Translator : Casualtranslator
~ Enjoy ~
During the night, Zhang Xiaohua finally got to eat his long awaited rabbit leg. However, it was not roasted, because even though Zhang Xiaohua came from a poor family and was used to doing household chores, he was still a boy and most of the work he did was centered on the fields. As for matters such as cooking, it was still foreign to him and the closest thing he had done was draw spring water to boil tea.
Due to this, even though Zhang Xiaohua wanted to eat some barbeque, he finally shaved of the rabbit’s skin, and from what he learnt by watching his parents prepare chickens, he prepared the wild hare meat and dumped them into a pot to boil. After the meat was fully cooked, even though there was no seasoning or other ingredients put inside, it still smelled heavenly to him and Zhang Xiaohua became ravenous.
Zhang Xiaohua then closed his eyes and thought in his heart, “I am eating roast rabbit meat, I am eating roast rabbit meat.” Without fear of the scalding temperature, he picked up the entire rabbit from the water and began to eat until his face was full of oil, and his heart full of happiness!
After Zhang Xiaohua finished the entire rabbit, he still felt a trace of reluctance and licked its bones cleanly before throwing them into the river. However, it was mid-winter and the river was already frozen solid so a “ka dang” sound appeared when the bones collided onto the river surface. Even though he could remove the evidence of eating meat, as the saying goes, it is a fish and I am a knife, why should he hide the carcass? After all, the law of strong eating the weak was part of Jianghu anyway.
Moving away from Zhang Xiaohua who finally satisfied his desire and was currently picking his gums with a toothpick while looking leisurely at the snowstorm in front of him, in the north side of Piaomiao sect’s discussion hall, Ou Peng was currently convening with several brothers and thinking of ways to find the “carcass that was thrown” into the river.
It did not snow in Piaomiao mountain village, but the sky was covered in grey clouds and the wind was chilly. Even though there were thick curtains blocking the winds in the discussion hall, some of the chill still permeated through, except that the current atmosphere in the discussion room was piercingly severe and cold and anyone would prefer to be standing outside right then.
At the front of the discussion hall, sect master Ou Peng’s expression was sullen as he sat as his usual sear, and under the wavering light of the lamp, the occasional shadow would appear on his face causing it to look more severe and making the rest of the people in the discussion hall more uptight.
At that moment, everyone was quiet within the discussion hall and no one dared to make a single squeak. After half a bell of time, Ou Peng coughed and asked in a cordial tone, “Eldest senior brother, how is Yan-er’s condition right now?”
The usually uninspiring-looking first elder Hu also had a wooden face as he replied, “Yan-er’s body is already weak to begin with, and during the night when she left, it was raining badly and she thus caught a cold. Adding on the shockwaves of the blacked cloth elder which caused some internal injuries, her illness became worse and more severe. I heard from hallmaster Qin that she had lost consciousness on the way back, and was treated by a physician on her way back when she regained her consciousness again. Second brother had also hurried over and used his inner energy to treat Yan-er’s injuries, and after eating some of our sect’s medicine, she had recovered by quite much. After being diagnosed by the sect’s physician from Pingyang city, she is mostly well and would be able to get up again after resting for some time.”
Upon hearing of Ou Yan’s improving condition, Ou Peng’s expression softened slightly and he said to first elder Hu, “Eldest senior brother, I am slightly busier during this period so I would need you to pay more attention to the matters on Yan’er’s side.”
First elder Hu nodded as he replied, “Yan-er is the apple of our eyes so you can rest well. Now that she has returned to our base, I will not let her suffer any inconvenience again.”
Ou Peng nodded and looked at the disciplinary hall’s hallmaster Liu Yuzhou and asked, “How has the investigation on the origins of the black clothed men been going?”
Liu Yuzhou hesitated for a moment before saying, “After your subordinate received sect master’s instructions, I immediately went over personally to investigate the matter. I am aware that young mistress’s return trip prioritized her safety so even though the weather had turned cold, I was afraid that too much time had passed such that the corpses of the fallen black clothed men would decompose. As for those corpses, I have personally inspected them, seen their faces and bodies, and made records to pursue their backgrounds. However, among these men, the black clothed elder’s face had been disfigured and I could not recognize him, and as for the other men, it is not easy for our disciples to search for them among the masses as well.”
Ou Peng replied angrily, “Find them, you must find them. Difficult does not mean impossible, and as long as there is a shred of clue, we will have to chase them to the ends.”
Liu Yuzhou immediately bowed and said, “I will follow sect master’s directions.”
Ou Peng calmed himself down and then continued his questioning, “Are there any other leads?”
Liu Yuzhou shook his head and said, “The clothes these black clothed men wore and the weapons they used are ordinary items that are common in Jianghu, and we could not find any noteworthy clue from them. Furthermore, there was nothing on their bodies that was identifiable, and I am unable to produce results from air, so we could not obtain any results from our inspection.”
Ou Peng snorted and said, “So there is not even a single lead?”
Liu Yuzhou lowered his voice and said, “Your subordinate is incompetent, I am unable to find any leads at the moment.”
He opened his mouth again, but seemed afraid to speak. Ou Peng wrinkled his brows and said, “Just say what you need to say, your responsibility is large and you must find the party who was behind this attack, our Piaomiao sect is not someone that can be trifled with so easily.”
Liu Yuzhou hurried bowed and said, “Your subordinate has received an account from the Mingcui hall’s female disciples to learn more of the events on that day, but I would prefer to receive a more detailed explanation. Since hallmaster Qin and Shi Niu had been kept under sect master for the past few days, I could not find the opportunity to talk to them, so do you think they can describe the events again to me since they are both here? What do you think?”
Ou Peng nodded and said, “That would be good, I have heard a bit and felt that the situation was strange, so let’s use the opportunity that everyone is present to let them explain properly today. Shi Niu, explain everything in detail to us again.”
Shi Niu touched his forehead and asked, “Sect master, I must say everything?”
Ou Peng glared back at him and said, “Cut the crap, describe every single thing that happened.”
Shi Niu pondered and began to speak, “So on the day, I was steering the carriage and drove villa master Ou and hallmaster Qin out from Huanxi mountain villa through the villa’s main door … and then, I felt my spirits rise so I sang a little song. At the beginning, everyone was in praise of me, but as I continued to sing the same song, they began to grow tired from it. However, sect master, my abilities are limited and even if you asked me to sing a different song, I would not be able to do so.”
Everyone who was listening looked at each other with confused expression while Liu Qingyang almost spat out the wine he was drinking. Everyone could not help but laugh aloud.
Ou Peng also did not know if he should laugh or cry, he waved his hands and said, “Shi Niu, just say the important things.”
Shi Niu wrinkled his brows and replied, “Sect master, didn’t you ask me to describe everything?”
Ou Peng “pooh” and said, “I do want to you describe everything, but only for the events that happened before and after the attack. When you first drove the carriage out of the mountain villa, we still did not know where those black clothed men were so what’s there to say? Also, what does your singing have to do with the attack?”
Shi Niu replied in a wronged tone, “How would I know which matters are related to the black clothed men, perhaps my singing was too good that it got them jealous? And perhaps the black clothed men already tailed us since we left the mountain villa.”
Even though the speaker said it casually, the listener gained more that he said. Ou Peng rolled his eyes and nodded, he said, “You are right, Liu Yuzhou, do you understand?”
Liu Yuzhou nodded and said, “Your subordinate understands.”
Shi Niu asked in a puzzled tone, “Hallmaster Liu, what did you understand? Why don’t I understand as well?”
Ou Peng raised his hands and said, “It is none of your concern, just continue with your story.”
Shi Niu asked in a patient tone, “So do I still say everything out?”
Ou Peng pondered for a while and replied, “Yes, say describe everything in detail.”
Shi Niu asked again, “Do I really have to say every single thing?”
Ou Peng flared up, “Just do as I tell you to, say everything even if you don’t think it is important.”
Shi Niu’s face turned red and he hesitated before saying, “About this, I don’t think there’s a need to mention it.”
Ou Peng clenched his teeth and looked as though he was about to burst.
Upon seeing his response, Shi Niu hurriedly said everything honestly.
Even though Shi Niu looked like a rough and reckless person, he was extremely meticulous and would describe things of all manners that happened on the road, even if they were insignificant and in an enthusiastic tone.
When he came to the part that at every rest stop for the night, a boy named Zhang Xiaohua from Huanxi mountain villa would always want to leave the set up base to practice martial arts, Ou Peng could not help but wrinkle his brows and looked at Madam Qin with an uncertain expression, he asked, “This youth named Zhang Xiaohua, why is his name so familiar?”
Before Ou Peng could finish his sentence, Liu Yuzhou stood up immediately and said in an urgent voice, “Hallmaster Qin, did you all not follow when this youth went out every day? There is a high possibility for him to be a spy of the black clothed people, where is he right now? I will have to detain him and thoroughly interrogate him.”
Shi Niu who was speaking heartily naturally did not dare to speak up when Ou Peng interrupted him, but when he heard Liu Yuzhou’s words, he immediately got pissed and said angrily, “Why do you talk about Zhang Xiaohua like this, I guarantee that Zhang Xiaohua has nothing to do with the black clothed people.”
Liu Yuzhou replied, “If he was a spy, his cover would naturally be good so how would you know? Shi Niu, you might have been misled since you are more careless by nature, but one cannot just guarantee for another based on his feelings towards that someone.”
At that moment, an oriole like voice sounded, “Hallmaster Liu, I am of the same thought as Shi Niu, and I dare to guarantee with my last name on line that Zhang Xiaohua is not a spy against us.”
Shi Niu did not turn his head since he knew that it was Madam Qin who spoke, he wrinkled his brows and said, “Hallmaster Qin, now is not the time to use integrity to discuss this matter. We are looking for leads, and must follow any spider silk thin suspicion we have, as it is better to kill a wrongly accused innocent than to let free someone who is guilty.”
Madam Qin became anxious and replied in one breath, “In that case, have you heard a spy kill his own ally at the most critical moment; would a spy risk his life to save his target despite not knowing any martial arts?”
Liu Yuzhou was surprised, he replied in a puzzled tone, “Hallmaster Qin, there is no need to be so agitated. Regarding Zhang Xiaohua, what do you mean by your last sentence?”
Shi Niu growled from his side to interrupt the two, he said, “Zhang Xiaohua was the person who was protecting villa master Ou and also the person who killed that black clothed elder.”
Liu Yuzhou came to realize the facts ad he stood up to apologize, “Hallmaster Qin, I apologize, this person still am not aware of some matters.”
Madam Qin heaved a sigh of relief and said cheerfully, “It’s fine, it’s fine. Hallmaster Liu, I was anxious at the moment too. Actually, I had sent people to follow Zhang Xiaohua when he went out to practice martial arts, he was indeed practicing some rubbish martial arts and probably being embarrassed of being the joke of others. I have confirmed these with pharmacy hall’s He Tianshu as well.”
Ou Peng smiled when he heard these, he said, “Mm, now that you mentioned it, I seemed to recall this name that Yan-er brought up when she was awake. She said that he had saved her life, and if I am not wrong, he fell into the river after being injured by the black clothed person and is missing right now?”
First elder Hu spoke up, “We still have not found him yet, and have already sent our men and some resources to search for him.”
Afterwards, he hesitated for a moment and continued, “However, we already searched for about ten li downstream of the incident and have yet to find the person or his corpse. It has been almost a month so there is probably no more hope in finding him. It is quite likely that after he was flung into the river with injuries inflicted by the black clothed elder, his corpse became food for the fishes in the river.”
Ou Peng nodded and said, “Mm, this person had saved Yan-er’s life after all, so we must spare no efforts to compensate him.”
First elder Hu promised, “Now that it is the New Year, our sect is currently busy and this type of matter might not be appropriate to be disseminated. Moreover, he has an elder brother who is currently working as a delivery hand in the Lotus escort, and has recently left on a mission, so we can continue this when he returns.”
Ou Peng nodded silently before motioning to Shi Niu to continue.
Shi Niu acknowledged the former, but he glared at Liu Yuzhou fiercely before continuing with his story, and describing every single event that occurred during their journey.
After Shi Niu finished his recount, first elder Hu spoke up first, he said, “For such an attack to occur, the other party must have been following them right from the start and had probed our power in the middle. Madam Qin is a famous figure in Jianghu and her martial arts skill is pretty well-known, but Shi Niu martial art skill is still relatively unknown even among our sect. The second match during the robbery and the Shi Niu’s opponent during the rainy night were obviously related. They probably did not expect the pharmacy hall’s He Tianshu to be in the party, and even though this little guy does not have superb martial arts, he became an obstacle which caused them to stall their plans during the first robbery.”
Ou Peng followed immediately first elder Hu to speak, “Hence, they quickly found this martial art expert black figure elder to make preparations for the worst case scenario. First to send opponents of similar levels to block Madam Qin and the rest, then get the black clothed elder to kidnap and assassinate Yan-er, haha, good plan, well-devised indeed.”
First elder Hu also laughed as he replied, “However, they did not expect our disciples to see through their ruse and send reinforcements after the party.”
Ou Peng still had hints of a smile as he continued, “That’s right, this disciple named Lan Dong is not bad at all. He is sharp and meticulous; he should have returned with the party right. Switch him out with another disciple and allow him to stay in the sect, then nurture him well afterwards, I believe that he will be useful in the future.”
First elder Hu replied, “That’s right, it is all thanks to Lan Dong this time. Without the news he sent, we would still be kept in the dark, and old second and old sixth would not have reached in time, so his reward is well deserved.”
At that moment, Shi Niu spoke up and said, “Sect master, I feel that the person who contributed most this time is Zhang Xiaohua, if he had not killed the black clothed elder, and if villa master had suffered more severe injuries, then even if Lan Dong and the rest arrived, I’m afraid…”
Upon hearing these words, Ou Peng nodded and said, “You are indeed right, but this person had already passed away so there is no use in discussing it further. Zhang Xiaohua is also not a person from our Piaomiao sect so how could I commend him. At most, we can only give his family more compensation.”
Shi Niu scratched his head and said, “Shi Niu has no other comments as long as sect master knows who made the largest contribution.”
Liu Yuzhou spoke up again, “Sect master, after listening to Shi Niu’s account from earlier, I feel that the other party is either a sect whom we are familiar with or a famous sect in Jianghu. Their martial arts and members are familiar to us so they were afraid to show their true might, which was why they ended up in a different direction and used some random men causing their side to be outnumbered during the attack. If not, just based on the people who were with the young mistress, the black clothed people would not have to scheme and plan so much, and just directly attacked instead.”
Ou Peng smiled and said, “Since hallmaster Liu said all these, it means that you have a suspicion so I will continue to reply on you to investigate this matter. I hope to see the light through the stones soon.”
Liu Yuzhou made a bitter expression and said, “Understood, your subordinate will try his best.”
Afterwards, Ou Peng turned to Shi Niu and Madam Qin, he said, “Hallmaster Qin, Shi Niu, both of you have suffered earlier, but the mishaps on the journey was partially caused by your incompetence in planning. So tell me, how should I punish you for it?”
Madam Qin smiled bitterly and replied, “As sect master has said, I have been too careless and if I were slightly more attentive, I would have realized the trap we were heading to, so the situation would not have come to this. Your subordinate willingly accepts her punishment.”
Shi Niu scratched his head and said, “Sect master, I also know that I did wrong and am willing to accept my punishment. However, I am fine with any punishment as long as you do not prohibit me to drink. When I went out with the young mistress, I did not dare to drink at all and if you disallow me to drink now that I have returned, I might suffer too much from the withdrawal symptoms.”
Everyone smiled slightly, and the atmosphere in the discussion hall lightened up considerably.
Ou Peng smiled as he said, “Since the two of you took part in the trip, you have suffered even if you did not contribute much. Nevertheless, our sect is clear on our stance towards punishment and reward, so we will not sentence you two unfairly. Go to the disciplinary hall to accept your punishment later.”
Madam Qin and Shi Niu immediately bowed and said, “We understand, sect master.”
Ou Peng waved his hands and allowed Liu Yuzhou, Madam Qin, Shi Niu and the rest take their leave.
After they were gone, Ou Peng said to first elder Hu, “Eldest senior brother, this year has passed so quickly and in the blink of an eye, it is the fifteenth of the month, so all the things must be planned properly again.”