The crowd of “martial heroes” couldn’t call this person to Fengchun House no matter how hard they tried.
When Wenren Heng’s warm gaze swept over them, they somehow felt a slight chill, as if they weren’t worthy to be in the vicinity of this Sect Master whose presence was extraordinary!
They immediately took their leave.
Since Ye You had played around for only this one day, he also wanted to go out the next, but instead he ended up being told by his Senior Brother to exercise a bit more restraint. As the incident with the Wang Patriarch hadn’t been resolved yet and they were staying at his residence, it would be improper to go out to play every day. He looked at his Senior Brother’s expression of disapproval and asked, “Is Fengchun House fun?”
Wenren Heng said, “I’ve heard it was very famous, though I’ve never been.”
Ye You suggested, “Let’s go tonight. Usually these places have a lot of information. Maybe we can find out something about the poisoner.”
For a split second, Wenren Heng had a very complicated expression on his face, unsure of what exactly he should say. After thinking over the words, he ended up patting his Junior Brother’s shoulder. “Fengchun House is a brothel. Within… there’s no male entertainers.”
The implication was that going would be of no use, since the other liked men.
“…” Ye You said, “Then I will single-mindedly devote myself to searching for information. Senior Brother, you were the one who said that we’re currently staying at the Wang family residence, so we should put forth some effort for them.”
Wenren Heng nodded. Ye You didn’t think that his Senior Brother would agree this easily and was immediately suspicious.
He was just about to confirm the other’s agreement when this person called over a subordinate and quietly gave a few sentences of instruction before lapsing into silence.
As expected, when the subordinate left, Wenren Heng turned to him and said, “I already told them to go. They’ll relay any useful information they hear back to us.” He paused and, wanting to stop his Junior Brother from volunteering, continued with, “Right now you’ve lost your memory, so you won’t know if what you hear is true or false. Waiting is better.”
Ye You felt like his previously dissipated suspicions were returning in full force. Although he called the other shameless in his heart, he decided to be obedient for the time being. He thought for a bit before saying, “Don’t just let them listen for useful information. Also remember to listen for anything interesting, strange, or novel, and also conduct some investigations on the streets too.”
Wenren Heng was surprised. “You really want to help with the Wang family’s issues?”
Ye You said, “We’re all staying at their house.” Wenren Heng asked, “Truly?”
Ye You said, “I’ve been idle all this time and finally encountered something interesting.” He paused and looked at his Senior Brother before adding, “And I’m somewhat interested in the Lantern- Extinguishing Poison.”
This time, Wenren Heng was truly surprised and almost couldn’t control his expression.
He had simply asked at random and hadn’t expected that his Junior Brother would answer him sincerely. Who knew he’d be able to hear some honest words from that question.
Wenren Heng was perceptive and, after thinking it over, remembered his Junior Brother’s lessened suspicions towards him. Thinking that the other had probably started believing that they truly were Disciple-Brothers, he couldn’t help but remember the face of that beautiful youth from ten years ago who used to always stick by his side and call out for Senior Brother. The thought made the corners of his mouth lift. He hoped that the man right now could slowly return to being like the youth of that year.
Ye You looked at him. “Senior Brother?”
Wenren Heng answered with a sound and returned to earth. His mood was especially good. “I’ll help you investigate.”
Ye You gave him a few more looks, feeling as if the smile just now wasn’t the same as his Senior Brother’s usual ones, as if the other were exuding some evil intentions.
Wenren Heng had long returned to normal. And after calling a subordinate over to relay his new orders to the others, he went back to dedicating himself to accompanying his Junior Brother.
He was as good as his word and immediately took matters to heart. So that day when the Wang family head sent someone to call him for a discussion, he also brought along his Junior Brother.
The moment they entered the study, both of them felt a certain hostility in the air, and the Wang family head’s smile seemed like it had been frozen rigid on his face. Manor Lord Wei’s bearing remained amiable and friendly, while Pavilion Master Ding’s face was cold, like a sharp, unsheathed blade, looking as if he would chop that fatty into pieces at any moment.
When the two entered, everyone in the room gave them a look. Laughingly waving them over, Manor Lord Wei said, “Xiao-Heng, come and sit.”
At one glance, Wenren Heng knew that Manor Lord Wei and Pavilion Master Ding had once again fought for whatever reason and was not in the least surprised. As if all was well, he and his Junior Brother walked over. The Wang family head let out a sigh of relief in his heart. He was just about to grab the opportunity to change the subject when he heard his servant come to announce that the Alliance Leader had arrived.
His spirit was roused, and he immediately went out to welcome the man.
Previously, the Alliance Leader had other matters to take care of, and it was only now that he was able to rush over after traveling day and night.
He looked to be older than both Wei and Ding by a few years. And perhaps because he was always furrowing his brows out of habit, the wrinkles on his forehead were deep. When he entered, he suddenly realized that he had ended up between Wei and Ding and so immediately chose a seat so as to be as far away as possible from those two fighting cocks.
He said, “I heard as I was coming over. The poisoner left an announcement?”
The Wang family head said, “Yes, over the past two days, I’ve sent people to search throughout the city, but they’ve not had any luck.”
“I think it’s the city of Suzhou that’s too big, and since the criminal has been mixed in with the common folk, it’s easy to hide people,” Dingtian Academy’s Academy Master Ge said, “I think it’s better like this. The Wang family has another residence that is much smaller and more remote. Let’s all accompany Brother Wang to this other residence and stand guard there. If the other party has any further movements, it’ll be easier to find them.”
“That is one method…” The Alliance Leader hesitantly looked at the Wang family head. “You should still be the one to decide this matter.”
The Wang family head was silent for a while before shaking his head. “Uncle Ge, we can’t do this. If we actually moved him, others will definitely think we have a guilty conscience. Even if we have a reason, it won’t be clearly conveyed. Our Wang family can’t be bound by fear of one person.” Academy Master Ge was briefly stumped. “That’s true, I was thinking too simply, only considering how to catch the person faster… Ah, that’s right, when we catch this person, the truth will come out, and others won’t be so quick to gossip anymore, right?
“This…” This time, the Wang family head wasn’t able to refuse with certainty, so he turned to look in the direction of the Alliance Leader.
“There’s too much risk involved,” Pavilion Master Ding said frankly. Coldly, he returned the question with, “What if the poisoner never comes out because they see that the situation isn’t in their favor? Or what if the poisoner ignores us and continues to post announcements in Suzhou? How do we take care of it then?”
Academy Master Ge was at a loss for words. That reasoning did make sense, so he decided to stop bringing up random ideas.
Right now, the current information that’s available was too little. The others also didn’t have any good ideas. The Alliance Leader looked at Wei and Ding and said, “Do you two have any ideas? Were there any mistakes made during the ‘Demon Slaughter’ that year?”
“No, there weren’t. That year, we very clearly saw that monster breathe his last, and many others also saw the same. It’s impossible for him to still be alive,” Manor Lord Wei said, “That monster worked alone, and he was so focused on his martial arts that he probably had no confidants. There’s very little chance that he had a successor. And even if there was a successor, they wouldn’t seek revenge against Elder Wang; they’re more likely to seek revenge against me, since I was the one who personally…”
Pavilion Master Ding gave him a look that chilled to the bone.
Manor Lord Wei chuckled. As if saying that he would not deign to lower himself to the other’s level, he corrected, “It was me and Pavilion Master Ding’s men who killed that villain. Elder Wang simply participated in the Demon Slaughter. So these past few days we’ve discussed it and decided that this current matter is probably not related to the things that happened that year, unless during that time, there was something that happened that we didn’t know about.” “Yes, let’s begin from why only Elder Wang was poisoned,” the Alliance Leader said before looking at the Wang family head again and inquiring whether the Wang family had any enemies. The Wang family head had already been thinking of this since after the incident, and yet he still did not have any ideas and could only shake his head.
The Alliance Leader asked, “Did you already ask Elder Wang?”
The Wang family head said, “Already asked. My father also couldn’t think of anyone who would act against him.”
The Alliance Leader frowned. “Then the only thing we can do is wait for the other party to make their next move.”
That was precisely what the Wang family head feared, that the other party would again smear his dad’s good name. This was why he had so impatiently called everyone together to think of a plan to catch the culprit. But looking at the situation now, it seemed that was impossible.
He was extremely anxious in his heart, but he knew that the primary reason behind the current circumstances was that their Wang family wasn’t able to provide much useful information. His lips trembled, but in the end, the only thing he could do was agree with the Alliance Leader’s decision. After, he called over his steward and earnestly exhorted him to keep his eyes open for the next while so as to not let anything else go wrong.
The steward made a sound in acknowledgement and left to relay the orders.
The Elders of the Demonic Sect were currently huddled together not far from the gates of the Wang family residence.
That day, everyone unanimously vetoed Elder Miao’s suggestion, but this Elder Miao liked using an extremely proper tone to speak of extremely terrifying things. For instance, what if the Sect Master was currently waiting for rescue, or perhaps the Sect Master’s identity had been seen through and so he had been locked up and beaten, or perhaps someone thought he was good looking and so sold him to the Imperial Palace after castrating him, or maybe even perhaps Old Wang was really a pervert and liked assaulting people.
The others really couldn’t stand it anymore. Seeing that Elder Miao was really determined to try selling himself just to test it out, the others made it even easier for him and helped tear his clothes into strips. They kept watch as he walked over and, as expected, was immediately turned away.
They saw that Elder Miao’s face was entirely blank as he returned, and they didn’t speak a word.
Elder Miao looked at them and also didn’t speak a word.
After a brief silence, Elder Miao said, “I still have an idea. I’ll dress as a Buddhist monk and say that the house contains some evil energy and that I can also try and help disperse the Lantern-Extinguishing Poison.”
The group, “…”
Elder Miao was true to his words; what he said he’s willing to do, he’s willing to do. So after changing his expression and his clothes, he once again set out in the direction of the Wang family residence. It was at this time that the steward was conveniently relaying the new orders to the gate guards and heard that there was a person who wanted to sell his body. The steward’s mind was more shrewd than these guards and so he immediately told them to arrest anyone who comes before the gates before doing anything else.
At that very moment, Elder Miao was still walking towards the gates while the others were still huddled in a corner watching him.
“I really don’t think this idea will work.”
“I agree, but when Miao Wang has his heart set on something, no matter how many people say otherwise, he won’t be deterred. The only one he listens to is the Sect Master, and even now, he’s doing all this because of how worried he is about the Sect Master.” “No, this isn’t the most important point. The important thing is that if Miao Wang doesn’t achieve his goal, with his unrelenting attitude, he might run out of patience and start setting poisonous insects48 everywhere. And if others find out, then the incident with Elder Wang will be blamed on our Demonic Sect, and we wouldn’t be able
to escape.” “Yes…”
The scene was deathly still for a moment. In the next, the keen-eyed Elder Mei noticed that the gate guards’ expressions weren’t quite right and immediately informed them.
Without another word, the group rushed forward and grabbed Elder Miao. “Heavenly Teacher49, we finally found you! The method from last time was extremely effective! Our Master is begging you to do the same thing once again! Let’s go!”
The group carried Elder Miao and, with a rumble and a roar, ran off. Elder Miao, “…”
The guards who had been preparing to arrest the man, “…”
The dust billowed through the air and took a long while to settle again. The two guards looked at one another in dismay.
“Then that really was a monk? He said that there was an evil energy about the household, and truth be told, I also thought that recently there was something…”
“Yes. How do we get the monk to return? Or should we buy some talismans?”
“Let’s buy talismans!”
One of the guards left to search for the man but even after half a day, could not find him. Even the surrounding people said they had never seen him. The guard then finally started thinking that something wasn’t right and hurriedly returned to tell the steward. The steward told the family head. And the Wang family head called over the Alliance Leader and the others. They then opened up another round of discussion before realizing that they had no detailed descriptions. In the end, they approximated the appearance, before sticking up posters throughout the city.
Elder Mei tore one and brought it home, throwing it at Elder Miao. “What Heavenly Teacher? We’ve been here only two days and the entire city is out to arrest you!”
Elder Miao immediately became silent.
In the blink of an eye, three days passed. Neither the poisoner nor the suspicious people at the gates ever reappeared. Ye You had spent the past few days reading strips of paper filled with various interesting things gathered from throughout the city, and he thoughtfully closed his eyes.
Wenren Heng took away the papers and waited for the other to return to himself. As it has already been five days since he started drinking the medicine, Wenren Heng took the man to see Miracle Doctor Ji to take his pulse.
Miracle Doctor Ji was also present this day, and when he saw them come in, he had Ye You sit down. As he hit his wrist, he faintly furrowed his brows.
He had been a doctor for so many years, yet he rarely ever furrowed his brows. Wenren Heng’s heart immediately rose.
Miracle Doctor Ji muttered, “How strange…”
Wenren Heng tightly clenched his hand. He wanted to ask a question but was afraid to interrupt the other’s train of thought, so the only thing he could do was look on, unblinking. Ye You also looked at the Miracle Doctor, waiting for his next words.
Miracle Doctor Ji let go of the other’s hand, but his mind remained faraway as he stroked his beard. After a moment, he finally said, “Your internal energy is still the same, sometimes there and sometimes not.”
Just as Ye You wanted to say something, Wenren Heng was already impatiently asking, “Why did elder say that it was strange just now?”
“Because the medicine I gave was a restorative, meant to stabilize internal energy. But his internal energy is not only useless but also hard to find.” Miracle Doctor Ji looked at Ye You. “The only thing I can say is that there is a problem with your internal energy. Since you’ve been injured, have you fought with anyone?”
Ye You shook his head.
Miracle Doctor Ji asked, “And you haven’t used your internal energy? You haven’t used martial arts?”
Ye You said, “I’ve tried using martial arts.”
Miracle Doctor Ji asked, “Was your dantian50 sore?” Ye You said, “No, it wasn’t, or at least I didn’t feel it.”
Miracle Doctor Ji handed over a tea cup from the table, indicating for the other to use his internal energy to grip it lightly so as to see how his body feels. Ye You took it and faintly used his strength on it. The only sound he heard was a crack before the tea cup shattered into pieces. He loosened his hold and told Miracle Doctor Ji that he still didn’t feel anything.
Miracle Doctor Ji looked at the pieces of the tea cup and once again felt the other’s pulse, only to find that it was the same as before.
“After all these years practicing medicine, this is the first time I’ve seen a situation like yours,” Miracle Doctor Ji spent a moment to think before saying, “Come over every three days. And before I’ve found the cause, try not to use any internal energy.”
Ye You would naturally listen to the doctor. Seeing that the other wasn’t going to prescribe more medicine, he unhurriedly stood up and, as he was about to leave, haphazardly asked after Elder Wang’s current condition. Then he took his leave with his Senior Brother and returned to the small courtyard.
“Senior Brother, I have a…”
Ye You had said only a part of what he wanted when his wrist was suddenly grabbed and he was immediately pulled over by a strong force, falling into a warm embrace, his nose full of that familiar scent which carried a tender feeling.
He immediately froze, and Wenren Heng took this moment to hit his sleep acupoint.
Ye You lifted his head.
Wenren Heng and him looked at one another.
Wenren Heng had long known in his heart how the inn’s “sleepwalking” incident from last time happened and had simply chosen not to discuss it. After listening to what Miracle Doctor Ji said today, he finally thought of this opportunity and wanted to try it. But he had originally thought that his Junior Brother had used a method to undo the hit acupoint. Never would he have thought that it was hitting the acupoint itself that was ineffective.
He let go of the person in his arms and rapidly hit his Junior Brother’s other acupoints. Stepping back half-a-step, he asked, “How?” Ye You took a moment to react before walking over to the table and sitting down. “It looks like hitting my acupoints doesn’t work.”
This really was too unusual. Wenren Heng unobtrusively took a breath. He wanted to find out immediately precisely what was the issue with his Junior Brother’s body. Could it be that he became like this because of a qi deviation51? But if it truly was qi deviation, why couldn’t Miracle Doctor Ji see it?
He forced himself to calm, and looking at his Junior Brother, he said, “You truly don’t feel in pain?”
Ye You honestly said, “Truly.”
Wenren Heng asked, “In your memory, is there a medicine that could’ve lead to this?”
Ye You said, “If there was, I would’ve long told Miracle Doctor Ji.”
Wenren Heng was silent for a while. He pushed down his heart’s unease and considered the options. He thought that Miracle Doctor Ji’s expertise was still extremely trustworthy, so he should first allow Miracle Doctor Ji to try. If it was still impossible, he’ll bring his Junior Brother to Xiaoqing Mountain and see if the Demonic Sect members have any solutions.
He said, “If you feel any pain, immediately tell me.”
Ye You knew his Senior Brother was worried about him and so nodded his head.
Wenren Heng then unconsciously lifted his arm and couldn’t help but hold his Junior Brother’s hand.
Simply losing something wasn’t painful. What’s truly painful was losing something, regaining it, and then having it slip through his hands again before he’s able to grasp it firmly enough.
Ye You looked at him, seeing that the other held his hand for only a short while before letting go. Wenren Heng had on a veneer of calm on his face, as if he had hidden away all his thoughts and moods underneath an expression that even great waves couldn’t touch, not allowing anyone the slightest glimpse. He even poured a cup of tea for the other and returned the strips of papers that he had previously confiscated.
Wenren Heng asked, “What was it that you wanted to tell me just now?”
Ye You gave him another look. Slowly remembering that the thing he wanted to say “just now” was the sentence that had been previously interrupted, he composed himself and said, “I had a thought.”
Wenren Heng waited for him to continue.
Ye You tactfully said, “I asked Miracle Doctor Ji, and right now, Elder Wang’s health is actually not bad. Even if he accidentally overheard something, nothing would happen.”
Wenren Heng indulgently gave a laugh. “I understand.”
Ye You felt especially at ease. He spread out the papers and relayed his conjectures, all smiles. Looking at him, he asked, “What do you say?”
“It’s a possibility,” Wenren Heng said, “We can try it.”
Right now, the Masters of Jianghu’s two great powers, Jianghu’s Alliance Leader, and several Jianghu Elders were living at the Wang family residence. Fengxian Manor and Lingjian Pavilion had also brought over several experts to stand guard, so others probably thought that the estate was impenetrable, but for Wenren Heng, passing on information to Elder Wang secretly was still an easy thing to do.
Thus, two days later, in the morning when the sky had yet to lighten entirely, Ye You heard a noisy clamor outside, complete with the sound of a woman crying. He turned over and rubbed his face into the pillow before his mind suddenly flashed with realization and he immediately sat up. Wenren Heng had been mistaken for a pillow, but even before he could think of what to do, he was mercilessly abandoned. Not knowing whether his Junior Brother had realized his mistake or some other reason, he asked, “Not going to continue sleeping?”
Ye You listened to the noise for a while before looking questioningly at Wenren Heng, wanting to know if it was something he did.
With this one look, Wenren Heng understood what the other was asking and said, “If you’re no longer sleeping, let’s get up. Elder Wang hasn’t left his room for this long, I suppose he’s lost his temper. Let’s go see.”
The two tidied up and properly went to the front courtyard, arriving not too early and not too late.
By then, the front courtyard had already been in a complete mess for a while, and Elder Wang already couldn’t use the excuse of simply having lost his temper to describe it. He had clearly heard about the announcement and was so angry he was shaking from head to toe.
And perhaps due to the Lantern-Extinguishing Poison’s torture, his cheeks were an abnormal white, currently rapidly turning red, his eyes sunken, and lips chapped. At this moment, with an expression of angry indignation layered over him, he appeared extremely sinister.
He pointed a trembling finger at the gates. “Open… Open the gates! Preposterous! This thing has to be explained clearly!”
The Wang family head hastily supported him, afraid that he had gotten too angry. Elder Wang was fuming at him, as in the past few days, Elder Wang hadn’t felt any signs of dissatisfaction from him. Meanwhile, the Wang family head felt as if he had been through untold suffering. His heart had actually been wavering, and he had been afraid that his father truly had done something that year, thus he hadn’t dared to make any sudden moves.
Ye You stood to the side, watching Elder Wang pushing his son to the side so as to head outside. Heaving a light sigh, he said, “Even if he has sinned, Elder Wang is already this old, yet just being poisoned wasn’t enough for the other party, and they still wanted to post those announcements to provoke him. Whoever it is really is lacking in virtue.”
Wenren Heng nodded in agreement. “The one who thought of this idea is also lacking in virtue.”
Manor Lord Wei and Pavilion Master Ding and their men had also managed to rush here at this time. Seeing Elder Wang out of bed, everyone was startled and couldn’t help but come forward with advice, afraid that the elder would get too angry. But Elder Wang’s resolution was set, and the only thing the Wang family head could do was listen obediently and support his father out of the gates.
The sky gradually grew lighter, and there were still not many people on the streets. But by the time the elder had reached the main street’s Luoyin Bridge, the townspeople had already heard the news and started moving, with a bustling crowd forming in the surroundings. The Elders of the Demonic Sect also came after changing their appearances. Miao Wang suddenly said, “Why do I feel that that person looks somewhat like the Sect Master?”
The others immediately asked, “Which one? Where?”
Miao Wang said, “That person next to Wenren Heng, the one with his face full of bandages.”
The group hastily lifted their heads. Right at this moment, a new group of people coincidentally arrived and conveniently blocked their line of sight. From within this crowd, they could see only a vague outline of a “white lantern”, looking especially wretched.
“…” They almost started collectively weeping out of sheer frustration. “Where are you looking that you see the resemblance to our Sect Master?”
Miao Wang said, “The silhouette looks somewhat similar.”
The group definitely didn’t think that he was reliable and apprehensively muttered, “How could Sect Master be together with him? I saw them fighting with each other last time.”
“Exactly.” “But Sect Master does treat him specially and had even told us before not to touch him.”
After discussing for a bit, they decided to go and take a look. Right at this time, Wenren Heng had a particular feeling and swept his eyes over in their direction. They immediately stopped and pretended to be looking earnestly in the direction of Luoyin Bridge.
“Let me just say that sometimes he really is extremely terrifying.” “Yes!”
“This old man didn’t come for any other reason today except to say a few words to the poisoner,” Elder Wang was speaking. Having not fully recovered from the poison, he had to take a breath every few words. “This old man has lived an upright and honest life, and done things openly and righteously, for all the years of life until now! This old man swears on the Heavens, on the Earth, on the Wang family’s
lineage, and especially on his own heart!52 You say that this old man has done evil deeds, then come out now in the presence of these heroes of the land and face me! If this old man is truly to blame, then this old man will immediately take responsibility and accept punishment53!”
Elder Wang already had the people’s love and respect, and so there were originally some who didn’t believe in the announcement. Right now, those people immediately gave their support, also drawing in many others’ agreement. Ye You saw only up to this point before he left with Wenren Heng. The Elders of the Demonic Sect secretly followed behind a few steps and thought that there really was some resemblance.
When Wenren Heng looked over yet again, they took the opportunity to hide, deciding to look for a chance to confirm their suspicions.
Elder Wang’s words weren’t many, but after he spoke, he forced himself to stay for a while. Only when his body could no longer endure did he allow himself to be supported back to the residence. Even when the sun had sunk below the mountain, the poisoner never showed his face.
In another blink, two more days passed.
The Wang family was waiting for the poisoner to make a move, the Demonic Sect was still trying to figure out a way to get into contact with the “lantern”, and the city’s common folk and Jianghu figures were waiting to see what would happen next. The situation was as yet still unclear.
On the morning of the third day, Ye You received a strip of paper from the scarred man as usual. When he read the paper, he gave his Senior Brother a look before sending someone to invite Dingtian Academy’s Academy Master Ge and Manor Lord Wei over. Wenren Heng said, “I heard this morning that Dingtian Academy had an issue last night with a thief who even fought with Academy Master Ge. Is everything all right?”
Academy Master Ge said, “Nothing’s wrong. Just a petty thief.”
Wenren Heng said, “I heard that Dingtian Academy had an issue with thieves a few days before as well?”
Academy Master Ge gave him a look. “Yes, some unscrupulous men snuck in.”
Manor Lord Wei heard some other implications. “Xiao-Heng, if you have something to say, just say it.”
Wenren Heng said, “I think I know why someone poisoned Elder Wang. That person had another goal in mind, so they created a diversion.”
The moment his voice dropped, Academy Master Ge’s face changed.
From the beginning, Ye You and Wenren Heng thought that the poisoner wanted to attract people to Suzhou, though they weren’t clear about the opposing party’s true intentions. But now, they knew.
Wenren Heng said, “Dingtian Academy and the Wang family residence are separated by only a river, and you also have a good relationship spanning many years. When the Wang family residence was full, some of the men moved out to live in an inn or to Dingtian Academy itself. And since those friends brought their own friends along, recently there must be many people living there.” After he finished explaining, he looked at Academy Master Ge and asked, “Academy Master Ge, you previously gave the suggestion to move everyone to the Wang family’s other residence. Besides suggesting it for the sake of Elder Wang, you were also trying to get people out of Suzhou, right?”
Academy Master Ge stiffened. After a short moment, as if unloading a great burden from his shoulders, he gave a soft sigh. “I’m not worthy of Sect Master Wenren.”
That certainly counted as admitting to it.
But, speaking up to this point had already made it very clear.
Dingtian Academy was quite strong. Although they weren’t counted amongst Jianghu’s top ten, they were easily within the top twenty. Ordinarily, sneaking in and stealing something would be very difficult, but if a big incident was manufactured and outsiders were set inside Dingtian Academy in order to introduce chaos, then the matter would become simpler by many degrees.
Although the Wang family had already left Jianghu, Elder Wang still commanded ample respect, so he was the most suitable person for the role. When the time came and everyone’s attention was on the Wang family, the poisoner could sneak into the Academy to search or perhaps even find an opportunity to live in the Academy itself. When Ye You saw written on that strip of paper that Dingtian Academy had encountered thieves, he was finally able to guess this additional layer.
Of course simply guessing correctly wasn’t enough. They also had to find a way to enrage Elder Wang so that he’d show his face and clear up the circumstances. The poisoner naturally could not show up with evidence to confront Elder Wang, and following the matter last time, the Wang family residence had increased its patrols, so it became much too inconvenient to post any more announcements. The longer this situation lasted, the more unfavorable the circumstances, so that person would wait only a few more days for nightfall to take another risk and show his hand. But unfortunately he was obstructed by Academy Master Ge.
Wenren Heng asked, “You didn’t catch him?” Academy Master Ge said, “He escaped.”
Manor Lord Wei looked at Academy Master Ge. His usual friendly expression seemed to have a trace of heaviness. Wearing an air of dignity somewhat like that of a high-ranking personage, he asked, “You knew from the beginning?”
Academy Master Ge shook his head. “I simply had some suspicions but no evidence.”
Wenren Heng slowly stroked his tea cup. He didn’t speak again, simply waiting for Manor Lord Wei’s reaction.
Since Academy Master Ge was the elder, even if everything about the matter became clear, if he wouldn’t admit to it no matter what and even said the words, “Outsiders shouldn’t be troubled with family matters,” then as the younger, there was nothing Wenren Heng could do. But with Manor Lord Wei here, things would turn out differently.
That year, during the “Demon Slaughter” incident, it was Manor Lord Wei and Pavilion Master Ding who brought their own groups to encircle that monster. Having suffered heavy losses and injuries, they were the ones most clear about the might of the Lantern- Extinguishing Poison. Now that this Lantern-Extinguishing Poison had reappeared in Jianghu, Manor Lord Wei would use any means possible to capture the other party and interrogate them, regardless of what reasons that person could have had — this was also a reason why he had invited Manor Lord Wei.
Manor Lord Wei eased some of the tension out of his tone. “Since you have suspicions, you should know what they want to steal. If it’s convenient, bring it out and use it as bait. If it’s not, we can think of another method. But you have to tell us about every one of your enemies or about all those you suspect of having some relation to this.”
Academy Master Ge was silent for a moment before saying, “I was simply afraid that you wouldn’t believe me if I spoke up. Some days ago, my son found a rare martial arts book on the bottom of a cliff by chance…” He hesitated. Lowering his voice until it was hoarse, he said, “It… It was Pursued Until Scattered54.”
The moment these words were said, both Manor Lord Wei and Wenren Heng’s expressions changed. Even Ye You’s heart skipped a beat from out of nowhere, but he suppressed it and, as he was used to, looked to his Senior Brother.
Wenren Heng didn’t explain, simply patted his hand in a placating gesture. Ye You took it to mean that clarification was something that would have to wait until later. At this point, Manor Lord Wei spoke with a grave expression, “You’re sure?”
Academy Master Ge said, “There were those exact three words written on it. It’s only that the contents were strange. If you want me to explain it properly, you might as well follow me back to look.”
Manor Lord Wei immediately stood up, but just as he soon as he started following closely, he quickly came to a halt.
Having been in a high position for a long time, he had to look at things with even more penetrating clarity. He said, “For this matter, it’s not all right if I’m the only one going. That year, I did participate in the ‘Demon Slaughter’ and also came into contact with the Lantern-Extinguishing Poison. What’s more, I have sect members with the strength to infiltrate Dingtian Academy. And even besides me, right now, nearly all of the people living here have that same capability. This might not be nice to hear, but it's even possible for the Wang family head himself to send a thief while outwardly calling to catch one.”
Academy Master Ge didn’t respond, but in his heart he agreed.
These past few days, he had also been considering these circumstances, so he had been hesitating over whether to speak or not.
Wenren Heng said, “Does Uncle Wei want to call everyone over?”
Manor Lord Wei said, “Right now, everyone is suspicious. If we keep this matter quiet, investigating secretly, we will alleviate only our own suspicions early. So we might as well all go, and it’ll be easier to observe if anyone has any problems.”
Academy Master Ge said, “Let’s all go, no matter who it is. I just so happen to want that person to see what I have in my hands.”
Since he had already said it like this, Wenren Heng and the others naturally didn’t have any complaints.
Thus, the four men managed to call everyone all together and relayed their conjectures once all the way through. The expressions of Pavilion Master Ding and the Alliance Leader and their men also changed. Most of them also participated in the “Demon Slaughter”.
They couldn’t be more aware of what Pursued Until Scattered symbolized.
During this time, Wenren Heng took the opportunity to clear up his Junior Brother’s confusion. “I’ve previously told you that that monster had murdered three entire clans for the sake of a rare book. That book was Pursued Until Scattered.”
Ye You’s heart gave a thump. Wearing a tranquil expression, he simply made a sound in acknowledgement.
The group didn’t tarry, making straight for Dingtian Academy the moment they stepped outside, leaving the surrounding people of Jianghu looking on, endlessly flabbergasted. After everyone saw that they had walked faraway, they started whispering in one another’s ears, gossiping. Everyone thought that something big had happened, as evident by the grave expressions on those elders’ faces.
The Elders of the Demonic Sect were also huddled secretly in a nearby place, looking on.
They had been waiting for days already, and they had finally waited long enough for that person to come out. They took the opportunity to observe carefully for a moment, seeing the resemblance to their Sect Master more and more.
Elder Mei said, “From the direction, they seem to be heading to Dingtian Academy?”
“Seems like it.”
Elder Mei said, “That’s good. Let’s go.” “Go where?”
Elder Mei rolled her eyes. Before she could even respond, another Elder answered instead, “Are you stupid? The Wang family has special circumstances, so we haven’t been able to get into their residence for a while. But how could we be unable to get into Dingtian Academy?”
“That’s right… Wait, no! How dare you call me stupid!” “Stop arguing. Let’s first think about how to get in.” Elder Miao said, “Let me.”
The others, “…”
Dingtian Academy and ordinary Academies weren’t that different. The difference was that it occupied a larger space, with a large training ground.
Here, besides those who love books, they were all also martial artists, and their martial skill wasn’t weak. It was a rare sect within Jianghu where all disciples were versed in both pen and sword and smart people were available by the handful. People said that when scholars meet soldiers, the scholars couldn’t explain their reasoning even if they had them55, but with Dingtian Academy, when they couldn’t explain their reasoning, they would roll up their sleeves early and
immediately grab for their weapons. As a whole, they were very powerful.
Wenren Heng and the others went straight to the study, waiting for Academy Master Ge to bring the rare book.
They came in a state of unrest56, but before they had even reached the Academy, they had gradually calmed. Manor Lord Wei returned to his usual smiling countenance. He swept his eyes over that Ding who had stolen the seat he originally wanted, and before Academy Master Ge left the room, he even had the mood to ask with a laugh, “Ah, is that thing a book of sword techniques?”
Academy Master Ge stared before remembering that Pavilion Master Ding was from a swordsmanship background. Realizing that there were some clear insinuations of problems being made here, he broke out in cold sweat. Pavilion Master Ding laughed coldly and said, “You don’t need to respond to him. That year when fighting that monster, someone was short two maneuvers compared to me. Now, if he doesn’t take any opportunity available to flaunt his eloquence, he’ll feel uncomfortable.”
“When people get old, their memory really starts to go. Why don’t I remember anyone being short two maneuvers from you.” Manor Lord Wei was all smiles. “I only remember someone’s precious sword breaking and afterwards that person hugging that sword while practically in tears. Ah, that memory…”
Pavilion Master Ding’s eyes turned ice-cold, and, not for the first time, he thought of chopping this fatty into bits.
Academy Master Ge’s entire forehead was dripping with cold sweat, and, as quickly as he could, he ran away. The other elders’ faces all looked wretched, feeling as if they shouldn’t be opening their eyes to watch. They drank tea and pretended not to notice the two arguing. These two’s ages combined added up to over one hundred years, but they still have not resolved even a single one of their fights. When they were young, they had fought about this exact thing for many years, and now they’ve raised this old issue to fight about it all over again.
The Alliance Leader had a headache. “That’s enough. Both of you stop talking.”
Since he was chosen by Wudang and Shaolin, both Wei and Ding were willing to let him save face, and so both stopped speaking.
Academy Master Ge returned very quickly carrying an exquisite wooden box in his hands. In front of everyone, he opened it and took out a book with a black cover and red bindings. On the front of the book was three words, Pursued Until Scattered.
This was the book that everyone dreamed of obtaining that year, so famous that it had almost become legend. No matter how calm the elders present were, at this moment, they still couldn’t help but stand. Manor Lord Wei also dimmed his smile and, with a slightly solemn look at the book, asked Academy Master Ge, “You said earlier that the contents were strange. How strange?”
Academy Master Ge reached over and opened the book. On the first page was written some sentiments, inscribed with the name “Chou Guo”. Everyone had not yet made the items out when Academy Master Ge flipped to the next page. On the second page was written: Pursued Until Scattered’s first style, Cavalry Crossing Origin57.
Everyone inwardly drew a breath. Reading quickly until the end, they read only the latter half: Start with both legs, step forward with the toes, draw energy from the dantian, spread both knees as support, relax the posture, keep the head level, bend the waist, make fists on the side, palms facing upwards, and that is Cavalry Crossing Origin.
There was one elder who hesitantly asked, “What’s so strange?” Wenren Heng laughed but didn’t speak. Ye You wasn’t so considerate. Laughing, he explained, “Responding to elder, it’s the horse stance58.”
Everyone stared at that paper, desperately wanting to see a flower in its pages.
Academy Master Ge bitterly laughed and turned another page. On it was the second style, “Water and Fire Stance”, written about very prolifically but, when summarized, was just incessantly punching in the horse stance, simply changing from fist to fist over and over.
Academy Master Ge continued turning pages. The following pages were all simple fundamental martial skills that even a child could do. The whole book was filled to the brim with an air of, “I’m just playing you.”
Everyone was silent.
“This is what I mean by strange.” Academy Master Ge looked around the room once and unhurriedly said, “But this matter isn’t so simple. Everyone, listen to me carefully explain.”
Since obtaining this book, Academy Master Ge had not had a single night of good sleep.
Originally, he had been frightened half to death by the Lantern- Extinguishing Poison, then he was again frightened half to death by the rush of Jianghu people coming over. He was like a weak old man who fished up a pearl and then happened to end up on the same road as a crowd of robbers. All day long, he was anxious and uneasy, afraid that his treasure would be discovered and that he would end up incurring a fatal disaster.
Afterwards, when a thief appeared in his home, he began to understand the other party’s intentions. He felt suspicious of Manor Lord Wei and the others, guilty towards Elder Wang, and tortured by his hesitation about whether to be forthcoming, while anxious day and night about the future. It was only when he had the truth forced out of him by Wenren Heng today that he felt that the incredible burden that he had carried alone on his back for a million miles had fallen to the ground.
With a boom, the burden left, and he felt free from head to toe.
On this earth, the overcautious were probably those who were, in large part, lacking that one push forward, but the moment that first step was taken, they would discover that things weren’t quite as frightening as it looked from afar.
Right now, he had no shortage of peace of mind as well as a renewed vigor. His mind was once again turning quickly.
He knew that those present were all prodigies who had already considered the possibility that he had presented a fake in order to deceive them. In an effort to prevent misunderstandings, he straightforwardly brought up the matter himself, “When my son brought home the book, it was already like this, along with the box.”
Everyone glanced at the wooden box. This box was very small, fitting the book exactly, as if it was made for it, making carrying it very convenient.
Academy Master Ge continued with, “The box uses the best kind of insect-repelling wood, while the paper is famous Xuancheng paper59 from the previous dynasty, waterproof and extremely sturdy, very difficult to find nowadays. And from the ink marks, one can see it’s
almost been eight, nine years. Therefore, there’s no way I dared to trick everyone. It really is that book.”
Of the people present, there really were some who suspected him and only now had those misgivings dispelled.
Academy Master Ge only recently obtained this rare book, so even if he had the desire to trick them, he wouldn’t have been able to produce something that was several years old. If one wanted to claim that he had written this book in a fit of boredom a long time ago and only now coincidentally found a use for it, it was even more impossible. As everyone knows, Dingtian Academy’s people held writing tools to be of the utmost importance, so to waste Xuancheng paper like this, they’d feel more pain than death.
Seeing them nod their heads, Academy Master Ge let out an inward breath of relief, feeling increasingly more energized from head to toe. He closed the book to allow them to read the cover. On the black cover, red embroidery was used to stitch in the words Chou Guo, coincidentally identical to the inscription on the first page.
He said, “This is the Chou Guo, the Ugly Fruit60. Everyone, not only have you never eaten such a thing before but also even with its unsightly appearance, after peeling off the skin, the interior is extremely delicious.”
The group understood his words.
Manor Lord Wei said, “Does Academy Master Ge think this represents some other meaning?”
“Yes, it made me think that this book has some other secrets, as if it was saying not to be taken in by deception,” Academy Master Ge61 said, “But these past few days, I’ve used water to soak it, fire to roast it, and even dripped some blood on it, but none of them did anything.”
He looked at them. “Later, I started thinking that the other party was doing such a thing precisely because he wanted me to keep this book by my side to study it. He knows the people of my Academy loves books and didn’t even hesitate to use the priceless Xuancheng paper. And as my son got the book in one moment, the Lantern- Extinguishing Poison returned to Jianghu in the next. After considering everything, felt that it was someone scheming against our Dingtian Academy.”
“This…” The group hesitated.
Manor Lord Wei took the initiative to speak, “It doesn’t seem like it. If he really held enmity towards you, using this method to take vengeance, he wouldn’t need to wait eight or nine years. After preparing a book, he simply had to wait until he lured you into picking it up and then on the way back, devise some way to show your belongings so that others happen to see the book in your possession. Now, he has both eyewitnesses and physical evidence, and all he has to do after that is simply wait patiently for your luck to run out.”
Academy Master Ge was silent for a moment. He actually also had his own doubts about this matter, but he couldn’t help thinking ridiculous thoughts because of these past few days. He said, “If he had previously wanted to scheme against someone but nothing worked, and we had inadvertently provoked him recently, he could have decided to set this trap for us, right?”
Wenren Heng asked, “Then what was the surrounding situation when Junior Academy Master Ge found the wooden box? Could he tell if it was recently placed or not?”
Academy Master Ge stared blankly. In these past few days, he had been extremely anxious and hadn’t wanted to let his son know too much, so the only thing he asked his son was why he was at the bottom of that cliff; nothing else had been asked. He didn’t hesitate and immediately told someone to call for his son. He carefully asked once all the way through and found that the box truly had been placed there for many years.
Academy Master Ge asked, “You’re certain?”
The Junior Academy Master said, “I’m certain. If nothing else, I still have my sight. With one look, it was obvious that it had been there for several years.”
Academy Master Ge gestured for him to leave. Once again feeling a hard stone in his heart weighing him down, he said, “Then this was all a coincidence? He used Xuancheng paper simply to prevent rot, and being picked up by my son was complete chance?”
The others didn’t dare to say everything they were thinking and simply said, “It’s possible.”
Academy Master Ge frowned. “But why did he choose to do it like this? Why did he purposely pick such valuable paper only to mess with people?”
Ye You agreed, all smiles, “Yes, he really had too much free time.” The others didn’t look in his direction.
Ye You unhurriedly added, “But he probably wasn’t tricking people for no reason. What Academy Master Ge said previously was probably right, there most likely are some other secrets.”
The others were finally lured in by his words and turned to look at him.
Up until now, this person had always followed obediently by Wenren Heng’s side, and the amount of times he’d spoken can be counted on one hand. Furthermore, every time he did speak was to respond to a question by an elder. Thus, everyone’s impression of him was that of an injured, quiet, young Junior Brother, and this was the first time they had heard him put forth a new way of looking at things, so inevitably, some were astonished and some thought it novel.
Wenren Heng also glanced at his Junior Brother, but there was not a trace of surprise on his face. His Junior Brother had always been clever. In a few years, he had grown the Demonic Sect into one of the strongest sects. Even if he’s currently lost his memory, how could he be consciously underestimated?
Academy Master Ge looked at this injured young sir and asked, “How can you tell?”
“I don’t know if you’ve taken note of this box yet.” Ye You turned the wooden box he was holding in his hand to the right. Just now, after Academy Master Ge mentioned the box, he had brought it over to take a look. He pointed at the back of the box. “A praying mantis is engraved here, probably out of fear that you’d throw this box away. There’s also one underneath the Ugly Fruit on the cover of the book, embroidered right next to the leaf, right?”
“Right.” After he spoke, Academy Master Ge showed them the cover.
It was an extremely small mantis, embroidered with the same color thread as Ugly Fruit. Unless one looked carefully enough, it would otherwise be overlooked. But in these past few days, whenever he had the time, he would turn the items over in his hands, so naturally he knew about it.
The people crowded around and looked it over once, inwardly sighing that this young sir’s eyesight sure was good. They asked, “What does this mean?”
“Where there’s wood, there’s trees, and where there’s trees, there’s leaves. Look, elders, underneath this Ugly Fruit, there’s also a few leaves,” Ye You said, “Tree leaves and praying mantises. Academy Master Ge is a scholar. In Huainanzi62, there’s a phrase, ‘Stalking a cicada, the mantis hides behind a leaf and thinks itself invisible'63. It’s not only Academy Master Ge that’s heard this story before, right?”
Academy Master Ge inwardly took a breath. “Are you suggesting that we aren’t seeing the forest for the trees?”
Ye You laughingly nodded. “At that time, other than the box, did Junior Academy Master Ge see anything else?” Academy Master Ge didn’t waste words before yet again calling his son back and asking, “You said you picked up this book inside a mountain cave?”
The Junior Academy Master helplessly said, “That’s right. It really was placed there for many years.”
“I didn’t ask you that,” Academy Master Ge said, “Was there anything in the surroundings? You must’ve seen it.”
The Junior Academy Master thought back and said, “It was really dark inside and covered in spiderwebs outside. The only place I went was to a corner where I found this box. When I opened it and saw what was inside, I immediately hurried back.”
One thought collectively flashed through everyone’s heads, We really did “miss the forest for the trees”!
They looked at Ye You. “You’re sure there’s still something in the cave?”
“It’s highly possible,” Ye You said, “Just think for a moment. If you spent a lot of time coming up with a scheme, and had the patience to wait eight or nine years, would you use as simple a plan as just giving a particularly baffling book? What’s more, if they really wanted the book to make such a fuss, they could’ve embroidered only Ugly Fruit and just threw it out. Why would they go through the trouble of telling people to ‘not miss the forest for the trees’?”
Everyone once again looked in the direction of the box and the book, muttering to themselves wordlessly.
Having had his shadow messed with, Academy Master Ge was still uneasy, asking, “But if we go and the result is that he once again entraps us, what should we do?”
“If he thought so simply of people, would he have waited this long?” Ye You paused for a moment before laughingly saying, “Oh, I suppose it’s possible if his disposition is really just that extraordinarily nasty. But seeing how he has the patience to wait for people to come and pick up the book, I think he probably counts as one of those who has a very sincere nastiness.”
Everyone couldn’t help but ask, “How can you tell?”
Ye You said, “I mean that he would treat those who come to investigate sincerely. Since he took the time to plan this trick, he probably wouldn’t cheat someone. And since Ugly Fruit is embroidered, then what we’ll obtain in the end must be something even better than this book Pursued Until Scattered. Naturally, this is only this young one’s way of thinking. Another possibility is that right after he set the trick, he encountered an unrelated mishap and passed away, which might be why we have the current situation. So, to go or not is still a question best left up to all of you elders.”
Manor Lord Wei looked towards Wenren Heng. “What does Xiao- Heng think?”
Wenren Heng smiled. “I trust Junior Brother’s judgment.”
Everyone thought over the matter once more and then collectively turned to look at each other.
Academy Master Ge was the first one to say to go. He wasn’t a fool. Amongst these people, only his son knew the exact place, so if they didn’t go this time and, in the future, one of these men caught some evil intentions and decided to go investigate, the one in trouble would be his son.
The group then quickly decided on a good time to set out before dispersing.
Before leaving, Ye You looked at Academy Master Ge and laughingly told him to add some more guards for the next few days. Academy Master Ge stared before immediately realizing that if the thief no longer appeared, then it would be clear that the poisoner was hiding amongst them. Since the other party was probably not this foolish, people were still probably going to be sent over.
He nodded, watching them leave. When they were far enough away, he let out a sigh and said, “How worthy are the disciples that Elder Yu brought up, every single one is this incredible…”
The Junior Academy Master didn’t hear the words clearly. “Dad?”
Academy Master Ge looked at him and all his anger came rushing out. “Look at them and look at yourself! Why don’t you learn from their examples!”
Knowing that his dad had been extra irritable recently, the Junior Academy Master immediately ran away.
The party had already left the gates. Wenren Heng intentionally slowed his pace and waited until there was a sufficient enough distance from those in front before looking towards his Junior Brother. “You didn’t forget that you have to go see Miracle Doctor Ji at certain times.”
Ye You said, “I didn’t forget. But don’t you think this situation is quite fun?”
Wenren Heng said, “Speak the truth.”
Ye You said, “I’m really very interested in this.”
Wenren Heng knew the moment that he heard this that there was no stopping the other, so he began considering the possibility of pulling Miracle Doctor Ji along with them on the road. As he slowly walked on the stone bridge, he saw an aunt carrying a basket making straight for his Junior Brother.
A certain Elder of the Demonic Sect took a flower out of the basket and, with a pitched voice, asked, “Young sir, want to buy a flower?”
Because there have been continuously no progress in the past few days, Elder Miao became incessantly worried, so he was extremely conscientious regarding the matter of infiltrating Dingtian Academy, and his expression was especially grave.
The other three considered his expression, remembered this person’s way of doing things, and thought that he would come up with a “recite poetry to a group of scholars and get welcomed in as an esteemed personage” kind of method. And they had already prepared a “you haven’t even fucking memorized all of Sanzi Jing64, don’t
even think of reciting poetry” to persuade him otherwise. Who could have guessed that he wouldn’t say a word, only coldly stare at the Academy’s gates.
They were suddenly anxious. “How do you want to do this?”
Elder Miao coldly laughed, and his laugh had the manner of one looking down from up high. He said, “Once I let out my poisonous insects, how could a mere Dingtian Academy stop me?”
Hearing those kind of words was really too intense!
The group immediately moved and covered his mouth before dragging him away to a side corner.
Elder Miao, “…”
Following that, they started tackling the problem of, “We can’t cause too big a disturbance,” and “The poisonous insects that I’ve set will definitely not be discovered,” eventually turning into an intense fight. After, some brought up the fact that the space Dingtian Academy occupied was too big, so if they couldn’t find the way and ended up getting lost, then they might be taken as suspicious people and captured. Only with this did they finally come to an agreement to wait outside.
Elder Miao said, “I’ll pretend to be a peddler carrying his wares and try getting close for a bit.” Now that was a decent idea! These people were truly moved this time. They were about to give some words of praise when they heard him propose selling flowers and unconsciously asked, “You’re selling?”
Elder Miao nodded. “I can.”
The group collectively turned to look at each other. Feeling somewhat apprehensive, they decided to draw lots. In the end, it was Elder Baili who was honored with victory. And so, by those wicked colleagues of his, he had his appearance changed, painted with crimson rouge, and even stuck into a tattered skirt, before being sent on his nervous way.
Now that he was looking at this young sir up close, he was more and more certain that this was the Sect Master. His heart was beating so fast that he had practically forgotten all that he wanted to say.
Ye You knew how to be polite and said, “Not buying.”
This voice, it’s really the Sect Master who’d been missing for several months!
Sect Master, we’ve missed you so much! Elder Baili was instantly incredibly moved, with a thick feeling of heartache bubbling up.
What happened to leave the Sect Master’s face so bandaged? What happened for him to have the scent of Hundred-Grass Dew on his body? Was he actually injured or simply trying to pull the wool over other people’s eyes? Please don’t actually be injured! Their Sect Master was so incredible, how could he possibly be injured!
After Ye You finished speaking, he and his Senior Brother walked past the peddler. But after two steps, the faint impression behind him remained, and so he couldn’t help but turn back and look.
Seeing the other’s eyes turning red while staring at him, Ye You secretly thought that this kind of livelihood was probably not easy, and feeling his heart going soft, he went back. “I’ll buy it all. Give them to me, then.”
Elder Baili distractedly handed the basket over to him and unconsciously responded, not remembering to cover up his voice, resulting in an emotional, masculine howl of, “You’re such a good person, young sir!”
Ye You, “…” Wenren Heng, “…”
Instantly regretful, Elder Baili was afraid that he’d be in for a spanking if his identity being revealed delayed the Sect Master’s plans and so hastily covered his face shyly. Not daring to even ask for money, in one move, he twisted his waist and took a small step, running away as fast as possible.
Ye You, “…” Wenren Heng, “…”
The stone bridge was deathly quiet for a moment. Wenren Heng motioned his subordinates to go stop that person and then his eyes ended up on the flower basket at practically the same time as his Junior Brother. Sensing one another’s movements, they raised their heads, their lines of sight colliding.
Ye You gave a laugh, taking a flower and handing it over. “Senior Brother likes flowers? Then I’ll gift you one.”
Wenren Heng accepted it and gave him a look. “Let’s go back.” Ye You said, “All right.”
Wenren Heng pinched the flower and softly sniffed it, guessing that the man just now was probably one of the Demonic Sect’s. But before they have confirmed his Junior Brother’s identity, they probably wouldn’t randomly place things for him, so that basket probably won’t have anything strange inside. Ye You was at this moment thinking that it was very possible that that man knew him. When they returned to the Wang family residence, he turned the basket inside out but didn’t find anything strange about it and secretly wondered if the other party simply wanted to get close for a bit.
Thus, after he had gathered all the flowers into a pile, he gave them all to his Senior Brother. When he was looking through the basket, he was sitting right by his Senior Brother’s side, not hiding anything from Wenren Heng. This put Wenren Heng in an extremely good mood, and he asked, “What?”
Ye You said, “Gifts for you.”
Wenren Heng looked at him, and the tenderness in his eyes seemed like it wanted to wrap him up layer by layer. “Senior Brother is truly blessed.”
Ye You naturally could hear the additional layer of meaning. He said, “In any case, as Senior Brother said before, anything I want to know, you’ll tell me, so naturally I trust you.”
Wenren Heng nodded.
Ye You immediately didn’t bother with courtesies. “Who was that person just now? Did Senior Brother recognize him?”
“He was disguised, so even I couldn’t tell, but I’ve already sent people after him. Let’s wait until he’s brought back, then we’ll see,” Wenren Heng said. “But I have one thing I want to say in advance. That person probably knows you, and since we’ve been separated for ten years, I most likely won’t recognize the friends you’ve made.”
Ye You didn’t force the issue, simply making a sound in acknowledgement.
Not very long later, the scarred man returned and told his Sect Master that they weren’t able to capture the person.
He couldn’t help but be apprehensive. Although that “aunt” looked strange, their martial arts was frightfully strong. Ever since he joined Shuangji Sect and started following the Sect Master, he had been counted amongst the experts of Jianghu. But when he went up against that person, after not even two moves, the other party had run away.
Wenren Heng had already suspected that the people who came were the Elders of the Demonic Sect, and upon hearing this, he knew he’d guessed correctly. He inwardly thought that if they were an Elder, then his subordinates would inevitably be unable to catch them.
Those Elders of his Junior Brother were each one stronger than the last, though all of them had some issues with their personalities, so it was probably only his Junior Brother who could restrain them. But since one already came, then even if the others weren’t nearby, they would definitely also hurry over in the next few days. Just in time for him to get them to check what exactly is the issue with his Junior Brother’s internal energy, and saving him the trip to find them himself. It’s only that they might take the person back with them that he felt so reluctant.
What if he thought of a way to kick them out when they’ve finished examining him?
He dropped his head to look at the flower his Junior Brother gifted and the corners of his mouth rose. He leisurely lifted his hand and tidied the delicate leaves.
Those Elders whom Wenren Heng had in his sights had already returned to their temporary lodgings. Not even caring to shed his makeup, bearing heaps of red on his cheeks, Elder Baili said, “No mistake, that’s definitely the Sect Master!”
The group took a deep breath, opening and closing their hands in excitement; they finally found their Sect Master!
Only heaven knows how worried they were this whole way, afraid that their incredible and beautiful Sect Master had truly fallen prey to a villain and been locked into a small, dark room or sold to the Imperial Palace after being castrated. Now that they’ve found him, everything was good again.
Elder Miao asked, “Those bandages on his face, did he get injured?”
Elder Baili said, “It’s not clear, but his body has the smell of Hundred-Grass Dew. Hopefully it’s not injuries… But, really, what is the Sect Master thinking?” Elder Mei used the hand sporting red fingernails to brush through her hair. Mouth quirking, she said, “Now, following this, we should think about how to deal with Wenren Heng.”
The others, “…”
Why suddenly so savage!
“Why are you suddenly all looking at me like that? Where did your thoughts go?” Elder Mei said, “I’m talking about slipping by Wenren Heng and privately meeting with the Sect Master. Think about the brocade bag that the Sect Master left behind. I don’t think he’d take the initiative to come out himself, so we need to manufacture an opportunity.”
The moment it’s brought up, the group immediately opened up that brocade bag. Within it was only a few sentences. The first one was that if they found him, don’t act as if they know him, simply secretly follow behind.
“Perhaps he’s assumed a new identity right now,” Elder Mei said, “He said he has something to do, but I still feel uneasy, so it’s best to ask properly after all.”
“Then how do we slip by Wenren Heng?” Elder Miao said, “Kidnap his subordinates?”
“…He’s that terrifying. If he investigates, then won’t we be exposed?” “Then what do we do?”
“Wait a moment. Let’s put this matter to the side for now. Look at what the Sect Master wrote. The first two things are still easy to accomplish, but what does the third mean? Which of you dares to do such a thing? I certainly don’t.”
The guest room turned quiet. The group collectively looked, but not a single one opened their mouth. It was clear that no one dared. But perhaps the Sect Master predicted this situation would happen, so he wrote four big words underneath this sentence, even using cinnabar, making it look almost like blood: You. Must. Do. It. Help! They’d rather the Sect Master let them commit suicide than do this thing!
The group sunk into silence. As one, they turned to look at the one with the strongest spiritual energy, Elder Mei.
Elder Mei stiffened. With lips turned down, from her sleeves, she pulled out a handkerchief to dab at her eyes. “With the way I brought all of you up, I didn’t expect that when things became difficult, this crowd of men would make this feeble woman do this kind of work! I really misjudged all of you! I don’t want to live anymore!”
She suddenly stood up and, clutching the handkerchief, with exaggerated crying sounds65, ran away.
The others, “…”
The city of Suzhou was still lively.
Since Elder Wang had dragged himself outside to clear his name, there had been no further movements from the poisoner, and more and more people started believing in Elder Wang’s innocence, believing that the poisoner had already slipped away. But for now, they hadn’t left; every major character still remained. They wanted to wait for an explanation, and they also knew that a few days ago those people suddenly left for a trip to Dingtian Academy, which gave off the scent that something was about to happen. So they continued to wait.
In these past few days, Dingtian Academy was once again noisy because of thieves. Academy Master Ge calmly checked that things hadn’t been lost and even hummed a small tune as he left the room. There was not a trace of his fretful appearance from a few days prior, leaving his disciples extremely baffled.
The people at the Wang family residence also weren’t idle.
The Alliance Leader and Manor Lord Wei got together to discuss what explanation to give the Wang family and how to resolve this matter. Although they were all suspicious, the only reason was that they all had the ability, and there were many other people in Jianghu who met these requirements, not all of whom had come to the Wang family residence. So it was currently still difficult to determine who the actual culprit was.
Finally, it was still the Wang family head who said, “Then I’ll also go this time. No matter who the poisoner is, they’ll definitely follow along with everyone.”
The Alliance Leader naturally agreed.
Seeing that this discussion was finished, Wenren Heng asked, “How has Elder Wang been recently?”
The Wang family head said, “Already greatly recovered.”
Wenren Heng nodded. When his Junior Brother went accordingly as per usual to Miracle Doctor Ji’s place, Wenren Heng asked about when exactly the poison would be completely cleared from Elder Wang’s body.
Miracle Doctor Ji gave him a look. “There’s no use thinking about it. There’s still some days left to go. By that time, you’ll have already left.”
Wenren Heng’s face didn’t change. “Then after that, does elder have some other obligations?”
Miracle Doctor Ji stroked his beard. Looking at Ye You, he still wanted to find out what exactly happened to the other and said, “None. After, I’ll come find you two. Before that, I’ll write a letter to my disciple and have him follow you. Will that ease your worries?”
Wenren Heng praised, “If it’s elder’s beloved disciple, then of course we’ll be at ease.”
The results of Miracle Doctor Ji taking Ye You’s pulse were the same as the previous times, still no issues. The two followed along the route they had taken to get there, along a winding passageway.
Looking at the color of the sky, Ye You said, “Senior Brother, last time I asked Miracle Doctor Ji if I could drink wine, and he said I could.”
Wenren Heng made a sound in acknowledgement.
After the flower-buying incident, he knew that his Junior Brother had wanted to contact those people and had held his temper, waiting for a few days, until now, finally unable to sit still anymore.
He asked, “Do you want to drink wine?”
Ye You didn’t want him to say, “Senior Brother will accompany you to drink,” and so said, with a smiling face, “Yes, I’m planning on going to a male brothel66 to drink wine. I’m not coming back tonight, so Senior Brother shouldn’t wait up for me and instead should go to sleep early.”
Wenren Heng, “…”
Sometimes Wenren Heng felt as if his entire lifetime’s worth of wisdom and patience would be spent entirely on his Junior Brother.
If he could achieve what he desired, then even if he’s exhausted, he’d still be happy. But every time he’s driven into a corner by his Junior Brother, he’d still feel that he might as well just ignore his Junior Brother’s nonsense, directly undress him, and chain him to the bed.
It was the same this time.
When this Junior Brother of his wanted to do or know something, some incredible patience would be exercised, and if the other party wasn’t careful, information would be wormed out of them in a flash. For instance, at the inn last time, this person wanted to feel out his attitude, and after being lightly rebuffed by him in return, the other shamelessly carried that knowledge until now to use.
Using this talk to sound the other out, his Junior Brother fought in a way that was extremely loud and clear, looking only at the upsides. If he could go out, then good, and even if he couldn’t, it’s all right, since he could simply come up with a different method. As long as he could test the other’s attitude, he won’t suffer any losses.
What could Wenren Heng say?
Don’t indulge too much in your desires? But his Junior Brother had already grown to this point, doing such things on occasion wouldn’t count as overindulging in desires.
Is there anything else he could say?
I also like men, why don’t we go together?
If he actually said that, then his Junior Brother would definitely consider the possibility of being the object of his affections and so perhaps in the following days, he could avoid all his Junior Brother’s various ways of probing for information. But one thing couldn’t be forgotten; although, right now, his Junior Brother had amnesia, perhaps someday there will come a time when the memories all return. And if some harrowing thing had occurred between them, then he definitely couldn’t admit to it. If he did, his troubles would increase.
So the only thing Wenren Heng could do was hold onto the frame and insincerely tell his Junior Brother to be mindful of his safety, and not to drink too much wine.
Ye You obediently said, “Don’t worry, Senior Brother, I know.”
Wenren Heng was extremely furious67. He stood at the doorway, unmoving, a smile on his face as he watched the other go out.
When the scarred man gave this scene a look, he simply thought that his Sect Master’s smile was extremely tender, just like the first spring wind of a new year. But perhaps it was that the wind hadn’t yet broken free of winter yet, since within that smile was mixed a layer of bitter cold.
His heart trembled, and he silently advanced. Seeing the importance that the Sect Master attached to that young sir, he felt that the other was about to give an order.
Wenren Heng said, “Keep an eye on him. If he really goes to a male brothel, drinking some wine is still all right, but if… Think of some way to drag him out and send someone to tell me.”
The scarred man said, “Understood.”
Wenren Heng added, “And if someone comes to meet him, there’s no need to mind.”
The scarred man was immediately astonished.
He had already suspected long ago that Young Master Xiao wasn’t a simple person, and after the incident with the “aunt”, he was even more sure of his suspicions. He understood that his Sect Master perhaps knew some things, but he had always thought that the Sect Master wasn’t willing to let Young Master Xiao have too much contact with outsiders, and he never expected to be proven wrong. He couldn’t help but ask, “Did Sect Master already decide from the beginning to let Young Master Xiao go outside?”
“Yes, there’s no use stopping him anyway,” Wenren Heng said.
First, this Junior Brother of his was too clever. Second, he had already confirmed these past few days that his Junior Brother truly had an enormous interest in the matter of the Lantern-Extinguishing Poison, so even if his Junior Brother got into contact with the people of the Demonic Sect, the other would probably still obediently return to his side. Thus, after he had sorted out his thoughts, from the start, he hadn’t intended to stop his Junior Brother. The only thing was that he never could’ve predicted that the scoundrel would use this kind of excuse to go outside.
In his heart, Wenren Heng was telling himself that if a certain someone really dared to do something at a male brothel tonight, then he’d immediately grab that person. He gave one last glance in the direction of the front gates before finally returning to the room.
Ye You slowly reached the main street.
Quite a few people knew his identity. When those people from Jianghu raised their heads and saw him, they all itched to run up to him and ask about the state of affairs. But this person was Sect Master Wenren’s Junior Brother, his identity wasn’t that of an ordinary person, and so they were all somewhat hesitant. At this moment, among them, several friendly acquaintances holding wine jugs smugly stepped forward and, in front of a crowd of jealous eyes, arrived at the person’s side.
“How does Sir Xiao have the time to go out these days?”
Ye You laughed and said, “Staying in is boring, so I came out to take a look around.”
The group said, “Then why not go drink a cup? Fengchun House has new entertainers who know the Gardenia Dance68. It’s a really great show.” Ye You thought for a bit and then told them that he wanted to walk around alone first before meeting directly at Fengchun House at the decided time. He then walked away.
He looked at the street with people coming to and fro and was very much looking forward to being contacted by the person from a few days ago. After all, he had still been recognized even with the bandages covering his face, so that person was probably someone very familiar with him. In addition, since losing his memory, besides Wenren Heng, this was the second time he had met someone who recognized him, so he naturally couldn’t miss this opportunity.
Recently, those Elders of the Demonic Sect had been continuously discussing how exactly to go about slipping by Wenren Heng.
They discussed it and discussed it, and they all agreed that that person was too intractable. Elder Miao had wanted to set poisonous insects several times, but the others desperately stopped him.
At this time, they were at their wits’ end. Standing in front of the open window and letting the cool breeze calm him, Elder Baili suddenly straightened his back and immediately let out a cry. He excitedly told them that the Sect Master had come out!
The other three hastily rushed towards the window and looked down. The moment they saw that person walking over, their eyes immediately started tearing up in excitement. Turning their heads, they ran downstairs. It was only when they stood on the street that they remembered the Sect Master said not to act like they knew each other. They looked at each other in dismay, not knowing if they should move forward or not.
“Right now the Sect Master is by himself, so he’s probably come to look for us, right?”
“How could anyone know? What if he has some other business?”
“Then what should we do? Do we go over or not? Do we act familiar or not? What if we anger him by rashly acting familiar and get a beating?” “This…”
From the beginning, Ye You had been surveying his surroundings in every direction and so he quickly noticed them, giving them all a look.
Those Elders looked to the sky and looked to the ground and counted their fingers, not daring to look at him.
Ye You placed them in the same category as that crowd of people from Jianghu who wanted to speak but didn’t dare to step forward and summarily dismissed them. He started walking ahead following the main street, inwardly considering where else he could walk around.
Those Elders couldn’t properly grasp his meaning, so they surreptitiously followed him. If the Sect Master wanted to acknowledge them, he’d naturally find a deserted place, but if he didn’t, then they’d obediently stay out and keep watch.
Not long later, Ye You once again noticed them, and this time he finally realized that there was something not quite right.
His heart moved, but he unhurriedly crossed the stone bridge and started following along the riverbank, taking a slow walk.
A row of weeping willows were growing along this riverbank, charming greenery as far as the eye could see, and so tall that one couldn’t see the trees’ heads at a glance. Although there were people who came to admire the scenery, it wasn’t nearly as lively as the main street. He picked a place with few people to stand, sweeping his eyes over to that group of people who had stopped to huddle three trees away. He stared at them.
Those Elders turned their attention to the river, pretending to be contemplating the meaning of life.
Ye You laughed. “Since you walked with me the whole way, do you have some business with me?” Should they say that they do, or that they don’t? Once again, those Elders couldn’t properly grasp his meaning and so silently turned to look at him, not speaking a word.
Ye You decided he might as well step forward and take the chance to also size them up a little.
Those four people looked extremely ordinary and their expressions had a stiff outline to them, so he guessed that they had probably disguised themselves. He walked until he was two steps away from them before stopping. Purposefully standing on the side close to the river, he figured that if there really was some business, he still had an escape route.
He looked at them and calmly waited for them to speak. The Elders continued to maintain their silence.
In the Demonic Sect, the Sect Master was the absolute authority, and after all these years, they were used to listening to his orders. If he didn’t speak, they also wouldn’t randomly open their mouths.
Ye You saw those four anxiously looking at him and felt that they were somewhat helpless and pitiful so again asked, “Why did you follow me?”
The Elders still did not yet dare to act as if they recognized him, so they decided to pick an excuse at random. “Seeing the young sir’s virtuous countenance, we couldn’t help but follow for a bit.”
“…” Ye You was sporting a “lantern” and so especially wanted to ask them where exactly they saw that he had a virtuous countenance.
Seeing the chilly smile in his eyes, the group hurried to explain, “It’s us who thought that the young sir was definitely a virtuous person.”
“Yes, simply hearing this voice is…”
“That’s enough,” Ye You waved his hand to interrupt them. Deciding to draw them out a bit through deception, he calmly said, “Stop going around in circles. If you have something to say, then say it.” This means they can recognize him, right? The Elders were immediately moved to excitement and, with a cheer, surrounded him.
“Sect Master where have you been for the past while? We’ve especially missed you!”
“Yes, and what happened to your face? Are you injured or just pretending to be injured?”
“Ah, right, why are you together with that rascal Wenren Heng?”
“Oh, and, what was the important matter you wanted to do when you went out this time?”
Ye You took a moment to react. Seeing that their expressions did not seem to be faked, he finally said, “All of you call me Sect Master?”
“…” These Elders also took a moment to react. They understood that the Sect Master had tricked them, but why? It couldn’t be that he had discovered they were following him and so wanted to sound them out to see if they’d be able to follow his orders and not take the bait?
They thought of the Sect Master’s character and collectively broke out in cold sweat, afraid that the Sect Master will send these good- for-nothings back home.
Ye You said, “Yes?”
These Elders deeply believed that they understood the Sect Master’s true intentions. Dragging back their wildly rushing minds, they tried to save it by saying, “Ah, young sir, please speak a few more words.
We seem to have confused you with someone else.”
“Ah, that’s right. The silhouette looked kind of like our Sect Master’s, but looking again now, it doesn’t look alike.”
Ye You examined them. “Why don’t I take these bandages off and all of you can look again?”
“No need, that’d be too troublesome. The more we hear, the less alike it sounds,” the Elders said, “It looks like we’ve truly made a mistake. Sorry for the inconvenience. We won’t bother you any longer. Goodbye.”
The moment they finished speaking, they ran away. They were especially adaptable.
Ye You definitely felt there was something strange and subconsciously wanted to call them back, but those people slipped away too fast and were gone in the blink of an eye with their martial arts. He frowned slightly and considered the main reason before also leaving.
He again walked around the main street but nothing else happened. He presumed that the one who approached him last time had been among that group of people just now.
At this time, Wenren Heng had also received the news and asked, “They ran?”
The subordinate who had returned with the information carefully relayed the events once through and said, “They spoke only a few sentences before running.”
Since a few years ago, Wenren Heng had always been keeping track of the Demonic Sect. He knew that for the sake of conveniently recognizing each other, those Elders of the Demonic Sect had a set of fixed disguises they used. Hearing his subordinate’s account, he knew that those people were definitely the Elders of the Demonic Sect; there was no mistake. But why would they run?
He tapped on his tea cup, sinking into contemplation. After a while, he asked, “Where is he? Did he go to a male brothel?”
The subordinate said, “No, he didn’t. He’s still walking around.”
Right after the last sentence had been spoken, another subordinate rang at the door. Wenren Heng let him inside and, seeing his profusely sweating appearance, pushed down his unhappy mood and forced himself to ask again, “He went to a male brothel?”
The newly arrived subordinate said, “Answering the Sect Master, no, he didn’t.” Wenren Heng’s heart eased.
The subordinate immediately followed with, “Young Master Xiao went to Fengchun House.”
Wenren Heng, “…”
Fengchun House was the city of Suzhou’s largest brothel.
With all varieties, the beautiful women were as numerous as clouds. With the present gathering of people in Suzhou, the boss was using the recent opportune time to bring over a group of enchanting entertainers to dance, leaving the onlookers stupefied and allowing Fengchun House’s business to boom yet again.
The people from Jianghu who drank wine with Ye You last time were mostly all present, with the same single-seating floor arrangement as before. These people were staring mesmerized at the dancers, as if hoping their eyes would fly out and attach to their bodies, remaining there until the end of the set. They couldn’t help but loudly shout their welcome.
“What does Sir Xiao think?”
Ye You laughed as he drank a mouthful of wine. “Not bad.” “Why not call one over?”
“No need, this is already very good.” Ye You put down his wine cup, and the young miss on the side immediately refilled it completely.
The young miss wore a thin, yellow goose skirt. And whether it was that she had seen much of the world or that she was taught well, when she met this kind of guest wrapped up like a “lantern” where none of his facial features were visible, she didn’t show the slightest bit of astonishment. She accompanied him, all smiles, with the occasional pouring of alcohol and a few murmured sentences. She was certainly discrete.
The group observed for a while. Noticing that Sir Xiao didn’t seem that interested in these proceedings, they stopped trying to call people over and instead brought up some conversation about the Wang family, subtly asking why all the lords went to Dingtian Academy a few days prior. They initially thought that since this young sir had never mixed in Jianghu, he’d be easy to extract information from. Who knew that, after a while, they not only didn’t manage to get a single word out of him but also managed to be talked into a deep discussion on a completely different topic. It was only when some returned to their seats that they managed to pull the topic back, like reining in a wild dog.
Re-energized, these elders of Jianghu asked once again, and while they weren’t thrown off this time, they still didn’t manage to weasel out a single useful word.
From these few times, they already realized that this person wasn’t naive enough as to be so easily tricked. And after thinking about his identity, they suddenly became well-behaved, realizing that they were actually quite lucky. Some thought even more deeply, secretly wondering why such a person would so easily agree to drink wine with them if he was so difficult to handle. They really couldn’t talk about what had happened?
The thin, tall man carrying the monk’s spade from last time was also present. He didn’t think in such a roundabout way, so when he saw that Sir Xiao wasn’t saying the reason, he simply said, “Then if in the future there really is some news, don’t forget to tell these brothers.”
“Naturally, of course,” Ye You said, “Other than Senior Brother, the only ones I recognize in Jianghu are you heroes, and I also feel as if we’re all kindred spirits. If I can’t say it to all of you, who can I say it to?”
Those words were very pleasing to the ear.
Although these elders of Jianghu knew that this person was probably speaking only pleasantries, they still couldn’t help but consider that this person had joined them to drink wine because he was lonely.
Secretly, they thought that the people over at the Wang family residence were all important lords, so probably no one was available to accompany him. Thinking this way, they were all a bit moved, especially the thin, tall man who felt even more goodwill towards him. Just by sitting there, the young miss dressed in yellow could tell that this young sir was different from those staring, wide-eyed men. Now seeing this situation, she inevitably started feeling curious about his identity.
Ye You laughed as he gave her a glance.
The young miss restrained her thoughts and pointed towards the front. “Young sir, Sister Ru is going to play the qin69. Her playing is extremely good.”
Ye You good-naturedly made a sound in acknowledgement and didn’t expose her.
The sound of the qin was sweet and melodious, and those people quickly became engrossed once again.
Ye You looked around at this spring-colored atmosphere. His heart couldn’t even muster up the slightest bit of upheaval.
He felt as if he had already seen too many beautiful, blossoming flowers and experienced too many twists and turns. Now, watching all of this just felt like mist before his eyes. With the surrounding sound of delicate laughter and the racket of song and dance, he inevitably started reminiscing about reading books and drinking tea in the everyday tranquility of the Wang family residence.
He came to Fengchun House to give that group of people an opportunity to get close to him, but after the events of that morning, that group probably won’t come again. And he still didn’t know if they truly did not know him, or if something had happened midway that made them no longer recognize him… Ye You inwardly ruminated, patiently sitting until nightfall. Seeing the people next to him get increasingly more restless, he considerately indicated to them that if they had something to do, they should just go do it.
The people asked, “Sir Xiao? Do you want to return now?”
Ye You was about to answer when he heard a delicate cry from upstairs, immediately followed by a, “Young sir, be careful.” He lifted his head, only to be met with a completely full wine cup dropping from the second floor, conveniently falling in his direction. Right at the interval when he was looking over, the spilling wine cup had already gotten close and, in the next moment, would’ve splashed on his face.
The hearts of those on the side startled. Right when they were about to pull him aside, their eyes blurred, and by the time they recovered, they found that he had not only moved a step who knows when but also acquired a new wine cup. Furthermore, not a single drop of wine had been spilled, all had been caught with his cup, and his other hand was steadily holding the other dropped cup, as if holding a flower.
The others took a breath. Such a short period of time, yet the cup was held and the wine caught; this speed was really too fast. If he used this lightness skill70 to murder… These people thought of that image and immediately felt a chill down their necks.
As luck would have it, the maiden from upstairs had run downstairs, her lovely complexion pale. “Is the young sir all right?”
Ye You smiled as he handed over both cups to her. Warmly, he appeased, “Don’t worry, nothing happened.”
The maiden stared at the newly filled wine cup and then turned back to look at him. Her smile was stiff as she accepted both. Ye You’s eyes followed her upstairs before turning to the yellow-clothed young miss next to him. “Who was that beauty?”
Before the young miss could reply, the people from Jianghu, after finally regaining their senses, told him that she was Lady Yun, ranked third in Fengchun House. Their tones had some level of both respect and fear.
“Ranked third, as expected of a beauty,” Ye You praised and asked the young miss, “Does she have customers today?”
The young miss said, “Yes, she does.”
Ye You asked, “Do you have any idea who?” The young miss said, “There’s four noble guests. They asked for many sisters, so even I’m not sure who Sister Yun is accompanying.”
The scarred man had come out when the accident had happened and had also been startled by Young Master Xiao’s lightness skill. But following that, hearing him ask about the other maiden as if he wanted to call her over, the scarred man felt cold sweat dripping down his body in waves and started considering sending someone to return to inform the Sect Master.
However, before he had the chance to send someone, he heard Young Master Xiao manage to drag out that the leader of the noble guests was surnamed Wei. He couldn’t help but stare and then thought of the accident just now before quickly understanding that that cup of wine had been intentionally spilled.
“So it turned out to be Sir Wei. Then forget it,” Ye You said as he called over a waiter and ordered a jug of wine to be sent over.
The waiter was very swift with his tasks, and he went up at once. When the arrogant Sir Wei71 saw the jug of wine, he didn’t speak for a long while. Lady Yun, who had volunteered just now, was biting her lip, nestled next to a certain someone’s side, not daring to look in his direction.
Those at the same table asked, astounded, “What’s the meaning of this? Did he see through it?”
“Or else what?” Sir Wei said. “His moves just now, who saw it clearly?”
The entire table shook their heads.
Sir Wei didn’t accompany Manor Lord Wei to Dingtian Academy last time and didn’t hear that Sir Xiao’s analysis, so he still had an impression of that person as a quiet and well-behaved Junior Brother. Now that he had seen how sharp the other was, he certainly had some interest and said, “Wenren Heng’s Junior Brother is indeed not just an ordinary person.”
The table asked, “What do you want to do?” Sir Wei took the wine that had been sent and poured a cup. He said, “Not what.”
After gifting the wine, Ye You said his goodbyes and unhurriedly left Fengchun House. Looking at the scarred man who had caught up with him, he said, “Don’t tell my Senior Brother about what happened just now. The other party was also doing it for the sake of his younger sister.”
When the scarred man realized that Sir Wei was also at Fengchun House, he too understood the reason.
From the first meeting with the Sect Master, Lady Wei already had those kind of thoughts. But seeing that the Sect Master continually refused marriage and the way the Sect Master treated Young Master Xiao that was obvious to all, Sir Wei surely began to have some doubts. Thus, he wanted to manufacture an accident so as to seize the opportunity to see Young Master Xiao’s face. The only unclear thing was whether the idea about spilling the wine was his or not.
In fact, it wasn’t only Sir Wei, every single person who wanted to become familiar with the Sect Master could see that the way the Sect Master treated Young Master Xiao was completely different from the way he treated everyone else. In the future, if this favoritism was seen by those who liked the Sect Master, then there would most likely be many people who would secretly come and trouble Young Master Xiao.
The scarred man couldn’t help but look at the person beside him.
Ye You thought that the other was suspicious of his words and laughingly said, “Listen to me. If Senior Brother had some intentions towards this young lady, then what good would it do to learn of this matter which might cause a rift between them. It’s better to destroy ten temples than a marriage. Besides, I’m still waiting for my red envelope.”
“…” The scarred man silently turned his head. What was the point of secretly worrying?! Even their Sect Master would occasionally be made to feel helpless by Young Master Xiao, so how could other people be this person’s match?
Although it was nightfall, the streets were still very lively. The scarred man followed for a while before realizing that the other wasn’t returning to the Wang family residence and asked, “Where is Young Master Xiao going?”
Ye You said, “I haven’t decided.”
The scarred man immediately investigated the shops in front, afraid that Young Master Xiao would enter a male brothel. If this person really did spend the night outside, their Sect Master might laugh enough to terrify, and just thinking of it made his blood run cold.
He advised, “It’s late. Why not go back?”
Ye You thought for a bit. “That’s also good. But I don’t want to return too early, so let’s walk slowly.”
The scarred man naturally didn’t have any objections.
Ye You said, “I always forget to ask Senior Brother, but right now the sect leaders72 living at the Wang family residence, other than Manor Lord Wei, Pavilion Master Ding, and the Alliance Leader, the remaining four Sect Masters73 — Chen, Han, Dong, Tian — belong to which sects?”
“They’re all from relatively strong sects,” the scarred man said, “Sect Master Chen is the first Sect Master in Jianghu from Shuizhai, Sect Master Han is Qingcheng Sect’s Sect Master, Sect Master Dong is…”
He carefully laid it out, and then hearing Young Master Xiao ask some other questions, he ended up walking and talking at the same time, gradually turning towards discussing the other sects of Jianghu.
Ye You said, “Last time I was drinking wine I heard them talking about the Demonic Sect’s Sect Master and thought that they said some incredible things. How much do you know about Sect Master Ye? Does he have any friends?” The scarred man said, “He does. Wuwang Temple’s Temple Master.” Ye You thought back. “Called Xie Junming?”
The scarred man said, “Yes, after the incident at Yushan stage, Temple Master Xie invited Sect Master Ye to drink, and from that, those two became friends.”
Ye You said, “Oh?”
The scarred man laughed and said, “Because Temple Master Xie said that since the Gold Sect was changed to the Demonic Sect, that righteous faction could no longer call them the Demonic Sect and they could finally yell back as per etiquette74 that they were Wuwang Temple.”
Ye You laughed. He asked, “What kind of person is Sect Master Ye?”
“Sect Master Ye doesn’t often show his face, but the rumors about him in Jianghu have abounded these past few years. All of them have been things that spark enthusiastic speculation. He lives extremely free and easy, without restraint. Even our Sect Master…” The scarred man suddenly thought of something as he spoke and suddenly looked at the Sir Xiao next to him, feeling cold from head to toe.
Speaking like that, wasn’t Young Master Xiao’s disposition somewhat similar to Sect Master Ye’s? Was he overthinking it?
“…even our Sect Master feels a lot of admiration towards him.”
The scarred man had been with Wenren Heng for many years after all, so even when his heart was a roaring sea, he stopped for only a moment before naturally continuing his words, and even when Young Master Xiao looked over at him, he had already adjusted his expression. No fault could be found.
Ye You asked, “What has my Senior Brother said of him?” The scarred man said, “That he’s not bad.”
He quickly thought back to the Sect Master’s assessment of Sect Master Ye, but even after much thought, he could use only a “not bad” to reply.
Their Sect Master very rarely brought up the Demonic Sect and Sect Master Ye, though their movements were always followed very closely. From what he could recall, the Sect Master and Sect Master Ye had met only a few times, and every time they met alone, so even he wasn’t clear on what they discussed.
When he carefully thought of the relationship between the Sect Master and Sect Master Ye, he thought it was very ordinary. They’ve even fought once before. But even like this, he still thought there was a very distinct possibility that Young Master Xiao was the Demonic Sect’s Sect Master because Young Master Xiao certainly wasn’t an ordinary person and, of the talented people in Jianghu, Sect Master Ye coincidentally fit the other perfectly.
Even more coincidentally, Sect Master Ye liked wearing a mask, which also matched Young Master Xiao’s situation. Or else, with this kind of face, Young Master Xiao would’ve long been famous in Jianghu. To go this long without any news circulating, it must have been covered up extremely securely.
Of course, another possibility was that Young Master Xiao disliked being ostentatious and so had been in seclusion somewhere all these years, only now coming out to travel Jianghu. But once these doubts started surfacing, all those complicated details from the past became clear, every single thing started coming out like bamboo shoots after spring rain75, each outdoing the other in its growth, such as the Sect Master paying especial attention to the Demonic Sect, such as the Sect Master asking about the Demonic
Sect’s movements during Young Master Xiao’s “sleepwalking” incident, such as the incredible and weird “aunt”, and such as Young Master Xiao’s monstrous lightness skill just now.
The more the scarred man thought, the more he thought he had guessed correctly. The shock in his heart was swamping him in waves, almost drowning him. He looked at Young Master Xiao out of the corner of his eyes, and cold sweat slowly dripped from his forehead.
He’s actually taking a stroll and having a heart-to-heart with this mysterious, peerless Sect Master of the Demonic Sect! Their Sect Master even kept the man by his side all day, calling Junior Brother this and Junior Brother that! The two even shared a bed, even having such a frightening person living right under the noses of the righteous faction crowd!
Ah, right, did the Elders of the Demonic Sect already have their eyes on this place? What were they going to do? Would they take action?
Ye You was completely unaware that this person was about to be crushed into asphyxiating by the weight of “everything was in disarray”76 and asked, “Only a ‘not bad’?”
“…That’s right.” Having realized this man’s identity, the scarred man didn’t dare to show any weaknesses. He explained, “The main culprit is Prince77 Li… Oh, it’s that Young Master Li who went to Xunliu Manor last time.”
Ye You said, “I know this. Senior Brother told me they got to know one another at the capital.”
The scarred man nodded. “After the Sect Master set up Shuangji Sect, the prince always came to Jianghu to play, and after he went with the Sect Master to Yushan stage that one time, he grew to like Sect Master Ye. He often asks the Sect Master for news about the other party, so the Sect Master will occasionally pay attention to the Demonic Sect. Once, when looking at the information that had been sent back, he said one thing, that Sect Master Ye was not bad.”
In all honesty, in the past, he had truly thought that it was all for the sake of the prince that the Sect Master sent people to keep an eye on the Demonic Sect!
He couldn’t help but reach up to wipe off some cold sweat before continuing to follow Young Master Xiao.
The two walked and talked. At first, Ye You also asked a few other things. The scarred man wasn’t clear on what Young Master Xiao was trying to do and wasn’t sure if this person was in contact with the Elders of the Demonic Sect, so he didn’t dare to say too much or to say anything wrong. For the whole way, he was extremely anxious and on edge. The moment they stepped through the gates of the Wang family residence, he let out a breath of relief.
But immediately after, this breath was once again sucked back in because he had to watch this man, whom he suspected of being the Demonic Sect’s Sect Master, going to sleep in the same bed as their Sect Master.
At this moment, Wenren Heng was still waiting for news about his Junior Brother.
He knew rationally that although his Junior Brother had lost his memories, his disposition hadn’t changed. In the past, when the other had met many beauties, nothing was ever done with them, so most likely nothing would happen this time either. However, he couldn’t help but be afraid of that one in a thousand possibility78.
What could be done if the other had met someone who was more pleasing than anyone had been before?
If that really happened, then with his Junior Brother’s skill, the other could definitely make all his subordinates shut up. But, thinking of it another way, if his Junior Brother still wanted to feel him out and so took all his subordinates hostage until he couldn’t help but rush over, what should be done?
And so Wenren Heng sat, as time slowly crawled past, drinking cup after cup of tea, not moving for half a day. It was only until he heard the sound of familiar footsteps that he was able to close his eyes, feeling as if his heart that had been left hanging had finally returned to him.
He put down the tea cup.
In the next moment, Ye You pushed open the door and entered.
Wenren Heng put on an expression as if the other’s return was a happy surprise. He asked, “Didn’t you say you were spending the night outside?”
Ye You said, “I met a few friends, and we went to Fengchun House to drink some wine, so I came back after. Why hasn’t Senior Brother slept yet?”
“I’m just about to sleep.” Wenren Heng paused. “Before you left, I had you take the medicine with you. Have you used it?”
Ye You said, “Not yet.”
Wenren Heng nodded and, after the other had washed up, attentively changed the medicine. After watching the other go to bed and sleep, he took the opportunity afforded by going to the bathroom to call his subordinates over and have them relay all that had happened over the course of the night.
The scarred man was still conflicted over whether or not he should listen to Young Master Xiao about not telling the Sect Master the matter with Sir Wei, but since the Sect Master had mentioned before not to let Young Master Xiao do any martial arts while they were watching him, he first relayed the matter about the lightness skill.
Wenren Heng interrupted him with, “You said that this person was ranked third?” The scarred man said, “Yes.”
“A high-ranking prostitute spilling wine, and even spilling it on a guest sitting on the first floor’s single seating. Would she need to run down personally?” Wenren Heng said, “Did she have customers today? Investigate who they are.”
The scarred man, “…”
Sometimes he truly thought that the Sect Master and Young Master Xiao were both quite terrifying.
Since it could no longer be concealed, the scarred man outlined the whole sequence of events from beginning to end. Seeing the Sect Master nod, he struggled a bit with his desire to leave before then relaying that, on the way back, he and Young Master Xiao had a conversation in which the other party asked about the Demonic Sect’s Sect Master.
Wenren Heng gave him a look. “Yes, you guessed correctly. But for now I don’t want to return that person just yet.”
The scarred man, “…”
Wenren Heng said, “Those Elders are in Suzhou right now. If they meet with him privately, there’s no need to mind. But if they want to bring him with them, then immediately come and tell me.”
The scarred man anxiously said, “But there’s so many of the righteous faction here, if his identity is exposed…”
The moment he said it, he realized that no one had ever seen Sect Master Ye’s true appearance and that even those Elders were always disguised, so with how clever Sect Master Ye was, the likelihood of his being exposed was very small.
It was only from this that he felt some peace of mind. “This subordinate understands.”
Wenren Heng made a sound in acknowledgement, extremely satisfied. The scarred man watched the other return to the room. He inwardly wondered if Sect Master Ye suddenly regained his memories in the middle of the night and saw the Sect Master sleeping by his side, would the two end up fighting? The more he thought, the more apprehensive he became, but he also knew that he could do nothing to stop such a thing from happening, so he might as well give up all hope and go back, close his eyes, and think nothing more of it.
Right as Ye You was getting sleepy, he heard the sound of the door opening. And then his Senior Brother undressed, got on the bed, and held his hands so that he couldn’t help but open his eyes.
Wenren Heng probed his internal energy for a bit. “I heard you used the lightness skill today.”
Ye You said, “I didn’t use much internal energy. Nothing’s wrong.” Wenren Heng said, “Tomorrow, get Miracle Doctor Ji to take a look.” Ye You quietly agreed and then went back to sleep.
Wenren Heng waited for a while, originally thinking that his Junior Brother would ask some things, only for not a single word to be said, preventing anyone from knowing how much the other party knew.
He slowly caressed the leftover warmth in the other’s fingertips and watched this person peacefully lying by his side. Temporarily throwing away all thoughts of those troublesome things, he also went ahead and slept.
For these past few days, the Alliance Leader had waited to discuss the matter with others. He thought that while it was still unclear whether the person who placed the book was really just messing around or not, it was best not to make such a thing public, in case they really ended up being tricked and becoming embarrassments. Thus, they decided on a location to meet. And believing that, with the outside clamor, the poisoner would be too self-conscious to dare come out afterwards, everyone separated. After Ye You heard all this, he dismissed it with a laugh and didn’t bother trying to parse their true intentions. He obediently packed up the luggage along with his Senior Brother and prepared to set out. He didn’t forget what he had promised before and went to find those martial heroes to bid goodbye before he left. He spoke with them for a long while before being reluctantly sent back.
Wenren Heng was watching it all from close by. Finally seeing his Junior Brother getting on the carriage, he also entered. Not understanding how his Junior Brother came to be on good terms with them, he asked, “Did you hit it off with them?”
“It’s not that,” Ye You said, “I simply promised that if I had any news, I would tell them. As a person, you have to be true to your words.”
Wenren Heng lifted a brow.
“I said I didn’t know anything.” Ye You didn’t wait for him to ask and innocently said, “It’s my Senior Brother who suddenly wanted to leave today. Since I’m the Junior Brother, the only thing I can do is listen and leave. I can’t be of any help at all. In my heart, I really do feel very sorry.”
Wenren Heng was hit with a pot of blame, and shaking his head, he helplessly laughed.
Of those living in the Wang family residence, Wenren Heng was the first to leave. Following him was the four sect leaders — Chen, Han, Dong, Tian — and following them was Manor Lord Wei and Pavilion Master Ding. The Alliance Leader still wanted to stay one more day.
After five days, Wenren Heng’s group successfully reconvened with the others in a small, rural village not far from the city of Suzhou.
They prepared to set out, following the lead of Junior Academy Master Ge to the bottom of the cliff where he found the book.
According to Junior Academy Master Ge, that place was not that far from Suzhou, so everyone didn’t think that there would be any issues on the way. However, after only three days, they found that an entire crowd of people from Jianghu was following behind, and the number kept increasing little by little. After six days, it was almost the same number as the amount of people who had originally crowded Suzhou in the first place.
The group couldn’t not investigate what was going on, and, as expected, the results the subordinates brought back was that the information had been leaked and rumors were flying, leading to everyone knowing that they were going to search for that rare book. Pavilion Master Ding, with his terrible temper, coldly said, “Who was the one that opened their mouth? Did they think it wasn’t already confusing enough?”
The subordinate trembled in fear. “Pavilion Master, this subordinate hasn’t finished speaking.”
Pavilion Master Ding said, “Speak.”
The subordinate wiped off his cold sweat. “At first, it was said
that Pursued Until Scattered had resurfaced in Jianghu and we were secretly going to look for it. Later, it was said that we were going to look for hidden treasure from a previous dynasty and that all kinds of precious things were buried there.”
Manor Lord Wei amiably asked, “A previous dynasty’s hidden treasure?”
“Yes,” the subordinate said, “This still isn’t it. Even later, it was said that this was a dwelling place of the immortals, and that within there’s an elixir that can give one immortality.”
Everyone silently stared at him.
Under their collective gazes, the subordinate weakly said, “And today’s new rumor is that dwelling there is a li-li-living dragon and that just by touching it, one can immediately be-be-become an immortal…”
Ju’an County79 is one of the south’s small county seats.
The place was neither big nor rich, but the people lived simple and honest lives, and so there have never been any large upheavals.
However, in the past few days, the county magistrate had been suffering from an aching head. Ever since a crowd of people from Jianghu arrived in the county, he had been unable to get a good night’s sleep. So afraid was he of something happening that even his dreams were filled with scenes of blood shining upon the sky.
“Why are there more and more people? What exactly are they planning on doing?” The county magistrate’s hair was falling out, strand by strand, as he worried, and black shadows were clearly visible under his eyes. He paced irritably back and forth. “Haven’t you asked around yet!”
“Responding to master, we’ve asked around, ” the servant said, “It’s said that they’re here to search for hidden treasure, and there was also something about a living dragon.”
The county magistrate fumed. “Hidden treasure? Living dragons? Are you an idiot to believe such things!”
The servant acted as agreeably as possible, not daring to actually speak.
The county magistrate also didn’t have any hope that the other could say anything useful and returned to irritably pacing back and forth.
At this moment, the Alliance Leader’s party was sitting in Ju’an County’s best inn.
After the number of people increased, the group’s expressions all turned extremely grave.
It was hard to determine whether this trip was for good or ill, and some of those whom they’ve kept in the dark were being unreasonable, so now their own numbers were small. If something really did happen and that crowd of outsiders was agitated by someone with certain ambitions, they fear that, when the time comes, the situation would get out of control. So after a round of discussion, they decided to first find a place to stay, send some news home, and wait for more of their own people to arrive, so that they’d have some more reliable footing and confidence.
After the news was sent out, the first to arrive were Dingtian Academy and the Wang family’s people. Now, the inn was guarded by them both inside and out, so discussions were very convenient.
The Alliance Leader sat at the head of the table, wrinkling his brows. “What does everyone think?”
Pavilion Master Ding didn’t bother reining in his temper and coldly said, “On that day, there were only a few of us in the study, and the only ones who knew about the cave were also us.”
Manor Lord Wei said, chuckling, “Incredible, old Ding, to start spewing accusations80 at us the moment you open your mouth. You can’t even be bothered to think. What good would it do for our own people to spread such information outside? Isn’t that right, Alliance Leader?”
“I’m only speaking the truth,” Pavilion Master Ding didn’t even wait for the Alliance Leader to respond and directly interrupted. His tone was ice-cold. “You dare to say that it’s impossible?”
“That’s right, it’s not impossible, but the possibility is incredibly small, unless they absolutely couldn’t stand to see us succeed,” Manor Lord Wei said, “So I think it’s more likely that when we were speaking to our aides or each other, we were overheard by some bystanders. I’ll first speak for myself. These past few days, I’ve spoken only to Jiangyue. I didn’t speak a word to anyone else.”
By his side, the Wei family’s second son, Wei Jiangyue, immediately said, “This young one didn’t say anything to anyone either.”
Academy Master Ge said, “It’s also not me. After all of you left, I never brought up this matter at all. My son always listens to my instructions, so he also wouldn’t dare to say it.”
This Ge family’s father-son pair was originally able to keep this matter with the rare book under wraps for so long, they were certainly capable of keeping quiet, so all those seated easily believed them and turned their attentions to the others. The Wang family head said, “My father and I have said it before, on that day, we had guards watching outside the residence, and no one approached.”
Chen, Han, Dong, Tian also took the initiative to declare their position, and they all proclaimed their innocence.
Seeing them look at him, Wenren Heng said, voice mild, “I’ve discussed it only with my Junior Brother. But I don’t think that has much to do with this situation. If it had truly been overheard by someone else, then they would’ve made a commotion early on in the city of Suzhou; there was no need to wait until now. Other than those of us here, you’ve missed a person.”
The moment these words were said, these people all stared. “Who?”
Academy Master Ge, who had received no end of trouble, was the first to react. “That poisoner!”
“That’s correct,” Wenren Heng said, “If the one who poisoned Elder Wang wasn’t one of us, then he knows about the rare book but not that the book is a fake, so he’d constantly be keeping an eye on Dingtian Academy. A few days ago, Academy Master Ge and Junior Academy Master Ge suddenly left, so he’d definitely suspect that you were going to secretly hide away that book and naturally would follow along to see and so discovered all of us.”
Academy Master Ge said, “And then he thought something was fishy so he spread those rumors?”
Wenren Heng said, “Yes, this also explains why this information was leaked only after we left. And since he didn’t know that we’re going to the bottom of a cliff, he spread some random nonsense instead.
Furthermore, if he wants to continue following us, calling more people would allow him to hide more easily. This method is exactly the same as the one with the Lantern-Extinguishing Poison.” Manor Lord smiled so wide that his eyes closed, covering up all trace of his cold mood. “It looks like the reason why the information could travel so fast is that he’s nearby, and that’s also how he could promptly relay that information to that gang of people from Suzhou. Then, barring any mishaps, he’s probably here in Ju’an County now.”
Pavilion Master Ding pounded on the table. “Find him!”
The whole reason that the Wang family head was here was to find that scoundrel who poisoned his dad, so he immediately voiced his agreement.
The others were also stirred up, but how exactly to find that person was the issue. In the city of Suzhou, they’ve already considered many methods, but they weren’t even able to catch a glimpse of the other’s shadow. He was hiding in a pile of people, making it very difficult.
Academy Master Ge had a deep impression of Sir Xiao, so he couldn’t help asking the other.
“I still haven’t thought of a way to catch that person yet, but I have another thought.” Ye You looked at them. “Have any of you ever thought about the possibility that the poisoner and the one who placed the book are the same person?”
Immediately, everyone collectively turned to look at him. Academy Master Ge asked, “Then what is he doing trying to steal it back?”
Ye You smiled and said, “What if he doesn’t want to steal it back and is merely pretending? And his real aim is to incite us to associate with Dingtian Academy?”
Academy Master Ge stared. He unconsciously wanted to ask why that person didn’t just directly reveal that the book was at Dingtian Academy, but the moment he was about to speak, he realized that if the person had really done so, everyone would definitely exhaust all their resources trying to steal such a thing. No one would listen to his explanation that the book was fake, and there would be even less time to investigate the secrets contained within.
He swallowed back what he wanted to ask. Ye You continued with, “You81 also said that right after the Junior Academy Master found the book, the Lantern-Extinguishing Poison appeared. Isn’t it too coincidental? I thought about it. If the one who placed the book was still alive, he’d have waited this many years, so seeing the book finally get picked up, he’d probably want to let people see the chess pieces he’s so carefully arranged over these years. Since both Pursued Until Scattered and the Lantern- Extinguishing Poison were matters from twenty years ago, he’d naturally be able to use Pursued Until Scattered as bait. Since he had the Lantern-Extinguishing Poison, others wouldn’t be too suspicious.”
“This is actually…” Academy Master Ge followed his words and thought for a while before asking, “Then what does he mean to do by calling this many people?”
Ye You said, “There’s definitely some kind of goal. Last time, he lured everyone over to Suzhou, wanting to draw those who saw the piece that is the Lantern-Extinguishing Poison over to the bottom of the cliff. But since we wanted to move secretly, he started spreading rumors. Of course, it can also be that this young one is overthinking it. But, regardless of whether or not it’s the same person, what Uncle Wei said is right, he’s most likely here in Ju’an County.”
The group nodded their heads, thinking that what he said had some basis; it definitely was possible.
Ye You laughed. His tone held a hint of admiration. “Able to endure for this many years, and even able to spread such outlandish rumors. If it really is the same person, I’d really like to meet whoever they are.”
The group didn’t have any good feelings at all towards that person, so they pretended they hadn’t heard those words.
Wenren Heng’s heart skipped a beat when he heard.
After the information was leaked, he already realized that that person was within the crowd of people, but after hearing his Junior Brother’s reasoning, he suddenly started feeling that these outrageous rumors felt like the style of the Elders of the Demonic Sect. And most importantly, not long ago, they clearly managed to get into contact with his Junior Brother, so why did they run? And why have they not shown their faces these past few days?
He closed his eyes.
After Ye You finished his reasoning, the place turned quiet. Feeling as if he was still being watched, Ye You slightly inclined his head and ended up meeting eyes with Wei Jiangyue, but in the span of an instant, Wei Jiangyue had turned away.
After analyzing the problem, Manor Lord Wei and Pavilion Master Ding waited until the others got a hold of their inner turmoil before starting discussions on how to draw out the person in question.
However, the situation right now put them at a disadvantage, and so they needed to think of a way to reverse it. At the very least, they needed to stop that scoundrel from secretly using those outsiders to his advantage.
Thus, as one, they turned their attention to the Alliance Leader.
During these times, only the Alliance Leader could go out and take responsibility.
“…” The Alliance Leader seemed to have furrowed his brows so much that his wrinkles have gained a new layer. His mouth pressed into a thin line, and he unhappily gave them a look, having been abused so much that his temper was completely frayed.
This thing was easy to do. He just had to say that the situation was somewhat dire and then explain that he hadn’t wanted too many people to take such risks which was why he kept the matter secret. With the Alliance Leader’s position in Jianghu, the people would certainly believe him.
Those seated were all elders of Jianghu with prestigious reputations, so they decided that they might as well all go together. Wenren Heng, who had no interest in such things, instead brought his Junior Brother back to their room. He poured a cup of tea but didn’t drink it, simply stared at his Junior Brother, lost in thought. While at Xunliu Manor, his friend Qin Yuemian had once suspected that the accident was purposely manufactured to deliver his Junior Brother to him in order to cause him harm. He had never been worried because of one thing he hadn’t revealed; while he truly did lose his jade pendant, he knew that it was very possible that his Junior Brother had taken it, so he never believed that, “Someone stole his jade pendant and slipped it on his injured, unconscious Junior Brother,” was what happened.
But while he had originally thought that someone did injure his Junior Brother, now he was considering the possibility that his Junior Brother had planned this all along.
If it was really like this, why would his Junior Brother randomly lose his memories?
Besides, eight, nine years ago, he was still in the capital, and his Junior Brother had long left the Central Plains and hadn’t yet set up the Demonic Sect. Where would the money to do such things have come from? Who helped? Could it be that there’s still a person related to this matter secretly hiding somewhere?
Ye You lifted a brow. “What?”
Wenren Heng placed the tea cup in front of the other and tenderly said, “Nothing.”
Ye You looked at him suspiciously.
Unperturbed, Wenren Heng allowed him to look, even opening up a book to read.
At this moment, the Alliance Leader and the others had already gathered all of the land’s heroes and carefully explained the situation. In addition, he also observed any suspicious people in an attempt to ferret out the poisoner’s identity.
The Elders of the Demonic Sect were living in the inn across the street and were secretly looking outside through a small slit in the window. After listening for a while, they said, “They’ll probably all go together. There should be enough people, right? We should stop… Where’s Elder Miao?”
“He went out.”
“What does he want to do now?”
Elder Mei put down her mirror and faintly said, “That place has not only a living dragon but also the eggs of that dragon. Eating one will make you the heir to the throne of Heaven. The future of sitting on the Jade Emperor’s throne82 is waiting right around the corner.”
“…I already think the idea of a living dragon is unbelievable. How could he think of something even more unbelievable?”
“It’s too fake. Quick, hurry and call him back. Baili, let’s go, what’re you thinking?”
“I’m thinking of these strips of paper.” Elder Baili was holding the brocade bag that the Sect Master left behind. “The first one says to pretend not to recognize him, and we did that. The second one says that when we see that they’re going in the direction of Qimu83 Mountain, we should make up something about them searching
for Pursued Until Scattered along with some other things to call over all the people from Jianghu, and we also did that. And following that is this third thing. Who’s going to do it?”
The group, “…”
After a moment of deathly stillness, they threw down the words, “Let’s go find Elder Miao,” and, with each fighting to outdo the others, fled.
Elder Baili, “…”
The Alliance Leader’s party quickly discovered that they had thought of this matter too simply.
Because it wasn’t only the people from the city of Suzhou who were staying here but nearly all the people from Jianghu. There was only one reason why this information was able to travel this fast.
Manor Lord Wei said, “He has accomplices.”
Pavilion Master Ding gave the rare agreement, even if it was only a simple, cold, “Yes.” Even though Manor Lord Wei was too busy to take particular note of it now, as always, he wore a slight, soothing smile. He furrowed his brows. “Who could they be?”
The others also sunk into unspoken contemplation. This was far too easy to determine.
One person couldn’t possibly do all this work on their own. To be able to notify this many people and also, when that poisoner had decided to spread rumors, to relay the information to comrades in various regions so as to spread it on a mass scale, the opposing party must consist of many people, so the possibility was high that it was a sect.
Who could they be?
The Alliance Leader said, “Well, the situation isn’t entirely bad. At least those outsiders believe us, so they won’t be easily used in the future.”
Academy Master Ge was deeply worried.
As the source of the incident, he was afraid that, in the future, when discussing this matter, the first thing the future generations said would be, “If it wasn’t for that moron of an Academy Master from Dingtian Academy picking up that book that year, then things wouldn’t have progressed as far as it did.” In these past two days, his hair, like Ju’an County’s county magistrate’s, had been falling out, strand by strand. He said, “The opposing party set a trap to draw us over, could it be that they want to capture all of us in one fell swoop?”
Pavilion Master Ding coldly asked, “How many people do we have now? Is there any sect in Jianghu that could actually do that?”
That’s certainly true.
Academy Master Ge felt slightly more at ease.
The people that the Academy Master notified were all his family’s own elite troops, traveling day and night. And in these past few days, people from every region of Jianghu rushed over, one after another, to Ju’an County. What was originally a small, quiet county became filled with noisy clamor. The county magistrate finally couldn’t take it anymore and made straight for their inn to look for the Alliance Leader. Only after having the Alliance Leader promise three separate times that nothing would happen did the magistrate take the three steps necessary to turn back and leave.
The members of Shuangji Sect also arrived at this time.
Everyone was extremely curious about this Young Master Xiao who suddenly appeared as the Sect Master’s Junior Brother. And their leader even solemnly warned not to provoke him at random, making them even more puzzled. Young Master Xiao’s temperament seemed to be quite good, so why say such things?
Because that’s the formidable Sect Master of the Demonic Sect. Everyone must’ve heard all the rumors about Sect Master Ye.
Would anyone who’s provoked him be able to live a good life
afterwards? The scarred man looked at these innocent and naive subordinates and decided not to tell them this cruel reality.
Ye You happened to be leaning against the window. Looking out, he asked, “That is?” Pulling himself out of his reverie, the scarred man was about to come forward until he saw the Sect Master rising to stand. Immediately realizing that he’s superfluous and adapting to the circumstances, he quickly threw his subordinates out and then closed the door behind as he left.
As the door creaked closed, Wenren Heng already clearly understood the situation downstairs.
There were two teams of troops. The first wore red-black robes84, and everyone carried a sword, standing straight and proper, with harsh auras seemingly capable of freezing the very air, making it difficult for bystanders to even dare breathe deeply. The other team wore blue-white robes, and their expressions weren’t as grave as the red-black team, but their imposing manners also weren’t anything to scoff at.
Wenren Heng walked up to to his Junior Brother before saying, “It’s Lingjian Pavilion’s ‘Moon’s Shadow’ and Fengxian Manor’s ‘Heaven’s Firmament‘85. All elites. It’s said that ‘Moon’s Shadow’ was created first, and then Manor Lord Wei quickly followed by creating his own and calling it ‘Heaven’s Firmament’.”
Ye You laughed. “On purpose, right?”
With a name such as “Heaven’s Firmament”, it’s clear that the intention is to cover up “Moon’s Shadow”.
The inn already had some year-end harvests. Maple vines were coiling along the outside walls, winding ever upwards, with the branches and leaves reaching all the way to the edges of the window. When opening the window, a rude vine sprung in towards the body, conveniently landing right between the two of them. After Wenren Heng pushed this hindrance to the side, he moved closer to his Junior Brother and laughingly said, “Everyone else also thinks so.
But since Pavilion Master Ding already named them, he couldn’t simply change the name just because of Manor Lord Wei.”
Ye You was very curious. “Why do they not get along?” Wenren Heng said, “It’s said that, on a certain year, Manor Lord Wei’s older sister married Pavilion Master Ding’s oldest brother, but not even two years later, she passed away. No one knows exactly how she died, and no one in Jianghu dares to ask. From then on, they gradually began fighting in harsher and harsher ways…”
Before they even finished talking, the two turned towards the door. In the next moment, there was a noise as the people who came knocked on the door as they pleased before simply entering the room. It turned out to be those pack of scoundrels from Xunliu Manor, and even Qin Yuemian was with them.
Young Master Li ran to sit in front of the table without so much as a by-your-leave and poured out a huge portion of tea. Letting out a huge breath, he said, “I’m so thirsty I could die.”
Wenren Heng couldn’t simply throw these people out like he did that maple vine, so he went and sat across from the other, asking, “Why are all of you here?”
“We heard there was something big happening, so we all came over to see,” Young Master Li impatiently asked, “What exactly happened? On the way, we heard no end of rumors, and the more we heard, the more excessive they got.”
Wenren Heng said, “What was it you heard?”
Young Master Li said, “For instance, that all of you found a sacred spring, and if you wash your face in it, no matter how ugly you are, you can become extremely beautiful. And also that a thousand-year- old, pure yin fox-spirit86 was found and that by sleeping with them, you can gain sixty years’ worth of martial art skill. How did all that
become a living dragon when we got here? And that touching it once can make you an immortal?”
Wenren Heng was speechless.
This matter truly had his Junior Brother’s signature all over it. Those who were spreading the information everywhere were definitely members of the Demonic Sect, cut from the same cloth as those Elders. How exactly did his Junior Brother usually teach those people from his sect? Well, it couldn’t be said that it’s all bad. At least, right now, no one had yet to realize that it was the Demonic Sect muddying the waters. It was clear that everything had been done very adeptly.
Qin Yuemian asked, “So in the end which rumor is true?”
Wenren Heng didn’t conceal it from them and said, “The only one that is close to reality is about the rare book.”
The group was shocked. “It’s really Pursued Until Scattered? We’ve heard it was incredible.”
“But wasn’t it said that it was long lost? At that time, when that monster massacred so many people, no one could find this book. How could it suddenly appear out of nowhere?”
Wenren Heng also wanted to know how deeply involved his Junior Brother was in this matter. He replied, “We’ll know only when we actually reach that location.”
“No, no, all of this isn’t important. I have something much more urgent.” Seeing that they still had questions, Young Master Li hastily interrupted all of them and expectantly asked, “Since it’s so lively, do you think that Sect Master Ye will come?”
Wenren Heng carried an elegant smile and calmly told the other that he didn’t know.
More and more people arrived in Ju’an County. They came in twos and threes, each sharing the information they heard. Eventually, the Alliance Leader’s words from a few days ago would be brought up, about someone hiding among them, and then they’d realize that they’ve been tricked. From there, everyone immediately banded together against a common enemy, and seeing “Moon’s Shadow” and “Heaven’s Firmament” became like seeing their own close friends. As long as those two teams took action, there was nothing in Jianghu that couldn’t be put in its proper place. With their morale roused, everyone rolled up their sleeves in preparation for a fight, itching to settle the score with the other party immediately, believing that they could chase away even a real living dragon.
As before, those Elders of the Demonic Sect were hiding out in the inn across the street. Seeing the righteous faction so invigorated, they felt cold sweat starting to drip from their foreheads.
“I feel as if this is scarier than what happened at Yushan stage.”
“Nonsense, we were so reasonable that year. And now?” Elder Mei frowned. “I really don’t know what the Sect Master wants to do. Does he really want to do something world-shakingly important? How world-shaking? Is it enough to reminiscence over for many years to come?”
“Ah, if only Xiao-Bai was here this time.”
“Yes…” The group nodded. Although Elder Bai was a slowpoke, he really was the most incredible out of all of them, capable of fighting alone against even one hundred foes.
As they spoke, they suddenly felt as if something was off and collectively turned to look at Elder Miao who was sitting alone at the table. Seeing his face as opaque as water and that he had yet to speak a single word, they all felt somewhat unsettled.
Elder Baili said, “What are you thinking about?”
Miao Wang was silent for a while before slowly asking, “How possible is it that the Sect Master has contracted some incurable illness and so, knowing that he doesn’t have long to live, he decided to play one last big trick before he dies?”
The group, “…”
Could we not always have such scary things said so seriously!
Miao Wang was extremely grave. “Otherwise, just look at this disastrous third order he gave.” The group, “…”
It did seem to make some sense!
The Elders were silent for a long while. Looking at each other, they thought that they shouldn’t indulge the Sect Master this time, and that they must find some opportunity to call him out to discuss it.
After “Moon’s Shadow” and “Heaven’s Firmament” arrived, the Alliance Leader and Manor Lord Wei’s group decided it was just about enough. Although two sect’s people were still far away and haven’t arrived, they had already discussed such things and had decided to reconvene halfway there.
And since the information couldn’t be concealed, the Alliance Leader’s group didn’t try to hide it any further these last few days and called many sect leaders and adventurers over to discuss business together, going over the entire situation once through. They even cleared the air with other heroes of the land87, revealing that
they did not know if this trip was for good or ill and that by drawing over so many people, they feared that the person in hiding harbored malicious intentions.
As everyone’s mood ran high, they naturally had no fear, and all said they wanted to follow along. Moreover, knowing that the rumors were false, they also wanted to go and investigate.
Upon seeing this, the Alliance Leader didn’t try to persuade them otherwise, and after a night’s rest, he gallantly set off the next day.
As before, it was Junior Academy Master Ge in the lead.
Because of the realization that the other party had many accomplices, the Alliance Leader’s group feared an ambush somewhere down the road, so their speed was greatly diminished with no hurried rushing whatsoever, looking more as if they were going out for fun instead. As usual, Ye You rode in the carriage with his Senior Brother and even got off along with his Senior Brother to breathe some fresh air when they stopped to rest, making the hidden Elders grind their teeth in frustration. But there was no helping it, and the only thing they could do was keep hiding.
Today, Ye You had gotten off the carriage and hadn’t even walked a few steps when he heard Manor Lord Wei lightly shout, “Trouble, what are you doing here?”
This was certainly something new. Manor Lord Wei was always amiable except when he was opposing Pavilion Master Ding. Ye You had never even seen him glare at anyone and so curiously looked over at once and saw a pink-clothed young lady with red lips and white teeth standing in front of Manor Lord Wei.
The young lady impishly said, “Dad, you88 haven’t been home for so long, so why wouldn’t this daughter miss you?”
Manor Lord Wei couldn’t maintain a stern face and helplessly raised his hand to point at her. “You…”
The young lady stuck out her tongue. She swept over to look in Ye You’s direction, and eyes lighting up, she ran over laughing. “Brother Heng.”
Brother Heng… Ye You slowly thought over this manner of address. His eyes went round from the young lady to Manor Lord Wei to his Senior Brother before he had a realization.
He thereupon tactfully said, “Senior Brother, you two slowly talk. I’ll go walk over there, no need to look after me. I’ll come back by myself after a while.”
Wenren Heng, “…”