Looking at the empty jail cell, both Second and Third Elder thought of one person: that woman!
Long Feiye had long noticed the untouched lock and said, “Who saved him from this place?”
“It’s…” Second Elder didn’t know how to answer, so he went for the direct approach. “A few months ago the sect leader brought a woman back, but we’ve never seen her face because she always wears a black gauze face mask. The sect leader had complete trust in her and she too possessed the key to this cell. She must have brought him away!”
“Yes, it had to be her! Besides us elders, only she has the key!” Third Elder added hastily.
They had no other choice but to tell the truth now if they didn’t want to die.
“Who was she?” Han Yunxi asked.
“We don’t know her origins, but she was very familiar with Celestial Mountain. It’s likely she’s from the sect!” Second Elder professed.
There were so many women in Celestial Mountain that could catch Bai Yanqing’s eye. Would this be one of Abstinence Courtyard’s disciples?
“Where did Bai Yanqing go?” Han Yunxi asked.
The two elders were lost. What Bai Yanqing?
“Your sect leader, where did he go?” Han Yunxi asked coldly. How could Bai Yanqing leave unless he had important business to take care of?
The elders were shocked and blurted out, “Bai Yanqing?!”
“Exactly, Bai Yanqing! What, you two didn’t know he was your sect leader? Isn’t that just a joke?” Han Yunxi probed.
The elders exchanged looks, too stunned to speak beyond shaking their heads.
It seemed that aside from Gong Beichen who knew poisons, no other member of Heretical Sword Sect knew about Bai Yanqing’s origins. How did Bai Yanqing managed to conceal his identity while becoming the leader of Heretical Sword Sect?
Han Yunxi was beyond curious to know.
“West Qin princess, our sect leader is surnamed Hua (华), name Yushu (予叔). He was acknowledged by former Sect Leader Bai to assume the mantle of leadership early. How...how could he be Bai Yanqing?” Second Elder didn’t believe it.
“Old Sect Leader Bai? Would that be Bai Shanqing?” Long Feiye asked.
“Exactly!” Second Elder paused, then said helplessly, “East Qin crown prince, the internal cultivation techniques of our Heretical Sword Sect carries a great flaw--that is, its practitioners are apt to enter deviation. I expect you’ve heard of this as well?”
“So what if that’s the case?” Long Feiye asked.
“Sect Leader Hua has been trying to collude with Celestial Mountain’s Lockheart Courtyard and the two biggest Depositories over the past few years just to obtain the Ganjiang treasure sword. He wanted to use the power of the sword to cultivate to the max level of internal energy so he could find a remedy to the flaw. It was also a way to forge a path ahead for the hundreds of Heretical Sword Sect disciples,” Second Elder explained.
Who knew that Bai Yanqing had researched the internal cultivation techniques of Heretical Sword Sect so thoroughly that he knew the power of treasure swords could make up for their deficiences in cultivation there? But when had he infiltrated Heretical Sword Sect? Had he always been here under disguise, or simply assumed the identity at a later date? Whatever the case, Bai Yanqing had ended up fooling all of the Heretical Sword Sect disciples. Judging from the faked letters they received, his goal of obtaining the Ganjiang sword wasn’t to prevent it from falling into Long Feiye’s hands, but to destroy any chance Long Feiye and Han Yunxi had of completing their dual cultivation.
Fully aware of this fact, Han Yunxi broke into a cold smile. “Your sect leader used poison to take over Celestial Mountain, but you never suspected the origins of his drugs? Did you never harbor any doubts despite his disciple Gong Beichen’s own skills in poisons?”
Second Elder and Third Elder looked at each other before the latter explained, “Gong Beichen had once entered Hundred Poisons Sect to study poisons, but…” he trailed off and cried, “West Qin princess, how are you so certain that our sect leader is Bai Yanqing? Our leader spends most of the year in closed door cultivation and only emerged recently!”
“Do you have a portrait of him?” Han Yunxi asked.
“It’s in the Heretical Sword Depository,” Second Elder replied quickly.
Gu Beiyue made the quick trip there and back to recover Sect Leader Hua’s painting. At the sight of the picture, Han Yunxi’s group immediately knew the answer! The man in the portrait looked nothing like Bai Yanqing!
They had been worried that Bai Yanqing had been part of Heretical Sword Sect since childhood before being recommended for the post of sect leader by Bai Shanqing. Now it was obvious that the true Sect Leader Hua had long been murdered by Bai Yanqing and replaced as his fake!! In other words, they had no reservations for Bai Shanqing or his ex-disciple Ye Xiao, because neither of them should be involved with Bai Yanqing. They shouldn’t know the man had taken on the identity of its sect leader, either.
“West Qin princess, this...what is going on?” Second Elder asked.
Although the two elders were behaving very well, Han Yunxi didn’t forget all the things Heretical Sword Sect did against Celestial Mountain disciples or their torture of Master Jianxin. Were they allowed to massacre the disciples of a different sect just to obtain Ganjiang for saving their own disciples? Their former sect leader Bai Shanqing had even discussed combining sects with Master Jianxin in the past, so why couldn’t they put down their pride and do the same?
They had to use poison of all things? Leaving aside the matter of the Ganjiang treasure sword, these Heretical Sword Sect people had nothing but evil intentions! But Han Yunxi had no time to explain too much to these two elders. They had to investigate who the Celestial Mountain woman that took away Third Honored Elder could be, which meant returning back to the peak! If these two men didn’t even know Bai Yanqing was their leader, how could they hope to find out anything else? Interrogating them would be a waste of time!
As the situation stood now, they had killed Gong Beichen too soon.
“I expect you two elders haven’t seen the Ganjiang treasure sword yet?” Han Yunxi asked.
The two elders shook their heads. Compared to their previous bluster, they were more servile than servants now.
“Over there. It’s the sword Gu Qishao’s carrying on his back. Take a good look,” Han Yunxi smiled.
The two elders turned as one. At the same time, Han Yunxi plucked two poison needles out of her sleeves and stabbed them into the space between their eyebrows. The elders gave a start before losing unconsciousness. Han Yunxi could cure Bai Yanqing’s poisons, but the reverse wasn’t always true!
Han Yunxi didn’t touch any of the disciples still trying to flee but allowed them to escape. She had Gu Beiyue take the two elders to Heretical Sword Depository. This would be her provocation against Bai Yanqing in poisons!
But Long Feiye had an even greater provocation in mind. “Gu Beiyue,” he said, “Once everyone’s escaped, destroy Heretical Sword Sect for this crown prince. Only leave Heretical Sword Depository standing!” He was not only challenging Bai Yanqing, but telling the world’s people that his master’s Celestial Mountain Sword Sect would always be the authority of the martial arts circles and not to be challenged!
With Gu Beiyue in charge, no one had any worries. He remained at Heretical Sword Depository while Han Yunxi and Long Feiye returned to Celestial Mountain peak. Gu Qishao followed behind them with his head bowed. He loved hustle and bustle, but he’d been nothing but silent this entire trip, if only because the sword on his back was so darned heavy. The weight made it difficult for him to even speak.
Long Feiye and Han Yunxi used their lightness techniques to push against the tree branches and fly up high. Gu Qishao found it difficult to keep up, only for the Moye sword spirit to emerge on its own as a faint red glow. It circled around Gu Qishao a few times before settling onto the Ganjiang blade at his back.
Sensing sword qi, both Han Yunxi and Long Feiye looked back to see a warm red glow hovering by the Ganjiang treasure sword like two lovers whispering sweet nothings into each others’ ears. Long Feiye privately resolved to give Han Yunxi the Moye sword no matter what, while Han Yunxi determined to take Moye for herself as well.
Gu Qishao had no other thoughts beyond wishing he’d get to the peak faster so he could find a place to lie down!
When they finally reached the mountaintop, Gu Qishao flopped down on a roof while gasping for breath, too exhausted to bother with Han Yunxi or the rest. Currently, the place had calmed down. All of the other peaks were filled with disciples from the 55 Depositories working to clean up the corpses, bury the dead, or chase after leftover enemies still hidden in the hills. Granny You and a few disciples had taken over Lockheart Courtyard. Fortunately, they hadn’t lost any of the various secret cultivation manuals on Nirvana Heart Arts inside.
As soon as Long Feiye and Han Yunxi arrived, Head and Second Honored Elders urgently asked them about Third Honored Elder’s affairs. When Long Feiye told them the truth, they and Granny You were left floored.
“No disciple of my Abstinence Courtyard would ever betray the sect!” Granny You was certain.
“Could it be someone from Lockheart Courtyard?” Second Honored Elder asked.
Anyone Bai Yanqing had his eyes on would have to be an important member of Celestial Mountain Sword Sect. They thought it over and determined that only females of Lockheart Courtyard had a chance to qualify.
At this moment, an Abstinence Courtyard disciple hurried over and exclaimed, “Honored Elders, Elder, Duanmu Yao is missing!”
The Abstinence Courtyard disciples were in charge of putting the mountain peak in order, but the underground dungeons weren’t an important place to clean up. That was why things had been delayed until now. At last, everyone realized what was up! Without a doubt, Bai Yanqing had rescued Duanmu Yao and used her to understand the layout of Celestial Mountain. That was how he managed to soundlessly take over the entire sect in such a short amount of time.
Who knew that Duanmu Yao could still raise such waves after her looked were ruined and her martial arts skills in tatters! They really underestimated her!
“We should have killed her ages ago!” Granny You was depressed. If it wasn’t for Master Jianxin’s sake, how could she, as head of the Abstinence Courtyard, simply lock Duanmu Yao up and do nothing?
Han Yunxi’s eyes flashed bitterly cold as she said, “She better not end up in this princess’s hands!”
It was obvious that Duanmu Yao had fled with Third Honored Elder to seek refuge with Bai Yanqing. Heaven knows where he’d gone?
“Feiye, the matter of dual cultivation is urgent. It’s best if you two seek out a blacksmith first,” Head Honored Elder said.
After a burst of internal strife, Celestial Mountain was now heavily injured. There were a hundred things to take care of and it’d be best if a senior disciple like Long Feiye stayed behind to oversee the recovery process, but Head Honored Elder knew where the important things lay.
Long Feiye hesitated briefly before he murmured, “I’ll leave after master wakes. Head Honored Elder, I remember there were plenty of high-quality fakes of the Ganjiang treasure sword in Sword Depository?”
“There are a few. You’re thinking of…” Head Honored Elder trailed off, wondering.
Han Yunxi smiled and muttered, “We’ll meet a plot with a plot! No one can know that Long Feiye’s subdued the Ganjiang sword!
1. C’mon guys, aren’t you forgetting someone important? A certain female + Celestial Mountain disciple with enough of a grudge against the sect (and you all) to team up with the enemy? The same female who you left here long ago and didn’t bother checking for after your anti-climatic takeover of the peak? *facepalms* It’s at times like these I doubt the author really means it when she says our protags are all “geniuses.”
4. Alternate Take: Sect Leader Hua is alive and well, if missing, and Bai Yanqing just happened to take his place because it was convenient. You can tell the author just wants to move things along and shoehorned in the characters’ assumptions here as fact instead of raising potential questions. Bit of an annoyance to me but yeah, I get it, PGC is about LFY and HYX fighting a clear-cut Big Bad instead of investigating potential sect leader deaths…
5. ...are you telling me no one’s ever managed to get into that Depository and check what their sect leader looks like? Admittedly, there’s no reason to, but the fact that they know exactly where his portrait is stored and just went, “oh yeah, well, whatever lol” is borderline weird logic.
6. Conversely speaking, why couldn’t Li Jianxin put down his pride and do what his friend couldn’t? C’mon HYX, don’t forgive those biased Celestial Mountain peeps so soon just because you’re on their side now. Remember when a bunch of their elders and disciples tried to kill you? Remember when Li Jianxin himself was hunting you down? Admittedly, Li Jianxin lacked real power in the sect for a while and was being used by Cang Qiuzi and his cronies to ever think of allying with HSS, but in the same way, the elders and disciples of Heretical Sword Sect were being led in circles by Bai Yanqing too.
7. I can see Heretical Sword Sect’s reasoning if their internal cultivation made them so unstable that they might have gone into deviation just fighting against the Celestial Mountain disciples. I don’t agree with them using fatal poisons that would kill off the disciples in seven months, but none of these people are poison experts. You think they knew? You think they could do anything against it even if they did, trusting in the decision of a sect leader they believed had their best interests at heart? HSS was weaker and desperate, it makes sense for them to use something...less direct. Imagine if you were a HSS disciple. You might even think it was a mercy your sect is only using this mysterious “sleeping poison” to put all the enemies into a painless coma. If HYX’s judging HSS just because they chose to poison their enemies, that makes her the biggest hypocrite on Cloud Realm Continent. I can accept villains being villains over this exaggerated self-righteous spiel. Or you know what, maybe I’m overreacting and being the biggest self-righteous commenter here, hahaha!
8. Unless HYX is sure BYQ will come to save the elders for some reason or another, this just sounds like petty venting against BYQ because she can’t get to him now. At this point she’s honestly dooming these elders to their fates, because we’ve seen plenty of examples in the past of how BYX just throws away anyone and anything that isn’t useful to him anymore, even disciples he’s trained for over a decade like Bai Yuqiao and Jun Yixie. Speaking of which, I miss their story arc...let’s get back to them soon…
9. Both of them are so petty here I just laugh. Also, I’m pretty sure if you didn’t do anything so flashy, half the world won’t even know a bunch of low-level mooks just poisoned 100% of your entire “mighty sect” and left 95% of them comatose for the past six months. If you guys couldn’t even get the intel in the past half-year, how could the rest of the martial arts world find out on their own? Even if the fleeing HSS disciples claimed they rekt your homies, who would believe them, an “evil and crooked sect” (aka “liars”), if Celestial Mountain kept quiet? For me, this just shows the world “hey hey look at us! Unless LFY’s home, any ol’ poisons experts can incapacitate us and we’re probably still recovering from our latest attack! Come get us now while the only strong fighters of our sect cough HYX LFY cough run off to do something else on their important plot missions!” Oh God, I want to rewrite this as a visual novel so much just to expose the gaping logic fails…
10. I love the fact that LFY and HYX are here implicitly wondering if Granny You’s faction had traitors when the actual turncoat was their fellow martial sister and former disciple to the sect leader. Ladies and gentleman, Celestial Mountain Sword Sect at its finest. You wouldn’t want to join any other faction!
11. No, you just didn’t bring your brains to work today. Knowledge of layout and topography doesn’t need martial arts or pretty looks to be effective, and heck if Duanmu Yao has 1) one of the highest status (and by extension clearance) before she fell to obscurity and 2) the most resentment against the sect and its leader.
13. I dunno man, you told him where you were going in your letters + your intentions pretty clearly. I think you should start with, oh, maybe somewhere near Tiger’s Den? Or Jun Yixie’s camp in Northern Li? You know, some wild guesses here.
15. Head Honored Elder: Yes, Feiye, leave quickly before you attract more disasters to us. We can deal with the fallout from you advertising our near-death experience to the rest of the martial arts world, but we can’t afford all the braindead enemies and trouble that follows you wherever you and that wife of yours show up!
Wow, Long Feiye and Han Yunxi. I just...wow.
I've never felt more indignant than our leads than this chapter. You know what? I wanna write a story from the perspective of an innocent/clueless Heretical Sword Sect disciple that paints them in more of a sympathetic light. An alternate take on everything in these chapters. Could even be a 'transmigrated into a low-class "villainous sect" mook' visual novel. I gotta...I gotta fix this in my head somehow, because her judging things as fact and him gonna show the world not to mess with my people annoyed me exceedingly here.
It's probably hormones speaking because that time of month but yeah, I'm out to get a breather. Have fun reading folks! If my comments ever annoy you, please avoid the footnotes orz. I'm using them as a way to vent and stay sane as more and more things irritate me, sorry!