Long Feiye ran out of the cave as soon as he heard the noises, but didn’t see anyone around. Han Yunxi and the rest soon followed him, but he motioned for them to stay quiet. He cautiously took step after step into the grass, guarded against the person he knew was there. But despite drawing close, the hidden figure didn’t stir. Very soon, Long Feiye caught the scent of blood and grew even more guarded.
He stopped to unsheathe his sword.
In response, the person cried, “Master! Master! It’s me...master, it’s me!”
Long Feiye was shocked, while Han Yunxi and the rest were left stunned. They all recognized the voice as Chu Xifeng’s!
“Chief!” Xu Donglin was the first to dash out and tumble into the tall grass in his excitement. Half crawling, half running, he ended up sprawling by Chu Xifeng’s side.
Long Feiye came closer as well and knitted his brows at the sight of Chu Xifeng. By the time Han Yunxi and the rest caught up, they were gaping as well. “What’s...what’s going on?”
Chu Xifeng was in a sorry state, his hair dishevelled and face dirty. His clothes had been reduced to tatters and his body was covered in bruises and swollen red cuts. Han Yunxi’s eyes swept over his legs and knew at a glance that his bones were broken. Moreover, they were old injuries.
Chu Xifeng was moved by the sight of Long Feiye, but he didn’t dare to meet Han Yunxi’s eyes and looked away, flustered.
“Chief… Chief, you...what’s happened to you?” Xu Donglin choked, eyes brimming with tears.
Seeing this, Chu Xifeng scolded, “Crying at your age? Aren’t you ashamed!?”
Xu Donglin turned away to wipe away his tears. He looked both stifled and sad without turning back. Chu Xifeng ignored him and quickly told Long Feiye, “Master, this subordinate has finally awaited your return. Disaster’s broken out at Celestial Mountain’s peak!”
Long Feiye finally crouched down. “What’s going on?”
“The Lockheart Courtyard and Sword and Scripture Depositories have all turned traitor. They colluded with members of Heretical Sword Sect to act from inside during an outside attack and took over the peak months ago. Then they locked up Duanmu Yao and Master Jianxin into the dungeons,” Chu Xifeng replied quickly.
Although everyone had been suspecting as much after getting no reply to their letter, hearing the truth from Chu Xifeng’s lips still gave them a shock.
“What about the three Honored Elders?” Long Feiye asked next.
“The leader of Heretical Sword Sect personally scaled the peak to confront them, but none of the three Honored Elders were his match. He wanted the three to help him subdue the Ganjiang sword’s spirit, but the Honored Elders refused. Even now, they’re hung up at the mountain peak,” Chu Xifeng replied.
Heretical Sword Sect had always been very mysterious and never showed its face. But it was impossible for any of their sword skills to overwhelm Celestial Mountain’s three Honored Elders!
How could he fight one against three and still win?
Everyone exchanged looks and thought of one possible candidate with exquisite sword skills: Bai Yanqing, the man who had once disguised himself as Long Feiye to kill Gu Beiyue. If it was that undying old fox doing the fighting, then there was nothing more to be said.
“So Bai Yanqing was the leader of Heretical Sword Sect!” Han Yunxi said coldly.
Before, Long Feiye had only found out from He Yilian’s dying words that Bai Yanqing had agents planted in Celestial Mountain. He Yilian was Cang Qiuzi’s eldest disciple and had helped his master maintain communications with Heretical Sword Sect in secret. He also knew that Long Feiye cultivated Lustbite energy. Thus, Long Feiye and Han Yunxi had already begun to suspect Bai Yanqing of having ties with Heretical Sword Sect. They never expected him to have taken over the sect entirely.
“After Bai Shanqing left his position as leader, Bai Yanqing assumed the post?” Long Feiye asked doubtfully. That means Bai Yanqing’s been controlling Heretical Sword Sect for a while. In other words, he’s been hiding in Celestial Mountain Range for ages!
But why would he want the Ganjiang sword?
“When did they attack the mountain peak?” Gu Qishao suddenly asked in alarm.
“The tenth lunar month, last year,” Chu Xifeng replied.
“Do you know the exact times? Which day, do you remember that?” Han Yunxi was now nervous as well.
Chu Xifeng thought it over and couldn’t pin down the date, but said, “It was within the first ten days of the month, but definitely before the 15th.”
Long Feiye stiffened, while Han Yunxi and Gu Qishao were left shellshocked. They had trouble recovering from the blow. While they were at the Medicine Requesting Cave, their letters about the Phoenix energy had been sent to Celestial Mountain between the last ten days of the tenth month to the first ten days of the 11th month. But the sword sect master had already been locked up since the first half of the tenth month.
In short, their letters had ended up in Bai Yanqing’s hands! The one replying them was Bai Yanqing copying the sword sect master’s handwriting!
“No good…” Gu Qishao looked blankly towards Long Feiye. “Poison lass has been exposed…”
Now Bai Yanqing knew of the Phoenix energy and their dual cultivation. Long Feiye looked at Han Yunxi, who looked dazedly back and even felt afraid in hindsight.
“The worst thing is...all of our secret missives have been exposed,” Han Yunxi murmured. By now it didn’t even matter that her own matters were revealed. What was the deal with Phoenix energy? Could she still dual cultivate with Long Feiye after this? Was it the cause of their cultivation failing before?
The reply they’d gotten was that dual cultivation could be continued, but they tried it once and failed. It was obvious that Bai Yanqing had been tricking them, but what were his motives? Right now, Long Feiye was harboring serious internal injuries while Han Yunxi had a mysterious power. Any mistakes on their part could ruin them utterly! If they hadn’t chosen to delay the northern expedition and head over here, they’d still be dancing to Bai Yanqing’s drumbeats or sending him even more secrets.
Long Feiye had special messengers in charge of processing his letters, but that didn’t mean his agents covered all of Celestial Mountain!
Hearing Han Yunxi mention the missives, Chu Xifeng quickly fished out one envelope from his sleeves. It had long been soaked through with blood.
“Master, the letter...this subordinate caught this one.”
Long Feiye took the letter out of its bloody envelope and recognized it as his final message to Celestial Mountain announcing their trip here. That means Bai Yanqing and Heretical Sword Sect don’t know we’re coming?
Chu Xifeng had been propping his body up from the ground to answer Long Feiye’s questions. Now his arms gave out as he collapsed against the dirt. At last, Han Yunxi realized that his wounds were serious too. Long Feiye personally helped him into a sitting position and barked out, “Xu Donglin, what are you spacing out for?”
Xu Donglin finally hurried back to sit next to Chu Xifeng and prop him up. Long Feiye stared at Chu Xifeng coldly as his handsome brows creased. “How did you get off the mountain?”
He had already punished Chu Xifeng by stripping him of his martial arts as a way of killing the chicken to warn the monkeys, then sent him to Celestial Mountain. Although he was demoted from his rank as head of the shadow guards, he didn’t suffer any torment on the peak. Most of Long Feiye’s shadow guards were candidates selected from Celestial Mountain Sword Sect. Even the exceptions were sent here for training.
There was a secret training area for them on the peak that was under the direct jurisdiction of the shadow guards’ head commander. Long Feiye had no time to personally overlook them and Chu Xifeng was an excellent head commander who treated his charges fairly. There was no way any of them would kick him while he was down. Moreover, Xu Donglin had succeeded to the post of head commander after Chu Xifeng. With his protection, who would dare to mistreat Chu Xifeng?
In other words, Long Feiye’s decision to send Chu Xifeng here was already an exceptional mercy. Otherwise, someone like him would have a life worse than death after being made a living example for the rest. Long Feiye’s question also reminded Han Yunxi that Chu Xifeng had been staying at the peak this entire time. It was a shadow guard that sent him up there, so how did he escape to the base? Ascending and descending the mountains here was extremely difficult. She had a deep impression of the journey from her last trip here. Unless one had ample lightness techniques, it was practically impossible to descend the mountain, much less under the watch of Heretical Sword Sect.
That’s right. How did Chu Xifeng, who didn’t know any martial arts, manage to make it this far? If a shadow guard helped him down, he would have sent us a letter ages ago. There was no need for Chu Xifeng to wait here alone.
Chu Xifeng’s ashen face remained cool as he replied. “Master, this subordinate hid for a long time at the mountain peak until it was completely covered in snow. Then...then this subordinate rolled all the way down. The secret letter was stolen by this subordinate after I made it to the base and saw the messenger eagle.”
The eagles that flew to the peak of Celestial Mountain differed from those that delivered letters to its base, so the original bird had been stuck here waiting. If Chu Xifeng hadn’t eaten that bird to fill his stomach, he never would have lasted until spring. His legs were crippled and his hands useless, so how could it have been that easy to survive?
In a flash, everyone fell silent except for the sound of Xu Donglin sniffling.
Ice and snow would have blocked the paths and built upon each other to form thicker layers. Although it was impossible to find a way up Celestial Mountain in the winter, there were ways to get down using a pathway on the western flank. It was an extremely precipitous path, impossible to use in the warmer seasons but...acceptable as a slide when covered in snow.
But no one had ever tried it because it invited death nine times out of ten!
No wonder...no wonder Chu Xifeng was covered in wounds, left with shattered leg bones, and even broken hands. No wonder none of the Heretical Sword Sect members had discovered him. Han Yunxi couldn’t help glancing towards the peak of Celestial Mountain. She couldn’t begin to imagine what Chu Xifeng had suffered on his way down or how many times he’d had a brush with death.
In the stillness, Chu Xifeng darted a look at Han Yunxi before lowering his head again. “Master...this subordinate--this subordinate would like to beg master to remember this subordinate’s contributions, and have them be merits to pay for past transgressions.”
Before Long Feiye could answer, Han Yunxi exclaimed, “Mingxiang, what are you doing? Hurry and bring over the medical kit!”
Baili Mingxiang recovered her wits and quickly took off the medical bag from her shoulders. Gu Beiyue had handed it to her before their departure.
“Long Feiye, give a hand and flip him over so he’s lying down!” Han Yunxi said next.
Chu Xifeng felt a throb of fear. How could he allow his own master to wait on him after serving him all these years? He was still trying to decide on what to do when Long Feiye grabbed his arm…
1. Xu Donglin specifically says 老大 laoda, or “number one, eldest one, big boss, leader,” etc. here. He’s referring to Chu Xifeng as his elder, but it doesn’t feel appropriate to call him “leader” or “boss” here when LFY’s already demoted him so I went with police-styled lingo.
Show of hands, who started the chapter suspecting Chu Xifeng and his intentions until the reveal in the second half?
So anyways, this is part of the chapters I owe you guys since spacing out November/December. I estimate the rough count to be in the 20s, which means unexpected double release days like this until I catch up! After all, the original plan was to start 2020 with Chapter 1071! You can do the math from there. :)