Didn’t the plans say the rescue mission and northern expedition would be delayed? What’s with the sudden save?
Ning Cheng had no idea that Ning Jing had already given birth or any other details from Tiger’s Prison, yet he soon realized that the rescuer couldn’t be Han Yunxi or Long Feiye. They would have saved the prisoners and launched the northern expedition at the same time.
So what kind of deity managed to whisk away the captives out of Jun Yixie’s heavily guarded defenses?
Ning Cheng’s first thought was Bai Yanqing, but that didn’t seem likely, judging from Jun Yixie’s reaction. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be demanding him for answers in such a huff. He allowed Jun Yixie to keep whipping him without a sound. In the end, Jun Yixie tired of it all and left Ning Cheng a haggard mess of wounds. Jun Yixie ended up plopping on the ground, leaving the latter to loom over him.
Just what happened at Tiger’s Prison to leave Jun Yixie so furious and dispirited?
That very night, Jun Yixie secretly took Ning Cheng with him out of the army and headed for Tiger’s Prison. He couldn’t make heads or tails of the strange bloody puddles the guards had mentioned, and decided to inspect them personally. While they were rushing there, Han Yunxi and Long Feiye were traveling nonstop as well.
It had been days since they sent a message to Celestial Mountain so they should have received a reply by now. However, there had been no hint of news. Long Feiye used a specially trained eagle to deliver his Celestial Mountain missives, one capable of braving the snowstorms on the peak. Conversely, the sect also had trusted couriers to deliver the letters. Since it was the start of spring, most of the snows had already melted from the peak. The weather was currently perfect, so even humans could climb and descend the mountain with ease.
Long Feiye knew that something must have happened at Celestial Mountain, so he spent the last few days hurrying on without rest.
“It has to be Heretical Sword Sect,” Long Feiye declared coldly.
Heretical Sword Sect was the only power capable of challenging Celestial Mountain with their current martial arts level. Beyond that, Bai Yanqing was the only man capable of stirring the three Honored Elders.
“How long has that old fox been hiding on Celestial Mountain range?” Han Yunxi began to worry. Had Bai Yanqing already found out about Phoenix energy? Who had processed their past letters? Were the explanations and advice they got on Phoenix and Lustbite energy true or false?
Had they already played into that old fox Bai Yanqing’s schemes?
“As I see it, that old fox didn’t attack Celestial Mountain until spring! That’s why your letters have stopped,” Gu Qishao chimed in. He knew anything to do with Bai Yanqing was big news, because that was the only man that Long Feiye couldn’t defeat.
If the letters before were all sham, then Bai Yanqing wouldn’t have to stop them out of the blue, but keep stringing them along to alleviate any suspicions. Han Yunxi and Long Feiye agreed to Gu Qishao’s guess. Seeing them nod made Gu Qishao halt his horse and ask, “If that’s the case, are you two still planning to go?”
If the guess was right, going to Celestial Mountain now was tandem to seeking death! Heaven knows how many ambushes Bai Yanqing had prepared for them in wait?
Long Feiye and Han Yunxi exchanged looks. Naturally, they had thought of this too. But they still had to go even if it wasn’t for the sake of the Phoenix energy and dual cultivation problems! This matter concerned both the sword sect master and three Honored Elders as well as the entire sect. Celestial Mountain Sword Sect had countless disciples, sword manuals, and treasured blades; they had always been the top of the martial arts world. If any of that fell into Bai Yanqing’s hands, then it would become a tool in the Heretical Sword Sect’s plans to cause chaos in the martial arts world. Then it’d be chaos here before disorder fell on the rest of the world.
They had even sacrificed their northern expedition for a special trip here, so there was no sense backing out now, much less avoiding the facts. Moreover, they already had seven of the Ten-Thousand Poisons in their possession and only needed Bai Yanqing and Lil Thing’s blood to complete the set. Even if Bai Yanqing wasn’t looking for them, they’d have to find him one day.
Han Yunxi declared coldly, “Even if it’s a mountain of swords and seas of flame, we still have to break through. We’re not afraid of him!”
She didn’t have time to cultivate recently, but her connection with Lil Thing was growing stronger by the day. She could clearly sense Lil Thing cultivating and the recovery of its poison fangs. It must have eaten plenty of good things in Bai Yanqing’s poison storage space.
For the past few nights, both of them had been sensing an imminent breakthrough in her poison storage space. It was very similar to her last trip in Celestial Mountain when the space had broken into level two from level one. Perhaps Lil Thing would help her upgrade once again.
As long as her poison storage space reached level three, Lil Thing would be able to break free. As long as she got Lil Thing’s poison blood, they wouldn’t need to fear Bai Yanqing’s undying body.
Gu Qishao failed to convince Han Yunxi and Long Feiye to turn back, so he followed them in silence. He was worried about exposing his own secret if they were forced to fight against the man. Yet despite his conflicted thoughts, one remained firm: he had to lure Bai Yanqing into a two-man duel away from Poison lass and the rest if that happened.
The group made quick progress in the direction of Celestial Mountain. Their speeds would allow them to arrive at the mountain base in about five days.
A few days later, Jun Yixie arrived with Ning Cheng at Tiger’s Prison.
“Put him in the dungeons and feed him one pill of antidote a day. Remember well! If he dies, this lord will have all of you pay with your lives!” Jun Yixie ordered icily.
Ning Cheng didn’t know anything about the bloody puddles, but he realized he was Jun Yixie’s final hostage now. No matter who saved Mu Linger and the rest, it shouldn’t be too bad as long as it wasn’t Bai Yanqing.
Because he was the sole surviving hostage, he didn’t have to think as much before he acted, either.
After locking Ning Cheng up, Jun Yixie had the guards take him to the site of the bloody puddles. Although the three patches had dried up by now, even the rain failed to wash away the scarlet stains left in their wake. Jun Yixie immediately recognized the blood as belonging to his poison tigers, who had died from poison themselves!
“Master, who could have done something so venomous?” Hao San murmured.
Jun Yixie’s tigers had already been nurtured into poison corpses, which rendered them immune to most toxins. Only seldom-seen high-level poisons were capable of causing their deaths. In other words, anyone who killed these tigers had to have consummate poison skills.
Ignoring Hao San, he asked, “Are you sure Mu Linger and the rest escaped while riding the white tigers?”
“Your Highness Duke of Kang, this subordinate and the rest witnessed it with our own eyes. When Mu Linger was giving birth, it was a white tiger who blocked the midwives from entering as well!” a guard reported.
If they hadn’t been so reluctant to attack the tigers from the beginning, thus causing massive losses, perhaps Mu Linger and the rest would have never escaped. Extremely large numbers of guards had fallen to the beasts, leaving the rest hating their existence. Of course, they only dared to hide the loathing inside their hearts.
Jun Yixie still remained silent as he walked deeper into the woods. Here, the other two bloody puddles had dried up as well into unwashable stains. Jun Yixie squatted by the human-shaped cameo left in the dirt with them and carefully touched the blood with his finger before bringing it up to his nose for a sniff. Then he brought the sample away with him.
It took him half a day to determine that the blood belonged to a human, not a tiger. Moreover, it was a woman who died from poisoning.
Just what had happened here?
Jun Yixie was certain of one thing: Han Yunxi hadn’t poisoned the tigers. Besides her, who else possessed such expert poison skills capable of killing five white tigers at once?
And where had the last white tiger gone? Who was the female victim that also died of poison? What about the remaining people?
Han San’s eyes flickered with a complex expression. “Master, could it be him…?” Naturally, he was referring to Bai Yanqing.
“If he made the move, why wait until now? Why take all the pains?” Jun Yixie retorted. Compared to the poisoner, he was more concerned with the identity of the black-robed man.
It was then that another guard rushed over to report, “Your Highness Duke of Kang, we’ve already found Uncle Cheng. However...we haven’t found Manager Jin yet.”
Jun Yixie looked over in displeasure. “Bring him in!”
After the chaos broke out in Tiger’s Prison, Uncle Cheng and Manager Jin had both disappeared. The guards kept searching the grounds until they found Uncle Cheng today. Tiger’s Prison was surrounded by dense forest filled with their men lying in ambush, so even if Uncle Cheng had fled, it wasn’t likely for him to get far.
Jun Yixie had always assumed the black-robed rescuer was an interloper and never realized it was actually Manager Jin himself.
Uncle Cheng was brought inside, but before he could plead for mercy, Jun Yixie gave him a sharp kick that sent him sprawling. “Where’s Jin Zi?” he demanded.
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen him since that night! Your Highness Duke of Kang, won’t you spare this humble one on account of my trustworthy reports?” Uncle Cheng begged. He was also reminding Jun Yixie that he was one of the senior members of the Di Clan who could gain their trust, someone who couldn’t afford to be killed. Jun Yixie knew that well, or else he wouldn’t have spared Uncle Cheng for so long.
“What are the origins of Jin Zi?” Jun Yixie demanded. By now he was beginning to get suspicious.
“Nothing in particular. He was just a slave sold to Three-Way Black Market from the Wintercrow Clan, then bought by Master Ning,” Uncle Cheng said honestly.
Jun Yixie had found that out himself as well.
“Could he have saved them?” Jun Yixie wondered.
Uncle Cheng rejected the idea. “Your Highness Duke of Kang, if Jin Zi could have saved him, he would have done it long ago. Why wait until now?”
There was logic to his words, which irritated Jun Yixie. He lifted his foot off Uncle Cheng’s back, causing him to exhale in relief. Yet before he could rise, Jun Yixie kicked violently at his face and sent him flying.
“Someone come, escort him to the dungeons! Tell Ning Cheng that he was the one who betrayed the Di Clan!” Jun Yixie said icily.
He couldn’t kill Ning Cheng now, but he could torment him well enough.
Tonight, let Ning Cheng experience the taste of betrayal as well!
1. A thought occurred to me: will I finish translating all these late winter/early spring chapters before real spring hits in my part of the world? It’s February as I type this, so prospects look bright...I think it’s cool to read a translation happening in the same “real-time” season as our world! Apologies to southern hemisphere peeps and tropical island dwellers in advance, hehe~
2. I actually don’t recall when LFY and HYX found out Bai Yanqing was related to/part of Heretical Sword Sect, do any of you? We readers checked in on him while he was hiding there, but when did our heroes discover this fact? And if they knew about it, why didn’t they check the Heretical Sword Sect grounds first to see if he was there?
4. Here we go guys...next paragraph is the requisite rehashing of info we already know. However, I’ve realized this is to the webnovel author’s benefit as 1) it allows her to wordpad ad infinitum and 2) reminds readers of what went on 20-100+ chapters ago in long series like these.
5. I wanna say you’re like three months too late, JYX, because Ning Cheng already went through a false experience of “betrayal” when he thought HYX shot his eye on purpose. I don’t think a crusty old advisor who’s been getting on his nerves these days can quite compare…
Couldn't refrain from adding in translator commentary for this chapter, hope you guys didn't mind too much!