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Cao Weining flew over, then brushed aside the weapon the Scorpion had shot at Mo Huaiyang. Watching him step forward, Zhang Chengling subconsciously motioned to get up, only to be pushed back down by Gu Xiang.
She sucked in a deep breath, though it felt like it couldn’t sink down into her chest, getting stuck there alongside the scent of the forest vegetation. Her fingers trembled slightly, their tips unconsciously squeezing the clothes on Zhang Chengling’s shoulder. “Don’t move,” she whispered. “None of you move.”
Cao Weining’s sudden appearance had everyone startled in his wake, except for Zhao Jing, who reacted immediately. “Where’s the rat that’s hiding its head and sneak attacking?!”
Someone beside him quickly understood, flashing his weapon as if facing a massive foe. “Careful, everyone!” he shouted. “Watch out for ambush from the evil Ghosts!”
The recent hostile, arguing atmosphere in the crowd changed once again. The Scorpion hiding in the darkness had swiftly evacuated after their strike, not caring whether they had succeeded or not, to the point that the mob couldn’t even catch the assassin.
Gu Xiang watched clearly, the inside of her head a mess. Cao Weining going out right now had been a huge mistake. With the situation like so, there was someone like Zhao Jing, who would most likely use the issue to advance his own goals, and like Mo Huaiyang, who had deep schemes and unfathomable secrets, and like Ye Baiyi, who had rushed over to conceitedly look for trouble…
Mo Huaikong, who had just been thinking to snatch power using Ye Baiyi’s appearance, promptly realized that now was not a good time, since they were all currently still standing on the border of Ghost Valley and everything had turned into trouble. Upon seeing Cao Weining right now, he didn’t think much more on it, merely frowning.
He knew what was going on with Cao Weining, Gu Xiang, and the rest, so he hurriedly called out, “Why did you only now catch up, you brat? Were you using your feet to embroider this whole time? Get over here!”
This made it seem like he had simply been sent by his shishu to go do something.
Even though Cao Weining really wasn’t the brightest, he wasn’t stupid. He verbally agreed, then quietly walked behind Mo Huaikong.
However, if things were so simple, Gu Xiang wouldn’t have instantly been out of ideas; others didn’t care, but Feng Xiaofeng was still around. He remembered that she had blinded Gao Shannu with poison, and considered Cao Weining to be a jackal of the same pack. Seeing him was akin to seeing his father-killing nemesis. “You still have the face to show up in front of everyone, Cao Weining?!” he shrieked. “You’ve taught up a really good disciple, Mo! He’s buddied up with a demon, been seduced by beauty, and aids evil-doers!”
Cao Weining stopped in his tracks, thinking, It’s all over.
Hearing that, Mo Huaiyang’s gaze fell upon Cao Weining, face slightly dark. “What’s going on? Where have you gone to?”
“Shifu, I ran into a few friends from Nanjiang, and helped them to handle some dregs of the Black Shamans,” the other answered respectfully. “I had accidentally cut off contact with shishu. I didn’t know that everyone was here, nor did I expect to have the fortune to meet with you, since I came to find Yo… H… Hero Ye.”
None of that was false, actually. He hadn’t told the total truth, but his body language wasn’t flustered, and his road of thought was clear and reasonable. After this, he clasped his fist towards Ye Baiyi. “Hero Ye, this humble one was entrusted by another to request something of you.”
Ye Baiyi gave him a rather surprised look. “Who did? What is it?”
“There’s a friend that’s been heavily injured, and needs to heal somewhere extremely cold. They’re wondering if Changming Mountain’s sacred site could be borrowed for it…”
The man had no reaction at first, dazed for a short moment, then gave a perfunctory answer. “Tell that friend to do as they will. At the foot of the mountain is Changming Village, and past it is a road that leads all the way to the waist. The area I live in is near the summit, though. Whether you can get there depends on your skills.”
Cao Weining knew that Gu Xiang could hear him, and this could thus be seen as completing one task. “Many thanks.”
Ye Baiyi nodded. As if suddenly getting bored, he turned his horse’s head around without a sound, about to leave this place of right and wrong. Mo Huaiyang shot a glance at Zhao Jing’s group still looking like this matter wasn’t finished, mind racing, then blocked Ye Baiyi. “Hero Ye. Your words have been unclear. Can you really just leave like so?”
The other looked at him. “What else do you want? I’ve already given a clear explanation,” he answered, indifferent. “Zhao isn’t anything good. As for you…”
His stiff mouth revealed a stiff smile, and he spoke coldly, like a corpse come to life. “I don’t think you’re anything at all.”
The corner of Mo Huaiyang’s eye twitched. Zhao Jing had just nearly been forced into dire straits, only able to sigh in relief due to Cao Weining’s interruption. “This Zhao is a rough man,” he said upon seeing this scene, “and I don’t conduct myself with the caution and order that those of you who read do, always acting upon whatever I think up… Gao Chong used to be my brother. What a shit-fated friendship. I don’t know what he was plotting. At this point, I hate him, but I hate Fengya Mountain’s sons of bitches even more!”
His tigeresque eyes opened wide, bulging in a desire to split open, and his hackles instantly raised. “This thing with the Lapis Armor was caused by Ghost Valley thirty years ago,” he shouted. “Thirty years later, this disaster’s arisen because of them yet again! Our power hadn’t been enough before, so we couldn’t wipe out these demons, leading to us being troubled by them instead. There’s so many calamities happening in the martial forest now — is that still not enough?”
The rowdy crowd went quiet once more. Zhao Jing appeared to calm a bit, looking at Ye Baiyi. “Hero Ye, you’ve been in seclusion on Changming Mountain the year round, so you wouldn’t know,” he said, cordial. “There are some things in this world that are not what they appear to be on the surface. I don’t know who’s deceived you, for you to have such a misunderstanding towards me…”
His voice subtly paused there, and he swept a look at Mo Huaiyang.
That implication did not need to be stated. Why had Ye Baiyi suddenly shown up as a lone rider, and Mo Huaiyang taken the lead of others right now? Was that not pre-planned?
After that, his gaze fell upon Cao Weining. “Hero Cao, I’ve always seen you as a young talent with a boundless future, and an honest person that comprehends what courtesy, justice, honor, and shame are, as well as understands what loyalty and filial piety are—”
Feng Xiaofeng stepped forth. Zhao Jing reached out to stop him. “I heard you say that you have conflict with them because of a lady, Brother Feng. There was even a huge fight with many unknown people mixed within, and they abducted Zhang Chengling…“
Cao Weining’s back went stiff.
The name ‘Zheng Chengling’ was eternally linked to the Lapis Armor, a very sensitive subject at the moment. As soon as that came out, even Mo Huaiyang’s expression was off, and he grit his teeth. “What’s going on, you little bastard?”
Mo Huaikong knew the situation; once the elder noticed that things were getting bad, he quickly spoke up. “Cough, that was just a little wild girl that came from who-knows-where. She didn’t know how to speak, and wasn’t civilized at all…”
Feng Xiaofeng laughed coldly, pulling Gao Shannu out of the crowd. “A little wild girl? Is that right?” he asked, shrill. “What you’re implying, Hero Mo, is that our master-servant pair is really useless, where even a random wild girl could go ape on our heads and blind Ah-Shan, hm? Moreover… on that day, did you not meet a little demoness on the road, then deliberately let them go? Is it because you thought she was attractive that you did that?”
Mo Huaikong’s face swelled up like an eggplant. He restrained himself for a long time, but eventually said, “You fucking bullshitter!”
Feng Xiaofeng went mad, tugging at Gao Shannu as he howled. “You old bastard! Don’t even think about shielding that younger bastard, you’re all in the same pack! If you don’t give Ah-Shan an explanation today, your eyes will be compensating for his!”
Thus, all the heroes that had barely been able to stop for a minute got riled up again.
Mo Huaiyang grit his teeth, asking his question word by word. “Tell me, you little bastard… who is that woman?”
Cao Weining lowered his head, taking a step back. At the very same time, the not-far-away Zhang Chengling had to let out a hiss — Gu Xiang’s nails were pinching his skin.
“I heard that there were two men with the woman,” Zhao Jing sneered, “with weird appearances and bizarre martial arts. They took Zhang Chengling away, too. This Zhao is an ignorant one, and I’m not sure where those two came from.”
Experts unknown to the martial world of the Central Plains… was that not directly referring to Ghost Valley?
Mo Huaiyang slapped a hand onto the center of Cao Weining’s chest, striking him over ten steps back so that he could no longer stand, and making him sit on the ground and cough up a mouthful of blood. He covered his chest with a pale face, yet firmly grit his teeth, not saying a word.
Mo Huaiyang stepped up, looking down on him. “Are you still not going to talk?” he continued to pressure.
He lifted his palm and pressed it down upon Cao Weining’s crown, as if he was going to beat him to death. Mo Huaikong opened his mouth, mumbling, “Shixiong…”
“Shut it,” Mo Huaiyang said coldly. “Cao Weining, are you talking?”
Cao Weining closed his eyes.
Gu Xiang sighed. “No matter what happens, you two absolutely must not come out,” she said to Zhang Chengling and Gao Xiaolian, voice hushed. “Keep this in mind: if you two come out as well, all four of us will die here. You hear me?”
“Sister Gu Xiang…” Zhang Chengling started.
Gao Xiaolian suddenly grabbed him. “Don’t worry,” she told Gu Xiang, looking determined.
The other looked at her, nodded, and then her body suddenly soared, appearing before everyone. “Bah, you all suck! What do you want with me?”
Below Fengya Mountain, the weather was suddenly shifting, but it wasn’t too tranquil on Green Bamboo Ridge, either. A scouting Ghost in gray clothes walked up behind Lao Meng, then said something quietly into his ear. The latter paused, an expression that was quite a bit grotesque upon his face. “What did you say? They’re… fighting down the mountain?”
The Ghost nodded.
Lao Meng’s brow was furrowed in shock for a long while. Then, he suddenly began to laugh, the sound getting louder and louder until he was practically rocking back and forth with mirth. “You said… you said that Zhao Jing and them have started fighting down there… hahahaha! Zhao Jing, ah, Zhao Jing! I took him to be an alpha wolf, like a great enemy, but he’s actually just a sheep, getting betrayed by… by a bunch of ‘righteous sects’! That’s just too funny!”
He laughed abruptly, then stopped just as abruptly. In an instant, no image of a smile was on him, and he was now no longer that kind, sincere old servant. The muscles on his cheeks still slightly trembling, a malevolent tinge slowly showed upon them. “Good. Since that’s the case, we won’t worry about them. Let’s start to settle this debt from the inside. Xiao Ke, go get all of our people in the defenses, and move them to… the agreed place.”
The Ghost was taken aback. Immediately understanding what he was wanting to do, his voice was somewhat unconsciously shaky. “Yes!”
Lao Meng tidied up his clothes, forcefully shut his eyes, then concealed his ferocity. Looking like the same good old man as always, he strode for Yama Hall.
Wen Kexing was carefreely idle, in the middle of painting a picture. When someone was sent by Lao Meng to announce him, he only gave an indifferent answer without lifting his head, hunched over like his entire self was stuck onto the paper.
Lao Meng came in, saw that the other was in a good mood with a smile on his lips, and believed that the Heavens really were aiding him. “Valley Master, the dowry that you ordered me to prepare is ready. May I invite you to take a look at it?”
Wen Kexing affirmed absent-mindedly, not looking up. He made a couple strokes on the paper with the tip of his brush for a long while, then said, “Mn. Wait a second.”
Lao Meng obediently bowed his head, lowered his eyes, and waited nearby. The incense stick on the table shortened cun by cun. It was unknown how long had passed before Wen Kexing straightened out his back and contentedly finished up his painting, bobbing his head as he admired it. Lao Meng gave it a brief glance, then saw that the paper scene was extremely simple; it was one tree, several boulders, and a man standing there with no profile, only a view of him from behind.
The man was a bit thin, hints of the bones on his back showing through his loose robes. Lao Meng marveled to himself, Don’t tell me that because this lunatic went out on a trip, he’s actually started to believe himself to be a human, learning how to be hurt by lovesickness?
Wen Kexing set down the painting, carefully weighted it with paperweights, set it aside to dry, then turned to Lao Meng. Upon seeing him, the tender, warm smile he had immediately turned frigid. “Lead the way,” he ordered, terse.
Lao Meng lowered his head, agreed, then turned to go, concealing the fleeting, irrepressible smile at the corner of his mouth.