Translator : Casualtranslator
~ Enjoy ~
The morning of that day, the sun rose and a group of people could be seen quietly waiting in front of a lush jujube forest on the middle finger mountain of five claw peak.
One of the people was naturally Sir Yanming who was dressed in green from head to toe.
There were three young men behind him, of which one was Lu Yueming who saved Zhang Xiaolong and the others on the main road. Currently, Lu Yueming did not have the look of superiority from yesterday on his face, he was standing behind politely with his hands at his sides and his eyes on Sir Yanming as he waited quietly.
They were at the same area where the previous expedition party entered the secret area from and the same shadow appeared, Sir Yanming activated his qinggong and jumped over to make a mark on the two jujube trees. However, apart from the mark he just made, there were no signs of other markings on the tree. Where was the mark he made the previous time? Sir Yanming pondered, the three cun deep marking could not have disappeared within a month, had he gotten the wrong pair of trees?
He felt as though a rock just dropped onto his heart as he thought, “Not good, if that was not original entrance, we may face some trouble when we enter later.” He walked over to the surrounding jujube trees but came up with nothing, there were no trees nearby with a mark on its trunk. At that moment, a short and bulky man who was wearing beige walked up to the front and asked, “Senior uncle Yanming, what is the problem?”
Sir Yanming turned his head, and it was Tan family’s Tan Feng who spoke. Sir Yanming could not help but smile, the Tan family members were all short and stout which made people feel secure, and it was truly a case of ‘if one is not a family member, he will not be able to pass off as one’. Sir Yanming maintained his smile as he explained the problem to Tan Feng who immediately responded “That’s easy.” Then, the latter turned towards a thin scholarly looking youth who was wearing long white robes and said, “Brother Zhang, why don’t we go this way and see if we can find any trees with a sword marking around? Brother Lu, can you do the same and follow Senior uncle Yanming?”
The scholar was thousand swords peak’s Zhang Zhaoyang, whose face was skinny and eyes looked strict, and was a man of few words. With a single- word reply, “Okay”, he turned around and walked in the said direction while Tan Feng followed behind. Lu Yueming continued to smile at Sir Yanming as he waited for the elder to give him instructions. Senior uncle Yanming signaled him to come over without saying anything unnecessary and also turned to a different direction to look for the markings, while Lu Yueming caught up anxiously and then followed behind.
Sir Yanming only took a few steps before he slowed down, he was certain that the marking was nearby and walking any further ahead would be wasted effort. After all, was there a need to circle the entire jujube forest? Lu Yueming who was following behind understood the elder’s intention, and he asked, “Senior uncle Yanming, is this where you made the marking the previous time?” Sir Yanming stopped in his footsteps and turned around to reply, “Yes, I do not see any point in walking further ahead.”
Lu Yueming continued, “Would it be okay if senior uncle Yanming stay here to search while this junior go ahead to check in case?”
Sir Yanming smiled and said, “Piaomiao sect is truly becoming more outstanding after each generation, this sect master Ou is so fortunate to have all the exemplary disciples recruited into his sect. Alright, you can go ahead, but remember to look carefully.”
Lu Yueming maintained his smile as he nodded and continued to walk further into the distance.
Hence, Sir Yanming remained at his original spot as he pondered on how to proceed from there, while the other three men walked to the boundaries and back. As Sir Yanming had expected, their efforts were fruitless, and everyone became depressed. The result of the previous discussion was to use the original entrance to enter the secret area, but now that the entrance could not be found, their plans had to be amended.
The three men stood there quietly, pondering deeply while they waited for further instructions from Sir Yanming.
Like the previous expedition, these three men were all second generation disciples from their respective factions, except that the trip this time was conducted more secretly; when their faction leaders disseminated their orders, several disciples were sent to different locations to mislead any spies that were monitoring their behaviors. These three disciples themselves were only told of their mission before they left the sect, and were instructed not to share any of the details with their fellow disciples. Hence, even their own sects were confused of the sudden exodus of several of their disciples, and the three selected disciples could successfully reach their destination without other sects picking up on their trail.
The disciples who were sent out were all trustworthy in their own rights, since the four factions would not let down their guard after learning of the importance of the secret area. Furthermore, these three disciples have consumed the pills that their respective factions have concocted using the rare herbs from the secret area, so their martial prowess would be significant even among the whole of Jianghu. Otherwise, how could Lu Yueming single-handedly dispatch off those seven men from Xicui mountain with such ease? Even the Wen Wenhai and Xue Qing a month ago would not be able to do so that easily.
Even though an obstacle had appeared in their mission, the three men had calm and rational personalities. Even Tan Feng who appeared rough and crude was assessing the situation calmly while waiting for further instructions from Sir Yanming.
Sir Yanming pondered for a good while before he said, “Since we cannot use the same entrance from before, the route we take will not be completely safe, and we cannot follow the same directions as before to enter. All of you should take out the leather parchment, I believe that you have been informed on how to use it, so let’s check if the directions are still unchanged.”
Upon hearing, the three men took out the parchment as instructed, and they used their blades to cut their finger and drip the blood onto the parchment. What happened then made everyone, Sir Yanming included, stunned.
The place where the direction should appear was completely blank.
While the newcomers were not as affected, Sir Yanming broke out into a cold sweat when he saw the blank result. Even though he had experienced a huge leap in his martial skill and had prepared several items for the trip, he felt a sense of foreboding creeping from all sides of his surroundings as he turned to look around.
Sir Yanming had initially made his mind to enter the secret at no matter the cost, but after these obstacles, he was unwilling to enter no matter what. Having roamed the Jianghu for so long, he had seen all matters of things but this was the first time he saw words that disappear on a parchment, he was already out of his depths. The cautious and timid him has judged this situation to be a ticking bomb, and had decided to not try his luck and wait for the fifteenth of next February.
However, he did not reveal his fear on the outside and said casually, “Since the directions do not appear, then there can only be two reasons. The first reason is that this time is the same as the previous time. The second possible reason is that the time is not ripe, so the instructions do not appear.” Even though these were his words, he did not believe himself. If there is no change from the previous time, then the directions should still appear like before. And for the second reason, it was even more ludicrous because who had ever heard of words that will only appear at certain timings?
In short, no matter what the reason was, Si Yanming had already made his final decision and he shared, “Since we do not have the directions, and I cannot ensure that the previous directions are still effective, I suggest that we end this trip here. What do you all think?”
Even though these three men before Sir Yanming could not match the latter in martial skill or seniority, they were still representatives from their own factions so Sir Yanming wanted to listen to their opinions.
Lu Yueming pondered but remained silent. His sect master had already instructed that the Piaomiao sect has already sufficient strength, so there was no need for him to persist and enter the secret area. Even though the rewards that can be harvested are important, the sect’s main priority was to expand the influence of the sect, and entering the secret area sooner before a year was up was not as important as keeping its existence a secret. Hence, seeing that Sir Yanming had the same thoughts as him, he did not speak up.
Tan family’s Tan Feng wrinkled his brow, his clan master had also informed him to prioritize his own safety and the secret of the area’s existence. Even though he was curious about the secret area and had wanted to see the hundred years old rare herbs, he replied, “My clan master has already instructed me to follow Sir Yanming’s arrangement, so I do not have any objections.”
Sir Yanming nodded his head and turned to look at Lu Yueming who naturally agreed as well. Finally, he turned his gaze towards thousand swords peak’ Zhang Zhaoyang.
Zhang Zhaoyang did not have a worried expression unlike Tan Feng, his features were smooth as he gazed towards the jujube forest as though it was a playground. He seemed to have already made a decision and was only looking to hear the other opinions, and upon seeing that Sir Yanming was enquiring on his opinion, he smiled and said, “Senior uncle Yanming, my sect master has instructed me to take back some herbs no matter how grave the danger is. I think that I will have to explore this jujube forest no matter what.”
Everyone had thought that he would agree with the majority’s decision but Zhang Zhaoyang’s words were at odds with the rest. However, as Sir Yanming thought back to the discussion on Wutong mountain, he remembered that Wan Chengjiu was the most enthusiastic person for this mission so this turn of event was not out of his expectations.
However, how could they allow Zhang Zhaoyang enter the jujube forest alone when the other three parties were unwilling to enter? Sir Yanming could not find a solution even after he pondered for half a bell of time.
Seeing that Sir Yanming was silent, Zhang Zhaoyang could understand the former’s dilemma so he said, “Senior uncle Yanming, fellow brothers, I have already made some preparations to enter the forest so it should not be too dangerous for me. If everyone is unwilling to enter with me, then I will go alone and help everyone scout the road. What do you all think?”
The last sentence was directed towards Sir Yanming when it was said.