing, "Big brother, I won, I won, I won!"
"Xiao Jiu is great, big brother is proud of you." Zong Zi Heng meant what he said but could not be genuinely happy. He was seized by every nerve by those terrible suspicions.
"It's big brother who taught me well." Zong Zi Xiao was so excited that he didn't notice the difference in his big brother at all. Now, he could tiptoe slightly to reach his big brother's ear and say with certainty, "My glory and my prize belong to big brother." Even he himself did not realize how much such a tone resembled a man's promise to the woman he loved.
Zong Zi Heng patted him on the back, his heart mixed with hope and fear, feeling extremely tormented.
The crowd came to congratulate him, and Yan Shu also came over, smiling and congratulating his "Ninth Highness", generous with excessive praises. Zong Zi Heng was looking from the side and his scalp tingled. He tried to see the resemblance between Yan Shu's face and Zong Zi Xiao's, or not, but Zong Zi Xiao looked so much like Chu Ying Ruo that it was hard to tell.
At Zong Ming He's command, the Ministry of Rites, who had been preparing for a long time, set up a banquet at the grounds to celebrate Zong Zi Xiao’s victory.
At that moment, a greenish-grey figure suddenly leapt into the ring. The crowd gazed to see that it was Qi Meng Sheng.
This was a very sudden move by Qi Meng Sheng, but seeing her solemn expression and had the appearance of mountain rain coming down, the scene followed in silence.
"Qi Meng Sheng of the Cangyu Sect, greets the Emperor and Empress." Qi Meng Sheng bowed.
"What’s the meaning of Flying Plume Ambassador’s action?" Zong Ming He said unhappily.
"I have something important to report."
Qi Meng Sheng looked around at everyone present, "Yesterday, in this ring, Huaying Sect’s Hua Yu Xin was possessed by an evil spirit. I believe this matter, everyone here has seen with their own eyes. That evil spirit was the high-ranking cultivator of the Huaying Sect who was killed by the core thief Chen Xing Yong, and he said through Miss Hua himself that his core was here."
Xu Zhi Nan continued on, "During our interrogation of Chen Xing Yong, we could tell from the clues he revealed that the buyer behind those human core, who came from a famous sect, was most likely also invited to the Jiaolong assembly this time."
A cultivator said, "Chen Xing Yong doesn't even know who the buyer behind the scenes is, does Flying Plume Ambassador have a way to uncover him?"
"Yeah, Chen Xing Yong is also dead. Even if that person is present, the dead cannot testify ah."
"Chen Xing Yong is not dead." As Qi Meng Sheng spoke, her gaze swept over to Yan Shu.
A commotion came from the crowd.
Hua Yu Xin walked to the bottom of the ring, beside Zong Zi Heng, and said in a loud voice, "Little Martial Uncle tried his best to gather a wisp of regret and told me that his core is here, in the body of someone present, and I believe him!"
"What the hell is going on?!" Zong Ming He said in a stern voice.
Xu Zhi Nan arched his hand towards Zong Ming He, "Emperor, last winter, I joined forces with His Highness, Ninth Highness and the Flying Plume Ambassador to capture Chen Xing Yong alive, but this man was cunning and had a premeditated plan, and the person behind it took advantage of the chaos to kidnap my junior brother Cheng Yan Zhi, asking me to exchange him for Chen Xing Yong. I would never hand Chen Xing Yong over, so I asked one of my Chunyang Sect’s disciples to use his bone shrinking skills and pretend to be Chen Xing Yong. I didn't expect that the person behind the curtain was despicable and vicious, and secretly planted Thunderfire stones. Wanting to blow us up together with Chen Xing Yong to silence us." Speaking of this, his face twisted slightly out of hatred, "My two junior brothers, both unfortunately died ..."
The Chunyang Sect cultivators were filled with righteous indignation.
"So, Chen Xing Yong is still alive, then where is he?"
"He is in the Cangyu Sect atoning for his sins." Qi Meng Sheng said grimly, "He will live a long life, but suffer torture every moment."
"Since Chen Xing Yong never knew who was behind the curtain, then him being alive, what use is he to today's events?"
"Although he does not know who is behind the curtain, as long as that person is in front of him, he’ll be able to recognize them." Qi Ming Sheng tilted her chin arrogantly and looked around at the crowd, "Don't forget that Gong Shu Ju can measure everything in the world, down to the smallest detail. In order to give himself a way out, he secretly measured some of that person's features with Gong Shu Ju. There will not be two identical people in this world, and as long as that person is here, there is nowhere to hide!"
The crowd murmured.
Yan Shu said in a deep voice, "Then what exactly would be measured?"
"What is being measured, naturally, must be kept secret, otherwise if someone with intentions hears about it, all previous efforts will be wasted." Qi Meng Sheng smiled coldly, "I traveled to and from Kunlun yesterday and brought Chen Xing Yong with me, just to expose the true face of that beast in public and get rid of the evil for the immortal cultivation world!"
"Chen Xing Yong is here?!"
"Words have no proof, who knows if that Chen Xing Yong is another person from the Chunyang Sect pretending to be him?"
Two female cultivators of the Cangyu Sect, carrying a large bamboo basket, entered the ring and emptied out a bloody mess from the basket.
There was a sudden silence in the ring.
That creature, which was to be called "human", had lost all his limbs. His hair had been shaved off, there was hardly a piece of good flesh on his body, and his ears, nose and tongue had been cut off, leaving one pair of eyes, empty and desperate, as if to let him see with his own eyes what would happen to him.
The immortal world had heard about the evil of the Cangyu Sect, but when they saw it today, it really made people’s hair stand on end. Now no one dared to question Chen Xing Yong's truth or falsity.
Qi Meng Sheng looked with despise at the thing on the ground, "This kind of traitor who deceives his master and destroys his ancestors will receive this type of consequence. Today, in order to uncover the buyer behind the curtain, I will be lenient and grant him death after the deed is done."
"Then what are you waiting for?" Hua Jun Cheng gritted his teeth and said, "I want to know today which sanctimonious beast has eaten my little martial uncle’s core!"
"Yes, hurry up and test it, we also want to know who did that monstrous thing."
With the crowd in an uproar, Zong Ming He could not hold Qi Meng Sheng accountable for ruining his youngest son's celebration feast, and could only watch as Xu Zhi Nan took out the Gong Shu Ju and demanded that everyone take a test in the ring to prove their innocence.
Zong Zi Heng has been secretly observing Yan Shu. This is just another play they were acting. Other than Chen Xing Yong and Gong Shu Ju being real, the rest was fake. The purpose is just to lead Yan Shu into their trap, and from what they see now, Yan Shu had already taken the bait.
From yesterday's Hua Yu Xin being "possessed", to the discovery of Chen Xing Yong not dying, and then to this play, this chain of plans caught Yan Shu unprepared. They didn't believe he wasn’t panicking.
If he gets a chance, Zong Zi Heng wants to personally ask Yan Shu, how exactly is he related to Chu Ying Ruo and Zong Zi Xiao, but no matter what the answer is, he hopes Yan Shu will take this secret to the grave.
His youngest brother, who has a promising future, must not be ruined by this matter, even if it is only a rumor. He looked at Yan Shu with killing intent boiling in his chest. He had never had a moment when he wanted to get rid of someone so strongly.
This test has been going on until sunset arrived, but no one complained, and no one dared to leave the scene, otherwise they will be unable to explain themselves.
When it was the turn of the Wuyun Sect, Yan Shu's face was already unsightly. When they saw him walk into the ring, several people's hearts sank and each clenched their swords in their hands, ready to strike at any moment.
At this point, Chen Xing Yong, who was seeking death, reacted in a cooperative manner. His eyes trembling and struggling to open wide as he looked at Yan Shu.
"Ee ... ee ..." Chen Xing Yong had lost his tongue and could only make odd noises.
Qi Meng Sheng glared at Yan Shu harshly and asked, "Chen Xing Yong, is this the man?"
Chen Xing Yong nodded his head laboriously.
A gasp of breath rang out around in the surrounding.
Xu Zhi Nan said solemnly, "This man is the Sect Leader Immortal Lord who recently took control of Wuyun Sect. You have never seen his real face before, so you cannot spout nonsense."
Chen Xing Yong shook his head in pain.
Yan Shu snorted coldly, "A bunch of nonsense, how dare you allow this lowly thing to slander me!"
The disciples of the Wuyun Sect also rebuked angrily, and the atmosphere became tense.
Zong Ming He's face was full of frost: "A mere verbal statement cannot be taken as proof. How can you slander a sect leader by listening to the one-sided words of this core thief?"
"In response to the Emperor, we are not without proof." Qi Meng Sheng said, "In these six months, we have investigated from various clues and found that all kinds of evidence are pointing to Sect Leader Yan. For example, the Thunderfire stones. I investigated and found that a batch of Thunderfire Stones were sent to Wuling last year. The Thunderfire Stone is expensive, and it is a firearm despised by the orthodox immortal families. Ordinary people cannot use it, and those who buy it have some ulterior motives. As the Thunderfire Stones contain a large amount of sulfur, if placed in a closed place, the smell will not dissipate for a long time. I wonder if Master Yan dares to show his qiankun bag to everyone?"
"Thunderfire Stone? I heard that that thing is incredibly powerful."
"Definitely. The body of a high-ranking cultivator of the Chunyang Sect is as hard as a bronze wall. If he hadn't been hit by an insidious trick, he wouldn't have died at such a young age. I heard that Xu Zhi Nan's arm was blown off at that time."
"Despicable, too despicable."
The comments and stares from around the room were like a rain of swords falling from the sky, stabbing at Yan Shu in unison. He narrowed his eyes before he was sure that these people had been watching him for a long time and had set up a trap to wait for him here.
Xu Zhi Nan said in a cold voice: "As you know, the Thunderfire stone must be detonated at close range. When I exchanged hostages with the man behind the curtain, we were only ten steps away from each other. I did not doubt him, but after the Thunderfire stone detonated, even I was seriously injured, my two junior brothers, and the mysterious man’s subordinates, all ..." He clenched his silver teeth, "but the man behind the curtain was unharmed, and even took my junior brother's golden core when he still had a breath left!"
Yan Shu's expression became gloomier and gloomier.
"We were baffled, unless one is wearing the Golden Carved Jade Suit*, otherwise how could someone be unharmed in the explosion of the Thunderfire stone?" Xu Zhi Nan slowly paced towards Yan Shu, his pupils deep and stern, "Then we realized that it was not him in person, but merely a puppet, and it is a puppet that would not leave a trace at the scene, because it was drawn by Wusheng Brush!"
"So that's it!"
"The Wusheng Brush is actually so powerful."
Yan Shu snorted coldly, "What you are saying is nothing more than baseless speculation."
"If it is baseless speculation, then Sect Leader Yan can show your qiankun bag to everyone." Xu Zhi Nan made a "please" gesture, "In your qiankun bag, do you have any Thunderfire stones? Do you have any sulfur stench? Or do you have any golden cores that have not yet been refined?"
Yan Shu clenched his fist, his eyes fierce as a fierce beast that was angered.
"Master Yan, why don't you let everyone take a look?"
"Yes, let's see it so we can clear your name."
Yan Shu's reputation in the immortal cultivation world was not good. The previous head of the Wuyun Sect died in a strange way, and he usurped his young martial nephew's position as head of the sect. Such virtues are naturally not popular. At this point, there is a tendency for the walls to fall down.
Hua Yu Xin pointed at Yan Shu and shouted, "If you're not guilty, what's so shameful about your qiankun bag?"
Zong Zi Heng and Zong Zi Xiao also jumped into the ring, together with Qi Meng Sheng and Xu Zhi Nan in an attacking position, surrounding Yan Shu in the middle, ready to attack at any time.
Zong Zi Heng said coldly, "Sect Leader Yan, you are in the territory of the Daming Zong Clan, so don't try to think of any evil ideas. Why don't you open your qiankun bag and prove your innocence?"
Yan Shu turned to Zong Ming He, his tone was very strange: "Emperor, I came to the Daming Zong clan as a guest, and the emperor is condoning these people to crusade against me with empty words?"
Zong Ming He's face became ghastly pale and didn't know how to reply for a moment.
Yan Shu laughed mockingly, "Fine, I will show you my innocence." He pulled out a small cloth bag from his chest. A qiankun bag is a magic treasure that cultivators have in their possession, especially the ones produced from Giant Spirit Villa, which have the largest capacity. This magic treasure can contain anything that is non-living.
The blue light flickers, and Yan Shu had one more thing in his hand. The crowd fixed their gazes, horrified.
Not only did Yan Shu not open the qiankun bag, nor take out anything that could prove his innocence, instead he had a long brown whip in his hand. It had a fine distinction, and its surface was covered with grains of snakes everywhere.
That was the number one magical weapon of the Wuyun Sect – Emperor Qin’s Chasing Mountain Whip!
It was rumored that this whip was made from the snake slough of an ancient, rare and legendary flying snake, which can expel stones, move mountains and had great invincible might. A magical weapon that can be revered as number one in a famous sect and can only be inherited by the head of the sect, is simply not comparable to deceitful things such as the Wusheng Brush or the Gong Shu Ju, which, without exception, possess devastating power.
A magical weapon of this rank has not been seen since the Daming Zong clan unified Jiuzhou, and just witnessing it is already a chilling experience.
Emperor Qin was the first mortal to ascend to the throne of the Human Emperor, daring to compete with the Great Emperor Hao Tian for glory above, and sending terracotta warriors to conquer Jiuyou below. His power, his strength and his madness all proved that his cultivation was as deep as the sea, and this Chasing Mountain Whip, even in the hands of today's high-ranking cultivators, could only exert a little power, but it was still enough to destroy the entire hunting ground.
Zong Ming He shouted, "Yan Shu, what are you trying to do!?"
Zong Zi Heng was sweating coldly. What they feared most had happened, but if they couldn't subdue Yan Shu in this crowded situation, they would have even less chance in the future.
"Yan Shu, is it really you?" Hua Jun Cheng’s eyes were wide open, "You beastly dog thief, so your soaring cultivational level is because of eating human cores!"
Xu Zhi Nan's eyes were bloodshot, "You, beast!"
Zong Zi Heng said sternly, "Yan Shu, no matter how powerful the magical weapon in your hand is, it is no match for so many people. Stop increasing your sins, and get executed."
Yan Shu rushed towards Zong Zi Heng, revealing a sorrowful smile, "If you have tasted the wonders of the human core, you will not be able to stop."
"Your Highness, do you know, if you look at the entire immortal cultivation world, whose core I want the most?" Yan Shu tightened his grip on the Chasing Mountain Whip, and his eyes seemed to stare into Zong Zi Heng's flesh.
Zong Zi Heng's breath hitched.
"Yours." Yan Shu shouted sternly, and with a flip of the divine whip in his hand, a long golden light brightened half of the night sky.
Next, the entire earth trembled violently, as if a string of heavenly thunder had exploded underneath his feet, emitting a rumbling and ghastly sound. The earth began to crack, and countless rocks of all sizes broke through the earth.
There were shouts of alarm, and the crowd of people flying with their swords were like a flurry of sparrows in the forest.
Zong Zi Heng and Zong Zi Xiao also intended to escape with their swords, but just as they rose into the air, there was a darkness overhead, and when they looked up, countless stones were floating in mid-air, almost blotting out the stars and moon. More and more stones were summoned from the ground and from the distant mountains by the Chasing Mountain Whip, surrounding the ring in layers and blocking their way.
After that, the ground starts to cave in. All those around the ring who had not had time to escape, their feet stepped into a void and could only sink in despair. For a moment, they couldn't even guess whether Yan Shu intended to smash them to death or bury them alive.
Zong Zi Heng held Zong Zi Xiao tightly, and the two of them joined hands to construct a protective barrier.
As they fell onto the ground, the dirt and rocks above their heads poured down from the sky, and the two of them struggled to hold on to the barrier, preparing to bear down with the weight of Mount Tai.
To exert such a huge technique, Yan Shu's spiritual power would definitely not last long, but the bad thing was that even if Yan Shu's spiritual power was depleted, the falling stones would not fly back on their own. If they could not get out, they would both end up trapped in the ground.
But they were wrong again, the stones did not fall, but began to build walls, beams and roofs.
As the last stone completely cut off the last remaining glimmer of moonlight, they plunged into infinite darkness.
"Big brother." Zong Zi Xiao touched Zong Zi Heng's face, "You're not hurt, are you?"
"No, how about you?"
"I'm fine too." Zong Zi Xiao lit up a fire talisman and looked around by the brief light of the fire, "Yan Shu buried us in the ground but didn't kill us. Was he trying to trap us until we were exhausted and then dig up our cores?"
Zong Zi Heng changed his breath heavily, "It seems to be the case."
"He just said that he wanted your core the most?" Zong Zi Xiao cursed, "Damn beast. But why? Although you are highly gifted, your cultivation is still not as good as those old guys, so naturally, their cores are more complementary."
"... I don't know either." Zong Zi Heng had not yet gotten over his shock. His brain got tired of thinking. What Zong Zi Xiao said was correct. His core is great, but it's far from the best, so why would Yan Shu ‘want it the most’?
"Xu Zhi Nan has calculated so many things, but he didn't calculate the Mountain Chasing Whip to be so powerful." Zong Zi Xiao snorted coldly, "How dare he traps us all in this ground where we cannot see the sun."
"It was indeed a miscalculation. I thought with so many high ranking cultivators present, it would be difficult for him to escape, but I didn't expect ..." Zong Zi Heng sighed, "Let's go and look for the others first. I hope they are safe too. "
Zong Zi Xiao took his big brother's hand: "It's pitch black here, and Yan Shu can move the stones. This underground palace is like a box he just fiddles with. Big brother, none of us can let go of our hands, alright?"
The two men explored forward in the dark and called out the names of the others.
"Hm ... Your Highness ..."
A faint female voice came from the corner.
Zong Zi Heng was startled, "Miss Hua? Is that you?"
Zong Zi Heng felt close to her and said with concern, "Are you hurt?"
"I set up the boundary. I just sprained my foot, it's nothing serious." Hua Yu Xin's eyes were a little light in the darkness, "But it's so dark here."
Zong Zi Xiao said unhappily, "Of course it's dark underground."
"Don't be afraid, the people outside must be trying to save us." Zong Zi Heng said, "The area of ground that sank wasn’t too big, it was around the ring, so the majority of the people didn't fall down."
"Mm, my big brother is definitely thinking of a way."
Zong Zi Heng helped Hua Yu Xin up, "Come on, let's go find the others."
Zong Zi Xiao clutched one of Zong Zi Heng's hands tightly, determined not to give it to anyone.
Golden Carved Jade Suit*[金缕玉衣]---jade clothes sewn with gold wires; worn by deceased nobles (eg. Emperor)
While exploring, they found that the underground had been constructed by Yan Shu into a real maze, dark and twisting, with no way to find a way out.
It took half a day of searching before they heard a response from one person - Qi Meng Sheng's voice which came through the wall, but after trying several paths, they were unable to see each other. According to Qi Meng Sheng, she was with Chen Xing Yong, while she could hear a voice coming from the other wall, which came from Li Bu Yu, and Xu Zhi Nan was nowhere to be found.
No one knew exactly how many people had fallen. No one knew how to meet up with each other around layers upon layers of heavy stone walls. If they forced themselves to break down the wall, they risked being buried alive.
The three of them leaned listlessly against the stone wall, in absolute darkness that could easily give rise to a sense of chaos.
"I wonder what method Father is thinking of saving us this time?" Zong Zi Xiao said sullenly, "I've thought it over, and we don't seem to have any magical weapons in Zong clan that can move the stones out of the way without causing a collapse. Brother, can you think of any?"
Zong Zi Heng shook his head, remembering again that they couldn't see, and spoke, "I can't think of any for now either, and I don't know how long it would take if we were to move it by hand." After a moment of silence, he sighed, "After thinking about it, I'm afraid that in this situation, only Brother Xu can break it by wearing the Golden Carved Jade Suit."
Zong Zi Xiao snorted lightly, "He's not even the Sect Leader, how could he have the Golden Carved Jade Suit?"
"... Right." Zong Zi Heng originally thought that Xu Zhi Nan had gotten the Seven Star Life-Sustaining Lamp despite not being a sect leader, but then he thought that the Golden Carved Jade Suit was the most precious treasure of the Chunyang Sect, so it was impossible to give it to Xu Zhi Nan now in any case.
"Is he planning to trap us or sneak up on us while it's dark?" Hua Yu Xin hugged her knees tightly and asked in a small voice.
"I can't guess, but he must be in the underground now just like us." Zong Zi Heng said softly, "Miss Hua, don't be afraid, not only are we trapped here, so is Yan Shu. If he wants to escape, he wouldn't dare to touch us easily."
"I'm not afraid of him." Hua Yu Xin pursed her lips, "I'm afraid of the dark."
Zong Zi Heng's heart softened, and he suddenly showed pity and tender love: "It's alright, I'll draw a fire talisman that will burn for a long time." He formed a seal with both hands and drew a talisman in the air, which instantly illuminated this side of the world.
"Don't you waste your spiritual energy on this." Zong Zi Xiao was furious. He didn't even need to look to smell the surge of affection between the two.
These two people, in terms of age, family and looks, were a perfect match, and they had an unfulfilled marriage contract ahead of them, so they were a match made in heaven no matter how one sees. Thinking about this, Zong Zi Xiao was so jealous until his teeth became sour*.
"It’s not wasteful."
Both of them were smiling lightly with their heads hanging down, as if no words are necessary because all was understood, making Zong Zi Xiao feel like he was an extra here, interrupting their lovey-doveyness.
Zong Zi Xiao clenched his fist and punched the stone wall, "Flying Plume Ambassador!"
Qi Meng Sheng gave a "hmm" through the wall.
"Do you still have Gong Shu Ju?"
"Do you think we can get out if we shrink the stone?"
"Maybe, but I don't know how big this underground palace is and how many people are down here. If I shrink this place, will other places lose their supports and collapse?"
They remained silent again.
Zong Zi Xiao moved towards his big brother, then moved again, and finally wrapped both arms around his waist and nestled into his arms.
Zong Zi Heng's tone was the usual doting one, "What's wrong again?"
"Tired, that brat from Chunyang Sect, he has two tricks up his sleeve."
"Ye Yun Chen is the junior that big brother Xu has focused on training, so naturally he is formidable." Zong Zi Heng stroked his head, "But it's still our Xiao Jiu who is the most powerful, astonishing at a young age."
Zong Zi Xiao said joyfully, "Of course. Everyone knows that I was brought up by my big brother, and if I win, it means you win, so you don't have to regret missing the Jiaolong assembly anymore."
Zong Zi Heng nodded and sighed softly, "Yeah." Having said that, how he wished he could also be proud of himself in that ring. He was happy that Xiao Jiu had won, but it did not make up for the fact that he would regret this for the rest of his life.
Hua Yu Xin also said, "In my mind, Your Highness is the winner of the Jiaolong assembly. I saw you compete eight years ago. At that time, all the adults said that the next session would be your moment."
Zong Zi Heng was a little surprised, "You were at the Jiaolong assembly eight years ago?"
"Well, I was still young then, Your Highness definitely doesn’t remember me." She glanced deeply at Zong Zi Heng and pursed her lips in a smile.
Zong Zi Xiao said coldly, "My big brother was originally determined to win, but it was because of ..."
Zong Zi Heng squeezed his arm, signaling him to stop talking.
Qi Meng Sheng knocked on the wall and said, "Did you hear the commotion?"
Very quickly, they too heard a rumbling sound and all instantly jumped up from the ground.
"The stones are moving!" Qi Meng Sheng shouted, followed by the sound of sprinting.
"Flying Plume Ambassador!" Zong Zi Heng patted the wall, "Are you alright?"
As soon as the words left his mouth, the distant stone wall pushed towards them.
"Run!" Zong Zi Heng made an instant decision, carrying Hua Yu Xin on his back. The three of them turned and ran towards the unknown darkness.
The stone walls around them kept retracting and pushing away, and even more occasionally rocks rose from the ground, forming new obstacles. The whole underground became a moving maze, and they looked around for a way out like headless flies. Gradually, they realized that Yan Shu was driving everyone to different cages, while they could only meekly submit like lambs.
This is a top-level magical weapon in the human realm, second only to the ancient divine treasures. The power of the Chasing Mountain Whip was horrific!
Suddenly, several rocks were pulled up from the ground one after another, blocking the trio's way forward, and they had no choice but to retreat backwards, changing to Zong Zi Xiao clearing the way ahead.
"Xiao Jiu, don't run so fast."
"Big brother, there's a road here." Zong Zi Xiao shouted from a short distance ahead.
Zong Zi Heng was about to dash over when he felt a violent trembling under his feet. He was startled and jumped backwards keenly out of the way as a sharp flat stone broke through the earth, astonishingly blocking his way.
"Xiao Jiu!" Zong Zi Heng shouted sharply. This stone was between the brothers, it must have been premeditated by Yan Shu!
"Big brother." Zong Zi Xiao tried to run back, but the stone wall and terrain kept shifting and he was forced to step back, "Big brother----"
"Xiao Jiu, don't be afraid." Zong Zi Heng put down Hua Yu Xin and was in such a hurry that he drew his Jun Lan sword and broke through the stone wall with his sword energy.
As the stone wall collapsed, turmoil came from above their heads and pieces of rubble rained down. The two of them had to crouch down holding their heads and hold up a barrier.
It took a while before the shaking stopped, and Zong Zi Heng could no longer hear his brother's voice. Zong Zi Heng punched hard on the ground with his fist, so anxious that his eyes were red, he yelled, "Yan Shu, come out! You beast, shrinking turtle, come out!"
"Your Highness." Hua Yu Xin whispered comfortingly, "Ninth Highness is the winner of the Jiaolong assembly, he can surely protect himself."
"I'm afraid he ..." When the words reached his mouth, but Zong Zi Heng had no one to pour out his heart to. His heart was a mess. What exactly is the relationship between Zong Zi Xiao and Yan Shu? Could Xiao Jiu be his real target? What does he want?
"Besides, just like you said, if Yan Shu still wants to save his own life, he wouldn't dare to touch Ninth Highness."
Zong Zi Heng said in a deep voice: "I'm afraid he's afraid."
Hua Yu Xin was silent for a moment, "Your Highness is really a good brother."
Zong Zi Heng took out the sound transmission flower between him and Zong Zi Xiao. He did not dare to hold out much hope, but this little thing might be able to find its way out of the crevice in the stone and find Xiao Jiu. Then he planned to carry Hua Yu Xin again, "Let's go, we can't just sit around. Let’s look for other ways out and other people."
"There’s no need, Your Highness. I've been using my spiritual energy to heal my injuries. I'm already better." Hua Yu Xin stood up while holding onto the wall and limped two steps.
Zong Zi Heng hesitated for a moment and stepped forward to hold her.
Hua Yu Xin's cheeks were instantly tinged with red, but luckily the light was too dim to see, saving her from embarrassment.
They turned back and found a fork in the road, and could only go with their instincts. Along the way, they came to a dead-end several times and turned back, and didn't run into anyone else, except for the occasional rattle from deep within the underground palace, telling them that the terrain was still changing all the time. Perhaps Yan Shu had taken inspiration from Gong Shu Ju and intended to split them up and circle them, then break them down one by one.
The air was choked with a long silence as Zong Zi Heng worried about Zong Zi Xiao and the others.
After a long time, Hua Yu Xin broke the silence, "Your Highness, four years ago, why did you happen to appear in Gutuo Town?"
"At that time, Xiao Jiu had just formed his core. He had never left Daming before and begged me to take him out for fun. We planned to go all the way south to Mount Shu and passed by Gutuo Town."
Hua Yu Xin sighed softly, "It was all fate ah. After Little Marital Uncle disappeared, my father sent people to look for him for a year or two without success."
"Gutuo Town happens to be the border between Chunyang Sect and Wuyun Sect. Both sects were reluctant to take care of it for fear of conflict, but after the incident, Chunyang Sect was very cooperative with the investigation. On the contrary, Wuyun Sect only moved their lips. I should have noticed it at that time."
"Yeah, at that time, Yan Shu managed the external affairs of Wuyun Sect. He took advantage of this to move around all year round, thus not attracting any suspicions." Hua Yu Xin said gloomily, "Chen Xing Yong dug up the core and sold it to him, but there are so many cores, there is no way he could have eaten them alone, so after that, who did he sell them to?"
"We can only ask by capturing him alive." Zong Zi Heng said, "At least Chen Xing Yong has been punished, and your little martial uncle will be much comforted when his spirit is in heaven."
"Mm." Hua Yu Xin's voice had a slight choking sound, "Since we were young, my little martial uncle loved to play with us the most. He was an extremely good person. He couldn't bear to trample on a flower or a blade of grass. If he knew that he had turned into an evil spirit after his death and harmed so many innocent people, how sad he would be."
"That's not his fault, he was just as innocent."
"So we are very grateful that Your Highness has transformed him, so that he can be reincarnated." Hua Yu Xin wiped away her eyes, "But I sometimes can't figure out why God doesn't treat good people well?"
Zong Zi Heng's heart sank and he said, "In the cycle of life and death, each person and each life has a different lesson. Fate is something that is better not to delve into as no one can figure it out."
Hua Yu Xin froze and said with a light smile, "Your Highness is so young, but sometimes you are very experienced."
Zong Zi Heng also smiled, "I am the eldest son, so naturally I have to understand things earlier than my peers."
"I ... ah!" Hua Yu Xin tripped over a stone under her foot and her body lurched forward.
Zong Zi Heng grabbed her waist and she fell into his arms.
The surrounding was so quiet that even a dropping needle could be heard. The faint fragrance of the other party's body entered the nostrils unguardedly, and the two deliberately suppressed gasps seemed extraordinarily cautious.
The two of them snapped back to attention at the same time and separated in a flurry, flirtatious currents surging and burning a fire in their hearts.
"Miss, Miss Hua, I ..."
"Call me by my name." Hua Yu Xin blurted out.
"I, I mean ... Your Highness has an honorable status, so no need, no need to use honorifics for me."
"Alright." Zong Zi Heng blushed, lest the sound of his heartbeat be too loud to scare the beautiful woman. He called out slowly and solemnly, "Yu Xin."
Hua Yu Xin revealed a shy and delighted smile, a pure beauty that was a ray of light in the infinite darkness compared to the fire spell.
It was only at this moment that Zong Zi Heng truly wanted to marry Hua Yu Xin from the bottom of his heart. Not for the power of the Huaying Sect, not for his mother's ambition, but simply based on his interest.
PS: anyone shipping Miss Hua and big brother???
PS from Emzie: Meeee, I am!
The two of them searched for a long time in the underground palace and were at a loss when they finally heard some loud noises coming from ahead, as if someone was calling for help.
They followed the sound and found an injured man in a stone room. He is a disciple of the Chunyang Sect, and his pale gold cultivator’s clothes were covered in blood.
Hua Yu Xin lowered her body to help him, "Brother, where have you been injured?"
Seeing that this man was covered in blood, Zong Zi Heng feared that he was in grave danger. He fished out a blood-coagulation pill from his qiankun bag, leaned over and was about to check his injuries with his spiritual power.
But just as he got close, his keen sense of smell caught a faint hint of incense under the cover of the smell of blood.
Startled, he jerked his head up and was met by a pair of vicious eyes, like a hungry beast staring at its prey close at hand. He pushed Hua Yu Xin away and he also stepped backwards.
There was a sharp pain in his abdomen, and when Zong Zi Heng looked down, a silver dagger was already halfway into his body, and blood instantly stained his white clothes.
"Your Highness!" Hua Yu Xin held onto Zong Zi Heng's swaying body as he looked at his injuries in horror.
Zong Zi Heng sent the blood-coagulation pill he had just taken out directly into his mouth. He grabbed the dagger, bit his lower lip and pulled it out violently.
There was a ‘puchi’ sound, and blood splashed all over.
Hua Yu Xin's eyes filled with tears as she drew her sword, feeling grief and anger, and shouted angrily at the sneak attacker, "You seek death!"
But Zong Zi Heng pulled her back and, holding back the sharp pain, said in a hoarse voice, "Don't."
The sneak attacker jumped up from the ground with ease, seemingly unhurt at all.
Hua Yu Xin said sternly, "You dare to attack His Highness? Where did you put Xu Zhen Ren, and who ordered you to do it!?"
The sneak attacker smiled coldly, "You can ask senior brother personally, if you can see him alive."
"No need." Zong Zi Heng glared at the sneak attacker, his gaze sharp as a knife, "This matter has nothing to do with Xu Zhen Ren, does it not, Yan Shu?"
At these words, not only was Hua Yu Xin appalled, but even the sneak attacker was stunned.
The sneak attacker was young and handsome, tall and very much looked like the appearance of a disciple of the Chunyang Sect. No matter what, no one would confuse him with Yan Shu, who was over half a century old.
"Your, Your Highness, what are you talking about?" Hua Yu Xin looked at Zong Zi Heng in confusion.
The sneak attacker gave a bloodthirsty smile, "I thought you were just a young and stupid fool. It seems that I underestimated you. How did you find out?"
"You guess where you exposed yourself." Zong Zi Heng needed more time to use his blood-coagulation pills and spiritual energy to make his wounds stop bleeding quickly.
But this trick was exposed as the sneak attacker had an extra sword in his hand, "Want to stall for time? It doesn't matter, as long as you are dead, this will remain a secret."
Hua Yu Xin looked at the sword: "You, you really are Yan Shu."
The sword was unsheathed and Yan Shu pointed the blade at Zong Zi Heng, "I will give you one more chance to speak, how did you find out?"
Zong Zi Heng said in a deep voice, "Last night, I was at Bailu Pavilion."
"Hahaha." Yan Shu laughed, "Indeed overlooking something important."
"You and Consort Chu ..." Zong Zi Heng revealed a disgusted look, "Shameless to the extreme."
Hua Yu Xin glared with rounded almond eyes.
These words instantly annoyed Yan Shu, and his gaze was fierce: "We are shameless? Then wouldn't a dog thief who takes someone's beloved and occupies a woman by force be even more shameless?
Zong Zi Heng quickly brainstormed and he seemed to understand something: "Could it be that you are ..."
"That's right, I am Chu Ying Ruo's fiancé. We were childhood sweethearts and we were in love, but that dog thief Zong Ming He at one glance took a fancy to her at the Jiaolong assembly, and he not only stole my unmarried wife." His eyes bursting with intense hatred, "but also ordered that old beast Yan Shu to have my whole family killed."
Zong Zi Heng's body shook. This man, saying that his father ...
Hua Yu Xin gave Zong Zi Heng an awkward glance and tried to change the topic, "You and Yan Shu, you guys, you used Wusheng Brush to disguise yourself as Yan Shu?"
No wonder Yan Shu always had a straight face in front of people, with few expressions. The face drawn with the Wusheng Brush was certainly not like the Chunyang Sect's Bone Shrinking Technique where one could move the bones and muscles at will.
"Your generation does not know anything at all." The fake "Yan Shu" clutched his sword, his handsome features twisted with hatred, "It's been more than ten years. They have obliterated what happened back then and obliterated me. Nowadays when people talk about Chu Ying Ruo, they only vaguely remember that the world's most beautiful woman seemed to have had a marriage contract before being incorporated into the imperial harem by Zong Ming He. But there are still people who remember that I, Lu Zhao Feng, am Yan Shu's own disciple."
Zong Zi Heng's face was pale, obviously not just because of the loss of blood. He had heard rumors in the palace when he was a child that Chu Ying Ruo had once had a marriage contract and was robbed away by the emperor, but he was, after all, the most powerful Human Emperor in Jiuzhou, and who would care if he wanted a mere woman?
"For the sake of glory and wealth, Yan Shu was willing to be Zong Ming He's lackey, and desired to get rid of me. Fortunately, I survived a great disaster, and actually accidentally obtained Wusheng Brush. That beast was afraid that my family would find out the truth and exterminated my 37 Lu family members, and even falsely accused my father of being a core thief!"
Zong Zi Heng suddenly remembered a case of extermination related to the theft of cores that Huang Hong and Huang Wu had mentioned to him back in Gutuo Town: "Could you be...the descendant of Yanzhou Lu Sect?"
Lu Zhao Feng glared with his bloodshot eyes, "Yan Shu and my dad were friends for many years, and my father even helped him when he was in the worst of times. My Lu Sect was just a small sect. For the sake of my future, my father sent me to Wuyun Sect to study under him, expecting him to treat me like his own son, as he had said, but he was a beast for requiting kindness with enmity!"
Hua Yu Xin scolded, "You are also a beast, you are all beasts. Yan Shu has harmed you, so you go and harm others. What is the difference between you and him?"
"Hahahahaha." Lu Zhao Feng laughed wildly, his face sickly twisted, "Yes, yes, but so what? I got the power, I got my revenge, I made Zong Ming He raise my son for me, hahahaha-----"
"You're spouting nonsense!" Zong Zi Heng's jaw dropped, as if he had been exposed on the spot for an unspeakable secret, and dying to sew Lu Zhao Feng's mouth shut, "You're crazy. You're spouting nonsense. You dare to slander my father. You dare to slander my younger brother!" His wound hurt as if a knife was stirring his flesh, adding to his pain, but it was not comparable to Lu Zhao Feng's words piercing his heart.
"It doesn't matter to you whether I'm talking nonsense or not." Lu Zhao Feng stepped closer, "Originally, I wanted to keep this lady and frame Xu Zhi Nan for your death, but now you all, have, to, die."
Zong Zi Heng held Jun Lan across his chest and blocked Hua Yu Xin behind him, "If you want to take my core, do you dare to come in a dignified manner? Sneaking up on a junior, what a villain!"
"I don't have time to tangle with you. I just want your core. Anyone who stands in my way will only die." Lu Zhao Feng said delightfully, "Do you want to know what happened to Yan Shu? Not only did I eat his core in front of him, but I also cut him alive piece by piece. I peeled off his face and painted it over and over again until it was so exquisite that I became him. Do you know how many heartless deeds I have done for your great father by pretending to be him?"
"Shut up!" Zong Zi Heng hissed, his sharp sword struck at Lu Zhao Feng, straight to his heart.
He was afraid of hearing more heart-gouging words from this person's mouth. He didn't believe it. He didn't believe that his father was in cahoots with the core thieves. He didn't believe that his beloved brother, who had no blood ties to him, was still the son of this beast!
Hua Yu Xin also attacked with her sword, and the two of them converged their attacks, their strokes murderous.
But with Lu Zhao Feng's profound training and excellent swordsmanship, and Zong Zi Heng's injuries, their attack was completely suppressed for a while.
In order to end the fight quickly, Lu Zhao Feng did not have any glory as a swordsman, and deliberately attacked Hua Yu Xin several times, forcing Zong Zi Heng to give up his attack in order to protect Hua Yu Xin. In such a fight, he could not stop his bleeding even more.
Hua Yu Xin gnashed her teeth in hatred. A blue light flashed in her hand and a string of bracelets appeared, which had seven tiny bells hanging from them. She shook her wrist, the bells emitted a crispy sound and attacked Lu Zhao Feng under the augmentation of spiritual power.
She saw Lu Zhao Feng's expression change and he slapped his head hard, dodging the blow.
Zong Zi Heng would not let go of this moment and blocked his retreat. His spiritual pressure raging around him and he offered his sword moves ruthlessly, chasing after Lu Zhao Feng. The Zongxuan Sword Technique originally was a fierce and aggressive way of pursuing and fighting, aiming to quickly end a fight. Zong Zi Heng actually prefers the traditional, elegant swordplay of the Wuliang Sect to this rigid fighting style. But against Lu Zhao Feng, Zong Zi Heng could not wait to cut him to death by a thousand cuts.
When Hua Yu Xin saw that her magical weapon, the Shattering Wind Bells, was working, she chased after Lu Zhao Feng and shook the bell, while Zong Zi Heng's sword was like a dragon and fought Lu Zhao Feng on equal strength for the time being. Finally, the tables have turned in the battle.
Lu Zhao Feng was dizzy from the shattering wind bells, and as the two sides attacked, he finally lost his strength.
But Hua Yu Xin was also struggling. The Shattering Wind Bells were made from the teeth of a brave spirit and were most effective against evil spirits. Her father gave it to her to protect herself. In order not to harm her allies, she has to exert a great amount of spiritual energy to control the direction of the sound of the bell.
Zong Zi Heng's blood was dripping all over the ground. His speed was slowing down and Hua Yu Xin was also showing signs of fatigue.
After a hundred moves, each of them had suffered injuries. Zong Zi Heng was fighting for breath, seemingly fighting harder and harder, but in reality, he could not hold on any longer. This power is rather like the last radiance of a setting sun. The more fiercely it burns, the quicker it is extinguished.
When Lu Zhao Feng noticed this, he deliberately stalled for time, mockingly saying, "I originally wanted to give you a quick death, seeing as you've taken good care of my son."
"Shut your dog mouth!" Zong Zi Heng was extremely angry, and veins protrude on his forehead, dying to eat Lu Zhao Feng.
Lu Zhao Feng grinned hideously and said, "Do you know how many human cores your revered father has eaten?"
Zong Zi Heng's body was shaken. He lost his concentration, and was injured by Lu Zhao Feng's sword.
"Your Highness!" Hua Yu Xin said anxiously, "Don't listen to his nonsense. He's provoking you!"
"Hehe." Lu Zhao Feng looked at Hua Yu Xin cruely, "Don't you want to know whose belly your little martial uncle's core has gone into?"
Hua Yu Xin's body trembled.
"That's right, it is none other than that high and mighty Emperor Ning Hua."
"Bastard!" Zong Zi Heng lunged again, and Lu Zhao Feng came into contact with his sword sharply. The sound of blades clashing resound throughout the stone room, accompanied by words that Lu Zhao Feng refused to stop saying, dripping with venom.
"And your big brother Xu's junior brother, that was a good core." Lu Zhao Feng laughed, "Without doing anything, Emperor Ning Hua has the Yuanyang Technique and his cultivation has gone to a higher level. He is wholehearted on revitalizing the Daming Zong clan. Since he wasn't born with good roots, he can only rely on acquired supplements."
Zong Zi Heng's anger attacked him. He desperately admonished himself to be calm, not to believe these slanders, not to fall for the enemy's tricks, but as a son of that man, how could he remain indifferent? If, if that was the case, how would he handle himself?!
Hua Yu Xin almost cried out, "I don't believe it, I don't believe it!" With a stern cry, she shook the Shattering Wind Bell again and went straight after Lu Zhao Feng.
The stone room was not large, so there was not much room for Lu Zhao Feng to dodge if he wanted to. The sound of the bells were so noisy that it seemed as if his head was splitting open, and in his anger, he took out his Chasing Mountain Whip.
"Yu Xin, retreat!" Zong Zi Heng let his spiritual energy release frantically, his Jun Lan Sword pulled a silver glittering sword flower in his hand, exerting the style - the seventh Chongtian of Zongxuan Sword Technique.
Lu Zhao Feng held a long whip and said fiercely, "Not only that, Zong Zi Heng, listen carefully, the one who wants your core the most in this world is your own father!"
Zong Zi Heng only felt his blood flowing backwards, and with a sweetness in his throat, he spat out a mouthful of blood straight away. It was only through the support of the Jun Lan Sword that he did not collapse in front of his enemy.
No, he can't believe it, he can't believe it, he can't believe it!
"But how could I have given him such a good thing?" Lu Zhao Feng laughed evilly, "You have no idea how precious your core is. It will become the stepping stone for my, Lu Zhao Feng's, son to ascend to the immortal cultivation world!"
As the golden light of the Chasing Mountain Whip appeared, all the stones that were swept up flew towards them, enough to smash them into mush, and Zong Zi Heng roared out, releasing his sword arc to collide in mid-air.
The whole chamber shook like a beast that had just awakened, and they were in the mouth of that beast, ready to be devoured at any moment.
Zong Zi Heng saw Hua Yu Xin amidst the tumbling rocks. Huaying Sect’s sword technique is coupled with strength and gentleness. When Hua Yu Xin danced with her sword, she was as graceful as a saucer. At that time, on the ring, many young boys were love drunk and enchanted by this saucer, but now this saucer was caught in a cruel storm. She dodged in disorder, and still could not stop the storm from tearing her wings apart.
Zong Zi Heng lunged forward, struggling to reach out his hand. When the broken stone struck Hua Yu Xin, time seemed to stand still for a moment, no, time ran like a river and sea, never stopping for tiny individuals with no power. It was something in his body that stood still.
Zong Zi Heng knelt on the ground, looking at Hua Yu Xin who fell in a pool of blood. He opened his mouth and wailed silently.
Lu Zhao Feng walked up to Zong Zi Heng and raised his sword: "If you don't believe me, ask your Uncle yourself when you go to the Underworld."
A sudden burst of coldness struck him, and Lu Zhao Feng jumped away keenly. With a whoosh, an ice arrow entered the stone wall. Using the arrow as the center of a target, the ice spread rapidly in all directions, freezing almost half of the wall.
If this had been shot at a human being, the consequences would have been imaginable.
Qi Meng Sheng and Xu Zhi Nan appeared in the stone room at the same time.
Lu Zhao Feng gritted his teeth reluctantly and whipped his Chasing Mountain Whip, sending stones towards the two of them and a wall of stone sliding over in an attempt to repeat the same trick and shut them out of the chamber.
Qi Meng Sheng held an ice crystal longbow, stepped on the stone wall and ran horizontally. Every time she drew her bow, an arrow made of cold ice flew out, and the stones were frozen into ice in mid-air and shattered in response.
On the contrary, Xu Zhi Nan, without slowing down, appeared in front of the stone wall with incredible speed, and placed one hand against the thousand pounds of stone wall.
Lu Zhao Feng took a step back.
Xu Zhi Nan said grimly, "Using such despicable tricks to calculate on a group of children, so shameless."
Lu Zhao Feng grimaced and stepped back. Realizing that he was going to escape, the two gave an instant chase.
Lu Zhao Feng kept waving his Chasing Mountain Whip, snapping the stone walls and sending debris flying. The stone walls moved quickly and formed a barrier. Lu Zhao Feng exited the stone room undercover and out of sight.
Worried about the injured, the two of them did not pursue any further. They ran back to Zong Zi Heng's side, and looked at the dying Hua Yu Xin in his arms. They injected their spiritual energy to probe her heart pulse, and lowered their heads at the same time.
Zong Zi Heng stiffly wiped the blood from Hua Yu Xin's face. He tried hard to see this beautiful girl clearly, but his vision was already blurred, and all that was left was a large, bright red patch.
Hua Yu Xin opened her mouth and blood once again gushed out of her mouth. She coughed blood and said with a very weak breath, "That night, Consort Shen ... asked me ... if I would ... like to ... be your ... wife ..."
"Yu Xin ..."
Hua Yu Xin struggled to curl the corners of her mouth, and her tear-filled eyes were doing their best to see Zong Zi Heng clearly: "I ... am … willing ..."
She took that glance together with her and left.
A beam of light went out in the darkness.
"Ahhhhhhhh-------" Zong Zi Heng cried out in pain.
His world crumbled before his eyes, collapsing and smashing down from overhead like a boulder manipulated by a Chasing Mountain Whip. All of it; Zong Ming He, Zong Zi Xiao, Hua Yu Xin, every stone smashed him so hard that he could no longer put it all together.
Within an instant, his father turned into a devil who ate people's cores as supplements and even tried to dig out his core. His beloved brother turned out to be not related to him and was even the son of an enemy, and in order to cover up his mother's nasty deeds, he lied, hid and used an innocent girl, getting her involved in danger and losing her life.
The immense pain and remorse almost crushed him.
Xu Zhi Nan heaved a sigh: "Zi Heng, now is not the time to grieve, we have to find Ninth Highness and catch Lu Zhao Feng." When he said "Ninth Highness", his tone was clearly a bit hesitant.
"Zi Xiao, Zi Xiao." This name woke Zong Zi Heng up like a bang in the head. He caught the difference in Xu Zhi Nan's words, "How much did you guys hear?"
Qi Meng Sheng said with a straight face, "We followed the sound of the bell to find you."
Xu Zhi Nan said, "It was a Shattering Wind Bell, right? The sound was not too loud, but it could travel a long distance. It also had the effect of carrying the surrounding sounds along with it, so after the bell rang, we heard them all, and had a rough guess as to his identity."
Zong Zi Heng gasped, panic written in his eyes, "Could it be that everyone in the underground palace heard it?"
"No, no." Xu Zhi Nan said with a straight face, "Miss Hua used her spiritual power to guide the Shattering Wind Bell, so the sound didn't spread. After we heard the bell, we used our spiritual power to pursue it all the way. We didn't encounter anyone else during that time. Only we heard it, you can rest assured."
Zong Zi Heng helplessly grabbed Xu Zhi Nan's lapel and said almost pleadingly, "Don't tell anyone, never ever ... tell anyone."
If Zong Zi Xiao’s birth was known, it would be ruined. Everything would be finished - even if what Lu Zhao Feng said was false.
Xu Zhi Nan lowered his eyes, "I won't tell anyone, but when you've recovered from your injuries, I want an explanation for what happened to my junior brother."
Zong Zi Heng nodded stiffly.
"Let's go." Qi Meng Sheng picked up Hua Yu Xin, her eyes flashing with intolerance.
Xu Zhi Nan also helped the bruised and battered Zong Zi Heng up, "We have cracked this labyrinth and have found and gathered some people together. It is not difficult to leave here, but we have to make sure no one is left down here."
"Where is Xiao Jiu? He must have been captured by Lu Zhao Feng."
"If it's true what Lu Zhao Feng says, he’s his ..." Xu Zhi Nan said, "Lu Zhao Feng wouldn't hurt him. Quite the opposite, and probably locked him up for his protection, so he must be in a very safe place ."
"How do you decipher the labyrinth?"
"It's simple, I froze the walls everywhere I walked." Qi Meng Sheng pointed to the root of a wall where ice had indeed formed, "The underground palace is not very big, because Lu Zhao Feng cannot support it if it’s too big. He just kept changing the position of the stone walls, so most people looking for a way out ended up making a detour at the same place. I expect his spiritual energy is extremely depleted, so after freezing the wall, it's hard for him to move it again, and the path comes out slowly."
"I'll send you to safety first, then Meng Sheng and I will go find Ninth Highness."
"I'm coming along."
"With your injuries like this, you'll only slow us down." Qi Meng Sheng said nonchalantly.
Zong Zi Heng was silent.
Suddenly, a rustling sound came from not far away.
"Who!?" Qi Meng Sheng said sternly.
A tall, thin figure flashed out and said with relief, "It's you guys, that’s great!"
It was Li Bu Yu.
Li Bu Yu was shocked, "Your Highness, what, what happened to you?"
Zong Zi Heng shook his head.
They returned to the other stone room, where many people had indeed gathered, working together to hold up a protective barrier that would last a long time even if the underground palace collapsed.
"His Highness is injured."
"Oh my god, is that ... Miss Hua?"
Zong Zi Heng sat in a daze beside Hua Yu Xin's corpse, his eyes grey and defeated.
Li Bu Yu carefully brought a pill with the sealing wax removed to Zong Zi Heng's mouth, "Your Highness, this is our Wuliang Sect’s True Element Jade Practitioner Pill. If you take it, your injuries will heal much faster."
Zong Zi Heng pushed away Li Bu Yu's hand and said soberly, "Many thanks, this pill is precious, it is not necessary."
"Your Highness, take it." Li Bu Yu said with red eyes, "You saved my life from evil spirits back then, can't I do something for you?"
Zong Zi Heng lowered his eyes and didn't push back any further. He actually didn't even want to say one more word.
Li Bu Yu carefully opened his mouth and sent the pill in.
About an hour later, Xu Zhi Nan and Qi Meng Sheng did bring Zong Zi Xiao back, but Lu Zhao Feng was already nowhere to be found. With the Chasing Mountain Whip in place, it is not difficult for him to escape.
"Big brother!" Zong Zi Xiao pounced to Zong Zi Heng's side, looking at him covered in wounds and going crazy with anxiety, "Big brother, are you, are you alright?"
Zong Zi Heng slowly raised his hand and stroked Zong Zi Xiao’s face, saying softly, "Xiao Jiu, are you alright?"
Zong Zi Xiao shook his head with tears in his eyes, "How did you get hurt like this? Yan Shu, that dog thief, I must cut him to pieces!"
Zong Zi Heng struggled to hug Zong Zi Xiao, he was so sad that he almost shed tears.
"... Big brother, what's wrong?" Zong Zi Xiao felt the unspeakable sadness, and this sadness also infected him deeply.
"It's nothing, it's good that you're alright."
What should he do with his Xiao Jiu? As long as Lu Zhao Feng is alive, Xiao Jiu’s birth could be revealed. If that day really came, what should he do? How could he let this ambitious, proud and fortunate boy suffer that kind of humiliation and trampling?
PS: This chapter is SO long omg
Zong Zi Heng woke up from a nightmare.
He dreamed that Yan Shu was holding a dagger, stabbing into his flesh bit by bit, cutting and pulling, digging out the golden core that he had cultivated for his whole life from his dantian*. He was screaming and begging for mercy, filling with grief and wishing he was dead.
The "Yan Shu", however, removed the human skin from his face, revealing a familiar and hideous face, which was his real father---Zong Ming He!
"Big brother, big brother." Zong Zi Xiao held Zong Zi Heng in his arms like a coaxing child, gently stroking his back and wiping the sweat from his forehead, saying with his heart aching, "You had a nightmare? Don't be afraid, I'm here, it's okay."
It took a long time for Zong Zi Heng to pull himself out of the chaos. He looked at Zong Zi Xiao, his deer-like dark and large eyes were full of vulnerability, helplessness and despair at this moment.
Zong Zi Xiao's heart clenched together. The big brother in his mind was always gentle and strong, as if nothing could bring him down, never had he ever shown such a look.
"Big brother, don't be like this." Zong Zi Xiao touched his face and said softly, "Miss Hua's death was not your fault, we will definitely avenge her."
"It's my fault." Zong Zi Heng said remorsefully, "She shouldn't have been involved in this matter. It was me who lied to her."
"The one who tricked her was Consort Shen, not you."
Zong Zi Heng shook his head, "What difference does it make?"
"Big brother ..."
"How did we, how did we get out?" He couldn't remember when he had passed out.
"Xu Zhi Nan and Qi Meng Sheng gathered everyone in the underground palace together, and Father rescued us."
Just the word "Father" made Zong Zi Heng's body tremble.
Every word that Yan Shu, no, Lu Zhao Feng had said in the underground palace was like Suppurative Osteomyelitis gnawing at his flesh and soul. He did not fully believe Lu Zhao Feng. It was likely that those words were half-truths, just to slander his father and drive a wedge between them. He must not be easily fooled, but he would not allow himself to run away out of fear either. He had to find out the truth.
Zong Zi Heng suddenly remembered something. When he was in a daze over Hua Yu Xin's death and Lu Zhao Feng was planning to kill him, he said something. That was ...
Zong Zi Xiao said in disbelief, "What? Uncle? What's wrong with Uncle?"
Zong Zi Heng looked ahead in horror, his body aching and cold.
Their Uncle Zong Ming Fu, who was also their master, was the most powerful cultivator of the Daming Zong Sect, and had been in seclusion since he had become an adult, just to break through to the eighth Chongtian of the Zongxuan Sword.
But what Lu Zhao Feng meant was that his uncle was already ... gone?
"Uncle has been in seclusion for five years now."
"Yes, it's been five years." Zong Zi Xiao looked at his big brother worriedly.
It was not uncommon for high-ranking cultivators, especially those who had reached the Patriarch level like his uncle, to be in seclusion for decades, and no one would rashly bother them.
If, if his Uncle was really gone, he’s afraid that the only one who could do this in the Wuji Palace was his father.
"Do you miss uncle?" Zong Zi Xiao said in a soft voice, "Before uncle went into seclusion, he had already approached the Eighth Chongtian. He would definitely be able to break through."
Zong Zi Heng, however, secretly clutched the quilt. He took a deep breath and calmed down his emotions, "What did Father say after we left the underground palace?"
"Yan Shu escaped, and Father listed him as wanted in the entire Jiuzhou Continent."
"What about Wuyun Sect?"
"Any cultivator who died from core theft, the current immortal families will demand an explanation from Wuyun Sect. Having this kind of scum, no one believes that Wuyun Sect has no knowledge of it. Right now, Liu Zheng and his son are at the Wuji Palace begging for mercy."
Liu Zheng was one of the elders of Wuyun Sect and Zong Ruo Ning's future father-in-law. The former head of Wuyun Sect had died, and the current head of the sect was a core thief that everyone wanted to punish, and had taken away the treasure of the sect, the Chasing Mountain Whip.
"With something like this happening, we must not let Ruo Ning marry there."
"Well, how can third sister be married off to such a family?"
Zong Zi Heng pondered for a moment, "What about Hua Jun Cheng?"
Zong Zi Xiao was obviously not too keen to talk, "Hua Jun Cheng has arrested all the disciples of the Wuyun Sect who came to the Jiaolong assembly, and the head of the Huaying Sect has rushed to the Wuji Palace to demand Father to punish them severely, and there is a standoff at the moment."
Zong Zi Heng closed his eyes, his face so pale that it was almost transparent, as if he would disappear in the next instant.
"It's chaotic outside, so for the next few days, don't go out. Recuperate at ease."
"Let me see Hua Jun Cheng." Zong Zi Heng said in a hoarse voice, "I didn't protect his sister, I should repent in front of him."
Zong Zi Xiao was silent.
"Father won't let you leave Qinghui Pavilion, nor will he let anyone in except me."
"Big brother, if Father blames you, just admit your mistake." Zong Zi Xiao pressed Zong Zi Heng's shoulder, "You have been so badly injured, you must not be punished again."
"... Father, did he say why?"
Zong Zi Xiao shook his head.
Zong Zi Heng's heart chilled. Could it be, he’s worried about what “Yan Shu” had said to him in the underground palace?
"Where are Brother Xu and Qi Meng Sheng?"
"For the time being, they are still in the city. Father summoned them yesterday to discuss how to capture Yan Shu."
"Xiao Jiu, find a way to help me hide this from Father. I want to see them."
Zong Zi Xiao looked at Zong Zi Heng suspiciously, "Why?"
"Big brother, is there something you're hiding from me?" Zong Zi Xiao frowned, "What exactly happened in the underground palace? What did Yan Shu tell you?"
Zong Zi Heng lowered his head. He was not good at lying, not to mention that Zong Zi Xiao was extremely smart. At this time if he said "it’s nothing", it’ll only seem to cover up the truth. He was silent for a while before he said, "It's about Cheng Yan Zhi, and this matter is somewhat confidential, so I can't tell you."
Zong Zi Xiao did not believe him at all, but seeing that Zong Zi Heng was in such a poor state, he could not bear to press him, "If you don't want to talk about it, I won't ask, but now the Wuji Palace is heavily guarded inside and out, and there are boundaries everywhere. After such a big incident in our territory, Father will naturally strengthen the guard and it will be difficult for them to get in."
Zong Zi Heng took a deep breath.
Could it be that he was under house arrest?
"Big brother, just recuperate with peace of mind. I will be with you every day." Zong Zi Xiao held his big brother's hand, "If you don't want to see Consort Shen, I'll help you stop her."
Thinking of Shen Shi Yao, another fire has added to Zong Zi Heng's already tormented heart. She could hardly be blamed for Hua Yu Xin's death, and from now on, how would he face his own mother?
Zong Zi Xiao smoothed Zong Zi Heng's tightly knitted brow with his cool fingers, "Big brother, I don't want to see you like this. I know you don't like staying in the palace. Just wait for me for another year. When I am an adult, we will leave. We’ll take your orchids with us, and go to the south and live the life you like."
Zong Zi Heng gazed at his younger brother, and there was a hidden sadness in his eyes, but he forced a smile, "Are you really willing to give up the glory and wealth here and live a life of casual cultivation with your big brother?"
Zong Zi Xiao said seriously and with certainty, "Yes, I will come back to visit my father and mother every year, and the rest of the time, I will stay with big brother."
Zong Zi Heng stroked his younger brother's hair, his heart turned sour.
The sound of an announcement suddenly came from outside the door; it was Zong Ming He who had arrived.
Zong Zi Heng's body stiffened almost instantly, and Zong Zi Xiao squeezed his hand, "Big brother, don't worry."
Zong Ming He walked in, surrounded by Shen Shi Yao and his entourage, and sat modestly in the chair prepared by the chamberlain.
"Father, Consort Shen." Zong Zi Xiao arched his hand in greeting.
"Father, Mother." Zong Zi Heng forced himself to calm down. Other than a pale and weak face, it has no other flaws.
"Heng Er, your father has come to see you." Shen Shi Yao said softly with tears in her smile, "You must get better quickly."
"Son is unfilial, I have made father and mother worry." Zong Zi Heng said and was about to get out of bed.
Zong Zi Xiao hurriedly helped him up, "Big brother, just stay still."
Zong Ming He waved his hand, his attitude was actually very calm: "You are wounded, there is no need to be formal."
"Thank you, Father."
Zong Ming He looked at him up and down, "How are you recovering from your injuries?"
"Much better, and the wounds have all scabbed over." Zong Zi Heng was an honest and open person, who’s never used to lying and pretending, but at this moment he was giving his full attention to not revealing his true emotions in front of his own father. He looked at Zong Ming He with a look of flattery, just like every time he had received his father's attention and affirmation before, "Thank you so much for your care, Father."
"Well, it is fortunate that you are all alright." Zong Ming He glanced at Zong Zi Xiao, "It is outrageous that two of my imperial sons came close to being killed by thieves in my Zong Sect's territory."
"Yan Shu is malicious, duplicitous and cunning, no one expected this." Zong Zi Heng said, "Thanks to Father for saving us."
Zong Ming He nodded, and said in a usual tone, "You guys go back first, I'll have a few words with Zi Heng alone."
Zong Zi Heng's heart tightened, his pupils contracted violently, and a chill climbed up his spine.
The crowd did not doubt him and all retreated, also gently closing the door.
Zong Ming He gazed at Zong Zi Heng: "This time, the whole immortal cultivation world is in a state of panic. The Huaying Sect is making a fuss and wants me to severely punish the Wuyun Sect, and the Wuyun Sect is eager to break off relations with Yan Shu and wants me to administer justice and not to wrong good people. What do you think should be done?"
"This matter, it is really difficult."
"Difficult?" Zong Ming He sneered, "It's not just difficult, it's a headache! That night when I recruited you and Xu Zhi Nan to the palace, in fact you guys actually had a plan. Why didn't you say anything?" At the end of his sentence, his tone was very stern.
Zong Zi Heng said in fear, "Father, it is not that I am trying to hide something, but there are some things that I do not know. Since I returned to Daming last year, Chen Xing Yong's trial was handed over to the Cangyu Sect. I only knew that Chen Xing Yong was not dead, but I did not expect Qi Meng Sheng to bring him to the Jiaolong assembly to examine everyone one by one."
Zong Ming He narrowed his eyes and looked at Zong Zi Heng. He had the impression that his eldest son was pure and straightforward, even a little too straightforward to know how to turn the tables, and he did not seem like he was lying. He said coldly, "You and Xu Zhi Nan were close personal friends, did he not say anything to you?"
"Before we parted, we were in contact with each other, but then he was badly injured and his two junior brothers died, so he was devastated for a while and we were out of touch for several months. When we met at Daming this time, he didn't say anything, perhaps because he was afraid that there were many people here, or perhaps ... was wary of me as well."
Zong Zi Heng's hands were already clenched with sweat under the quilt, and he was afraid that he would say a flawed word. He kept recalling Lu Zhao Feng's words that it was his own father who wanted his core, and when he faced this man alone, he only felt his blood run cold.
Zong Ming He stared at Zong Zi Heng again in silence for a long time: "In the underground palace, did Yan Shu say anything to you?"
Zong Zi Heng shook his head, "He used the Wusheng Brush to draw the appearance of a stranger, son was unprepared and was attacked by him. After that, Miss Hua ..." He lowered his head as if overwhelmed.
"Are there any clues that can help us catch Yan Shu?"
"Son can't ... think of any for the moment."
Zong Ming He sunk his face, seeing that nothing could be asked and lost his patience: "In these few days, you will obediently recuperate in Qinghui Pavilion. Don't run around, and you don’t need to care about the rest of these matters, understand?"
Zong Ming He stood up.
"Father." Zong Zi Heng said, "After such an incident, should Ruo Ning's marriage contract be canceled?"
"This matter, again, is not your turn to be in charge."
Zong Ming He turned his head and left.
Zong Zi Heng became de-energized and laid down on the bed. His eyes wide and vacant, staring into the void as if he survived a disaster.
There was only one thought in his mind today, and that was to see his uncle. He had to verify for himself, what kind of man his father really was.
dantian*[丹田]---acupuncture point three inches below the navel
Zong Zi Heng quietly got out of bed and changed into a night outfit.
After distracting everyone with great difficulty, he did not care that his injuries had not yet healed and was eager to make sure his uncle was well.
Wuji Palace is built near a mountain, and there is a cave house on the mountain where the Zong's high-ranking cultivators go into seclusion to cultivate. A cave house is a place in Jiuzhou where spiritual energy is very dense, and was formed during the ancient times. Over the past millions of years, as the spiritual energy in the human realm has become thinner and thinner, cave houses have become extremely rare. The ancestors of all the great sects have fought for this cave to start their sects. Cave house, techniques, and magical weapons; only when they have all three are they worthy of being called a famous clan.
The Zong clan's cave house is heavily guarded and has a strong boundary, and there is an ancestral order: no one other than the Zong's bloodline are allowed to enter. Zong Zi Heng had been there several times, but it was the first time he had to sneak in. Since he has the Zong's blood, the boundary would not stop him.
Zong Zi Heng snuck all the way in, dodging all the guards, and entered the cave without any problems.
Outside Zong Ming Fu's simple abode, there was a layer of boundary to prevent disturbance. It’s a spell seal invented by the Zong clan. Zong Zi Heng unsealed it directly without breaking it, and he stood in front of the house, looking at the tightly closed doorway and hesitated for a long time.
After going into seclusion, the cultivator will abstain from eating and would not allow anyone to come near, so whatever happened inside, no outsiders would know. If Lu Zhao Feng lied, he would be disturbing his uncle's cultivation, and if anyone found out, he wouldn't even be able to explain.
He took a few steps back and silently flipped up onto the roof, carefully lifting a few tiles and looking down.
There was no one inside.
Zong Zi Heng felt his scalp tingle and all the wounds on his body ached at the same time.
He jumped off the roof, opened the door directly and rushed in.
In contrast to the extravagant beauty and splendor of the Wuji Palace, this room was very plain, with almost no superfluous items to distract the mind from the fact that seclusion is traditionally an ascetic practice, cultivating the body as well as nature.
A quick glance over the room showed no place to hide.
There was no one here, no Zong Ming Fu.
Everyone in the whole world knew that Zong Ming Fu was in seclusion and had been cultivating for five years. Seclusion was not child's play, thus it was impossible to leave whenever one wants, so why was there no one here?
Zong Zi Heng took a deep breath and spun around helplessly in the small room, not knowing what to do.
Could it be, could it be that what Lu Zhao Feng had said was true, and that his uncle had been ...
Suddenly, Zong Zi Heng noticed that the straw mats laid on the floor had two pieces that were not aligned, one pressing against the edge of the other.
His uncle had a somewhat eccentric nature, demanding cleanliness, neatness and order in everything, and would never allow the mats he sat on to be unevenly laid. Someone else must have been here.
He went over and lifted up the straw mat and saw dark brown marks underneath it. His heart sank and he lifted off the whole mat, and there were patches of dried marks on the ground --- it was blood!
Zong Zi Heng's legs went limp and he fell to the ground.
"Uncle ..." Zong Zi Heng used trembling fingers to stroke over the blood on the ground, the boundless chill engulfed him ferociously, freezing his blood.
His uncle, his master, had taught him cultivation since he was three years old and gifted him with the first sword in his life ...
He remembered five years ago when his uncle squeezed his shoulder and said to him, "Heng Er, you have become an adult today. Teaching Zong Zi Xiao is enough. Uncle can go into seclusion without worrying. The day I come out of seclusion, I will definitely cultivate the eighth Chongtian and revive the might of my Daming Zong clan."
Zong Zi Heng knelt on the ground and kowtowed heavily to the puddle of blood, his forehead resting against the cold ground, pain entering his bone marrow and tears welling up in his eyes.
Lu Zhao Feng could not enter Zong clan's cave at all, so there was no way for him to know what was going on in here if someone had not told him, so what he said ... was true?
Father, could it really be you, that you ... killed your own blood brother?
--- PS: geez I legit feel chilly while translating this…
Zong Zi Heng returned to his bedchamber in fear and trepidation, only to see Zong Zi Xiao sitting on his bed with his arms across his chest, a pretty little face with a very serious expression.
"Why are you ..."
"Where have you been?"
Both of them spoke at the same time.
"You're still injured, so what on earth have you been doing dressed like that?" Zong Zi Xiao walked over and reprimanded right in his face, "What exactly are you hiding from me? There have never been any secrets between us brothers, so why are you always hiding from me ever since you met Xu Zhi Nan?"
Zong Zi Heng had not yet been able to free himself from his grief, and was so physically and mentally exhausted at this point that he did not even want to say a word more. He shook his head, "You are still young, don't ask anymore."
Zong Zi Xiao was even more furious: "You have never perfunctorily treated me like this, what are you hiding from me?"
Zong Zi Heng collapsed helplessly onto the bed, as if he had been through a battle of life and death, leaving only a bruised and battered body.
"What, what’s the matter with you?" Seeing him like this, Zong Zi Xiao became worried again, "How dare you run around when you're not even healed! Father obviously won't let you go out, what if you are found out?" He probed Zong Zi Heng's pulse and checked the injury, saying with both heartache and anger, "Look at you, the wound is seeping blood again."
Zong Zi Heng was unresponsive, letting his younger brother bustle about re-cleaning, dressing and bandaging him.
When he was done, Zong Zi Xiao sat on the edge of the bed and stared at Zong Zi Heng for a moment, then suddenly reached out and stroked the corner of his red eyes, "Big brother, have you been crying?"
Zong Zi Heng's vacant gaze finally moved over. Those deep, dark eyes were no longer gentle and sparse. They seemed to be bearing the weight of a far-reaching sadness.
Zong Zi Xiao gritted his teeth, "Because of Hua Yu Xin?"
Zong Zi Heng did not deny it.
"You really liked her?" Zong Zi Xiao's tone was full of no resignation.
Zong Zi Heng nodded gently, "Xiao Jiu, you know, before she left, she told me that she was willing to marry me."
Zong Zi Xiao turned his face away, his gleaming gaze glaring angrily ahead, his jaw already showing the first hints of a man's profile, taut and tight at the moment, "But she's dead and will never be able to marry you."
Zong Zi Heng lowered his eyes, his pale lips stuttering slightly, and in the end, he said nothing.
Zong Zi Xiao looked at his weeping-with-emotions appearance and regretted saying those mean words again, "Big brother, if you want to get married, then wait until I grow up, I will marry you."
Zong Zi Heng only took his childish words for what they were, and said indifferently, "Silly boy."
"Isn't it good? Mother has said that to marry the person you like the most is the greatest happiness in the world." Zong Zi Xiao looked at him, his eyes as bright as the stars in the sky, "I like big brother the most, and big brother likes me the most, isn’t it?"
Zong Zi Heng did not notice Zong Zi Xiao's extraordinary seriousness. He shuddered at the thought of what was going through Chu Ying Ruo's mind, and what was she doing behind his back when she said this.
"Big brother?" Zong Zi Xiao nudged him, wanting a response, "Isn't it?"
Zong Zi Heng said perfunctorily, "Spouting nonsense again. There is no such thing as brothers getting married."
"Just because there weren't before, doesn't mean there can't be afterwards. There will be if it starts from us."
Zong Zi Heng slowly lay back down on the bed, "I'm tired, you go back."
Zong Zi Xiao gazed at his big brother and murmured, "I’m being serious.”
"Hmm." Zong Zi Heng remained unconcerned. His youngest brother had grown up arrogant and conceited, and this was not the first time he had said something whimsical.
Zong Zi Xiao pouted and grunted in dissatisfaction, "You still haven't answered me. Where exactly have you been sneaking off to?"
"I wanted to leave the palace, but found that I couldn't get out and turned back."
"To see Xu Zhi Nan?"
There was a sudden silence in the room.
After a long time, Zong Zi Xiao spoke up, his voice was despondent: "Big brother, why are you not even close to me these days?"
Hearing this grievance made Zong Zi Heng’s heart softened. He looked at his brother, who was sitting on the bed with his back to him, and thought of how the boy used to face himself with the back of his head when he was being difficult. From a small and chubby back to a sturdy teenage figure, in a few years' time he would grow into a man's framework, perhaps even taller than himself, and no longer the youngest brother who relied on him in every way.
Why does time pass so quickly? Life is just like a shooting star, passing through the night without a second thought.
Zong Zi Heng softened his voice and said soothingly, "Big brother is having a hard time and needs some time, it’s not because of estranging you."
"I know you're having a hard time, that’s why I’m accompanying you ah." Zong Zi Xiao turned around and said grimly, "I feel regretful. I should never have let you take me out of the palace in the first place, so that we wouldn't have gone through Gutuo Town and been involved in so many disputes."
These words pierced Zong Zi Heng's heart. Thinking back on everything that had happened in the past four years, if he could do it all over again, what would he choose? He would have participated in the last Jiaolong assembly, won the championship, won his father's approval, and given his mother what she wanted, and then none of this would have happened.
Was it? Is that right?
No. Chen Xing Yong and Lu Zhao Feng would still be brutalizing cultivators, his uncle would still be dead, and his own father, perhaps by other means, would seek his golden core. Nothing would change, except that he would be kept in the dark. Then, he would rather come to his senses sooner.
Zong Zi Heng closed his eyes, unable to control the fear seeping into his limbs.
Even at this moment, he still did not dare, did not want to believe. He made all sorts of excuses. He just could not accept that his own father wanted to dig out his golden core.
Even if he was from a bad background, even if he was unloved, they were after all father and son ah.
Zong Zi Xiao looked at his big brother's lost in thought appearance once again and immediately regretted saying those words, "Big brother, you should rest. I will come back to keep you company in the morning." He reluctantly got up and headed for the door.
Zong Zi Xiao turned his head back.
Zong Zi Heng said with certainty, "No matter what happens, you are my younger brother. The one that big brother likes the most."
Zong Zi Xiao smiled with a glowing face, "Mm, I know."
No matter what happens, big brother will definitely protect you.