Translator : Casualtranslator
~ Enjoy ~
Ou Peng asked, “How did this came to be?”
Wan Chengjiu smiled as he replied, “Shitu Ping wanted to learn the martial arts of our thousand swords peak so she has chosen to stay in our sect for an extended period of time. It is not a short distance between my sect and town Lu, so it is naturally difficult for her to handle her sect affairs. As her senior uncle, I would naturally have to look after her interest, so I sent some capable disciples to take over her fierce tiger sect. If not for her, I would not have bothered about such a small sect.”
Upon hearing his answer, Ou Peng smiled and sai, “Brother Wan sure goes an extra mile.”
However, he thought in his heart, “This sly fox, acting all noble despite having taken advantage of someone.”
Wan Chengjiu also said, “All this is for the sake of protecting our secret. Otherwise, would I be willing to so such a despicable thing.”
Everyone said, “It has been hard on brother Wan, here, let’s have another toast.”
Then, the men discontinued the talk about the secret area, and started gossiping on the recent bloodsheds of Jianghu, the seasons, and other irrelevant subjects until they finished all the wine and food. Then, they descended from the mountain and returned to their respective duties. As for the increase in strength that each faction experienced from the treasures in the secret area, no one seemed to mind that they have avoided the topic.
In a secret village somewhere far and between Lu town and Pingyang city, there was a large manor, and in a hall situated at the north of the manor seated two people. One was a slightly skinny youth, the other was a middle-aged man with white streaks in his hair. They were fierce tiger sect’s hallmaster Shitu – Shitu Liang, and hallmaster Zhao. The two had worried expressions as they drank their tea; hallmaster Zhao took a sip as though he did not taste the fragrance of his drink, and put the cup heavily onto the table, before asking Shitu Liang, “Hallmaster Shitu, there has been no news of our sect master for almost a month. What should we do in this seen-neither-the-person-nor-his-body situation?”
Shitu Liang reprimanded, “Hallmaster Zhao, what is the meaning of this? How could you say such inauspicious words right after the New Year?”
Hallmaster Zhao replied apologetically, “I am just too worried, I’ll eat my own word.” The, he spat towards the floor to show his mistake.
Shitu Liang said comfortingly, “Even though the sect master is not within the sect, aren’t all of us still around? Everything is still running smoothly, and our sect is not decimated right?”
Hallmaster Zhao laughed darkly, “Hallmaster Shitu, you said not to say inauspicious things.”
Shitu Liang was stunned for a while, and he spat towards the floor before saying, “Keep, keep, I keep my words back. This is really frustrating, and it is making me loses my senses.”
Hallmaster Zhao replied, “Not a big deal, aren’t we all just worried about our sect master?”
Shitu Liang said, “Our sect master had ever gone out for an extended period before, but she still returned some news back to the sect, and the most she would take is a few days. However, she has been missing for quite some time now, could it be that she really…” Shitu Liang did not dare to continue his sentence.
Hallmaster Zhao immediately said, “Hallmaster Shitu, during this period when our sect master is not around, our sect members are celebrating the New Year in their homes. Now that the celebrations are ending, and everyone is about to return, there will be a large dump of sect affairs to handle. If there is still no news of the sect master by then, the situation will probably sour. At least some of our members would be suspicious.”
Shitu Liang nodded and said, “True, let’s think of a plan or there may be waves of trouble coming.”
Just as they were talking, someone came over to report, “Hallmasters, there are seven people on fast horses heading towards our location. They seem to be from the Jianghu.”
Shitu Liang was surprised, and he looked at hallmaster Zhao and said, “Who could it be at the period of time? The sects whom we have good relations with had already visited us, yet how would someone who is unfamiliar with the geography here know our location? Could it be that they are passing by?”
Hallmaster Zhao replied, “Probably. However, will they stir up some trouble with us?”
Shitu Liang shook his head and said, “The number of people is few, how could seven people be a match for our entire sect? Even though most of us aren’t here, there are still at least dozens of people around.”
Hallmaster Zhao was puzzled and he asked, “Then why else would they come?”
Shitu Liang said, “We should observe the situation for now. First see if they are truly here to visit us, but we will still have to make some preparations in case of an attack. Men, inform our fellow sect brothers to prepare for the arrival of some guests. Also, prepare some smoke signals. If need be, call for our brothers who are not in the sect right now to return.”
After half the time to boil a kettle of tea, another person came over with a new report, “Reporting to hallmaster, the seven men are approaching our village soon. There are no other people behind them.”
Shitu Liang got off his feet, and said towards hallmaster Zhao, “Let’s go. The road to our village only leads to here, it seems that they are here to visit our fierce tiger sect.”
Hallmaster Zhao also stood up and replied, “Okay, let’s invite our guests.”
These seven people were travelling very fast. By the time Shitu Liang reached the entrance of the manor, the sounds of their horses could be heard, and seven figures in black could be seen from afar. As they approached, everyone noticed that although these seven were of roughly the same height, their bodies were of different thickness. The person leading in front was a handsome youth, whose body was lean but was carrying a large sword behind his back.
Upon arriving in front of the manor, they got off their horses in unison as if they have been trained well. Six of the men stayed with their horse while holding on to the reins, while the youth passed his reins to his partner and walked forward alone. Then, he bowed Shitu Liang who was standing on the steps and said, “Excuse me, are you fierce tiger sect’s hallmaster Shitu, Shitu Liang?”
Shitu Liang hurriedly returned the bow and replied, “I am, may I know who you are?”
The young man smiled as he said, “I am thousand swords peak’s Qu Xiangfeng. On behalf of sect master Shitu Ping, I have come to deliver news of the former.”
Shitu Liang was surprised when he heard his answer. The thousand swords peak was not something the fierce tiger sect could offend, what has happened between their sect master and thousand swords peak?
With a bitter smile, he asked, “May I know hero Qu, what evidence do you bear?”
Qu Xiangfend did not seem offended, and he took out a plaque from his breast and passed it to Shitu Liang.
When Shitu Liang received the plaque, he saw that it was indeed sect master Shitu Ping’s plaque which she carried by her side. Then, he smiled and said, “This is definitely sect master’s item. Qu hero, let’s talk inside. This way please.”
However, he did not return the plaque to Qu Xiangfeng.
Qu Xiangfeng did not seem to mind, and the seven men walked into the manor, while their horses were naturally passed to into the care of the fierce tiger sect’s members.
As they entered the main hall, the guests sat down and were served tea.
Qu Xiangfeng did not pick up his tea. Instead, he took out a letter from his breast and passed it to Shitu Liang, saying, “Sect master Shitu will not return anytime soon. I believe that the sect would miss her deeply, so she has written a letter for you, may hallmaster Shitu please read its contents.”
Shitu Liang happily received the letter and opened it to read its contents. The expression on his face slowly turned to surprise, and after reading the letter, he passed it to hallmaster Zhao who was sitting beside. Hallmaster Zhao was also surprised when he read the letter, and he exchanged glances with Shitu Liang before nodding slightly.
Shitu Liang turned towards Qu Fengxiang and said, “Hero Qu, this plaque is authentic, and the handwriting in this letter does belong to our sect master. However, as for its contents, I will not be able to answer immediately. Would hero Qu rest for a moment while we take some time to discuss this matter?”
Qu Xiangfeng replied, “Of course. However, we hope that hallmaster Shitu will not make us wait too long.”
After he finished his sentence, he and the other six men stood up while Shitu Liang hurriedly instructed some men to arrange some accommodation for them.
After Qu Xiangfeng left, Shitu Liang and hallmaster Zhao immediately ordered their subordinates to send an emergency signal to gather the significant members to return back to their headquarters.
After sending the signal, the two men sighed in relief; hallmaster Zhao walked to the main hall and sat down while Shitu Liang returned to his room.
Shitu Liang hurried his steps as he walked to the small house which was not far from the main hall, turned around warily, and pushed the door to enter. This room was very neat, and there was a bookshelf beside the wall that was stacked with many books. A table was positioned beside the window, and it was well furnished with writing materials. Shitu Liang walked to his table and sat on the chair. His vision was focused on the scenery outside. There were small budding leaves on the tree branches swaying with the wind and appearing full of vitality. However, Shitu Liang ignored the signs of spring, and he turned his gaze to the sky where the clouds were hung high up. After half a bell of time, he shook his head and massaged his temples, before taking out Shitu Ping’s plaque to observe under the sunlight.
Suddenly, he stood up from his chair and out the plaque on the table, before walking to the bookshelf to pick some books out. Behind the bookshelf was a small box. Shitu Liang carefully placed the box onto the table, and opened it where a small jade bottle was revealed. Then, he took a brush and performed a seemingly familiar motion to remove the bottle’s seal, and dipped the brush into the jade bottle. With one hand holding up the plaque, he brushed a spot on the plaque with the liquid and indeed, in that small spot, the three words “Tolerate patiently” appeared.
After Shitu Liang kept everything into their respective positions, those three words also disappeared. He re-pocketed the plaque and sat back on his chair while deep in thought.
After a meal worth of time, the sky has already began to darken, and Shitu Liang was still sitting in the same position without any motion. Then, a gentle knock came from outside the door, and Shitu Liang responded, “Come in”.
Someone lightly pushed the door open, and reported, “Hallmaster Shitu, elder Wu, hallmaster Xing and hallmaster Zhang has arrived and are currently speaking to hallmaster Zhao. Hallmaster Zhao sent me to inform you of this.”
Shitu Liang said in a low voice, “Alright, I understand. I will join them soon.”
Shitu Liang waited for another short while until as if his mind was made up. Then, he straightened his body, tidied up his appearance and walked out of the room.
Although the distance between his room and the main hall was not far, his steps were slow and deliberate. Even though there was no difference in his surroundings, Shitu Liang knew that the fierce tiger sect from today onwards will not be the same as the old fierce tiger sect.