Friday, 25 March 2016

Chapter 121 - Tracking


FenXiang Valley.

TianXiang residence.

This was a quiet place in the inner part of FenXiang Valley, built against the mountain. Surrounded by lofty walls on three sides, only the front door was left unlocked, obscuring the interior from people outside.

Even though FenXiang Valley underwent such huge changes in the past few days but in the nearby area here, FenXiang Valley disciples still were not seen around, because this was the residence of the FenXiang Valley’s master Yun YiLan and also the place of his seclusion.

Every since Yun YiLan started his seclusion, FenXiang Valley disciples were prohibited from entering this area but of course, FenXiang Valley disciples naturally guarded the perimeter of this place like a bastion of iron. And for those that were able to access TianXiang residence, other than ShangGuan Ce whom Yun YiLan had always heavily relied on, only his personally-imparted-skills disciple LiXun could enter the place and meet his greatly respected teacher.

As for the rest including the older generation like LuShun, all were too prohibited from the place.

Even to the extent where FenXiang Valley was infiltrated and the nine-tailed celestial fox which had been incarcerated for three hundred years was released, and even when there was a possibility that the legendary FenXiang Valley treasure Inferno Mirror might appear, Yun YiLan never once emerged, only overseeing the situation through ShangGuan Ce.

He in that small courtyard, what seclusion was he exactly doing?

This question, had often surface in many of the FenXiang Valley’s disciples’ hearts.

The sky gradually lightened, ShangGuan Ce in the slightly damp morning air, lightly pushed open this door, walked in and then closed the door.

Appearing before him, was a courtyard that he was already familiar with, a few bodhi trees gently swayed their branches in the morning breeze, other than a small path in the middle, the surroundings were all green grass. Other than that, there was nothing.

The residence of one of the world’s three biggest Good Faction sect leader, was actually so simple and plain.

At the end of the path, there was a white and dark grey small house with two yards, built against the mountain, the wooden door painted purple was also unlocked.

ShangGuan Ce walked over, pushed opened the door and then closed it.

Silence immediately descended, as if the turmoil of the mortal world, all at the moment when he raised his hand, locked out of the house.

In the room, there was nobody, only a few simple furnitures, on the tables and chairs, there seemed to be a light layer of dust.

ShangGuan Ce focused himself and walked straight into the house, came to a cupboard and pulled the left drawer, stretched his hand in and seemed to activate something, in the next moment, a low sound was heard behind him.

The entire wall, unhurriedly withdrew to the right, revealing a solid rock wall with a dim tunnel cut in the middle of it, only wide enough for one person.

ShangGuan Ce did not hesitate and walk in, not long after his figure disappeared into the dim tunnel, the door unhurriedly closed up, disappearing without a trace.

In the dim tunnel, a stone about the size of a pebble set into the wall every few intervals gave off light, for the purpose of illumination. And while he was walking, he did not experience any feeling of suffocation, naturally a ventilation channel existed somewhere here.

The path was not considered long, very soon he reached his destination, a stone chamber similar to the size of the room outside. There was nothing in the stone chamber, only a folding screen placed horizontally in the middle, blocking his view.

Suddenly, from behind the chamber, an extremely haggard voice was heard, “Is it ShangGuan junior brother?”

ShangGuan Ce walked forward two steps, leaving about four, five steps from the screen, respectfully said, “Yes, senior brother, is your body still feeling alright?”

Seemed like that voice belonged to the reputable FenXiang Valley valley master Yun YiLan which had shook the world but somehow this Good Faction giant figure named together with Qing Yun Sect Reverend DaoXuan, Tian Yin Temple PuHong Master, right now sounded like a dying old man who had a deficiency of qi.

He was heard laughing quietly, faintly said, “My body? Will it still get well, it can only be like this, just slowly waiting for death.”

ShangGuan Ce’s countenance changed, a complicated expression on his face, he was about to say something when he was interrupted by Yun YiLan’s weak voice, “How is things?”

ShangGuan Ce hesitated for a moment then said, “We have somehow more or less investigated, the person who had provoked the human fish on that night was Evil sect HeHuan Sect Jin PingEr, most probably because HeHuan Sect men were assassinated by the human fish in the death marsh so she used ruthless methods for revenge.”

Yun YiLan was silent for a while behind the screen, his voice suddenly turned deep and said, “Then of our clandestine important matter, did she found out?”

ShangGuan Ce’s body suddenly trembled, in this instant, that voice behind the screen suddenly was filled with authority.

“From what I think, she still has not.”

“Then that is good, ‘ Yun YiLan seemed relieved, said, “Else if the matter is leaked out, so many years of hard work, would most likely go down the drain.”

ShangGuan Ce nodded and said, “Senior brother can be rest assured.”

Yun YiLan paused for a while, said, “That evildoer who had sneaked into the Inferno Altar and released the nine-tailed celestial fox, have you investigated who was it?”

ShangGuan Ce said, “Last night Li Xun teacher-nephew and Ke RuHui tracked down Jin PingEr near TianShui Stockade, heard from him this morning, the Evil sect Ghost King Sect Ghost Li was also there and he made a sneak attack on Ke RuHui, causing his death. Luckily Qing Yun Sect Lu XueQi, who was sent by Reverend DaoXuan to inquire after senior brother, met him along the way and lent a hand, he was then able to escape from the two evil people’s pincer attack.”

“Ghost Li?” Yun YiLan’s voice paused for a moment, said, “Don’t tell me it is that Zhang Xiao Fan who had betrayed Qing Yun ten years ago?”

ShangGuan Ce nodded and said, “It is that person, the Qing Yun Hill battle which shocked the world, Zhang Xiao Fan betrayed Qing Yun, in the short space of ten years his skills improved by leaps and bounds, now he is already the number one general under Ghost King.”

Yun YiLan snorted, said, “Reverend DaoXuan that old fellow has grown old, his mind is also somehow muddled, he had such a talent yet he could not use.”

ShangGuan Ce smiled and said, “Li Xun teacher-nephew also said, he suspected that the person who sneaked into Inferno Altar and made a mess was Ghost Li and to rescue the nine-tailed celestial fox, without our FenXiang Valley secretly handed-down incantation, only the thousand-fire-essence Inferno Mirror can unlock the Inferno Fire-smelt-shackles. Based on his deduction, most likely the Inferno Mirror is with Ghost Li.”

Yun YiLan was quiet for a moment, suddenly said, “What do you think?”

ShangGuan Ce, separated by the screen, his countenance changed, after a moment respectfully said, “I too think there is a very high possibility.”

Yun YiLan’s voice, faintly travelled from behind the screen, said, “That time when I met with DaoXuan that old Taoist priest, he boasted his own sect to be distinguished and upright and has always insisted on his ideal that he would rather let off than to kill the wrong person, and had sung his own praises to me, do you still remember?”
ShangGuan Ce was surprised and did not understand why Yun YiLan would mention this long-ago matter but he could only nodded and said, “That’s right, at that time I was also beside senior brother and remembered very clearly, Reverend DaoXuan did indeed said that.”

Yun YiLan gave a faint laugh, said, “But it looks like ten years ago, Qing Yun Hill TongTian Peak, when he used Zhu Xian Ancient Sword to strike at that disciple called Zhang Xiao Fan, what mentality was that? Most likely it was already rather kill the wrong person then let go!”

ShangGuan Ce was silent.

Yun YiLan laughed quietly then said, “You can leave! The matters here, I will still leave it to you.”

ShangGuan Ce hesitated for a moment, but still asked, “Then about Ghost Li…”

Yun YiLan’s voice was heard clearly over the screen.

“Rather kill the wrong person then let go!”

ShangGuan Ce’s face muscles twitched once then he nodded and said, “Yes.”

After speaking, he turned around and left.

Not long after, his figure disappeared into the dim tunnel and a short moment after, a deep groan from the mechanism closing up was heard, evidently he had opened the secret door and left.

In the quiet stone chamber, Yun YiLan’s laughter suddenly rang out, carrying a trace of desolation and seemed to also be scornful, “What were you thinking, pushing all of it to Li Xun, claiming that he had deduced it, you thought I would not know? Three hundred years ago because you were derelict in your duties, you lost the Inferno Mirror but after three hundred years, junior brother! You still did not make any progress!”

“He he, he he…”

The desolate and bleak laughter, in the cold stone chamber, reverberated.

After leaving TianXiang residence, ShangGuan Ce walked out of that door, for some reason, even with his level of skills, he let out a sigh of relief.

He collected himself, contemplated for a while and then headed outside, after the familiar winding road, he came to a rather majestic hall, an inscribed board with three words written on it:

Mountain River Hall.

The name, together with this imposing big hall, gave one the impression of it looking disdainfully at the world. One wondered when FenXiang Valley forefathers built this hall to receive guests, did they also thought that one day, they would be ranked among the first in the world.

ShangGuan Ce while thinking of that, slowly walked in.

There were people sitting in the hall, other than the FenXiang Valley disciples standing aside, the guests in the hall were all Good Faction people who had came to send their regards, about ten over number of people, Li Xun was sitting and accompanying them.

And in ShangGuan Ce’s eyes, the most important thing was, the two people sitting right at the front.

Lu XueQi.

FaXiang.

The two outstanding disciples of today’s two most distinguished sects, naturally they represented their sects so even though their ages were not like the other elders but their ranks surpassed them.

FaXiang, as usual in bluish white monk robe, an amiable smile on his face, chatted cordially with Li Xun, replying appropriately. And Li Xun and FaXiang, considered to have known each other for quite some time, were quite delighted to see each other, evident from the way they talked, just that in between the chats, Li Xun’s eyes frequently wandered over to Lu XueQi who was sitting beside FaXiang.

ShangGuan Ce saw all of that, by then everyone had noticed him walking into the hall and had stood up one after another. ShangGuan Ce smiled and returned the greetings, walked to the seat of honour, his eyes unexpectedly also glancing over at Lu XueQi and FaXiang.

The two of them gave obeisance to him at the same time, Lu XueQi still did not speak, FaXiang instead smiled and said, “It has been many years since we last met, ShangGuan teacher uncle’s health is still as good, it is indeed fortunate.”

ShangGuan Ce shook his head and [he he] laughed, said, “Old already, old already, already useless.” Speaking, he stretched out his hands to invite the guests to take a seat.

A thought went through his mind, for these past years, FaXiang’s reputation in Tian Yin Temple and the world’s Good Faction was like the sun at high noon, everyone had already expected him to be the successor of Tian Yin Temple, therefore this time he represented Tian Yin Temple PuHong Master to be here, it was not unexpected.

But over at Qing Yun Hill, it was heard that the main branch’s disciple, Su YiCai, among the young disciples, was the most highly regarded by Reverend DaoXuan but of course the publicity that Lu XueQi had for the past few years was also very glaring and strong, including her exceptional beauty, was something that the Good Faction cultivations had been discussing with great relish.

ShangGuan Ce pondered, guessed that this time Qing Yun Sect sent Lu XueQi over, there must be other purposes but naturally his face did not reveal that, and as what he was usually, smiled and said to the group, “Everyone, my humble self ShangGuan Ce, here I am extremely grateful for fellow Faction members’ concerns for our lowly valley, the volcano eruption a few days ago was indeed a natural calamity of Heaven and Earth, because of everyone’s blessings, our lowly valley has not yet suffered any damage.”

Fa Xiang smiled and said, “Amitabha, that could not be better. But heard from those rumours, FenXiang Valley valley master Yun YiLan elder senior seemed to have some mishap, my venerable teacher PuHong Master has always been on good relations with Yun elder senior and so allowed me to enquire on his behalf.”

With his words, he had asked the question that was on the mind of most of the people in the hall, after all the actions of Fen Xiang Valley in this period were unusual, especially after such a big incident, the valley master Yun YiLan throughout did not reveal himself, it truly made people felt bewildered.

For the short moment, everyone following each other, turned their attention onto ShangGuan Ce.

ShangGuan Ce smiled and said, “Actually to tell everyone the truth, I have just came from the valley master’s residence, ‘TianXiang Residence’.”

Everyone immediately made [Ah], [Oh] exclamations, ShangGuan Ce waited until the group settled down, stood up and cupped his hands towards the crowd, smiled and said, “The good intentions and concerns of everyone, I have already relayed each one to the valley master, valley master is extremely grateful. Just that Yun senior brother is really at the critical moment of his seclusion and so is unable to come out and meet the guests, will like to ask everyone to please forgive us for any impropriety.”

After speaking, he smiled and cupped his fist in the other hand, Li Xun beside him also stood up and made the same gesture with him.

The crowd looked at each other, after a moment, FaXiang stood up, smiled and said, “Since ShangGuan patron has said it so, guessed Yun elder senior must definitely be safe and healthy, we are also relieved. We really have intruded on you during this period.”

ShangGuan Ce and Li Xun replied at the same time, “Not at all, not at all.”

FaXiang glanced at Lu XueQi beside him but the lady was expressionless, like an ice, especially her complexion, almost pale like translucent, indistinctly with some melancholy.

FaXiang made a wry smile in his heart, he knew that Lu XueQi no matter what, would never of her own accord speak up and so spoke on her behalf, “Yun senior’s health is well then that could not be better. Other than Li Xun senior brother mentioned just now about some Evil Sect evildoers taking the opportunity to create trouble, is there anything that require our help?”

ShangGuan Ce paused for a moment, said, “The evildoers are tricky and cunning, loved to hit a person when he is down, they took advantage of the natural calamity and secretly made their move on our lowly valley, it is really detestable. Luckily our defense is tight and have chased them out of the valley. Although we will not leave the matter at that but unfortunately until today we still cannot find them. FenXiang Valley has sent out many disciples but even up to now, other than a few insignificant figures, only yesterday night Li Xun teacher-nephew and Miss Lu XueQi tracked down Evil sect HeHuan Sect Jin PingEr, a pity we let her slipped off again. Right now we also don’t know how we should investigate?”

FaXiang frowned, the rest of the crowd also were speechless and the Evil sect today had flourished in its power, on top of that Jin PingEr was the world’s reputable ruthless lady, those lowly skilled Good Faction cultivators might also not want to offend her.

And over at FenXiang Valley, because of different reasons, actually they did not wish for other sects to interfere.

Immediately ShangGuan Ce signalled to Li Xun with his eyes, Li Xun understood and stepped forward, cupped his hands to his chest and said, “My humble self here thank everyone for your good intentions but FenXiang Valley will do our utmost, even if it takes a long time but we will definitely investigate this matter therefore we also do not wish to trouble everyone…”

“Wait!”

Suddenly, a cold voice, spoke beside him.

Everyone was startled, turned to look, it was that icy girl, Lu XueQi, who had been keeping quiet.

This cold lady highly regarded by the world, her face as cold as frost, just that in the cold eyes, there seemed to be a glimmer indistinctly, what exactly was she thinking in her heart?

“Those evildoers, “her voice, reverberated in everyone’s ears, “most likely went to a place called ‘Seven Mile Cave’”

The rest of the people immediately started discussing among themselves, only Li Xun’s body shook once, immediately his eyes while looking at Lu XueQi, had another strange expression.

“Yesterday night while in a fight with those evildoers, Li Xun senior brother and I both heard the evil lady Jin PingEr said to …” her voice, paused, then regained its normality, continued, “to Evil sect Ghost King Sect Ghost Li, ‘Seven Mile Cave’ these three words.”

ShangGuan Ce frowned, glanced at Li Xun, this news, Li Xun for some reason, did not tell him.

In the great hall, for the moment everyone looked at FenXiang Valley, ShangGuan Ce contemplated and then smiled and said, “Unexpectedly Miss Lu has a clue, since it is so, our lowly valley will immediately send someone to check it out, as for our fellow Faction cultivators, actually you all don’t have to go, after all this is southern border and everyone only came to send their regards to our valley master. Therefore the good intentions of everyone, our lowly valley appreciate it.”

Everyone agreed with an acknowledgment.

Li Xun, while everyone was talking, quietly stood behind ShangGuan Ce and looked at Lu XueQi. Last night as he was pursuing Jin PingEr, first, Jin PingEr’s skills were not below him, secondly, Jin PingEr had always been crafty and after using a few tricks in succession, she finally shook him loose. While he was fuming, he recalled Lu XueQi was still in the TianShui Stronghold and facing Ghost King Sect Ghost Li and so hurried back.

Unexpectedly along the way, he met Lu XueQi who was returning on her sword, after meeting her, he could not help but was shocked, Lu XueQi at that time looked like she had lost her soul, her face was pale with no traces of blood and her white clothes even had dark red spots, it was the marks of blood.

While alarmed, he called her in succession, that then made Lu XueQi came out of her reverie but she only quietly looked at him and then went straight back to FenXiang Valley.

This icy cold girl, with her once fellow sect mate Ghost Li, in that decrepit TianShui Stronghold, what had exactly happened?

Was it an intense fight? Was it a talk?

Somehow, when Li Xun thought about that, an inexplicable anger surged up in his heart.

His expression changed with his complicated feelings, and all these, did not escape ShangGuan Ce’s eyes.

Just that, these two people, never spoke a word, with a smile on their faces, spoke cordially.

In the end, it was decided that the other sect representers would return and because Lu XueQi and FaXiang’s sects had deep relations with FenXiang Valley, in addition the information was given by Lu XueQi, both of them stayed back and would go with FenXiang Valley men to Seven Mile Cave to thoroughly investigate.

And almost at the same time, Ghost Li and Xiao Bai carrying Xiao Hui, appeared at the horse-head mountain.

Looking at this lofty mountain that resembled the head of a horse, Xiao Bai smiled sweetly and said, “Legend said that there is a deep cave on this hill, a Dog Deity worshipped by Miao people resides in it. There is a narrow mountain path at the foot of the mountain, big enough for only one person to walk through, once through it, it will be the Seven Mile Cave inhabited by Miao people.”

Ghost Li expressionlessly looked at the mountain in front, without saying a word, quietly walked ahead. Since last night until now, he had not spoken a word.

Xiao Bai stood behind, watched his back, a faint smile on her lips, she turned and patted Xiao Hui on her shoulder, said, “Then let’s go.”

Xiao Hui [zhi zhi] called out, grinned, suddenly jumped down from her shoulder, ran ahead in a few steps, with a [sou] sound, scurried up to Ghost Li’s shoulder, sat down, turned and waved to Xiao Bai.

Xiao Bao shook her head and laughed softly, followed along.

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